Cultural Clamor: Boys Will Be Boys?

I apologize… this is not really a devotional post… just some thoughts about our current cultural climate, and where we appear to be heading…

October 14

Today, one of the topics of discussion at my workplace, was the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow girls into their organization. From my understanding, the Boy Scouts were not pressured into this decision, they just simply decided that the term “Boy” in Boy Scouts was kind of irrelevant.

Boyscouts-of-america

I don’t think we should be surprised at this decision. It is a choice that “goes with the flow” of all current societal trends. I guess, given all the hotbed issues about gender identity, it was only a matter of time. After all, the Boy Scouts, just a few years ago, had come under tremendous fire for their traditional stance against gay participants. In 2013, the ban on openly gay scouts was lifted – and in 2015 the Scouts lifted their prohibition on gay leaders.

As for girls, in the Boy Scouts, why not? It was certainly the next logical step.

What I find most interesting is the reason behind the inclusion of girls into the Boy Scouts… The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women,” said Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh. “We strive to bring what our organization does best – developing character and leadership for young people… as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”

Did you catch that? “Developing character” and the desire to “shape the next generation of leaders.”

To me… that is the disconnect. Good character is based upon values of goodness… and the current values of our culture, at large, are being redefined at light speed. People are more confused than ever – about familial roles, about gender identity, about morality. Our culture is quickly turning towards outright humanism – and the belief that human beings should be free to believe anything they want to believe (AND the rest of us must accept those beliefs as totally valid).

confusion

It is a simple thing… when we treat boys as girls and girls as boys, we may think we are being accepting, sensitive, and compassionate – but this cannot end well. A culture that is openly confused about such a simple thing cannot be anything but blatantly confused by any other issue. We are on a road that is screaming “equal rights,” while all along we ignoring the common sense of right and wrong.

That IS the shape of the next generation of leaders – leading humanity into the death knell of what is truly right and decent and good.

But this should not be surprising either. The plan of the enemy of God has always been to cast a disparaging “light” onto God and His values – to make them obsolete, irrelevant… and even criminal. And, what is worse still, our culture is not even aware of the reality of the “man behind the curtain.” As he pulls our strings and twists our minds, we THINK we are being progressive, enlightened, and correct.

master_of_puppets

As a Christian, I am just sad. As a former BOY Scout, I am extremely disappointed.

The values I was taught as a Scout are now being tossed aside so they can appeal to the blinded masses who seem no longer concerned about true character.

The Boy Scouts appear to be just another in the long line of cases where the blind are leading the blind.

blind-leading-the-blind

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Posted in Character, culture, Humanism, Integrity, Uncategorized, Values | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Grace vs. the Law: Keeping the Law?

October 13

Three crosses on a hill

When you read the Book of Galatians, one thing jumps out at you. The Apostle Paul is upset. He is frustrated… to the point of anger. He says some things, in Galatians, that you wouldn’t expect to find in the Bible. But it’s all because he is so furious with what was going on in the churches in Galatia.

Why was the Apostle so infuriated?

Blatant sin? Idolatry? Immorality in leadership? No.

The Galatian believers were trying to attach the necessity of doing the Law to God’s free gift of grace. As we talked about yesterday, they were trying to make the gospel into grace plus

What was a struggle for the Galatians is still a struggle for so many believers today. Grace is just too easy. That just can’t be all there is to this whole salvation thing. God gave us the Law, so the least we can do is keep it… now that we are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice. After all, God wants our right behavior… right?

Actually, no. What God wants is our trust in Him. What God wants is to commune with us, share His Heart with us, live within us, and do His work through us.

And He provided a simple and specific way for us to do all that. He sent His Son.

The gospel boils down to this: Jesus came so that we might be able to share in everything He has done – and possess everything He has. Jesus came to provide a way for us to be eternally connected with Him.

If we are bonded to Jesus, we share in Jesus (and in everything He has).

That is what is so new about the New Covenant. It is ALL based on Jesus. His work. His Lordship. His purposes. His blessings. What we gain in our relationship with Him is not based upon our performance, it is all based upon Jesus’ performance (what He did, and what He will do).

This is why our efforts at keeping the Law are so unneccessary. Jesus has “already been there, done that.” To continue to try and please God by doing the Law is the same thing as saying “Jesus’ work on our behalf was insufficient. Jesus was not enough. We need Jesus… plus the Law.”

The Apostle Paul thought that kind of thinking was a slap in the Face of the God Who paid the whole price for our sins, and who opened up the new and living way of interactive trust between us and God.

Keeping the Law can never make us right with God. Only Jesus can.

The grace of God was poured out to us by Him, because of Him, and for Him.

As for being righteous? That is our new identity (what we are) because of Jesus alone. It is as simple as this exchange: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

All this is salvation. All this is the gift of God. All this is by grace, through faith!

Prayer Focus: God, I choose to walk in the fullness of Your grace… trusting in Jesus for my righteousness.

Posted in Daily devotional, Grace, Life in Jesus, the Gift of Jesus, True Christianity, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Grace vs. the Law

October 12

Rom 10 4

We are saved by grace, through faith… We are saved ONLY by grace, through faith.

This is an important distinction because many Christians are trying to live by grace plus… grace + our goodness… grace + our efforts… grace + the Law…

True Christianity declares that grace + anything is no longer grace!

Rom 11 6

This is an important distinction because most of us are taught that God expects our good behavior, and if we don’t behave properly, He is going to be disappointed at us… mad at us… and punish us for our misbehavior. For verification, we often run to the pages of the Old Testament where God’s people were often disobedient and God was often irritated with them and spends a good deal of time expressing His anger towards their rebellious misdeeds.

angry-god

Here’s the problem… That’s the Old Testament. We live in the time of the NEW.

The Old Testament is based upon the Old Covenant – God, with the Jewish people. That Old Covenant was based upon the Law – and keeping the Law was all important. The basis of the Law was human performance. You had to DO the Law. If you didn’t DO the Law, you had to DO the sacrifice (so you could be restored back to DOing the Law). It was an endless cycle of human effort to maintain (or gain) God’s favor. That human effort was the basis of their relationship with God. DO good, God was pleased. DO wrong, and you had to DO what was required to get back into His favor.

Paul points out that the problem with the Law wasn’t the Law (see Romans 7:13-14) – it was us! Anything that is based on human effort (and ability) is going to end badly. And the Law was based upon human effort. We observe that whenever human beings are trying to be good, or godly, they will always fail. It is just not in us to live perfectly, in accord with God’s Law.

But everything changed with the New Testament. The New is not like the Old. The New is based upon GOD’S efforts – God’s ability to do what is right, good, and godly. The main point of Jesus coming to this earth was that He would change the way we were required to live for God.

It is no longer about our willingness or ability to DO… it is about our willingness to trust in One Who DID for us. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law (Mt. 5:17). He ended the need for keeping the Law (Gal. 2:21). Jesus took our unlawfulness upon Himself at the cross (Col. 2:14). Jesus took the curse of the Law upon Himself (Gal. 3:13). Jesus took God’s wrath, for us (Ro. 5:9). And when He died for us, a whole new way of living for God was initiated.

Jesus way truth life

Jesus came, and believing “into” Him became the way to keep the Covenant. Those who receive what Jesus DID are brought into connection with Jesus (grafted into Him!) and every requirement of God, for all time, WAS met in Him.

As for righteousness before God, there is nothing left for us to DO. Jesus did it ALL. Receiving Jesus, means we are now eternally connected with the One Who has already fulfilled everything ever required of us. And now we share in everything Jesus has done, everything Jesus is, everything Jesus has, and everything Jesus will do.

And at the center of all this… is God’s glorious grace.

Prayer Focus: God, help me to realize that You are not seeking my performance in doing right, but are seeking my complete faith in Jesus, and what He has done for me.

Posted in Daily devotional, Grace, Life in Jesus, our identity in Christ, Pleasing God, the Gift of Jesus, True Christianity | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Awaken to Grace

October 11

Eph 2 8

I want to spend the next few days talking about the most important doctrine of the Christian faith – and one that is so often misunderstood by so many believers.

It is so important because every other doctrine of true Christianity flows from this one. If we don’t get this doctrine right, all the others will be misrepresented, misunderstood, and… miss the mark.

It is not just outright lies that mislead us. It is also half-truths and distorted understandings. When we are called into relationship with Jesus, we are called to a whole new way of living life – a new way of pleasing God. If we don’t fully embrace this new way (and set aside the old, entirely) we will always struggle in our Christian walk. We will always fail. And, most importantly, we will not have the impact upon our world that God is seeking from us.

This essential, foundational, doctrine is the doctrine of…

Grace

Now, immediately, you will have some preconceived idea of what I am going to talk about. You will think that I am going to talk about God’s unconditional and unmerited love – and you would be right. But that is NOT the entirety of grace. That is only a portion. There is so much more to grace than God’s love.

And that is the problem. For so many believers, our view of grace is just too small. We do not see grace as the all-encompassing expression of God’s work for us. We tie it to God’s love and God’s forgiveness (only!)… and miss the most important facets that God’s grace brings into our lives.

Most Christian churches teach about grace… but many churches miss the larger picture of grace – which leads to a limited and ineffective expression of the gospel, to the world who needs it most. We owe it to God to rightly understand what His grace brings to our lives. We also owe it to ourselves…

In our verse for today, we make note of two specific things… 1) we are saved by grace, through faith; and 2) our salvation, by grace, is a gift.

We will talk more about what it means to be saved (in the days ahead) but I want to focus on the last point, today.

Whenever we give gifts to someone, those gifts are not something that the recipient of the gift has earned. Gifts are the expression of love or affection or familial connection – something that happens because of relationship with the giver. But true gifts are never because they are owed to the recipient. They are the result of a giver, thinking of the one receiving the gift, and taking the time (and resources necessary) to present that gift to the recipient.

giving gifts

At the core of God’s gift of salvation is the understanding that we did nothing to EARN God’s gracious gift. He thought of us, and because of His immense love for us, He sent His Son to make the gift of salvation available to anyone who would receive it. God offered it freely to us, out of His intense desire to bring us into His family.

This gift is free… but it was not without cost.

As we have talked about recently, the gift of God is that Jesus paid the price for our sin and guilt, and He took God’s wrath for all the ways we had offended God. In receiving Jesus, we accept what God is offering us… a new life, a new way of living – free from the guilt, penalties, and condemnation of our sin.

kneel_at_the_cross

This is all the GIFT of God. We do nothing to earn it. But we must each receive it – and receiving God’s gift brings us into special connection and relationship with God.

We are saved by GRACE through faith… it is a GIFT from God, to us.

Prayer Focus: God, open my eyes to see the fullness of Your grace… and teach me to live in all that You have done for me.

Posted in Daily devotional, God's provision, Grace, surrendered to Jesus, the Gift of Jesus, True Christianity, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ask Whatever You Wish…

October 10

“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

Yesterday, we focused on the importance of our continued trust in Jesus. We do not just trust Jesus to get into the Vine – we trust Him every day to “remain” in the Vine. That responsibility is ours – in response to God’s provision to us. And when we respond in faith, God responds to our faith with His faithfulness displayed through our lives (this equals fruit = God at work through us!).

grapes

In this continual trust in Jesus, we remain in Him AND His words remain in us. The natural product of life in the Vine is that the Vine puts the essence of Himself into us. The “sap” of the Vine permeates the branches (our lives!) and we take on the character and purposes of the Vine. Life in Christ produces Christ in us – and that life is the light of men (John 1:4). More than that, we find our own hearts aligning with the very Heart of God.

This is why Jesus offers us the amazing promise in our verse today. Those of us who have hearts after God’s Own Heart can “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” This is at the center of effective prayer. As John has echoed: “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us… we know that we have what we have asked of Him.” (from 1 John 5:14-15)

He hears us

True prayer is never about getting what we want – true prayer is about giving God what He wants. It’s about God’s opportunity to show forth His faithfulness – and His faithfulness is displayed as His fruitfulness.

Though prayer is certainly our opportunity to share our thoughts and needs with God – ultimately, we are connected with Jesus to bring forth the desires of God, “on this earth as it is in heaven.” We are grafted into Him to be the means by which He does His work – and, according to John, He does His work in accord with His will.

Effective prayer is aligned with what God wants to do – and He connects with us to reveal within us what He wants to do.

prayer

This is no small thing.

We often view prayer as a last resort – when we have run out of our own resources, or when we find that our circumstances are just too big for us to handle. Then (and often, only then) do we turn to God for divine help.

What Jesus is telling us is that divine work is available for our everyday lives – God aligning our hearts with His, and our desires flowing from His Own. It is in that state, that our prayers hold real power. They are not our wishes begging for divine help. They are God’s wishes bringing forth divine display – they are fruit flowing from our hearts, our prayers, our divinely-inspired wishes.

John Wesley once said: God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.” When we understand that true prayer is asking God to do what He wants to do, we can begin to understand what Wesley was saying – and about the fruit that comes through the whole act of asking God according to His will.

Prayer Focus: God, align my heart with Yours so my prayers will have divine power.

oswald-chambers-prayer

Posted in Bearing Fruit, Daily devotional, Fruit and Fruitfulness, Prayer, True Christianity, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Remain in Me…

October 9

“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

We spent most of the last week talking about fruit and fruitfulness – and how important this fruitfulness is to God… and to us.

We learned that bearing fruit depends solely upon our connection with Jesus – Who is quick to remind us that we CANNOT bear fruit apart from our bond with Him (John 15:4-5). Jesus is our ONLY Source for fruit production – and He is the One actually producing the fruit from within us. We pointed out that our notion of “doing things for God” has nothing to do with actually producing fruit. It is vital that we begin our understanding of our Christian life with the fact that fruit is never the result of humans working… it is always God working – doing what ONLY God can do, through our lives. Jesus is the Vine (the Source of all fruit) – we are the branches (the way the fruit is displayed).

VineAndBranches

Our first task is to come to Jesus and receive Him. Jesus’ work, on our behalf, enabled us to become grafted into the Vine. But, as important as that is, being grafted into Jesus is the not the end result that God is seeking. He is intensely interested in what happens after we are grafted into Jesus.

It is with this in mind, that we will make two more essential observations…

First, there is a Scriptural principle that is emphasized time and again. It is this: God provides – but we must apply His provision to our lives. God gives – but we must receive. God does – but we must live by what He has done. God’s provision is never automatically applied to us. We must willingly accept His work – and we accept it by faith… always. We trust God in His work. We trust God at His word. Our trust is expressed by willful application of our faith.

receive by faith

This begins with Jesus’ redemptive work for us. We hear of Jesus’ work, on our behalf (how He carried our sins to the cross, and our sins [and sinfulness] died with Him) – and, by faith, we accept what Jesus has done for us. We say, “Thank You,” with our lives – given to Jesus, in response to His life given for ours.

At the moment we accept what Jesus has done, God responds to our faith by forgiving all our sins, releasing us from our guilt, delivering us from the power of sin over our lives, and (most important of all) by connecting us with Jesus. We are cleansed, made holy, made whole, and given a new life – a life that is defined by being IN Jesus. That is our new identity. Once we were on our own, living for ourselves, separated from God. But now, we share in the divine life – made possible only because of Jesus.

complete in Christ

But this trust in Jesus is never a one-time thing. It is a lifetime thing. We do not just trust Jesus for our forgiveness – we must trust Him for every day afterward. We must heed Jesus words to “remain in Me…” We also do this by faith. Every day. The responsibility for our connection rests with us… “IF you remain in Me…” The responsibility for what occurs within that connection rests with God. In Scripture, God always responds to our faith with His faithfulness… but we must apply our faith to His provision (or promise), first.

God responds to faith

God did not graft us into Jesus just to help us feel good about ourselves… or just to forgive us. He has work to do, through us, now that we have been connected to the Vine. That work depends upon our continued trust in Jesus. We, intentionally, live our lives to BE His opportunity to display His goodness in our little corner of the world. Every day we trust in Jesus to be fruitful through us, is a day God responds to our trust by using us to display His marvelous work.

Prayer Focus: God, stir my heart to simply seek You every day… to live my life in constant connection with You, and by applying my faith in You.

Posted in Belief, Daily devotional, Faith, Fruit and Fruitfulness, our identity in Christ, True Christianity, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

An Optional God

October 8

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

It was a headline that is all too common these days… “Young Man Found Dead.”

I was struck by the picture of a handsome young man, who had his whole life ahead of him – but lost his life when he ended up on the bad side of the drug trade. He went to sleep one night, only to awake with someone crashing through his door, guns blazing… and a life full of promise and dreams, was unmercifully snuffed out.

I have friends who knew the young man’s parents – who spoke of the struggle of raising a young man in a society and culture allured by the temptation of the next “good time,” the next thrill. They were at a loss to know how to compete with, or combat, the unseen evil at work in their son’s life. They were frustrated with trying to help their boy see the dead end road he was traveling – unaware of just how short that road was going to be.

Dead_End_Street

It is a parent’s worst nightmare – raising a child to know the right… only to see that child’s life go so wrong.

Tragically, this is no longer the isolated incident. This is the norm. This is the world as we know it. Young people are living fast… and dying all too quickly.

Uncertainty And ConfusionWe are seeing a whole new generation trying to find their way in a world that seems to offer paths in all directions. There is no longer the central highway of Judeo-Christian values and Scriptural morals. A whole generation has been led to believe that God is on the same plane as any myth or fairy tale. Fine for children, or the simple-minded – but unnecessary for today’s fast-paced, higher-intelligence world. Science has authoritatively declared that we are nothing more than chance creatures in a whole universe that happened by dumb luck. Our young people, by and large, no longer question it. Those who do, are ridiculed and chastised for believing such idiotic fantasies.

Is it any wonder that our national headlines are filled with anger, frustration, and senseless loss of life? Our world is being reconstructed on the shifting sands of human opinion and the morals of “everyone does what is right in their own eyes.”

I suppose this is a plea for any of you, out there, who are young and wondering why everyone is chasing after something that seems so promising… but never seems to materialize. Maybe you are already weary of the philosophy that seems to permeate our culture… “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die” (Is. 22:13) Maybe you are one of the few, wondering about this whole God thing. Wondering if He should be more than just optional. Wondering if there could be more to God than you have been led to think.

I am here to tell you… there is!

He is very real. He is your Creator. And, the most important part… He actually loves you. He even desires to “hang out” with you – and show you just how real He is – in your everyday life.

GodPowerfulPersonal

He is not the old killjoy in the sky, you have been led to believe. He is not the demanding disciplinarian He is made out to be.

He is worth spending time with. He has a purpose for your life that can only be found by following His lead. And His primary agenda is to love you… and love people through you.

Solomon was right. The really smart play is to “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” Life without Him leaves us wide open to the terrible troubles that await us on the road that leads to nowhere.

Prayer Focus: God, I seek the Personal relationship You are offering me. I want to truly know that You are real, powerful, and personal.

joyce-meyer quote

Posted in Commitment to Jesus, culture, Daily devotional, God's Heart, God's love for sinners', surrendered to Jesus | Tagged , | 1 Comment