Monday, January 27, 2014

Our/OUR Past: A Stepping Stone or Quicksand

Understandably some parts of the Bible are more engaging than others. Stories and the exploits of others tend to peak our interest and hold our attention more than unending lists of do's and don'ts.  But these list when rightly understood reveal a rich and complex spiritual heritage which each believer can claim as his/her own. Psalms. Proverbs, The Prophets and even the historical books all  find their beginnings in the understanding of an agreement between God and His people.
Too many times we focus on our past instead of OUR past which God specifically orchestrated in order to present the world with a Savior which it so desperately needed.
Maybe a few short years ago (our past) you found yourself in an uneviable or even embarrassing circumstance(quicksand). But a few thousand years ago (OUR past) God was putting together a plan with you in mind (stepping stone). Maybe just yesterday (our past) you did or said something which weighs heavily in your spirit today (quicksand). The plan God put into motion (OUR past) and fulfilled in Christ allows us to move past those failures embrace his already promised forgiveness, turn our attention towards Him and do things differently( stepping stone).
In our Sunday service we often take questions by either text or sometimes a person will just ask during service. This past weekend this was one of the questions asked:
What if I don't think God will ever forgive me?
Well for one, it really doesn't matter what we think about God in this context. God doesn't act based on our opinions or (usually) feelings. He is rock solid in His word and He says we are forgiven in Christ. Period.Stepping Stone
The human problem still exists however. How we feel usually dictates our actions. Usually these feelings about God are guilty consciences because we have wronged a person. If that person can't or won't forgive us then surely God won't either. Or if I can't forgive then God won't forgive me. Either way, we make God in our fallen image, which is incapable of forgiving, or being forgiven on our own. Quicksand.
The Bible is God's gift to a fallen world in dire need of answers. Even those hard to understand books are part of these answers. The Bible shows humanity in fallen and broken state. The Bible also shows the perfect grace, mercy and yes, justice of God. If there is a time when you just can't think God would forgive you then read these words from God found in the book of Numbers, after the Israelites rebelled time and time again.
20 So the LORD said, "I have pardoned them according to your word;
21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.
22 "Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice,
23 shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. Numbers 14.
After they refused to go into the promised land, God still pardoned. Moses interceded as does Christ for us. And while this pardon didn't gain them entrance to the promised land, God explicitly stated they were pardoned. I bet those people didn't feel too forgiven!
Which brings us to our closing point: Earthly consequences don't reflect heavenly forgiveness. We live in a world governed by laws, which is good! Imagine life where your neighbor could ransack your house at will. Break the law and there is a price to pay. Courts and our justice system usually see to this.
But in the Kingdom of God, He is the judge, the prosecution, the defence, the jury. We are the accused, but that guilty verdict was placed upon Christ on our behalf. How do we know this? The Bible. Our spiritual history (OUR past) shows the plan of God and how He never gave up on humanity, even when humanity had given up on itself (our past). It's a solid truth that can allow us to stand safely (stepping stone) and securely in His grace. The other choice is to focus on how bad we messed up and sink (quicksand).

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Story

For most people reading the Bible from cover to cover is a huge undertaking. Over the next year I am studying the Bible book by book and then during our services speaking about the theme that emerges from each of these books. I have encouraged each member of our church to do the same.
So far we've covered Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus, halfway through the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible).  In my Bible thats about 171 pages. So divide the amount of pages by days and you have about 8 pages to read a day. (throw in the snow days and that number of pages decrease).
Genesis and Exodus are both in a story form, which slowly dissolves when you reach the book of Leviticus. Laws abound, ceremonies and sacrifices take center stage. Admittedly the Bible does become harder to understand. But rather than dropping the whole plan, circle those hard to read texts as unread (like many of our emails) and come back to them. Underline those passages that God speaks to you through. What you may discover is that you understand more than you thought you would!
The Bible is a continuous account of God dealing lovingly with the human race. He shares His grace and mercy, makes and fulfills promises on every page. And then there are those places God shows us that His justice will prevail at the expenses of our comfort. Those may be the passages which cause us problems.
Understanding the Bible is not a prerequisite for our salvation, but learning about His ways and promises allows us to enjoy our salvation given by God. So keeping that idea in mind here are a couple of points which help me to stay the course while reading those "hard" passages.
1. There are no short cuts. God does not fast track anybody. College courses allow us to "clep" courses, but God doesn't. He wants us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ"
2. We never arrive. The children of Israel began their spiritual decline as soon as Egypt was out of sight.  Their delivery from bondage was just a step in the direction of God's plan, not the final plan itself.
3. God knows us better than we do ourselves, no matter how much we self evaluate or read self help books. He created us and knows us.
4. God didn't call us out of bondage to sit on the sidelines to observe. The Children of Israel were chosen, as are we, to share the knowledge we are given by God to the world.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Over the last few months I've taken a break from blogging, writing and even stepped back in some areas of ministry around the church. A huge no no in the world of social media! Marketing specialist will tell you blog and blog often, paste yourself all over the place! I've never been a fan of self promotion, which is probably why I'll never make the big times! That's OK I really don't want that any way. I want Jesus to make the big time!
My new book, The Peter Perspective, is due out in a couple of weeks, which makes two books I've penned. But even with the new book coming out, I shy away from even mentioning that I've had two books published. I just can't get past the feeling that I am promoting me instaed of Jesus. Make no mistake, I want people to read the books and hopefully strengthen their walk with Jesus and I know that sooner or latter I will have to take the steps needed to promote those books, but I will do it prayerfully. Ego is often a quiet, unseen enemy of the Christian walk. But ultimately, some one will think that it's all about the books and less about Jesus, I can't help that. This is much like the new series I am undertaking at our Church, The Bible. It's all a matter of focus.
Every week I take a book of the Bible and go through it as much as time allows. It's not an in depth study but more of a look at important passages, themes and people which emerge from the pages of sacred text. This week I am in Leviticus, uh-oh! That's tough book considering Christians use certain passages from it to condemn actions of others and usually they end up condemning people. Too late! People are already condemned without Jesus and no amount of following rules will change that!
Much like my book, where I want people to focus on Jesus, the writer of Leviticus gave these rules to show people they should focus on the perfection of God. A few days under these rules set up by God for the people, should have shown the inability to keep all these rules. They needed a permanent solution. Jesus. Abraham back in Genesis was the first person to recognize the gospel promise, God was confirming this promise to the people he had chosen. The Holy nation He was building would be a testimony to His love and Grace.
Holy people live in a state of holiness because of God's gift of righteousness through His Son, not our efforts. But even with that knowledge Christians continue to quote the OT laws or throw them in the face of "sinners" rather than remember Jesus' words, "Love God and love people". Make no mistake running afoul of God's plans creates some strife among people. There are rules we must follow. The law was nailed to the cross and fulfilled by Jesus as payment between us and God. But a debt remains when people sin against one another. Yes God forgives, that is a done deal, but people aren't God. There will always be the need for reconciliation and repentance among people. And yes while forgiveness is promised by God, repentance allows us to live like forgiven people.
So when you read the OT and all it's laws, make sure your focus remains on the promise of Jesus, which God was proclaiming, instead of letting our ego proclaim our rightness because we keep these unkeepable laws.