Feeling is Great but Knowing is Everlasting (Or Half the Battle…Yo Joe!)

That song with the Michael Jackson hook “I always feel like somebody’s watching me”…what if it was instead “I always KNOW that someone is watching me”…that heightens the intensity of the problem.  To feel that someone’s watching would make you paranoid, to KNOW would enter you into fight/flight mode.  (Thanks to the Marine Corps my toggle switch for this mode has been snapped off on “fight” yut yut yay yut…so don’t sneak up on me creeper!)

I remember a while back watching a sermon on YouTube from Alistair Begg and I thought that he nailed something that I had never really sank my teeth into before.  Feeling comes and goes but knowing is what is needed.  He would go on about how miserable of a day he was having and then it always would send him over the edge when someone at church would ask him how he was feeling.  His premise was something like, “don’t ask me how I am feeling, ask me what I know.  I feel like crap right now but I am thankful that my hope is not in how I feel but in what I know.”  He then used this as a spring board into teaching that it is not our feelings or experiences in our life as Christians that are sustainable but it is what we know as a Christian according to God’s word that sustains us.

That has helped me out on many occasions.  Especially in those moments when I don’t “feel” saved.  Surely I am not the only one who has experienced what I am talking about.

Everybody tracking?  Good to go.

Then why do I see so many social media quick thoughts, sermons, books,  from Celebrity Pastors, non-Celebrity Pastors, celebrities who may be Christians but I am not sure if they have ever said that they are, seem to be constantly commenting on the “feels” of a Christian or give calls for an invitation to Christ, to Church, to an event in order to feel this or that, or even worse, to come to Jesus to receive the constant flow of Snake Oil Christianity.

Yeah I’m reaching way back in the ole DeLorean with Doc Brown on that reference.  If I need to explain what I meant by Snake Oil ask me in the comments below.

Am I the only one who is picking up this constant dropping of the glorification of “feels” and “desires” as the ends and Jesus as the means of obtaining them?

I call it Snake Oil Christianity because in a quick glance it is nothing more than throwing out a sales pitch; hoping that it touches the soon to be church member’s eye.  “Are you poor and wish you were rich?  Are you sick and wish you were well?  Are you weak and wish you were powerful?  Need a job, need a wife, need a life?  Well I have to cure all for you!  It is right here in these hand crafted bottles of mine.  Just one swig of Gimmieemystuffhallaluyarglawry Tonic and all of your problems will be washed away.  That’s right this ri cheer is the cure for what ails ya.  That’ll be $$$$$$ and buy the Gimmieemystuffhalluyarglawry Tonic companion gift set with my book “How Jesus’ Gimmiemystuffhallaljuarglawry Tonic Gave Me My wildest Dreams RAT NOW.”

Should I not be concerned (is it even my place to be concerned) that the constant theme that I am seeing in so many areas of what are Christian circles and preaching is nothing more than instant blessing; just add the Trinity to your will and stir in order to receive whatever it is you are looking for?

I used to fall into this trap.  I used to buy into Jesus is a means to an end way of thinking.  “I want this….where is Jesus at?  I need Him to make this happen.”

Just reading the Beatitudes over and over again, I am not sure how we can get the idea that Jesus said God wants you to be rich, mighty and powerful.  He might indeed!  I am not saying that He doesn’t!  I am confident that if He does it is not for your glory but for God’s and good grief peeppell…our leader was a man who suffered physically and was broke like no joke.  He even told us that the world would hate us and that we would be persecuted because of Him.  His original 12…I think one died of old age but that was in exile (John on the Isle of Patmos I think).  The rest surely didn’t get “Their Best Life Now” according to the standards of the world but got their worst way to die right now…beheadings, impaling’s, stoning’s, upside down crucifixions you know the good stuff.  Let us not forget the early Christians who were sport in the Roman Coliseum either…

But if you were to ask them…because they KNEW that they had been given the grace of God…they would more than likely say that they had their best life now because they know that the life that they have is the life of Jesus.

Yes, we are to make our requests to God.  Yes, even when we do treat God like a genie in a bottle more than we do our Heavenly Father, He still loves us and still wants us around and His grace is still on us. Man that is good news….this grace stuff…I can’t get enough!

My goal is not to make you feel guilty.  My goal is to help you realize that as a child of God, the odds are…what you are really longing for (comfort, peace, love, joy, identity, purpose, etc.) you already have in Christ.

My 3 year old son often treats me the way I often treat God and it makes me smile because I realize that he doesn’t think that I know what game he is playing.  He gets very sweet, shows some affection and hits me with the hook, “can I pweese watch Wallykazam daddy?” while I am watching the Atlanta Hawks game.

I smile and hook him up with Wally because I love him and he said the magic word, so I am sure God feels the same some times.

BUT if I knew that there was something better to give him than Wallykazam…why would I let him settle for the cheap stuff?  Yeah, he might throw a fit “I WANT WALLAKAZAHHHM” but I may be planning something better for him…like hanging out with daddy.  Which is what happened last night and he loved it.  He wanted a mustache like daddy (don’t laugh it is still in the early stage!) So we spent time looking for something to make him a mustache with (pipe cleaners from my wife’s craft station stash…I’m sure she won’t mind).  At that point he had forgotten all about Wallykazam…and then I put it on without him asking…much to his joy.

If I knew that by giving Him something different or using his time in a different way would bring him more joy (even if meant temporary hardship) would I not want to hook him up with that instead?

God is God.  He is sovereign and there is nothing outside of his ability.  If there was anything that could bind God or halt God from accomplishing His will, then He would no longer be God.  His love for me is displayed through the grace that he gave to me in His Son Jesus.  After letting that sink in, knowing what God has done for me, changed everything.  What stuff…oh yeah that cheap stuff I was praying for yesterday…

The inspiration for this blog or rant is nothing more than I want everyone to experience the awe and the wonder of God’s grace for sinners.  It has conquered me, defeated me and raised me from the dead.  It has changed everything in my life.  God’s grace through faith in Christ has been the lone defining point in me.  It is No Longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  All because of God’s love and His grace for loser, sinner me. Knowing this has caused me to have side eyes at Gimmieemystuffhallaluyarglawry Tonic and

I just don’t understand how I ever got over the truth of God’s grace to ever want to move on to talk about anything else.

And that is why I definitely have my eye on Snake Oil Christianity.

Verses that I love to Read When I need to remember what I KNOW.  Notice how a lot of these verses are telling us something that God is doing has done or will do.  Not suggestions or conditional hopes…but something that is happening will happen or has happened.  I love the “will’s, is’s and are’s”:

Galatians 2:19-21

Ephesians 2:8-9

Ok so really Ephesians 2:1-22

Hebrews 13:5-6

Philippians 4:6-7

Romans 6:1-4

Romans 8:28…ok all of Romans 8

Romans 8:38-39

Romans 8:1

2 Corinthians 5:21

Romans 5:8

1 Peter 5:7

John 11:25-26

Matthew 11:29-30

John 3:16

Matthew 28:20

2 Corinthians 12:9

Romans 6:14

Romans 11:6

James 4:6

Hebrews 4:16

John 1:16

Romans 3:20-24

2 Timothy 1:9

John 1:14

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After Darkness…Light

It is a gift of God’s grace that the good news of His grace never stays silent for long.  There have been several “dark ages” in the past where the light of His grace appears to have been snuffed out by those who would lead us to believe that salvation comes with our cooperation and obedience to the law.

But God has always been faithful to raise up a people who will remember and rejoice in the reality and truth that it is all up to God and that salvation only comes to us by His unmerited favor.  Names like Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther and more after years spent in tears, anger, exhaustion and hopelessness at the altar of the gospel of works were miraculously, amazingly and gracefully shown the gospel of grace.

The message that salvation comes to us by grace alone has changed so many lives.  It has changed my life.  To know that God has GIVEN me a gift of His grace, His unmerited favor, frees me from myself and my ability.  Instead of leaving me alone to choose utilizing my own faculties, convictions and spiritual righteousness, God gives me by grace His choice, His convictions and the spiritual righteousness of His Son.

Just like in Luther’s day, the thought that God through Jesus has “paid it all” and that Jesus really meant what He said when he breathed out “it is finished” may seem lost in the mind of the Church today.  One way to gauge whether or not the concept of God’s grace is championed in the pulpit across your country is to observe what the major critique of the church is from those who are outside of it.  Is there a critic outside of the church today suggesting that the reason that they do not go to church is because the church preaches a message of grace and extends too much of it?  It is no coincidence that any critic of God’s unmerited favor is usually found inside the church.  This has always been the case.  Just like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, it is always those who have never left Father’s house who grumble at the prospect that Father would unconditionally love and accept the wayward son without conditions or merit.

I believe that something is happening.

I believe that there is a great awakening or reformation that is happening.  I see it in the sermons I hear on YouTube, in the conversations that I have with others, in the books that I read, blogs that I read, in the radio programs I hear, in casual conversation, in the sermons I hear at church, the message of God’s grace and the flame that it contains is growing hotter and brighter. I believe that you may have witnessed it too.  Just like God began to rise up those who would be overcome and intoxicated with His grace some 1500 years ago, I believe we may be seeing a similar move by God right now.  The spiritual darkness and bondage that was lifted off of so many people back then I believe is beginning to lift off of so many of us today.

For far too long we have exhausted and burned out our up and coming generations with the gospel of “do better”, “live righter”, “it’s all up to you now”,  moral-therapeutic-self-help-deism version of Christianity and are left scratching our heads wondering how we lost them.

As we watch our young (and old) leave the church we have done everything to try to be cool, to be hip to bring them back with programs, ministries, concerts, fashion, skinny jeans, tattoos, beards, fog machines, strobe lights, free coffee, we’ve exhausted all resources to try anything to bring our loved ones back.  The only thing that will bring back and hold the next generation and generations after them is the grace of God.

Tell them the truth that God loves them unconditionally, that they do not “have” to do anything for Him because He has already done everything for them and watch to see what they now “want” to do.

Bury the message of “do” and champion the gospel of “done.”

Burn the WWJD* bracelets and raise high the banner of WHJD**

It is time to once again cling to the gospel that salvation comes to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Correction:  It is time to once again realize that it is by grace that GOD IS CLINGING TO US with the gospel that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

The dark shadows created by the current theme of “moralistic-therapeutic-self-help-deism” inside the church will be overcome by the message of God’s amazing grace.  I thank God and praise the glory of His name for once again turning the lights on.

Post Tenebras Lux:  After Darkness…Light  (motto of the Protestant Reformation)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, 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 Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:4-8 

 

*WWJD:  What Would Jesus Do

**WHJD:  What Has Jesus Done

What Is A Child Of God?

A lot of my past and future posts may refer to a particular topic or condition that is contingent upon being a child of God.  For example I may write something along the lines of, “if you are a child of God.”  I even referenced in a previous post that I would create a post that answered the question “what is a child of God?”  First and foremost, I am not referring to the Son of God, Jesus.  Nor am I suggesting that people can one day become divine or God-like with God-like creative capabilities, that is completely different from Christianity and I would put this litmus test in front of anyone who would suggest that you can be a follower of Christ, a Christian, and believe that man can one day become gods or demigods (son of god like Hercules):

Litmus Test

  • What do you believe about the Person and Work of Jesus?
  • What do you believe about the Trinity?
  • Do you believe in justification by faith alone?
  • What do you believe about the authority of scripture?

How that individual answers these questions will give you a pretty good idea whether or not they are following the Jesus of the New Testament.  There are many different versions of Jesus that try to mislead people to believe a false version or anti version of Him…Biblical Eschatology refers to these false Jesus’s as anti-christs (not to be confused with THE anti-christ).

To help clear up any further understanding when I refer to a “child of God” in the remainder of this post I will be referring to what the Bible defines it to be, just to make sure that we are all on the same page.

Where were we…ah yes “What is a Child of God?”   Maybe it would first help to list some scripture, place some Bible down as the foundation that we play on top of in this post.   In no way is this an exhaustive or complete referencing of what the Bible says about what a child of God is but it is just a snipit.

John 1:12:  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

To be honest that was pretty straight forward and more direct than I had previously thought.  Of course the “he” in this passage is referring to Jesus.  If you need more Bible (who doesn’t?) here are some more verses that help in understanding what or who is a child of God:

Galatians 3:25 “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

1 John 3:10 “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Romans 8:14-17 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Hopefully that helps…now here is a follow up question to the question that this post is featuring…how do I become a child of God?  That will be for another post….

Why another post?  Because there is a quick answer and then a really deep, deep, heavy (Marty McFly voice) answer….but it has given me such comfort and joy….and peace in knowing how I became a child of God…I have truly been set free and liberated by knowing how it all happened…

As a teaser into the future post that answers the question “How do I become a child of God?”  take a look at this to prepare you for what lies ahead.  I pray that the Lord will bless you and guide you in His will and His purpose for you and your life:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 1:3-14

Reference List

All Bible references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

He Found Me

The other night a small group of friends and I from our church packed up our green Church van with blankets, coats, jackets, hats, gloves, clothes, sandwiches, water, cookies and self-made personal hygiene kits and headed into Downtown Atlanta.  With all most all of the seats out of the van it felt like we were the A-Team on a mission.  I may have just dated myself there…it was like driving in the Turtle Van on a mission…that may have been just as bad.  Basically it was a rush and a feel of excitement and thrill of not knowing what may lie ahead but knowing what our mission was.  Our mission:  to seek out in the streets of Atlanta for those who were less fortunate than ourselves.  Our goal:  to show the love of Christ through caring for and giving those in need the items that we have collected from generous individuals.  It was dark out and cold out (well…it was to me…I may not be a fair assessment of what you might consider cold.  Anything below 78 degrees is cold).

We drove down dark streets and vacant parking lots looking for potential people to approach.  As we met individuals on our mission many were cold, many did not need all that we had to offer and only accepted what they needed at that time.  They wore what they had, bundled up some even bundled up on the side walk.  Some smelling like booze, almost all looking unclean and worn out.  Some appeared to be mentally disturbed and not sure what it is we were doing but almost all thanked us for what we were doing.  Many showed their appreciation and surprise.  Some were even hostile and demanding more from us but they were outnumbered by the look in several eyes that seemed to carry such a burden yet seemed to carry such appreciation that we had approached them and met them on a cold Georgia night.  I can even remember one of the individuals that we would meet raise his hand and say “God bless you in the name of Jesus.”  It went off and felt like a thunderclap in the night.  Everyone that we met was a person, someone who was created in the image of God.  It was His love that compelled us to seek out show our love to them.

Yes, there are places that these people can go and yes many of them choose not to in order to live a life of their choosing with their rules and their will.  Many I am sure may simply feel lost and without hope.  Is this not the same way we were when the Holy Spirit first found us?  Choosing to live by our rules, our will and our control?  Hiding in the shadows of my depravity, trying to find warmth under a cold concrete overpass in my heart with nothing to wear but my sin, I can remember feeling the touch of the Master.

He drove down the dark alleys of my soul but He knew exactly where He would find me.  He gazed down the cold and dark vacant lots of my life.  He carried with Him living water and the bread of life and met me where I was and said that they were both for me.  You see I did not go looking for Him, He came looking for me.  GLORY HALLALUJAH MY GOD AND MY KING KNEW ME AND CAME LOOKING FOR ME!  How can I not drop to my knees and cry “Holy?”  The Holy Spirit was on a mission, to draw me to Him, to call me out from where I was from the darkness so that He might lavishly gift me with His grace.  I had and still have nothing to offer Him.  There was nothing on me that I could have ever given Him to deserve or earn what He gave me next.  He led me to the Father, to God, Who knew me by name and knew me before the foundation of the world was laid (Ephesians 1:4).  He called me, He found me, He sought me and bought me.  I am now a child of God.  I have been adopted into His family and His house. I was given that wonderful amazing gift of God’s grace.  Salvation came to me by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  God chose me, I did not choose Him (John 15:16) and that produces a joy in me that is unmatched.  It pleased God to save me, to adopt me and to lavishly cover me with His grace.  So when He loved me and bid me “follow Me” what other choice was there?   What other joy was there?  What other hope and wonder was there?  Just as my friends and I sought out those who were in need, God sent His Son so that the Holy Spirit would seek out me, for I was in need of Jesus.  Is He in front of you right now as you read this?  Has the Holy Spirit found you where you are, what country you are in, what alley you are trying to find warmth in on a cold winter night?  I pray that He too bids you “follow Me.”  Won’t you follow Him and take what He is offering?  It is the greatest thing that has ever happen to me, when Jesus found me and called me by His grace.  I pray that He is calling you as well.

“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 1:3-14, ESV