Changing Diapers and Freedom in Christ

John 8:36 – “if the Son sets you free you shall be free indeed. ”

Tonight I took my almost 3 month old son into his room for a quick diaper change.  I unbuttoned the outfit and got ready for the quick off and on of the diaper.   Before I got the diaper off however he began to stretch and to play and to smile.
It was a lot of fun to watch and to be a part of so what started out as a fast diaper change quickly changed into something else.   A time of stretching and play.
Up until that point he hadnt seemed too happy,  but now everything had changed (except the diaper I hadn’t changed it yet).  So what made the difference?   I wondered as I analyzed the situation. Why was he now so happy? Simply put he was happy because he was free.  He’s usually bound by something,  blankets, onesies, outfits, whatever.  After all we don’t want him to be cold.   And yet tonight for a few minutes he was free.  He kicked,  he played,  he smiled,  he almost laughed.   It was wonderful to watch him enjoy his freedom.
If we are followed of Christ we have a much richer freedom don’t we? We have been set free by the Son from guilt,  from sin,  from the fear of death,  from death itself,  and from the chains of hell.
We have reason to rejoice and be happy.   We are free,  so enjoy your freedom.  Be thankful for it.  Think each day about the price our resurrected Lord paid for our freedom.  And take time to share that freedom and the source of that freedom with other people.   Many today are bound but freedom truly is possible through Gods amazing Grace.  Through that grace our chains are gone and we are truly free.   To God be the glory.

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, a book review

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn, a book review
Matthew 6:19-20 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

The Treasure Principle is the most Biblical book on giving that I have ever read. And yet even as I say that I am aware that it is more than just a book on giving, it is a book on living. Living life for the glory of God and not being content to be bogged down with the things of the world. Living life to make an eternal difference and not to be satisfied with just getting from day to day. It is a book that calls for radical trust, radical love, and radical giving.
The subject of giving is a fairly difficult one in the local church, but it is one that needs to be addressed, provided it is addressed in a Biblical manner. This book is born out of Alcorn’s own struggles in life. He was arrested for a non-violent protest at an abortion clinic and had a significant penalty levied against him. Since he was a pastor at the time, the levy also applied to the church and as long as he was pastor the church would have to give a certain amount of money a month for his garnishment. Rather than have that happen, Alcorn resigned. He went from making a very nice salary at the church to working for minimum wage, but in the process he discovered the joy of giving.
He calls the discovery, “the treasure principle”. And it really is just a practical way of looking at Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-20, that talks about “not laying up treasures on earth, but laying up treasures in heaven.” In order to do this we have to live with an eternal perspective and we have to realize that we really are “just pilgrims on a journey.” We shouldn’t be concerned with worldly things because this world is not our home, and in addition to that we should realize that every thing that we have is a gift of God, we are not the owners of our possesions, we are just the stewards. These two truths should radically change not only our approach to giving but our approach to life.
One of the illustrations that Alcorn uses that really hit home was the illustration of the dot and the dash. He said imagine that your life is the dot and that the dash reaches into eternity. Many people choose to live for just the dot, and the things that they do have no eternal impact. In other words they don’t impact the dash at all. However when we live the way the Bible instructs us to and we make giving a priority and even a joy then we have a chance to impact the dash. Our gifts can have eternal implications.
The money that we give to a missions offering. A gift we give to a ministry (provided it is a true Christ following and exalting ministry, not just a money making enterprise). The regular amount we give to the church, all of these things can impact the Kingdom of God. Someone who is lost may be found. Someone who is hurting may find comfort. A struggling church may find help. Someone else may be encouraged. All because you gave! All because you did not give in to the lure of the world and its materialism, but chose to live with an eternal perspective, realizing that you are just a steward of God’s money. This makes all the difference in the world.
Alcorn also talks about celebrating our giving in our churches. About telling giving stories. I’m not sure I agree with him on this. I think the principle is good, but when people are sharing how much the give the very real temptation becomes pride and legalism and these are things that the church must stay away from to if we are going to impact the world today. Visitors in our churches don’t need to see us talking about our gifts because it might lead them to believe we are only concerned about financial matters.
We should however give as Alcorn says generously and joyfully. This book is a book that will encourage you to do just that. What a privilege it is to be able to give to kingdom work, and when we view it that way, we really will be “cheerful givers.” And that’s good news because as the Bible says, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.”

Its Not Easy

Isaiah 40:31- “those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.   They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint ”

Waiting isn’t easy is it? We do a lot of it.  We wait for appointments, we wait in line,  we wait on people, we wait for our food, we wait for seasons to change and we wait for holidays to roll around.  Life sometimes seems to be made up of waiting, but even though we do a lot of waiting, it is something that we don’t get any better at.
Waiting isn’t easy but Biblically waiting comes with a promise: if you wait on  the Lord your strength will be renewed.   What a promise!   In this hectic,  crazy world our strength can be renewed,  we can run and not grow weary.   We can walk and not faint.   What an amazing  promise we can find strength and energy for the journey of life.  How? Not through anything that we can do but through the power of God.  He gives us the strength and the vitality that we need.
What do we have to do?  What’s our part so to speak?   We wait,  specifically we  wait on Him.  What does that mean?  It means we trust in Him in every area of life.   We put worry and anxiety aside so that it doesn’t rob us of strength and energy and we just simply trust.   We trust God with whatever we are concerned about.  We trust Him with the everyday business of lIfe and in reality we trust Him with the whole of life.  
Waiting is not easy.  Trusting is sometimes not easy but it sure beats the alternative of trying to do life on your own.   So trust and have your strength renewed.

There is Power in the ……?

There is Power in the …..?
Colossians 1:20 – “and through Jesus to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”
Last night after the kids went to bed I sat down to watch the news and was absolutely horrified by the images that I saw. Images out of Boston and the marathon. I had heard about the horrific violence that had taken place but could not believe the truth that the pictures showed. Blood was everywhere on the streets, it was truly a sobering sight.
Senseless bloodshed and agony and pain. When I watched I was angry, I was frightened for the condition of our world, and I just wanted to cry out why. Blood was shed and it was absolutely needless. Innocent people lost their lives, it truly hurt to think about and to see.
But as I looked at the blood, I was reminded of another time an innocent person was killed. There was a difference in the two, certainly the people in Boston did not want to die. They were surprised by what happened. Jesus on the other hand wasn’t surprised, He knew the cross was coming, and He willingly went to the cross. It is a fact that makes you cry out why as well doesn’t it? Why would Jesus willingly do that for us? Why did He willingly go to the cross and willingly die? So that we might have forgiveness, so that we might be cleansed.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear from early on in the Old Testament, all the way through the book of Revelation, “without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin.” Jesus willingly shed His blood so that we might have forgiveness. There truly is power in the blood of Christ. Power to forgive us, power to reconcile us to God, power to bring us near to God, power to give sanctification and redemption and justification. There really is power in the blood. As the song says:
“What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus”
Jesus’ blood gives us forgiveness and it gives us hope even in the midst of this sinful world that we live in. The blood on the streets reminded us of the sinful world that we live in and the horror of that sin. The blood of Jesus reminds us that there is hope even in the midst of that world and that one day because of the blood of Jesus sin will be washed away and destroyed. There really is power in the blood.

Only the Gospel…

An amazing word from the writer of “Amazing Grace”.

The Reformed Reader

In a sermon on Proverbs 11:30, in 1787, John Newton explained the power of the gospel – the good news that Jesus died and rose to save sinners.  While the law commands, the gospel comforts:

“The Gospel removes difficulties insuperable to human power.  It causes the blind to see, the deaf to hear; it softens the heart of stone and raises the dead in trespasses and sins to a life of righteousness.  No force but that of the Gospel is sufficient to remove the mountainous load of guilt from an awakened conscience, to calm the violence of tumultuous passions, to raise an earthly soul from groveling in the mire of sensuality or greed, to a spiritual and divine life, a life of communion with God.”

“No system but the Gospel can communicate motives, encouragements, and prospects, sufficient to withstand and counteract all the snares and temptations with which the spirit…

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Basic Christianity by John Stott, a book review

Basic Christianity by John Stott a book review

Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.”

John Stott’s Basic Christianity is a book that is aptly named.  It is short, it is direct, and it is filled up with the truth of basic Christianity.  It is a book that is written to the skeptic, or one who is seeking, or to a new believer in Christ, but it is a book that will touch the life of anyone who reads it regardless of how long they have been a follower of Jesus. 

Stott begins his book by talking about the reliability of the Bible.  He wants to establish the source of our revelation about God and about ourselves, so he begins where we must begin with the truth of the word of God.  From there, Stott begins to discuss the person of Jesus Christ and the work of Jesus Christ.  He does not do this in consecutive sections however, he goes from discussing who Jesus is, to discussing the reality of sin, and how we as sinners are in desperate need of a Savior.  Then he shifts gears to begin to talk about the work of Christ.  This makes perfect sense because a person has to see their need of a Savior before they turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. 

In the final section of the book, Stott talks about making a decision to follow Jesus and then what we should do as followers of Jesus.  This section is extremely practical and one that all Christians can benefit from because it tells us Biblically what we should be doing as followers of Jesus Christ.  Stott also takes time to reinforce in this section some of the privileges that we have as children of God, we now have an intimate relationship with Almighty God, an assured relationship and a secure relationship with God.  These are amazing facts as Stott reminds us, facts that will change our lives and facts for which we should be eternally thankful.

In a world filled up with uncertainty and problems, Stott reminds his readers that we do have a certainty, we do have stability, we do have hope, and His name is Jesus.  He makes all the difference in the world.  These are facts that people need to hear if they are lost and they are facts that we who are followers of Jesus need to be reminded of daily. 

Many Christians in our world today do not know the fundamental beliefs of Christianity.  Stott’s book is a good starting point as it reinforces what those beliefs are and also the difference that those beliefs make in our lives today.  In the edition that I read there were study questions for each chapter included in the back of the book.  This makes Stott’s book an invaluable resource for those who are learning the basics of Christianity or even for those who have been Christians for years.  The study guide could also be used as discussion points by a Christian who was sharing Jesus with a lost person. 

Stott’s book is very well written and could be used in a variety of ways.  It could be used in Sunday School classes, with those who are asking questions about Jesus, with those who need to be reminded of the life changing truth of the Gospel.  It could be used in churches, among Bible study groups, even in prisons, or other institutions.  It is a book that should be widely read, because all of us need to know the truth of the Gospel and be able to understand and articulate that truth more fully.

(8 out of 10 stars)

Being Aware

Ephesians 6:11 – “Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

I apologize in advance because I do not know the correct spelling of this term,  but tonight in our karate class we learned the Japanese phrase “zahn chee”, which means to be aware of your surroundings.   I’ve thought about that phrase a lot tonight and its been convicting because in many cases we aren’t aware.   Many times we pay no attention to our surroundings or to what is going on around us.
The instructor was teaching us the concept I’m the self defense part of the class and the point that he was making was be aware of your surroundings so if you are ever attacked you can easily find a way of escape.   It makes a lot of sense doesn’t it? It’s good to know the way out.
Well Paul reminds the church at Ephesus and also us that everyday we are in a battle.  Not a physical battle but a spiritual battle so be aware.  Be aware of the devil’s schemes, be aware if you have a family of what the world is doing to your children,  be aware of your vulnerabilities,  be aware of all this and more.  Zahn chee! You are in a spiritual battle.
Scripurally we are told,  “be on the alert,  your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He wants to devour souls first and foremost,  but if a person is saved he wants to devour their Christian witness.   He wants to devour the joy of their salvation.  He wants to wipe out their peace,  their assurance, and their hope.   He wants to devour relationships and families.   He wants to destroy churches.   He wants to discourage Christians. And he wants to devour our children.
These are scary thoughts certainly and in reality they are things that we don’t think about very often.  But we should,  we need to be aware.  When we are it drives us to our knees in prayer,  realizing that the only way we are victorious is through Christ Jesus, our Lord.
We are in a battle so get ready, Paul says.   Get ready by praying,  get ready by putting in the full armour of God.  The Gospel is your base, and you have the righteousness of Jesus covering you when you are vulnerable.  Plus you have the truth of Jesus Christ holding everything together.   You have faith to hold to and you are protected by the beautiful salvation of Jesus Christ.  So make are that you are wearing the armor and ready for battle.
Be aware also that you have a sword. A sword that is the wOrd of God.  So know it and use it. You will need it in this battle that we call life.
Zahn chew we are in a spiritual battle. Be aware but also be aware that we don’t fight alone,  but that we fight with Jesus the conquering King of Kings and Lord of Lords right beside of us.
Be aware victory is ours!  Not because of what we do but because of what He has already done.   What an amazing God we serve.