Real Grace

Facebook seems to be a hot bed for the new distorted view of “grace”.

taking-up-your-crossThe other day someone posted that through grace, God finds our sin acceptable. He thus no longer “deals” with sin in our lives – and we are free of sin – because it no long exists.

According to their “logic”, sin ceases to an issue in our lives because it ceases to be considered sin by God.

That neat theological sleight of hand was followed by lots of “likes” and “amens”.

To deny the reality of sin and its bondage – and to say God doesn’t deal with sin in our lives or that we are free of sin – is an abuse of grace.

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Pastoral Counseling

Several ministries are offering a free class in Pastoral Counseling on Wednesday evenings in Prince William County, Virginia, beginning April 17, 2013, from 7:00 to 9:30 pm.

The class is open to all members of the Body of Christ from local churches (not just “pastors”!), and likely will run about twelve weeks.

To give some idea of the type of counseling we will be teaching others to do, I’ve reprinted below a blog about one session I had with a deeply troubled man last year.

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Resurrection Sunday

Forty-seven years young in the Lord!

On Resurrection Sunday in 1966, when only eight years old, I had a deep, deep conversion experience as I totally surrendered to the Lord.

It was in an old Pentecostal church that met in the pastor’s home.

I’m told that my tears of repentance on that worn wooden floor made permanent stains.

graceWow, how time has passed.

It’s been – and continues to be – a wonderful adventure. Even during some tough times, I never once regretted belonging to Christ – my King and my Redeemer.

Through it all, I’ve always felt His hand on my life. He blessed me with a solid foundation from Godly parents and mature teachers, which has served me well over the years.

In an age of cheap grace, crazy doctrines and postmodern spiritual angst, that foundation yet stands firm.

For those willing to surrender their sensibilities to the Living Word, in submission to His written Word, He offers the same assurance.

Really, it’s just not that complicated.

But it does mean letting go of your own foolishness and impulse to define Jesus – and what ultimately is right, real and true – on your own terms.

My life is a living testimony to His sovereign Lordship, and His passion is my very life.

I invite you to also surrender, and find life.

~ Jim Wright

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Frank Viola: Feed the Need

Sorry, Frank Viola, but when your “revelation” of Jesus looks a lot like your own sensibilities, I’m not impressed.

And when “deeper life” merely reinforces your own postmodern proclivities, I’m likewise not impressed.

Nor do I find a persistent failure to be a functional part of any healthy, local fellowship – despite all your books and blogs on organic church – to be a virtue.

Really, didn’t you get the memo? Postmodernism and existential angst just ain’t that compelling or counter-cultural anymore.

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Faithfulness

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… Gal 5:22 NIV

Faith is a seed the Lord plants in us. Faithfulness is the fruit that develops over the seasons of our life. The fruit of faithfulness requires a long growing season. There is no way to expedite the process.

tortoise and the hareIn the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare, the tortoise demonstrates faithfulness. He keeps on doing what he needs to do, without any fanfare or dramatics. Steadfast, loyal, conscientious, all describe a person who has allowed faithfulness to become ingrained in their life.

Often, the people who are the most faithful receive the least acclaim.

In the Bible, Joseph exemplifies faithfulness. After he was sold to Potiphar, he conscientiously served him and the Lord blessed Potiphar’s household because of Joseph. Joseph did not grumble and complain because he was in Egypt away from his family.  He faithfully served in the place the Lord had him.

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Letting Go

For most Christians, the greatest struggle is not resisting sin but in being willing to let go of our hurts. More than sin, we allow our hurts to define us, and find it difficult to leave the familiarity of our pain for the unfamiliarity of a truly new life in Christ. Even among Christians, few risk the grace of confession, forgiveness and repentance to become whole and complete in Him.

Really, it’s not that difficult…

Here’s a story of one man’s journey: Getting to Simple.

When “Intimacy with the Lord” Goes Bad

When “Intimacy with the Lord” Goes Bad is a must-read blog by Steve Crosby.

In the past, I was concerned with some of Steve’s blogs because they seemed to dance right up to the line with some of the “half grace” doctrines and existential nonsense going around these days.

With this blog, however, all’s forgiven! It strikes just the right balance between “being” and “doing”, which I’ve also tried to achieve in some of my own past blogs. But unlike me, he avoids obscure, big sounding words. 😉

Plus, I love his swamp analogy – especially since I often use it myself when I teach!

Joy

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy… (Gal 5:22)

JoyJoy is a word that I believe is easily misunderstood.  Let me give you an example. About eleven years ago, I adopted my little dog. I named her Joy because her personality radiates joy.

One day a young workman came to my house. After he finished the repairs in the kitchen he asked me, “You named your dog after soap?” He was referring to the bottle of Joy detergent that was on my kitchen counter. I explained that she was not named after soap, but I named her because she always acted so joyful. He did not seem to really understand, but I think that is not as unusual as it may seem.

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably and people assume that they cannot have joy unless they feel happy. I disagree.

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Les Miserables

Marianne and I have never recommended a movie on our blog, but yesterday we went on a date and saw the new movie, Les Miserables.

Twenty or so years ago I saw the Broadway play in New York, and it was powerful. But the movie is … amazing.

I was hesitant to go to the movie, because I expected the original Christian themes of redemptive grace and forgiveness in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel to be watered down, if not eliminated. After all, that’s the way of Hollywood. They take culture created by Christians and bastardize it.

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Hyper Grace – Part 2

Hyper Grace – Part 2

Real people want real answers and real freedom from real issues – not just the tidy platitudes of half truths.

Maybe that’s what has shaped my strong reaction to hyper grace, which is really half grace: It cannot offer real freedom from real issues because it seeks the grace of God’s affirming love and presence, but not the grace of His transforming truth and rule.

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Theology and Reality

Miguel Labrador has posted another thought provoking blog, entitled Theology Precedes Practice, Vice Versa, or Something Else?

Keeping Theology and Reality in Balance

In it, he states: “orthodoxy (theology) & orthopraxy (practice) are ‘simultaneous.’” I think he’s right, in the sense that we must seek to keep both in balance – our walk must match our talk, and our talk must match our walk.

Sometimes, however, the Lord allows one or the other – our doctrine or our practice – to be challenged in ways that force us to then adjust the other.

Regardless, it is important to keep them in sync, as much as possible, and not let one get too far ahead of the other.

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Election Postmortem

Election Postmortem

Leading up to Tuesday’s elections here in the United States, I often used this blog and Facebook to urge Christians to vote. (See Does Jesus Want You to Vote?)

When I did, I always got heated push back – mainly from other Christians who oppose Biblical civic engagement.

Generally, they think God is only interested our personal relationships with Him, or that He is solely focused on the Church.

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Balance

The greatest challenge facing the Church today are those who promote truth out of balance:

  • Those who think the Person of Christ can be fractured from His concurrent propositional truths, moral precepts and commands;
     
  • Those who want the vibrancy of the internal Living Word, without submitting all things to the authority and discipline of His written external Word;
     
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Intercession and Repentance

Our nation’s continuing moral and economic decline, and the growing malaise of our increasingly dysfunctional churches, has caused a renewed focus on intercessory prayer.

Heavy Lifting

Intercession without Repentance Is Not Effective

But intercession without transformational repentance – which Biblically involves changing the way we act by changing the way we think – is seldom effective.

While desperately seeking to touch the heart of God through intercession, few seem willing to do the concurrent hard work of understanding the mind of God. The challenges facing our nation, and our churches, require both.

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Life or Reaction?

So much of our “theology” (and we all have “theology”!) is forged these days by hurts.

The Bible has been used as a club to beat us into conformity, so we reject its plenary authority.

Our need for mercy has been abused, so we latch onto a concept of grace that excludes the Lord’s occasional rebuke and discipline.

We have suffered from authoritarian leadership or a controlling church, so we become autonomous and discount the need for healthy, accountable community.

We realize that some pet doctrines were wrong, so we seek a purely existential Jesus and cringe at objective truth.

In doing so, we are reacting to hurts, wrongs and mistakes – rather than embracing life.

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I Want More Religion (Part 3)

I figure that if half of the folks reading my blog say “amen!”, and the other half say “oh my!”, then I’m right where God wants me.

The Whole Picture

The consternation and angst – in blogs, Facebook comments, podcasts and the like – generated by this series have convinced me that what I said needed saying.

My point is simple, and 100% Biblical:

I go, do and obey because of who I am in Christ. It is His life in me, expressed through me.

But here’s the kicker: If I do not “do”or obey as Christ commands, then the life of Christ in me is a lie – at least in those areas where I choose to disobey or stay trapped in my own sensibilities.

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Post-modern Rage

My recent blog on “I Want More Religion” provoked a degree of rage which only served to prove the point I was trying to make.

In a lengthy online discussion, one podcaster (whom I will not grace by identifying) commented that my blog made him so angry that he wanted to “kill” me.

Seriously. He said he felt like killing me because I dared say that Jesus was not all about relationship, but also obedience and holiness.

And he kept repeating it…

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