Jun 28, 2009

The Abyss

The date is Wed, November 30, 1994. I see myself living my life precariously close to the edge of a great precipice, an abyss. Part of me is constantly struggling, desperately scrambling to keep from falling in. I'm right on the edge and the rocks are giving way under my feet. I'm slipping, slipping, and using all my strength to keep from falling and plunging eternally downward. I'm driven by a great fear, not only of falling, but of the part of myself that actually wants to take the plunge. It seems as though there are forces inside me, all around me, that would drag me over the edge. If I give up the struggle, even for a moment, I'll go over.
The abyss is the chasm of total moral depravity. The struggle is one I share with many who would depend on their own efforts to live righteously, to keep from sin, to get to God. But of course, it is a struggle of complete futility. Christ has picked me up, like a lost lamb, and is holding me safe in His arms, never to let go.

Isaiah 40:11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.

John 10:27-28 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

Romans 9:16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.

Hebrews 4:10 For anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

I haven't scrambled on the edge of that abyss for many years now. I can encourage you, if you are there, God has peace waiting for you.

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Image: The Silver Bear Cafe

Jun 20, 2009

You are safe!

I used to be terrified of losing my salvation. Years ago, God brought me to a total peace about it, for which I am quite grateful. I was reminded of this fear as I read Hebrews 6:4-9 this morning. I've always found it scary, but today, some things became apparent to me that I had never seen before. In a casual reading of the text it seems as if the author is talking about someone who is saved, who has committed her life to Christ, and then is lost. But I believe it is a warning, not to believers, but to unbelievers disguised in the Church. I have inserted a few notes of my own in [brackets] below:

Hebrews 6:4-9

4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened [understood], who have tasted [but not eaten] the heavenly gift, who have shared in [but not received] the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted [but not eaten] the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away [see1 John 2:19 below], to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful [fruit of salvation] to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles [fruit of the lost] is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

9Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. [In other words, "We wrote down this warning but it is not for you (believers) but for those among you who do not have salvation.]

1 John 2:19

19They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

It became abundantly clear to me that Hebrews 6:4-9 is a warning to the lost, not the saved. Being enlightened is not being saved. Tasting is not eating. If a starving man only tastes food he will die. These are people who know the Truth, but never received it and never bore fruit.

If you are wavering or exploring the faith, this is not about you either. This text refers to someone who fully understands all the wonders of salvation and then lives their entire life in unbelief.

I realize this text is controversial, however, a well-accepted rule of hermeneutics is to interpret the unclear in light of the clear. What could be more clear than the following verse:

John 10:27-28

27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

In the original Greek, "no one" is emphatic. It means "no one, in no way, never!" "No one" includes ourselves. Be at peace for you are safe.

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Image: Neo-Gen Mixed Martial Arts

Jun 14, 2009

He loves to say yes!

When you pray do you ever feel like you are putting a coin in a slot machine? Maybe God will answer, and maybe He won’t. Nevertheless, “Thy will, not mine be done,” we pray, more as a cop-out for our lack of faith than a statement of submission. It’s not that we believe that He can’t answer, we believe He won’t. But the Bible sends a strong and clear message about this in all four gospels and throughout Scripture. Take a look at these passages:

  • Matt. 21:22 "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
  • Mark 11:24 "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
  • Luke 17:6 "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."
  • John 14:13 "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father."
  • 1 John 3:22 "[We] receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him."

God is telling us that we can ask Him for anything and He will say “Yes!” whenever He possibly can. Taken out of the context of other things the Bible says about prayer, Scriptures like these have been misused as an excuse for greedy materialism and the “name-it-claim-it” doctrine. Of course God won’t answer a prayer that is contrary to His will or prayed from evil motives (James 4:3). Also, there are a few things that hinder prayer. For example, unbelief, unforgiveness, rebellion against God, and treating others harshly all put static on the line.

But don’t let caution water down the power of these Scriptures! Nothing is impossible for God. He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). We’re not gambling with an unfeeling slot machine. God has a father’s heart, and He’s waiting for you to pour out your heart to Him.

Don’t be overly cautious about praying for what you want; God has placed many of His own desires in your heart. Pray to the Father freely and boldly; believe and wait for Him to answer. Don’t give up. You just might change the world.

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Jun 10, 2009

Pink stuff

As many of you know, we have a cat named Ladybug. We adore her. When she comes up and asks for pets or a treat, we are glad to oblige; it gives us pleasure to see her happy and content.

There was a time, though, when Ladybug was sick and I had to give her horrible pink bubble-gum-flavored medicine. She hated it. I’m sure that if she could talk she would have said, “NOOOOO!!! Come on, when was the last time you saw a cat chewing bubble gum? Please not the pink stuff; anything but the pink stuff!” But that was a request we could not accommodate, because if she didn’t take her medicine, something much worse than being forced to swallow the pink stuff could happen to her.

It’s important to note here that I took no pleasure in Ladybug’s suffering. Our episodes with the pink stuff tore at my heart. It would be unthinkable for me to make her suffer that way unless it was for a very important reason.

Somehow Ladybug sensed my good intentions. When I told her it was time for her medicine, she crouched, stiffened with dread, and dug into the carpet as if to hold on for dear life. But she let me pick her up. She didn’t run. Ladybug trusted me and knew I was trying to help her -- even though I think she believed I was stupid and terribly misguided in the way I went about it!

I can’t describe the pleasure I got from knowing that she trusted me anyway.

In the same way, we give God pleasure when we trust Him even through the hard times. My compassion for our cat is nothing in comparison to the infinite compassion of God. As Jesus said, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

Our Father’s will for us is always “good, pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2), although occasionally that good is disguised in the form of “pink stuff.” We can be certain that if the Father doesn’t give us what we want, He will give us something even better.

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Jun 3, 2009

A vapor in the hand

It is vain to try to hold on to the gifts of the Lord, for example, peace and joy, or maybe even His teachings sometimes. They are like like vapors that disperse in our grasp. We can only enjoy them with an open hand.

Perhaps in this way we know they come from God and not ourselves.

There is one place we can be as possessive as we want — as clingy and desperate and hungry and greedy as our hearts desire. That is with God Himself. The only thing we can possess* is the One Thing that can never be taken away from us — Who is Jesus Christ Himself! (Ezekiel 44:28, Deuteronomy 4:29; Hosea 6:3 Amplified; John 10:28)

With Him, we can indulge that needy part of ourselves with abandon. Anywhere else, it’s idolatry.

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*God can only be "possessed" by those He willingly gives Himself to. And Christ will gladly give Himself to anyone who will receive Him by faith!

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