Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Healing Grace: Hard Times

For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. Ephesians 2:8-9 Voice

 We've been studying about the gracious healing power of God. We've seen in our past studies that God is a good God. We've seen that God isn't ordaining our despair or destruction. As I write today I sensed impressed to focus on God's goodness when we are experiencing hard times and difficult situations and even tragic circumstances.

 Often when one mentions the goodness of God and His healing mercies inevitably questions arise. Fellow believers and even unbelievers beg the question if God is so good why am I experiencing such difficult and trying circumstances? Because so many have seen catastrophes played out on a global scale and some have even experienced cataclysmic events in their life, often there is serious objections and apprehension in proclaiming God's all the time goodness and healing Grace.

God Hasn't Forgotten or Abandoned You

 God is good and He hasn't forgotten you. First, when dealing with adversity we must understand we can find hope and comfort and encouragement in the Word of God. In His Word, we can see God's attitude and answer to our situation.
33 I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order. John 16:33 Voice

 In Christ, we have peace and wholeness. Note He distinguishes Himself from the perils and calamities in the World. This proves once again, God isn't the author of these events. His Word comforts because it reveals He isn't the author of our circumstance.
God is our shelter and our strength When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help. So why run and hide?No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails. When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless. When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless. Even in heavy winds and huge waves, or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless. Psalm 46:1-3 Voice

 His Word comforts and exhorts because it reveals just how big our God is and by trusting in Him we have nothing to fear. The Word comforts because it reveals that God is our help. He can turn our situations around. He can turn a trial into a triumph! That may sound cliche but it is true nonetheless. 

 When dealing with adversity, the second thing we must understand is that we can always run to God. Often, when difficulty arises so many run away from God. This is due, more times than not, to the wrong image religious tradition has created about our Father God. God is a strong tower. He is our refuge, (here). He is who we can always find help in times of difficulty. 

 Yes, but what if I caused my own difficulty, you may ask. What if this sickness or disease was brought about through neglect, or poor choices or blatant sin? What if this financial strain is of my own doing? Obviously, we all foul up, or miss it, or blow it. Making poor decisions can have adverse and negative consequences in the natural. Does this mean God is so displeased with me that He won't hear or answer my cry for help or healing or deliverance? 
 Religious tradition would argue, you made your own bed so lie in it. Though poor choices can bring about negative circumstances, they don't negate God's love and tender mercies. 
If we are faithless, He remains faithful [true to His word and His righteous character], for He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 AMP
 Even when we are faithless He remains faithful. When adversity strikes, run to God. Even if you are the cause, God can change things around and turn it to your good and bring glory to His name. 

 Finally, when dealing with adversity rest in who God is. Rest in His faithfulness and goodness. In these tough times, God is our peace. He brings a peace that surpasses natural understanding. His loving mercy brings peace and comfort to troubled souls. His peace is supernatural, it will bring strength and boldness and carry us through the difficulties we face.

 God is our hope. Hebrews says God's hope is the anchor for our soul. When confusion abounds and despair and turmoil tries to flood our minds and it all seems lost His hope is the anchor. His hope brings clarity for confusion, encouragement for despair and calmness for turmoil. 

 God is our comfort. He is our ever present help. He never promised a challenge-free life on Earth but He did promise that He would never leave or forsake us. This is one of the most powerful promises that bring triumphant victory in all circumstances. No matter what we are going through He is right there with us. 

 In summation, whenever adversity strikes, no matter the root cause, we can find our help and hope and comfort in God. He is a faithful God. He is the restorer of broken down lives and circumstances. 

 In difficulty, recall just how good and faithful He has already been. Even in times when we know we didn't earn or deserve it, He showed up with love and mercy and restoration. In this goodness and mercy we can place our faith and we can trust that He will turn it to good whatever we are going through. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Healing Grace: Father knows best?

 For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. Ephesians 2:8-9 Voice

 We've begun a new series of study on God's healing Grace. For by His Grace we've been saved, not our efforts. This word saved from the original Greek is the word Sozo. This word is defined as to save, to deliver, to protect, to heal and make whole. It is His Grace that brings us healing, not our striving or efforts.

 Whenever we mention the healing power of Jesus inevitably so many are quick to point out that God is sovereign and in control of all situations. I suppose this is some form of objection to believing that God is able and willing to heal His people. Apparently we are supposed to derive some comfort in suffering or loss knowing that somehow God was designing the circumstances.

Father God knows best?

 The narrative we are supposed to follow in dealing with tragedy is that God knows best. He has a plan and a purpose for your life. When one experiences being laid off from work, being involved in an automobile accident, a debilitating disease, or suffering the loss of a loved one,  many persevere to understand the circumstances or search for a cause as to why they had to experience it. 

 Traditional Christianity teaches that God is sovereign, and in charge and He knows what He is doing by taking away your loved one, or bringing this illness to you. God knows what's best so just trust Him. For me, this narrative offers little comfort and exacerbates the feelings of hopelessness. 

 The truth that is established from God's Word is that Father God does know what is best. That is why He sent His only Son to be the propitiation for all our sins, and transgressions. He took our place and paid the ultimate price. Christ secured our eternal salvation. He made a new and living way for us to be in a relationship with the Father. He took all the curse upon Himself in the Finished Work and exchanged our death sentence with His eternal life. We were made fully alive in the Finished Work.

 In this Finished Work, He exchanged our unrighteousness, our sinful nature, our pains, our sicknesses, infirmities, our lack and insufficiency for His very righteousness and new life and wholeness and abundance. There is nothing that the fall and subsequent curse polluted and corrupted that wasn't made new in His redemptive work on our behalf. In Him, we find the full expression of abundant living.

 Yes, brother God did a great work for us, but what about Paul's thorn or Trophimus being left because he was sick (here)? Well, I'd have to respond what about Jesus and what He accomplished in the Finished Work?
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:38 NKJV

 Here we see clearly recorded by the Apostle Peter under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, what exactly Jesus went about doing under the influence, leading, and direction of Father God. Take note that Jesus wasn't sending tragic circumstances, or plagues or famine or "natural" disasters. If God is the source of our tragedy or pain or suffering, how can one come to Him and find comfort?

 How can we take rest from our weariness, or find peace in the midst of adversity if our Father God is the one causing the distresses or ordaining the destruction of our lives? No God is never the source of our suffering or tribulation, He is the source of our salvation and deliverance. 
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19 NKJV
Receive even more comfort reading this same passage from another translation
Hard times may well be the plight of the righteous— they may often seem overwhelmed— but the Eternal rescues the righteous from what oppresses them. Psalm 34:19 Voice

 Am I teaching that if we have enough faith we will never experience adversity? Of course not. I am just revealing that the source of our affliction is never God. That God has made a way for us to receive deliverance and help in time of distress. As I have stated in the past, we live in a broken, fallen and fractured creation. This is the reason we there is so much anguish and destruction and disaster and disease. 

 Truly, God does know best. He brought to us this amazing plan of redemption. His Grace provided a way of escape, a way for us to receive new life and complete peace. God is sovereign. This simply means He is the only One. He is the supreme judge and ruler over all creation. He certainly has the capability to send death and famine and destruction. He is God and He can do what He wills. However, death, destruction, despair are not in His nature. God can't send or ordain what He doesn't have. 

 We can run to our Father God when the adversity and evils of this World system seem to overwhelm us. We can always find healing, peace, freedom and deliverance in His hands. Even when we are experiencing the collapse of all we know due to our own failures or misdeeds we can still find shelter in His arms of Grace. In Christ is are our healing, our deliverance, and wholeness.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Healing Grace: God is a Good God

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV

 We are beginning a new series of study on the healing power of God. This study will focus on His healing Grace. So often when healing is mentioned it conveys a burdensome, you must do this or that, and there is something wrong with you mindset. Relinquish, any performance mindsets when it comes to His healing Grace.

 This amazing Grace of God ambushed my heart and mind. Grace captured me with His overwhelming love and goodness. Surrounded by perfect love and acceptance I fully submitted to receiving all of Him in all of me. When I realized how much He was for me and was not against me, I realized I can trust Him with every area of my life. 

 If the same God of Grace, could redeem you, forever forgive you, cleanse you, make you perfectly acceptable, no longer count your sins against you, make you alive with His life, give you His righteousness and seal you with His Spirit and eternally save you, how much more would He do for you in every other area of your life? This Grace has no limits. This overwhelming goodness works in all matters that pertain to life.

Just how good is He?

God is a good God. He is a good Father to all. His love is eternal and everlasting. God isn't fickle. He doesn't love you today but tomorrow He's not so sure about you. His loving kindness is better than anything this life can offer. 

 Here is some good news, God is not the author of your difficulty or despair. Whenever disaster or difficulty or despair is discovered usually many attribute the circumstances to God. If God was so good or loving why did this happen or why didn't He stop it?

 God is God in Heaven. He is everlasting and Lord over all creation. This in no way means He is the source and creator of all the evil we see in the Earth. Even under Law look at how God looked out for those under the Covenant, (here). 

 God gave the first man, Adam a beautiful creation. Under temptation from satan, he rebelled against God and chose his own path. This allowed the enemy access to this Earth. This sin caused this creation to become fractured. This fallen, fractured creation is truly the source of the evils and destruction we see around us. 

 This week for example, we saw two horrific reminders of how far fallen creation is. First, a young celebrity was murdered after performing before a crowd. The second event we saw a deranged individual ascribing to an ideology of hate and anger and violence unleash carnage on unsuspecting nightclub patrons. We look for answers in the political arena. We ask why. The true answer is clear. Sin and its fallen aspect harden the hearts of those it still holds captive. 

 Where was God? He was on the throne. His love would never ordain such despicable acts of violence. Some tradition ruled minded believers suggested that the nightclub rampage was God's judgment against the lifestyle of those nightclub patrons. This is the basic response from religion. Either God ordained tragedy for some purpose or it must be God punishing folk.

 Jesus took all the wrath and judgment for all humanity in the Finished Work. If God didn't ordain it, or it isn't His judgment, then what is left to conclude? We live in a fallen World that is awaiting final redemption. Where is God's hands in this or any other tragedy? When we see people responding in love to protect others, to aid others and those bringing relief you have seen God's hands in action.

God is a good Father who doesn't ordain destruction. He isn't looking to punish or "get" you when you fail. His love is looking for you to reveal His great Grace and mercy towards you. We can fully trust our Father in all situations. Even in the midst of darkness when life doesn't make sense He has promised to be with us and He will never forsake us. He freely gives us His peace, His comfort, and His joy. His healing Grace will mend each and every hurt, wound, and disappointment. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Scandal of Grace: Eternally Saved and Secure

God has already saved us and called us to this holy calling—not because of any good works we may have done, but because of His own intention and because eons and eons ago (before time itself existed), He gave us this grace in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. 2 Timothy 1:9 VOICE

 Grace, Grace, scandalous Grace. What have you done? You've given New Life to spiritually dead ones. You have pardoned and forgiven once for all time and eternity all those who simply respond. Scandalous Grace what else have you done? This scandalous Grace of Almighty God has given eternal security to all those who are in Christ. 

 Wouldn't it seem fair enough if all Christ did was purchase our forgiveness of sins and impute His righteousness to us? Wouldn't it seem reasonable that Christ would then demand of us that we  maintain our own salvation? That it was left up to us to strive to do our best and put forth much effort to make it to the end? It would seem within reason, but His Grace is exceeding, and far above all expectations.

 His scandalous Grace has not only ensured our total forgiveness, perfect acceptance and given us His very righteousness, it also has gone a step further. He has completely solidified this work in the believer by sealing them with His Spirit until the day of complete redemption. By giving us an eternal salvation, not a temporal position we have perfect assurance and security in our relationship with our Father.

 I am aware that this concept of an eternally secure salvation makes many glad, and many others mad. I know because I used to be one of those who opposed this glorious truth. Once I came into contact with this scandalous Grace, it ambushed me, it transformed me and now I herald from the rooftops how secure we are in Christ.

 In reality, some of those who oppose this are viewing their Christian walk through the lens of self-righteousness or personal achievements. Because they have given up profanity, abstain from tobacco, tattoos, and alcohol and don't view R-rated films they feel they have it all together. They forget God's standards are absolute perfection. That is why it is so vital for the foundation of our salvation to be in Christ and His Finished Work and not our performance.

 Yea but what about that passage in Matthew 7? Jesus is clearly talking to believers and revealing they lost their salvation. Does it teach this? Many years ago, I was on a security detail in a courtroom. I recall witnessing two attorneys citing the exact same statute before the Judge. Each had a different interpretation. The Judge looked at the statute and made a judgment call on what was the right view. That's what we must do when it comes to the Scripture. Let's allow the Spirit to give us the correct understanding and not traditions of men.

21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

See? It's right there. They did great works and look they aren't eternally secure. To fully understand this passage, let's begin by answering what is doing the will of the Father referencing? Is it about performance or behavior? No, Jesus reveals to us what the will of the Father is in John's gospel. It is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, (here). Another major issue with rightly dividing this passage is because it references people doing mighty works for God. How could this not be talking about believers? 

To best understand this passage we must first address this issue. Read the passage again. Jesus is saying what will happen. Note that He never said that these folk actually did any mighty works. He said they will say to Him that they've done mighty works in His name. They are claiming to do great works but Christ isn't agreeing with them. Therefore, this is not proof that these are Christians. 

 The biggest key to understanding this passage is the phrase, "I never knew you." This word never in the original Greek means: not even at any time, that is never at all. To help illustrate this further, I can recall receiving a visit many years ago as a child from a distant cousin. I haven't had any personal contact with this person since that visit. Can I now say I never knew him? 

 Of course not. I once knew him as a child, so I have known him. Jesus said of these, He never knew them. He didn't say I once knew you but now I don't. He stated clearly I never knew you. Because people don't see this plain truth, this passage has struck fear in the minds of many sincere believers. If these guys who worked miracles have no assurance, how then can I have a secure salvation? When we know that Jesus wasn't talking to Christians here, this concern is settled. With the truth revealed about this passage, we can rest in our assurance in Christ without fear. 

  His scandalous Grace wouldn't rescue you, just to leave you to your own merits and abilities to finish what He started in you. Religious tradition teaches He who began a work in you expects you to complete it. That is not good news. That is not the gospel.

 This amazing Grace of God sought you, found you and rescued you. He deposited His great love within and gave you new life and exchanged your sins for His righteousness. He began a work in you and will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6). He is completing the work in you. It is not by your efforts or performance. This is the scandal of Grace. Undeserving, spiritually dead, lost souls, made alive with His life within, forever forgiven, made perfectly righteous, and eternally secure in Him.