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Sunday, January 25, 2015

How are your choices working for you?

Life is all about choices, isn’t it?

Who we marry. What career we choose. Even, how we dress ourselves. In each case a choice must be made, if we wish to progress in life. To choose to not choose is still a choice, isn’t it?

Why must we make these choices?

Well, the simple (and the right) explanation is that this is the way God has structured the world. Now, granted, sometimes our choices are limited; but, nonetheless, a limited choice is nevertheless a choice. The same principle applies when we have no choice—as when we are terminally ill, or permanently crippled, we still have a choice to accept the inevitable with grace, or to grow bitter and resentful.


Even Jesus himself had to make choices —first as God, and later as a human being. Paul reminds of this in Philippians 2:7 where he writes that—
“[Jesus] emptied himself and took on the very nature of a servant.” (Phil. 2:7)
 
For most of us, switching roles as Christ did, is something that we can hardly comprehend. I guess about the closest that we can come to the scenario is found in a work of fiction written by Mark Twain, called The Prince and the Pauper.

Briefly, the story is about a prince who discovers he has a look alike that just happens to be a young pauper, a boy that hangs around the palace gates. They become friends, and switch roles. Years go by, as the prince roams the country side, and lives the hard life of a pauper. Eventually, the king dies and the prince returns to claim the throne. Which, after a bit of drama, he did; and everyone lived happily thereafter.


Although, there are obvious inadequacies in the similarities between the Prince and the Pauper and Jesus’ decisive role, nonetheless, we get the picture.

His was a choice. Not a self-serving choice, but one of sacrifice, and yes, humility.  

The truth is, the courts of Heaven were his, rightfully his to be sure. Yet, he chose to empty himself, put aside those rights and serve and suffer as a simple servant.

Since Jesus was human, his life in many ways parellels ours; and there comes a point in all of our lives when the stakes are high, and we, too, must choose between what is rightfully ours and that of becoming a servant.

Unfortunately, often we confuse the necessities of life—that which is ‘rightfully ours’ with the pleasures of life, and our needs subtly morph into greed; and unlike old wine, greed does not improve with age. 

Now, mind you, greed comes in all shapes and forms. The most severe form - and harmful at that - is documented in a series on A&E called “The Hoarders,” which portrays the real-life struggles and treatment of people who suffer from compulsive hoarding.

‘That’s not greed’ I hear someone protest, that’s a mental illness. True, but chances are it did not start out that way, it developed over time. And, furthermore, if it is not a choice they make—compulsive or not; why then do they respond to counseling intervention? Really in some ways these poor souls are no worse off than billionaires cutting billion dollar contracts and amassing manipulative fortunes that can even make congress dance to their tune. Nothing satisfies them. There’s never enough. Nothing wrong with wealth, mind you. But, we will, however, be judged on how well we manage our resources. ‘To whom must is given, much is required’ is as true today as it was the day Jesus spoke the words.

So, life is all about choices, isn’t it? These decisions never stop, either. Choices will lead the way through life, either for the good or the bad.

God judges our decisions, too. Contrary to the attitude that most of us take, He is pretty serious about it, too. Jesus said,

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:36 (KJV)
 
May God give us both the courage and the wisdom to make the right choices in life. In that regards, we often criticize the wantonness of youth, and loath the mistakes of others, forgetting that we, too, must give account for every idle word, or gossip snidbit, or couch potato hour that we spend surfing the internet or flicking through the channels on television.

There's work to be done, if you are physically able, and then there is still no excuse. Prayer is always an availble opportunity. Not only will it draw us closer to God, but it will mellow our attitudes, and make us a whole lot easier to get along with in the long run.

The choice is ours.
 JimR/-


Booked and ready to go.
Continue to pray!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How's God grace working for you?



“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” ― Bernard of Clairvaux


In my last blog, I mention that it was my belief that salvation is a process, rather than a kind of quickie—similar, I would say to a Las Vegas marriage. Just say the right words, go through the act, and whooper, we’re married with all the rights pertaining thereunto. Commitment? Yes, for sure; but you know a man can be tempted, but I’ll not cross those bridges until I get there. Right now, I’m in love. Surprisingly, some of these marriages do work out, but the majority don’t.

Conversion can be that way. I like to think of this as what I call “decisional regeneration.” A person accepts Christ, say at a highly emotional revival meeting when some preacher scares the daylights out of them, and then offers a remedy. Just step forward, brother. God is here to meet you at the altar. Accept him as your personal savior, and the rest is as good as history because there is absolutely no way you can ever lose your salvation. Once saved, always saved. It in the Bible. Believe it. That all you need.

Now, permit me the privilege of not splitting the fine hairs between Calvinism and Arminianism, and just simply say this—neither side believe that just mouthing the words, or going through the actions will ever save anyone. Both sides agree that the proof is in the walk; that is, what takes place afterwards.

Now, I can’t speak for the Calvinists, because that is simply not my tradition or theological position, but I can speak from my perspective. And, from my perspective, I think the Bible makes it perfectly clear that good works is all part of the package. No, good works cannot save us, only God can do that. I’ll take you one step farther, too, neither can your baptism, nor by reciting some creed. Only God can save you; and He will. But, you must do your part.

Perhaps, I can best illustrate it this way: I taught at two fine institutions--one, North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the other in North Dakota called Trinity. In both of the schools, each had a student to die before graduation, one in a car accident, and the other with cancer. Neither had completed their course work; however, when graduation time came both were awarded their degrees posthumously. They had been faithful to the best of their abilities right up to the end, and were rewarded as such. Had either of them dropped out or flunked, neither would have received the degree, but since such was not the case, but both granted the degree.

I would suggest that, perhaps God operates similarly. So, as the journey continues; so does our commitment.

Yours for a better journey!


JimR_/


Thanks to you, we're ind Sri Lanka. Continue to pray!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Will good works get you into Heaven, or only bad works keep you out?

May, I ask you a question, “How does one receive salvation, justification, the new birth, and eternal life. Is it—

  • By believing in Christ (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)?
  • By repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Peter 3:9)?
  • By baptism (John 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5)?
  • By the work of the Spirit (John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6)?
  • By declaring with our mouths (Luke 12:8; Romans 10:9)?
  • By coming to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 10:26)?
  • By works (Romans 2:6, 7; James 2:24)?
  • By grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8)?
  • By His blood (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:22)?
  • By His righteousness (Romans 5:17; 2 Peter 1:1)?
  • By His Cross (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14)?

Under normal circumstances, can any of these Scriptural ways be eliminated? If so, which ones? Can we be saved without faith? Without God’s grace? Without repentance? (Now, here’s the real test) Without baptism? Without the Holy Spirit?
I would suggest that the wise disciple would make sure all of these points are covered. Yes, and even including water baptism—regardless of what your theology of baptism is, how dare you neglect it? 

Yet, I find an appalling disregard to the urgency of baptism, or a concerted effort by the average parishioner to become fully engaged in the good work of the Church. Sunday school classes are left teacher less, nurseries are poorly attended, and, of course, on and on the list could go.

My question is this? Whatever happened to the good old days, when we were told that works did matter? 

Works, according to Scripture, can either affirm us, or condemn us (Romans 2:5-11; Ephesians 2:10).

For we know, as 2 Corinthians 5:10 reminds us,
"[We] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad," 
Further, we also know that Christ said to John the Revelator,
"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done," which definitely describe a future judgment according to man's works. (Revelation 22:12,)
So, works matter. Consider faith as a many sided virtue, part of which is understanding, commitment, and obedience, and all of which is bathed in love.

I say this because to properly exercise faith we must understand what are committed to, and then why we have placed our faith in that something or someone. Faith is therefore commitment, an intelligent commitment in obedience.

Obedience, as well as commitment, implies conformity. We must conform to the requirements of our commitment. If, for instance, we seek employment, and then find it, we commitment to the requirements thereof with the expectation that we will be rewarded at the end of the day or for the period that we have agreed to work. 

That’s faith. Not blind faith, but faith with expectations. Why, the expectations? Well, simply because we trust the one who hired us to pay us when our work is done.

Now, there are many parts of this analogy that can lead us off on a thousand rabbit trails, but the central point is that faith is much broader than a simple mental assent, or to accept as it were a job, then expect to be rewarded for our laziness for not getting the job done.

No, committed faith, saving faith is willing to hold up its end of the bargain. For the child of God, a worker in His vineyard, we must be faithful to expect a reward in the end. 

The rules of engagement are perfectly clear that—
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

Now, that is a pretty stern message to the lazy Christian, who feels that they can just coast into their Heavenly reward without exerting any or hardly any effort at all. And, the truth of the matter is that no one is exempt. 

So, we must all work, for there will come a day, when no man shall work. (John 9:4)

In closing, I would like to ask: Could it be that we need to seek out a new paradigm for salvation in the ultimate sense? Could it be that our salvation is incrementally a process that begins at conversion but continues step by step through out life, and is only completed we are ushered through the Gates of Heaven? That is not to say that if death should suddenly interrupt the process that we would be barred eternally from Heaven; but it is to say that the task does not end with a simple "I do." As in any marriage, we, too, have our responsibilites.

Now, for a brief analogy which I think will be helpful in understand what I have just written in the above paragraph.

I taught at two fine institutions--one, North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the other in North Dakota called Trinity. In both of the schools, each had a student to die before graduation, one in a car accident, and the other with cancer. Neither had completed their course work; however, when graduation time came both were awarded their degrees posthumously. They had been faithful to the best of their abilities right up to the end, and were rewarded as such. Had either of them dropped out or flunked, neither would have received the degree, but since such was not the case, but both granted the degree.

I would suggest that, perhaps God operates similarly. So, as the journey continues; so does our commitment.

Blessings!

JimR_/