Emails from Almighty God

eat fresh bible

Often, we benefit from reading the Word just a little bit “fresher.” Perhaps you’ve been approaching it much in the same way, every time. We’ll often get the same sense from it, as a result, and I suppose anything at all is helpful. But we need to reset from time to time. Let’s remember, the Bible has a distinct heartbeat, it’s alive, and it declares to us its vitality and relevance.

The author of the letter will always determine its value.

If an email is coming from a Nigerian Lottery, you quickly dismiss it. From your grandparents, not so much. When we read we look for wisdom and joy, and peace for our souls.

We get a email from a special friend. We find time to read it and imagine them sharing good things. We might get distracted, but we go out of our way to read, and maybe reread all our friend is saying. And if that email is especially good, we’ll save it as a kind of a ‘keepsake.’ And, after reading this great letter, we often will tell somebody close about what the writer shared.

We value the message when we seek to make it permanently available; printing it would the first step to that end. And memorizing it would be a next step, especially if the note was of a very important significance. Sometimes, you may read it out loud to others!

The New Testament is the Church’s collection of letters which we deem as “inspired” to speak to us. These “emails” were saved and treasured as coming from the Spirit of God, They are infused with a living presence, they can be like a sponge saturated with God Himself.

Some “letters” are read quickly, in just 10 minutes:

  • 2 Thessalonians,
  • Titus,
  • Philemon,
  • Jude,
  • 2 & 3 John.

Others can be read in just 20 minutes or so.

  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians,
  • Colossians,
  • 1 Thessalonians,
  • 1 & 2 Timothy,
  • James,
  • 1 & 2 Peter,
  • 1 John.

The following letters can be read in about a hour.

  • Romans,
  • Hebrews,
  • 1& 2 Corinthians.

We must, MUST, read His Words. We must figure out how we can make it work in our busy lives. If we don’t do this–we will find ourselves in spiritual danger.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT

 

Alwyn Wall, Jano Wall and Tom Hooper at Calvary Chapel Melbourne, Florida, playing the 1970’s Christian classic, “Fool’s Wisdom.”

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“The Bible is alive; it speaks to me. It has feet; it runs after me. It has hands; it lays hold of me!”

– Martin Luther

“The Word of God is creative. It is a hammer that crushes the hardness of our insubordination. It is medicine that heals the broken-hearted. And it is light that gives us guidance and hope on our way.”

— John Piper

Be blessed,

Bryan

Grace: Be All You Can Be

“Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes”

Martin Luther

There exists a mentality among Christian believers where our faith will somehow grant us a pile of ‘nice things.’  This concept tells us that material possessions are a sign of His blessing.  If we just have enough faith, we will truly live in a land of wonder, grace and material blessings.

Doing missions work in a very poor town in Mexico, I was horrified to find this twist.  (I had thought that it wouldn’t really work among the desperate.)  But an especially virulent type was working in the hearts of some of my brothers and sisters.  They latched on to this idea that since they followed God that soon they could count on special favors from Him.  (Like a car, electricity, running water.) Some ‘converted’ just to get these things from God! I refuse to judge them, since I see a variation of this in my own life.

From their cardboard shacks, they could somehow generate a special favor from the Lord.  It came as a relief to me that there were some believers, who over time, began to see that grace was really an undeserved gift; material blessings could never come in this way.  God’s grace alone would make them wealthy!

Somehow, we can get confused and believe that if we jump through the right hoops God is obligated to give us what we want.  But the true Kingdom doesn’t work like this, you can’t use Him in this way. Grace was never meant to ‘decorate’ a believer (least not primarily) but to mend us, to prepare the fallen for eternity. God is not your cosmic bellhop.

Listen! God’s grace is given to heal us.  It is a gift, and it will always be a gift.  We don’t deserve it, we don’t earn it for having enough faith.  Grace isn’t supposed to be like this, rather it’s more like an I.V. to a dying man.  It is dialysis to the woman with kidney failure. It is ‘radiation’ to the cancer patient.

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?” 

(Jeremiah 17:9, ESV)

Grace comes to us because we are so very sick. We are deeply affected by a spiritual disease.  We should think (rather than see it as a reward) that it is the treatment for that which has deeply sickened us. His love is seen, especially seen, in the worst of us. That’s the way grace works.

God is not against us because of our sin; He is with us because of our sin.

Just thinking out loud here.  I hope I haven’t offended.

Your desperately “sick” brother,

Bryan

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Living Tethered to the Cross

We live in this place.
We live in this place.

St. Francis of  Assisi once wrote, “The devil never rejoices more than when he robs a servant of God of the peace of God.” Sometimes I think I’ve made the devil dance far too many times.

I confess that peace has never been real high on my list. Love, joy, kindness and even goodness are clear priorities. Peace–well… not so much. Until it’s not there. And then I get frantic by its absence, and look for it with manic bewilderment.

I’m panting for some sign that God still loves me. Anxiety eats at me. I beat myself up by my last failure. The guilt of my latest sin grows until it looms larger than the blood that saved me. Sometimes religious people have the most neurosis.

I’m afraid that we are taking “the present tense’ out of the Gospel. The past tense is far preferable to us as we manage the Christian life. We like to make check marks on our list. Repentance– check. Baptism– check. Bible study– check. I think it gives me a definite feeling of ‘maturity.’

But truth has a way of punching through. I haven’t arrived, and it seems I’m still the hideous sinner I always was. I cannot pretend otherwise, even with a truck load of cosmetics at my disposal. I know, I’ve tried. And I’m still ‘ugly.’ I do know forgiveness, and I do walk in its wonderful light (by grace.)

I read Luther 30 years ago. (And Bonhoeffer would say something similar.)  “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” – Martin Luther (this is the first of his 95 Theses.) There is a present tense here we can’t ignore. I don’t just repent over smoking, or fornication, or of hypocrisy, once and done. But my entire way of living is to be one of repenting.

Repentance is a ‘moment-by-moment’ grace.

As I read the Beatitudes I cannot evade the sense that they are present tense. Read them, they’re obviously not a spiritual checklist. Each verse seems to speak of the time being, the present moment. No list here, guys. It will never be ‘one-and-done.’

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Matthew 5:3-10, NLT

All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.”

–John Piper

Luther’s last words, on his deathbed wrote on a scrap of paper these words, “We are beggars! This is true.” Thirty years before, he was only echoing his first thesis. It seems dear ones, we are to live at the foot of the cross. Everyday. Because we desperately need to.

And perhaps the biggest reason is this: Jesus only comes for ‘sinners.’

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Seeing the Real Thing, [Heroes]

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“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation!”

2 Corinthians 1:3-6

“Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes”

Martin Luther

I don’t know if I have ever met a Medal of Honor recipient, and somehow I’m sure that I would’ve remembered.  I most certainly have not met ‘a spiritual hero’.  I imagine them however to be quite dynamic, gushing over with humility and love.  Somewhat like being a ‘Superman of the Soul’.

Through His Holy Spirit, we were chosen not because we are superheroes, but because we are sick.  God doesn’t inspect us for exceptional qualities that we may someday possess.  Instead He is a paramedic, intervening with grace and mercy in our distress and helping us in our desperation.

Perhaps, there are some who secretly want to be ‘decorated’.  They love the attention and covet glory.  Faith is not really a medicine; it is more like a decoration.  It pins on its chest the Medal of Honor.  The highest award you can receive–the holy medallion of faith (with oak leaf clusters, of course).

Having had lived for a few years in a ‘third world country’,  I’ve gotten to observe up close believers who are pathetically poor.  I have seen poverty crush people like a boy crushes a bug on the sidewalk.  The sense I have can be summed up in a phrase, a ‘desperate gratitude’ for His grace.

Jesus has come and gathered up all their sin and shame and evil, and carried it away from them.  Their walk with Him now is in gratitude, not in attainment.  Here in the USA that ‘seeing’ has become myopic.  We struggle to see clearly.  Actually, we can be almost dangerous if we don’t see this.

We cannot envision anything clearly without an adjustment to our eyes.  There has to be a desperation that moves in and heals us.  Something that will pull our faith like a magnet.

We are not collecting ‘merit badges’, but medication and rolled-up bandages.  We hurt– our friends and family hurt, people we haven’t met yet, hurt.

“The mercies of God make a sinner proud, but a saint humble.”   Thomas Watson

 

 

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