Friday, October 13, 2017

Grace* is the Power of God!

'Grace' is a much talked about word in the Bible.  This is a big concept and I dare say no one will ever know all there is to know about it, it is that big!

Honestly, I'm not sure that many people who are talking about grace really understand it. I have to admit that I haven't completely understood what it fully means. At times I get confused when I read articles about grace. We hear a lot of words about hyper-grace, forgiveness grace, grace myths, grace truth, grace vs law, grace vs works and so many others. What people say before they eat is called 'grace'. When I look at how God uses the word, things start to clear up. When you get grace straight, peace in your heart follows!

Paul encouraged Timothy:
1Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. II Timothy 2:1-2
What does it mean to be strong in grace that is in Christ Jesus? I could look at the Greek words and try to come up with some idea of what it is saying. If you just look at what it says simply, Timothy was encouraged to be strong in the whole concept of a risen Messiah. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, In that one event, the opposition to God took a huge blow. That is how salvation is promised in Romans 10:9-10.

On the day of Pentecost, a recorded in the Book of Acts, 3000 people received the gift of holy spirit which empowered them with strength and their response was:
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour (grace) with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:46-47
These 3000 believers were sharing grace and they were praising God.  As they received the gift and the spiritual abilities the gift bestowed, they were changed. Timothy was encouraged to teach faithful men who could teach others. Paul, in the church epistles, taught more about what they had received. The whole idea was to spread the word, thus enabling others to have the same power.

God gives grace.  It is evidence of how he loves. He wants to empower those he loves.  In Ephesians, the word 'grace is used 12 times. Check it out. It is all about God's salvation and wholeness in our lives.
* Grace rules: Eph 1:2,6,7;  2:5,7,8;  3:2,7,8;  4:7,29; 6:24

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Fulness of God -Not a Distant God


Jesus Christ contained the complete filling of the Godhead.  'Godhead' was used interchangeably with the word 'Godhood' (Some theologians say it is a Middle English variant and some say it is a synonym). The '-hood' suffix as found in manhood, childhood or neighborhood, and personhood, is a word that describes the qualities or state of being (essence) of the entity it is describing. It is about the 'what' rather than 'who'. (Check out Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9)
For in (Jesus Christ) him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete (Greek = pleroo) in him, which is the head of all principality and power: Colossians 2:9-10
The fulness (pleroma) of the qualities of God flourished in Jesus Christ. He was filled to the brim with God's goodness and as as result we are complete (pleroo related to the word 'pleroma') in him. In Ephesians this same fulness and completeness is described:
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Ephesians3:19
Verse 19 a pretty interesting statement.  How are we filled with all the fulness of God? God is spirit and we are filled with is His spirit through Jesus Christ. God is not a distant God, He is relational and this is how He set it up.  Jesus Christ was raised and now sits at the right hand of God. God as a spirit (John 4:24) doesn't have a right hand.  This is an example of a figure of speech that paints a picture to show the authority of Christ. Christ today is alive and active and building the true church. He communicates through the spirit. The spirit is not a person but an essence that does the filling.

What does all this mean? It seems like a really important concept to understand. God is powerful, just and good and desires the best for his kids but he doesn't violate free-will. It is our choice to to recognize, love and trust God and all that he provides. Our ultimate blessing results in power, love and an inherent soundness that rejects fear.
 


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Romans 1: God's Natural Design

God is everywhere.  His Word is everywhere in everything he created! Look at the functional design of a leaf as it exists on the branches of a tree, or the beauty of  the night stars as they twinkle at us. I love to sit on a beach and look out to where the horizon meets the sky.  It is majestic! Everything God has created in nature is to bless us. We are blessed with sunrises, sunsets, flowers, magnificent birds and animals all intended to remind us of God's love:
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Romans 1:20
The human body is remarkably designed. It is one of God's greatest works. Its ability to grow, develop, reproduce, repair and heal is unsurpassed by anything man has attempted to design. The human mind has the ability to think and choose; again, another reminder of the love of God.

One of the greatest treats that you can do for yourself is to go out and take a walk through the woods, or stroll on the beach and look at all that has been provided for us. The closer you look at the details of God's creation, the more perfect it becomes. The opposite is true of man's work unless it is inspired by God.

When man attempts to redefine life on his own terms, and twists God's word or even dismisses God entirely, he thumbs his nose at God.  There are other people who have pushed to go beyond God's word in terms of laws, traditions and requirements.  They seem energetic but are actually presumptuous in the thinking that God can be improved. If a person thinks he can improve upon God, he just hasn't really seen God. It is through this type of unbelief that people get cheated out of a life free and abundant. We should never consent or go along with the pressure of the world to conform or accept and condone those things that are opposite to what God has provided. When we do it isn't that God turns his back on us, we turn our backs on God and are not able to see his love clearly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Love Among Believers-Romans 1

The more I truly and accurately understand the identity of Jesus Christ and his role in our lives, the simpler the Word of God becomes.  I once thought Romans was an extremely difficult book to understand, but that was because of confusing theology and man-made interpretations of God's Word. Once the layers of PhD crust are peeled off the solid  beauty and symmetry of God's undeniable love, the light of truth just absolutely shines through.

Romans Chapter 1 is jammed-packed with  crystal clear truth. The apostle Paul, who recorded Romans, was a unique individual: He had everything in life that people strive for: success, respect, a mission, influence and power. Right in the middle of his success he changed horses or rather fell off his high horse when he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Things changed drastically after that. In the heart of his heart he became who he really wanted to be. He was quite a humble man and as an apostle, he brought forth the light of the New Testament grace administration into view. He is a great example of a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The love of God was shed abroad in his heart and he shared that love:
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Romans 1:11-12
Paul loved fellow believers; he longed to see them. The word 'see' is more than just a visual seeing, it involves an experience.  Paul want to give what he had; he wanted to share what he spiritually had to strengthen them and be blessed by them in their mutual faith together. The word comfort (sumparakaleo) is a togetherness of encouragement. They shared the same faith and rejoiced with each other over it. This is an example of the truly satisfying relationships that can develop between believers.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thoughts on Leadership



Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matt 20:28


The greatest joy comes in believing you can help someone else as God inspires.  Two things happen a a result.

1. God is working in your heart and you know it.  2. The results show fruit.

Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. II Corinthians 3:6

1. God is working in your heart and you know it.  2. The results show fruit.

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

1. God is working in your heart and you know it.  2. The results show fruit.

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. Matthew 23:11

1. God is working in your heart and you know it.  2. The results show fruit.

Jesus Christ did not worry about his leadership ability,  whether he was a minister or not, whether he spoke what was right or not in people's eyes or whether he was great or not. He knew God was working in him. The results show fruit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
No law against this list!



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Structure of Galatians 2:16

Structure in the Word is the intrinsic beautiful divine markings. (See previous post first)

Galatians 2:16 (From E W Bullinger who did extensive research in this area)

A/  Knowing that a man is not justified
   
      B/  by the works of the law,
         
            C/  but by the faith of Jesus Christ
         
            C/  even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified
                  by the faith of Jesus Christ,

      B/  and not by works of the law: for by the works of the law

A/  shall no flesh be justified.
     


Monday, September 11, 2017

Faith of Jesus Christ

The book of Romans is an epistle addressed to the believers of today who live in the time after the earthly presence of Jesus Christ. We can become familiar with the life of Jesus Christ through the gospels, but it is the church epistles (Romans - Thessalonians) that informs us as to what his life means to us.

We can believe in Christ, and acknowledge that he lived, and did great things. It is quite another thing to understand how the 'faith of Jesus Christ' affects us.

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16 (Romans 3:22)
The Judean belief system at the time of Christ had a strong emphasis on the law in worshipping God. It was a culture that had gone above and beyond in establishing rules for living a godly life. The emphasis for salvation had been put on the 'works of the law' for salvation. It was all wrapped up in performance and external worship.

As Jesus Christ lived among them and taught, a new era was ushered in. His life, death, resurrection, and ascension ultimately brought in the 'faith of Jesus Christ' (a genitive construction which can be re-stated as 'Jesus Christ's faith').  It is his faith that justifies us today, not our works.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate (set aside, nullify) the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:19-21
This understood is our access to God.  It is our righteousness (rightness) to God's heart. Our responsibility is not only to believe in  Jesus Christ but to believe we have access to the faith of Jesus Christ internally and rest in that knowledge. This may seem arrogant to some, but actually it is true confidence in God's provision on which we can have genuine trust.

Our outward works flow from this trust, not the other way around. We sometime feel so happy when we perceive we have done something good but that feeling comes and goes. The 'faith of Jesus Christ' living in our hearts continues to enrich us as we nourish it and continue to grow in the truth of God's word.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The #1 Thing You Have to Learn About God

If there is any place to start in thinking about God, it is that God loves each and everyone of us (John 3:16). We can readily observe his love everywhere around us in beautiful gifts he has given us through his creation. The bottom line is that God loves you and he loves me. God wants us to really believe it.  He wants us 'rooted and grounded'  (Ephesians 3:17-19) in that love.

Sometimes, however, we can get confused when we look at the giant storms of life that rise up and counter punch the original idyllic design of God.  Unfortunately, there was a 'sneaky snake' that crept into the garden and wanted worship, acceptance and most of all, power over man. To do that, he lied, questioned and introduced doubt to Eve.

Evil power works the same way today. The adversary wants to make us all the scapegoat loaded with blame, guilt, inadequacy, insecurity and doubt. God does the exact opposite. He wants each us to be his golden child and shower us all with all he has to give. He can and will give us assurance, security, adequacy and love. We just have to ask.

We should never underestimate what the resurrection and ascension of Jesus as the messiah means for our lives today. When he was here on earth, he became the scapegoat for us to stand up to the power of evil.  When God raised him, we were raised with him, up and out of darkness and into a loving relationship with God. The apostle Paul wrote some magnificent  explanations of this relationship in his church epistles:
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
This is not about setting up a religion; it is about full joy in real life living.  In books like Ephesians and Romans 8, we can read about the unlimited joys of God as a Father. Human fathers are wonderful or maybe not so wonderful depending on individual situations; but that does not have to limit your understanding of the ideal parent, God. God can help with that. God is the ultimate father to us all. He is the perfect father willing to show us how much he loves us in the details of life as well as in the big picture. We just have to climb into his lap and tell him what is on our heart.
6 Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
This is the only way to live in our day-to-day walk through this world.






Saturday, August 26, 2017

It's Greek To Me


I enjoy looking at common biblical Greek words and draw diagrams as to the prepositional prefix attached to them.  'Redemption' conjures up a broad spectrum of images in our minds.  The word in Greek that is used for 'redemption' commonly is 'apolutrosis'. It is two words combined: 'apo'  meaning away from, and 'lutrosis' meaning ransom or redemption. Put together the word has the sense of being redeemed away from. It hints of rescue or release. Reading through its uses, it is the idea of price paid for, released, redeemed and taken away from.

Apolutrosis is used 10 times in the New Testament. (Luke 21:28, Romans 3:24, 8:23, I Corinthians 1:30, the three references in Ephesians listed below, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:15, 11;35.
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Ephesians 1:6-7

13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
The holy spirit is the gift from God that resides in our hearts. It is our power connection to Jesus Christ and God. We are not to grieve, quench or resist this spiritual enablement that has sealed us and is the earnest (token) of our position in the body of Christ for redemption from the powers of darkness.
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: Colossians 1:12-15
Old Testament believers didn't have the seal or earnest of the inheritance as shown in the Hebrews 9:15 and 11:35 records. We should be so thankful for all that has been given to us in the New Covenant and learn as much as we can about effectively operating the gift in helping ourselves and others.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sweet Freedom in Christ

When I used to read Colossians, I always got nudged a little when I read two verses in Colossians, chapter 2. I love the book of Colossians in the New Testament because it teaches us about the completeness we have in Christ. It is about God saying to us "trust me, you're mine" and yet these two warnings are written right in the middle of the book!
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Colossians 2:18-19
People can be cheated out of the wonderful rewards and blessings of knowing the truth by well-meaning people religious or otherwise. We can't stop thinking when it comes to God, ever! Religion is designed by man as a way to worship God.  Religion can be right and religion can be wrong! The 'voluntary humility' stuff can be very deceiving. Sometimes the false philosophy of political correctness or should I say, religious correctness, tries to reign in people from saying anything to the contrary of religious tradition. We should not tolerate being pushed by those who go about establishing their own 'isms'. We don't have to be mean about it, but in fact, if we don't speak up about truth, that is the ultimate of meanness! There is so much to be said about ' increasing with the increase of God. We must 'hold the head', the doctrine of Jesus Christ as our lord and savior. He truly does save!

Throughout several years, I had been inundated by what seemed like a huge theological and ecumenical miasma and I wanted to scream at the pressure the confusion caused. Have you ever felt blocked in and pushed down? Praying works better than screaming. God knows our need and sends in the troops of precise, appropriate and ongoing relief! Yes, there were some things each of us needs to confront with the word as it is light that dispels darkness, but God makes it easy. God showers multiple blessings to clear out the disorder and open doors of opportunity to love truthfully! It is that simple! God is real and he designed the whole Lordship of Christ thing. That is real too! We don't need to muster up voluntary humility or allow fleshy wisdom to permeate and control our space. No one can take over the Lordship of Jesus Christ in each of our lives. We are free. We can breathe and help others to breathe the sweet air of freedom in Christ when we lean into him.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Evangelism

Recently, as I was reading Romans chapter 10, I was awed by the wonderful love that is expressed in its verses. The first word of the chapter is the word 'brethren' so we know it is addressed to people who understood who Christ is/was. However, the chapter is about more than the believer. It is about evangelism or the 'good news' about Jesus Christ and what that news can mean to all people both Judean and Gentile.

Too often we think of evangelism as a call to the altar, or reciting a prayer that brings us into submission to Christ by confessing how awful we've been. Maybe some of that happens, but the real understanding is in Romans 10:9-10:
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine  that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the  man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10
This is not formulaic, it is gorgeously gracious! The word 'confess' is the greek word 'homologia'. One doesn't have to be a Greek scholar to see the two sub-words: homo (same type) and logos (the word). It means to say the same word. It involves believing to be able to say the same thing.  To treat it formulaically is a disservice and often a deterrent.  It is not in confessing sin. Anyone can confess sin. People even brag about sin. Making Jesus Christ Lord is something else. To make Jesus Lord in your life involves understanding why and who he is and committing to follow him. It is not something someone decides emotionally or on the spur of the moment. Faith (trust) is built by listening to the reports about God. (Romans 10:17).  How does God get the attention of people to hear attentively? The answer is simple: by love.

In Romans, Israel and the Gentiles are both referred to. To the Judeans, God had written:
10 Brethren, my 's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved (delivered those things that harm). Romans 10:1
To the Gentiles God had Paul write:
12 For there is no difference between the Jew(Judean) and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:12-13
To call on God in the name of the Lord indicates a trust (faith). We love God because he first loved us (1John 4:19). How does that trust develop?  To really understand and substantiate the depth of that love we need to look at the Word of God.
16 For God so lved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17
The focus on sin that is perpetrated by many religious people is the wrong focus.  Sin consciousness pulls people in into the darker reaches rather than toward God. The whole idea of repentance (metanoia) is to change one's mind about God. Isn't that what 'reconciliation' is about? Many religious people define it as 'turning from sin' but that is not the primary meaning of the word. Guilt and shame are not part of the definition. It is about being invited into a dynamic, loving relationship.

In John 8, there is a record of a woman taken by the pharisees and scribes and they wanted to stone her and catch Jesus as to how he would handle it. Would he stone her, have an altar call and have her confess her sins? The pharisees, as with many religious pontificators, were going for the sin jugular. Jesus handled the whole scene beautifully (read it! John 8:1-11). To the woman he simply said to go and sin no more. The choice was hers.

True evangelism is bringing the 'good news' to people. because that is what God is all about. I've met many people who are afraid of God because they have been taught inaccurately about God, his word, his son and the gift of holy spirit. Sin is missing the the boat. You can't enjoy the sail if you are not onboard.


Grace* is the Power of God!

'Grace' is a much talked about word in the Bible.  This is a big concept and I dare say no one will ever know all there is to know a...