24 April, 2011

Resurrection Sunday

I like how many places (mostly southern, Word of Faith circles) are beginning to adapt the term "Resurrection Sunday" rather than "Easter." In a world full of religious and secular silliness, today has lost far too much meaning, and it is important that we focus on what today is really all about. Today we remember the fulfillment of the gospel promise, and so I take a moment to reflect on some of the promises that go along with that glorious gospel.

God preached the gospel to Abraham - thousands of years before Jesus - saying "in you will of the nations of the world be blessed" (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:8). Abraham's life was Blessed with this Blessing, so that he might be a Blessing to all those he ever came in contact with. His life is the perfect example of what the gospel is all about. God preached the gospel saying "Blessed!" 

That is the kind of lifestyle Jesus has afforded for us because of what He did this day. He spoke to the disciples of John the Baptist saying, "Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that theblind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them" (Luke 7:22, NKJV). To the outsider, it would appear that Jesus fixed the problems of everyone except for the poor. Religious correctness has taught that it is because Jesus was not interested in equipping people with wealth - that He was poor and so should the rest of us. It is quite the contrary, however. Think about it, God preached the gospel to Abraham, and he became exceedingly wealthy. Jesus preached the gospel to the poor in His day, which was that same Blessing God pronounced on Abraham! Jesus is preaching the good news of "you don't gotta be broke no mo!!" (something like that...) 

The Blessing is God's supernatural ability to succeed and prosper in everything we put our hands to. It was that Blessing that He pronounced on Adam (it was the first thing He ever said to Adam!). As a result of his treasonous act against God, Adam thrust humanity into the Curse - the "ability" to fail at everything. It brought death, disease, failure, poverty, lack. Yet, Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree')" (NKJV). That Curse (and the lack, poverty, failure and junk that goes with it) was laid upon Jesus and was broken forever on this day when He rose from the dead. We now have at our disposal the supernatural ability to thrive in every endeavor of life. That is what brings glory to the Father.

Jesus said that the Father is glorified when we "bear much fruit" (John 15:8). We are the glory of the Father. We are His people, His children. The glory of God is not found or seen in our ability to "get by" with a good attitude when something horrible happens in our lives. It is seen when we thrive in all things, regardless of the situation. Last week, my wife and I attended a church while we were staying with some friends. The pastor at this church was teaching on the "year of Jubilee" and the freedom that Jesus has afforded us through His death and resurrection. One point that jumped out at me was that the first century Church had pagan Rome on the ropes because of their overwhelming generosity. The pagan leaders instructed Roman leadership to follow the Christians lead! How? By giving. If we are operating under the Curse out of a sense of spirituality, how can we live the kind of life Jesus calls us to in John 15? How can we "bear much fruit" when we deny that we have that ability in the first place? 

Much like those first century Christians, God wants us to get the world's attention through our actions - one of them being in the financial sector. Jesus paid a heavy price so that we can walk in the fullness of that gospel preached to Abraham, the Blessing of God. Jesus has broken the power of lack, sickness, disease and failure. We are to walk in the fullness of His Blessing - the gospel of Jesus. Get a hold of that today. Read Galatians 3 and meditate on what Jesus fulfilled for us this day. In times of bad economies, a failing health system, a weak educational system, and confused governments, we can walk in absolute confidence because of what Jesus overcame for us on Resurrection Sunday. The Curse is broken; Blessing abounds. That is the gospel...

15 April, 2011

By Your Own Words

"He said to him, 'By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?'" ~Luke 19:22

The Lord spoke a powerful message to my spirit yesterday as I was reading Luke 19:11-27 that I think we should all take some time to consider. What stands out the most in this story is the attitude of the servant seen in verse 21 and his Master's response in verse 22. If you will notice, Jesus never describes the Master in any way - it is the servant who describes the Master in such a negative light. Most Christians will naturally assume that since these words are spoken by Jesus that the Master is a harsh dictator. Nope, that is what the servant thought.

How do you perceive God? Because that is how He will judge you. In Matthew 7, Jesus teaches us not to judge so that we will not fall under the same judgment; because the manner in which we judge a person or situation is the standard that God will hold us to (Matt. 7:1-2). We see that in this parable. The Master holds the servant to the standard that the servant had set through his own words. The servant is rebuked, because he did not operate in accordance with his judgment of his Master. Judgment does not always mean "prejudice;" it sometimes means to hold an opinion about something. This servant held an untrue assumption about the Master, and he was judged by the Master in accordance with his own opinions. The same is true with us. Which begs to ask...

Do you live your life as if everything you believe was actually true? For example, my wife and I were involved in a (brief) small group for married couples at our church. I would often hear my peers using phrases like "we are servants of God" and "we should be giving up everything to serve Him all the time." OK, but do you do that? Nope. Most Christian people will discuss how frail, imperfect and unworthy we are as people. Try telling them that anywhere but in a church. I guarantee you that you will end up with a broken limb. Christians talk about giving up all that we are to be "slaves" of Christ. OK, how much TV do you watch when you get home? How many hours of "service" do you dedicate to the Lord each week, outside of your 45-minute church "duty"? You see, we have a nice religious "lingo" going on in our lives, but do we actually live every moment in accordance with these confessions? No, we do not; we are not even close. 

I know in my own life this can be a struggle. I know I am branded with the "prosperity preachers," but do I really live my life in a way that reflects that? I preach (mostly to the curtains or the cat...) that God is a Healer, and that all the pain and death running ramped in the church is not of God. However, if something were to happen to my wife, how would I respond? Whenever the thought hits me, I am not sure if the I would ride in a on white horse, go all "first-century church" on the issue, rebuke the sickness and go home that day. My confidence is not quite there yet. The same is true where my finances are concerned. Do I really believe Micah 3:10, Matthew 6:33, Luke 6:38, 2Corinthians 9:8-10, Galatians 6:7, Philippians 4:19?? Sometimes; other times I sweat where the money will come from. If we just lived like everything in Bible were true our lives would look drastically different. And our conversations and confessions would be... unimaginably different. The power of confession is one of the most powerful forces God has given us to enact His Kingdom on the earth. If they do not line-up with His Word, then we will end up like that servant - operating in fear of the One who ought not to be feared. 

Most of the time, we live our lives - as this servant did - with gross misconceptions about God. The Master asked, "Did you really know...?" God is asking us the same thing today. "Do you really know I am like that?" God is going to hold you to the standard of your own confessions and judgments of Him - so it's imperative that we know Him and His Word; your words set the standard (Matt. 12:37). Are we living up to those? Something to think about...