Category: Truth

Vineyard Worship: SURE

One thing that has kept me going recently is the reality that “God will not give up on me!” That He was, is and always will be faithful until the very end. I don’t know about you but when I am in a challenging season, I need to many reminders because the negative and discouraging thoughts just keep coming. But, God is faithful and He will often bring a song in season that speaks out the cry of my heart and encourages me in what I need to be reminded of in terms of God’s character.

Sure as my life is in Your hands. Sure as Your sacrifice has set me free. When all is shaking, Lord Your love stands firm. Your spirit calms my heart and steadies me. (x2)

You’re the anchor that’s holding me.

I’m sure of Your faithfulness. I’m sure that You will never change. My Lord, You won’t give up on me. (x2)

Matthew 28:20b (NIV) “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age!”

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”


the Ways of God

Over this past week, I’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah (I spent last month in Isaiah) and what the Holy Spirit has been showing me while I’ve been reading is this: “God’s love is always guided by His truth and His truth is always fueled by His love which constitutes God’s ways.” Now, I know that this is a bit simplistic (I mean there’s also grace, mercy, justice, goodness, etc. all of which are also of God and important), but sometimes I feel like we complicate things. For me, when things happen in my life that I don’t understand, it helps to remind myself that God is love and that He is truth (I would also add that He is good). And though I may not understand why this or that is happening in my life or in the lives of the people around me or the things happening in the world I can trust that God knows what He is doing. Being at peace means I start from a position of trust in God’s ways and that His ways are comprised of His truth and His love.

Systematically, I believe that all truth is God’s truth, but that there is a hierarchy to truth. Meaning, there is general revelation which consists of creation which points to a Creator (Romans 1:18-20), basic principles of the world (Romans 12:1; Colossians 2:20; Galatians 4:3) and the knowledge of morality (Romans 2:14, 15) all of which God set into place when He created the universe (Genesis 1, 2). And then there is special revelation which consists of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 2:20, 21) and Jesus (Hebrews 1:1, 2). Naturally, special revelation must always supersede general revelation. Nonetheless, truth will always be truth and hence must come from God who is truth because God cannot lie. “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18a NLT; also cf. Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19).

Now if this isn’t enough we must also remember that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8, 9) which collectively hopefully characterizes God as completely transcendent, all-powerful and down right overwhelmingly Divine which should inspire what the Bible talks about as the fear of the Lord (2 Chronicles 14:14; 17:10; 19:7, 9; Job 28:28; Psalm 19:9; 34:11; 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 29; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26, 27; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 23:17; Isaiah: 11:2, 3; 33:6; Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 5:11). Sometimes, (and I include myself here) I feel like the majesty of God and His transcendentness has gotten lost in the midst of friendship with God. Now, hear me on this, I love being friends with God in fact I cherish our friendship. But, there are times where I can get too comfortable and casual with God where I forget that He is also the Creator of the universe, who is omniscient (knows all things), omnipresent (is able to be in all places at the same time) and omnipotent (all-powerful and all-ruling).

It’s not that the children of God (those found in Jesus) should be fearful of God in the sense that we should run and hide from Him, but that while we fully embrace being friends of God we should also stand in awe of His majesty and bow in reverence to His divinity. I know that this may seem complicated or overwhelming at times, but we can take heart because Jesus fully embodies all of this which is why He is able to say: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6 ESV). We must always remember that the only reason that we are friends with God is through Jesus. Without Jesus, we would still be enemies of God because it is only through Jesus’ shed blood on the cross that we have peace with God (Romans 5:1-11). Those found in Jesus need not fear punishment (1 John 4:16-19), we only need to concern ourselves with being disciplined (Hebrews 12:4-11). Biblically speaking there is a difference between punishment and discipline.

Add to all of this that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and what we get is the reality that God’s love, truth and ways are deeply and infinitely unified with one another. I don’t believe we can separate them, nor should we ever try or think of them separately but as always working in relation to one another. The love of God always being guided by His truth and His truth always being fueled by His love which constitutes God’s ways because the ways of God must always been seen as being comprised of His truth and His love. I mean, isn’t this what we find in Jesus?


EXodus

When reading the Old Testament, I seem to always run into verses that talk about the Exodus of the Isrealites, when God supernaturally freed His people from slavery in Egypt. There are so many places where God specifically tells the Israelites to remember the Exodus and to make sure they tell their children and chidren’s chidren about what He has done: remembering the Exodus was foundational to the Israelites’ faith. God even tells Moses before the Exodus that the main reason for all of His actions is so that the Israelites will always remember that they are His people and He is their God (Exodus 6:7). A good exercise in literally seeing this is to do a search of the exact phrase “out of Egypt.” It’s amazing just how many times it is mentioned both by God and His people.

In translating this for us today, I believe that every single believer has had an “Exodus” moment, a time when God supernaturally freed them from being enslaved to sin. Objectively speaking, coming to faith means accepting the free gift of salvation that God provided through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, who took the full measure of God’s wrath onto Himself, on the cross for sin: this event is foundational to the Christian faith. Just as the Israelites were told to remember the Exodus, so we today are to remember our own “Exodus” because it is a reminder to us that through Jesus, God becomes our Father and we become His children. If that’s not enough, God literally works a miracle within every person who comes to faith in Jesus: they become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). In that moment, a person’s spirit becomes eternally fused to Holy Spirit where a believer is no longer controlled by their sinful nature, but is now controlled by Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9).

Subjectively speaking, this new reality will uniquely impact each believer because sin has a way of manifesting itself in all kinds of differing ways in a person’s life. For me this meant an “Exodus” from drug addiction. For you it may mean an “Exodus” from something else (lying, workaholism, pornography, bitterness, anger, emotional trauma, physical illness, greed, self-abuse, an eating disorder, a critical spirit, etc). It’s very important that we not only remember the objective “Exodus” of our salvation but also the subjective “Exodus” that is the specific freedom that God has given us through our faith in Jesus. There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful to God for my supernatural “Exodus” from drug addiction. Whenever I think about it, my faith is strengthened. That’s why God made such a big deal out of having the Israelites continually reminding themselves and each other of the Exodus because it generated faith by reminding them that they will always be God’s chosen people and that He will always be their God, so too us.

When’s the last time you reminded yourself or told someone about the supernatural “Exodus” of your salvation?


Spark the Flame

Right now, a good friend of mine is riding 1400 miles on his bicycle (from Chicago, IL to Bozeman, MT), in order to raise money for the Firehouse Community Arts Center in the westside neighborhood of Lawndale in Chicago. While on this massive trek he has been blogging along the way and while in Blunt, SD he was inspired to blog about marijuana which I have copied portions of here. Enjoy!

Smoking marijuana may be good medicine for physically sick people, but let’s let the doctors make that determination. The majority of today’s youth are not smoking marijuana because they are physically sick. They are smoking it to get high. They are not using and developing the gifts God has given them; they are wasting their talents and time getting high.

Should marijuana be legalized? That’s a bigger debate with several matters to consider on both sides. But legal ot not, even if it is permissible, it isn’t good (1 Cor 6:12). Is it better than alcohol and the alcohol-related crimes that are committed? Probably. Better than smoking cigarettes? Maybe. Is stabbing somebody in the arm better than shooting them in the face? Sure it is. Still doesn’t make it right or good.

A talented young man has expressed to me recently that the marijuana-smoking community is a peace-loving group. It may be true that the marijuana-smoking community is a peaceful group in some ways, and if so, I believe their desire for peace is good. But real peace is not smoked. Getting high is a fleeting pleasure that creates a false experience of relaxation. It is not real peace. The peace that we desire is peace and rest in our soul which only comes through the work of God in our heart. That is real peace.

If you want that kind of peace, you best go to the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). “My peace I give to you,” said Jesus (John 14:27). “In me you may have peace,” said Jesus (John 16:33). “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Paul (Rom. 5:1). “To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom.8:6). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” Gal. 5:22). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Got peace? Get Jesus

Also, God has never promised this life would be a constant state of peace and ease. There is a purpose to our trials and suffering (Rom. 5:3; James 1:2; Col. 1:24; Jer 1-29). There are lessons we need to learn when our poor decisions disrupt peace (Heb. 12:10-11). There is a refinement of our character that is lost when we manufacture a life of sensual ease and false peace.

All I have to say is: “Well said friend.” The world needs more people like my friend Cliff who’s not afraid to say what’s on his heart. People who have a genuine passion to see people set free from drug addiction and living out their lives to the maximum of their God given potential. His words are saturated with grace and love, but they are also faithful and true to the gospel that seeks to magnify and exalt God. His words are God-centered, rather than a me-centered anything goes prosperity gospel.


What does Jesus say is part of an ideal life?

Right from the get go, let me say that: the way Jesus views the world is very different than the way that an average person does. Everything that Jesus did was redemptive. When He walked the earth, He was more concerned about being about His Father’s business (Luke 2:49), making Him known (John 14:7, 10) and bringing Him glory (John 14:13), than anything else. Now, this meant of course moving in signs, wonders and miracles throughout His life on earth. Jesus always had an eternal view of the world. His encounters with people reveal this as He was constantly proclaiming truth and compassionately healing people and forgiving sins. I believe a major part of an ideal life is making an eternal impact in people’s lives by following Jesus’ exemplar life of redemption (John 14:12). Now we cannot die for sin, but we can do all we can to deny ourselves, in order to follow Jesus (Mark 8:34). What was Jesus’ mission? to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18, 19). Jesus was a missionary. He came into this world to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 10:19), meaning people. So, when we think about the components of an ideal life, being on mission for Jesus is central.

 

Now being on mission for Jesus does not necessarily mean going off to some foreign land, though some people are called to overseas missions. Being on mission means impacting those around you, wherever you are with the light of the Gospel. It means looking at the world through a redemptive lens. The more this happens the more you will begin to see the world as Jesus sees it. When Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Luke 10:2), He meant it. Jesus is constantly challenging me to press into His Word and Spirit, so that I will be able to more readily see the brokenness, lostness and depravity of this fallen world. It is when I am filled with God’s Word that I will be able to stand more steadfast for Jesus and not be tempted away into sin (John 8:31, 32). And the more filled with God’s Word I am, the better I will be able to discern and understand the voice of the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15). It is when we are following the leading of Holy Spirit that we will begin to see more readily the underlying brokenness of people which will, only by God’s grace, move us towards compassion rather than pride and judgment.

 

Bottom line, an ideal life includes: loving God (Matthew 22:37), loving others (Matthew 22:39) and serving the world (Matthew 28:19, 20). These are non-negotiables when it comes to living an ideal life because an ideal life isn’t about accomplishing our own selfish ambitions, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus (John 13:14-17) and making an eternal impact in this world for the glory of God (John 17:4). An ideal life is one of servitude (Matthew 20:26) which will include storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20), loving our enemies (5:44), forgiving people and not judging or condemning them (Luke 6:37), giving to those in need (Matthew 6:2-4), trusting in God (Matthew 6:26, 30) and seeking His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33). A good plumb line in gauging an ideal life is the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10), spend some time meditating on these following verses. Let them shake up the very foundations of your value system by replacing them with a kingdom value system.

 

3Blessed are the poor in spirit,

     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4Blessed are those who mourn,

     for they will be comforted.

5Blessed are the meek,

     for they will inherit the earth.

6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

     for they will be filled.

7Blessed are the merciful,

     for they will be shown mercy.

8Blessed are the pure in heart,

     for they will see God.

9Blessed are the peacemakers,

     for they will be called sons of God.

10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

*NOTE: the phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” in verse 3 and 10 form a literary device known as an inclusio which acts like bookends in framing one continual thought. So, how this functions here is that everything listed between verses 3 and 10 describe the values of the kingdom of heaven. Those who are part of the kingdom of heaven will exhibit these traits and characteristics. But, in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven, a person needs to recognize that they are spiritually destitute (v.3) which then culminates with those who are fully committed to God’s cause and are now being persecuted because of this (v.10). The equality of the kingdom of heaven is revealed in these verse bookends (inclusio), for being poor in spirit and being persecuted for righteousness though seemingly at opposite sides of the spectrum have the same reward.