"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Worship As a Way of Life Rather than a Rule of Law

Anytime someone gives nearly six decades of their lives to vocational Christian ministry, there is an expertise that comes from both age and experience. Paul Burleson has been the pastor of small churches as well as some of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States. He's an expert on true Kingdom ministry - he'd never say that, but I do! He writes imminently practical articles on the Christian life at his blog entitled VTMBOTTOMLINE (VTM is an abbreviation for Vital Truth Ministries)

Today my father posted an article entitled What I'm Thinking about Worship.  There's little I could add to the article. For anyone who has ever wondered what the Bible says about Christians gathering "corporately" (that means all together) and what "worship" should look like, you need to read this article - because it removes the word should from the Christians vocabulary when it comes to corporate worship. Enough said - just read:

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What I'm Thinking about Worship
Paul Burleson


I'M THINKING____There is not A SINGLE verse in the New Testament that even hints that the PURPOSE of the gathering of the church is for worship. The New Testament text shows that the purpose of the gathering is all of the "One Another" verses. In other words, it is for the horizontal relationships [plural] and NOT the vertical relationship [singular] that the Church gathers on any given occasion. I'm NOT saying to worship as a gathered congregation is WRONG. I'm just saying it is NOT the PRIMARY purpose for the gathered Body of Christ in the New Testament. I'm thinking that's where we are to be today as well. John Piper said this, "The very epistles that are written to help the church be what it ought to be in this age [are] almost totally devoid of…explicit teaching on the specifics of corporate worship" There are some things that I disagree with John Piper about theologically, but NOT this.

I'M THINKING____Many churches today may be reflecting an "Old Covenant" way of thinking about worship rather than a "New Covenant" way of thinking? To "go to" a place and "to do" certain things a certain way, misses the boat on worship entirely as seen in the New Testament. In the Old Testament people DID COME to the Tabernacle/Temple [House of God] to meet with and worship Jehovah a certain way. They did bring such things such as sacrifices and offerings all the while performing their rituals regularly that led eventually to the High Priest entering into His Presence in the Tabernacle or Temple on that one occasion called the Day of Atonement.

But to see the Church in the New Testament trying to gather IN THAT WAY would be missing the point of the CROSS. Jesus Christ IS HIMSELF our sacrifice, our offering, our feast days, our cleansing, our sanctification, and all the rest that's pictured in the Old Testament Tabernacle OR Temple. Jesus IS our very life! We live DAILY in the presence of God and are to worship DAILY the One Who indwells us by His Holy Spirit. Worship for us is a life of obedience as we're recognizing His presence and enjoying HIM as being our source for All OF LIFE. Then there is a gathering occasionally to encourage and provoke one another. [See Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 10:25]

I'M THINKING____A debate about “music in worship” is a bit silly, if not totally futile. From" no instruments" on one side of the argument [Church of Christ], to those who enjoy what SOME MIGHT CALL "entertainment,” [Lights and Sound, drums and guitars, such as we have in my church called HHBC] ] there is a raging debate going on about it all. But my question is WHY does the way someone musically worships matter to us AT ALL?

In the New Testament music itself is simply NOT addressed, except being seen as a result of the Holy Spirit doing His infilling work. But things like washing feet, serving in love, sharing the Lord's table, teaching the saints and praying for others are addressed as a congregation. We call them the "one-another" verses mentioned in the first paragraph. Even were one to hold to the Old Testament as an example for worship, [I don't, as you can tell] it needs to be remembered that the Israelites many times used drums, trumpet blasts, silence, repetitions, singing, shouting, and numerous other interesting displays to glorify God. Nothing calm, cool or collected about that.

I'M THINKING____Jesus REALLY DID mean something special when He announced that the day has come when those who worship will do so in Spirit and Truth? NO LONGER is worship to be based on doing it a certain way, a certain time or at a certain place. Nor is it supposed to be based on one generation’s “form” of musical worship compared to another. IT IS A WAY OF LIFE!

So, as I read someone say and I paraphrase, whether in a room alone, or with others shouting and jumping with joy, or sitting in silence, or clapping to an electronic synthesizer, or with an organ or piano singing hymns, or just being intoxicated by his love as the Song of Solomon describes it, or even further, when we are reading aloud the Word, or feeding the poor, proclaiming the Good News to the broken-hearted in His name, laughing together, or giving our finances, LET IT ALL BE DONE to the glory of Jesus. We worship because we are reveling in His Grace and enjoying Him and wish to celebrate His matchless GLORY [Greek "Doxa" meaning His "manifested Presence."] whether gathered or scattered!

I'M THINKING____Wade Burleson got it right when he said this...

""Worship in many churches is either on life support or is dead. But it has nothing to do with whether saints play guitars versus Steinway pianos, or videos versus violins, or any other differences in style. Though many call the disagreements over 'contemporary' and 'traditional' styles of worship 'wars,' in reality, the REAL war in worship is the "internal battle in me." [All of us!] God calls me to rest in Him, to enjoy Him, TO BE SO captivated and enraptured by His love and grace for me, that I will burst unless I actively worship God and give expression to what's happening in my soul."

Wade goes on to say...

"Worship is an inner [spiritual] health made audible. If there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming enjoyment of God, then there is no soul-tingling, mind-bending, emotion-touching, will-transforming worship of God! Worship of God is non-existent when enjoyment of God is non-existent. Sure, I can sing songs, play music, and 'do church,' but if there is no understanding of what it means to be fully satisfied in God, then there will be no desire on my part to publicly express my praise and gratitude in real worship of God." [Privately OR Corporately!]

Paul here...

I'M THINKING____I'll just quit typing and have a moment of worship myself.


IT'S SHOUTING TIME!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The New Covenant Understood in the Five "I Wills"

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law in them, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”—Jeremiah 31: 33-34
I am convinced there are a host of problems in the way God's people think about the state of our world today. Many Christians live in fear and bondage because they're looking for something to come instead of faith and boldness in what has already appeared. Evangelicals seem to have little understanding that Christ "made obsolete...and caused to disappear" the Old Covenant and inaugurated a New Covenant through His blood for both Jews and Gentiles alike (see Hebrews 8:13). Many Christians take demands for obedience to the Law and calls to repent for non-performance of the Law and merge these two things (the Law and the Prophets) with the New Covenant message of "love, hope and faith" through Christ's obedience and perfect fulfillment of the Law on our behalf.

After Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant through His death and resurrection in AD 30, there was a forty year period of transition for national Israel to move from the old way of relating to God toward the new. This forty year time period (AD 30 to AD 70) were the "last days" of the Old Covenant; for it was "made obsolete... and was soon to disappear" (Hebrews 8:13). When the New Testament speaks of "the last days," it refers to "the last days" of the Old Covenant demands for obedience to the Law of God in order to receive blessings from God.

Obedience in the Old Covenant required Temple worship in Jerusalem, sacrificial offerings brought to the Temple, and the observance of seven major festivals or holy days (i.e. "holidays"). From AD 30 to AD 70 the Temple still stood. The Jews still brought their sacrifices to the Temple. God's chosen people from the Old Covenant still celebrated the festivals. All the early followers of Christ were Jewish and they preached the good news of Jesus Christ at the Temple in Jerusalem and in the Jewish synagogues throughout the land and even participated in the Jewish Temple festivals.

John, the writer of Revelation, writes to encourage these early Jewish Christian that though they were about to see "the end" of everything Jewish -  the destruction of the Temple,  the fall of Jerusalem, and the furious retribution of the Romans as they marched through the valley of Megiddo to destroy the Jewish way of life - the followers of Christ were never to forget that Jesus is the Christ of God and has established His Kingdom over all, and "the gates of hell" will not prevail against Him building His church. "The end" of the Old was coming; but the New Way of nearness to God through "the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26) was dawning.

Andrew Murray wrote an outstanding book in 1898 called The Two Covenants (available for .99) where he says the problem with many Christians is that they come to Christ with an Old Covenant mentality - fear of God, repentance toward God, hope in God, and promises to change for God - but find that throughout their Christian life the Old Covenant way of thinking only leads to more fear and bondage. The Old Covenant mentality of "If I obey God, then God will bless me" (Jeremiah 7:23) will never remove the desire for sin from me. Murray says that every believer in Christ must progress from an Old Covenant way of thinking to a New Covenant way of resting in the performance of Jesus Christ who perfectly fulfilled the Law, securing all the promises of God's blessings for His people.

But most Christians don't understand what it means to come to Jesus to rest. When Jesus says His "yoke is easy" and His "burden is light," He meant it. He inaugurated a New Way of thinking about our intimacy and closeness with God. I will only draw near to God in full assurance of His love and blessing for me when I see the New Covenant that Jesus established has nothing to do with my performance. In Jeremiah 31:33-34 God reveals to the prophet five things God will do for His people in the New Covenant inaugurated and established by His Son.

Think through these are the five things and learn to rest in Christ.

(1). God will make the covenant for me - "This is the covenant I (God) will make..."

The New Covenant is unconditional; it requires no conditions from me. Whereas the Old Covenant a quid pro quo covenant -- an agreement where "one thing is returned for another," as in God's blessing for my obedience -- the New Covenant is an unconditional agreement where God's grace is given to me without any conditions.  "This is a trustworthy statement, deserving of my full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (I Timothy 1:15).

(2). God will put His law in me - "I will put My law in them, and write it in their hearts..."

Whereas the Old Covenant was an agreement of Law imposed upon a hardened people, the New Covenant is an agreement with the "law of love " impressed upon a softened people. "By this," Jesus said, "will all people know you are My disciples, by your love for one another" (John 13:35).  This internal law of love which is stamped on the regenerate heart is new in the New Covenant. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:35). This new "law" (command) is "written on my heart." I am compelled to love others for "the love of Christ compels me" (II Corinthians 5:14).

(3). God will be forever with me - "and I will be their God..."

 In the Old Covenant God said "Obey my voice, and I will be your God (Jeremiah 7:23 and 11:4). God set conditions on the old agreement,  "There is blessing from me if you obey me" (Deuteronomy 11:27). However, in the New Covenant, "if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who he is" (II Timothy 2:13). God's promise to me in the new agreement is that He will "never fail me." He will "never leave me." He will "never abandon me." (Hebrews 13:5). This New Covenant blessing from God, properly understood,  keeps me free from the love of money and possessions, as well as anxiety over material things (see Hebrews 13:5).

(4). God will forgive even my intentional sins - "for I will forgive their iniquity..."

A person who murdered someone unintentionally in the Old Covenant could flee to a City of Refuge (Deuteronomy 19:4-12). However, the intentional murderer - the one who "lies in wait in hate" (Deuteronomy 19:11) -- would find no mercy, but was handed over to death by the "avenger of blood." Not so in the New Agreement. Even my sins which are clearly intentional, what the Bible calls iniquity, are completely forgiven by God. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Some might object, "But God can't forgive any future sins which I intentionally commit! He only forgives my past sins for which I'm sorry and seek forgiveness." I ask, "Which of your sins were future when Christ died and how many of your sins, if any, are truly unintentional?" Forgiveness is through Christ's blood "at-one-ment." In the Old Covenant sin separated the sinner from God; in the New Covenant, the work of Jesus Christ brings an "at one moment" (atonement) between God and sinners.

As long I measure whether or not I'm intentional in committing sin instead of focusing on God's initiative in forgiving all my sin -- intentional or not -- I'll never be free from the power of sin. In the New Covenant I am forgiven without conditions. My sin is obviously destructive by sin's very nature; but God's gracious new agreement with me by the blood of His Son insures my forgiveness. When you see a sign that says "Wet Paint: Don't Touch" you immediately want to touch it. The law seems harshly imposed. A sign that says "Wet Paint: Feel Free to Touch It But Know That You'll Get Stained" has a tendency to keep you from touching because someone is lovingly and graciously encouraging you to avoid something harmful to you. The first paint sign “Don’t Touch” represents the Old Covenant. The second paint sign "Feel Free" represents the New Covenant.

(5). God will remember no more my sins - "and I will remember their sin no more..."

When God says "I will remember their sin no more," He sets me free to "boldly enter into the presence of God in my time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). God's new agreement with me through the Person and work of Jesus Christ insures that my struggles in this life never keep me from closeness with God. Instead of worrying about my performance, I rest in Christ's performance for me.

My deliverance is from the Lord.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Tribute to Daniel Heath, My Friend and Kingdom Minded Servant

Daniel is my favorite book of the Old Testament. Daniel is also the name of one of my favorite worship leaders of all time. Dan Heath has been the worship pastor at Emmanuel Enid for thirty-six years. This past Sunday, October 25, 2015, Dan Heath retired from full-time vocation ministry at Emmanuel. Dan and his wife Donna came to Emmanuel in 1979 when Hayes Wicker was pastor. He served with Mack Roark during two interim pastorates, and then with Gary Smith for five years before I came to Emmanuel Enid in 1992. On a cold winter Thursday morning in January 1992, the pastor search committee brought me to Enid to visit with the staff. We met in Dan and Donna Heath's home and Dan made a very favorable impression on me and my wife. That favorable impression of Dan Heath has only grown over the years.

Dan's father was a pastor throughout northwestern Oklahoma, and Dan spent his formative years in Cherokee. He is a native northwestern Oklahoman. I've often told people that the most generous, big-hearted, kind Americans are from northwest Oklahoma. I think it may have something to do with the Land Run, and the pioneer, independent spirit of the early settlers, but I've lived in all four quadrants of Oklahoma, and the people of northwest Oklahoma stand apart. After graduating from college, Dan and his bride Donna began their kingdom ministry in music and worship in southwest Oklahoma and Texas. The people of Emmanuel Enid called Dan to be worship pastor in 1979.

Dan has a heart for people. His voice is a rich baritone that never ceases to impress and bring enjoyment. Anytime anyone would ask me what should be sung at a loved one's funeral, I would say, "Just ask Dan to sing. If you don't have a song picked out, let him sing one of his favorites. You won't be disappointed." Of course, the annual Christmas Pageant was a keynote Christmas event for many years, and there is no way the Pageant ever happened without the tireless planning, energy, and faithfulness of Dan and Donna Heath. There are people all over the United States leading in worship at various churches who were developed and encouraged through the music ministry of Dan Heath.

For the past twenty-three years it has been my privilege to not only work with Dan, but to call him friend. Dan led the efforts to bail me out of jail in Mexico (a story of its own). Dan was the pastor who would most often go with me when stalwarts of our church died. In time, Dan began working as the Financial Administrator of Emmanuel, and his frugality and tireless efforts to insure financial accountability made him a great fit for that position.

Sunday night at Dan and Donna's reception, I voiced a prayer that the decades of retirement for Dan and Donna will be "enjoyable and fruitful." I know God will answer my prayer because so many other around the state - and the nation - will be able to experience the ministry of Dan and Donna Heath, particularly since the Heath's will not be locked down on weekends as they have been for the past forty-eight years.

Thanks, Dan, for your friendship and service to the King.

Godspeed.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Stillwater Strong: Jesus Saves Us to the Uttermost

Saturday brought tragedy to our state. A 25-year-old woman recklessly barreled her car through a crowded Oklahoma State University homecoming parade, killing four individuals and wounding forty-four more, some critically. We had church members just a few feet away from the tragedy as it happened, and one person told me yesterday that he will never forget the horrific sight of the dead and wounded lying on the street and sidewalks around him. 
Watching the news Saturday night, I heard someone who narrowly escaped being hit by the car say to an interviewer, "Only by the goodness and kindness of God was I not hit."  It seems programmed into every person to believe the evidence of God's goodness and kindness is material and physical blessings or the avoidance of temporal tragedies. It seems unnatural to say that God's kindness is present in the lives of those hit by the car as much as it is in the lives of those not hit by the car. But because such an idea seems so unnatural, maybe we ought to conclude there's some truth in it because God's ways are not our ways, neither His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55;8).

Personally, I believe the gospel requires us to say that Christians who experience terrible tragedies are as much in the middle of God's kindness and goodness as those who don't experience such trauma.  

The writer of Hebrews makes an astonishing statement about Jesus Christ. "Christ saves to the uttermost those that come to God by Him" (Hebrews 7:25). Question: For "those who come to God by Christ," what is it that Christ saves us from? Answer; Christ saves us from ever "being cut off from the goodness and kindness of God" (Romans 11:22b). This is the teaching of the New Covenant, and Paul spends a great deal of time in his letter to the Romans teaching this principle. Paul says that believers in Christ abide in God's goodness, but those who refuse Christ are "cut off" from God's goodness and kindness.  There is a popular saying that "God is good all the time and all the time God is good." This saying is only partially true. God is good all the time to those "who come to Him by Christ." Those who refuse Christ are 'cut off' from God's goodness."

"Behold the severity of God" (Romans 11:22a). It is a severe thing to be outside of the realm of God's goodness and kindness. One is "cut off" from God's goodness. However - and this is important - "to be "cut off" from God's goodness can only be measured by your attitude toward Jesus Christ. Those who come to God by Jesus Christ are never cut off from God's goodness, are never outside the realm of God's kindness, and are never "cut off" from God's grace, because Jesus "saves us to the uttermost."

The King James Version word "uttermost" - which means "completely," "fully," or "totally" - is the best word to translate the Greek word panteles. It's much better than the New International Version or New American Standard word "forever." It is true that Christ saves us forever, but when the Bible says "Christ saves us to the uttermost," it means He "completely," "totally," and "fully" rescues us from ever being cut off from God's goodness. 

One of the worst things a Christian can do is to measure "God's goodness" in terms of health, wealth and other material or temporal blessings. These things are good and definitely comprise some of the blessings that come from God ("for it is God who gives you the power to have wealth'), but these are not God's greatest blessings nor are they God's surest signs of His kindness and goodness. A rich, healthy, powerful man can be 'cut off' from experiencing God's goodness in Christ and be utterly miserable spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. The internal belief that God is good to you personally, unconditionally, and eternally - regardless of your merit or ability to earn this favor - is a far superior gift than any external experience of temporal, material and physical blessings. Only the person who comes to God by Christ can have the assurance that cancer, job loss, accidents, and other tragedies are never a sign of being cut off from God's kindness and goodness.

Jesus Christ fully, totally and completely delivers us who come to God by Him from ever being cut off from God's goodness, no matter how things seem around us - even if we are struck by a car during a parade.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Blackness Within: Piercing the Veil of Shame

The Law is summed up in this saying: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Romans 13:9

Last night I was at a marriage conference when the speaker said something that made both my and my wife's backs tighten and our shoulder muscles spasm. He said, "Ladies and gentleman, the reason you don't love your spouse is because you don't love God with all your heart. If you loved God more, you'd love your spouse more."

Ugh.

Anytime I hear someone say "Just love God more -- with all your heart, soul, and mind -- and all your problems will be solved," I want to stand up and shout, "You don't get it! The Law is never summarized or fulfilled by loving God more. The Law is summarized and fulfilled "by loving your neighbor as yourself."

If you are struggling right now in any human relationship - be it marriage, paternal, sibling, neighbor, church member, or work - you might want think carefully about why Paul never summarizes the Law with an encouragement to "love God more."

What is the Law?

When the Bible speaks of "the Law" it references all that is contained in the Five Books of the Law - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. In the Bible "the Law" is sometimes called "Moses" because the first five books are attributed to Moses.

When Jesus walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, they did not recognize Him. Listen to what Jesus did:
"And beginning with Moses (the Law) and the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27).
It drives me bananas when Christians try to artificially separate "the Law" into moral (the 10 Commandments), ceremonial (the Feasts and the sacrifices) and civil (the yearly calendar, the new moon festivals, etc...) portions, urging Christians to keep "certain parts of the Law" - depending on denominational affiliation - to show their "love for God."

The Law is not about anyone's love for God. The Law is about God's love for us in Jesus Christ. The Law - all of it - concerns Jesus Christ. In Genesis Jesus is the lamb slain for Adam and Eve to cover their sins as well as the ram at Abraham's altar.  In Exodus,  He's the Passover lamb and the Ark that leads God's children to the Promised Land. In Leviticus, Jesus is the High Priest and the Sacrifices that make at-one-ment for the people of God. In Numbers, He's the Cloud by Day and Pillar of Fire by night and the Living Water that comes from the Rock. In Deuteronomy, Jesus is the City of our REFUGE and the Law itself.  I could go on, and on, and on.... The Law is all about Christ.

Since the Law is about Jesus Christ and God's love for us, when the Apostle Paul "summarizes" the Law - or declares the Law is fulfilled - it is always a reference to the love of God for us in Christ. This is really good news for people who struggle with shame.

The Blackness Within

A person filled with shame constantly feels and hears the message "I can't..." or "I'll never..." or "I'm incapable..." or "It's hopeless..." A shame filled person is one who feels helpless to change. The best way I've ever heard it described is "a blackness within." Once a person filled with shame begins to spiral downward in relationships, there's no way out - it's all black. It's either "fight" or "flight." A shame-filled person must either control or run.

To tell a person who is filled with shame and who is struggling in his or her human relationships to simply "love God more" only drives that person deeper into darkness. They can't. "To love God more' is an encouragement that only deepens the hearers' descent into darkness. Even worse, to tell others they should "love God more" in order to repair  their broken human relationships is an absolute misunderstanding of how the Bible summarizes the Law and calls our attention to how the Law is fulfilled.

Listen to the Apostle Paul again: "The Law is summed up in this saying: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Romans 13:9). Paul does not "sum up" (Gk. ἀνακεφαλαιοῦται) the Law by saying, "Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself." Nope. He skips "loving God" completely and says the Law is "summed up" in "love your neighbor as yourself." He makes his argument even stronger in Galatians 5:14 when he says "the entire Law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself." The word "fulfilled" (Gk. πεπλήρωται) is much stronger than "sum up." The verb "fulfilled" is in the past perfect tense which literally makes the verse say "When you love your neighbor as yourself "the Law" has already been fulfilled.

This side of the cross, the Law is only summarized and fulfilled when you "love your neighbor as yourself." The question for every believer in Jesus Christ: "How can I deeply love others as well as myself?"

Lifting the Veil of Shame

If the Law is all about Jesus Christ and God's love for us (and it is), then the only way we'll ever find healing in our human relationships is not to love God more, but to learn to rest in God's love for us through Jesus Christ (the Law).

Someone has said there are five languages of love. Stop thinking about how much you love God, and start thinking about how much He loves you. Think about God's love for you in Christ according to the five languages. STOP! Change the tape playing in your mind right now. Don't even dare think about how much you love God in these next few moments and contemplate in the following verses how much God loves you!

(1). Words of affection: God says to you "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3). He declares "You are the apple of my eye" (Zechariah 2:8). God encourages us with "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous (Isaiah 41:10). John reminds us that true love is seen in God's love for us, not our love for God, for "this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent us His Son" (I John 4:8).

(2). Quality time: "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you, for He says, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.'" (Deut. 31:8) "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5). This verse from Hebrews contains five negatives - "I will never, no never, no never leave you nor forsake you." That's quality time.

(3). Acts of service:  "God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:24-25). There's nothing God needs from you. There's no act of service or devotion you can give that can make God pleased, for He is pleased with Himself. He's the One who "gives to you life, breath, and all things." He's the One who works all things "for your good" (Romans 8:28).

(4). Physical touch: "But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God really dwells in you" (Romans 8:9). It is "the life of God in the soul of man" that is your hope. He who is "in you is greater than he who is in the world" (I John 4:4). He numbers the very hairs on your head, and knows you intimately. As for us, "we now only see Him as a reflection in a mirror; but there's coming a Day when we shall see Him face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known now" (I Corinthians 13:12).

(5). Special gifts: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). "God will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ" (Phil. 4:19). It's amazing that all the promises of God are "a resounding Yes!" in Christ (II Corinthians 1:20), so I never have to work for the blessings, favor and pleasure of God, but simply must learn to rest in the fulfillment of the Law (Jesus Christ).

A Loved Me Begins Leaking Love

When you begin to understand how much God loves you, you begin to love yourself. Think about it.  Those who are loved are the ones who come to love themselvesI'm not talking about selfishness; I'm talking about self-love. There's a difference. Jesus calls you to love yourself, because you can't love others well until we love yourself (e.g. "love your neighbor as yourself"). When you begin resting in God's love  - instead of constantly measuring your love for God - you begin to understand just how much you really count in this universe. God didn't die for worms. He died for those He chose from eternity to redeem, those He's making co-heirs with Christ. God has loved you with an everlasting love, and it is this love of God for you in Christ that is the fulfillment of the Law. It is the essence of the Law, for the Law is all about Jesus Christ.


So, when you begin to understand the Law (Christ), you begin to rest in God's love. And when you become so saturated with the love of God for you - and not so doggone consumed with your puny attempts to love God - you can't help but love others. Jesus said, "It is by your love for one another that all will know you know Me" (John 13:35). Unfortunately, many Christians don't love one another because we get in a measuring contest about how much we love God rather than teaching people to rest in God's love for us in Jesus Christ.

For those who wish to argue, "But wait a minute! Jesus said, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). How can you say, Wade, that it's not about our love for God?" Answer: Nobody loves God with every ounce of heart, soul and mind - except Christ. Nobody will ever love God like that - except Christ. This is why Christ is the fulfillment of the Law; this is why Christ alone earns all the blessings from God due full obedience to the Law. In the new agreement with God under which we all now abide (the New Covenant), God's blessings are given to us via our union with Christ, and the only way we'll ever come to the place of even beginning to learn what it means to live life fully is to focus on the fulfillment of the Law (Jesus Christ) and God's incredible, eternal, unconditional, and supremely personal love for us through Christ! When the Bible speaks of the fulfillment of the Law in the New Testament, it is all about our love for others - and our love for God is not ever mentioned - because the Law is about us coming to an understanding of God's love for us in Jesus Christ - the Christ of God who is the fulfillment of the Law!

Summary

If you are filled with shame and experiencing broken relationships, I hope that this little blog entry helps pierce the veil of darkness. The Law (God's love for you in Christ) has been fulfilled when you love others as much as you love yourself, but you can't begin to love your shame-filled self until you know how much God loves you! However, once saturated and wet with an understanding and enjoyment of God's love for you, you can't help but get others wet with love when they rub up next to you because you are leaking the only real Love that lasts - God's love for you!

Next time you feel tempted to focus on yours or another's love for God, why don't you give it a rest and give this shame-filled world some really good news.  Why don't you help pierce the veil of shame and move people out of darkness and help them discover the incredible riches of God's love for us in Christ!

Friday, October 09, 2015

His Love Washes Over Us: Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma

After the teaching time during the 11:15 am Sunday morning worship service, we have a time of corporate worship. Lives are being transformed; that's something to celebrate. Last Sunday Rachelle and I spoke with a woman who's been coming to Emmanuel Enid for just three weeks. She's been a meth and cocaine addict, and is now in the grip of alcohol addiction. She'd come Sunday morning "at the end" of her rope. During the service, the Holy Spirit gently drew this woman to Christ. With running mascara, a broken heart, and hope for the future, she surrendered her life to Christ. Truly, the love of Christ is washing all over this woman. The worship video below is from our corporate worship time after the teaching at Emmanuel Enid. I think you too will be able to sense the movement of the Holy Spirit. Come join us.


Monday, October 05, 2015

The Old Agreement with God Will Mess With Your Head (and Your Church), not to Mention the Lost

Every Bible you own is divided into two sections. The first part is called the Old Testament and the second is the New Testament. Most people never pause to consider the definition of "Testament." It simply means agreement. When you prepare for death, you complete a "Last Will and Testament" which is an agreement between you and the state for the disposition of your assets.

A synonym for the word "testament" is "covenant." Again, the word covenant is an archaic word we don't use much anymore. When you fill out paperwork for buying a new home you may come across a neighborhood "covenant," which is basically an agreement between you and your future neighbors that nobody in the neighborhood will build, remodel or do anything else in a manner inconsistent with the neighborhood agreement (covenant).

So you could easily say that the Bible contains two "agreements" between God and man - the Old Agreement (Covenant) and the New Agreement (Covenant), These two Covenants are totally different agreements, and if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, your life is ruled by the New Agreement, not the Old Agreement.

A big problem in many churches, however, is the manner in which the Bible is interpreted when it comes to the "rule of life" for followers of Jesus Christ. For example, the interpretative lens with which many read the Bible is the Old Covenant.  However, the proper lens through which to read the entire Scriptures is through the New Agreement lens. This New Agreement, inaugurated by the Person and work of Jesus Christ, is vitally important to understand because Jesus "fulfilled" the Old Agreement and then abolished it. Jesus caused the Old Agreement to totally disappear (see Hebrews 8:13). Religious people who emphasize the Old Agreement find themselves in bondage because they've missed the beauty of Christ. They have been  both "hardened" and "blinded" by a veil that clouds any clear thinking about Jesus:.
But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (II Corinthians 3:14-17)
Those three verses from II Corinthians should explain to you why anybody can talk about "God" and their various agreements (religion) with Him and the world leaves them alone, but the moment someone starts speaking of Jesus Christ all hell breaks loose. The demons of hell leave alone blinded and hardened people - as well as the "blind who are leading the blind." But when Jesus Christ is exalted and honored, all hell breaks loose "lest the veil be taken away" and sinners come to rest in the New Agreement between God and man.

Three Major Differences Between the Agreements

Though I could point out dozens of differences between the two Agreements, I would like to encourage you through three major differences, and then challenge you to make sure you recognize you are part of the New Agreement between God and man and not the Old Agreement.

(1). The Old Agreement is filled with conditional promises based on personal obedience; the New Agreement is filled with unconditional promises based on Christ's obedience and our faith in Him.

When Israel heard Moses read the laws of the Old Agreement they shouted "All this we will do" (Exodus 19:8). However, the narrative of the Old Testament Scriptures is filled with Israel's rebellion to their agreement with God. As a result, their quid pro quo Old Agreement ("If you will," God says, "then I will...") with God, brought all kinds of punishment from God. However, in the New Agreement, Jesus Christ's perfect righteousness in fulfilling the Law obtained all the blessings of God that the Old Agreement Law promised - and Israel failed to obtain by their obedience. Therefore, in the New Agreement, you are blessed by God because of your faith in Christ - for this reason it's called "the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26) - and "all the promises of God are "Yes" (a resounding "Yes") in Christ" (II Corinthians 1:20).

Many Charismatics base their "prosperity gospel" teaching on Old Agreement Scriptures. They say that "if you tithe" or "if you give your seed" then you obligate God to "bless you" for your obedience. Not true. In the New Agreement, God promises to meet your every need according to His riches in Christ (Philippians 4:19).  God will not meet your need because your obedience measures up. God makes this promise of "every need" being met a "resounding yes" because of your faith in the Person of His Son. If you are a member of church that emphasis all the conditional promises of the Old Agreement, you will constantly be harangued to measure up. If you are a member of a gospel church, you will be constantly encouraged to grow in grace and your knowledge of the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ.

(2). The Old Agreement is filled with hundreds of laws that touched every facet of life in the nation of Israel; the New Agreement contains one Royal Law that touches every facet of life for the New Agreement believer.

The laws of the Old Agreement were designed to point Israel to the One who was to come. Israel celebrated - by Law - the festivals; all of which were designed to point to Jesus the Christ of God, the inaugurator of a New Agreement between God and man.  Israel worshipped God - by Law - with various sacrifices and Sabbaths; all of which were designed to point to Jesus the Christ of God and the inaugurator of a New Agreement between God and man. Even the prophets who lived during the Old Agreement kept looking forward to the coming of the New Agreement (see Jeremiah 31) for ancient Israel knew that the Law only condemned and it would be the Messiah who would save.

When Jesus came and inaugurated the New Agreement with His blood (i.e. His death, burial and resurrection), He became the New Lawgiver and gave us just one commandment - a new commandment - which is to encompass every aspect of our life.
"A new commandment give I to you, that you love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34). 
Just as the nation of Israel could be distinguished as "God's chosen people" through their obedience to the laws of the Old Agreement (eg. circumcision, Sabbath rest, the laws of the feasts and festivals, etc...), so too in the New Agreement those who are adopted by God into His family are known by their obedience to this Royal Law:
"By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" (John 13:35).
Instead of a husband looking to a list for how to be a husband, if a husband would simply love his wife as Christ as loved him - unconditionally, sacrificially, selflessly (without expectation of reciprocation) - husbands would be amazed at the transformation in their marriages. A new agreement believer is full of grace and love because he's come to understand the grace and love of God in Christ.

(3). The Old Agreement causes me to look to look to a list of laws in order to measure up to God's expectations for me; the New Agreement causes me to look to the Christ and marvel at the infinite grace and love of God for me.

I love reading the Old Testament. In fact, my favorite studies of all time are expositional verse-by-verse studies of Old Testament books like Exodus, Leviticus, Daniel, Jeremiah, Esther, etc... However, I love those Old Agreement books because I read them through the filter of Jesus Christ and the New Agreement He inaugurated between God and me.

Truth be known, I never see bad things that happen to me as punishment from God - ever. Rather, in the New Agreement, when I enter into the storm, I always see Christ holding out His hand and inviting me to go with Him through the storm because "something remarkably good is on the other side" (Romans 8:28).

The Bible is not a child's book. It is extremely profound. Christianity is not serendipitous, puerile, or childish. I am a Christian because I understand the goodness and riches of God in Christ in the New Agreement, foreshadowed in the Old Agreement.  I want to continue to be captivated by the love and grace of God in Christ. Christ is the only One that brings me true life, liberty and happiness.

I want to rest in Him.

I can when I see my "rule of life" is the New Agreement inaugurated by Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

ISIS Makes Russia a Friend to the U.S.

Yesterday I heard for the first time that the Russians were bombing targets in Syria.  In a previous Republican Presidential debate, Marco Rubio predicted that Russia would begin bombing Syria because "Putin desires to re-establish Russia as a geo-political force." In other words, Russia desires to be "the power broker" in the Middle East, replacing the United States' weak leadership in the region. Rubio is right. Russia is making her move. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russia is pouring "gasoline on the fire" in Syria. The Obama administration is quick to make Russia the enemy.

I would caution all Americans about jumping to hasty conclusions, or believing everything you hear from the media or the United States government. Those with an understanding of past wars will tell you that often America must side with a perceived enemy to accomplish an even greater good. The greater good will sometimes turn a perceived enemy into a friend on the battlefield. This is precisely where the United States may find itself with Russia. Those wishing to remove President Assad of Syria are radical Muslims of the ISIS variety. Everyone knows what happened in Iraq after there arose a vacuum of governmental leadership. The Islamic State moved in. Russia is supporting Assad, and both Russia and Assad are arch-enemies of the Islamic State. So is America. During World War II America aligned with the Soviet Union to defeat the Nazis. After the war was over, Russia became our "enemy." But with our enemy as an ally during the war, Adolph Hitler was defeated.

America, don't be too hasty on choosing a side in this current conflict. Before you condemn Russia for her moves in Syria, ask who it is that Russia is fighting? It very well could be that a common enemy makes our perceived enemy a friend.