19 June 2009

More Powerful than a Superhero!

Romans 1:16

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."

You may have heard the saying that goes something like this: "With great power, comes great responsibility". If you are a comic book fan, or a fan of the movies that have come out over the past few years featuring comic book heroes, you may recognize this phrase. Surprisingly, I found this quote attributed to one Stanley Martin Lieber, also known as Stan Lee, creator of most Marvel Comic superheroes like, the Incredible Hulk, the Fantastic 4, Iron Man, and Spiderman in whose comic book those words were uttered.

So how does Spiderman bring about biblical wisdom? Well, he probably doesn't really, but we can correlate what was said in that comic book into a lesson or biblical thought. Here's that thought.

Doctor and gospel author Luke tells us in Luke 12:48 this: "But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." This plays well in helping to support this theme.

We have been approved by God, and entrusted with the gospel message of Jesus Christ (I Thess. 2:4). That gospel message has the power to give eternal life. I used to be a fairly avid comic book reader. The aforementioned superheroes from the first paragraph are the ones I read most, but I read many. All of the superheroes had some sort of super 'power'. Iron Man had his inelegance, funding, and his iron suit that made him virtually invincible. The Fantastic Four had a plethora of things going on their; rubber-band type body, invisibility, a body as hard as a rock and as strong as a mountain, and of course we have the human torch. Spiderman, well, we all know what happens to a person when he is bitten by a radioactive spider. While all of these superheroes had a collection of powers that seems almost awesome and unstoppable, as a Christian, you have an even greater power.

In all those comic book superheroes, I do not remember a ONE of them, and there are hundreds, that could give eternal life. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the work done by the perfect sinless life, and sacrificial death of Jesus our Christ, YOU have the power to offer eternal life. You can make Spiderman look like a powerless little jumping spider. You can make the incredible Hulk look like a weakling getting sand kicked in his face. You can be more powerful, and offer REAL, not comic book make-believe power to people who are in desperate need of it.

However, with great power, comes great responsibility. MUCH has been given to us. God TRUSTS YOU with His message of salvation. Much like the servant who buried his talants in the ground, you will have done no one any good at all if you do not put this investment that God made into you… to work for Him. Much IS expected of us. Time is short, and it is high-time that we start living up to those expectations. Rather than 'bring a child to work day', we need to have 'bring a friend to Christ day', and that needs to be every day.

17 June 2009

Phase 4: Desire & Understand My Grace

God has taken me through several phases in my ministry. Initially, it was 'Make yourself available'. Through that phase, I was guided to participate in mission trips, teach classes I would not otherwise have taught, to just generally do whatever was asked of me, and volunteer for everything that after providing for and making sure my family had all the quality time they needed. Phase 2 if you will was, "Honor your spiritual chain of command", in which I had to learn to die to myself, and follow the directions of those that the Lord had placed over me. This was not hard, but I learned a very necessary lesson along the way. Until lately, I have been in Phase 3: "Be diligent in what I have given you". I have been in that phase since the Lord called me to Bonney Lake to start a bible Study there and eventually plant what is now the small but healthy CCBL.

I feel now that while the Lord is not done with me in Phase 3 (I doubt He ever will be…), that He has added a Phase 4. This phase is turning out to be, "Desire and Share My Grace".

This phase of learning is a difficult one for me. I know that sounds terrible. "My pastor has a hard time offering grace!", would be an awful thing to have to say. And I hope that those who know me well enough know that this is not true. What I am having a hard time with is God's stretching of me in my understanding of what grace is, and how far reaching it needs to be applied. These are the areas where God's stretching is opening old scabs. But the more He teaches me, and the more circumstances He allows me to go through,. The more I do understand His grace, and the more I see how He and the Holy Spirit have been working in my life to orchestrate some awesome revelations and healings.

Understanding grace, by biblical definition is simple. Grace is typically and acceptably defined as simply unmerited favor. That understanding comes easy. It is the far-reaching application of the depth of this understanding that requires work. Why? Because to do so, we must first understand who WE are in Christ (as my good friend and mentor Justin Alfred has often said, 'we are nothing more than the wart on the backside of a hog.' I have found, by God's grace mind you, that I am the infected pimple on that wart. As awful as that sounds, this is how we must see ourselves if we are to fully understand the far-reaching effects of God's unlimited grace.

Once we have allowed ourselves to see who we are in Christ, a humbling experience in itself, then the real growth comes. With this new understanding in mind, we then have to allow ourselves to be stretched by God beyond anything we have ever experienced before. God will undoubtedly show you that our allowances of grace, and our application of it to others has been woefully, dare I say, sinfully inadequate. He will show us that we do not apply grace where we should. That we have not applied grace often enough. He may even bring you to an understanding that maybe, just maybe (as He has done in me), that sometimes we need to apply grace even when there has been an offense against God! Wow, unbelievable.

When we see someone who has either taken advantage of their freedom in one of life's many gray areas to the point where boundaries have been crossed in our minds, and even to the point where we feel sin may be, or may have been the result, we must control our thoughts, taking them all captive unto Christ, go to that person in love and GRACE, expressing your thoughts on the matter, but ALWAYS allowing God to deal with the offense. We must also consider grace through prayer. Perhaps God simply wants us to keep our big yappers shut, and go to Him in the strength of payer and fellowship, lifting up this person in our hearts.

Now understand this: What I am not saying is that we do not hold our brothers and sisters accountable. We have a responsibility, even a duty to protect fellow believers from the influences of the world. We look out for each other, we are the body (singular) of Christ. But what I am saying is that we need to hold them accountable to the Lord, not to US. If we go to someone because we see bad fruit, and we do so because there is an offense in our heart that has caused us bitterness or anger, do not go. Only go when you can, through God's grace, show that person unmerited favor, with a clean heart, with no malice in mind, and simply point them to Jesus. That's grace. And that's hard.

Grace may cause you to see things, and do things that do not 'feel' right. It may cause us to love someone that, at least at that moment we do not want to love. But considering who you are in Christ, aren't you glad He did the same for you?!

16 June 2009

Healing Revisited

As the members of CCBL know, I had planned to do a 4-6 week study of dealing with hurt in the church. How to prevent being wounded, what to do when you are wounded, and how not to wound others. It turned out to be a totally God lead study through the book of 2 Corinthians. In hind sight, it may have been a God thing just to prepare me for upcoming events in my life as it was unfolding before me.

I wrote the other day on my blog, and in my devotional, about a healing process that I had gone through (see Mother-in-Lew Reintroduced below), and an initial comment made by my friend Brian. Well, since then comments have kept coming in, not just from family and friends, but others who read my blog and receive the devotional that have no connection to my family, or any knowledge whatsoever of the interworking of our family to even have any idea what may have been going on. Yet, many people have been blessed by that story of healing. No one more than I.

The healing power of God is complete, and it is awesome. His work on the cross has allowed for our healing, and our ability to use the grace that He has imparted on us to offer grace, rather than being offended or hurt in the first place. As was stated yesterday and bears repeating today, who are we to take that offense back? But what He has truly amazed me with, is the power of God to work in our lives outside of time. These events have given me a new understanding and appreciation of God’s mercy, and a greater understanding of God Himself.

What I had not realized until that day was that God had already healed me. The healing had already been done, in my past, but I did not realize that until I was faced with dealing with that hurt. I had prayed many hours and many times about God bringing healing in my life and the lives of others who had been offended. And although I had not known it, realized, or perhaps better said, accepted it, God has already answered those prayers.

Someone commented this way, “He literally showed me forgiveness is possible as I felt at the moment… He has wiped the slate clean” Wow! What great words. There is a time for weeping and mourning. But the time for healing is always. Psalm 41:4 says, “I said, “LORD, be merciful to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”

Perhaps our greatest sins are the times when we do not trust God that He has already granted our requests, and we simply refuse to see it? Have mercy on us God for our unbelief.

15 June 2009

Mother-in-Law: Reintroduced

Sounds bad huh? This event, or the mere mention of it may send shivers of the spines of some married men. Well, to be perfectly honey, I shared such a sentiment for a time.

After first being married my relationship with my mother-in-law was fine. We got along swimmingly, and she lived two doors down! My wife and I, and Terri (my mother-in-law) and her husband went through much together. Our birth of three children, her hip replacement, work on the house, dealing with neighbors, and the death of her husband to lung cancer. Then, after 10 years of marriage there was a family incident that brought some separation. It was tragic, tragically misunderstood by many, and relations became strained.

It's been 5 years since I have spoken to my mother-in-law, and last week, completely unexpectedly she walked (literally) back into our lives.

We were at church, I in the back of the room, my wife sitting with the congregants. As I normally do, I waited for stragglers to come in (there are typically many), and hand out bulletins and greeting, and shake hands with regulars, and greet the newcomers (typically there are few). Without any foreknowledge whatsoever, in walks this woman who looks just like Terri. Couldn't be her, she's in Colorado. I was wrong, and it took a couple of seconds to sink in, but it was her. She smiled, I smiled, and I hugged with gusto and sincerity. My only words at the moment were, "It is so good to see you." And I meant it.

God is so good in His healing. My wife tells a much better story of her experience to this event, and what the surprise was like, but more importantly how the Lord had prepared her for her mother's arrival. When Terri walked in, there was no time to think. Only time to react. Therefore, I had to react from my heart, and not from my head; from my spirit, and not from my intellect or flesh. I reacted from my heart, and I was glad I did. Much has happened and much time has passed, but God's power to heal is above any wrong or hurt that anyone might have. We hear often that, "God is bigger than…", and you can put anything you want in there because God IS bigger than it, no matter what 'it' is. But God truly is bigger than our hurts and concerns that draw us away from Him.

I have preached often that with regards to being hurt, we have a choice. Whether that hurt comes from someone or some 'thing' in the secular world, or even worse, from another believer, when an offense is made, we have a choice to be offended, or give it to God and move on. Not having thought about this situation for some time, I did not really know it until Terri showed up at church, but god had already allowed me to move on. What a blessing it is.

I thank the Lord for His goodness and mercy. That He allows us the ability to just forgive and move on. His grace upon us was a gift. And the fact that He has shown such grace means that we must, by Christian design, allow that grace to work in our life, so that we might pass it on to others and give them that same gift. I'm happy to do so.