Tuesday, September 27, 2011


"For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." Huh? If you're like me, as you read this verse in Romans 7 that was penned by the apostle Paul, you're left scratching your head. Its one of those that you have to read a couple times in order to take it all in. As you do, you kind of get the idea that it is much like a mirror of our lives today as Believers. Here is Paul, sharing his frustration of trying to live life the way its suppose to be lived and always coming up short. To be honest it kind of sounds like a biography of my life.

If we aren't careful, as we read this struggle that Paul describes, we'll adopt this as the normal life that we are going to live as believers. After all, we figure that if the apostle Paul faced this, who are we to think that we are immune to this kind of lifestyle. The problem with that line of thinking is that it assumes that Paul's description in Chapter 7 is a description of something he struggled with for the entirety of his new life in Christ. That is a monumental mistake. For as Paul continues to write in Chapter 8, we find that Paul discovered the way to live a victorious life and to once and for all put this struggle to rest.

This struggle he describes is the result of attempting to live life in the "flesh." It comes about only when we determine to do life on our own apart from God. Yes, even as believers we fall into that trap. This fleshly living, or "carnal" life, is no different than that moment in the beginning when Adam and Eve chose to act independent of God and eat the fruit that was forbidden. It's no different than when Abraham chose to act on his own to produce the son that God had promised to him. Acting independent of God and choosing to rely on our ability and our strength, has always and will always produce death. Scripture tells us that God has condemned sin in the flesh. While there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and choose to live life in the Spirit, condemnation is always present for those who choose to live life in the flesh.

Paul's struggle, mentioned in chapter 7 of Romans, is the struggle he and all of us have when we choose to continue living life in a way where we trust in our own ability and our own strength. However, when we choose to trust in God and lean on Him, then that struggle is over. When we quit attempting to be good and seeking to please God in our own strength, then we are tapping into the kind of life that God designed us to live. In the same way that we trust God for our salvation, it is equally as important for us to trust Him to live our new life. While asking "what would Jesus do," may sound good, the Christian life is so much more than attempting to become like Jesus. The kind of life God has designed for us to live is more about understanding the fact that the Spirit of Christ is in us and that we are already like Him. It's about understanding that we are like Him, not because of anything we've done, but because He, Himself has chosen to fix what's wrong with us. The Christian life then becomes more about simply allowing Christ to live His life through us rather than trying so hard to get my flesh to become perfect.

Our flesh has appetites that oppose God and allowing those appetites to drive our life will only lead us to death and destruction. Living in the Spirit is allowing the appetites or desires of the Spirit of God to drive our life. Only when we learn to lean on Him to live His life through us, can we truly tap into the victorious life that God longs for us to live. And, only then can we truly lay aside the struggle of wanting to do good, but not doing it and not wanting to do evil, but doing it.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What's All This Fuss About This Little Piece Of Land

Around 8,000 square miles. That's the size of the nation of Israel. All this fuss is about 8,000 square miles. To put that into perspective, when compared to the state of Texas, the land mass that is Israel would fit inside of Texas 32 times. So, what's so special about this small piece of land?
While this little piece of land has experienced much turmoil since 1948, the truth is the struggle to possess this land goes back much further than that. Over 4000 years ago God approached a man named Abraham and gave him the land. While the land God promised to Abraham includes the 8,000 square miles that today is referred to as Israel, the "Promised Land" is actually a much larger parcel of land. This land grant from God was part of a promise or covenant that included much more than just the land. This covenant that God cut with Abraham is an everlasting covenant, which means that it is forever. Therefore the land that God gave to Abraham over 4,000 years ago, still belongs to his descendants today.
Herein, lies one of the biggest issues. Both the Jews and the Muslims trace their ancestry back to Abraham. Abraham had a total of 8 sons. Most of us have heard of Isaac and Ishmael and we often make the mistake of assuming that all the Arab nations are descendants of Ishmael, and the Jews are the descendants of Isaac. While the latter is true, the Arab nations are not simply the descendants of Ishmael. Remember that Abraham had 6 other sons in the mix and the Arab nations are made up of the descendants of Ishmail and these other 6 sons.
Ok, so here we have a plot of land given to Abraham. The question is which son inherited this piece of land? In Genesis 17 there is a conversation between Abraham and God that is recorded. After Abraham asks God if Ishmael is the descendant to whom God intends to fulfill His covenant with, we see God's response in verse 19. Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him." So, Isaac becomes the heir of this everlasting covenant that God made to Abraham. Therefore, the land belongs to his descendants who we know to be the Jewish people.
I think it's easy to see how Abraham's remaining 7 sons might be a little ticked off with Isaac and the blessing he received from God. Fast forward 4,000 years and there you have the struggle we see still be played out in that very same place. What you see are the descendants of Abraham still fighting for the piece of land that God gave to Abraham's son Isaac. Although, Ishmael was not the heir to this covenant of God, God did promise to bless him and has fulfilled that promise to him. As for the other 6 sons of Abraham, God made provision for them to be blessed by promising to bless all those who bless Israel, or Isaac's descendants.
Looking at today, I think its important to understand God's promise to the nation of Israel. As I've mentioned earlier, it is a promise that lasts forever. Therefore it is as valid today as the day God made that promise to Abraham over 4,000 years ago. In the same way, God's promise to bless those who bless Israel holds true still today. Also, God's promise to curse those who curse Israel is valid today.
This week the United Nations is voting on whether or not to grant statehood for the Palestinians. While some may think that is only fair, it is a dangerous proposition. Scripture tells us that it is God who determines the borders of the nations. Dividing the land, that God has given Israel is not simply opposing the Jewish nation, it is opposing God. I would think that would not turn out to be a good thing. In Joel 3, we are given a glimpse of what God thinks and does to those who divide the land He has given to Israel. Trust me it's not a passage that you'll ever want to see fulfilled.
In 1948, Great Britain pulled out of the territory that is now called Israel and left it up for grabs. From that time until today, Israel has fought to maintain that land. And though surrounded by those who would like to wipe them off the face of the map, they have remained. They have remained because it is their land, given to them not by the nations of the world but by God. The nations of the world have no authority, nor do they have the power to require Israel to give up one square foot of land. Should they attempt to the results would be devastating for them. Let's just pray that in spite of what the rest of the world does that the U.S. continues to remain a friend of Israel.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do We Have Eyes But Can Not See?

1 billion....That's the estimated number worldwide who have never heard the Gospel. A bit more sobering is the 4.5 billion people worldwide who don't know Jesus as Savior. A recent mission trip to Germany was an eye opening experience for me. We encountered people there who have no concept of God. Not just people who have heard the Gospel and rejected it, but people who have no idea of who Jesus truly is. People who wake up every morning and go through the motions of life without any thought about spiritual things whatsoever. While I did meet some believers there, I would say at least 85 percent of the people I talked to claimed to be atheist or agnostic.

Now, I might expect those kinds of numbers if I was to go to some remote jungle somewhere, but I have to admit that it was a bit shocking to experience that in Berlin, Germany. I'm not sure what exactly I expected, but I do know that I didn't expect to encounter 12 and 13 year old young people who consider themselves to be atheists having never really been challenged to think otherwise. I didn't expect to meet so many older people who had never heard the story of Jesus. I didn't expect to meet so many people who never even consider spiritual things.

Perhaps, I didn't expect those things because living in the comforts of my home back in America, I've grown a bit blind. Not intentionally, but slowly over the course of life, it just happens if we aren't careful. We get locked into doing life and its extremely easy to get tunnel vision. Our eyes slowly become dim to the world around us and life slowly becomes all about us. We often get sucked into falling in love with this world and the things in it and as a result we lose sight of the big picture. A big picture that places God's dreams far above our own. A big picture that is much bigger than our own little world.

While my next statement may be hard to swallow, as a follower of Christ, I have to believe its true. Without knowing Christ, 4.5 billion people on this planet would split hell wide open if they slipped into eternity today. I know that's not politically correct to say that, but according to Scripture its an accurate statement. I know, I know, hell is not a very popular topic. And we believers who make statements like that are often labeled arrogant, narrow minded, and a lot of other things too inappropriate to list here. But the harsh reality is that as a true follower of Christ, we have to hold to the truth that apart from Christ there is salvation for no one. We have to believe that in Him is the only way anyone can find eternal salvation. There are those who want to believe that everyone's journey is different and because of that God's grace allows for many different ways to find salvation. That sounds great and while it may be politically correct, it simply doesn't line up with Scripture. I think so often the church buys into that philosophy because it relieves them of the responsibility to share the Gospel. It excuses them from stepping out of their comfort zone and engaging people in spiritual conversations.

Here's the cold hard facts. All around us, people are hungry for the truth. Yes, I know there are those who want nothing to do with Jesus, God, or the church, but there are also those who are desperately seeking God. While I was in Germany, I saw this scenario play out before us every day. There were those who scoffed at spiritual things and rejected everything we had to say, while at the same time there were those who hung on every word. There were those who were brought to tears when engaged in spiritual conversations. There were those who had no hope who were longing for someone to give them a lifeline. There were those who had never believed in God, who were open to be challenged in what they believed. There were those who were hurting who wanted a healer. It is no different here. We go to work, go to the store, go to the restaurant, go to our kids sporting events, etc. and all the while there are those around us who are longing for someone to throw them a lifeline. They are longing for someone to engage them in a conversation other than how hot it is or if you think the Texans will finally make it to the playoffs. Yet, we've grown blind to it all. We've been lulled to sleep by a spirit of comfort that prevents us from risking rejection to save a life. I'm afraid we have eyes but can not truly see.

Trust me when I say if there are 4.5 billion unbelievers worldwide, there are those in your circle of influence. And if not, your circle needs to grow. While we can kick back and relax and trust that God's going to reach them, could it be that He's put you in their life because you're His tool for reaching them?

These words to a Casting Crown song have been the testimony of most of my life.
"So maybe this time I'll speak the words of life
With Your fire in my eyes
But that old familiar fear is tearing at my words
What am I so afraid of?
'Cause here I go again
Talking 'bout the rain
And mulling over things
That won't live past today
And as I dance around the truth
Time is not his friend
This might be my last chance to tell him
That You love him."

I pray its not the testimony of my life from here on out!