I Had Never Heard This (New Perspective)

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What is your response when you hear something for the first time? That one thing you hear could completely change the direction of your life.

A paralytic man was healed by Jesus and everyone was amazed and said,” We have never seen anything like this.” Mark 2:12   In the same way, I think there are some things people have ‘never heard’ that are quite amazing.

You can’t do the same thing again and again and expect a different result. You may also be conditioned to ‘hear’ the same things again and again; and the results may not be amazing.

Recently I heard ‘again’ how prayer has four components, based on the acronym ACTS. A: adoration, C: confession, T: thanksgiving and S: supplication. Have you hear this as many times as I have? I’m not sure who started this. It is very creative and homiletically useful. I remember utilizing it in my day. However, teaching people to pray in such a way is a formulaic approach.

My wife would get frustrated if I didn’t talk to her at all but she would get equally frustrated if I talked to her in a prescribed order. Come to think of it, I’ve done that. It didn’t go well. I suppose there are good intentions in this, but formula messages only get formula results. I’ve heard of ‘amazing grace’ and I think we need to hear ‘amazing words’

Many people have never heard that God’s perfect work has been accomplished in them. It’s impossible to believe something that you have never heard. For many years, I only heard or felt like I needed to learn and follow ‘principles’ to be a fervent, righteous living person. This was presented as Christianity to me. I tried to act (and pray) like a Christian, and following these principles would make me a better christian. There was nothing amazing in any of this.

This does not result in worship, joy, peace and rest. You continue to be preoccupied with yourself and it is unlikely you will be thinking of others. A friend recently sent me this quote:

“We are free to sacrificially love others horizontally because God has sacrificially loved us vertically. In Christ I already possess everything I need, so I’m now free to do everything for you, without needing you to do anything for me. I can now spend my life giving instead of taking, going to the back instead of getting to the front, sacrificing myself for others instead of sacrificing others for myself. The Gospel of grace alone liberates us to live a life of breathtaking generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor and unbound courage.” T. Tchividjian

One day I heard something that I never heard before. It was amazing. I heard that the Christian life is a life lived by faith. I heard that I was complete in Christ already. I heard that I could accept all of this as my new start. I could keep trying to arrive at the point of being acceptable or trust that I already am. I either believe that I am righteous in Christ or keep trying to pursue it.

Just for a moment consider the difference and impact of these two options.

You live in a way that constantly focuses on your behavior, with an emphasis on your shortcomings or you live by faith in God’s work in you that is complete. You are constantly trying to get more of Jesus, trying to get closer, stronger and better. or you start trusting what “has been done”, both for you and in you. Trusting replaces trying. You have exchanged your work for God’s work, “in Christ”.

Don’t act as a Christian but live “as” a Christian

Completeness does not mean that your behavior always lines up. It may require more intentional focus for you to trust rather than try. It may surprise some people that I would say, “the real work begins” and that is the work of trusting. Trusting is transformation. I’ve heard many more messages that told me how to “act” as a Christian than how to live “as” a Christian

When I recently heard a message about the importance of ‘my’ faithfulness, I remembered that “faithfulness” is a fruit of the Spirit. “ Galatians 5:22  What is your way to faithfulness?

Recently a friend commented “This is so hard to understand and communicate.” He had been looking at various types of discipleship and study materials for his men’s group and everywhere he looked he noticed there was always an emphasis on what we need to be doing to be better Christian men. It is difficult for people because they are programmed to focus on their faithfulness and behavior.

In John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives “life”, the flesh profits nothing, the words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life.” Jesus was speaking about this all along. Like today, there were many then who didn’t know that the flesh profits nothing.

In vs. 60 after Jesus said He was the bread of life, the people said, “This is a difficult statement, who can listen to it.” It is difficult to hear because we are so programmed to emphasize the things we need to do.  Earlier in the same chapter when Jesus was asked, “What must we do to do the works of God, he replied, “Believe in Him whom He has sent.” Vs 28,29

I am amazed that people prefer to argue and debate all of this. They prefer to focus equally on that which is sinful and unsanctified. They emphasize the need to be balanced. They are concerned or afraid that people will take advantage of this and go out and sin.

We are sanctified “by faith”. Sanctification for those first listening to Jesus centered on what is measured and profitable in and through the flesh. It is no different today.

A person who is born of the Spirit, can live in the Spirit or walk in the Spirit. Jesus started something new, eternal, and complete. Is it possible to live a life on this basis?

Processing the words of Jesus by the flesh was difficult. Understanding the Spirit was difficult because of the earthly thinking (perspective) they took. The message of sanctification by faith is the same. These are ‘heavenly things’. It was difficult at the time of Christ and difficult for my friend.

When Nicodemus. a very religious man, was introduced to the Spirit life, he said to Jesus, “How can these things be?  Jesus replied, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things.” v10 “I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you “heavenly things”

He who believes Jesus said, (a) has eternal life vs 16 (b) will not perish vs 16 and (c) will not be judged vs 18. This is such good news. This news is amazing.

Ezekiel 36:26. “I will give you a new Spirit and I will put My Spirit in you, I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh ” I wonder what part of this people don’t accept or believe. It is this Spirit that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about and came to give us.

These are the heavenly things; not religious, formulaic, from the flesh, or based on our works in the past, present or future. These heavenly things transform our perspective and performance.

I know some people talk about “practice makes perfect”. I reverse this to say that “perfect makes practice.” If you start well it will keep you and grow you.

There may be more downs than ups, and any time you turn back to the flesh (your faithfulness) you will ‘again’ discover that it does not profit. Hopefully you will become convinced that you need to rely and trust in God’s perfect and complete work “in the Spirit”. You will be amazed.

Part Two: Next Post

 

 

 

 

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The Uncomfortable Spotlight (The Truth Perspective)

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Do you like receiving correction? People about to receive correction often think they are going to be grilled or hammered. One can feel they are under a ‘spotlight’, expecting to be embarrassed or shamed. At the least, people feel uncomfortable. Why is that?

Truth in Love

I have heard many people talk about “speaking the truth in love”. Unfortunately, this usually focuses on someone’s failure to meet some Biblical requirement.  Out of concern, someone  (competent or not) will confront, correct or admonish someone’s wrong behavior. The success of these confrontations vary.

Recently I heard a majority of people agree that hearing the “truth” means ‘hearing words they don’t want to hear’. (Imagine that) Even if the admonisher is caring, the individual on the receiving end doesn’t really want to hear it. The receiver often feels judged and that the admonisher acts superior. Besides all this, the admonisher often find this role emotionally draining. Something is wrong.

Truth Tellers

I have met people who said, “Well my Bible says…..” or “The truth is….” I usually find myself avoiding these folk.   I’m not sure how truth became a pulpit to confront others about their sin. There are actually more verses that caution people not to do this.

I get concerned when people are paternalistic, defined thus:

Paternalistic leadership is an approach that involves a dominant authority figure who acts as a patriarch or matriarch and treats people as though they are members of a large, extended family. In exchange, the leader expects loyalty and trust, as well as obedience.

I’m not suggesting that people should just get doses of positive thinking or success driven messages either. A perspective on “Truth” is vital. You may find this perspective different.

Grace and Truth

I have also heard people say you need to ‘balance’ grace with truth. Truth is described as being on the opposite side of the same coin. Some must think “grace” is being warm and accepting and “truth” is when someone sticks it to you. Of course ‘sin’ admonishers start with grace but seem more interested in pouncing on the sin of concern. This is often the objective of the admonisher.

I personally think grace and truth are one and the same and not meant to balance each other. Grace and truth come through Jesus and are ‘in’ Jesus.  John 1:17

Truth is in Jesus

In the next section we will see that truth is not about morality. Before we see what truth is not, we need to see “who” is truth. Truth in Jesus means that He came to offer ‘Himself’.  Jesus said, “I am the Truth” John 14:6. “Truth is in Jesus” Ephesians 4:21. He ‘is’ grace and truth: “Grace and Truth are realized through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17. They are one and the same thing. So then, truth is not hard to hear. Truth is good news. We should be eager to hear the truth if we know anything about Jesus and who He is..

Our life condition without Christ is already full of lies and shame. Rather than continue in these by hiding or hurling blame at others we can realize a “new reality”. Truth is about a new reality more than morality.

Truth is “Reality”                           

“Truth is synonymous with reality and the opposite of illusion”. It is opposed to madness:  Acts 26:25   Truth is opposed to Jewish myths, inventions and commandments. Titus 1:14 Truth exposes all the illusions and superstitions of the gentiles. Ephesians 4:14

Truth is not primarily about morality or sin management. Truth challenges one’s reality or perhaps we should say ‘unreality’. When people follow illusions, myths and inventions they do partake in all kinds of sin. The root of the problem is that they are not partaking in Jesus but something else (weird teaching; cunning, crafty, and deceitful scheming). Truth is reality first, and that reality is found in Jesus.

Truth is Rejected

In the Word there are those who do need to be rebuked.  Reject a factious person. Titus 3:10  This person sadly will live a life of self-condemnation. v11.

Others are described as walking away or not practicing the truth. James 5:19 Some have gone back to live like Gentiles.  We wouldn’t put it that way today.  This person’s thinking (and living) is futile, darkened, and ignorant. It is recognized by hard heartedness, a lack of sensitivity, full of impurity and greed. Ephesians 4:17-19

After this Paul says, “This is not what you have learned” Ephesians 4:20, He says, “Truth is in Jesus”. His admonition is to remain, trust and hope in Jesus. He is Life and who you need. His response or admonishment is about Jesus and not their behavior.

Truth and Repentance

For years I thought repentance was about changing my behavior which needed to be changed. Later I discovered that the word “repentance” in the Greek (metanoia) means “change your mind”. Something needs to change because a person has developed a false view of God.

God’s compassion and kindness have become questioned. Yet it is “The kindness of God that leads you to repentance”. Romans 2:4   People who are acting like Gentiles are admonished to change their mind about God. Change in behavior will come ‘through’ this.

People need to come under the conviction of God’s ‘love’. Usually you hear that someone needs to come under the conviction of ‘sin’. It’s about Jesus and not about behavior.

The Admonisher

In the Word, those ‘doing’ the admonishing actually receive the bulk of the admonition. To them we read;”don’t grieve the Holy Spirit, put off falsehood, don’t be bitter or angry, share with those in need, build up others, be kind and compassionate.” This is really what “Truth in Love” is all about (giving grace). “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only that which is good for edification and give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:25-29

Personal Example: I was counseling someone at the same time I was writing this post. I did not talk to this person about this emphasis. We met while he was at an extremely low point physically, emotionally, financially and in his relationships. For the past three weeks he has discovered his “completeness” in Christ. He felt like a total failure living out of his own resources. He never felt “good enough”. Now he is experiencing joy and health. His tension pain and stress went away and he is back at work. He felt awkward telling me this, but said, “I think I’m cured.” He discovered that he had a spiritual problem more than a physical problem.. And then he said, “This is so Real.” How wonderful. In spite of all the troubles going on in his life, he discovered that Jesus is reality.

In the Spotlight: (Summary)

So why have people become afraid of admonishers? Jesus is not going to shame, judge or embarrass you. All of the 39 people who met Jesus personally never left feeling condemned. He did not need to stronghold, convince, threaten, coerce or pressure anyone.

Admonishment is meant to uplift and comfort the faint-hearted. Through it, one is restored and encouraged.

You may still not want to have anything to do with the spotlight. Never the less, I hope this perspective will uplift you.

 

 

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I Can’t Change Myself

 

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Over time I have come to conclude that a person cannot change themselves. Tolstoy and Gandhi are famous for the quote, “Everyone wants to change the world but no one thinks of changing themselves.” However, I don’t think you can. We clearly know that you can’t change another person; what makes you think you can change yourself?

What does change look like? How does it happen? How is it measured?

Change is defined as “made or become different”. You could easily argue that a white wall painted blue has changed. You can change your job, priorities, hairstyle, the locks on your door, home location and marriage partner, but can you change yourself?

You can change a thought, habit, attitude or religion, but can you change yourself? You can set new goals, say affirmations, build a support network, utilize a life coach or mentor, but can you change yourself?

                       Changing Others

People hope to inspire and motivate change in others. A person may give up on this and thus save themselves from unhealthy co-dependency. Some say they will not try to change another person in order to make them happy. This is wise.

Einstein said, “Women marry men hoping they will change and men marry women hoping they won’t. Ultimately both are disappointed.”

You can accept others, love others, serve others, choose how to react to others and choose not to be around them. You can confront others but this does not mean you can change them. You know you can’t change someone else. How about yourself?

                   Changing Yourself

Other people might try to inspire and motivate ‘you’ to change. Have you got frustrated and exhausted with them doing so? Do you get frustrated trying to change yourself?

Some subscribe to “fake it until you make it.” Others console themselves in taking baby steps like Bill Murray, in the movie “What About Bob”. Maybe you have suppressed things or even given up.

I find church goers are very vulnerable to being told they need to change. I have heard countless explanations and applications of messages in order for a person to get closer to God, to grow and be all you need to be or can be.

A common message is to encourage people to be more disciplined. Being more disciplined is the ultimate ticket to change. It seems ‘the more disciplined person likes to tell the ‘not so disciplined’ person how to live their life. Ultimately the focus is still on change and your need for it.

                       The Great Exchange

The alternative to all this is “the great exchange.”  If you are weary and tired, frustrated and exhausted you might be open to hear me out. Sometimes I wonder if the person who is tired of trying to change is actually tired enough. Many people keep thinking there is one more thing they can do to change or make life work. There is a better way.

As humans we were designed for a spirit life from God. If God is perfect, holy, love and peace it only makes sense that the Life and Spirit that he gives us is the same. The Spirit Life is found in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ and receiving His Life.

His life in us becomes the source and power we need for living. The basis for this is a ‘great exchange’ a Life given to us, living in us and living through us.

” I have been crucified with Christ, and it no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”   Galatians 2:20

The climax of the divine story is the cross, resurrection and the coming of the Spirit of God to reside in us. Jesus came and went to the cross because “we cannot change ourselves” no matter how much we try. We might try to change by being religious and keeping laws. Let’s just call these “requirements”. These requirements have already been met.

“The requirements of the law are fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”           Romans 8:4                                                                                   “We are qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”    Colossians 1:12

The gift of God is called salvation and it can mean that you are saved from trying to change yourself. You need to realize that you can’t. God is waiting for these two precious words, “I can’t”.

Christians will emphasize the finished work that Christ accomplished on the cross. I like to emphasize the finished work is also in us. In our deepest beings we discover that God did a perfect job. Why wouldn’t it be perfect? I exchanged ‘my’ life for His. I become part of the divine story. I can’t add to what He has given. Jesus asked for my life. He not only wanted me to give up all ‘I have’ but also all ‘I am’. If you are experiencing “Christ as your Life” then you have given up all that you were.

I can only accept this by faith. In doing so I begin to witness Spirit fruit change as I give thanks for the way God saved me from myself, especially all the pressure I have from others or myself to change. Maybe you’re tired enough to take comfort in the thought that transformation has been and always will be about God. You are not God, you cannot save yourself and you cannot change yourself.

I tell people, “The day you receive Christ, you measure up before you do anything at all.” Before you pray, serve, give or before there is any merit on your part.

“As you have found Christ, so walk in Him” Colossians 2:6.

Keep walking in the freedom of His Life because the grace, love and acceptance in this is transformational.

“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord (now in us), are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”                                                                                    2 Corinthians 3:18

On the basis of this verse I recently heard someone say  that we can ‘reflect’ Christ. In reality we can ‘radiate’ Christ as we give up on our unique way of trying to change ourselves through some fleshly approach.

Is your approach flowing out of completeness? Completeness is defined as “having all the required customary characteristics.” It also means “thorough, entire, total, unmodified, undivided, uncompromised and complete victory.”

Where do you stand on this? A double-minded person is unstable. A house divided against itself will not stand.  I have decided to stand on what is completed and trust God to transform me. I can’t change my mind about this because I can’t change myself.

 

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Spiritual Autism The Cross Perspective

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A cross is often worn around the neck or tattooed on an arm. Recently I had an opportunity to speak to a group of leaders about the significance of the cross, not as a symbol but as a living reality. One leader drew a picture of the cross in a hand that you can see at the end of this post.

The artist is a parent of an autistic child. During that child’s development, the parents discovered that learning occurs best when a child not only hears something, but sees it. The leader developed artistic skills as a result. Her drawing is a very simplistic but candid picture that helped her gain a little more perspective on the topic I was addressing at the conference.

The artist heard my presentation about the insufficiency of our self-sufficiency. We were never designed to live out of our own resources regardless of how capable we see ourselves or how much we have successfully accomplished. Life is not about living with Christ’s help but about Christ’s very life living through us. Only Christ’s life in us ‘is’ sufficient for the life situations we find ourselves in.

At the end of the conference I had everyone in attendance hold out their hand and look at it for a minute. While doing so they were asked to ponder the most troubling current situation of their life. What is your biggest problem, hardest temptation or worst fear? What are you trying to overcome out of your own strength?   

What is the hardest thing you are facing in your life?

In life we face significant challenges to attain security and significance. Some people appear more successful than others in achieving this. According to our artist’s description, many people even like to take the credit for this. However, even if we successfully arrive at a level for which we take the credit, we will soon discover there are other areas of our life that are greater than our ability to handle or attain success.

The troubles, struggles and challenges of life are personal, relational, communal and worldwide. Our solutions vary from therapy, hard work, patience and continuing to have hope. After all, we don’t want to give up hope. Seasons of hostility, skepticism, cynicism and depression last longer than we ever thought they would when we do.

Many are simply ready to quit a job, leave a marriage and even take their life because of the problems they face with others and themselves. The mounting stresses or problems not only ‘seem’ greater than our ability to solve, they are greater. They are insurmountable. At some point we will realize this, if not about our own life, certainly for the state of the world.

Jesus actually came for you even though he came to this world some 2000 years ago. He also went to the cross for you and gave The Spirit and The Life we need some 2000 years ago. According to a reliable source, (The Bible), the situation or condition of the world was so dark when He came, the light of His Life could not even be comprehended. The whole world was spiritually autistic. Conditions today are the same. We need what he has offered through his coming, His death and His Life. We need the death of our self-sufficiency exchanged for His life and His Sufficiency.

Just like the autistic child needs a parent to help them comprehend and live life, we need something more for living life. The symbol of the cross is one that can help us with this. As your eyes begin to see and your heart responds, you will soon discover the cross is much more than a symbol when it is applied to one’s life.

I know very little about the challenge of mental autism. I have relatives that deal with it every day. They are not looking for a fix or a simple answer. The definition of autism is: a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating or forming relationships with other people in using language and abstract concepts.”  Either God has difficulty in forming a relationship with us or else we keep trying to make life work without considering His provision.

Some people are quite content with doing all they should do or can do, and they feel grateful that they are not doing as bad as others who are not as capable or strong. But none of us really have anything to boast about.

The apostle Paul wrote that he would boast about nothing except the cross. The cross is for forgiveness which we have because Christ shed his blood. The cross is also for sufficiency as we experience ‘His Life’ every day. We need what Christ came to give. Just like His light in the darkness,  for those who were crucified with Christ in the darkness of His death, we have ‘His Life’ and we need ‘His Life’.

How do we get this Life? We get it through the cross. The cross in the palm is a symbol that we receive forgiveness but the cross also represents God’s provision above every vexing aspect of our life. The cross in the palm is also over our troubles and our self-efforts to make life work, improve ourselves or change others. Our troubles are another opportunity for us to “see” the insufficiency of our self-sufficiency.

The apostle Paul also wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me”. (Galatians 2:20 a) I might add that he wants to live through me and therefore it is His strength and sufficiency. For the person who has already received Christ, we do not try to be strong, we choose to be strong, resting on His Life and through His life we have complete acceptance, fullness and joy regardless of the circumstances.

Looking at the artist’s drawing we ‘see’ the cross. She drew this picture for herself first and not her child.What do you ‘see’ for yourself today? What vexes you the most? The words of Galatians 2:20 were not meant to be a verse memorized as much as a verse trusted and experienced. The cross is over our self-efforts for living.

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Perhaps you will choose to look at your trials or adversity through the cross. The artist’s personal response was, “God will use those who don’t care who gets the credit.” What’s your response? What does the cross need to replace in you?

“Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might”  Ephesians 6:10

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Video Testimony: Helping Troubled Boys

Rob counseled David Bosley’s mother many years ago. David sat in on the sessions and was greatly impacted by the grace message. In this brief video he testifies of his spiritual breakthrough and current ministry as Founder and Director of The Masters Ranch in Missouri.

– GFI

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Summer Issue of Glimpses of Grace

TheGlimpses summer issue of GFI’s Glimpses of Grace has been mailed out. It features an article by Rob on vision-casting, testimonies, a devotional article on “The Chariots of God,” a Missions Update, and an announcement about The New Life DVD package. To see a PDF copy click here.

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The Conspicuous Perspective (His Banner is Love)

Christian Flag In the last week a lot of attention has been given to recent political and Supreme Court decisions in the United States. Supporters and protestors conspicuously rally around flags that symbolize their values. This is the Christian Flag and it symbolizes values that are central to me.

The Christian Flag was first conceived on September 26, 1887 at Brighton Chapel, Brooklyn, New York. Sunday school superintendent, Charles Overton gave an impromptu speech when a scheduled speaker failed to arrive. He asked the students what a flag representing Christianity would look like. Years later after contemplating the responses, he and a colleague designed and began promoting the flag.

The following explanation was given for the symbolism. The flag has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The shade of red on the cross symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed. The blue represents the waters of baptism and the hope of heaven. The white represents the purity of Jesus. The white flag is linked to his surrender to God. Some later suggested the white flag represents his nonviolence, like waving a white flag.

Flags were used in the Old Testament. Moses put up a banner (flag) and declared God as: Jehovah Nissi; “The Lord is My Banner”. (Exodus 17:15) God was the one Moses and the children of Israel would rally around. The banner was a proclamation that made a strong statement about who was their God. Sometimes the flag was used in worship and at times for warfare. Most of all it would represent God’s presence in their midst. Just as the Royal Standard flag flies at Buckingham palace to signify that the Queen is in residence.

Flags were not used in the New Testament. Jesus never waved a flag nor is there evidence of flags used among early Christians. Some use flags in worship services today, like with a song or a dance; they can add beautiful expression and meaning.

Flags drape coffins to honor fallen soldiers. There are strict orders for their use. Each fold of the flag has meaning. Flags flown at half-mast have special significance and command a response of respect and honor.

So what should our response be to the flag controversy? Is it necessary to for us to fly the “Christian flag”? I’m sure this post will be met with various opinions. I personally do not need a Christian flag to fortify my faith any more than wearing a cross might. However the symbolism is rich in meaning and I should stand with those who do. I’m especially grateful for the symbolism of the cross and what it means to me.

In Song of Solomon 2:4, the bride sings about God’s love for us with the words, “His banner over me is love.” The cross symbolizes the death that brought redemption and reconciliation through Jesus; it our rally point, our proclamation, and an assurance of His presence in our midst. It is ‘our’ banner of love.

“For God so loved the world that he gave His Only Son”….. John 3:16

We know that people will rally around many kinds of flags. In Europe fans rally around and wave flags of their favorite football team. Family shields are made to symbolize one’s heritage. People wear hats and shirts that represent their loyalty and commitment. They intentionally want to be conspicuous.

Take note of the lyrics to a song I learned as a child and still love. “Love is the flag that flies from the castle of my heart”. Later verses replace the word love with the words peace and joy. The chorus says, “So let it fly in the sky, let the whole world know, that the king is in residence there.”

As flags are conspicuous, it would be great if our love, peace and joy would be conspicuous. People want their flag to attract attention and stand out. Waving a flag can mean nothing but our worship, love, peace, grace and joy can mean everything. Let’s not be critical of the flags that others wave. Let’s trust that all the cross represents in us will be what really matters and like the song, ‘the whole world will come to know’ and even sing “His banner over me is love”. I hope your love and life are conspicuous.

What is the most conspicuous thing about you? What would others say?

“They’ll know we are Christians by our love”.   (John 13:35 paraphrase)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When is Enough, Enough?

Mind-the-Gap

When is enough, enough? When will you feel significant or secure enough? When will your performance orientation, people pleasing and perfectionism be ‘fully’ satisfied? Like the warning on the London subway, will you be able to successfully ‘mind the gap’ between your life and your need?

These questions are always in the background, not only in every counseling session but in so many lives. I hesitate to say ‘everyone’s’ life. You can draw your own conclusion on that.

As I listen and learn from friends I glean from their journey, insights and experiences. Let me share two stories that are relevant for this perspective.

Friend 1: My friend offers a western cultural analysis that is difficult to disagree with. He summarizes that people have the capacity to fill their gap, ‘anywhere, anytime, and anyway’ they can. Filling the gap is temporary and transient. This same friend believes that people focus on themselves first and know very little about denying themselves in the way that Jesus spoke.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” Luke 9:23

So many people are lining up to fill the gap in themselves and for themselves. As friend #1 says, “How many people are standing in line to die?” He’s not talking about a physical death but laying down your life and trusting the Life, Way and Words of Jesus who promised to be “enough”.

Jesus said just enough when He came to earth. He revealed Himself enough that we would know what is eternal and what is temporal. He not only spoke about an upside down kingdom, he lived it and promised the same Spirit would be with us and in us as we live.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you not as the world gives, do I give to you.” John 14:27

Friend #2 has a daily job that requires a high level of communication, performance and results. Any day can add to an already toxic and conflicted work environment. Decisions made at the board room level by the people in this environment will impact thousands if not millions of people. He does his best, but some days stretch him to the breaking point.

Anticipating the worst day imaginable, recently he felt like staying home. But that morning God’s Word and Spirit broke through with “I will keep you in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” Isaiah 26:3 Another translation says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast.”

Years ago I studied the concept of ‘perfect peace’ and realized that the verse actually says, “peace, peace”. It is like saying truly, truly. The only way to communicate perfect peace is to say it twice. For someone like me I think I need to hear it even more than twice. My friend’s heart was greatly encouraged on that day and it made a big difference. He experienced a peace that was higher and beyond the circumstances. Though chaos existed around him that day he was full of peace.

When I encounter challenges in circumstances and relationships it really helps me to remember the Words of Jesus, the Words of Isaiah 26:3 and the words of my friends. It doesn’t matter what kind of gap you have or how big it is, there is only one source of Peace and Life.

What are you endeavoring to accomplish? Are you still trying to work on your ‘self-image’? It is an endless empty pursuit with an every widening gap. It will never be enough.

With His very Life in us, living through us, we can be like Jesus. This is “better” than trying to get a good self-image’ don’t you think? Tell this to your children, but first tell it to yourself.

He has come to fill the gap and He has come to be enough. He has also provided enough. In Colossians 2:10, it says we are complete in Him. It means we are full and that fullness continues. The Colossians wanted to add philosophies but Jesus is enough. The Galatians wanted to add laws but Jesus is enough. The Corinthians wanted to add just about everything else but Jesus is enough. His forgiveness is enough. Our identity is enough. His presence is enough. He is also enough for everything outside of us in creation. Enough is enough.

“All things are from Him, through Him and to Him. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36

Each time I sing the worship song, “Your Grace is Enough” by Chris Tomlin, I sing it as a declaration and affirmation for the day I am living. It has become a song of trust and surrender when I sing, “I’m covered in your love, your grace is enough for me”. I can’t say what tomorrow will bring and how I will be stretched but “I have enough in Him”  and I know “enough” to trust in the God  of all grace.

Check out Laura Story’s song: Blessing. It has over 4 million views on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQan9L3yXjc  The lyrics say, “We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love, as if every promise from your word is not enough.” It’s a beautiful song.

In what way is Christ not enough for you?

“My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

*Besides the stories from my friends, I was inspired to write this after reading a chapter in ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown.

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I Survived a Pulmonary Embolism

 

PEI just survived a pulmonary embolism. I feel blessed and give thanks to God to be alive. Through this I have gained a whole new perspective on health and living. There is nothing like lessons learned from life experience. This experience is now part of my resume. This post includes a few things I have discovered.

What Happened: Being in overall good health, two weeks ago I began my usual spring clean-up. After sweeping in a very dusty area (without a mask), I developed some chest tightness and had difficulty breathing. There was no particular strain from working that day. A few days later I was bending over on another project without stretching or giving the back enough relief and this resulted in significant lower back pain. At the time I was convinced the problem was muscular.

The back pain and breathing difficulties led to a decision to sleep in a lounge chair for a few nights and this actually seemed to help. Both the back pain and breathing completely subsided. I thought I was out of the woods until Thursday, April 9th when I woke with a sharp pain in my right leg. Thinking there might be a muscular connect from the earlier back strain, I did not go to emergency until Saturday morning.

After numerous tests it was discovered that I had a nasty leg clot that had broken off and gone to both lungs. I spent the next three days in the hospital and was put on IV blood thinners. Though multiple lung clots were diagnosed it was determined that I would not need surgery. Further tests have indicated that my health is otherwise good and that I should recover. I continue to have leg pain and it will take a while for the big clot to dissolve.

Though some people heard about this earlier and have been supportive in prayer, visits and calls; I am writing now because I felt up to it and because today’s CT scan was quite promising with good news. I would appreciate your prayers as I heal and move forward.

Discoveries:

  1. I am alert to stories about clots in the lungs like never before. Many people have not survived this and I am most grateful that I did.
  2. A person needs to know enough about areas where they are vulnerable.
  3. Life is certainly in the blood and it needs to flow.
  4. People love and care for me and really want me to stay around.
  5. God has a destiny for every one of us. He has more for me.
  6. Although this was quite traumatic, I was protected.

Since I am trying to learn as much as possible from this, please share any thoughts or advice that you have for me at robclogg@gmail.com Thanks for your friendship and prayers.

Rob

” Lord my God, I called to you for help and  healed me.” Psalm 30:2

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He is Risen Indeed and So Have I

 

Peter and John Running to the TombFor as long as I can remember Easter service would begin with, “He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed”. There are many theories about the origin of the greeting but it ultimately goes back to:  “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon”. Luke 24:34

You can imagine the excitement that these first words created. You can see it on the faces of Peter and John running to the tomb in Eugene Burnand’s work. You can see the anticipation in their eyes. Peter with hands held (a different way of running) and John with hand on chest, are completely mesmerized. Take time to interpret this beautiful picture for yourself.

I went to see this picture at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Of all the great works in the museum this was the one I wanted to see the most. I’m not one to stand in front of a piece of art for an hour; so ten minutes was a long time for me. I wanted to see it with my own eyes, be captured by it and now it is in my memory.

I get excited for you as I write this post. I hope that you will be captured not just by this beautiful art but by the message it brings: that we have the highest and greatest hope of eternal life.

                                 We Have a ‘Certain’ Hope

There are some things in life you need to be certain about. When I studied theology I was informed there were essentials and non-essentials. Hope of the resurrection in Christ is the ultimate essential. If Christ is not raised our preaching is in vain and our faith is worthless.   1 Corinthians 15: 14, 17.

The word “hope” for many people is something they wish will happen. Many people have an uncertain view or an unsure optimism kind of hope. The Bible speaks about hope only in terms that are certain. I can’t expect others to believe like me but this post reflects my hope.

I remember how the Easter service would begin. The rest of the service would have a triumphal feel as I anticipated certain songs that had significant meaning for me. Once again, what is significant for me may not be the same for you, but this post reflects what is significant to me.

This Post Reflects My Hope and the Significance of Easter to Me

The significance of the Easter story has been expanded since my childhood and it means more than a special day of the year and more than memorable songs. The Easter message has filled my whole being with a message that has brought thanks, praise and worship to God and freedom, peace, identity and purpose for me that I otherwise would have never known.

There was a time when I knew that Christ died for me. I knew that was a significant part of the Easter message. I knew that was important. I knew I had sinned and through the death of Christ, the God of all grace would forgive me and cleanse me. But there was another part I discovered years later.

Later I discovered what is stated many times in the Word; “I have been crucified with Christ”. Galatians 2:20 I came to believe this too. Believing this saved me from trying to measure up, trying to be good enough and set into motion the real potential for me to rest. This was good news because the source of my behavior did not need to be repaired, rehabilitated or rededicated, it needed to have a nail driven through it. I needed a whole new life, new source and new identity, especially one that did not rely on my performance. I could now exchange a life out of my own resources that didn’t work for Christ’s life living through me that could work. My old life needed to die so Christ could live His life through me, so I could start living.

Here’s the good news! After all, that is what the word gospel really means. This good news and this hope only comes from one place. Here it is:

Christ died, Christ died indeed

I died with Christ, I died with Christ indeed

He is risen, He is risen indeed

I have been raised up with Christ, I have been raised up indeed

Easter has given me such an amazing hope. I have hope to see friends and love ones again. I have hope for my future and for today. The hope I thought was only for the future is a hope I have today.

“As God raised Christ through the glory of the Father, so we too walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4

“Since you have been raised up with Christ keep seeking the things above.”                     Colossians 3:1

“You were made alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved, and raised up with Him and seated us with Him, in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.”             Ephesians 2:5, 6

When we receive Christ we enter His eternal life with Him. We enter into all the realities of His life. These are spiritual realities we accept by faith. Because this has already occurred (written in the past tense) we have this certainty. We experience this by believing God made this possible.

Christ was raised indeed and so was I. In a world of uncertainty all around me, I have this confidence that God raised me up already and seated me in the most significant place. My spiritual union with Christ has made it possible for me to experience the certainty of this today and for the future.

Christ did the hard work on the cross for us. Our hard work is believing this is true in spite of all the ways we may fail, doubt or even harden our heart. I pray that the certainty of the resurrection and God’s word will encourage this in you.

Just like a favorite piece of art, a favorite song of mine is “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw. The lyrics are about a man who received a diagnosis that he would die soon and he wondered how he was going to live his life. Some of the song sounds like a bucket list but he also says; “I loved deeper, spoke sweeter and gave forgiveness I’d been denying. I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn’t and I became a friend, a friend would like to have. I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying”.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9TShlMkQnc

I hope you can live like you have died and been raised up with Christ.                 It makes a difference indeed.

“You were also raised up with up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead”. Colossians 2:12

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