Saturday, August 22, 2009

Don't throw away your confidence!

Last weekend's message at Vineyard Columbus was "Who May Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?" Today's follow-up study on that message is from Hebrews 10:19:39. Powerful!!

There are so many things I assume I understand more than I actually do. Over the past few years God has been revealing amazing stuff. Very little of it is totally new but it brings about a newness in me that I can't fully express.

The Hebrews passage was very exciting to me this morning. I've lived with the idea that "we are hidden in Christ." Some have explained that as "When God looks at us, he sees Jesus, not us because we are so sinful." That's not true! God sees us! He sees me! He sees you!

That "hidden" teaching is based on Colossians 3:3: "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

Why do we chop up scripture so much? The first part of that verse says "you died." The verse right after it says "When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." It doesn't say we'll be standing behind Christ. That life died like the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament. It's gone!

Hebrews 10 tells us that the blood of Christ cleansed us. In the Old Testament, the blood of the sacrificed animal was only a representation of what was to come. It reminded the people of how serious their sin was to God but the curtain remained which protected the sinful people from the wrath of a Holy God.

That curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the sinful lives of God's people is gone! That is a literal fact. It tore in two when Jesus died on the cross. Think on that a bit. We can now approach God without fear. Why? Because Jesus died for us yes but there is more.

If we accept Jesus as our sacrifice - our payment for the self-centered, God-denying life we were born with - then we must also be willing to let that life be buried with Christ in the tomb. But wait there's more!

Christ came back to life but it wasn't the same life he had before - the physical body was very much the same but his new life was very different. This is the foundation of our hope which we experience in part as soon as we allow our old sinful nature to be buried with Christ! We are a new creation now (2 Cor 5:17).

A child who hides behind a stronger person lives in fear and/or shame. Jesus doesn't block God's view of "who we really are" as some might think. Jesus opened up a new and living way for us to stand in God's presence. We can approach God, the Creator, the Almighty. Think on that!! You can approach God with the confidence that his holiness will not destroy you. But you can't approach him with the life of sin. Leave it buried. Approach God with the new life you received from Christ.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. ~Heb 10:26-27
If you aren't excited about this stuff, then I haven't explained it very well. Go read Hebrews 10 (especially verses 19-39). Picture each segment in your mind. Picture the temple of the Old Testament, the area designated as the Holy of Holies, the huge curtain that separated God's holy presence from the unholiness of his chosen people, the Priest who entered this area with a rope tied around him in case he died in the presence of God's holiness. Now picture yourself freely and confidently approaching God.
So don't throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. ~Heb 10:35-36
If you are a follower of Christ who has not experienced water baptism by immersion, I challenge you to pray about being baptized. It might help you understand the significance of being buried with Christ and raised to new life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Talking to God with Others

"What place does authentic encounter... occur more clearly than when two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ with Christ present as promised...?" ~ Bruce M. Hartung
Are you more likely to be authentic in a group of two or three or a group of four or more?

Some larger groups can have very authentic relationships. But it's more common that in a group of four or more, some are being authentic while others are left to manage their struggles and celebrate victories alone.

Bruce Hartung points out in "Praying Together vs. Private Prayer" that although private prayer is essential to our relationship with God, it is easy to protect ourselves with God. We need to be in vulnerable relationships with other people. And, we need to bring the authentic relationship with God into our relationship with others.

I don't think I'm the odd one when I say that my words are self-censored when there are more people in the conversation. Ok, yes, sometimes I forget to censor and I end up regretting it because there is not enough of a relationship or time to interpret my words with everyone. A smaller group generally creates a more comfortable environment to share differing opinions or personal struggles which lead to quicker resolution.

In my experience, the most powerful prayer groups break down into groups of two or three at least for the asking of God part of prayer. For most of us, this is extremely awkward and is probably one reason people don't want to go to prayer groups. However, once you experience that intimacy in a group of just two or three people who are truly seeking the presence of God together, you'll be hooked. There are no words to describe it.

There are times in large groups when someone's prayers seem to move us in some spiritual sense. However, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 20:47, those types of prayers usually stir up more awe of the person speaking than awe of God. The God-awe inspiring large group prayers generally contain a lot less words. And the significant cries of a person's heart are generally spoken only in the presence of one or two others who are all seeing God right there in that little circle.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17
My challenge to you (and to me), push through the awkwardness. Find just one or two other people who want to talk freely to God with you and see what happens.

Vulnerable Moment of Confession: I have only truly experienced what I'm talking about in this post a few times - so it's more than just the number. But it is those few experiences which give me hope and determination to try to be authentic and find others who are also trying to be authentic in prayer with others. It doesn't happen naturally for most of us. And, it's not for the sake of the experience but for the sake of the relationship with God and with others. For it is the supernatural connection of genuine relationships, not the experience itself, which sustains me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All authority or all dried up?

Then God said, "Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life – the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals." So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. God blessed them and told them, "Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals." ~ Genesis 1:26-28 NLV
Ann Spangler in Praying the Names of God asks, "How would your life change if you lived with the constant awareness that he created you to bear his image?"

I've often been taught that we are stewards of the earth but today this scripture made me realize that God had something greater in mind. We are made in his image and given dominion. God intended for man to have authority over all creation as if we were in on creating it.

Hold on. I'm not wacking out here. Think on this. If you lived as though you created everything - separated day from night, brought forth all forms of living creatures, made the earth to yield plants of every kind, and created others in your image - would your daily thoughts and actions be any different?

Adam and Eve gave up man's dominion when they listened to a "serpent" like a parent being persuaded by a child's deceptive attempt to control power.

Jesus reclaimed dominion for all mankind and now holds all authority (Matt. 28:18). The cool thing is that Jesus didn't reclaim dominion simply to have power over the rest of us. He prayed in John 17:21 "that all of them [believers] may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so..."

Do you live as though you are in God just as Jesus is in God? The desire of God's heart is that we be one with him - be seen as the image of God. And if we are one with him, then we must view all of creation as he does. Do you?

Do you live the life God had in mind for man or are you living a serpents life messing with the intended order of all things?

Go watch The Lion King for a good visual of what happens when order is messed up. Maybe that will help you understand why your life sometimes seems dried up.

Jesus came to set things right. Authority is much more than having control of power. I urge you with Paul to live with the authority which we have been given through Christ Jesus. This authority is a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Paul writes from prison in 2 Timothy 1:6-10:
I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Angry Conversations with God by Susan E Isaacs

Great read from beginning to end... and don't skip the introduction. :)

"Sarcasm is a viable form of communication." This phrase is sprinkled throughout the book and it's truth is in every chapter.

I found myself going back in time, relating to the mindset of the author in various places throughout my own search for truth. She reveals aspects of many who desire to find the real God and others who kill that desire by thinking they have all the answers.

Her humor is fantastic - great for laughs and powerful for truth. She creates characters from her life that the reader can easily relate to. Her stories put pictures to what many of us have thought or wanted to say. Maybe we've even said it but it didn't feel funny in the midst of our frustrations with people, with the church, or with God.

I recommend this book for those who have struggled to fit in a church or connect with the typical church mindset (or at least it seems typical when you feel you are alone in the way you think). I also recommend it for those who have always loved "the church" and defended it as if it were God himself.

Here's a couple of quotes that will stay with me:
"Maybe that's what church really is: just a bunch of guys, trying to figure it out together."

"Here's the hardest thing. I have to accept God as he is. Even if he never blesses me or gives me adventure, purpose, or meaning."
I borrowed this one from the library. I may need to buy a copy to have on hand for when I'm frustrated with life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

This review is also posted on at - see other books I've rated 5 star to see if we have the same taste in a what qualifies as a "great read."

Friday, August 07, 2009

What it "will be"?

I just read a good post titled "What is Heaven Like?" I like Tracy Berta's blog. And I recommend it as a regular read. I want to add just a bit to her thoughts which end up at the same place I'm emphasizing.

Her title is a great question. Then she goes into what heaven will be as if it doesn't yet exist which seems to be the general slant of many churchians. Again, it's a great post, so be sure to read all the way to the end. She gives a beautiful and honest picture of worship in the church along with the freedom of children worshiping.

Now, here's the thing I want to bring out more. Jesus brought heaven to us. Heaven is the reign of God. Oh, it's not complete yet and there is still opposition on the field. But he told us it is near and I don't think he was talking about time.

Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew 16:19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." He repeats this in Matthew 18:18 after speaking earlier in that chapter about the necessity to become like little children in order to enter heaven.

As Tracy said, those children she mentions in her blog post are showing us what heaven IS like now, not what it will be like.

The thing we might want to think about is what are we binding and loosening right now. Because I think heaven will be much more similar to what it IS in our life right now than we think.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Truth, Fiction, and Mystery

A page from my journal...

Lord, my mind is full of vague pictures - like looking into a poor mirror? I'm beginning to see how everthing in this flesh is foreshadowing what is to come.

All of the OT foreshadowed Jesus Christ. He then showed us what is to come after him. I can't see it clearly but I am beginning to see how this world that I know and understand through the senses is both significant and insignificant. Almost like everything is a parable. A parable to reveal the mystery of Christ but not everyone can see it.

We get too caught up in living it, trying to make it something rather than just experiencing it for the sake of learning what we cannot make of it. We end up "confirming" only according to our own understanding instead of finding the hidden treasures of God.

Now, how does this impact the way I live, the way I respond to my children and others?

Every circumstance is an opportunity to learn and therefore be transformed further into the likeness of Christ. Wow. That's a bit overwhelming.

When I'm frustrated or irritated... Do I see the situation as something in which I am to control the outcome with my choices? Or do I see a lesson to learn about the righteousness I have received from Christ?

These thoughts came after reading Psalm 119:137 Righteous are you, O Lord, and your laws are right. Followed by Colossians 1:24 - 3:4. My mind is also fresh with the influence of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, and a discussion with a friend as to whether fiction is worth reading. I believe there are many things God wants to reveal to us that we cannot understand within the realm of comprehending only according to the senses. Fiction (parables) provides the imagination to reveal more even if it is fiction written by someone who knows nothing of Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, I think what I'm getting at is that truth is not what we understand but what we experience. Don't ask me to explain that further. I can't.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Which "one man" influences you most?

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. ~ Romans 5:19
So, when you say "I'm only human" are you saying the first man has more influence in your life than the second man?

Read all of Romans 5 and 6. I don't think God sent his son to die for us to continue following the first man. What do you think?

For more of my thoughts on this subject: Read Hope in Ignoring the Law.
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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