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Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas

Happy New Year!

Jim & Bonnie Roane
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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

How is grace working for you?

Dear Friends, prayer and financial partners,

Consider this, the Apostle says of himself,
"I have obtained mercy to be faithful" (1 Cor. 7:25, cf. 1 Tim. 1:13).

Notice, he did not say,
"Because I was faithful, I obtained mercy;" but, "I obtained mercy to be faithful."

There's a world of difference here—the difference between works and grace. This is why Paul so aptly spoke when he said—
"I have obtained mercy to be faithful"

I fear that often we Christians feel—or, perhaps, I should say, we act as if we feel that God's grace is really not enough to get us to Heaven. This, no doubt, is because we confuse works with the work of grace. Now, please understand, grace produces works—as in 'does good works.’

However, it can never be said that works ever produces grace. Otherwise, we get our cart of good works pushing grace along. Whereas, in God economy, grace pulls our cart full of good works along—not the other way around.

Complicated? No, not really. Think of works and grace as a kind of spiritual pyramid. Grace is the foundation and works is the superstructure. 

Thus, we must ask ourselves what foundation we are building on? Paul said,
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder (1 Corinthians 3:10)”

Again notice, Paul did not say,
“I laid a foundation as a wise builder”
and left it at that. No, he said,
By the grace God has given me, I laid the foundation as a wise builder.”

Grace in this, as in all such cases precedes works! Nothing you do that is worthwhile in the Kingdom of God is of your own initiative; nor does works stand alone, grace always precedes works. But let us not forget that you never find grace standing alone, either.

Now, let’s get practical. Have you ever spent an inordinate amount of time trying to convince yourself and perhaps others—including God, that really deep down inside you are a good person by all the good things you have done? If so, I am sorry to inform you that good works initiated by a desire to prove yourself worthy is useless, because, as far as your salvation is concerned it is as Paul said, just a lot of (pardon the crude French) crap (Philippians 3:7-9).

Look it up! Those are Paul’s words, not mine.

Now, may I ask you—“How is grace working for you?”

Do you find living like Christ a task? Is it tedious? Perhaps, even boring? Could it be that you are struggling on your own to do the right things. Things like paying a tithe. Giving to missions. Thinking positive. Staying focused on Christ. Whatever! Then may I suggest that you step back, take a deep spiritual breath and breathe in some of God’s grace. It works every time. And, thank God it does.

Still confused. Here try these verses—
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9(NLT)

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV)

Through it all, just remember, we are not on this journey alone. He walks beside us.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Faith Without Works is Dead . . . Useless

Sola fidethat is, by faith alone, when left to stand alone is an invitation to heresy. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that we are saved by faith only. No, not one place. We are, however, told that we are not saved by faith alone, for you see, the Scripture says in plain English that “faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 2:17).”

Yes, it is true that we are justified before God by faith alone, but faith does not stand alone. Saving faith is also an obedient  commitment—a recognition of the Lordship of Christ. We mustn’t “just listen to God’s word. We must do what it says. Otherwise, we are only fooling yourselves (James 1:22).” “For merely listening to the law doesn't make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight (Romans 2:13).”

Consider this, the Apostle says of himself, "I have obtained mercy to be faithful" (1 Cor. 7:25, cf. 1 Tim. 1:13). He did not say, "Because I was faithful, I obtained mercy;" but, "I obtained mercy to be faithful."
In other words, faith always produces works! Good works. Not to save us, but as proof of our salvation. I am afraid that many of us have been sucked into the lie that we can just live like the devil and make it to Heaven. This “cheap grace” as Bonhoeffer called it is not what Christ had in mind when he said,
“[But] like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth (1 Peter 1:15-17 NIV))”
As you know, I love to write. Perhaps, my next book should be “Whatever Happened to Holiness?” But then to do so, I must define holiness.

In a nutshell, holiness is simply living your life as Christ would live it.

As a matter of fact, that is precisely what Paul had in mind when he said,
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).”
Now, may I ask you, would Christ frolic in the foolishness that some Christians do?  I think not, for as Paul says we must—
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. (Ephesians 5:1-7 NIV)
But, please understand me carefully. These verses are not a list of don’ts but one simple do. That is, we must walk in the way of love . . . just like Christ!

So, the works that accompany a sanctifying faith is always positive—not a list of don’ts.
Of course, there is much more that I could say, but by now I am sure you get the picture, if you haven’t already.

With that said, please keep in mind that we are not in this journey alone. He walks beside us each step of the way.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Charlatans in glory-land . . .

Image result for big smile
Called To Be Faithful Not Famous

If history—particularly Church history, has taught us anything it is that Kingdom success is measured in the terms of faithfulness. One with personal charisma may burst on the scene with the brilliance of lightning across the midnight sky, but in reality in the long run may be just another flash in the pan. Better to be a flickering candle, I say, that burns through the night than the shock and awe of a lightening flash.

Assertive, self-willed impostors through the sheer strength of their charismatic personality can develop a pack of gullible dupes that sprint along the sidelines desperately grasping at each nugget of the most trivial Christianized foolishness imaginable—that’s for sure. All Mr. or Ms. Charisma need do is flash a smile and regurgitate any old worn out cliché and the charm offensive is on. It works, too.

I say, it works, but then it all depends on what we mean by works. If we are talking about fame or fortune, it really does work. These fools’ barns are stocked to the roof with symbols of success—Rolls Royces, Bentleys, suits from Lloyds of London, Rolex watches, private Learjets, you name it, they’ve got it, and all in the name of Jesus, too. Nor, dare we ask ‘Where is that spirit of Jesus, riding on a donkey, and without even a roof to cover his head at night?’—unless, of course, someone was kind enough to provide one. No, we mustn’t question ‘God’s anointed’ and do these false prophets any harm.

I suppose the attitude is that if we just ignore them they will go away. Well, to do that in my opinion is just like trying to ignore bedbugs in hopes that they will not come out during the night and bite the fire out of you. I refer to them as bedbugs because that is about the size they really are, and in reality they will suck the blood out of you. Other than that the analogy falls apart—but it gets the point across, none-the-less.

Harsh word? Well, if the truth is harsh, then these are harsh words. 

‘Well,’ I’ve heard the argument, ‘these men and women may indulge themselves, but really that’s just a sign of human frailty, otherwise, they are soundly Evangelical.”

Really? If you mean by Evangelicals that they mouth the five solas—sola fidei, gratia and so-forth, then may I present another suitable candidate for the Evangelical ministry—that being, of course, the African grey parrot. I have been told that their capacity to articulate the most complex of sentences is utterly amazing. However, I am also told that they can be mean little rascals, and are as devious as they come. Furthermore, they also have an astounding capacity to attract a following. Yes, they do if Facebook is any indication. Take for instance Einstein the Talking Texan Parrot has over 7,259 likes on Facebook, and this is in spite of the fact that poor old Einstein the Talking Texan Parrot is as dead as a doornail. Yes, old Einstein had such charm that even posthumously he has been able to garner up an enviable following. Topping old Einstein is another fellow by the name of Talking Pierre the Parrot a fictional character with 737,777 likes. 
Oh, well, enough of this foolishness. And, I might add, enough also of the charming charlatans masquerading under the guise of Evangelicalism, mystifying their star struck following.

Saying that, however, is not saying enough, though. There must be something to fill the void; after all, most of these poor victims are sincerely searching for God. The tragedy is, however, that they have been given a mixed bag of worldly goodies attractively sacked in bag with a hole in the bottom. Patching up the holes is not the answer either. We must repackage the whole message.

Sola fidei when left to stand alone is heresy. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that we are saved by faith only. No, not one place. We are, however, told that we are not saved by faith alone, for you see, the Scripture says in plain English that “faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. (James 2:17).” 

So, we mustn’t “just listen to God’s word. We must do what it says. Otherwise, we are only fooling yourselves (James 1:22).” “For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight (Romans 2:13).”

Now, if this is too hard for the average Evangelical Christian to grasp, it is understandable since we have been fed the lie for so long. Now, before you throw up your hands and hit that unsubscribe link, consider this.

I am not saying that you can save yourself. You can’t. Only Jesus can and has done that; however, the only proof you have that that has taken place in not in that warm fuzzy feeling you may have about your salvation experience. Feeling are fine, and necessary. But feeling alone will not cut the mustard where your ultimate salvation is concerned—for that you need proof, not for salvation but as a tangible sign that you are indeed saved. In essence—to cut to the chase, to claim the benefits of salvation there must be some evidence. Faith has substance. What is that substance? Faith has evidence. Where is that evidence? James tells us—if you are will to hear it—is works! Good works.

A long time ago, we used to call that holiness, and we knew that without holiness none of us would see God. Hum. That’s Scripture too, isn’t it? Well, just in case, some of us have forgotten Hebrews 12:14 says precisely this. Look it up, it’s there.

Feed your soul with all of the trash on television, or to get all tied up in fraternizing with an ungodly bunch at work or elsewhere may provide a carnal diversion but it will hardly lead you any closer to God. As a matter of fact, according to the Bible it will do just the opposite. Here’s what Scripture says,

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (1 John 2: 15-17).”

Now, it’s for sure that we have outgrown the sterile Pentecostal demeanor of yesteryear, but let us not throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater.  Nor do I advocate that we cultivate the attitude of the old Quaker who, in a moment of deep reflection, said to his wife, “Me thinks the whole world is crazy except me and thee; and sometimes I wonder about thee."

Better to err on the side of caution, however, I fell, than to discard all outward signs of holiness, or to neglect to nurture the fruit of the Spirit within us.

With that said, please keep in mind that we are not in this journey alone. He walks beside us each step of the way.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Faith by any other is still faith . . . or is it?

How do we reconcile sola fidei—by faith alone, with James 2: 4, which reads:
You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”?
Well, in a word, you don’t. It is just as simple as that!

One is Scripture, which we know is God’s word; whereas the other is the word of man—primarily a catch phrase developed during the Protestant Reformation, a kind of shibboleth used to check and see if  all we Protestants were on the same page.

However, in counter distinction to that, I will be so bold as to say that pure faith does not stand  alone; and as a matter of fact faith as a simple thought process cannot save a fly from being zapped! So, let us now backup and take a closer look at the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

Now it is true that “the just shall live by faith (Hebrews 10:38); that we cannot deny. However, that is just the point! Sola fidei denies the very definition of what faith is. Faith is not just wishful thinking. Faith is not just a mental assent to the facts of theology, or one’s sectarian agenda, religious or otherwise.

Faith has substance that is sufficient enough to standup in court as evidence. “Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith may include “assurance,” it may include “confidence” or “being sure of something”; but none of these alone is really faith. Faith is a substance; something you can see, feel, sense, and touch—it is real. There’s evidence in faith. It does not stand alone as some kind of mental exercise.
Now, I know that some will get all bent out of shape when they read what I have just said, but hang in here, there’s more to come.

For faith to have any meaning at all, two things are necessary—they are, someone to exercise that faith, and the substance of that faith to be evident. The devils believed and trembled, the Scripture says; however, they were faithless—in other words, their behavior belied them.

So, do we admit that one’s behavior is the evidence of one’s faith? Faith, as I have said, does not stand alone. Works follows as proof of that substance. It’s kind of like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other. Well, not really, because I know many married folks that aren’t really all that much in love. But, that’s just the point. The only proof that you have that they are a happily married couple is that they show it. The word “love” is just a lot of hot air, otherwise.

The same with faith. The word faith can be, and often is just a lot of hot air. Real faith has legs. You can see it in action. Yes, you can see, feel, sense and touch it—it’s real.

Faith can never stand alone, no not ever, and since God in His wisdom knew that, He sent His Son, in the flesh so that He could be seen, felt, sensed, and touched! Yes, He is the substance, and evidence all wrapped up in one.

What a marvelous gift faith is!

I am sure you have heard the old saying that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating thereof.” Well, so is faith. So, along with the psalmist, may I invite all those that will to come—
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; and blessed are those who takes refuge in him (Psalm 34:8)”?
Just remember, we are not on this journey alone. He walks beside us.