Saturday, August 30, 2008

"I'm Not Good Enough."

Last week’s sermon was taken from Colossians 2:4-23 in which Paul talks about clinging to Christ and not being deceived. He warns against “fine sounding arguments” as well as “hollow and deceptive philosophy” among other things. (Wise advice for today as well isn’t it? I could go on a political tangent here, but I won’t). He encourages his readers to cling to the principles found in Christ and not the principles, legalism, and rules of the world. After all, we are aren’t saved by law, but by grace (Ephesians 2:8).

I encourage you to read the text for yourself. Because of the length, I haven’t posted it, but Chad did a great job of breaking it down and explaining it (hear it for yourself on our church website - http://www.missionoflife.com/ - when the sermon is uploaded). Chad explained what the “arguments” were and the audience to which these arguments were presented.

The recipients of Paul’s letter were a mix of Jews and Gentiles. So, those that sought to teach false doctrines fine-tuned their “fine sounding arguments” by appealing to the weaknesses of both groups. Jews came from a background of “law” and the Gentiles came from “sacrifice” (as in, sacrificing to whatever god they needed to sacrifice to for whatever reason). Chad described that for both groups, it was a “never enough” problem. For the Gentiles, it was their altar of sacrifice. For example, if they offered one of their gods a sacrifice of the blessing of crops they had had, but then had a bad year the following year, they must not have given the gods “enough.” But, if they had had a good year, then they would owe the gods MORE of a sacrifice because of the blessing they received. That creates a problem doesn’t it? How do you judge how much to sacrifice each time? There’s always that burden of worry of “is what I give good enough?”

Similarly, the Jews were the same way. Obedience through the law was how they attempted to find favor - though, in their case, it is just ONE God (the one and ONLY GOD!). Though, whether Jew or Gentile, their degree of obedience or sacrifice was never sufficient. One’s best was never “enough.”

However, Paul assured his readers that the issue of “enough” has already been appeased. The “enough” has been satisfied through Christ!!! CHRIST SATISFIED THE SIN DEBT ONCE AND FOR ALL AND THROUGH HIM (AND ONLY HIM - AND NOT THROUGH OURSELVES) IT’S ENOUGH!!! Hallelujah!! We don’t have to worry about the burden of perfection and legalism anymore!

Sadly, however, the “fine sounding arguments” still exist today. Many of us still walk in the lie that we have to be “good enough” which is pushed on us by the endless materialism (another variant of the “enough“ problem), rules, and legalism of our society - and even our churches!! Many of us still struggle to be “good enough”; whether it’s in the eyes of our peers or God’s. In fact, Chad showed us a list of many of the denominations that are around today. He said the only thing that separates one from the other is “rules.” What a shame that the Pharisee mentality still exists; all this “adding” of rules and requirements in order to obtain rightness with God. The church needn’t be a “credit” building system. You can’t “brownie point” your way into the Kingdom! And while most would say, “well duh!” there are some that think of salvation this way; as if church attendance could save you!! I remember seeing this very idea on “Home Improvement” when Randy decided he didn’t want to go to church with the family anymore. Tim told him that he shouldn’t skip because it was like “credit” and if you don‘t go, you “lose a credit.” It’s a rather humorous and ridiculous notion isn’t it? Yet, there are those that live as if that statement were an actual truth!! There are lots of “Sunday morning Christians” out there who mistakenly think that rules take precedence over grace and a real relationship with God. If they can just be a “good person,” that will be “good enough.” That is, until someone else who is “better” than you points out just how worthless you are and how much “holier than thou” they are than you.

I, for one, know what all of this is like. I had the “not good enough” mentality for a good while, and thought that I somehow had to earn my way to grace. I’m sure that there are those that probably felt like I did in that I had to be “perfect” like Billy Graham or Mother Theresa in order to go to heaven. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have been able to break free from those lies and embrace the whole truth that it’s not anything that I “do“ or “earn” obtain favor or salvation. IT‘S ONLY GRACE!!

Legalism is a terrible burden to bear; I know this firsthand! At times, I still have it creep up on me, but I’m much better about identifying and shutting it down quickly than I used to be. Reading Paul’s letters, especially Galatians, really helped me with that. The whole idea is to embrace CHRIST and His atoning sacrifice as the only way to have right-standing before God. As Chad has said before, Jesus is the “filter of grace.” It’s by that filter that we are purified. Jesus is the way to fellowship and relationship with God. There can’t be any relationship without the blood. So, if we are trying to “earn” what we’ve already been freely given through Christ’s sacrifice, we are totally missing it!! If we, in our pride (and probably even ignorance), continue to think that we have to purify and perfect ourselves in order for God to love and accept us, we are getting it backwards. God loves us regardless; period. And, the purification and salvation comes through our outright admission that nothing WE can do can earn our salvation. What need would we have for a Savior if we could earn it ourselves? And, furthermore, who are we to basically tell Christ that His blood isn‘t sufficient enough and that our salvation depends on our own “righteousness“?

We MUST admit our need for the grace of God; which is only obtained through Christ. That surrender is what perfects and purifies us; through submission to HIM and not trying to do it ourselves. Even when you think about it, doesn’t it make more sense to come to Jesus in the state you’re in so that you can be cleansed rather than waiting for the “right moment” when you’re perfect so that you can come to him? For one, that day will never come and for two, even if it were possible, what need would we have for a perfect God if we were already perfect on our own?

If you are waiting until you’re “good enough” to accept Christ, maybe it’s time to learn the truth: You don’t come to Christ when you’re “good enough.” You become “good enough” THROUGH CHRIST when you come to HIM!! Don’t delay….come to Him TODAY!! Paul says in the latter part of 2 Corinthians 6:2 that “..now is the day of salvation.” DON’T WAIT!! Any “righteousness” that you can obtain is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and will never make you “good enough.” That’s why Jesus died for us in the first place, BECAUSE we aren’t “good enough” and never can be good enough on our own!!!

So, to all of my friends who (like me) have believed that they aren’t “good enough,” I encourage you to embrace the truth of grace. Allow Jesus to take away the burdens of unworthiness and legalism as you submit your confession of, “It’s true. I’m not good enough….and THAT is why I need you! Save me from myself!! Redeem me!!”

If anyone wants to talk more about this with me, I am here for you!! I have been there!! I know how you feel (and Satan still tries to trap me with it sometimes). I love you and want to help you through it!! Grace and peace to all of you!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Afflicted

Last Sunday, Chad finished up chapter one of Colossians and started getting into chapter two a little bit. The scripture reference is Colossians 1:24-29 and 2:1-3 in which Paul talks about being afflicted for Christ; suffering for Him as well as for all his brothers and sisters in the faith.

Chad talked about how Paul willingly embraced suffering for the sake of Christ and His church. He was willing to carry the weight of the burdens of others as God opened and sensitized his heart. He always strived to see others through God’s eyes; knowing the Father’s heart for those he was trying to reach.

Chad further illustrated the kind of life Paul was living by giving a modern day example of a woman he met in Guatemala who had a passion for the people there. She started hanging out in nasty and undesirable trash laden dump areas where people would scrounge for whatever they could salvage and use. One time, she handed out 500 coupons to the people and told them that on a certain day, they could come and exchange it for the blankets she was giving out. Chad said that she ended up having thousands show up - and they all had a coupon. They made one out of whatever they could find; the need and desperation was that great!

The story didn’t stop there. Chad also talked about how she was willing to be afflicted for Christ in the orphanages. She stayed with the children and comforted them. These orphanages are so bad that children look for any way out of there that they can - even if it’s by killing themselves. If they can get to the roof, they jump. If they can drown themselves in a bucket of water they use to help the toilets flush, they do so. So, she made every effort to love and comfort them, even if it meant that she contracted lice while sitting on their beds and holding them in her arms. Chad said that she could even feel the lice just moving into her head. Still, she sat there and didn’t do anything about it. Holding, loving, and comforting those children in the safety of her arms was more important to her. She said it was humiliating to suffer the judgmental looks and stares as her lice filled hair was cut off bit by bit. Yet, she would have done it all over again if she had to. No cost was too high for her to serve others.

How willing are we to be afflicted in inconvenient, and possibly humiliating ways, for the sake of those we are trying to reach? How willing are we to get our hands dirty? How willing are we to humble ourselves and serve? Paul says in Philippians 2:5-8 that we should have the same attitude of service that Jesus had. We do that by humbling and submitting ourselves to the will of God. We must deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow HIS lead (Luke 9:23-24).

I’ll close with something I just seen a few days ago. It was in the movie “The Second Chance” (starring Michael W. Smith). In it, he plays an associate pastor and singer who is sent to a sister church to learn humility and help out. I think the movie did a good job of showcasing some of the problems that the church has today with serving (and with the right attitude and motivations). It also points out the fact that we just try to throw money at a problem, rather than actively participating (and being “afflicted” like Chad’s sermon and Paul’s words suggest). Michael W. Smith says in the end of the movie that for a long time, he served Christ, but only if he could be “comfortable.” Though, through truly serving and getting involved in the ministry and mission of the church, he started realizing that true love and outreach is about getting personally involved; even when it’s “uncomfortable” or the cost is high. After all, isn’t that what REAL LOVE is? (See May 25th’s sermon blog “Getting Off Your Donkey”).

I pray that the church will be revived and refocused. I pray that we will function in unity and that we will all be truly led by the Holy Spirit; and not out of our own wills while using the “Holy Spirit” as our justification. May we all be of one mind and one Spirit - HIS Spirit!! Grace and peace to you all!! May we all venture out of our comfort zones and learn to endure persecution and affliction for Christ!! Amen!!

[This sermon is now available online. You can listen to it by clicking on the link provided.]

Monday, August 11, 2008

What's Your Mission?

“We’ve got a mission!” That is the cute little phrase I always here the kids of “Little Einsteins” say when my children watch those DVDs. They travel around in a rocket and they carry out various “missions” to help someone or something. I think “Dora the Explorer” works the same way too. It’s kind of cute to see that being “mission minded” is now something being included in children’s programming, because that’s exactly how we’re designed to be!

“Missions” were the theme for Sunday’s sermon as Craig talked about serving and being a missionary to the world. Though, the greatest highlight is when he focused on the fact that missions don’t always mean that you have to leave and go to a foreign country. He cited an amazing example of that which we find in Mark 5:1-20. It’s the story of how Jesus cast the “legion” of demons from a tortured man. The miracle of what happened to that man spread through the region, but people were afraid of it and even begged Jesus to leave them alone. That’s kind of sad isn’t it? Though, Craig pointed out that when the light pierces the darkness, those who are living in the midst of that darkness often resist when confronted with the truth. It was obvious that the healing of the demon possessed man wasn’t something they were prepared to accept and rejoice in quite yet.

Understanding this fact, Jesus told the man to stay there and tell everyone what the Lord had done for him. The man was desperate to go with Jesus, but Jesus in essence said “Sorry, son. Your mission is here.” And while that might have initially disappointed the man, what better way to help lift his community out of darkness than by staying right where he was and witnessing to all of them with his testimony?!!

We all have a mission. We are all created on purpose for a purpose. What’s yours? You are NOT a mistake!! God placed you on this earth for a reason!! You are MEANT for something!! EVERYONE is special and EVERYONE has a mission!! Whether locally or internationally, and in whatever form it comes in, YOU have a mission!! Knowing your mission will spring forth from the very heart of missions which is caring about others more than you do about yourself. Servanthood is the pathway to purpose.

Nothing is too big or too small to be considered a “mission.” I know this because I once used to get down on myself a bit because I didn’t have the burning desire that some do to travel to a remote location on the planet to witness. My heart has always rooted itself locally more than anything - but that’s OK!!! After all, if everyone were leaving to witness everywhere else, who would be witnessing HERE amongst the lost, hurting, and lonely people right where we live? EVERY mission is important!! We NEED missionaries of every kind and on every scale: locally, nationally, and internationally. We’re all on the same team working towards the same goal!! NO ONE is insignificant. EVERYONE is needed! And, for all of us, our mission starts in our own homes in our roles as Christians, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, siblings, etc. Even those roles are missions because you are shaping the character and lives of those around you! I know that I especially feel good about that fact because sometimes, when you are a stay-at-home mom, you don’t always “feel” like you are contributing to the world on a grand scale. Though, that’s not true because what you do TODAY as a mom is going to influence the world’s tomorrows!! Shaping and training children is no small or easy task; neither is it any less than any other “mission” in this world (if anything, it may be one of the greatest if you really think about it!! Who you nurture and train your child to be is a HUGE mission that will generate a monumental impact as they grow and become who they are created to be!). So, all you stay-at-home mommies like me, take comfort in the fact that yes, WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE (even if we can’t always see the immediate fruits of it. Your children - and the world - will thank you later!).

I encourage you all to find and focus on your mission (and you DO have one!). The question is where and how? Maybe you’re like me and your mission is local (or even online!). Or, maybe your mission is more globally expanded. Wherever your passion is, pursue it and live it!! Be, do, and serve in the way God created you to - and everywhere you go!! You’re the ONLY one that can do the unique job that God assigned to you!!

Grace and peace to all of you!! Have a blessed week!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

"Fireproof" Will Be Hotter Than "The Dark Knight"

We live in a world where media is one of the strongest influences in our lives. The ability the media has to form our opinions and mold our behavior and our lives is astounding! Everything we watch, read, and listen to has an effect on how we think and behave.

This is one concept a church in Georgia fully understands; which is why they want to use the power of the media for good (that is, to further God’s Kingdom). This church is the one responsible for producing the movies “Flywheel” and “Facing the Giants.” Both movies had little, if any, publicity. However, both have spread like wildfire through word of mouth and their second movie did remarkably well in the box office (over $10 million dollars total gross. Not bad for a small time movie made by a church with a $1 million dollar budget, unpaid volunteer actors, and only ONE movie camera!!). It just goes to show that people really do want wholesome and moral entertainment. And, beyond that, it also has true nourishment for the soul at its core in that it seeks to develop one’s character through the Biblical principles that are woven into the captivating and thrilling storylines.

Their newest movie, “Fireproof”, (starring Kirk Cameron) is the latest addition in providing meaningful and purposeful entertainment. I was beyond moved when I watched the trailer on their website (and they have a myspace as well if you want to check it out!). I was so moved that I cried because it was like that movie was made for me (I won’t go into details, but those that know me and my situation will understand when they view the trailer).

Anyways, I just wanted to spread the word about this movie. It comes out September 26th. With all the hype about “The Dark Knight”, I though I would take the time to talk about a movie that’s actually worth it. Wouldn’t it be GREAT if this movie topped the charts; a movie WORTH watching, appreciating, and taking to heart? Shouldn’t we be sending Hollywood the message that THIS is the type of movie that we want to spend our dollars on? After all, aren’t THESE the messages and values that we should be supporting in our entertainment choices?

Visit the links provided and see if you agree. I pray that we will all go out and support this movie when it comes out and that Hollywood will be knocked off their feet when they see the mad rush to see this - they’ll never see it coming!! Wouldn’t it be great to hear the “chatter” about a positive movie with real depth and morality in it? Let’s get the world abuzz and encourage others to see it!! The substance of this movie will touch hearts and change lives if we let it - it’s already touched mine (and that’s just from the trailer!). Spread the word everyone!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Congratulations! You Are Reconciled!"

Today, we had baptisms. However, before we proceeded to witness the beautiful and symbolic declarations of faith, Chad continued preaching in the book of Colossians. Today’s scripture was Colossians 1:19-23:

19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;

20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

21And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

22In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Chad did a beautiful job of describing God’s reconciliation; how He restored peace and unity between Himself and His creation through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 says:

19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

These scriptures describe the character and nature of our awesome God. His goal is to mend and fix what is broken; that fellowship and intimacy between Himself and His children. His intense love provided the way for us to have that restoration of fellowship through Jesus. ALL of us need Jesus in order to have fellowship with God! Jesus’ blood is the only way we can be presented before God holy and blameless.

Does your heart understand how much God loves you? Do you know that there is no limit to God‘s love and that He ALWAYS has an attitude of love towards you? He will go to any length to win the human heart; and the cross proves it!! The sacrifice of His own Son is the ultimate proof of His love and that He holds nothing back.

Chad said in the simplest of terms that “God is for you.” He said if we understand that, we wouldn’t “bargain” with Him and make promises in exchange for whatever goodness, blessing, or grace we hope He’ll show us. He is our loving Father; all good gifts come from Him. He gives and gives to us regardless of any “deals” we make with Him. Chad stated the case and point with his own children. He always has interesting stories to tell about the things his boys do and the small trouble they get into. He was talking about how his boys made a mess, used markers to draw all over the bathroom (in fact, his son John even wrote his name on the toilet seat - “John….how fitting.” LOL) picking on each other, etc. He said each time they got in trouble, they would apologize and make deals and promises and “I’ll be good…….I’ll do this/that….I’ll clean my room…….etc.” Chad said that it was kind of sad, in a way, because if his children really understood the depth of how much he loved them, they would know that no “deal” they could make or anything they could do would ever “earn” his love and forgiveness. Chad, like any parent, loves his children unconditionally; just like God loves His children. Chad told us not to “misunderstand God” and that “our promises don’t affect God’s behavior towards us.” He LOVES you unconditionally and forever. Nothing we do can change that. And, no one else can change God’s mind about us either. Nothing and no one can change God’s opinion of us and how much He loves us because, as Paul describes in Romans 8:38, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God!! We don’t have to “earn” God’s love; it just “is” because God IS love!! We don’t have to make deals and promises. God already made the ultimate deal when He sacrificed His Son on the cross for our sins.

One other point that Chad made was how when one balances a checkbook, you have to reconcile your balance with the bank’s. Often times, he said that his didn’t match the bank’s and there would be a button online that would say “Do you want to reconcile?” And, when you click that button, you hear a little sound and a little window comes up and says “Congratulations! You are reconciled!” Chad said that as simple as it seems to just click that button and be reconciled, we just get stumped by the simplicity; just like we can’t seem to understand that God really reconciles us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9). Chad said, “Trust that’s it’s done.” Trust that you are “reconciled” and forgiven. He remembers your sins no more.

If you have never been “reconciled” to Christ, I pray that you will consider that “button” in front of you that asks that question: “Do you want to reconcile?” I pray that you choose yes so that when you face God when you die, He will say “Congratulations! You are reconciled!” Otherwise, you will have to pay your negative balance yourself…….and will be paying it for all eternity because a sin debt is more than one can ever pay for (which is why Christ paid it for us all). All we have to do is make that choice to accept that payment towards our sin balance. Will you allow Him to pick up you tab, or will you stubbornly and foolishly choose to pay for it yourself and suffer the consequences? What is your choice?

If you want to “reconcile” but need help taking that step, please don’t hesitate to talk to me!! I am here for you!! I love you; and God loves you even MORE!! Grace and peace to you!!! Have a blessed week!!