Bible

Chosen in Christ

chosen_in_christRecently, my wife shared with me how she was realizing that we as believers in Christ did not choose Him.  Rather, Christ chose us. My wife is quite right in this revelation. Ephesians 1:4-6 states,

In the Messiah he chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in his presence. He determined in advance that through Yeshua the Messiah we would be his sons — in keeping with his pleasure and purpose — so that we would bring him praise commensurate with the glory of the grace he gave us through the Beloved One.” (CJB)

Wow! The Father chose us in Christ before the universe even existed. What a glorious thought. He chose us, we did not choose Him. He didn’t choose us because we were anything special or from some random selection. He chose us in Christ for His ‘pleasure and purpose’. Now some would argue from a theological point of view that there is no predestination. I would have to disagree with this viewpoint from what the text plainly states in Ephesians 1.

Jesus told his disciples in John 15:6,

“You did not choose me, I chose you; and I have commissioned you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that whatever you ask from the Father in my name he may give you.” (CJB)

The same is also true for all of us who have trusted in Christ for life and salvation. What a great Christ we have. I would encourage all of you who are reading this to mediate on these verses and realize how loved and blessed you are in Christ Jesus.

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Forgiven Much

forgiven

How much have you been forgiven for? I can say of myself I have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus for a lot. I have recently been reading a book by Frank Viola entitled, “From Eternity to Here”. Last night I read a chapter dealing with the account of Jesus and a woman named Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of Luke chapter 7.  

Mary became an uninvited guest at a dinner given by Simon the pharisee for Jesus. She spent all day trying to find Jesus after He had freed her from the many demons that had tormented her. The verse that truly got my attention in this account is found in verse 47. It says, Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

In the past I have not expressed my love for the Lord very often. This verse may explain the reason for this. I have been a Christian for over 30 years, yet I have struggled with believing all that the Lord has done for me. I have spent years living in guilt and shame over my behavior towards myself and others. In reality I had been committing the sin of unbelief in during these years. I could not bring myself to tell the Lord of my love and devotion to Him because I was putting up a wall of unbelief and a lack of forgiving myself and was shutting Him out.

Now in the past year the Lord has been revealing to me who He is in me and who I am in Him. What a wonderful change in perspective. I used to believe that because of my behavior that I was unable to please the Lord.  This is simply not true. I am pleasing to Him always simply because of my faith in Him. He has chosen me to be in Him before the foundation of the world according to Ephesians 1:4.  This is also true of all those who have put their trust in Christ and received His forgiveness of all their sins. What a wonderful Christ!

I love my Lord and I am grateful for all He has forgiven me for. I have made so many mistakes and sins in my life, but He has forgiven them all. When you realize just how much He has done for you, I believe you will love Him even more than you do today.

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Do You Love the Lord?

Do-You-Love-Jesus-101If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may
abide with you forever—
17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”  

John 14:15-18 NKJV

I don’t know about you, but I have for the longest time had difficulty with verse 14 of this passage.  I have interpreted this verse to say, “If you don’t keep my commands then you really don’t love Me.”  This filled me with so much guilt and condemnation that it stifled my growth in Christ.  I have sang songs in church about loving the Lord but never really felt like I did.  

But recently Jesus has given me a revelation of this verse that I hadn’t realized before.  He revealed to me the truth of this verse and the passage.  He showed me that if I love Him first, then I will obey His commands.  It all starts with loving Christ. Once I began to understand that He is in me and loves me and that I am in Him, it changed everything.  I love Him because He has done everything for me that I could never do on my own.  

In verses 16-18 of this passage Jesus tells us that He will give us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and to help us.  The indwelling life of Christ through the Holy Spirit is the source of us being able to obey Him.  We cannot please the Lord or live the Christian life on our own. It is impossible.  He is pleased with us because we have yielded to Him and put our trust in Christ alone.  This truth has set me free to love Christ and trust that He will move me to obey Him out of my love for Him.  I hope you will receive such a revelation from Christ that will set you free as well.

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Keep the Government Out of Church

church-vs-state1Recently, there was an article posted on the blog of The Weekly Standard (http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/hhs-publishes-sample-church-bulletin-insert-promote-obamacare_852728.html) that was rather disturbing to me. The article focuses on how recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has partnered with churches and other faith based organizations around the country.  The purpose of this partnership was to distribute bulletin inserts encouraging parishioners to sign up for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as well as an announcement from the pulpit.

Now, I have no problem with the HHS encouraging people to sign up for health care that need it.  I do however, have a problem with the government (the State) putting their agenda into the bulletins of congregations that are supposed to be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ alone.  This to me seems a clear violation of what many deem the “separation of church and state”.  Do you suppose that the HHS would allow a Christian organization to place gospel tracts into their literature to be given to people?  I don’t think that they would.  They would cry foul and claim it is a violation of church and state.  So, why would congregations around the country allow themselves to be used by the state to push their agenda for health care?  I would conclude that they have lost their focus on who they are and whose agenda they are to communicate.

Churches that are under the lordship of Christ are supposed to focus their message on Christ, and Christ alone.  The Church is supposed to take care of the widow, the orphan, and the poor.  These are ministries that the Church has continued to do for the last 2000 years.  The Church is supposed to place their focus on the Kingdom of God and the purpose of God, not government programs.  The gathering of believers in Christ for a service is to worship the Lord Jesus Christ and to share Christ with one another.  He is to be the center of the worship service.  Now I realize that announcements are generally given at these services, but they too must focus on the life of the Church and not on any state sponsored agenda.  The Apostle Paul knew what his purpose and message was to be about.  He said, For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5 NKJV)  What is preached today in many churches is also subject to debate, but that is another blog post entirely.

The government has spent enough money on television, printed media, and internet advertising to promote Obamacare.  They do not need to place inserts into the worship bulletins of Christian congregations.  The news media around the country has also given Obamacare quite a bit of publicity and coverage as well.  Yet, in spite of this partnership, the government has banned pastors from publicly endorsing measures and candidates from the pulpit, but it is fine for the HHS to promote their agenda in a Christian church.  I don’t think so.  This is a double standard on the part of the government.  Congregations under the Lordship of Christ should have no part of it.

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My Newest Site

whats-new-button-finalGreetings. I have just created a new site dedicated to my reflections on walking the deeper journey with Jesus Christ.  I am excited about sharing my thoughts as well as the thoughts of others on moving to a deeper walk with Christ.  I hope you will click away and check out this new site at: thedeeperwalkblog.wordpress.com I will be re-posting some of my posts from this site on to the new site that reflect this concept. I hope you will also subscribe to this new blog.

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Starting the New Year

challenges-ahead-900-x-500-900x407Today is a sort of special day for me.  It is my spiritual birthday.  Yes, 33 years ago on this date I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  So, this is a great start for this new year for me.  I can still remember that day so many years ago.  I had seen a Billy Graham film just a few days before and heard the Good News about Jesus Christ.  My Nana had given me a little piece of paper with the “sinners prayer” on it the previous day.  I was on a small sand dune at Asilomar Beach in Pacific Grove, CA when I prayed that prayer and believed on Jesus as the only way of salvation.  The Lord Jesus has been faithful to me through all these years, even though I have had many seasons of not being very faithful to Him.  At the end of last year I began to finally grasp that the love of Christ is not dependent on my actions.  He loves me no matter what I do or what I face.  I know this because He knew every wrong I would ever commit and still chose me before the foundation of the world.  The Bible says, Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”  Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT

This new year has also already brought me challenges.  I am still battling this stage 4 kidney cancer in my lungs.  I was also served with papers for a petition for divorce today.  But I will continue to look to Christ to see me through all of the trials that will come my way this year.  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV

At the opening of this post I said that 33 years ago I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.  In this past year He has begun to reveal more of Himself to me.  He is Christ my healer.  He is Christ the lover of my soul.  He is Christ, the everlasting One.  The Apostle Paul told the Church in Galatia,  “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…” (Gal 1:15-16)  I am looking forward to Him revealing more of Himself to me, as He did to Paul, in this new year.    

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A Year in Review

Year-in-ReviewThis year is almost over.  I don’t know about you, but this year has gone by pretty quickly.  I have noticed that as I get older, the years seem to go by faster.  I began this past year with the news that I would need to be treated for stage 4 kidney cancer that had metastasized to my lungs.  Originally I was diagnosed with this at Palo Alto Medial Foundation in California.  My wife and I were planning on getting treatment there.  After some delays in obtaining the medication they were going to use to fight the cancer my wife looked into getting treatment for me at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Phoenix.  I thought we couldn’t afford it, but after finding out they would pay for our flight, we decided to go there for a second opinion.  I am sure glad she called them, because after meeting with the team from CTCA we decided to go for treatment in Phoenix.

So in this past year of getting cancer treatment at CTCA, I have had a total of 7 bronchoscopy procedures, 2 stints placed in my right bronchi, and 3 different treatment options.  I have been on Interleukin-2, Torisel, and now Votrient.  I have also recently received a large dose of radiation directed at the main tumor site in my right lung.  I have also had a procedure to put in a Power Port to have all my blood tests and therapies taken from.  One of my bronchoscopy procedures did not go very well.  In July, I ended up in ICU on a ventilator after my right lung collapsed after the stint in my lung was crushed by the tumor mass.  I almost didn’t make it.  But the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ got me through that whole ordeal and I am still living to fight another day.  As of today I am a 2 year kidney cancer survivor, and a 1 year survivor of having stage 4 kidney cancer.

This year has also been a year of many changes.  Today is my 3rd wedding anniversary.  Yet, this cancer diagnosis, among other things, has probably cost me my marriage.  My wife and I separated just a few months ago.  I have since then relocated to Goodyear, AZ where I can be closer to CTCA for treatment.  Probably the greatest change has been recently for me.  All of these things have caused me to grow closer in my relationship to Jesus Christ.  I have finally accepted the fact the He loves me and has called me to Himself before the foundation of the world.  “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”  Ephesians 1: 4-5 NLT.  It does not matter what I do, His love and acceptance for me is unchanging.  He has been so faithful to me, in spite of my often unfaithfulness to Him.  He has opened doors for me to smoothly transition in my move to Arizona.  He has brought new friends in my life who are fellow cancer patients.  He has also continued to provide for me and bring healing in my life from this cancer.

There is so much more I could write in review of this year, but I wanted to keep in brief.  The Lord has allowed this cancer to exist in my body.  I don’t thank Him for my diagnosis with cancer or being separated from my wife, but I thank Him for seeing me through all of the trials of this past year.  I know that He will be glorified in all of this in some way.  My prayer is that He will continue to live His life through me and in me.  If the Christian life is going to be lived in me, He is going to have to do it.  This past year I have learned that it is impossible for me to live the Christian life.  I will mess up more than I will succeed in living a godly life.  But, when I surrender to Christ, He lives His life through me because He is my indwelling Lord.  I agree with the Apostle Paul who said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20 NLT

I pray all of you will have a joyous new year in 2015.

 

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Reminding the Accuser

AccuserOfBrethren“You’re no good.”  “You can’t be forgiven for that.”  “A real Christian would never do that.”  “You need to feel bad all day long after the sin you just committed.” 

I have heard these words many times since I began my journey with Christ.  I have had loving brothers and sisters in Christ tell me many times that I shouldn’t pay any attention to these words.  Yet, I have paid attention to them and even believed them many times.  But, not anymore.  My brother Mike reminded me very recently that when the Accuser, Satan, the devil says these things to me I must turn it around.  Instead of allowing the devil to remind me of my past failures, I need to remind him of his future.  It says of Satan in Revelation 12:10b, “… for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”  He accuses us of our past sins and those besetting sins that weigh us down on a regular basis.  But, take heart because we are assured that he has been cast down. As believers in Christ we have an advocate who stands in our favor, Jesus Christ.  The next time I am feeling the weight of accusation by our Enemy, I will thank Jesus for his grace, and I will remind Satan of these words from Scripture.

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore.  They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.  And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”    Revelation 20:7-10

I can say that my sins have been forgiven and covered by the precious blood of Christ.  But as for the accuser, he is a defeated, but powerful foe, that is on his way to torment.

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Worst Critic Ever

Have you ever found yourself creating a personal critique of yourself in your mind?  You know, creating a mental list of the mistakes you made on a particular day or even for the past couple of years.  I know I have.  I would say that I am my own worst critic.  A critic is defined as, “a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something or someone.”Failure in business

I don’t think I am alone in this.  The Apostle Paul may have at times done the same thing.  In Romans 7 he speaks about doing the very thing he hates doing even though his desire is to only do good.  He told young Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15 that, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  The great Paul, who penned, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, two-thirds of the New Testament called himself the chief of sinners.

Yet, he did not stay in this state of self-condemnation.  In spite of his full knowledge of what kind of man he was before Christ and later in Christ he could honestly say, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Rom 7:24-25)  Only through Christ can anyone be free from self-condemnation.  But, that begins after a realization of just what a state of helplessness one is in apart from Christ and who one is in Christ.  Paul summarized it best only a few verses later, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1)

For me to continue to condemn myself for my past or my present would simply be acting apart from Christ.  For in Him, I am justified or declared “not guilty” of my wrong doings.  More specifically, anyone in Christ is now seen by the Father as if he/she has never sinned.  What a wonderful, amazing, forgiving God!  That he should look upon me this way with all my faults, besetting sins, and just plain poor decisions is amazing.  I have not completely “arrived” in ceasing to condemn myself, but I continue to pick myself up and keep moving ahead more than I did before.  So based on what Christ has done for me, I can say of myself, “I’m the worst critic ever!”  with a smile now.

 

 

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Religion or Relationship?

SpiritualDisciplinesCollage1-300x240“If you want to be a good Christian and please the Lord, then you need to read your Bible everyday.”  “If you really want to grow in your faith you need to volunteer on a ministry team at church.”  “If you’re not witnessing to your unsaved co-workers and family regularly you aren’t very mature as a Christian.”

I have been around church folk long enough to hear these comments in my 30 years as a Christian.  Over the years I have heard comments like this and found myself feeling guilty for not measuring up to someone who I perceived as being more “mature” than myself.  These thoughts of not doing enough, combined with my “habitual sins” have left me feeling so far away from experiencing God’s love and the presence of Christ, my savior.  I have discovered over the last year that I have been practicing the religion of Christianity rather than the relationship with Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, the Lord has revealed to me some of the reasons behind my keeping my distance from Him.  It revolves around fear and guilt.  Now, generally speaking most religions of the world are based upon a works based system of pleasing their god.  There is a natural fear of the consequences of not doing enough to earn your way to heaven, nirvana, or some other after life idea.  Yet, in the western institutional church, there is still a level of doing good works to please God on top of trusting in Christ for salvation.  Granted, works will be a natural outflow of gratitude towards Christ for salvation, but it shouldn’t be a series of “have to’s” to be followed.  A dear friend of mine reminded me recently, “If you have to do something for Christ, then it isn’t of Christ.”  What this means is, any service we do for our Lord should be motivated purely out of our love and devotion to Him rather than a out of duty.

The antidote for this mindset of guilt and doing things out of a sense of duty is to be reminded of His love and complete forgiveness.  For myself, it also means forgiving myself for my past failures and accepting His perfect forgiveness.  More on this in future post.

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”  1 John 4:17-18 NLT

Are you practicing the religion of the Christian life or living Christianity through a vital relationship with Christ?

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