Do you really know the Gospel message?

God created everything. He created this earth and everything in it, including you and me. He created us in his image meaning we are smart, we are willful, we have emotions, and we have an internal compass that helps us intuitively know right from wrong even if we were never taught these things. God created us to be holy too, because He is holy. Holy means to be set apart, to be pure. We once were fully 100% holy and pure. But remember, God made us willful and smart in his image. Even though he created us, we somehow decided we knew better. We were deceived into thinking we could control our lives without God; that we were right, and his commands to us on how were were to live our lives were optional, so we did our own thing. We went left, when God clearly asked us to go right. 

That one decision to live outside of God’s will (the rules he set for us) caused us to no longer be pure. We were now on our own. No longer able to be with God. We willfully separated ourselves from God in a selfish act of desiring to be our own master, our own god. Through this departure from God brought massive consequences of sin. No longer were were following the righteous will of God, but the sinful will of our own flesh. Sin became the outpouring of who we are. Sin, while often thought of as an act, is the essence of who we ARE. Sin is our state of being. Sin means we are no longer holy, we are separated from God, on our own, living for ourselves 100% of the time. 

This sin state of being has horrendous ramifications. It manifests itself in different ways for different people. For some, sin shows in big ways that we all know and hate such as murder, rape, and grand theft. However, for the majority of us it manifests in small ways, such as white lies to get out of a parking ticket, stealing office supplies from our work, “borrowing” music and movies illegally on the Internet, cheating just a bit, or a lot on our taxes, making false insurance claims to get a better outcome, gossiping about a friend to make ourselves look better, all in an effort to live a life that seems to be free but is full of bondage. Sin is a lifestyle marked by self-serving behavior. Again, sis not an act, but it is who we are. It is the very fiber of our being.

If you were to vote for a new judge for the Supreme Court Justice, I would bet you would not vote for one who uses the slogan, “Vote for me, All go free!” That would defeat the purpose of a judge. We want the most impartial judge. Our souls still cry for justice when we, or a fellow human being are wronged. God is the ultimate Judge. He created you, He created me. Because He created us all, that means He has ultimate ownership, authorship, and He can do what he likes with us regardless of what we think because that is fair. When I create art, a meal, a child, I am in charge. I am the authority over that creation. I decide where it goes, what it does, and how it moves forward. I am in an authoritative position over anything I create (within moral reason with a child, but I hope you get where I am going here). 

It is the same right of God. If you agree that God is the Creator of this world, including you and me, then we must agree that God has an authoritative right over all of His creation. Ultimately that is why sin is considered, by the vast majority, to be a bad thing. It must be punished. Sinful acts are an outpouring of our sin nature. Our desire to be in charge and our desire to do what we want rather than what God, our Creator has asked us to do, deserves punishment. We do not deserve a get-out-of-jail-free card simply because we are “pretty good”. He is holy, yet we are no longer holy. We cannot be in the presence of God without judgement. There needs to be a reconciliation in order for us to be right before God again. A created thing that goes rogue, deserves to be found and put down. We deserve death, which would be our jail sentence. That is what Hell is all about. Hell is our prison cell. We get a glimpse of what it is in the Bible, and believe me, you do not want to go there. Just a few descriptive words about it are enough to make your skin crawl: eternal damnation, weeping, gnashing of teeth, eternal fire, unquenchable thirst. This jail cell is where we are all headed for eternity because of our separation from God. 

Here is where the reality of our state gets wildly interesting and almost too incredible for words. God is love. He is not just loving, He does not just love us, but he IS love. He is the very source of love. He knows we are weak. He knows we need Him. He knows our flesh is strong. He stepped in and did the one thing we could never do. He came down to live among us perfectly. He sent his only Son, Jesus, God in the flesh, to live a perfect life. Something none of us could ever do. He lived literally a perfect, sinless life. He was our proxy. Then, in an inconceivable act of mercy and grace, He died the very death each and every one of us deserve to die. He was guiltless. He lived the life we never could only to die the death each of us should. Death on a cross. A horrendously humiliating, excruciatingly painful and draw-out death. He reconciled my life, He reconciled your life to God through His death. He paid our penalty. He satisfied the Judge. He stepped in for us!

As if that were not enough, Jesus came back to life. He defeated death. He defied nature. He is a living proof of what we get to experience some day. It almost seems too good to be true! It seems like a great fairy tail. But it is real. The veracity of the Bible, the actual life, death, AND resurrection of the man Jesus has been documented and proven even by those outside of the Christian faith! So why are there millions upon millions of people who still don’t believe and may never give their live to Christ? Our sin nature is so deeply rooted and woven into the fiber of our souls that we want it not to be true. God still gives us a choice. He still gives us our will. Our will wants to satisfy ourself. Our soul cannot and will not bow to another. The throne room of our hearts already has someone firmly seated on it’s seat: ourself. There is hope, however!

God calls His children. One by one, His Holy Spirit convinces and convicts us of our sin, of our need for holiness and righteousness, and He presses on our heart the very heavy burden of our sin and need for judgement. The Holy Spirit works in us, quickening our heart to desire after God’s heart. He shows us the reality of our sin and the glory and splendor of what it means to be free of that burden. The simple yet profound act of placing our life in the hands of the Almighty God becomes a 180 degree shift from self to God. We must turn from our idol of self and turn to a life where Jesus is the only One able to sit on the throne of our heart. We must raise the white flag, admit that we were wrong, seek forgiveness from our sin, and admit that ownership is not ours, but our Creators. We must trust fully in Jesus. We must follow hard after Him knowing others will despise us. As a follower of Jesus, we now recognize the futility of living for our “self” and realize the beauty of a grace and mercy-filled life of living for God. 

Friend, if you are on the wrong side of this, I implore you, by the mercy of God, to get reconciled to God. Place your trust and faith in Him alone. Turn away from your sin and yourself and turn to God. The peace and love and mercy and grace will wrap around your heart and give you courage and strength to follow hard after Him. There is no magic prayer. There is no “ticket to Heaven” only to go back to a self-serving life. If you have raised the white flag, read the Bible. That is how God speaks to us. Pray all the time, talk to God, ask for Him to forgive you of your sin. Ask Him to give you faith and wisdom to do His will. Share with others what you have found!

Jesus Calling is a distortion of God’s word!

There is only one true gospel and others will try to distort it and add to it. Paul writes to the Galatians in chapter 1 verse 7, “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” The Greek word for “distort” means to turn one thing into another. Elsewhere in the BIble when it talks about the sun being turned into darkness, the same word is used. These people from Galatia were probably not intentionally trying to distort the gospel but Satan and his henchmen were and still are. The people convinced themselves that they were correct; that they were almost enhancing the gospel. Paul is boldly telling them this is wrong. The distortions were effectively turning them from the one true Gospel. These people were being troubled by this distortion. They were being stirred up and agitated. He wanted to make certain that the Galatians knew there is only one gospel.

There are so many things that distort the gospel. Things that take our focus off Jesus, yet are in the name of Jesus. Things like feng shui from “Christians” who start out talking about energy from an electricity perspective but then say you are loosing all your money because your toilet seats are not closed. We are in jeopardy of becoming superstitious which leads to a lack of faith in God. Some are writing what they are receiving new revelations from Jesus. They are stating that Jesus is personally speaking directly to them and these “new words” can be trusted and seen as scripture. Last I checked the Bible still holds true about not adding or taking away anything from the Word of God (Proverbs 30:5-6, Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, Revelation 22:18-19). 

The modern Christian seems to select items from the Bible as if at a buffet, choosing some more favorable truths and rejecting what doesn’t “feel” right or what seems to be antiquated. Beloved reader, this is insidious. It is a constant battle to guard ourselves from the false teachings of this world. Even believers will be drawn away and enticed into the “world biblical view” (Matthew 24:24). There really is only one way to keep from going astray. Prayer should be a continuum in your day, but our minds are tricky and our flesh is strong. While we must continue to pray throughout the day and also as a solid time given to our Boss as we clock in each day, there is something else that must be a mainstay. Guard yourself against heresy by reading the entire Bible cover to cover as often as you can. Heresies have a sneaky way of seeping into the smallest of cracks and little by little they will end up breaking you beyond repair. Paul was being as loving as he possibly could by rebuking them. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is seemingly the most difficult and painful.

When I broke my arm as a child my dad rushed me to the hospital. Yes I was in pain, but nothing compared to the agony of resetting the bone. It was the most loving thing to do? Without the pain of setting my bone back to its right place my life would have been filled with pain and disability moving forward. Sometimes a momentary yet intense pain is necessary for healing and new life to begin. Don’t be afraid to correct your brothers and sisters in Christ and also to take correction. Correction to the mind of man without the Holy Spirit won’t go too smoothly and will most likely not be profitable. Dig deep into the Bible to bring its Truth along side the situation. 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”. We all have our flesh still clinging to us. Our flesh is strong and wants to win. Root yourself in the Word of God. Root yourself in prayer. Root yourself by surrounding yourself with trusted children of God who are not afraid to help you become the best servant to Christ that you can be!

Are you 100% certain you are not being deceived?

How can you know if you are being deceived? Oddly, most don’t know at all. They go along their perfect “Christian” life not knowing they are actually following another, different Jesus that the world has created rather than the one true Jesus. Beware of anything that would draw your attention away from Jesus that could be cloaked in the name of spirituality or growth. This is Paul’s message to the Galatians in chapter 1 verse 6. Right out of the gate, Paul rebukes the Galatians when he says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-.” In every other letter to the other churches he give a praise report giving abundant thanks for them and then goes into what they need to work on. To the Galatians, he says a quick “hello” and then slams right into them. He is astonished. In Greek this word means to “wonder in amazement”. Paul is dumbfounded. He can’t understand why they would have strayed and he is letting them know of his utter disappointment. The word word Paul used for “deserting” in Greek means they were not fully deserted but they were just then beginning to turn away. He was trying to stop them before they went too far. How far is too far though and how long did it take for him to write and them to receive his letter? Timing. God’s is perfect. 
It is often too late for some, but for others it isn’t. The reality is that we don’t know a person’s heart. We can’t know if it is too late. We must obediently implore people to change their ways. To turn and trust in Jesus. Do we do this? An honest look at my own life and I would fire myself from my job as an ambassador for Christ on a daily basis. How many souls do I pass by every day that are desperate for the real Truth? How many conversations do I have with good friends where my own embarrassment at their lack of righteousness ends in an awkward laugh rather than a firm but loving rebuke? More than my soul would like to admit. I allow my human flesh to cower in a corner of denial. A prayer for boldness needs to be at the top of my list. A prayer for a broken heart for the lost needs to be at the center of my soul. A prayer for a right and true understanding of the Gospel message which I need to take seriously through Biblical study, meditation, and memorization must be paramount to my ambition in this life.

An Inconceivable Plan

Jesus died on the cross as a willful plan for our salvation to deliver us from death into life through God’s will and not our own. Galatians 1:4 states, “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” This was Paul’s central message of the good news over and over in his letters: Christ died for our sins that we might be a new creation, rescued from the Fall and death all through the sovereign choice of God. He wanted them to know that this was planned out. He sets a high view of God by telling them right up front that that was the will of the Father, His awesome plan to rescue us. It was and is an inconceivable plan. It was nothing we could have come up with on our own and nothing we would choose ourselves. 
We live strangely outside of eternity in a bubble of time. Our life and everything we know is inside this bubble. But there is more, way more, that we don’t even know or understand. That unknown “world” is God and everything in Him. As CS Lewis puts it, imagine rolling out a huge scroll of paper that goes on and on and on in front of you and in back of you. Now draw a tiny dot. You might think you know where I am going; the dot is your lifespan, right? No, CS Lewis is representing the dot as time. Time as we know it is a tiny dot in the grand scheme of things. God is working everything out and has a beautiful incomprehensible plan. Those who are saved are a new creation and are a part of that plan. How and why He is so patient with us and loves us, even LIKES us, is beyond me, but then again we are in that time bubble. How inconceivably glorious that, as followers of Christ, our filter is now the holes in the hands of our Savior. Everything in our life must be filtered through those holes. Lord help us to continually look to the cross and the gift of grace and peace you so graciously lavished on your children.

You don’t need to “man up”

Only through Jesus Christ are you given the free gift of Grace any by that you will have peace. Paul continues to get right to the point in Galatians 1:3, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,”. He gives them two words that sum up what he is going to be writing about. GRACE and PEACE. Grace is the salvation that they received without works. Peace is how they should feel now in Christ. The Galatians were not living under grace and definitely did not have peace. Paul does not mince words. We as Christians don’t need to “man up”… we need to “Paul up”. We need to continually remember to bask in the GRACE and PEACE of Jesus. It is a privilege and honor to be under the umbrella of His grace and peace yet so often we find ourselves standing in the rain and paying the price for our own stubbornness.

Just say “no” to the one trying to derail you

Sometimes we just need to get to the point. The letter to Galatia starts off very brief. Paul normally writes his greeting with listing who is with him. In this letter he simply states in 1:2, “and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:”. Some commentaries read into this to consider that he is very upset and not interested in pleasantries. Who knows for sure but based on the nature of the full letter this could be the case. The Galatians were off their rocker and Paul had no time to waste. He needed to rebuke them and get them off the false gospel they were following of works and onto the correct gospel he taught them at first, the one of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Getting the general population to be misled is a primary goal of the devil. He has roamed this earth for thousands of years plotting and scheming. To say he is not a master mind at manipulation and misleading would be an absurdity. He has had plenty of time to perfect the art of deception. If Paul, 2000 years ago was writing in an urgent manner because his people had started to follow false teachings, you would think we would be all the more urgent in our imploring our brothers and sisters today to get reconciled to God. The opposite is true. It is a scary thing to consider even Christ’s own ambassadors may get sucked into Satan’s distractions and lead even us astray. Hold fast to what you were taught at the beginning. Remember your salvation. Remember your fire and passion for Christ. Don’t let that die. Don’t let others tell you that you are too bold or that you need to temper yourself. Fight for Christ. Learn all you can. Be the best advocate you can and say “NO” to the one trying to derail you.

What is the ultimate truth?

In Galatians 1:5 (ESV) Paul writes, “to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” This is the glorious doxology. We see this over and over again in the bible. To God be the glory! Forever! In light of his intro describing who he is and what the good news is concerning Christ, Paul is placing a clear statement to the misguided church of Galatia that giving God glory and praise should be at the top of everyone’s priority list. The word “amen” at the conclusion of his opening means the statement is true and trustworthy. Many people use the phrase “so be it” as the meaning of amen, but the Galatians would have known it to mean “truth” sort of when someone says today “preach it” or an emphatic statement by saying the word “truth!” on its own. What, then, is the ultimate truth? God deserves now and forever more the glory which is a true and right statement. Nothing could be more right or true. While we might be inclined to blindly agree with that statement, what exactly is glory? 

Glory means honor, it means magnificent splendor and beauty, it means respect. To give glory to God means to give importance to Him over all other things. I sit here knowing in my head this is true, knowing in my heart this is true. To GOD be the glory. But then there is again… my worldly flesh constantly gnawing at my soul saying NO I WANT TO BE IN CHARGE! How insidious. How irritating. But then sometimes I let it. I let it in. I can feel the slip. LORD help me. LORD deliver me. To YOU be the glory. To YOU be everything. I long for humility. To be nothing not only in front of you but to be nothing when I am at my worst. To be nothing when my flesh cries the battle cry of “Unfair!” and “I am right!” and “I deserve that!” All these are selfishness in it’s pure form. Selfishness my soul wants no part in yet my flesh screams and stomps its feet in protest to have. There is beauty in the battle. Beauty in the process. I have come to look back with loving affection at the hard trials I have gone through and have resolved to remember them when I go through the next one. With each trial I come closer to the goal. The goal of complete humility and the full, pure holy cry, TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

Jesus at your workplace

Galatians 1:1 ESVPaul, an apostle- not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead-

Paul was appointed by Jesus to be an apostle and has God-granted authority to share a message that is centered around Jesus. The title “apostle” means he has God-given authority. He was given this authority directly from Jesus himself. Paul is one of the most controversial writers of the New Testament. Because of this, scholars have tried to discredit him, but we must remember that as a God-ordained apostle he has the authority to deliver the message of Christ. We must respect and listen to his words even if they are hard, as often times they are.

We, as followers of Christ, must remember to look at the Bible as written by God and not by man. Yes, man is fallible, but God inspired man to write what he wrote. All scripture is breathed out by God. We, like Paul are given work to do for and through God. This work is a privilege, not a burden or something we think we will get to later when we have more time. He has asked us to study, and know, and follow, and love, and be committed to Him first. He has asked us to share with others the gospel. He has asked us to do a lot of things and we need to uphold that as our personal God-given job description. All our work as sacred. Even our jobs that pays our bills because we can witness through it and be a major light to hundreds if not thousands of people. We need to be fully CONVINCED and CONVICTED that our work, whatever that may be, has been given to us by God himself, because it has!

My Flesh Cries Out in Agony

My own spirit and the Spirit inside me want only You, but my flesh cries out in constant agony over its desires. Like a kicking and screaming toddler, my flesh wants its way. Holy Spirit, give me dedication and devotion like Daniel. Help me to find better discipline. Help me to love You better, love You more, love you fully, love you best!

Don’t Question the “To-Do” List from God

When I was a kid, I was a latch-key kid after my parents divorced. My mom would leave me a list of things I had to do before she got home. My job was to finish the list, not question the list. It wasn’t a good idea for me to decide for myself what I interpreted the list to say. A friend of mine says that when she pulls into the parking lot of her work, if she sees her boss’s car parked, she immediately sits up straighter in her car even though he is not actually around. It is her instinct to do so. We should feel the same way with God. He is ALWAYS watching but we never consider the simple fact that he is there.

How oddly un-odd it is that we don’t consider God’s omniscience more. He is EVERYWHERE and yet we excuse our behavior as something out of our control such as PMS or in my case gluten or whatever other issue we have that gives us the weak ability to excuse our actions and words or more plainly our poor behavior towards others. Jesus asked us to love one another as he has loved us. I do a terrible job. He asked you, he asked me! He asked us to do everything as if we were doing it to Him and for Him personally. Yikes, that is not the case in my every day life. Today I resolve to consider God’s presence at every moment, in every conversation, in every thought, in every simple interaction, with every usually mindless facial expression to others. Today I will start my journey towards loving others and completing tasks with the weight of God’s omniscience!