Just What We Need…

Just read of another attempt to provide a “Christian facebook.”

I suppose there may be some valid reasons for so doing; but, to me, it is just another Christian motorcycle club, Christian gym, Christian blah blah blah.

Kind of hard to obey the Great Commission from within a Christian fort, is it not?

More comfortable? Yeah. Easier? Sure.

But does it allow for the light of the world to shine; for the salt of the earth to irritate/preserve?

I’m not suggesting believers who like motorcycles join Hell’s Angels or Satan’s Slaves; but isn’t there another social group we could join that would allow us to seize opportunities to minister and share our faith?

Am I so weak I can’t go to the YMCA or another “secular’ gym to work out…inviting my unsaved neighbor to join me? Is the “secular” music and the other “stuff” going to adversely affect me? Really?

I just don’t get it.

Do you?

Grace Works

Even people who know better do it.

They quote Ephesians 2.8,9 often; but rarely…if ever…go on to the tenth verse.

Why?

They are scared of a five-letter word:

w o r k s

They are all about God’s part; and to some extent I get that.

But His part leads to our part…and it not a singular “our,” because it is God who works in us both to desire to do and to do His good pleasure. (see Phil 2.13)

And Ephesians 2.10 reminds us, instructs us, commands us: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” (bold added)

Thank God that salvation is a gift…but it is a gift loaded with the Spirit of God, who equips us with the desire to do and the power to do His good pleasure.

I’m reading a great book by Mark Batterson (Play the Man).

These words sparked this post:

“Phillippians 2.12 provides a good guideline for this:

work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

The irony of this statement is that salvation cannot be earned by good works;

it can only be received as a free gift.

But once you receive the gift of salvation,

you have to take it to the gym and work it out.”

Grace works. Not as “well” as we’d like it, not as quickly as we’d like it, certainly not as “easy” as we’d like it.

But…

Grace works.

 

Get All Excited!

It’s from 1989. It shows some people a tad bit younger than they are now (especially Mark Lowry?)

And it’s a necessary reminder to most.

As followers of Christ, we are ambassadors!

We represent the Lord Jesus Christ! The King! The God of the Universe! The Spirit!

Yawn.

Yawn?

May it never be…crank the speakers (and thanks to my high school journalism teacher and partner in ministry Ed Murdock for reminding me of this song):

The Prosperity “gospel” is Poor…

You might say..and be accurate…that I hate/despise/abhor the so-called prosperity ‘gospel.’

Why?

Because it is unbiblical.

But a close second is the fact I’ve seen too many teens, prisoners and other adults get sucked up in it…and then, after a while, realize the whole sham depends on cutting and pasting scripture, walk away. But the tragic thing is that in most cases they through the Baby out with the proverbial bath water…leaving/distrusting anything claiming to be “Christian.”

Do I feel all the name-it-claim-it-blab-it-grab-it guys are crooks?

Nope. My gut tells me most are, but only God knows the thoughts and intentions of their hearts.

I believe some of them are very sincere; and sincerely wrong. 

And some come to their defense by saying, “But Jack, he is such a good speaker, so encouraging, has a beautiful wife…and those teeth!”

Hitler was a good communicator also.

Here is a kinder, gentler, solid description of the poverty of prosperity stuff:

The author is

Vaneetha Rendall Risner Photo

Vaneetha Rendall Risner

 

The book of Job has both shaken me and shaped me.

When I first read it, I found it troubling. It didn’t seem fair. Job was a righteous man. But over the years, this story has helped forge my understanding of God and my theology of suffering. It has taught me that God himself — not anything he gives me — is my greatest treasure.

Years ago, a colleague mentioned what he had learned from Job. I was surprised to hear that his study had yielded a markedly different conclusion than mine. In his words, “Job got everything back and more for his suffering. He was blessed with more children and more money than he ever had before. That’s what the story shows us: doing the right thing always brings blessing and prosperity.”

While the first part was true, I disagreed with his conclusion. He was subtly echoing the message of the so-called “health, wealth, and prosperity gospel” — that God’s goal for us in this life is perfect health, total happiness, and financial gain. In this life. “We simply need to name what we want, live the right way, and then claim our victory,” it says. “That is what living for God looks like.”

I contend that this approach is not living for God. Such thinking is idolatry. It is elevating God’s gifts above him, the giver. And that is a great assault on God’s value.

The Truly Abundant Life

Proponents of the prosperity gospel see things differently. They believe their position is biblical, citing Scripture to back up their claims. One such verse is John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Jesus does give us abundant life, but his abundant life is independent of circumstances.

A diagnosis of cancer, a stock-market crash, and a child’s rebellion cannot diminish the abundant life we have in Christ. And a miraculous healing, a financial windfall, and a prodigal’s return don’t transform it either. True abundant life rests in the God who is Lord over the good things and the terrible things in our life. As Job says, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).

“Jesus does give us abundant life, but his abundant life is independent of circumstances.”

When we assert that pain-free lives are God’s reward for the righteous, we insinuate to the wounded that their problems are of their own making. As Randy Alcorn says,

Tragically, the prosperity gospel has poisoned the church and undermined our ability to deal with evil and suffering. Some churches today have no place for pain. Those who say God has healed them get the microphone, while those who continue to suffer are shamed into silence or ushered out the back door.

I personally have been ushered out the back door at healing services, after being publicly chastised. Many other disabled people have experienced similar treatment under the assumption that if you’re not healed, it’s your fault. “Because God’s will is for everyone to be healed. Always. The faithful will never suffer.”

This belief is contrary to the Bible. Jesus says we will have tribulation (John 16:33). Peter says we shouldn’t be surprised by suffering (1 Peter 4:12). James says to expect trials and to count it all joy (James 1:2). And Paul says afflictions bring endurance and glory (Romans 5:3–5; 2 Corinthians 4:17).

Of course, healing in this life can bring God glory as well. Sometimes God intervenes in our lives in supernatural ways and miraculously heals us from disease. And God is glorified when that happens.

But I have seen God even more glorified when people are not healed, yet continue to praise him in the midst of deep suffering — when everything they have is stripped away and all that is left is God alone. And he is found sufficient.

God is most glorified when we declare him sufficient in the midst of great loss. Just as Job did.

Giver More Than Gifts

 

My Part/His Part

shuttle launch from the Inter Space Sta
The photo (space shuttle launch ) reminds me of His vastness, His power, His “unlike-us-ness.”

In the midst of the normal struggles of life, parenting, and work…I drew comfort from Psalm 91 this morning.

Noticing the biblical explanation of responsibility, choice, and result. Verse 1 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Thus my job is to “pitch my tent”, His “job” is to allow me to live/abide/stay in His shadow.

Verse two indicates my need to “trust.”

Verses three and four describe His protection, and verses five through seven portray the resulting “sanctified superiority complex.”

Verse nine reiterates “my” part, “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place…”

Verse 14 continues the admonition, “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name.”

Verse 15 and 16 again reveal cause-and-effect, “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.

“Working out salvation” is a continuous and (hopefully growing) discipline.

God Is Sovereign. Man Is Responsible. Huh?

The perennial question – If God is sovereign (and if He isn’t, He is not God); what part does man have in salvation – can fry a mind over time.

TrainTracks1Many have drawn their line in the sand; absolutely confident their interpretation of this massive them is stone-cold correct. Others are willing to live in the uncertainty of “I’m not sure.”

Here is a very helpful declaration:

“Just as the rails of a train [track], which run parallel to each other, appear to merge in the distance, so the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, which seem separate from each other in this life will merge in eternity.  Our task is not to force their merging in this life but to keep them in balance and to live accordingly.”
Joel Beeke
What do you think? (by the way, that’s why there is a ‘comments’ section)

Don’t Ask The Question…If You Can’t Handle the Answer…

It happens often.

Someone learns that I spend a bit of time behind the walls and wire of a couple prisons.

They hear that I preaprisonchapel-300x209ch in chapel, meet one-on-one with offenders, and…yay…even do Bible quizzing in one institution.

And..too often…a well-meaning person says something like, “Gee, Jack, why do you do that? Aren’t there a whole lot of phonies who show up for prison chapel?”

I grit my teeth, and in my normative, compassionate way reply, “Sure there are…why should prison church be any different than your church?”

That closes that particular conversation…until the next time.