Identity in Christ = Security to Serve

When we look to Christ Jesus, we find a beautiful security to serve others arising from his identity, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”
Philippians 2:6-7

“Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.”
John 13:3-5

Of course, unlike Jesus, we are not God and we can not act in such a way in our own strength, but if we take Christ’s example and find our identity with who we are in God, we can also share in this extravagant love and find freedom to serve others genuinely, wholeheartedly.

When I think of my identity in Christ, I am reminded of the words of a beautiful worship song I heard recently by Chris Tomlin, “You’re such a good, good Father. That’s who you are. And I’m loved by you. That’s who I am.” It’s as plain and simple as that and there is no reason to worry about how others perceive us or who they think we are when we know who we are with full conviction!

‪#‎livealifeofFREEDOM‬! ‪#‎livetoserve‬

God is neither male nor female

Do we often forget that God is neither male nor female? We can not box God into our human perceptions as if God were so containable. As both men and women are made in the image of God, so God possesses the richness of strengths we see in both genders. Amazing!

This verse has come up twice in different places since yesterday, so I thought I might share.

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 66:13

Are you a good person?

Do you believe you are a good person and if so, what does this mean to you? Really think about this for a minute. How do you define “good” and where do you derive this definition from? Is it based a comparison of other people? Is it something deep in your conscience? Surely, it is a nice thought that there are good people on this earth, and there is certainly good around us helping us to differentiate between its opposite, evil. But where does this goodness come from and are any of us truly good by nature?

What is the origin of “good”? If we are “good” based on our own perception of how we measure up to those around us, how is this healthy or accurate? We are comparing ourselves to another imperfect person. If we perceive ourselves as better, it can lead to arrogance and self-righteousness. If we perceive ourselves to be worse, we may become jealous or depressed, focusing inwardly, desperately trying to change our situation but neglecting to look outward to where real help lies. If your “goodness” is based on the leading of your conscience, that’s not a bad thing, but where did your conscience come from? Is it some sort of evolutionary creation or from God himself? If it evolved by random chance, then isn’t it as meaningless and insignificant as that?

I’d say most of us believe in good and evil and the media screams it from superhero movies to news stories about terrorism and goodwill. But- if we evolved by random chance without a loving Creator with purpose and plan, where do these ideas of “good and “evil” even come from? Many today believe we are here by random chance, so essentially life is only as meaningful as we believe it to be- and certainly we can’t say that one thing is good and another is evil. After all, if we are good, humble people, we won’t last long evolutionarily speaking. The physically, mentally strong who act on their power and strength for evil will overcome the rest of us as survival of the fittest would suggest. But for some reason, this behavior is not socially acceptable and most of us can differentiate between good and evil and agree (for the most part) on what that looks like- even those who believe we evolved by random chance.

The Bible says that God is good- the very definition of good! Apart from God, I am not a good person. None of us are. We are all made in the image of God, so we all have good in us, but the inclinations of our hearts are still evil. Without God, we are selfish, prideful, greedy, deceptive; the list goes on. This is human nature and we’ve all seen it at work. We don’t have to look hard to see evil-even in the selfish nature of an “innocent” child- and denying it doesn’t change the truth.

So why do we lie to ourselves saying, “I’m a good person- well at least I’m better than INSERT NAMES HERE.”? What is the point and how will it help us? It won’t improve our situation and it certainly won’t please God. The definition of “evil” or “sin” is rebellion against God. Until we stop rebelling against God, goodness in true form, the human condition will inevitably continue to spiral downwards.

“As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.””
Romans 3:10-12

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.”
Romans 3:23-24

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

War in God’s Eyes

Understanding War in God’s Eyes

I was sitting on the couch, reading the Bible two mornings ago when God spoke to me and revealed things about his character that I never understood in the past. I was reading in the Old Testament about the time when God was directing Israel to go to war against other nations- something than never sat right with me. “How could God, a god of peace, instigate war?” I would think. But this time, the Holy Spirit connected all the dots for me and I wrote FOUR journal pages about just war in an hour!

The theme of this year for me is listening, and God is already at work teaching me in big ways. I was amazed at how I didn’t need any other books or commentary to understand it- only the Bible (and my past knowledge of it) and the Holy Spirit speaking. I wonder if this is a little bit how the writers of the Bible felt when God was empowering them to write by the leading of his Spirit. I’m in awe and humbled by the experience. This is what He said to me:

God never wanted war when he created mankind. He wanted love and perfect relationship with his creation, like in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world. The wars of the Old Testament are a sign of God’s justice toward people who do not follow Him but chose to live life their own way, a life in sin. Rebellion against God is the most fundamental definition of sin. God is a God of justice AND of grace, which is the bigger mystery- not the justice, but the grace. All of us deserve punishment and death for our sins, but in God’s grace, He chooses some of us to restore relationship with him.

God instructed Israel to go to war against certain ungodly nations to clear the Promised Land for their occupation. This was both a sign of God’s justice AND his grace. Israel had also turned from God many times, and each time, God punished Israel to teach them as a loving father would. He also waited in perfect patience until his children turned back to Him to follow once more.

Yes, God instigated war in the Bible, but it was consistent with his character of justice and grace.  Even though the Israelites, God’s own people, made many mistakes, God showed them grace because of the covenant God made with their ancestors who responded in faith and godliness. It was by Noah, Abraham and Moses’ good faith and heart that Israel was still shown grace upon grace when they turned from God as a nation. God is also a God who keeps his promises, even though we are undeserving.

Thinking back to Noah and the flood, Noah and his family were the only people saved on earth. Noah was saved for his righteousness (Genesis 6:9)- ALL others died in just punishment for their sinful rebellion against God. The flood was not a war fought through man, but it was still a war of good versus evil. Why do we not question God’s character in the flood, wiping out all people on earth, but we do when he uses people to fight, to bring justice and teach faith and obedience to his followers at the same time? Is it because of the imperfections of his followers? Let’s dig a little deeper to get to the bottom of this.

God does not show partiality in his justice. God only allowed victory in war when his people were obediently following his leading and instruction. Victory was always on God’s terms alone. When Israel wasn’t listening to God, He instigated war within Israel itself. When Moses came down from Mount Sanai with the Ten Commandments, only two months after God so faithfully delivered them from slavery in Egypt, He found Israel worshiping an idol they had created! God didn’t ignore this, of course. He instructed all those who were with God to come to him and to kill all those who were not, to cleanse Israel, God’s chosen holy nation, from the corruption within (Exodus 32: 26-27).  The punishment and justice did not stop there, as the entire nation was at fault, so God also struck his own people with a plague so they would understand the severity of their actions (Exodus 32: 33-35).  Another example of God’s just punishment toward Israel was oppression by their enemies. “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites” (Judges 6:1). This is just one of many example of Israel turning away and God punishing them until they learned and turned back to God. Those receiving God’s favour must be obediently following him. As a father punishes his child for the child’s benefit, so God does with his children. An obedient child brings honour to their father.

In God’s patience, wisdom and GRACE, He did not completely destroy all of Israel as he did other nations because he had made a covenant with Abraham, and as mentioned before, it is also part of God’s character not to break his promises. God chose Israel, in his perfect grace, to bring him honour and make His name known throughout the earth. The grace God gives is undeserved, but it is part of his greater salvation plan. Both JUSTICE and GRACE bring HONOUR to God. And no, grace does not contradict justice because JESUS paid the price, once and for all, for the sins of all those who accept this gift of salvation.

Additionally, even though God directed war, He is still a God of PEACE. God promises peace to those who follow him (Isaiah 26:3). During this time in Israel’s history, the war against ungodly nations by the strength of God’s hand, restored peace to Israel, God’s people. It is very important to note that peace is NOT promised to those who do not follow God.

Conclusion:

Just war is consistent with God’s character and God’s GRACE and JUSTICE do not contradict each other.

War is just when GOOD is fighting EVIL to bring PEACE to the land.

Sometimes PEACE can only be achieved through just war.

For true justice and peace to be achieved, all war must be on God’s terms. War that is not on God’s terms is not just war.

Maranatha

There is an epidemic running rampant across our world and EVERYONE is infected. The symptoms are countless and killing all of us- some quicker than others. Anyone can see them: war, natural disasters, famine, sickness, broken relationships and ultimately death! People are crying out in pain of all kinds, looking for answers, but don’t know where to turn. The situation looks bleak.

The name of this disease is SIN and everyone on earth has added to the problem, spreading the disease in one way or another.

There is only one cure: Jesus Christ.

In perfect love, God provided an antidote for our sin through the death of his own son. This was agonizing for God, his father, to watch- but he did it for us- because he loves us despite our imperfections and rejecting him! Jesus took the weight of our sin on himself, killed by the very people he died for- if we would only turn from our rebellion and cling to him. Jesus suffered from the symptoms of sin, just like us, but he defeated the disease once and for all by dying on the cross with the weight of the world’s sins on his shoulders!! The He conquered the grave and sin by rising from the dead!! As the author of life and the very definition of love, only He can show us what it means to truly live and love. God doesn’t want us to suffer from sin; He calls us to eternal life in relationship with him- the very reason he created us in the first place.

BUT- it’s getting late and time is running shorter as we wait! We need to run quickly- to Jesus. We need to drink the only antidote and spread it to the world. Quickly! What are you waiting for? We are talking about a matter of life and death.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“Wake up from your sleep and rise from death. Then Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:4

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:9-10

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15b

#maranatha #prayfortheworld

…and then the end will come

Our loving, great God promises that in the end: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Revelation 21:4 NIV

But are you ready for this? To stand in the face of God himself? Have you accepted Christ’s love and grace in your life so that this promise is good news for you? None of us are worthy on our own.

Jesus said:
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Matthew 24:6-8, 12-14 NIV

Is this not the stark reality of the last several years?

‪#‎maranatha‬ #‎prayfortheworld‬ #‎pray4Paris‬

God of Justice

Pray for Paris and the world; hope and trust in the LORD. He is a God of justice who never fails to keep his promises.

“Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.
My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.”
Isaiah 51:4-6 ESV

#prayforparis #prayfortheworld