Monday, April 27, 2009

National Donate Life Month

I received a comment on the Living Sacrifice post that revealed some visible examples of New Creation and Living Sacrifice.

Please visit these blogs regarding life with new lungs!

* Help Me Rise *
Anything But Ordinary...
You can breathe but the air is running out....

Friday, April 24, 2009

Get Up - You are a Living Sacrifice!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices... Romans 12:1
I've heard the comment that the difficult part about being a living sacrifice is staying on the altar.  

This morning, while pondering Beth Crawford's Bible study on this passage, I saw something different. 


Read on.
... holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

"Holy and pleasing to God... act of worship" - the act is not laying still on the altar. The self we have to sacrifice is not holy and pleasing. But we can be holy and pleasing to God when we exchange our self-directed life for the Spirit-directed life. By doing so, we will be transformed and we will not conform to the patterns of this world. Then, not in our dead sacrifice but in our living, holy, pleasing, transformed self, we will be able to know God's will. 

Beth references Hebrews 9:14 which tells us that it is the unblemished sacrifice of Christ that cleanses us so that (I love the "so that's" in scripture)... "so that we may serve the living God!"

I have noted in my margin Colossians 3:1 which says "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above." And Galatians 5:16 - "live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

Yes, we put to death the old self. But much more importantly, we live as Christ lived.

I just think that's cool - focus on life, not death. Don't take my word for it. Go study the passage for yourself. Romans 12:1-2

It’s heartbreaking that the Good News of Jesus Christ is so often reduced to answering a question about where we’d go if we died today. Our Lord was resurrected from the dead! He is about life, not death. ~  Colin J. Tuggle Living in His Grip

Friday, April 17, 2009

To be or not to be like Jesus

I have no conclusions on whether Hell is eternal or not. Honestly, I haven't been looking into it too much. I've been busy posting quotes on prayer at my other blog Grow2Sow.

Another question has come up, though. Perhaps you'd like to ponder this one with me. Ready?

Can we truly be like Jesus?

Some would say no because he was "fully God" even when he was "fully man."

This question has caused my heart to ache more than "Is Hell Eternal?" If Jesus came to earth to take on the form of man so that we can see how to live in relationship with God as a man, then it is extremely discouraging for me to think that I can't be like Jesus. It's as though those who believe we cannot be like Jesus are saying He set a standard for us but there is no way we can achieve that standard. What a bummer? Why try, then?

Reminds me of the quote my son shared with me this morning: 
"Do or do not. Don't try." ~ Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back

To me, Jesus showed us how to live by the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Christ, made himself human - with all the limitations of humanness - so that he could 1) be the representative for man's earned justice; 2) experience created life just like we do; so that 3) he could help us as one who has been in our shoes. (Hebrews 2:9-18)

No, I was not born of a virgin but I have been reborn by the Holy Spirit. That's not just a goofy spiritual expression. There is no doubt in my mind that I am not the person I used to be. I am a new creation. I'm not perfect. Just as a baby transforms into an adult, I'm being transformed into a mature creation of the Holy Spirit, like Jesus did.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:52
In much the same way that Jesus gave up his divine abilities to be human (Philippians 2:6-8), I have given up my God-given right to be only human so that I may experience the divine. Jesus showed us how to take part in the divine nature as a human - by living every minute fully dependent on the Holy Spirit.

I don't do that as perfectly as Jesus did but in those moments when I do, I am just like Jesus. And that gives me hope that I can be like him more today than I was yesterday.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Friday, April 03, 2009

Is Hell Eternal?

As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:18-19
Strange how a question can take me to far away perplexity. This morning's Bible Study question on Romans 5:6-11 was "How often do you share with others what it cost for God to reconcile us to Himself? Why?"

My response: "Not often. Probably because I don't fully understand why Christ had to die. Why is death the wages of sin? Why did God create people with the ability to sin? Is hell eternal?"

Yeah, that last question catapulted me into a thought processing quandary. Off to Ecclesiastes I went (beware, Ecclesiastes can make inquiries go in circles). Eccl 3:9 says God has "set eternity in the hearts of men."

With the input of Solomon, I reasoned that being a Christ follower has little to do with the concept of heaven (reward) and hell (punishment). It's much more about experiencing life right now as the Creator intended.

So, what is life? What is hell?

Beth Crawford's next Bible Study question pushed me a little further: "How has God's reconciling work through Jesus changed your life?"

General response: I'm joyful instead of bitter. I have hope instead of doubt.

This is not a response of logic and understanding. So what is it? The only thing I can figure is that "life" comes from receiving the Holy Spirit.

The two or three pages I journaled on this thought come down to this:
  • Without the Holy Spirit we are no different than animals.

  • Sin is a self-directed life as opposed to a Holy Spirit directed life. We are self-directed, like an animal, by the needs and desires of the flesh.

  • The flesh was created. That which is created had a beginning and is subject to decay.

  • The Holy Spirit is eternal with no beginning and no end. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the flesh has an "end" of some sort.
I'm still not sure where that leaves hell. The question now is, Do we have an eternal spirit apart from the Holy Spirit? I'll be diving into scripture with the Holy Spirit as my guide to see what I can find.

Feel free to comment. Controversy can be a great teacher.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gates of Hell and Weeds

Our small group watched Ray Vander Laan's Gates of Hell last night. It's one of my favorites in the That the World May Know - Faith Lessons series.

Our discussion focused on Jesus' response to Peter found in Matthew 16:18.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not over come it. (or "not prove stronger than it")
The original Greek petros (a stone) is translated "Peter" and the word petra (a massive rock) is translated "rock." 

If Jesus were referring to Peter and/or his confession, it seems Jesus would have used the same word, petros.

Ray Vander Laan points out the significance of the location where Jesus is having this discussion. 
"This video was filmed at the base of a cliff that is more than one hundred feet high. There the people built temples and shrines dedicated to various gods.... This cliff could also be referred to as the 'Rock of the Gods,' because idols and statues of gods and goddesses were placed into small openings cut into the rock. " (Faith Lessons on the death & resurrection of the Messiah, Leader's Guide, p. 68)

"Jesus was saying, in effect, 'My church will come and replace the very power and strength of the devil.' Jesus then added that 'the gates of Hades' (hell) would not prove stronger than His church." (Faith Lessons on the death & resurrection of the Messiah, Leader's Guide, p. 69)
Many Christians want to hide in their Christian fortress trying to make sure Satan's army is kept out. This is opposite of what Jesus is talking about. I agree with Vander Laan even more after reading the parables in Matthew 13 this morning. 
  • The farmer scattered the seeds - not all was on good soil but the good soil was near other areas
  • The mustard seed - small in comparison but becomes a tree that birds flying by will rest on
  • Yeast mixed into a large amount of flour - small amount influencing larger amount
Jesus spoke in parables because not everyone could understand.
"The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil." (v 41)
"Weed out" indicates they are growing together.

  • Parable of the hidden treasure - the field is the world, treasure is in the midst of the world. Jesus purchased the world - the treasure is his, hidden again among the world.
  • Parable of the fish net - caught all kind of fish then sorted out the bad.
  • The house owner (v 52) - new treasures as well as old
"Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (v57)
The prophet is among like people who reject him. He moves on to do his work outside of his home.

"Every plant that my Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots," indicating the plants planted by God will stay. (Matthew 15:13-14) Both are plants.
  • The Canaanite woman among the "lost sheep of Israel." She had "great faith" and her request was granted. (v 21ff)
  • Feeding 4,000 - he did not leave them to take care of himself & his disciples. He stayed with them and fed them. v 32 "I have compassion for these people."
"Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Matthew 16:5
He's telling them to watch out for those among them - distinguish between kingdom and world - remain in the midst but distinctly different.

Who is the Son of Man? Jesus says only God can distinguish/reveal the truth - only he can separate the wheat from the weeds. Matthew 16:17)

Petros - like the mustard seed, the yeast among the large amount of flour, the treasure in the field, the pearl.

Petra - although it appears to be like the stone only bigger - it will not remain. The stone will remain. The yeast will take over the flour. The mustard seed will grow into a large tree, the small hidden treasure is secure in the ownership of the one who will keep it close to him yet still among the dirt of the field.

Is this a new perspective for you? Are you barricading yourself in for safety or living among the weeds waiting for the expertise of the Farmer to manage the weeds?

Jesus never intended his church to be built in seclusion. He intends for the stones of his church to rise up and reclaim all that belongs to the Father. But we don't reclaim territory as the world does. This blog post is too long already. You'll have to do some reading and praying to figure out your part in God's plan.
the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
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