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Change

Change… 
 
That is not a word that most of us like. In fact studies have shown that almost 90 percent of humanity does not like change! However the ironic, sad, scary, frustrating (whatever you want to label it) reality is…  life is constantly changing. We can’t escape change and if we try to we either end up frustrated, discouraged or completely isolated from reality. 
 
The simple solution is of course embrace change! Unfortunately like most challenges in life that is not something we can do with mere will power alone. We need something outside of or greater than us and our ever changing world to hold on to. We need an anchor or for you Lost fans we need a “constant”. 
 
Of course modern pyscology and our self-help culture tells us that we are responsible to create those anchors. The idea is that we can sow into and focus on something until we create something that can stand untouched by the forces of change. Career, finances, religion and family are all reputable and encouraged anchors to hold onto. There is just one problem in that… not one of those things has ever been able to starve off change!
 
Careers suddenly end, finances can disappear like water down a drain, religion is ever morphing with each new culture and its fads and families, well they are all about change. Babies change into toddlers, toddlers change into children, children into teenagers and you catch my drift. Its seems that nothing is outside of changing so how can we have a reliable anchor? 
 
I believe that there is only one answer, one anchor, one constant that won’t fail us, that truly will not change… JESUS. 
 
Isaiah 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.
 
Hebrews 1:10 “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe, like a garment they will be changed.  But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”

 
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

 
God does not change! He is the same from beginning to end.  As the writer of Hebrews says from yesterday, today and forever. We are being reminded of that truth as we look at the book of Judges. God has not changed, He has always been sovereign, always been loving, always operated with grace! What a securing thought in our ever changing world! There is an anchor that will not fail, there is a constant that will not change and we know him! Beyond that He knows and loves us!
 
So why change? Why do we live in a world were everything is always in flux? If God never changes why is so much of His creation subject to change? 
 
Let me take a crack at those questions… We live in a world full of change so that we can learn to better know, trust and focus on our anchor! Our lives will always be encompassed in change so that we stay in trusting relationship with our constant…  with Jesus. Change is actually an agent of grace to keep us aware of our need for Jesus!
 
If that is true then do we maybe need to think about and relate to change differently? Instead of something to avoid, fear, worry about, fight against or complain about what if change was  something we embraced knowing its designed to bring us into deeper relationship with our anchor, with Jesus? What if we saw change as an agent of grace to bring us into deeper and closer relationship with Jesus?
 
Last week we talked about some of the changes we going through as a church community. The way we meet, the people we meet with and the things God has called us to engage with are all changing… I had to laugh last week when I walked into the church and saw even the physical look of the building was changing again!! Yes change is happening all around us… my encouragement to us is lets change the way we engage change! 
 
I propose we let all this change empower us to fold into our anchor in a greater way than ever! Let’s be a people who encourage one another to trust Jesus and his grace more than ever before. Let’s start to see change as a opportunity to walk closer to Jesus, experience more of His freedom and come alive to His will in our life. When we start to feel the fear that often comes with change and new season creep in lets engage with our constant, Jesus the one who never changes and never lets us down and watch how He will empower us to engage change!

 

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“The Doctrine Conundrum” by: Aaron Tilbury

Recently, I’ve been blessed with the expansion of relationship with other brothers and sisters outside my direct church family – and like The Gospel will do – like JESUS will do – those lines become blurred and the family just becomes …well…more family. Still church…still the body…just MORE connected.

In this season I’ve been given the grace to walk through some doors in ministry to young people at a local high school. Which in turn has young people loving one another, which in turn has teachers asking “How?” and allows us to once again say, “Jesus.” Awesome grace and utterly without merit by us.

Maybe as significantly for me, I have been walked and hand-held by Christ and His Holy Spirit through some things; how I am made, who I am in my family and in my greater community…growth that has resulted in new freedom. Through hiccups to be sure, my family and I have gotten better at loving people and being loved by them. That is freedom. Looking at the title of this essay side by side with the truly wonderful season we are in – it wouldn’t be a reach to say, “What is the conundrum then? Love is abounding! Seems pretty simple to me. Enjoy it!”

In all of these recent experiences one theme has been prevalent in discussion and in the hearts of people who have shared time with me – doctrine is bad and we just need to love one another. But the more I pray about this, the more I see that love sometimes just really isn’t simple. Because love isn’t an accident.

My first thought as I write this for example, is “God is Love.” Where did I get that from? From scripture as many of us know – The Bible. In fact, that statement is part of a larger whole statement that also tells us what love looks like when it plays out on the planet. Scripture says “…and this is how we know what love is, that we lay down our lives for our people.” I won’t spend too much time sidetracking but you have to admit that those two statements are both awesome and life-changing if we comprehend them. And if God is love and love is laying down our lives – then it makes sense that Jesus would be our Messiah. So you see, The Bible points to Jesus always…but the point is, that is a doctrinal argument. It is not a simple feeling.

One of the many theological issues I have had a chance to discuss with peers recently is the afterlife. I couldn’t help but notice here is an area where there are an array of beliefs within any given church community – and where I see many churches who teach a doctrine on the subject – flat out misinterpreting scripture and context of The Word. Yet it is in scripture that while addressing the Pharisees and their faulty views on judgment Jesus said, “Is this not why you are wrong? Because you know neither the scriptures or the power of God?” The fact is that Jesus argued doctrine more than once. Paul made a career of doing it and Peter wasn’t a slouch. James loved arguing doctrine it seems. By all accounts – all the people we revere in our faith – doctrine was both important and a way of knowing God and repenting.

Last Sunday our pastor tore it up. He spoke to what we believe as Christians. That Christ is the Son of God. Lived perfectly. Died sinless. Rose again. Gave His Spirit into His believers and bought our salvation. I have never heard so many amens in my church. Ever. It was AWESOME.

But. Those are doctrinal statements of faith. They aren’t simply our pastor loving us. They were our pastor, in The Spirit, loving us with GRACIOUSNESS & TRUTH. In the same way that, in scripture, we are told to worship in Spirit and in Truth. You see, I can worship in Spirit and freely feel however I want…but when I worship in TRUTH, when I pray in TRUTH, when I let go of the supposition that love must be free for ME to define and I allow Jesus to tell me WHO HE IS…I am torn asunder. Broken down. Revealed for what I am…dependent upon God to define me. No longer able to legalize love and call it freedom of expression. I am dust with His life the only life in me. Simply the clay. I do not get to define what love is – make it simple or complex – for LOVE IS HIM. Love is a lion. Love is a Sword. Love is a shield. Love is a baby crying in a manger. Love is a covenant God made with himself. Love is a man-God-god-Man we can never comprehend. Love is a rebel. Love is a rascal! Love is….

Anything but simple.

I know we like to say it is simple. That we have made things too complex – how could we not look at the American Church or The Christian Machine and not agree with that (unless we are an avid part of it)? It can truly feel simple when love is at its most complete in us – when we abide – it can feel effortless. After all, it is freely offered to us, His precious grace is, and it is equally available to all of us in equal measure.

But what if the feeling of simplicity is also grace? That we can rest in Jesus and feel rest is awesome…but is feeling love and rest synonymous with being simple?

Is it possible we have become so weary of bad doctrine that we reject doctrine as a notion in its entirety? That we have swung so far away from the good doctrine when we reject doctrine entirely. We lose sight of the fact that JESUS IS THE DOCTRINE.

And He is anything but simple.

Look, we must always reject the idea that Our Lord can be put in a box. That The Law brings life to us – but we must also never forget that the Cross is not simple. He just makes it simple for us to be accepted. He makes it simple for us to relate to Him…all that is true. But the places He may ask us to go are not simple. The person He made YOU to be – is NOT simple. And ultimately we need doctrine as much as we need love because it is the same thing. We do not advance in our love so far that we stop needing scripture or else we believe it is NOT the revelation of Jesus and that the Word is alive. We do not advance in our spirituality to a point where we can afford to forget doctrine leads others to Christ as well – so we should know what we believe and why. There may be but one thing we should stand firm on. Christ and Christ crucified. But that is doctrine.

So let us reject the doctrine of man – always. Even if it seems freeing to make our own rules. Let our spirits lead some of us on crusades to limit the damage false doctrine can do. Let’s throw out the bells and whistles! But let us also follow the doctrine of Our Lord Jesus Christ when He said |Today the scriptures are fulfilled in me.”

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I’m So Blessed… by Kris Rudin

How many times have you heard (or said), “I’m so blessed …”? Usually, the rest of the sentence is something along the lines of “…to have such a great family” or “…to have a great job” or “…to have such a nice house (or car or boat or cabin or…)” or “…to have my health”, or similar statements. It all falls into the mental category of “being blessed by God”, or at least that’s what we think. But are having those THINGS (for that’s what each is) really God’s blessings? If they are, then what does it mean when you don’t have those things? What if you lose your job? What if you lose your health? Your house? Does that imply that you are somehow outside of God’s blessings? What about people in third world countries who live in a hut with dirt floors and no electricity and have to walk a mile to get water? Are they not blessed by God? What exactly are God’s blessings?

First, let’s look at the definition of ‘blessed.’

  • Dictionary.com –
    • Divinely or supremely favored
    • fortunate
  • Merriam-Webster
    • Having a sacred nature
    • connected with God
    • very welcome, pleasant or appreciated
  • TheFreeDictionary.com –
    • made holy by religious ceremony; consecrated
    • worthy of deep reverence or respect
    • characterized by happiness or good fortune

Notice that there are basically two different ways to view being blessed: fortunate (lucky) or somehow connected with God (sacred/divine). I would argue that most of the time when Christians say “I’m so blessed…” they think they are referring to the divine/sacred type of blessing, but in reality, they’re just lucky.

So, let’s see what the Bible says about being blessed. First, let’s look at some Old Testament verses:

Psalm 1:1 – Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers [NIV]

Psalm 32:1 – Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. [NIV]

Psalm 40:4 – Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. [NIV]

Psalm 127:4-5 – Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; [NIV]

Psalm 146:5 – Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. [NIV]

Jeremiah 17:7 – But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. [NIV]

The New Living Translation uses “how joyous” or “how joyful” instead of the word “blessed”, and other translations use “happy” or even “lucky”. Clearly, the meaning here is one of being in a positive emotional state, which arises from the actions each verse describes. And all these verses, except Psalm 127, describe a relationship with God – not hanging out with ungodly people; trusting God; having hope in God; being forgiven by God. Clearly, God’s blessings come from relationship with Him, and not from what we think He’s given us (good job, nice home, loving spouse). So, to be blessed means you are happy or joyous because you are in relationship with God– not that you have some tangible thing or things. Only Psalm 127 connects this state of well-being with having some thing – in this case, children. And in the context of the era, it was critical for a man to have many children, since many died before reaching adulthood, in those days. All of the other verses are clearly about being joyous because of our relationship with God, and describe this as ‘being blessed.’ Is this what we generally think of when we say we’re “blessed by God”? I don’t think so.

So, what does the New Testament say about being blessed? Probably the most famous scripture about blessings is The Sermon on the Mount, where we find the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-10. Here it is, in The Message version:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”

Wow! What a contrast to what we generally think of as being blessed! In fact, verse 10 is about being persecuted for God! How many of us pray for that, when we pray for God’s blessings? And verses 3 and 4 also don’t sound like ‘being blessed’ – being at the end of my rope or losing what’s most dear to me aren’t things I generally pray for!

Note that each verse actually describes the blessings that arise in each case. And all of these blessings are about our relationship with God. Not one of these verses is about THINGS. They are all about a state of mind or being. And this is a Kingdom principle – God is not concerned about our THINGS, he is concerned about who we ARE and how we relate to Him and to the people in the world He came to save. We are blessed when we are in relationship with God and with others. This is very different from our usual idea of being blessed!

Let’s look at some other verses from the New Testament:

James 1:12 – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. [NIV]

1 Peter 3:14 – But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. [NIV]

Romans 4:7 – Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. [NIV]

The verses in James and Peter again talk about being blessed in the midst of hard times – during trials or suffering. When we ask God for His blessings, do we really want trials and suffering? But, if you think about it, if we do persevere through hard times, it’s only by the grace and strength of God, which are true blessings! And, of course, the verse in Romans is pretty straightforward – if your sins are forgiven, you are blessed. Well, since Christians have accepted Christ’s death as the payment for their sins, ALL Christians are forgiven. And because we are forgiven, we can have relationship with God and can rejoice in Him – and THAT is the blessing!

So, what the Bible says and what we normally think of as blessings are quite different. God’s blessings involve being in right relationship with Him and with others. And God’s blessings seem to show up when we are in times of trials or difficulties – at the end of our rope. We don’t see verses saying, “Blessed are the rich,” or “Blessed is the one with a good job,” or “Blessed are those who have no troubles.” But we do see verse after verse promising blessings when things are at their worst – because blessings are not about THINGS, but about our relationship with God.

Now, I’m not saying that God doesn’t provide for His people. There are many verses about how He is our loving father and has good gifts for us. (Of course, what really are God’s gifts? Are they things? What about the ‘gifts of the spirit’ – these sound more in line with what the abovementioned verses talk about: relationship with God and with people.) God surely is on our side, and God can certainly provide material things for us, but I’m afraid that Christians today are focusing too much on these material things, thinking those are the blessings of God. But the blessings that God really have for us are far beyond mere physical things. God has true blessings that do not rust and do not go away when times are hard. God’s blessings are more concerned with our spiritual growth, than the growth of our bank account.

So, I challenge us all to be more mindful of what it means to be blessed by God, and seek the true blessings of the spirit. Next time you say you are blessed, think about these verses. Yes, you ARE blessed, but not in the way you think! ;-)