To Err is Human…

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We all make mistakes. It’s just a part of being human. Sometimes we say the wrong thing, make the wrong choice, forget, or simply run out of time. We can’t expect to be perfect, and we can’t place unrealistic expectations on others, either (for more on this you should check out this post).

Yet, how often we feel like failures when we don’t get things right. I recently finished reading Gloria Furman’s, “Missional Motherhood,” and in it, she reminded me that we need to be careful with what we call “failure.” She states, “Things that are part of our design–our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an ‘earthly tent,’ and our lack of knowledge–are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us” (Missional Motherhood, p.124).

We must beware, Furman goes on to state, because “we often [mistakenly] place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins” (pp. 124-125). Mistakes due to our humanity are not the same as down-right rebellion against God. Our neediness and weakness points us to Christ; it’s why He created us this way; that we would be dependent on Him. Our sin, on the other hand, draws us away from God; the bible calls it enmity (James 4:4), in which, we’re spiritually at war with Christ. Sin requires repentance.

Therefore, when we make mistakes, the only thing we can do is acknowledge it–apologize, if we hurt someone in the process–and attempt to prevent it from occurring again. I love the quote above, attributed to Alexander Pope, “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” because it takes supernatural power to forgive ourselves, or others, when mistakes are made. Whether we have to walk in humility because we messed up, or offer grace to another, because someone unintentionally hurt or disappointed us, it’s only by His Holy Spirit that we do so.

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Book Review – Refresh: The Road to Revival

Last Monday we finished a 9-week study on Michael Catt’s Refresh: The Road to Revival. It took us a little longer than 9 weeks due to some cruddy winter weather; and although, we started out with a pretty large group, most of the time it was just the fiancé and me. (Which, actually turned out to be a blessing, because it taught us how to study the Word together. 😉 )

From the moment I picked up the book in my local Life Way store, I knew that it was a Refresh imagestudy that I really wanted to do. I don’t want to give away too much information, but I want you to have enough, so you’ll want to go and pick up the study for yourself. The introduction is as follows:

There is a path to revival worn throughout the pages of Scripture and the annals of church history. Churches across America are realizing that we need a fresh touch from God. The principles contained in this study will help your church focus on the essential elements of revival.

What are those essential elements, you ask? Desperation, surrender and persistence.

Weeks 1-3 focus on the importance of desperation and brokenness before God. Weeks 4-6 focus on repentance and surrender. And weeks 7-8 focus on prayer and persistence.

I’m telling you, guys, I highly recommend you pick up this study. And don’t let it be just “another study,” instead, be desperate, be surrendered, and be persistent. Let God change your heart and your perspective, and earnestly seek Him and His will; and not just during the study, but allow your entire life to reflect an attitude of brokenness, humility, and desire for the things of God.

Who knows! Perhaps we will see revival in our churches, cities, and nations much sooner than we think.

Take care and God bless!

Multiply

I love to learn and I love to share with others the things I learn; and one of the reasons I began this blog is so that I could do just that: share the things I learn. This week I began reading Multiply by Francis Chan (with Mark Beuving) and as I read the introduction, I realized the book is really meant to be a Bible study. Therefore, I decided to read/work through it with my blog friends 😉

If you don’t know anything about the book, it’s all about teaching disciples of Christ to do just what God called us to do…make disciples of Christ. Yes, you read that right, it’s about teaching disciples of Christ to make more disciples of Christ. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll understand why I really wanted to read this book.

Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker

1: What is a disciple?multiply_square_black1[1]

We’ve talked about what it means to be a true follower of Christ in previous posts, such as Justified By Faith, Burning One, and Watchful Eyes, but Francis Chan describes it this way:

The Word disciple refers to a student or apprentice. Disciples in Jesus’s day would follow their rabbi (which means teacher) wherever he went, learning from the rabbis teaching and being trained to do as the rabbi did. Basically, a disciple is a follower, but only if we take the term follower literally. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is as simple as obeying His call to follow…

It’s impossible to be a disciple or follower of someone and not end up like that person. Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). That’s the whole point of being a disciple of Jesus: we imitate Him, carry on His ministry, and become like Him in the process.

Yet somehow many have come to believe that a person can be a “Christian” without being like Christ. A “follower” who doesn’t follow. How does that make any sense? Many people in the church have decided to take on the name of Christ and nothing else. This would be like Jesus walking up to those first disciples and saying, “Hey would you guys mind identifying yourselves with Me in some way? Don’t worry, I don’t actually care if you do anything I do or change your lifestyle at all. I’m just looking for people who are willing to say they believe in Me and call themselves Christians.” Seriously? (Chan, 2012, pp.16-17)

(Lol, I love the fact that Francis Chan is so straightforward when he writes!) The big question we must ask ourselves before we continue this study is, of course, are we really a follower of Christ? Or have we just taken on the name?

If you’ve found that you’ve only taken on the name of a  “Christian” but aren’t serving Christ in your lifestyle, then you need to realize that you’re still living in sin and that repentance is required.

Jesus says we need to repent. This implies that we all need to turn from the way we are current thinking and living. Romans 3:23 explains that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every person reading this sentence has done things that are evil and offensive to this King [God]. Romans later explains that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Because of our sin, which is an offense to God we should expect death. But then comes an amazing truth.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The death penalty we should have faced from this King was actually paid for by someone else. The King’s Son, Jesus Christ!”

The Scriptures then say, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. It is all about who Jesus is and what He has done. Part of our repentance is to turn from believing that there’s anything we can do to save ourselves–for everything was accomplished by Jesus Christ. (Chan, 2012, pp. 18-19)

What an amazing God we serve! A God who loves us so much that He offered His one and only Son to suffer and die on a cross for our sins! I know I don’t deserve it; but that’s what’s so incredible…He did it, even though we don’t merit it! And all we have to do is believe! However, with that being said…

Faith in Jesus Christ means believing that He is Lord (according to Romans 10:9). Have you ever thought about what that word Lord means? We sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that He is your owner–that you actually belong to Him?

Paul is so bold as to tell us: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The same Lord who by His grace set us free from sin and death now owns us. We belong to Him, and He calls us to live in obedience to His rule.

The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life. (Chan, 2012, pp. 20-21)

Woo!! This part of the book really speaks to me, for a number of reasons. 1) Because I lived this way before I re-dedicated my life to Christ; I “believed,” but I wasn’t living in obedience to His word. 2) Even after re-dedicating my life to Christ I had (and, sometimes, still have) trouble relinquishing full control over my life to Him. There are certain “callings” on my life that I’ve been fighting for a long time, because I wanted to be like everybody else and I wanted to be liked by everybody else; but as much as I tried, I’ve realized that I’m not like everybody else and I will never be liked by all, simply because of the calling on my life, which I can no longer deny.

Francis Chan ends this chapter describing how we obey God out of our love for Him, not because we have a need to earn His love; but because we know that the greatest commandment is to love God and love people (Matthew 22:37-40), and because the way we show that we love God is by obeying His commands (John 14:15).

Most of this is not new; if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll notice we’ve discussed much of this before, but it’s always nice to read another’s words in order to gain new perspective, and to confirm things perviously written. I tried not to copy the entire text here, but there was just so much truth in Chan’s words that I think I got a little carried away 😉 Stay tuned for next week’s continuance of Multiply.

All-Embracing Love

Today I finished reading Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand. It’s not the most well-written book, but it certainly is eye-opening, although, probably not for the reasons one would immediately think of; and I do encourage you to read it.

Wurmbrand was an orphaned Jew, brought up in an atheist home, in Romania during World War I. He met a Christian carpenter in a small village who gave him a Bible to read and prayed for him passionately; and over time Wurmbrand was won over by Christ’s love for him. He writes, “The Bible he gave me was written not so much in words, but in flames of love fired by his prayers. I could barely read it. I could only weep over it, comparing my bad life with the life of Jesus; my impurity with His righteousness; my hatred with His love–and He accepted me as one of His own.”

Soon after, his wife became a Christian; then they began to share God’s word and win others to Christ and began a church. Wurmbrand had a heart for the Russian people (much like I have a heart for young women) and although the Communist Party and Nazism reigned during this time, he continued God’s work. Needless to say, Wurmbrand was arrested a tortured for sharing his faith…for a total of fourteen years!

He describes some of the torture inflicted upon himself and others throughout the book, but what really struck me most, is that he continued to pour out love on everyone and attempted to win them to Christ…including those who were torturing him!

In American culture, this would be unthinkable! “Show love to someone who has hurt me? You must be joking, right? Share the gospel with a rapist or murderer!? No way!”

But I love what Wurmbrand says:

…my aim is to spread the gospel to the Communists, to give them the good news about Christ, who is my Lord and loves the Communists. He has said Himself that He loves every man and that He would rather leave ninety-nine righteous sheep then allow the one that went astray to remain lost. His apostles and all the great teachers of Christianity have taught this universal love in His name. St. Macary said, “If a man loves all men passionately, but says only about one man that him he cannot love, the man who says this is no more a Christian, because his love is not all-embracing.” St. Augustine teaches, “If all mankind had been righteous and only one man a sinner, Christ would have come to endure the same cross for this one man, He so loves every individual.” The Christian teaching is clear. Communists are men and Christ loves them. So does every man who has the mind of Christ. We love the sinner even thought we hate the sin.

We know about the love of Christ toward the Communists by our own love toward them.

I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold–and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.

Later, the Communists who had tortured us were sent to prison, too. Under communism, Communists, and even Communist rulers, are put in prison almost as often as their adversaries. Now the tortured and torturer were in the same cell. And while the non-Christians showed hatred toward their former inquisitors and beat them, Christians took their defense, even at the risk of being beaten themselves and accused of being accomplices with communism. I have seen Christians give away their last slice of bread (we were given one slice and week) and the medicine that could save their lives to a sick Communist torturer, who was now a fellow prisoner. (pp. 54-55)

Wow! Today, I also read Acts chapter 7, and noticed the same Christ-like character in Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Verses 59-60 say, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Can you imagine if we all loved like Christ? If, instead of speaking words full of hatred, we actually lived out our convictions and loved the people who hurt us. Think of the lives that could be saved, and the hearts won over if we showed love to those who’ve hurt us, or even worse, hurt (sinned against) God. We should never stop speaking truth into the lives of others– remember, we are watchmen in our communities and families–but neither should we desire to see others hurting, suffering, or burning in hell because of their sinful lifestyle choices. We still have time to reach them (but we don’t know how much)! God loves them and wants them brought to Him. Remember, His word says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Justified by Faith

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it! (Romans 6:1-2)

This verse has been running through my head for the last few days. I’m afraid to say this, but the truth is many “believers” are under the assumption that as long as you believe in God and His son Jesus, that you can go on living life just like the rest of the world and still be saved. But that’s not what God’s word says! The Bible says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! (James 2:19).” (And believe me when I say, the demons are not going to be worshiping with us in heaven.)

As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, our lives become new when we accept Christ into our hearts–the old, sinful man dies–which means our words and actions should be transformed–or made new/alive–into the image of Christ (Romans 6:4). This is not something that occurs overnight, but as we study our Bibles and establish communication with God through prayer and worship, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and prompt us, change most definitely occurs; and when that change occurs, the whole world can see it!

Obviously, our generation is not the first to struggle with this “I’m a believer but I don’t fellowship with other believers, read my Bible, pray, or worship God” mentality, since Paul was writing to the early church about similar things. But we have something that the early church didn’t: the Bible! I thank God for it every time I read it, because through it, God left us instructions and insight into the workings of His mind–and although, we’ll NEVER fully understand Him (Isaiah 55:8 says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.”)–I’ll take every scrap of insight and understanding that I can get!

By now you’re probably saying to yourself, but God’s word says we’re “justified by faith,” and you’re right, we are justified by faith. There’s nothing that we could do on our own to earn salvation; that’s a gift that God offers us freely. However, if we truly believe that Jesus offered His life for us on the cross and took all our sins upon His own perfect shoulders, will we continue living life as we please, regardless of His sacrifice? I tweeted once before, that “calling yourself a Christian and then living in sin, is like calling yourself a husband and then beating on your spouse.” The truth is, we claim to be believers, and claim to love Christ, but with every sinful deed, we spit in Jesus’ face, then beat and curse Him. Our actions and lifestyle are not one of thanksgiving and adoration for the one who saves us from Hell. If we truly love Him, we’ll lift our lives to Him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1); we’ll pour our love out upon Him, and be obedient to Him, for His word says, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

It’s not easy. I used to live the life of the party-goer every Friday and Saturday, and the “repentant Christian” every Sunday. I knew I was living for myself, and I knew it grieved God; but I kept apologizing and making excuses. Have you ever seen an abusive relationship (in real life, or portrayed in the movies)? The man beats the girlfriend/wife, then turns around and apologizes, the wife believes him, and then the cycle repeats. I was the abusive man. Was I truly sorry? Considering the fact that I turned around and repeated my actions, I don’t believe I was. True repentance comes from godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), and includes recognizing and repenting of our sin, turning away from the things that aren’t pleasing to God, giving everything over to Him, and  following His lead.

I thank God for second chances at life, and I pray that some day soon, you too, will receive the precious gift He offers, with a truly thankful heart.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)