Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Will you be my friend....

This past Sunday we met at the Hill household for our communion time together. We shared a Mexican fiesta (not siesta) of south-of-the-border style casseroles and sides.

During this past week Sharon and I were discussing the word friend as it pertains to the body of Christ. One of the worship songs that we sing on occasion is “Fire of God”, and the chorus says:

Fire of God, burn in me,
Consume all my wickedness
So I will not love this world
So I will not be a friend of this world any longer
So I will not be a friend of this world any longer

When we were thinking about this chorus these questions came to mind; what does it mean to be a friend of the world? What does it mean to be a friend of God?

The chorus of this song is a reference to the scripture in the epistle of James:

"Do you not know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God." (James 4:4 AMP)

The interesting part of this passage is that the intended audience is the church. It is addressed to those who claim to know and follow Jesus. The friendship with the world that James is referencing was happening inside, not outside, the church.

So how do we become friends of God instead of the world? Let’s look at another passage in the book of James:

“Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac? You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works. And [so] the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) God, and this was accounted to him as righteousness (as conformity to God's will in thought and deed), and he was called God's friend." (James 2:21, 22 &23 AMP)

Abraham believed God and proved it by obeying Him. Jesus said the same thing in the Gospel of John:

“This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you. No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends. You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do. I do not call you servants (slaves) any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing (working out). But I have called you My friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father. [I have revealed to you everything that I have learned from Him.].” (John 15:12-15 AMP)

The only thing that Jesus requires is obedience and He calls us friends. What a wonderful promise. Jesus will be our friend if we just obey. What a novel concept!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Broken Bread or stale toast?

The first "Easter" service observed was of course when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women went to the tomb where Jesus’ body was. They went to anoint His body with spices they had prepared for burial, but what the women discovered was an empty tomb.

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had made ready. And they found the stone rolled back from the tomb, But when they went inside, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus." (Luke 24:1-3, AMP)

To be fair they really did not expect an empty tomb. However, they did bring what "they had made ready."
The spices they prepared were brought to the tomb to anoint His body. What these women made ready was not for them at all, but for the Lord they loved.

We, as Christians today, also bring what we have "made ready." The difference is what we have made ready is ourselves, spent on our own selfish desires. We get dressed up in our new Easter clothes, dye eggs, give the kids candy and "go" to church instead of being the Church. We go to the tomb of our religious obligation and call it a "sacrifice" because it is a sunrise service.

However, the resurrection story does not stop there. They discovered the empty tomb and something else:

"And while they were perplexed and wondering what to do about this, behold, two men in dazzling raiment suddenly stood beside them. And as [the women] were frightened and were bowing their faces to the ground, the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among [those who are] dead? He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He told you while He was still in Galilee That the Son of Man must be given over into the hands of sinful men (men
whose way or nature is to act in opposition to God) and be crucified and on the third day rise [ from death] And they remembered His words." (Luke 24:4-8, AMP)

The women went to the tomb seeking to serve the Lord and were reminded just who it was they were seeking. They were reminded that Jesus is the Lord of the living not the dead. What if the angels who were at the tomb with Mary Magdalene that day were at most of our resurrection celebrations? The message would probably still be "why do you seek the living among the dead" just like it was back then. Most church-goers today think Jesus will be right where we left Him last Easter; just like the two Marys and the other women at the tomb of Jesus on that resurrection morning. So why do we seek the living among the dead? Do we think our cold religion will keep Him frozen in place for our next visit?

Later in the Luke chapter 24 Jesus actually shows up:

"And behold, that very day two of [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, [which is] about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things that had occurred. And while they were conversing and discussing together, Jesus Himself caught up with them and was already accompanying them. But their eyes were held, so that they did not recognize Him." (Luke 24:13-16)

Why didn’t the two disciples recognize Jesus? Could it be they did not expect Jesus to be in their everyday walk? Since they were discussing the recent events, they probably thought Jesus was just where they left Him. Could that be why so many today don’t find the living Jesus? Maybe we think that Jesus is still where we left Him.

Fortunately that is not the end of the resurrection day story:

"Then they drew near the village to which they were going, and He acted as if He would go further. But they urged and insisted, saying to Him, Remain with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent. So He went in to stay with them. And it occurred that as He reclined at table with them, He took [a loaf of] bread and praised [God] and gave thanks and asked a blessing, and then broke it and was giving it to them When their eyes were [instantly] opened and they [clearly] recognized Him, and He vanished (
departed invisibly)." (Luke 24:28-31, AMP)

The recognition of Jesus took place in the breaking of bread, not the partaking of the bread. A common phrase that means "fellowship" is "breaking bread." Isn’t it amazing that they finally recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Brokenness reveals Jesus every time. And brokenness must occur before we can partake of what Jesus offers.

We don’t want a broken loaf these days. We want the unbroken and stale bread of religion. We would rather choke on religion than share what we have by the "breaking of bread" (fellowship) with Jesus and each other. Isn’t it time that we give up our holy days of obligation and playing christian dress up? Isn’t it time we become the Church, the Body of Christ, and allow Him to walk with us daily?

The tomb is empty folks and He is risen.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You gotta serve somebody...

Today at house church we shared Ms. Jan’s favorite meal, homemade grilled hamburgers. Ken mixed up some 100% ground beef with seasonings and we grilled ‘em fresh. They were good. But before all of the eating stuff, we shared with each other what the Lord has shown us individually during the week.

Sharon shared with the group that she had been listening to a CD by Rita Springer. The song All My Days has a line in the bridge that says “Here am I so in Love with serving you”, “you” being God. So many times our thoughts about “loving” God are just thoughts. What does it mean to serve God? Jesus made it plain to His disciples that our love for one another should be so evident that the world would know we are His. “I give you a new commandment”, Jesus said to His disciples, “that you should love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.” (John 13:34 & 35, paraphrased). I think it has been mentioned before, but for clarity sake, love is an action word. Love is proven through relationship, sacrifice and service. The “proof” of our love for God is our love for each other.

This “love” that we are COMMANDED to have for one another is not optional. The americanized gospel taught today puts the premium on serving self rather than others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we simply obeyed the commandments of God? There might be revival in that kind of thinking……

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Grace of God

This past Sunday we met at Kandris’ house. Ken asked if we sing the song “Your Grace is Enough” by Chris Tomlin. The song praises God and expresses thanks for His mercy and grace to us. This led us to other songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “Nothing But the Blood” that give thanks for God’s grace.

Here is a bridge that we have added to “Nothing But the Blood”:

Nothing but the blood of Jesus sets me free,
From the sin that chains me to my past,
Prison bars are broken,
The door swings open,
And I am free at last

I believe this short refrain expresses the tremendous power in the blood of Jesus. According to Romans 3: 20-26, the blood of Jesus is an expression of His grace to us:

"For no person will be justified (made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable) in His sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law. For [the real function of] the Law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin [not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin which works toward repentance, faith, and holy character]. But now the righteousness of God has been revealed independently and altogether apart from the Law, although actually it is attested by the Law and the Prophets, namely, the righteousness of God which comes by believing with personal trust and confident reliance on Jesus Christ (the Messiah). [And it is meant] for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives. [All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward [before the eyes of all] as a mercy seat and propitiation by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over and ignored former sins without punishment. It was to demonstrate and prove at the present time (in the now season) that He Himself is righteous and that He justifies and accepts as righteous him who has [true] faith in Jesus." (Amplified)

In the KJV verse twenty-five of this passage reads as follows:

"Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;"

The blood of Jesus doesn’t just cover over or whitewash or sins. Jesus’ blood offers the remission, or removal, of even past sins. Often we are held captive to the sins of our past keeping us frozen in the present. If our past sins are truly remitted by the blood of Christ we are no longer held captive to them. AND we are freed from sin. The prison bars are truly open; we are no longer bound by those sins that enslaved us.