Are You Going to Open the Scroll?

Those who speak against God’s grace are rejecting His plan, His perfect work. They loudly proclaim objection to “the grace message,” holding it out as inferior, a message that is true on the surface, but really one to be cautious of in reality. They act as if they will march right into John’s vision in Revelation 5 and tell the angel, “I will open the scroll.”
It is easy to get others to give assent to this attack on grace. When we have gained a new measure of discipline it can feel like we’ve ascended to the top of a mountain, another challenge conquered in our strength.
We couch this great feeling about our spirituality it in religious jargon. “God helped me stop looking at porn,” is announced with puffed out chest at a men’s accountability group. The others in attendance rejoice in this victory, hanging their heads at their own weakness. We find that our strength gives us pause to look down at our brothers because of their struggle.

Look at Me

Again, often the objection to preaching the reality of God’s grace is based on a focus on sin. This focus is preached vigorously in many churches, tied with a bow that promises that fixing the “flesh” is attainable. It inflates the pride of those who rail against preaching grace, reveling in their having a measure of self-control and victory over certain areas of their lives.
It gives glory to their own flesh and strength.
This is totally contrary to what God accomplished in His Son on the cross.
The bottom line is that their objection to “the grace message” is rooted in pride and in a religious spirit.
Jesus Himself spoke harshly against these things to those with a similar mindset in His day.

Check Yourself

Ask yourself, “Do I glory in my victory over a certain sin? Do I judge others for their weakness in a similar area? 
Anything that shines the light on our strength or our personal self-control is taking glory away from the Father and His work accomplished in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
Stop rejecting the Gospel, for it is the truth. It is Jesus who said Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Judging ourselves as either good or bad puts the focus on us, when the focus should be on Him and what  He has done for us.

Are You Going to Open the Scroll?Lion of the tribe of Judah

In closing, read Rev 5:1-5 whenever you find yourself railing against those who preach the Gospel, who proclaim the goodness and grace of God. One thing is missing from those verses: your name and mine. “No one was worthy, is the reality that made John “weep with disappointment.”
The Lamb of God alone is worthy to take the scroll from the right hand of the one seated on the throne and to open it and read it. This is the absolute truth.  
When we find ourselves getting puffed up because we have “conquered a certain sin,” or looking negatively at those who may be struggling, a good reminder is Revelation 5. Remember, it’s all about the Lamb of God and His grace, which by the way, teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness.
Be careful not to rail against the very mystery of Christ that His Father set into motion before the foundation of the world. His grace is real and is one of the cornerstones of salvation, along with His love and His mercy. Instead of focusing on sin, focus on Him. It will change your life.

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By His Stripes We Are Healed

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by His wounds we are healed.. Many translations say, “By His stripes we are healed.” 

An apple a day is good for us, but we are healed by the stripes of Jesus

1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Why did the lamb of God allow Himself to be beaten? His death appropriated our forgiveness. The Scripture clearly states that it was for our healing. No, I do not have all the answers as to why some are healed and some are not. But, I believe that believing in what Jesus allowed Himself to endure is a big step toward seeing healing become more frequent in the church today.

Will you take time ot believe…to ponder this amazing reality? By His stripes you are healed!

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Despised, Pierced and Bruised

Jesus was despised, pierced and bruised for our iniquities – our sins. Yet many teach that we can add to that in order to get right or stay right with God. That’s not correct. If we could get right with God we would not need a savior,

crown of thorns

Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.

To teach that we can somehow do this or that to enhance what God has done is to do great dishonor to the finished work of Christ, to disrespect what Jesus went through before and during the cross. God is pleased when we believe what He did and turn our attention to His work. This is how real change is made in the life of a believer, not by focusing on sin. Focus on the new creation that God has made you and on how Jesus was despised, pierced and bruised for our sins. Focus on the cross where He was judged for our sins for all eternity.

And focus on His resurrection, through which He birthed a whole new creation! Look to Him, not to your sin and not to your strength, and God will do amazing things in your life. It’s awesome!

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Three Steps to Real Peace

Three Steps to Real Peace

Many Christians are riddled with fear and anxiety. Jesus has made a way for us to have real peace. Listen to this episode of Fueled by Grace to learn three steps to real peace.

 

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“I’m a Sinner”

Many of us like to refer to ourselves as “a sinner.” Even pastors boldly proclaim at times, “I’m a sinner.”I would like to encourage you to stop doing that. Of course, you are a sinner, the Bible says “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But, if you have been born again, then you have been made holy, and have been joined in union with Christ Jesus Himself. You are a new creation!

To continue to refer to yourself as a “sinner” after having been born again, puts your focus in a place that does a great disservice to the tremendous sacrifice that God made in giving His only Son to pay the penalty for your sins and my sins and the sins of the entire world.

There is great power in our words, and when you hear yourself refer to yourself as “a sinner” then your subconscious mind embraces that characterization of yourself, and chokes the life out of the reality of who you are after having been born again. Ask God to help you see yourself as you really are if you have been born again.

Change the way you talk about yourself and the way that you see yourself. Your subconscious mind will embrace the reality that you are the righteousness of God in Christ, and His grace will teach you to say no to ungodliness and help your behavior to come into alignment with the reality of who God has made you to be.

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Faith Asks What’s Next?

I rarely if ever watch television in the morning. A couple of days ago for some reason I grabbed the remote and turned on the television as I was getting dressed for work. Little did I know that God was about to give me a word about faith.

I went surfing through the channels and landed on a Rev. TD Jakes sermon. He was talking about building and how God is building things in our lives. Then he said this “Are you stuck in right now, or are you looking for what’s next?”

Those words exploded in my spirit. It is so easy to become frustrated in our current situation, or even content with it, and focus on what’s happening now. But faith asks “what is God going to do next?”

Interestingly, later that evening a pastor friend called me out of the blue. I had had him on my podcast at work a few weeks ago, and he was calling to check in and say hello. I was so excited about the “what’s next” word that was bursting inside me that I shared it with him.

He shared my excitement, but then he also added to the word. He reminded me that we also have to have faith for the “right now.” Of course I know this, but his saying that to me, combined with the message from Rev. Jakes was like putting the final touches on sewing a garment together. The word that God was stirring in me was in clear view.

My pastor friend went on to say this is why the Bible says God takes us from “faith to faith.” Regardless of our situation currently – good or bad – our position needs to be one of faith. We need to believe that God is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6).

It is vital that we believe that he loves us and cares for us, and will never leave us or forsake us. But, we also need to be looking for the “what’s next?” The Bible says that God will do exceedingly above all that we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20).

It is so awesome to be reminded that God is taking us from faith to faith. Having faith to believe that regardless of past situations and circumstances, regardless of our current situation, good or bad, the “what’s next” is something that we can look forward to, believing that God will do more than we can ask or imagine.

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Focused on the Flesh?

If you are born-again, the Scriptures say you risen with Christ. You are in union with Him! Sadly, we’ve mostly been taught by well-intentioned pastors and ministry leaders that we need to focus on our flesh, trying to “get right with God.”

This is so not what Paul teaches in his letters, but rather the reality is that sin is in our members – our body, or our flesh as some describe it. But, we have been raised to newness of life in Christ, and sin is NOT a part of the new man that has been born-again. Colossians 1:3 says it wonderfully:

“Since, then, you have been made alive with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”

So, instead of looking and struggling with sin, look at the reality of your new man being joined to Him.

If you are looking at and are focused on the flesh, you will not mature in Him. The new creation does not sin, but rather is resurrected in Christ, having been buried with Him and risen with Him. Read the Scriptures and ask God to open the eyes of our understanding. You cannot “get right with God” through your efforts or your adherence to or abstaining from certain behaviors. You are “right with God” simply and only through the sacrifice He made of His only begotten Son. If you could “get right with God” in your flesh and by your own effort(s) you would not need a Savior.

God's love reaches to the heavens !

God’s love reaches to the heavens !

It’s a matter of focus. Are you looking at your flesh, which will never measure up to God’s standards of holiness? Or, are you looking at Him, and at your born-again new nature which is created in His image and is in constant union with Him?

Seeing Him is the only way to effect real change in your behavior, as the Scriptures teach, “It is His grace that leads us to repentance.”

Focus: Flesh vs the New You

The choice is clear: Continue to look at your sin and your failures and your inability to change, or look to Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. As you ponder and rest in His awesome, unfailing love, you will see more and more of His nature being a part of your life. Change will happen by the strengthening of your innermost self. Where are you focused? On yourself, or on the great God of the universe and His finished work that He accomplished in His Son, Jesus?

The Bible says that God’s ways are higher than our ways. This is so true, especially when we look at ourselves and feel and have been taught to be laser-focused on our sin and failings. God’s ways are different, calling for a laser-focus on Him. It’s simple but yet so awesome, so profound. Gaze upon the goodness of the Lord and watch the changes in your life that have been so elusive become a reality. Look to Him and to His amazing love and grace!

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Seeing God in the Darkness

On Sunday December 13, 2015, my wife Tammy, our daughter Jenny and I had the opportunity to share with the dear saints at Wilmington First Assembly about our journey this past year.

“Seeing God in the Darkness” of a diagnosis that brings fear and so many questions is a sampling of our thoughts about the journey. We hope you will be encouraged in the truth of God’s great love.

Click here to listen: http://www.wfachurch.com/messages.html

Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

 

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A Prophetic Word Confirmed

The Lord said a prophetic word to me, “I am going throughout the earth setting things on fire. In some places it is like grass that needs to be burned so that new grass can spring to life. In other places it is like dross being burned away so that silver can shine. In other places I’m setting on fire with passion hearts that are earnestly seeking me. In every instance, I am burning away the old so that the new may come forth and that my glory may be revealed. I am burning the dead things so that my glory can be evident throughout the earth. And what is my glory? It is my love, endless, pure, blazing with passionate intensity. I am setting the earth on fire with my love.”

I heard God say this during dinner, and about an hour later was wondering if I had actually heard Him. In fact, I wondered aloud to my daughter, “If God were sitting here right now would He say to me that He’s not really setting things on fire?” Immediately, as soon as these words came out of my mouth, as we were backing out of a parking place at the local library, I turned and saw the sky – and it looked like it was on fire!  I’m not kidding you, ask my daughter.  The whole way home the sky kept getting a brighter orange, and by the time we crossed the major highway on our way home, the entire sky looked ablaze!

At home I shared with my wife what had happened

She said, “I saw it! The sky looked like it was on fire!” She had even taken a picture as she was walking out

God confirms a prophetic word with a look of fire in the sky

God confirms a prophetic word with a look of fire in the sky

of the house. It was amazing!  God had let her see the same thing my daughter and I were seeing, and she captured the image on her phone so that there would be a visual reminder of His faithfulness in times of doubt.

God spoke to me a prophetic word to encourage the church that He is indeed moving on the earth.  He is setting the world on fire with the purpose of revealing His great love.  Then He actually heard me wonder aloud if I had really heard Him speak this to me, and within literally seconds, showed me a confirmation in the sky. Very cool!

God Is Speaking a Prophetic Word

The Bible says that God reveals what He is doing to His servants the prophets.  (Amos 3:7)  Even in 2014, God is using men and women to give voice to what He is doing.  He is moving, burning up the things that are dead and revealing the life that is left behind.  He is doing this to reveal His glory – His burning, passionate love demonstrated in the giving of His only Son for us.  God is really very awesome!

 

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God is Satisfied

The plan of God is so simple, yet so beyond our humanity to fully comprehend. It is multi-layered, the peeling away of layers granting us an un derstanding of an additional glorious part of His plan.  Paul refers to it as the “mystery of Christ.”  God is constantly willing to reveal to us another level of the depth of His love, grace & majesty.

All He requires is faith, believing in what He accomplished through the finished work of Christ. Yet we are taught that it is our behavior, some adherence to a set of Christian standards that pleases Him and gives us peace and success.

This is rooted in self-focused thinking

“Religion”Plan-Design could be a more relevant characterization, wherein the challenge is for the flesh to attempt to live up to the standards of God. (Many times not actually the standards of God, but rather denominational admonishments or cultural imperatives for Christians).  Teaching is commonly heralded that holds forth discipline, accountability and “right living.” Scripture teaches us that in our flesh is no good thing. Any focus other than simple faith and belief in the love and grace of God, and in what He accomplished in His plan through the finished work of Christ, is just plain wrong. We are to believe and receive what He determined to be satisfactory, and what He accomplished in and through His Son.   The entire book of Hebrews details God’s plan, and assures us that He is satisfied; there is no further sacrifice to be made. There is no further work to be done in securing for us a place of right-standing with Him.  Right from the start in Chapter 1, the point is made that the work of Christ is finished – “when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father.  He is not busily going about the task of trying to fix things. He cried, “It is finished” as He died on the cross.  God’s plan had been fulfilled.  The sacrifice for sin for all eternity had been made.  God was – and still is – satisfied!

It is imperative that those who are on the journey of the Christian life, know and believe in God’s plan, and accept that He is satisfied.

This is foundational to growing in relationship with God.  Jesus said that eternal life is “knowing Him” (John 17:3).  Relationship is based on many things – trust, acceptance and communication to name a few.  “Knowing God and His Son” is relationship – the relationship that Jesus died to make possible to all who believe.  It is impossible to engage in relationship with God if there is doubt regarding His love, His grace, or His satisfaction which flows from His Son’s sacrifice for our sins. Focusing on trying to please Him when He is already pleased is an exercise in frustration, and takes the emphasis off of Him and His goodness, and places it on us.  Talk about wrong!  It is an affront to God Himself to think that we can undo or add to what He did in the giving of His Son – allowing Him to be subjected to violence, shame, mocking, and a most horrendous death. Teaching that certain behavior or a certain amount of giving or a particular act of service can move God to a greater degree of satisfaction with us is nothing short of insulting.  God had a plan.  He implemented it. It is beyond our humanity to fully understand it – “His ways are higher than our ways” (Isaiah 55:9). He gave His Son and fulfilled every one of His requirements necessary for us to have life abundantly and eternally.  He has “blotted out our transgressions and remembers our sins no more!” (Isaiah 43:25)

What is our act of obedience under His plan?  Simply to believe!

Believe and receive His love and rest in the finished work of God through His Son.  It is simple, almost too simple for our rational minds and sin-focused doctrines to fully accept.  But it is God’s plan, and He IS satisfied.  Begin today to throw off everything that might hinder you from simply believing.  Today can be the beginning of experiencing eternal life…knowing Him like never before.  Let the new journey begin!

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