Friday, November 25, 2005

Back to the Basics

"But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." --Galatians 6:14

This is timing divine. Back to the basics. The foundation of our faith. The beginning of life everlasting.

I have been reminded this week that all I really have is Jesus. All that my world is--the reality that life is not always this perfect masquerade of happiness, but rather hardships and pains that whether we want to or not, we experience--I am brought back to the Cross of Christ. I have been firmly rooted in faith by the power of a Spirit that made His dwelling place in me the day my heart, mind, soul and strength were opened up to the true reality of Jesus Christ, the Savior of my life. It is Christ crucified, Christ buried, and Christ risen, that brings me into an everlasting blood-covenant relationship with God the Father.

And we humbly admit that the message is foolishness. To the mind accoustomed to the world, a Savior that dies is no Savior at all. The world says a Man with great power and wisdom, with great compassion and mercy, with great understand and love must be crowned king in this life. But when they see this same Man willingly give Himself up to be laughed at, mocked, spat on, scourged, beaten, and crucified, they turn their backs and as if to never really know Him at all, place a sign above the His bloody, crown of thorns covered head, which spitefully reads "King of the Jews."

He is King of the Jews and King of the Gentiles;
He is King of the rich and King of the poor;
He is King of the proud and King of the humble;
He is King of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation;
He is King of all reason, all feeling, all emotion;
He is King of all that is seen and unseen;
He is King of all power, honor, and glory;
He is trly King of kings and Lord of lords.
He is Jesus Christ, crucified.

His sovereignty is not forceful.
He reigns patiently on His throne.
He carries out His will with grace.
He looks on His people with love, compassion and mercy.
His glory is everlasting!
He is Jesus Christ, crucified.

The eyes of His children have been opened and we are in the presence of of the glory of Christ, the glory that is incomparable and incomprehensible.

His kingdom is not of this world; His throne is not in some city of this earth. In order for us to be brough into this kingdom, to live in the city where our King reigns, He did exactly what the world never expected:

He conquered death through dying.

For our King is also the High Priest;
Our King is the Paschal Lamb.
He offered up the final and ultimate sacrifice.
He was the sacrifice.

Now we worship our King who lives and reigns in the celestial kingdom where His citizens will enjoy Him forever.

All this because of a foolish Man on a
Life-taking cross,
Who through death, made
Life-everlasting possible.

By His Grace...For His Glory.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Delighting in the Law of the Lord and the Fellowship of His Suffering

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night."
-Psalm 1:1-2

Statements were made during a bible study I was in about how it would be dificult as David, the Psalmist, or any other writer of the Psalms to actually delight in the law of the Lord as written above. The reason being, there were so many specific laws that the Jews had to comply with back in their day. Ceremonial laws regarding what to sacrifice and when; civic laws regarding interaction with one another; and moral laws regarding motives behind doing things. They were extensive and deep. They covered the entire lifestyle one should have as a Jew. But David wrote that he delights in this; Paul wrote that the Law is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12). How, with something that seems so burdensome as the law, could it be seen in this way? Simply stated, the law that is given to us is given by the One, True God, that is why!

God, through the law, reveals to us His standard, a standard that He has for Himself and the standard that is right to keep if one is to ever come into His presence. The reason why Dvid was able to delight and why Paul saw the Law in the light that he did was because God has revealed Himself to us through His Law. But in this light, truth is revealed. This is where the burden of the Law, no matter how mundane or exciting, is exposed. What we see is that we are incapable of fulfilling the complete Law of God. In looking at the Law, and even delighting in it for the essence of what it is, we feel a burden on our backs. The burden, what truly ways us down, is not the Law itself, but rather the sin that has been made known through the Law. What was on the back of the Pilgrim in his journey was sin; the Law only allowed him to realize that he actually had a burden to carry. But this is the only role the Law plays in this world. The Law cannot save us for that was never its purpose.

So because it is holy, righteous and good, we can see the Law as beautiful and are able to delight in it. The Law allows us to gaze upon the perfection of God, His standard for Himself, the joy He has in keeping His Law, and His purpose for giving it to us. Now the truth is we find great difficulty delighting in all of the Law, but if we are to delight in the Lord, we must realize that the Law is but a glimpse of who he is. To aparllel this I believe we must take a look at the New Testament example and truth of suffereing and rejoicing in it. We know Christ suffered for our sake, to the point of death on the cross, thus to be a Christian, to follow Christ, we must heed His words, "if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Mark 8:34), and realize that we too will suffere for and in His name. but I don't know too many people who actually consider it a delight to suffer. As Christians, knowing there is complete joy and life in Christ, we also know that we are to rejoice and find joy in suffering for His name's sake, because then we are participating in the life of Christ. Peter wrote it like this:

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you...if anyone sufferes as a Christian, he is not be be ashamed but is to glorify God in this name." -1 Peter 4:12-14, 16

And Paul affirmed this in his letter to the Philippians:

"...not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousnes which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. -Philippians 3:9-11

These great men of God, pillars of the Christian faith, knew that we were not only to suffer as Christ suffered, but to rejoice in that because we are fellowshipping with our Savior and Lord for His name's sake! Although it is not "fun" to suffer, we find our joy and delight in that we are alive in Christ and participate in His life forever through our life and the present suffering we may experience.

By His Grace...For His Glory.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mission-ary Statement

We do not have it all figured out.
We do not have the entire Bible memorized.
We do not live off of $2 a day while in America.
We are not always praying and fasting.
We make many mistakes.
And we do not have all the answers that may lead someone to actually believe in Christ.

"How then will they call on Him in who they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?" --Romans 10:14

We are called into the mission field.

A field where the harvest is plentiful;
A field that is diverse by all means of the word;
A field that is in desperate need of caring, attention, and love.
A field lacking laborers.

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" --Isaiah 6:8

We are the workers who have responded.

We are His messengers of peace.
We are His laborers of love.
We are His bondservants of faith.
We are His children of hope.

"But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand." --Isaiah 64:8

Shaped in conformity to His will and good pleasure.

Made to share the joy of His gospel;
The mystery of His Son, Jesus Christ.
That in death we are brought to life--
His blood for our sins;
His resurrection for our eternal souls.

"'Holy, holy holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.'" --Revelation 4:8

All by His grace. All for His glory.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

An Amazing Gift

Well it has been almost a month since I last wrote about the camera issue I was facing. I had sent it in and found out that the repairs were going to cost nearly the price of the camera so I decided not to get it done. Instead, I began to pray that God would somehow provide another camera that meets the specs that my old camera did not.

God decided to provide me with a camera--the one you see to your right. Through the amazing generosity of a very great friend of mine, I was able to purchase a new camera that has some awesome features. Many of the pictures that I have posted on here over the last month (except for two I believe) have been taken with this camera. I have yet to really play with it and try out some cool things, but I am excited about the chance to do it with this new camera.

Thank you so much, friend for your generosity and your heart. You have been such a great source of wisdom and conversation in my life and I look forward to how God develops our relationship in the years to come.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Have You Earned Your Rights???

"Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight;
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath."

-Psalm 39:5

I was reading this Psalm and writing down what the Lord was teaching me through it. When I got to this verse I began writing about the obvious--that in comparison to the eternity of Our God, we definitely are nothing but short breaths. While thinking in this perspective, this proper perspective, we, like David, begin to realize what life is not about--it isn't about fighting; it isn't about walking around angry and bitter; it isn't about all the money we can make; it isn't about popularity contests. But fact is we all, somehow and in someway, get caught up in the temporality of life. That is life and as I began to mediate a little more I started to think about the way we live or lives, mainly that we believe in the "right to life."

Most of us who live in this world take hold of the rights that have been bestowed on us as a result of being human. In America this is most evident as we talk about our rights of privacy and personal space or our right to pursue happiness. In our country it goes even further, beyond human rights and into citizenship rights. By being born on American soil or by having an U.S.-born parent, I am automatically given the freedom of speech, religion, etc.; I have the right to bear arms, the right to a fair trial and all the other rights granted to us by the great Constitution of the United States. Some fight to maintain both these human and constitutional rights while others fight to bring these rights to people around the world who have never experienced the joy and freedom of living in them. But because they are rights, most of us take them for granted, much like the love of our parents or the superior technology of today in that while at times we express our appreciation for them, we more often than not live as if we deserve them.

And that is my question:

"What makes any of us think we deserve any of the rights given to us throughout our lives, whether human or constitutional?"

Is it simply because we are human? Is it because my parents are American? I don't have the problem with the answer to those questions being yes, but that then puts us in a position not many of us are comfortable with--a position of grace.

If because I am human I have inherited the rights of a human being and if because I am an American I have been given the rights of an American citizen, how can I ever be in a position to say that I deserve them...unless I give in to the position of grace. I did nothing before I was born into this world to earn the right to be a human or to be an American--that just simply happens to be the way it is. And now I sit here in a public place, enjoying a hot cup of coffee, writing somewhat intelligent, organized thoughts, without being attacked or bothered, protected by my rights and freedom. But I can't remember ever doing anything ever in my lifetime that opened the door to the position in which I now sit. I am in a position of grace.

Interestingly though, this is in direct opposition to how many of us think a relationship with God works. The mentality there is, "if I try hard to be a good person and don't do too many wrong things, I can get into heaven." And why not--every other aspect of our lives seems merit-based. Be a good kid, get some candy. The better grades you get the better college you can attend. How well you do in college determines how good your job will be; how well you do at your job determines the salary you will make. We are driven to earn our right to candy, grades, schools, and of course, money. So it is somewhat understandable how quickly we forget about the foundation off which we build--the foundation of human and constitutional rights we never earned, but were simply given as a gift at birth. This is unmerited favor. This is grace. And this is but a "mere breath" compared to the grace given to us spiritually by God through faith in Jesus Christ.

As we cannot earn the rights of being human or American citizens for they have already been given to us, nor can we ever earn salvation with God because the blood of Christ has already given it to us. And as all we did was be born into this world to receive our rights, all we must do is be born again in Spirit in to the kingdom of God through faith in His Son Jesus Christ in order to receive salvation, eternal life, and the true right to be called children of God.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

What was intended for evil...

I began writing this post on November 3rd.
Today I attended the funeral of a brother in my fraternity. Tom Brown was murdered this past weekend in Jacksonville after the Florida/Georgia football game. For a reason still unknown, five young men--4 from Jacksonville and one from Ponte Vedra--attacked him, three of whom held him down while two continually beat him. He died at the hospital an hour later.

It was senseless. No reason could justify why these guys acted in such a brutal way. And as a result of their depraved minds, many of us have lost a great friend and role model. Tom was an amazing guy. He loved to work hard; he had a passion for it. He was constantly working on his car, fixing it up and doing everything on his own. He was constantly looking at ways to fix up the house and bring it up to and above the standards set by the University. Moreso, he cared about people and loved them with a servant's heart.

He was the type of guy I have always looked up to. He was action first, talk after. If he didn't know how to fix something or build something, he would learn. He respected hard labor and enjoyed the fruits of it. Money was never his incentive. We will all miss Tom dearly...

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
-Genesis 50:20-

And oh how the Lord is using Tom in ways he never thought possible. I traveled up to Gainesville in response to the Lord's tugging on my heart. I didn't know what to expect, but I was hoping He would use me in some way while I was there. About nine of us had a discussion that night about death and how it gets us thinking about important things, like life and God. One of them, my old roommate who is also named Tom, said "I never thought about the question, 'who am I living my life for--God or myself?' and I admit that I am living for myself." This was a breakthrough for him as he had spent most of his life trying to do the right thing and then would end up feeling guilty when he couldn't. He thought that was the way to please God, by doing good.

He and I ended up meeting with each other the following night at my favorite coffee shop in Gainesville. With the hope of the Spirit we began talking about God's love for us and how sin separates us from God. We began going through the Bible and I challenged him to really read it and try and figure out what it was saying. A key passage that we read was Ephesians 2:1-10 that stresses the transformation that occurs in our life as a result of God's great mercy and love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The verses we really emphasized were 8 & 9:

"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 may boast."

As he read this verse he began to realize that salvation does not come through the works of our hearts or the intentions of good that we have, but can never live up to, but rather that God has given us the gift of Jesus Christ by grace through faith. Tom's eyes were opened up to the reality that he could never do anything on his own accord to please God and earn his salvation. In those moments he began to experience a freedom he had never known before. I told him that he should go home and pray over this, confess to God that he is a sinner, ask for mercy and open up his heart to Jesus Christ, so that He may come into him and begin an amazing work through His Spirit.

And Tom did just that...PRAISE THE LORD!!!

It has been great to talk to him over this past week as he has been reading the Word, asking questions and growing. I am so excited to see what the Lord is going to do in his life over the coming weeks, months and years as he embarks on this walk that is so trying but so joyful. I have been lifting him up in prayer daily and trust in the Spirit's awesome power to sanctify him and reveal to him all the joys and wonders that Christ offers. Thanks be to God for His salvation in Christ Jesus.

By the grace of Jesus Christ I write this news to you all.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

You Are Not Your Own

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"Do you not know are not your own. For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body."

Now that I live in Christ I am not my own man. But as I think about it more, I begin to wonder if we are ever at any point in life--whether with or apart from Christ--our own person. I believe individuality is simply an illusion created by the Master of Illusions. It is written that we were bought with a price; by the blood of Christ Jesus we were purchased and are now the eternal possessions of God. So what were we before? Who owned us? Through the Word of God and in our new life we learn that we were slaves to sin. Sin was our master and all our labors of sin were producing for us death. Therefore it is foolish to think that I have ever been my own man. that is arrogant and prideful, but then again that is exactly where the devil would like me to be--blinded from reality and kept in bondage by the power of his illusions.

This is why, when we are first brought into true fellowship with God through Christ, our eyese are opened, we come alive, and we see for the first time the chains that once held us captive to death. We know reality and the truth sets us free; now in God's light we are able to see light. As reality grows clearer we begin to understand better the pain and anguish Our Lord went through as He became sin for us and was sacrificed on the cross. Paul wrote that he wanted to know Christ and "the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings..." and David wrote in one of the most beautiful Psalms that the sacrifices of God are a "broken spirit" and that God will not despise a "broken and contrite heart." The point is that Christ was broken on the cross. He walked this earth in brokenness and humility as He--Our God--became flesh for His glory and for the sake of man. In coming to truth we must realize that the lives we once knew were illusions that are difficult to get away from and because of that we will experience pain and brokenness. But Paul desired to know this; Paul wanted to know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings because he knew that through it, he would attain great truth, greater joy, and greater love. In brokennes does God fulfill His purposes. In trials our faith is perfected. So the question is then posed by the perceptive Oswald Chambers, "If God can accomplish His purposes in this world through a broken heart, then why not thank Him for breaking yours?"

By the Grace of Jesus Christ.