Monday, April 25, 2011

Sold a Bill of Goods Again?

Religion is both an attractive and a reprehensible thing. The flesh of human kind is greatly attracted to religion. As a matter of fact, religion is the lowest denominator in life. It is far too easy to drop to the the very base of spirituality and quickly substitute religion for what originally began as a spiritual search.

The Apostle Paul dealt with this tendency when he wrote his letter to the church in Colossae.

Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

Fraud is a strong charge! Fraud is an outright lie meant to deceive. Being defrauded from a prize means that something of value has been stolen from you.

Paul now seeks to set things straight:

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,

"Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!"

(which all refer to things destined to perish with use)--in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?

These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Colossians 2:18ff

My frustration continues to grow when I hear Christian teachers drone on and on about the frailties of today's Christians with the heavy message of more and more rule and prescriptions that have "the appearance of wisdom" and exhort people to "turn way" from sin. Paul says all of these messages are of "no value against fleshly indulgence".

The whole Bible is filled with people who have been radically saved by God only to desert Him months or weeks later in their pursuit of fleshly indulgences. It simply was not for lack of instruction, threats or warnings that the people strayed. It was simply because religion just doesn't make any positive difference in a life or in a culture.

Run from these types of teachers. They disguise captivity and frustration in silky words that appeal to the flesh. Self-abasement and severe treatment of the body makes sense to the flesh since it is our fleshly lusts that seem to plague us the most. Paul states, however, the diagnosis may be correct but the prescription delivered by some is bankrupt.

We have been set free for freedoms sake and the more we opt to live in the liberty of Jesus the more we fall i love with Him. The more we fall in love with Him, the less attractive are the things that formerly attracted us in the flesh.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Alive But Held Captive

The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." John 11:44

This scripture really hit me this week and my mind had been spinning with the real good news! How this illustrates what Jesus did for us is absolutely stunning.

You were once dead in your sins, Paul says to the Ephesians (2:1) and God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ. (v 4-6)

Notice that the Ephesians quote talks about what our God has already done! This is the finished work of the good news of Jesus. He, raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ.

Here is where we need to turn back to the first scripture, the account of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Jesus instructed those attending: "Unbind him, and let him go."

Many of us have been made alive like Lazarus in the story but many of us are still bound up in restraints.

Read the Book of Acts about the actions of the first Christians and you can't help but discover a disparity between what you see there and what you see in today's churches.

What kinds of things keep Christians bound up? You could list hundreds, I am sure,but suffice it to say the values and wants of the world have transfixed the people of God so much that we look just like those who not yet "seated with Him in the heavenly places".

The Holy Spirit will open up the bondages that are holding you captive if you just ask Him. He will also give you the strength and the drive to loose them.

Jesus is saying, "Unbind him, and let him go." Will you be set free?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Entry to the Kingdom of Heaven

I have an almost four year old granddaughter who has taught me much. Just today, as I dropped her and her mother off at the airport to head to Disneyland, I was hit with the reality of what Jesus had to say in Matthew 18

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,

and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

"Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (verses 1-4)

As we were on the way to the airport we told her: "today you will be going on an airplane, a train and a bus". Her response "a slow train or a fast train". See she has never been on an airplane, a train or a bus yet she accepted the premise of being on each one without question.

The "faith" of a child is that kind of trust that Jesus said we must have to "enter the kingdom of heaven". A child doesn't need to ask for proof that airplanes exist or that heavy metal can indeed fly. A bus? So many questions could have been asked. Children just simply believe.

Yes, we are eternally saved by faith and we will all, those who have placed their total trust in the blood of Jesus, will one day enter the eternal kingdom when Jesus comes for us or we leave here and go to Him.

The invitation that Jesus offers us to to enter His kingdom now! It doesn't come without a serious cost. We must surrender our right to control our own lives and choose to live by childlike faith. It is a choice!

Will you choose to live in the kingdom or will you choose to stumble along in the dark by pretending that you have control?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dry Bones With No Hope

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones.

He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry.

He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know."

Again He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.'

"Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, 'Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.

'I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.'"

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.

Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life."'"

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished We are completely cut off.'

"Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.

"Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people.

"I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it," declares the LORD.'" Ezekiel 37:1-14

A strange story to begin this message with isn't it. This was the message the God place on my heart last week. There is a scriptural connection with the historical nation of Israel and the current church. I believe that the message to Ezekiel regarding the state of Israel is appropriate for today's U.S. church as well.

Walk through a store or a local shopping mall and attempt to pick out the Christians from the non-Christians. How accurate do you think you would be. It is amazing to me that two Christians can work in the same place for months or for years and not know that they are not alone.

The visible witness for today's church is gone. Here is where we return to the text.

"these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished We are completely cut off.'"

"Our hope has perished" is a description of today's Church. Joy? Not so much! We are buried under our circumstances and have lost the vibrancy of our lives in Jesus.

What is the answer? The text seems to indicate that there is a two step process to returning the dry bones to an exceedingly great army.

Step one is for a few of God's anointed to begin to pray that the dry bones will begin to hear the Word of the Lord. Step two is for God's anointed and for the "hopeless" bones to begin to pray for the breath of the Spirit of God to come from the four corners to do is life giving work.

Are you one of God's anointed for this purpose? If so, begin to pray and suggest this blog to others who might pick up the mantle. If you are not prepared to stand in the gap for His church simply consider passing this blog on to someone else who might enjoy the challenge.