Thursday, February 26, 2009

Abundant Life is Not Religion

"The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

Jesus Christ

Instead of citing the chapter and verse of this statement, I put the name of the person who said it. So often we get so caught up in where a verse is located, we forget who said it. A few weeks ago this verse came to mind; followed by this thought: Jesus did not come so that we might have religion; and that more abundantly. Yet this is what so many Christians have. He didn't come so that we could spend hours reading our Bibles, quoting scriptures, praying for the lost, though there is merit to those things. But friends, it will all be useless if we don't actually live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. Think about Eden. God created the beautiful garden and put man in it. He didn't say to Adam "Well now Adam, you'll need to pray 3 times a day. Now cut down some trees and build a big church. Get everybody to come there once a week and talk about me." No!! God came down in the cool of the day to talk with Adam and Eve every day. It was a relationship...fellowship...friendship between man and his Maker. Oh how lovely would it be to let our friendship with Jesus dictate our days. Religion will never satisfy either God or man. We were made to be his friends; his children.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Making a Decision while Standing in the Ashes

This morning I watched a couple on a popular Christian broadcast telling about how God provided for them after a devastating house fire. This couple's home was completely destroyed by a fire; there was nothing left standing. I was so taken by what the wife said about it. She said that as she stood there looking at the rubble and the ashes of her home, it took all of the faith within her to decide not to question why it happened and to continue to confess that God was her supplier. Instead of complaining she chose to continue to believe and to say that she was blessed by God.
Isn't this the simple essence of faith? Standing in the ashes and deciding to proclaim that God will provide? Isn't this what Abraham did when he 'considered not his own body', but believed that God would give him a son, though he and Sarah were past child bearing years.
So often we want to have a special feeling or sign before we speak by faith. And sometimes we think that because we doubt in our mind, that we cannot have faith. BUT FAITH IS IN SPITE OF!! It's a decision to believe in what we cannot see. In spite of the ashes, the fire, the doubts, the naysayers, the doctor's report, and every other evidence to the contrary, I must say "I believe God's word is true and will prevail, even in my situation." Oh, it's so easy to believe that God will prevail in someone elses situation. But we must learn to do what Jesus told us to do when faced with our own mountain...SPEAK TO IT.
This is faith. Speaking the impossible as we stand in the ashes.
By the way...the couple I mentioned now have a lovely home with twice the acreage as before...more room, a tennis court and huge pool. I don't think she saw these things when she was standing in the ashes proclaiming God's goodness- but HE did.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Can Do All Things....My P.S.

Please note that the scripture says I can do ALL things; not EVERYTHING. For those of us who would like to try to do everything, never say no, and please everyone; take heed! There is a big difference between All things and Every thing. All implies all that Christ asks of us. Everything implies doing everything we want to do. Example: Not too long ago, while I was contemplating a new exercise regime; the Lord spoke to my heart and said "I have not created you to be an athlete." This isn't news to anyone who knows me. Therefore, I will embark on a sound program to keep my body fit, including a good diet and moderate, regular exercise. I will not, however, begin to train for a marathon; in spite of the fact that some friends and family members are doing so, and might encourage me to try. I will not ask Christ to make me a marathoner and then become disillusioned when I fail. I will though, believe God to strengthen my teaching and writing skills, as I believe this is where my giftings are located.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me

How often has someone quoted Philippians 4:13 to you? "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." In the past, when I have heard or read this verse, I have not really understood the context of the message. Certainly we all want to be able to do great things for God like the Apostle Paul did. A careful re-reading of Chapter 3 will shed some light on how this can happen. In chapter 3, verses 4-8, Paul gives a short history of his spiritual background. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, righteous in the sight of the law! The next line, however, delivers the death blow to his boasting. Read verse 7 and 8. "But what things were gain to me, those things I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
Well, what had Paul lost? Simply put; ALL THINGS. That's what he said. He lost everything to follow Christ. What are all things? Here's what we know. He lost his prominence in the Jewish Church. Even if they had been open to the message of Christ for the Jews; the idea of preaching to Gentiles would be absolutely repugnant to them. Eating, drinking and fellowshiping with Gentiles alone would have made Paul and outcast to the Jews. Perhaps he lost close friendships and relationships with family members. He lost his freedom. Looking back and chapter one, we will remember that Paul was writing this letter from a prison cell in Rome. Not only could he no longer fellowship with the Jews; he had lost the freedom to personally fellowship with believers, except through letters. How many lonely days did he spend in prison? How often did he suffer physically from the rigors of prison. (Many Christian historians claim that a sewer ran through the cell that Paul stayed in; and that sometimes he could have been standing knee deep in raw sewage.) How's that for losing everything!
Now fast forward to Philippians 4:9-23. Here Paul describes his ability to be content in any state he finds himself; whether full or hungry. It is in this context that we read; I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. He's telling the Philippian church that God will supply the strength to deal with any situation that one finds oneself in.
Is it true than, that the believer can do anything through Christ. Indeed. And the first and best thing that the believer may do is to abandon himself to the will of God. Herein is the strength found. How many miserable Christians are trying to use this verse to get God to strengthen them in pursuits to which they were never called. Would to God that we would be strengthened to pare our ambitions down to one do-able goal: Philippians 3:13 ...this ONE THING I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Do we really think that Paul was telling us that we can dream up anything we want to do; and then call upon God to make it work out? Or in looking at the context of the whole book of Philippians, is it more likely that he was telling us that in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, the power of God is available to us to make us more than a conqueror?
Earlier this week the Holy Spirit brought this verse to my remembrance. I was going through some difficulty and was wondering what to do. Now in the past, when I would think of this verse; I would imaging Paul, standing on a mountain, preaching his heart out and winning countless souls to the kingdom. I couldn't relate. But what the Holy Spirit showed me was, that in my everyday life I can do what I need to do through Christ's strength and not mine. When I am sick, I can be healed through Christ's strength. When I'm at work and need to have patience with my students, I can do it through Christ's strength. When I am lonely; I can lean upon Christ's strength to get me by. When I am grappling with my flesh, and need to put His will above my own; only through Christ strength can I succeed.
So whether on the mountain or in the valley; in the prison or free; doing the mundane or the spectacular; it's all done through Christ.
The challenge then, is to do whatever is facing you through Christ's strength. Right now. Today.