Why Not?

Positive,Intentional,Generous

In 2016 we can commit to making a difference in the lives of others and seeing a better life in every conceivable way. I believe God has given us a message for 2016 that has to do with being Positive, Intentional and Generous in all that we do. So often we default to living such a small and limited existence when God has put the world in our hearts. Jesus said you are the light of the world (Matt 5:14) and that we were commissioned to go to the utter most parts of the earth.(Acts 1:8) I believe that! I believe our lives are intended to be given for others in more ways than we can imagine.

What are some ways we can be Positive, Intentional and Generous? How about to write a song, a blog or a book? How about to learn a new thing about our profession or to develop a training manual for our company? We could reach out to someone in need or share our story with someone who has no hope. We could rescue a drug addict, a single mom who has been abused or someone who is the victim of sex trafficking. We could be a uniter and a peacemaker instead of a divider and a drama queen. Maybe we could visit the elderly or take communion with a shut-in. There are many ways that our life can count for more than almost anyone else thinks it can except our Heavenly Father! Small intentional acts lead to big opportunities to share God’s love with someone else.

Why not make a difference in 2016? What not start today?

 

 

 

Hyper-Grace or Hypo-Grace

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There is a lot of talk about “hyper-grace” these days in the Church world. Most people who are concerned about “hyper-grace” have very sincere reasons such as “hyper-grace gives people a license to sin” or “hyper-grace doesn’t require any discipline or commitment” or “hyper-grace doesn’t demand repentance or provide accountability”. This is just to name a few. There are many more concerns that people have about the theology they call “hyper-grace”. I hope to deal with these and others eventually in this blog series but today I want to focus on the term “hyper-grace”.

The term “hyper-grace” itself presents a significant conundrum for those who use it to define an extreme view of the finished work of Jesus. The prefix Hyper has an antonym Hypo. Hyper means over, excessive, more than normal, as in such words as hyperbole (extravagant and obvious exaggeration) and hyperactive (abnormally or pathologically active). The prefix derives from the Greek word hyper, meaning simply over. Hypo on the other hand means under, defective or inadequate, as in such words as hypodermic (under the skin) or hypoallergenic (specially formulated to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction). This, too, derives from the Greek: hypo, meaning under. (http://www.dailywritingtips.com/hyper-and-hypo/)

The label “hyper-grace” is used to define a certain brand of theology which is thought to be a misuse of biblical grace. Herein lies the problem, Gods grace is in fact hyper. It is more than enough, it is all sufficient, It is over, excessive, more than normal. It is not however, under, defective, or inadequate. Therefore, the label “hyper-grace” serves to imply the very truth those who use it are trying to disprove.

The term “hyper-grace” is in a sense a tautology. A tautology are two words that say the same thing like “wet water” or “dead corpse”. A tautology is the opposite of an oxymoron, two words that contradict each other. To say “hyper-grace” is actually redundant when characterizing God’s grace not to mention erroneous when used to emphasize what God’s grace is NOT. At least it would be accurate, although redundant from a grammatical standpoint, if it were used to emphasize the radical nature of God’s grace i.e. the tautology. The fact people use the term in an attempt to point out what God’s grace IS NOT means that those people must then believe that God’s grace is “hypo-grace” or inadequate and not up to the challenge of redeeming us from sin once and for all or freeing us from the law of sin and death.

Indeed, “hyper-grace” is simply grace. God’s unmerited favor, unearned blessing, unfailing acceptance and of course endless love. All paid for by the blood of Jesus.

How could that ever not be enough?

So, Hyper-Grace or Hypo-Grace? You decide.

 

Living Under the Influence

octandnov-056.jpgParadox is a funny word with an interesting definition. According to one dictionary definition, a paradox is a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities. For instance, a paradox is two statements that contradiction each other while both being true.

Here is what I’m driving at: A Paradox of the Christian Life; As a Christian we should have a narrow focus and a broad focus. We should have a narrow focus in that our lives are centered on God’s Word (Jesus) and we should have a broad focus in that we are looking for others to encourage, inspire and strengthen. Thus the paradox of a narrow view and a broad view.

The beauty of this paradox is that the first condition determines the second. When we are engaging the Word of God we will very naturally and organically look for others to help. The Word, and again I mean Jesus, always causes us to be “others focused”. John wrote in John 1 that “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.(Emphasis mine) Jesus was always focused on other people and when we are influenced by Him we will too.

We should live our lives under the influence of the Word of God, of Jesus. As we live our lives under the influence of Jesus, we won’t flounder under the fatigue and pressure of trying to help others enough or struggle to know exactly how many people we should help on any given day. Living under the influence means that we won’t think as much about what we should do as we will about who He is. And when we focus on who He is, well, we will want to tell someone that good news. And then it just happens.

So, as you enjoy your weekend, remember to live under the influence. As you do, you will influence others with His influence as you have been influenced and you may not even realize it. You see, you’ll be under the influence.

Intentional Community

I spoke to a friend today from another state. I met him through a mutual friend and, although we have never met in person and he is probably 25 years my senior, we talk regularly on the phone and I am always encouraged by his insights and experiences. He is a “retired” pastor and church planter who preaches and teaches regularly in his local church in support of a younger pastor and a growing congregation.

Today we were talking about the concept of intentional community. He said growing up on a farm he was part of an unintentional community with those he worked closely with. We are often in unintentional communities through a range of circumstances, school, work etc., and many if not most of them are not without important relational benefit that we appreciate and value. But when we are intentional about community we take on more of a missional or purposeful approach to life and relationships.

Jesus routinely spoke to the masses on the hillsides and shorelines of Galilee. He met them in the gates of their cities and the Temples where they worshipped. He went to where they were to meet them and talk to them. He was intentional about creating an environment where others could feel comfortable and safe so He could speak life and light to them.  He is still speaking life and light today as we connect with others and share the joy and peace that only comes through Him.

I’m not saying we should preach or debate or point out error to everyone we meet. In fact I’m saying not to do that. But what I am saying is that we can be intentional about sharing hope to the hopeless, courage to the discouraged, freedom to the bound and healing to the broken.

The world in which we live has never been more in need of the things only Jesus can provide.

Let’s begin to look for opportunities to create community with others intentionally so we can tell them how God really feels about them and all the things He’s done for them through Christ!

On 9-11-15 Russia and Iran have troops in Syria

  
I have spoken extensively on the subject of the Feasts of the Lord and my belief that coming end-time events will be connected to the three fall feasts, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles. My reasoning is that the first of the seven feasts were fulfilled as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection after more than 1,000 years of observance. I believe that the last three feasts will be fulfilled prophetically by His return. Needless to say that I get a little giddy around September when the fall feasts approach.
There has been a lot of talk for a year or two now, and millions of books sold, on the subject of the Shemitah. The Shemitah is simply the sabbath year observance. The Israelites would work their land for 6 years and the 7th year would be a sabbath unto the Lord, also called the Shemitah, where the land would rest and the people would not work. (This is a simplified understanding for brevity’s sake)

In the past there have been some interesting occurrences during the Shemitah years especially economically. For instance going back to the fall of 1987, a Shemitah year, the stock market crashed in October. The following Shemitah’s were 1994, 2001, 2008 and 2015. Well, I don’t remember what happened in 1994 except maybe some really bad music was released. However, in 2001 and 2008 there were economic collapses. In 2001 it was the result of the 9-11 attacks. In 2008 it was the sub-prime lending practices that brought the “great recession”. The jury is still out for 2015 but its safe to say that our economy has tremendous instability and if you are listening to the people selling books on the Shemitah they are predicting dire events.

Personally, I don’t believe the Shemitah is as significant to end-time events as the Feasts of the Lord, if at all, for a very simple reason. Jesus fulfilled the sabbath with his death and resurrection just the way He did the first four of the seven feasts. That is the weekly sabbath, the yearly sabbath and even the Jubilee year celebrated every 49 years for a year. Jesus is our rest, He is our sabbath rest and our rest is not a day or a year, it’s forever!

Now about the Russian troops and Iranian troops in Syria. I recently read an article reporting that Russia and Iran have deployed troops to Syria in an effort to bolster the al-Assad regime against ISIS. What is interesting to me is that we will essentially be working with Russia and Iran to eradicate ISIS while simultaneously establishing Russia’s legitimacy in the Middle East. Russia already has a naval base at the Port of Tartus on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. (In Ezekiel 38 we see Russia(Gog and Magog) come from the north, maybe it’s not as far north as we once thought. Maybe they will descend from Syria and not Russia itself.)

Why I believe Russia and Iran pouring troops into Syria is really provocative is because of a little known prophecy in Isaiah 17 concerning Damascus.

Isaiah 17:1; 14

1 The burden against Damascus.
“Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city,
And it will be a ruinous heap.

14 Then behold, at eventide, trouble!
And before the morning, he is no more …

We know that this prophecy has never happened because Damascus is the longest continually inhabited city on earth. It has never been sacked or destroyed. The more focus this war on terror puts on Syria the more Damascus becomes a target for ISIS or Israel or even Turkey. I believe this event will precede much of the chaos in the middle east before the return of Jesus specifically Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38. I think the destruction of Damascus could be the catalyst for Psalm 83 which then could be the catalyst for Ezekiel 38-39.

At any rate I find the timing of all these circumstances very interesting as Sunday September 13th approaches which is when Trumpets begin. Sunset on the 13th to Sunset on the 15th.

I’m not saying the rapture of the Church will happen on Sunday or Monday or Tuesday of next week. But I am saying that I believe the return of Jesus will coincide with the fall feasts in whatever year it happens and that the World events keep moving to the rhythm of scripture.

The Bible is the Word of God and whether people know it or not or believe it or not, everything written in it has either already happened or is happening on the pages of every newspaper in the world.

No matter when Jesus returns, rest in His love and care for you and let your light shine. His grace is sufficient and His work of redemption is finished!

Where are your eyes?

Many years ago when I was working on staff at a Church I was offended by a coworker. The issue that offended me is not worth mentioning but it really irritated me and I felt it was a complete contradiction of Jesus command to love one another. I was hurt by the situation and I was angry about it. Oh, and I was justified in my anger. Aren’t we always? The situation went on for months until I felt like resigning my position so as not to work with a hypocrite like this individual.

Before I moved forward with my plan I talked to another staff member about the situation. He had been in ministry longer than I had been alive and i loved him and trusted him completely. As I began to lay out my issues he listened intently. When I was finished giving him all the details and the justification for my offense, and there was plenty, he asked me one question. His question was “Where are your eyes?” I was dumbfounded. “Didn’t you hear me?” I said. I was looking for validation not correction. He just stared at me. After a long moment he said “I heard you. And I’m asking you, Where are your eyes?”. After another long moment I sheepishly answered “On me”. “But I am justified in my offense”, I proclaimed! “He’s wrong and I’m right!”

What my friend said next changed the course of my life and ministry. He said, “it doesn’t matter if you’re right. If your eyes are not on Jesus you’re going to respond the wrong way.” What I realized in that moment was that the enemy was exploiting the fact that my feelings had been hurt, I had been treated disrespectfully and I felt justified in my anger. All he needed to do as I focused on myself and my frustration was to nudge me toward the door.

I made a decision that day to focus on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. I chose to forgive that person, prayed for he and his family and was able to release him completely. I was able to love him and respect him because Jesus became the source of my validation not him. And I’m so glad I did. God did so many amazing things during my time in that ministry and our lives (me and my family) would not be the same if we had not been there. It was God that put us there and it was a lack of focus that almost took us out prematurely.

The things that I learned were:

a) You can be right and still be wrong. Our focus matters.

b) If God plants you in a place the devil will do anything and use anybody, even really wonderful people, to dislodge you from that place.

c) If you leave a place offended, no one wins.

d) It is imperative to have friends in our lives that will be biblically honest with us and not just validate our position.

So, I have one question for you. Where are your eyes?

Good Friday

When we consider Easter and the resurrection of Jesus we are gripped with the sacrifice He made for us. However, that sacrifice and indeed the entire event of the crucifixion was what seemed to be a stunning defeat. Many of the followers of Jesus (mostly the men) were devastated and completely hopeless that the promising life and ministry of Jesus ended in such a brutal, anti-climactic way. And then the first day of the week dawned. A new sabbath, the fulfillment of the sabbath in Christ, walked out of the empty tomb and established a place of unending rest for all people.

I say all of this to point out the very real analogy that in our lives so many of the situations we are enmeshed in seem very similar. We find ourselves frustrated and fearful, hopeless and helpless. it seems there is no way out and then the God of heaven begins to make a way where before there was no way. He alone is the mountain mover and the dead raiser. He is not the way to peace, He is peace. He is not the path to hope, He is our hope. He doesn’t make it possible for us to rest, He alone is our rest.

So, the next time you find yourself in a discouraging situation, think of the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus and be still and know that He is God!

It Is Finished!