“That Doesn’t Work for Me”

“That doesn’t work for me.”

I’m writing this post because I can’t stop the title statement from popping up in my mind. It was spoken by someone close to me. It was uttered in response to my comment, “Jesus wants to be in relationship with you.”

If I understood the person who said it correctly, it is a denial that we have a God who did more than “set the clockwork in motion.” The statement was offered more than once, by a person who acknowledges the existence of God.

I believe it conveys a very limited theology. I know it is a position that is held by many. It is not my intent to be critical. But I am sincerely concerned that it will lead to hearing, “I never knew you” when the day comes to meet your maker.

That is not a threat or a judgement, but only a true concern for the eternal destiny of anyone who excludes relationship with Christ from their lives.

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was meant to reconcile man to God. No matter what a person may hold as an image of God, the desire to be in relationship must be part of it. I can’t help but wonder what people who think this way think the bigger plan is.

In my limited experience, everyone who professes a “mental assent” to the existence of God, while holding that He is not involved in our lives, all have another thing in common. I’m going out on a limb, but here it is.

They all have a reluctance to accept scripture. Please forgive me if this strikes you as offensive.

So let’s talk about the veracity of scripture. I’m not going down the road of defending “inerrancy.”

Current culture supports many variants of arguing about how much of the Bible is accurate. Let’s not argue about mankind making errors in translation, or which versions of the Bible are the most accurate.

Let’s take another tack altogether. Instead of quibbling about each word, let’s consider how much of the scriptures have to be denied to hold the “uninvolved God” position.

Even if you just can’t reconcile the first 3 chapters of Genesis with your understanding of empiricism, read the rest of the first book. It reveals much more about the long term plan of God than just the beginning of things.

Beyond that, I’ll offer some other sweeping examples of what must be disregarded.

Almost all of what Jesus is quoted as saying refers to His desire to be in relationship. He saw His own mission as reconciling man to God. To seek and save that which was lost refers to the relationship between man and God, which was lost at the fall of man when sin entered into the picture.

More specifically, try this experiment. Take the book of John, and redact every statement in it that refers to Jesus and love. You won’t have much left, will you?

“I doesn’t work for me” belies an insideous flaw in thinking. Please comment if you think I am off base here. For me to say that I reject the vast majority of the scriptures is very different from saying there are some parts I think are erroneous.

The flaw is this. “What I think is more important than what God thinks”. Our culture has supported the incorrect view that we are more gods than God is God.

Personal preferences, the desire to have our viewpoints given more validity than the viewpoint of God, is preposterous.

Beyond the mere mental assent stance, comes faith in the simple fact that God is superior to us.

If He is not superior, He is not God.

I really would love to hear any comments that would help me better understand how an uninvolved God can be reconciled with scripture.

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The Gift of Life

I don’t mean to turn this blog into a diary. But this example of giving is too great to go unacknowledged.

In a previous post I mentioned having received a liver transplant that saved my life back in 1996. All the following years I have been on immunosuppressant drugs to keep my body from rejecting the “foreign” tissue. For many patients these are tough on the kidneys. After 20 years of extended life, my kidneys succumbed to that stress and failed.

I have been on hemo-dialysis for about 2 years. During this time I have been on the transplant waiting list again. The waiting time averages 5-6 years. Thousands of people every year die while on the list. The need is so much greater than the list of registered donors.

This week I was informed that a friend has offered to do a living donation. I have to thank all the previous people who had offered but couldn’t pass the medical requirements. (They are very careful at the transplant center to not endanger the health of a donor.)

But this man is healthy enough to qualify. Glory to God!

I mention it in blog not just to thank him, but to discuss giving and being blessed. Let’s face it, this is not something most people would do. But one thing that I’ve learned from watching people give over the years, is that they are blessed.

I believe this man will be blessed in many mighty ways. You don’t give give just to get. But if you are open to receiving the blessings of God, the more sacrificial the gift, the more God takes notice that you are living with a loving heart. He loves that.

Have You Learned to Love?

Keep_Your_Love_On_Cropped

A small group of friends and I just finished going through this book together. While I recommend it wholeheartedly, it is the last video segment that I want to write about today.

In  it the author poses a situation where you are in front of God, giving account for your life. The only question He asks is…

“Did you learn how to love?”

Can I share a confession with you here? If I had to answer that question just a few years ago, I’m afraid the honest answer would be no. How can a man get into his 60’s without learning how to love?

All I can do is to be thankful that the love of Christ has finally softened my heart enough to sometimes see His children as He sees them.

Surrendering to His Kindness

I once did a home fellowship group that focused on the importance of understanding, and embracing, surrender.

Our current culture has saturated the meaning of the word surrender with negative connotations. Examples of what I mean are, “surrender” in battle, or ‘surrendering to a weakness”. These are negative in that they are not what we want to do. They carry shame.

Surrender does mean to cease resisting. But it is not always bad. When faced with overwhelming power, surrender is appropriate. Such is the case with God.

There are positive instances of ceasing to resist. They are different because the object being surrendered to is a good thing, not a carrier of shame. There is liberation tied to surrendering to the right things.

Here is a current example of the “right” type of surrendering. In a contemporary Christian song I heard on the radio yesterday I heard the phrase “I surrender to His kindness.”

Let me flesh that out a bit. We have to be willing to receive in order for an intended gift to be appropriated. God has gifts for all of us, both in-born and experiential. But receiving them is subject to our will, as He will not transgress our freedom of choice.

Our old Adamic man is filled with pride. Many of us live out our lives based on being self-sufficient. It goes beyond the “I don’t need your help” mindset. Ever know anyone who just couldn’t accept a sincere compliment graciously?

In my work on operating the Spiritual Gifts, there is a section that describes of the prerequisite of being willing to receive. Instead of pride, which we all know the Lord rightly resists, surrender is the attitude of humility. It is saying I know you want the best for me, and anything you have to give me that will help me to fulfill your will, I accept with grace.

Notice the attitude of submission in the statement above. Submission is the positive by-product of surrender. At least it is positive when the object of the “ceasing to resist” is worthy.

Much of the same could be said of the real meaning of the word submission. But don’t get me started.

 

 

“Knows the Price of Everything, but the Value of Nothing”

The title of this post is from Oscar Wilde. He’s not often quoted in places like this blog, for various reasons. But it seems to me a good starting point for something more valuable.

The quote is the definition of a “cynic”. But it is not cynicism I wish to address. This for people you can recognize the value of things. The issue at hand is more than mere value vs. non-value. It is about the relative value of things.

Some things have more value than others. I’m not talking about the relativism that denies absolute truth.

It might be clearer if I use the term appreciation of value than mere observance of its’ existence. It is how much we appreciate things of true value that counts.

In a confused world where it is easy to observe more tragic circumstances than happy outcomes, the amount we appreciate the good things becomes tantamount.

Every day I encounter people who are unconsciously keeping score of good versus bad. They are discouraged by their tally. That is unfortunate, and not necessary.

So much is dependent upon perspective. We must learn to get past the impression that the good is “out-numbered” by the bad. That is what I’ll call quantitative thinking.

The attitude of gratitude that is often praised is more like qualitative perception.

Perhaps a real life example would help. I recently had the experience of my wife saying something to me that affirmed my worth. It was more than just a pleasurable moment. It held for me so much value, (Quality of Value), that it had the power to “out-number” who knows how many negative things. (Please note that very few of those negatives it out weighed came from her.)

My point is one of valuation. How much value do you place on the good, edifying moments in your life?

Back to the quote in the title… Knowing the value of things. When God lets you know you are in His will, that can obliterate many of the attacks against you. If you place a high enough value on it, a moment of feeling the sun warm your skin can make a year’s worth of physical discomfort disappear.

Faith is a Type of Knowledge

Something came to me while participating in an after sermon discussion group. I want to share it with you.

We were discussing the interconnection of Hope and Faith. The background is this…

People who don’t believe, don’t have faith; have no reason to have hope. The hopelessness of our society is rampant.

Having faith is prerequisite to having hope. So how do we know how to have faith, when it is in something unseen?

There are 4 different types of knowledge.

1. EXPERIENTIAL – This encompasses all empirical knowledge, and personally experienced learning.

2. THEORETICAL – We can know things that are discovered by following systematic thought. We know them because their truth is supported, despite not being experienced.

3. REVELATORY – This type may be debated by those who don’t believe, but is accepted by those who do believe. It takes faith for the revealed knowledge to be accepted as knowledge.

4. FAITH as KNOWLEDGE – When your faith has grown to the place where it has matured into an unshakable fact in your mind… it becomes knowledge. WHEN YOU KNOW THAT YOU KNOW, well, you just know.

This fourth type of knowledge is different from the first 3. It takes time to grow. Time is a component, which is part of the gift that your unique life path imparts to you. That may make it sound a lot like experiential knowledge. It also has a lot in common with revelatory knowledge.

The path we walk is intended by God to bring us back into redeemed relationship with Him. Of course because we have free will, our decisions play a part in what we experience along that path. But God is not “faked out” by our decisions.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

Hebrews; Chapter 11, Verse 6  ESV

 

 

Waking up Eager

Picture a coffee commercial. You are portrayed as a disheveled grump, with no energy before you have your first cup of coffee. Then one cup later you are full of vim and vigor, eager to get out there and make a difference in the world.

TV would have you believe a lot of things, especially if it results in you buying their product. I like coffee as much as the next guy. It’s only recently that I’ve discovered you can get the same benefit for free.

Free coffee for life?…. Where do I sign up?

Waking up eager is just a natural by product of knowing your God-given purpose in life.

Maybe it’s hard for you shake the image of the semi-sleepy slow start to each day. It is not a physiological phenomenon, it is a psychological one. There are tons of examples where your psychology trumps your physiology.

When you know what you are supposed to be doing with your life to please God by fulfilling His purpose for creating you, you can’t wait to get started. It’s not hard to get kids to wake up on Christmas morning, is it? That’s because they are eager to see what’s coming in the morning.

Knowing your purpose can make every morning like that.

Here’s a tip to help overcome the habit of waking up without having your purpose as the first thing on your mind. Go to bed thinking about it. It’s that simple. Just imagine the lives you’ll touch, or whatever it is that your gifting leads you to do.

Now that I’ve posted this as the first thing I did upon waking up, I think I’ll go make some coffee.

Discover Your Calling

I want to let you know what is going on currently. I’m very excited about presenting a 6 part course designed to help people discover and pursue their God-given gifts in order to live a life characterized by being fulfilled and more spiritually mature.

A tall order, no?

Actually, huge progress can be made in 3 steps.

1. Discovering your predisposition in worship style. (Read Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas)

2. Identify your God-given talents, also known as the Motivational Gifts. (Read Discover Your God-Given Gifts, by Don and Katie Fortune)

3. Learn how to Receive and Operate the Spiritual Gifts. (Read 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14.)

Understanding how to combine these three types of gifts will make your unique purpose clear to you. The relatively small amount of effort it takes to gain this understanding pales when compared to the benefits of living the fulfilled life that comes from it.

Now I know that sounds like a lot of reading. I also know that many people don’t find reading to be their favorite way to learn. That’s why I have made a video of the presentation that covers the 6 part course that covers this topic.

If you want to know how to access this resource, just respond with a comment to this post.

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Gifts Versus Motivational Gifts

We say we want to do the will of God. But often we are unsure of what that is for our lives.

A useful guide is to be found in 1 Cor. 12:11.

 

“But one and the same spirit is active in all these types, distributing to each as He wills.” 

 

This verse appears right after the listing of the spiritual gifts. I have observed that there is a great deal of confusion regarding the differences between the spiritual gifts and the motivational gifts. I hope to clarify this issue in this post.

 

In the above scripture reference I would encourage you to take note of the word “Distributed.”

Remember that this verse refers to the spiritual gifts. The distribution of these gifts are specific to the set of circumstances. Our God, the Great Orchestrator, knows what is needed and when.

So, part of the answer to what should I do with my life has to do with being willing to receive and operate the spiritual gifts.

But we are not constantly given an unction, or desire to act in this way, are we?

 

The key to understanding the difference between the Spiritual Gifts and the Motivational gifts lies in knowing that the Motivational Gifts are a permanent part of your design. This is evidenced by the segue between the spiritual and the motivational to be found in 1 Cr. 12:18.

 

“But now God has placed in each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted.”  

 

The analogy to body parts follows. An eye and an ear have separate functions, which stay consistent to their design. That is true of the motivational gifts. Since you are designed to perform a distinct function within the body, operating your motivational gift is automatically doing the will of God. (And you will find it is easier than doing whatever else you might think is the thing to do.)

So, to summarize, we have 2 guides as to what to do with our lives. When in the situation where you are called to do something that is specific to the time and place, or the person you are intended to impact, operating the appropriate gift of the spirit is called for. The timeliness of the need is why it is so important to act on the calling immediately. (As someone must have said, “deferred obedience is disobedience.” – as in Jonah)

But what to do with the rest of your life?

Operating your motivational gift is how you fill in those gaps, staying in the will of God by so doing.

If you are not familiar with what the Spiritual and Motivational Gifts are, see the next post.

 

Abundance

There are many in the Christian culture who have fallen prey to a key misunderstanding.

It has to do with abundance. The specific scripture to look to for clarification is John 10:10.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (NKJV)

I’ve italicized the word “IT” because that will help us see the difference between the common misinterpretation and the truth.

The misinterpretation is that we are promised an abundance of “things” in this life. This is the basis of much of what is called “prosperity preaching.” That is not what has been promised by scripture. The real promise is infinitely more valuable than that.

What does the word “IT” refer in this verse? Life, not things. To have life in abundance far surpasses wealth in material terms.

There is a very dangerous consequence that comes from the popular misinterpretation. To believe we are promised material prosperity, rather than prosperity of the soul, misleads in two ways. A focus on attaining the wrong promise leads to the wrong conclusion about how to live your life.

Not knowing that abundance of LIFE is the promise makes it easy to fall for focusing on the “world” of the the here and now. That makes it easy to forget that your real purpose to fulfill God’s plan for your life, which includes the eternal outcome.

Another consequence is the inevitable disappointment that comes from having unrealistic expectations. I wonder how many people have turned their backs on God because He didn’t fulfill a promise He never made?

I know of one person, who is no longer with us, that claimed that God was obligated to provide whatever he prayed for. Sadly, he never came to understand that the promise was about eternal life, not just “things.”