Friday, December 25, 2009

The Approachable Christ


If Christ were not so helpless He would not have been so humble.

The shepherds were told great news that would be for all people. "Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the LORD" (Lk. 2:11). When they had seen the Babe they went and spread the word about who He was and everyone was amazed.


As an infant, who could Christ have defended Himself from? Who could He have stopped from coming into His presence? He could not be discriminate - and this - this is the way in which a Savior, for us, came into our midst.

In His atoning death, He was pierced in His hands and feet to a cross. He was pinned down, and unable to move, but still alive. Who could Christ have defended Himself from? Who could He have stopped from coming into His presence? The cross was His appointed time to suffer. Anyone could come toward Him with any desire. If their will was to pierce His side, or, if it was to find salvation at the very last moment, they could have their way.

"hand nailed to cross" by Horseman

Pinned down, but still alive. He could not be discriminate - and this - this is the way in which a Savior, for us, left our midst.

Thank you LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, our humble King.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Rest Less

Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house,
Or go up to the comfort of my bed;
I will not give sleep to my eyes
Or slumber to my eyelids,
Until I find a place for the LORD,
A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.

Psalm 132:3-5

Whether the stray has been a few hours, a few days or a lifetime, Christ is unchanging, approachable and forgiving. His love is amazing because it is absolutely free!




Jesus is open and willing. Thank you LORD!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Faithful Witness: 150 Years

photograph of the former church front


Salem First Baptist Church in Oregon's capital city is celebrating its 150th year of incorporation. This season it will be celebrating its "sesquicentennial." The upcoming weekend, November 20 - 22nd there will be three days of exciting events.

The celebration kicks off on Friday evening, 6 pm. Former members from around the country are planning to arrive. U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield, once a bible teacher at Salem First, has been invited as well as our state Governor and other elected officials. CBA churches from the Willamette Valley have been sent an invitation as well.

The history of the church in the Pacific Northwest begins with the story of a delegation of Nez Perces Native Americans who traveled to St. Louis to find Captain William Clark, some twenty-five years after his famous expedition to the Pacific. They requested of him to follow through with his assurances that men would follow after Clark to teach them about God. The news of this encounter excited many evangelical Christian churches in New England. They quickly sent out a call, "who will go?"

Jason Lee was the first Christian missionary to the Oregon Territory, and he held Methodist services in the Willamette Valley (Salem) in 1834. That same year (1843) in which Jason Lee was recalled to missionary headquarters in New York, the first Baptists arrived in Oregon Territory. Baptist exploration to establish a permanent place of worship in Salem began as early as November 1850. On December 29th, 1859, Salem First Baptist's beginnings were recorded.

The weekend of celebration kicks off on Friday, November 20th at 6 pm. Beth Lambright will be sharing a Spiritual History of Oregon, and the church's cornerstone will be removed and presented via video. Reception to follow.

On Saturday, Nov. 21st a barbershop quartet and a dance group will perform, and the church's historic stained glass windows and the bell will be on display. Various historical exhibits will be open between 10 am - 7 pm. Oral history sessions, sword drills, vintage games, and a butter churning demonstration will be held.

On Sunday, Nov. 22nd former members and staff will be recognized in the identical morning services. A reunion choir will sing. Old fashioned cinnamon rolls and fruit will be concurrently served in the Community Life Center during both services and the historical exhibits will be open for viewing. RESCUE will be in concert at 6 pm.

On December 2, 1984, during SFB's 125th anniversary, Senator Hatfield spoke, "First Baptist still stands on the corner of Liberty and Marion in downtown Salem. It still proclaims the same gospel message that I heard as a boy of ten. In a world that has changed so much in my lifetime, it is a great comfort to know that."

For more information, please visit:

Also you may wish to visit two websites I've created related to this event:



Friday, November 06, 2009

a little truth with grace

It was neat (after the sweating) to read free grace brothers and sisters noticing that I am "too gracious." What did that mean? I actually discovered this same message was being said to me elsewhere IRL (in "real" life). Grace, is good. But truth -- I could use a little more truth. I get it now! :) Truth is a "help" for God's purposes, just like grace is a "help" for God's purposes.

Evangelicals realize that preaching the truth is purifying to the saved and unsaved. But what they frequently overlook is that demonstrating grace is also equally purifying. Am I wrong or right? Grace is not license for sin. Understanding this point is a core teaching of the gospel Paul preached and defended as he was appointed by the LORD.

Here Paul commands the church to attain holiness through manifesting His variegated grace:

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Col. 3:12-17


I recently enjoyed reading through Proverbs. I wanted to find a proverb for every virtuous quality of grace.

Firstly, grace is virtuous:
He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend. Prov 22:11


And now, Colossians' various manifestations of God's grace....

Mercy over foolishness, is purifying.

He who follows righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor.
Prov.20:21


Forgiveness between believers, is purifying.

The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.
Prov. 19:11


Kindness toward inadequacy, is purifying.

He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor.
Prov. 22:9


Humility is purifying.

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.
Prov. 22:4


Forbearance is purifying.

By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.
Prov. 25:15


Love toward believers is purifying.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.
Prov. 10:12


What I learned from the comments left by believer-friends, is that truth is equally worthy and I should be using it more often. I don't have to lean so hard into grace to see God's will be done.

Lastly, I must add a little more truth with grace.

Truth, of course, is purifying:

He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.
Prov. 29:23

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.
Prov. 29:18


Now, if I could just come to know how to wisely use both grace and truth? I don't know. It can be done, says the Word:

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.
Prov. 12:18





Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Faults: Mine

The other day I was hanging out with a fellow believer and I was explaining to him how important an ethic of grace truly is in my eyes. I said the following to illustrate how far I'd take it:

I'd prefer to have ten million unkind, unflattering things said about me (that were also true!), out loud for everyone to hear, so that way I could be loved with true grace. True grace, to me, is the kind that knows one's weak points and loves them in spite of them.
Visiting Gary's, Tim's and Rose's blog just made my words ring in my ears. Might as well come to learn what my faults are. I won't be able to grow as well as a person just expecting God alone to tell me.

So if you are a friend, what I would like is to have you leave a comment, telling me plainly about a fault of mine. A sin, even, or a weakness. No COSF doctrine issues are game though. Just character, or personal flaws.

Seriously.

Leave a comment.

Now here's a blog post that's interesting for a change. This is so cool, I wonder what took me so long to think about doing this? Well, it's cool... but I know it'll hurt at first.

If you aren't sure if you qualify as friend, the qualification is that you and I have greeted one another pleasantly in the last six months on or offline.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Type 1, Type 2

I am convinced there are two sorts of participants in the FG hot topics around the blogs. They jump in the conversation according to what they feel is most important.

Type 1 in this conversation prioritize (rank in importance) the FG hot topics like this:

1 - COSF (most important)
2 - purity in speech/conduct

Type 2 in this conversation prioritize topics inversely:

1 - purity in speech/conduct (most important)
2 - COSF

Neither Type 1 or Type 2 are wrong; they're just different to stress one over the other but I assume both Type 1 and Type 2 esteem COSF and purity. (Perhaps the difference in emphasis is due to different gifts or parts of the body?) I'm a Type 2. I think there are several who are Type 2 in the blogosphere and I believe the ranks are growing, converting and displacing a few Type 1s. There are many reasons to be a Type 2. Here's some my feeble mind has thought it could notice:

-- One could be hard-core (how shall we label these COSF doctrines?) FGA, GES, or Glorious gospel, but are so disenchanted through seeing ungraciousness that being dogmatic just isn't spiritually worth the cost anymore

-- One could have started off being either FGA or GES and may still believe that COSF is the most important thing, but because there is no pragmatic difference in what is being preached to the lost, or perhaps because one has been convinced by scripture there really is not much difference in the theology between the two, the result is the COSF "debate" doesn't really need to be "debated" like once believed

-- One has studied the COSF debate and does not believe the correct answer is any of those (three) COSF doctrines, but a fourth. And it was when these ones had to sit around on their hands for three years to even get a chance to share their mind they noticed and appreciated grace, and will stay on the cause for purity in speech and conduct because it is still worthwhile to have it as priority

-- One is a student who knows they can't even begin to know the answer to COSF, but one thing they can know for sure right now, which is what purity ought to look and sound like

Are there more?

Dr. Lybrand mentioned in a comment at his blog here (on October 12, 2009 at 5:56 am) how he believes he is observing a variety of people from different backgrounds and values. It is possible this is part of what he meant through acknowledging such. I would be happy to learn more on his thoughts. I noticed "ad hominem" and its purpose to discount the COSF views being contended, and, I saw how Kev wrote on his blog post that "pointing out the [weak points] of another man is plainly silly" if its not related back in to the issue of who should be persuaded by which doctrine. However - I disagree, and that's where I've been for a year and a half. I hope that makes sense. I think purity is its own important issue.

Read this post written over a year ago, sharing my own Type 2 priority which is unchanged:

My Own Conference Soundbytes

I suppose it's possible that one's reason for being a Type 2 is because they love ecumenism, and they choose blind "unity" at the expense of truth. I just don't know if that's anyone around here like we're being told?

How are we supposed to have real dialogue with any person who does "90% contending" when there are all these unique reasons to be a Type 2?



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fear


A couple Sunday's ago our pastor was preaching on the fear of God. Many Christians want to interpret the word "fear" as only reverence or awe for God. They say it cannot mean that believers actually are afraid of God. I used to be one such believer. I formerly concentrated on these verses to help determine my thoughts:

Romans 8:15
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
The pastor likened Biblical fear of God to our fear of the ocean. Not everyone has spent time at the ocean in their life. Here in the Valley we are drawn to go there and just watch it. It's amazing and powerful as you get close to witness it. But we have a saying about the ocean, and my pastor said it in his sermon too. I was told it from the beginning by my parents: "Never turn your back on the ocean."



His sermon was poignant. About a month ago we took a trip to Florence, Oregon. My family has always loved the South beaches and sand dunes. At low tide there's a treasure of sea material to pick over.

We've always had a general rule that no one ever stands in water that comes over the knees. This trip, I thought I was wise and was following this general rule. The water was at the highest of tides, and for several minutes the shoreline would recede, then all of a sudden it would reclaim about fifty feet of beach. I guess that's what threw me off.... I walked out a little too far and didn't keep track of how far the wet sand was. My mom and my two girls came out after I did. She was holding hands with them on her two sides. We all jumped over the first wave, which was only an inch high. Then another wave came, about six inches high. No problem of course. The final wave came (or so I thought). It came right at the knee for my mom and I. I glanced over at them and laughed with them, and even turned around just enough to smile at my dad, and then BAAM. I was hit in the back almost to my shoulder blades.

My mom and two girls were all wet and we were just fine for the moment. Except the girls were a little in shock from the cold splash. So they both started to pull my mom's arms to walk backward too fast for her and she fell down sitting in the water, then my eldest fell down too - her head completely submerged. By this time I was between them and the ocean and I pulled my eldest up on to her feet. I knew they were going to run up the beach, but I couldn't know if they would get out there fast enough before the tide reversed and began pulling them back out. My younger daughter is five and only weighs 38 lbs. I was terrified now, but Ben got behind them too and followed them out, so my dad and I took hold of my mom's hands to help her up. She was to her neck in surf. The tide was so powerful that even though my dad and I were using most of our strength, we could not help her to stand up. The two feet of ocean water traveling out was removing the sand we were standing upon. The wave receded enough finally and we lifted her up and got out.

That was my fault. I was dumb. I know I will always struggle at least in a small way when I remember how my confidence and assertiveness led my dear family to go out too far. In a sense, I just didn't understand. But now I can tell you what it is to be caught by what they call a "sneaker wave." You don't see how it is coming in the surf, until it is upon you.

My girls and I will never again merely laugh and run by the water's edge. I'm not so scared that I would refuse getting wet from this day forward, but, I am intimidated enough to heavily err on caution's side.

I would love to study the word "fear" in scripture. There's a lot to learn, but for now I'd like to look at a Psalm that has fear as a small part of a description on Godly wisdom. The translation of the word "fear" in this Psalm can be translated as "reverence." But, it could also be translated as "terror." God tells me He is far beyond my ways. Even when I understand right from wrong in the Word, I wonder if He uncompromisingly acts in a manner I will never completely anticipate?

Psalm 19:7-14
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
I might blog some more in the future on the word translated "fear" ....






Sunday, October 11, 2009

Education verses God

I've been having some pleasant discussions with my dad in the last year or so. I've explained to him some of the things I am interested in, and I'm surprised to report this, but, he gets it. In fact it appears to me that I must have gotten this way of assessing situations from him, because as I tell him things I am thinking, he's thinking right alongside me in the way that I would do it. Cool. He's even told me some amazing stories of how he has used his intelligence for serving others. Some he's told me not to publish, and that's not an issue of course. But some are just dang cool. Like how he attended the national conference for the FBI and he was asked to stand in recognition amongst hundreds for the framework he created post 9/11. I never knew that.

There's lots of stuff I never knew about my dad. I'm really only beginning to hear about them. He's finally moved home, and I'm an adult. He never shared them before. He wouldn't do that, and I see why now. It would only overwhelm me as a teen, as if I could never measure up. That was a wise kindness I can see looking back. Instead, he tells me things recently like "You can do anything you decide to do." "You are a woman but that has no bearing on your ability." He really believes these things, and I, well, I know I'm at least blessed to hear them, even if I am not sure if I should believe them entirely. I am his firstborn of two daughters; no sons, but he'd tell me gender is irrelevant to potential. I'm certain I'm not as smart as he's telling me.

As we smile and laugh along because we are both discovering that we approach problems in exactly the same fashion, he says something I haven't heard in a long, long time. With a pang he says,

"You could have gone to school...."
I did go to school and graduate at Oregon State. But that's not what he means by "going to school." He means an Ivy League like where he went; Wharton (ranked #1) and the University of Pennsylvania (ranked #4). Little does he know that "going to school" is the very thing that God has been putting in my heart... lately. Instead of agreeing, I still cringe. Why? His idealism of school has always driven me to an oppositional idealism.

When I was 12 he started telling me how important it was to be ambitious and achieve my own Ph.D. He made me read and give speeches every day of my life and read college textbooks. My grades were decent, but the attitude behind the GPA was deteriorating.

"Don't befriend people outside your race."
3.95

"If you get an A, that doesn't mean you learned anything in my eyes."
3.86

"There's not much chance a Ph.D. student is going to lower themselves to marry someone with just a master's."
3.78

"You can't spend any time with others because your grades aren't good enough."
3.71

"After-school clubs are for successful students who are getting straight As."
3.65

"The kind of people who live around here aren't of any positive influence on you."
3.59

Where was the meaning? Where was the purpose. It was so empty of life. I hated school. It did not define who I was or measure my value as a person. These things were obvious to me, but, my father couldn't understand. I decided as soon as I left home, my number one ambition was to forever dwell among people who valued people. As if all people are inherently priced at an inestimable value, regardless how unschooled they might be.

God was softening my heart, I can see looking back. This was the circumstance that humbled me to listen to Christianity, and receive Jesus by believing upon Him through hearing the gospel. I wondered about this God who demonstrated relationship based on the sacrificed blood of the Savior.

The first thing I read in the new testament beyond the gospels was 1 Corinthians, beginning in chapter one.

It said,

For it is written:


“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

I became God's that day. He wrote this especially for me, to confirm the journey we'd already begun. I was officially through with courting the wise. He was telling me in this passage that it was fully right to continue to value God so highly that it could, should, cost me what the world thinks should be learned to become significant.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
"It's okay, child. Come, follow me... and participate in the wisdom that no man can deny because it is Mine."

I haven't looked back since. The blessings have been real. I've have no regret in the absence of continued education... till this year. Do I really want to go to school? It's so not me. It speaks many "wrong" things to me that I could have sworn 1 Cor 1 taught me ten years back. I don't even know for what I would take seminary classes. God is not showing me that.

I am afraid of my heart. What if, while enjoying learning, I oust God's values? What if somehow it becomes more important to me than people? But "He keeps my foot from slipping." I know what kind of God it is that saved me and called me, who will also keep me. He is the Savior who could have ascended, dressed in royal robes, to sit on the throne, but did the opposite. He came as a mere man, and just gave his time. He sat in dirt and listened to the sorts of things other people really wanted to talk to Him about. His comfort was to dwell with the ones who knew they knew nothing. Jesus' ministry was paramount, successful, and the glory of God spread.

Rather surprisingly this describes not only the way of the Savior, but it sounds a lot like my dad's ways as well. Hmpf. The LORD is trying to open my eyes.

Thank you LORD for reminding me through these times that your ultimate interest is in people, not idealism or intellectualism. Not only are you confirming 1 Corinthians 1, but you are showing me that I should not stray to serve your values as if I were an idealist or intellectualist. Let me remember how significant the people of this world are for you, that you came and gave everything just to initiate restoration. Even when I think I know what is in lack with another person, your value of them denies me the full exercise of my provisional understandings.

LORD your greatest preference is to use those who are nothing, and God, you are everything.



Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Slippery Slope


My senior pastor is lining up with Peacemaker Ministries to have leadership of our church trained by their materials. When he handed me a brochure the other day, I recognized it right away. Perhaps you have already read the book or at least seen their website?

The response we give to conflict can be corrupted through time. This is why in Ken Sande's book titled, "The Peacemaker," he has called it a "slippery slope."


Rebroadcasted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Ken Sande (Baker Books, 3d ed., 2003). Peacemaker® Ministries www.Peacemaker.net

As you can see, being in either the blue (escape) or red (attack) zones does not resolve conflict. For more explanation, visit this page (below) on their website. As I read just this little bit I was ministered to.


Peacemaker Ministries has made available a free download of the first chapter of their flagship book, "The Peacemaker," by Ken Sande. Click here to access.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dillow's statement on the Gospel

(Dr. Lybrand has invited this (his) letter (below) to be published and discussed here and elsewhere.)

17 September 2009

To: The Free Grace Community
From: Fred Lybrand, President, Free Grace Alliance
Re: Jody Dillow and the Gospel


To Whom this may interest---

Over the past year or so I have had a good number of you inquire about many things regarding the direction and shape of Free Grace thinking. Among them has been a concern about Jody Dillow, a man of significant influence among us all through his teaching (especially in his work "The Reign of the Servant Kings") and pioneering missions work.
You need make no mistake here; I am writing to support and honor Jody. He has been a dear brother and an excellent thinker (not to mention that my wife is a better wife to me because of Linda Dillow's ministry!).
The issue regarding Jody is one of concern over the GES Gospel (aka 'crossless gospel'). Jody doesn't exactly engage in these issues, especially as he is endeavoring to bring the BEE training to the eastern world, and by means of the internet seminary work he is involved with, to the whole world.
I was especially caught off guard when I received feedback from his endorsement of my new book on Faith and Works ("Back to Faith") where he said,

"Fred Lybrand's analysis of the common saying, 'Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone,' exposes the logical and biblical fallacies inherent in Calvin's famous statement. With careful exegesis he dissects James' discussion of faith and works with fresh insight into this controversial passage. When I read his doctoral dissertation I immediately encouraged him to publish this so that many others could benefit. The book is well written and finally puts Calvin's cliché to rest---where it belongs."
- Jody Dillow


It is with this in mind that I simply want to say that he and I have had some good conversations and he has specifically given me permission to publish the following statement regarding his view of the gospel:

“I believe that in order for one to be saved he has to believe that Jesus is the Christ (that is, the Lamb of God who takes away sin and the Messiah), the Son of God (that is, He is God), and in believing one can have eternal life through His name. One must trust in Christ’s forgiveness for sin wrought for him at Calvary as an essential element of saving faith.”
- Jody Dillow (by permission, email correspondence, September 4, 2009)


Now, this statement is not meant to be an exhaustive description of the gospel; but I do believe it stands for itself; and I feel very comfortable standing with Jody. We are all engaged in the process of discussion and growth as we promote and defend the grace of God. For my part, this statement is fine...though I can see it inviting a few questions as well. What I know for sure is that Jody is in the same Chafer / Ryrie traditional free grace world I dearly love. Of course, I don't exactly agree with Chafer or Ryrie on everything (I don't even agree with myself on some things!), but I am grateful for Jody's clear statement you see above.
I hope this satisfies the questions many of you have raised and trust we will all continue to faithfully (and fervently) labor together.


God bless you all,
Fred Lybrand


Friday, September 11, 2009

Disconnecting Proof of Faith from General Lifestyle

I've always wondered if saving faith is the sort of faith "that desires to follow after Christ." To follow Christ has come to mean in evangelicalism, as far as I understand it, a believer who is known for their faith in Jesus Christ because of a lifestyle that is consistent and visibly productive of righteous works.

Kev has been putting in a good deal of effort along with Mark Pierson on Kev's blog (On My Walk), in attempt to produce a dialogue with Lordship Salvation proponents concerning the meaning of saving faith. I'm really impressed with what they have thusfar produced. I highly recommend his latest two articles on this dialogue. These are excellent for introducing any reader who is new to this issue.

Kev's latest article is titled, "What is Faith? My Response To The LS Presentation."

Zane Hodges spoke in 2005 considering for what works are designed to give proof. His session is titled, "Once Again James 2." He is saying, if I understand rightly, that a general lifestyle of obedience has not a single mention in James 2. This is a five part video series. Parts 1 and 5 are the most direct - below.

JAMES 2:20-26
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.







I've always wondered if saving faith is the sort of faith that by nature desires to follow after Christ. This insight seems to disconnect the idea even further.




Thanks to Don Reiher, who has been diligent to make available many conference sessions of free grace teachings. There are many to access to date on YouTube.

Monday, August 24, 2009

-PUSH-


the gospel


neighbors
parents
children
husband
children's ministries


extended family
church cohorts
long distance friends
internet buddies
Birthright acquaintances

grocery checker
homeless man
overstressed mom
wayward sister







PUSH

me + Jesus






There are things I want to do with my life. The gospel kindles a fire in my bosom and it makes me want to leave my nets behind and follow Him on some wild and amazing adventure. Why doesn't everyone desire to find their purpose in the gospel as much as I? They slow me down like a child who has wrapped his body around my leg while I try to walk. Sometimes I feel like looking down at the metaphorical child to declare, "Go away!" Don't they recognize that I am set on ascending?

Jesus was someone who was known for getting "underneath." He lifted others up so that they were hoisted toward God's light and love. Luke 22:25-28 -
And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves."
I might do as Jesus has. The good news is living and demonstrating its worth because I permit a carry-on. These are someone(s) who just do not understand God's wonderful grace. They come in between me and another measure of closeness I might gain to fulfill my dreams in Christ. As long as I keep a keen eye on the light of the gospel, all the re-positioning and pushing is not as burdensome as it looks. The gospel fuels passion in the heaving, sufficiently. Ha! God's goodness is powerful enough not only to lift me but many people at once!

I know I'm going to get there just the same because His light does not lie. In fact it is probably God's will that I would be made fit for service to the gospel later on by learning this lesson now. "Hold on tight; you're coming with me."

I'll get there one day... but not without my brother.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Twin gospel concerns

There are two thoughts I have had stemming from watching children respond to the gospel last June.

This year's CEF five-day kid's club had twenty-six children. A few of them were ones I felt had never heard the gospel before, and two little girls who believed in Jesus that week were ones whose mom was reluctant to let them go when I met her. Praise God!

CEF later sent the attendance record sheet for my club with all the names of the kids along with a general newsletter. At the bottom there was a tally:

Decisions, First Time: 6

Assurance: 1

I know most of these kids pretty well. One of the "first times" is my niece. She is five so perhaps she did not understand previous presentations of the gospel. She doesn't have a church-going family but she has me and AWANA. I wonder - was this really her first moment of faith in Jesus?

Another one is a boy belonging to a Spanish pentecostal church, but the mom seems to have a very good understanding of scripture and an active faith life. I wonder... was this really his first profession of faith?

Another eight year old girl is one I am pleased with. She came to the backyard club last year and I am sure, she was a "first time professor" of faith at that time. Then she came to club this year and is again a "first time professor" of the faith. Then I directly took her the following Monday with me to church to a VBS program, and Bonnie and the bible story teacher pulled me aside and said, "She accepted Christ today, but, she seemed to know a lot about the gospel. Was this really her first time?" I said, actually no. They said, "Hmm. Well, you might read her john 10 or other assurance passages."

I am concerned. A 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 gospel message is a/the gospel that saves the lost. Those who are receiving the Word of God are often not expressing faith that they are saved. What if the gospel has become just a list of beliefs to profess? What if the children do not understand that they have been invited by Jesus Christ to receive the gift of eternal life? This is one point of reflection I have gained through this experience.

But I have a second point of concern.

There were some older boys and their little gang who I had longed to share the gospel with last summer but they do not live in this area and disappeared for the '08-'09 school year. I was thrilled to see them wandering around again this summer. I invited them but they didn't show up till the following week. Monday at two o' clock there was a knock on the door. "We're here for the club!" they declared. I laughed and said, "You missed it, I'm so sorry guys!" They asked what they missed, and I said, "come here and I'll show you!" They all sat patiently through the CEF Wordless Book gospel. I had them bow their heads and hopefully pray with me according to their own sense of believing what they had heard from scripture about becoming a child of God. Those two boys said, "We want to learn how to read the bible." I said, come and see me and I will teach you, okay?

I was pretty excited about that but somehow they did not come around very often. Then two weeks ago they showed up saying, "We want to take Grace [my daughter] with us to church on Sunday. Can she come??"

Hmm. "What church?"

"Oh, it's just down that way, you know that one? They are giving out ten dollars to the one who brings the most friends with on Sunday. We just get on the bus in the morning when it comes by." I've seen that bus. I know the church "down there." It's the Oneness Pentecostals, who will tell them, eventually after they've begun to build relationships with the people there, that they aren't truly saved till they've spoken in tongues after being immersed in water.

The eight-year-old girl I spoke of above, the one who now three times has professed faith in Jesus "for the first time" is one of those kids getting on the bus. This makes me very upset. I have been praying about what to do.

They've come back over and hung out. I told all of them them in a serious manner that I want them to know for sure that Jesus accepts them unconditionally because of their believing in the cross and I've read them john 6:47. I've done this two times when they've been with me. But now, all they're thinking about is ten dollars. Some church will pay them money, to attend. And they want money, because they're kids. What can I offer them? What can Christ offer them that will over-ride what this church has decomposed the gospel to be about?

All this hard work that CEF has done, that I have been desiring for their sake, is now at risk. This is when the sectarian group moves in and does what they do best.

Should I play on the same terms? I was thinking much better than anything I can do to convince them to be cautious with them is to implant the Word into their hearts and minds. I have tentatively decided to pay each child one dollar for every scripture they will work to memorize. That way it's guaranteed and based on their own accomplishment.

Then, even if they go to that church, and their members tell them, "you aren't saved" they will have to battle with scripture itself -

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. John 6:47

But I am by no means sure that this is God's will for them. I keep praying, feeling unsettled and unsure. I believe Jesus is capable of doing more amazing things with these little ones than anything I might come up with.

Any suggestions...?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Nugget of Wisdom

Ps. 141:5
Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.

Rev. 3:19
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.


I had a conversation yesterday with my dad. We were talking about other things, but he brought out some insight from his career. It was out of the context of post-9/11, when the FBI had to adjust its orientation in part. Before, they had only been concerned with investigations which is collecting information about a crime that has already taken place. Now they needed to collect intelligence, to predict and prevent terrorism before it takes place. They had no framework and no program and they hired my dad out of retirement because of his background in intelligence, and he built for them a program from scratch.

In intelligence,

  • There are things you know that you know
  • There are things you know that you do not know
  • And there are things you do not know that you do not know

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Reckon & Abide

So-and-so is "not walking with God." I forget how offensive the statement may be outside of free grace. The reply comes "Well I know so-and-so is saved, undoubtedly! So how can we even be talking about whether they are walking with God?" Then we have discussion about what walking in the flesh is supposed to look like.

I appreciate so much learning recently in conversations with Tim, Jim, Alvin and Gary that most of the "bare minimum" questions (regarding freedom in the LORD) that I ask are all answered in the same way: "The answer is that we must be abiding in Him." I'm adoring how it is bringing it back to the Word of God, because only in His mindset may I find rest and righteousness. This is so good for me. I need correction in this area. My drift far away from fundamentalism and legalism had been sending me somewhere in approach of universalism.

Yes; it's largely about abiding; choices; intention.... Though I believe there is a subdued sanctification that occurs for the Christian who "shows up."

We recently benefitted from a doctoral candidate transplanted from Texas who had never heard of free grace theology. He taught our sunday school as a guest. His six week lesson was through the Upper Room Discourse. He began and concluded with his testimony. "I used to believe for years that all I had to do was just show up, you know, for church and ministry and that's all it took for me to become pleasing in God's eyes. But now I understand it from a new perspective that we must abide in Him; it's a choice we make."

I could call this "BAM!" - sanctification, like Alvin calls it "ZAP!" - salvation. God "mercifully sometimes" sends you opportunities to increase your faith and increase your obedience or... He doesn't.

Way back in the beginning when I was 21, the first mentor I had who was a (calvinist) grad of Denver Seminary told me that the reason why God doesn't answer some prayers is because "you just have to keep asking. And your requests start to pile up. Eventually the pile of prayers becomes so large, God can't ignore it any longer, and He answers it." Calvinism has seemed to make our contriteness and God's goodness, impotent.

I have been one of those Christians who resented prayer and one who "showed up" but didn't know I should "choose to abide"! The pessimism of calvinism caused me to miss so very much. I went to my pastor to try and understand why victory was elusive. He happened to be free grace, but I didn't know that till a year later when I stumbled into a seminary class on Romans, and there he was, sitting there with his wife and his daughter and her husband. That was the class where I "heard" these verses for the first time, clearly (Romans 6:11-22):
Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
I read that last paragraph and understand it again, new. We either bear fruits of unrighteousness while in the flesh, or fruits of righteousness which are obtaining for us the quality of our eternal life. As Dr. Taliaferro taught, walking in the Spirit is like a light switch. It's either on or off, and the potential may be either one at any given moment.

As the class drew near a close, my free grace pastor and I crossed paths out in the parking lot. It was a single moment but I'll never forget. It was one of those looks at him that'll never be said in words with appropriate power. He wanted to know what was up. I shook my head in wonder as if saying, "Oh -- it's on."

I don't want anything to stand in my way. God is good, and I have no doubt. As long as I keep walking, He is able and fair to meet all my needs and I take peace in that! I believe that God's heart is to share inward regeneration like the beat on the street.

This is the video I sent my FG pastor as thanks for what I thought he must have observed; the fruit of free grace in my life. You will see the man in this video start off with some first steps, one foot after another, getting started in abiding. I want to share it with whoever may read this blog. What an amazing thing to discover, as we walk with Christ, the very evolution and conclusion of this video.... Oh, we have such a special thing in free grace! Keep walking! :D




Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Summer Bible Studies


I am fortunate to be invited into a mixed-denominational bible study of women. A fellow AWANA worker and I had been talking last Spring about how important unity is in the Body of Christ, and I mentioned my blog somewhere along the way. A few weeks ago she said, "I read your blog and I think you'll be pleased. This study presents the gospel with salvation being a gift of God and given freely. It's all about God's grace and how we cannot earn it, just receive it."


I am enjoying it, and at this time I am even hosting it. The former host has recently given birth to her fifth child. The other women and I make for a total of nineteen children which need care as we gather. The system they initiated was to put them outside in the backyard with a sitter and then all of us chip in for payment. So far, so good.

This is an answer to prayer! I've been desiring to have a bible study for the neighbors just out of my reach. Look what God did. It just materialized out of thin air! So all I have to do is rely on Jesus to give me opportunities to run into my neighbor who I've been ministering to, while she's hanging out with some of them that I barely are acquainted with. Yesterday, I got my first chance. I invited this one woman. I'd guess neither of them were impressed at my Jesus-ness. I leave it in God's hands.

This Just In: Apparently, I'm still a dork. Sigh! I'm still caring too much about the answer and not enough, not enough, about people. Talk about defying the point of why I was drawn in.

Enjoying God's Grace has helped me to recognize my blind spot. I have been praying to know His will for me and this is what He's showing me at this time. The people I've known the longest really want me to participate relationally with them again. I don't know what's wrong with me. My family, my longest-time girlfriend... something's gone terribly wrong in my attitude! I'm finding their lifestyle as my own stumbling stone! :( How did this happen? That's not what they should be getting from me.... I want their soul to move! I want to win them for Christ. I don't want to convert them to a list of rules, a conformity of whatever I choose.

I'm repenting and I'm praying. Lord, give me a new heart. This one's grown cold.

The other bible study I'm attending is called Discerning the Voice of God: How to Recognize When God Speaks by Priscilla Shirer, daughter of Dr. Tony Evans who is Senior Pastor of Oak Ridge Bible Fellowship, which was the location of the late Zane Hodges' memorial service held last December. I always appreciate it when I discover unyielding strongholds of free grace people at my church. We're only on the second week but thus far I have found it greatly comforting to see that essentially I have been surrendered and "doing things right" though Priscilla doesn't believe in or teach formulas in our relationship with Him.



Finally... there is a loose cord of wonderful cohorts in my church who have caught me up and I think I may be blessed to host this gathering as well. We have all thought that we should go through the book "Created to be His Helpmeet" by Debi Pearl. The women who want to read it together are from the entire spectrum of opinions on this! It may end up like "The View" where everyone plays an important role in thinking through what it is they believe and why. I have mixed thoughts. I was sort of "raised" in my faith (Jenn) with this understanding of a woman's role and it was delightful. I actually committed myself to being silent in church for a year or two. I'm ready to hear what God wants me to learn.




(This new cover is so Jenn :D I'm blessed to have an awesome threesome)


Thursday, July 09, 2009

"I'm changing my mind"

Sounds like a bad thing when it comes to theology, I guess a majority of people may think? Dr. Radmacher tells this story again and again in class: "My former student said to me, 'Dr. R., that's not what you taught seven years ago.' Well... if I'm done learning, then just shoot me!" And he is fully joking and fully serious when he tells this; you might be able to picture his expression. :)

Sure, believers can depart from truth and embark toward error, and that's unfortunate. But if there is no mobility permitted on principle, how are those who are currently drifting in error going to learn something redeeming? I myself want others who are more knowledgeable to encourage me to reconsider whatever might be tradition, and I do that by reckoning with them that the Word as fully fit for reproof.

Is there any grace, for theological error?

Of evangelicals, those who already defend grace toward theological error are Free Grace people. Does God only declare righteous the doctrinally pristine? No! We have been debating in excess of late that one can be saved by believing the "gospel" - and let's say for the moment that the gospel was "glorious" - 1 Cor 15:1-4 (though technically it appears that Stegall's gospel may actually require the most numerous points of content though it is difficult to figure out how to enumerate; therefore my addition may be incorrect). Even the fullest Free Grace gospel does not require belief in the Trinity, or belief in the virgin birth, or belief in other things such as the infallibility of the Bible, does it? These advocates readily explain for the sake of this debate that this is not the case; otherwise, they are adding a long list of biblical ideas to the gospel message. Our justification in Jesus Christ is accomplished without these additional beliefs - in the absence of them - or in the err of them. What about our sanctification?

How long is long enough that someone can walk by faith in Christ; someone who is a new believer founded and secured in everlasting life upon the content of the gospel.... How long, and still either not know about the Trinity or not believe in the Trinity? How long is long enough till it affects someone's sanctification, jeopardizing their obedience, by faith, in Christ? At some point it does, but can you tell your neighbor exactly when and where it has become sin - impossibly they must not have been righteous, in Christ, by faith alone, while also not knowing or receiving these other doctrines?

Or would you tell them that they must believe all doctrine from scripture in order to move forward from being born again, in any intent to walk with Him after that initial moment?

What is the one doctrine requiring our theological precision, in order that one may be sanctified in faith in our LORD after being born again?

Is it not how to walk by faith in Christ?

Miss this, and I don't see how one could be perpetually transformed into the image of Christ. (Of course there is always the reality that believers practice it even while denying or being unaware of the truth, and many new believers have no clue what any doctrine is yet the Spirit leads and teaches them.) I understand faith-righteousness to be the only precise doctrine, if any, necessary for godliness - though all the Word is all Truth and in measure, our challenge for abiding in Christ. Change your mind on this one, though, and the gospel begins to be corrupted in the daily Christian devotion (Galatians 3 - "you foolish Galatians!") and then also, eventually, corrupted in the Christian declaration (Galatians 1 "no other gospel").

I asked, above, if God justifies only the doctrinally pristine; and now I'd like to inquire whether God sanctifies only the doctrinally pristine?

I've always appreciated those who have taught on the subject of "theological legalism" because this is one of Free Grace's ameliorating contributions to evangelicalism. It will minister to many brothers and sisters in my thinking, freeing them from unrealistic expectations of themselves and of others. They are freed not from abiding in the Word, nor from learning the Truth. But, they are freed from obligation to a perfect or even well-rounded understanding of it (their doctrine) as they are abiding in Him.

If I'm incorrect, I'm willing to change my mind as I learn more.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

what if He was done telling His story?

Saturday and Monday I was with my two dear girlfriends, Jenn and Julie. Jenn has been back in Oregon for several weeks because her mother was dying. In fact, Jenn has three mothers; her biological, her step and her foster mother. It was her step-mother and she was dying of lung cancer just as my grandma did. She actually passed away ten days after my grandma.

I was amazed at the similarity of the various concerns and changes that took place both during and after her death, as she told the story of her passing. Now she and her four siblings are trying to decide who gets what and prepare the house to be sold. But this is Jenn's childhood home and parting with it, will be a difficult task. So she is spending her remaining time in Oregon, busy, working on fixing up the place. Busy is an understatement; she has a seven week old newborn, and three other children ages five and under.


The fantastic stand alone peaks dotting the farmland near Lebanon


I drove down to her mother's home in Lebanon, here in the Willamette Valley, to help with the painting of the exterior and the care of the children. There was plenty to do especially when I added my three children. But we had time to talk about things. It has now been a year since her own grandma and tragically her foster sister suddenly passed away as well. Her foster dad had to step down from being an elder to process this shock, which was a huge loss to the church. But Pastor Joe Lombardi is still preaching as their interim pastor. And I am glad for it because he is such a loving and godly man. I certainly feel compassion on that family. Dr. R. preached at family camp, and Jenn enjoyed his sermon and prayed him through it. I forget that he pastored a small church somewhere in the Valley, here, and I wonder which one it was?

She was delighted to hear my encouraging memories. While we were all in college ten years ago I once stayed in this home for the weekend and it was in the living room that Jenn asked me, with that heart of obedience, "Michele, we are going to church tomorrow, and since you don't know any worship songs, I was hoping we could learn a couple so that you can participate." So she taught me the song "Lord I Lift Your Name On High." Then she pulled out "It is Well With My Soul" and asked me "Have you heard the story why this was written?" I had not, and she told me the whole thing to my amazement. I imagine both of us silently appreciated that hymn once more as we scraped and painted.

Four years later Jenn got married. I remember I stayed with her step-mom for a day and we talked personally. Even then she had been fighting against cancer and she had become intimate with Christ through it. In fact she was so attentive and normal toward me, that I remember leaving thinking, I need an older woman mentor who will invest in my life. That was now six years ago. It is because of her step-mom that I sought and found my mentor in Christ who is such to this day.

But... what if this was all there was? What if He were done telling the story of His abundant goodness through my circumstances? What if all the splendor I'd know of Him, was in my past? What if He grew tired of working with me? The Lord gave His Word at today's beginning moment:

"...persecuted, but not abandoned...." 2 Cor 4:9

Funny, how the smallest pieces of scripture speak the loudest, isn't it? The troubles I have now are not signs of being abandoned. On the contrary! They are part of His redemptive design. It is a verse which will comfort my dear bereaved friend.

Blessing came through recalling things which are both her and mine origination stories. I certainly find God's power working through being exactly where He has placed me; here in the Willamette Valley. It is a place that is known for having the lowest attendance in church in the entire country (only five percent attend any sort of church). Knowing this makes me excited for the sake of the gospel. These are the moments and events and people that are creating me into the person God has passioned me to become for His glory. No - He is not done telling the story.

May His will be done.




Have a joyful and celebrant Independence Day holiday!


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is This The Stumbling Stone?

What is the stumbling stone, and what is the rock of offense?

Romans 9:30-33
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”


Here's a question I have asked myself a thousand times before: If I know of my sinful failings, am I righteous just by faith in Jesus Christ?

It may be the biggest selling point for why one would be a follower of Jesus. Talk about incredible freedom we have in Him.

God sees me as righteous; neener neener boo boo


How about you? Do you spend time thinking about this too?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Raise the Banners

Those who looked on at Calvary scratched their heads.

For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God (2 Cor. 13:4).

This is the gospel that Paul gave his life to defend. He preached "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be according to grace" (Rom 4:16), to both the lost and the saved (Gal. 5:5).

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving (Col. 2:6-7).

His one bitterness was with brethren who were in Christ but recanted their sufficient faith; a tragic irony (Gal. 5:11-12). But I'm sold out. I want my stake in the earth to look like this.

"The Christological Symbol (Brazen Serpent Sculpture), created by Italian artist, Giovanni Fantoni, stands atop Mount Nebo. It is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9) and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified (John 3:14)."

This is a picture of God's invitation to put on the offense of Christ.

It is the stone of stumbling for those wrestling with God's terms of faith alone (Rom. 9:33). It is the most powerful teaching in the world, because it proclaims our reality of life in God; righteousness is ours by faith in His Son and not from ourselves (1 Cor. 1:18). I forget to meditate on what "grace" really implies here and now in His Body. It implies that sinners can, without any merit, be imputed with Christ's righteousness.

If you, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared
(Ps. 130:3-4).

At Calvary, evil was crucified (Heb. 10:14).


If we wave around the offense of Christ like a banner, we know that this world is struggling with believing it, and they quicken our sufferings. Their reproaches reflect a wrestling with God's grace. That's okay with me; if I no longer live, but Christ does, I "fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" (Col. 1:24). And He told us this would happen (Phil. 1:29).

Monday, June 15, 2009

the gospel and a funeral

Yesterday was the funeral service for my grandma. My friend and pastor volunteered to do the service. I asked him ahead of time about which scriptures he was going to use to share the gospel. He told me that he was going to use John 1:12, with Ps. 23 and the story of David as the shepherd.

I'm caught in passion to share the gospel. But not just the gospel, alone. I also want to share His graciousness. No "baseball bats." This is a funeral, after all. And this is my family, who I know very well. What a prime position God has given me, to use for His glory.... Not only to most readily minister emotionally in this acute moment of distress. That would have been enough, wouldn't it? But I get to talk most appropriately about "religion" at a funeral, and no matter how someone might object to Christ they will accept it in this cultural setting.

"Green light."

I still do not fully grasp the role women can take in speaking in mixed company about the Word of God. But my pastor was there presiding. And, most of what I said of scripture was actually a recount of individual conversations with Grandma. So in a couple of ways I do not think I broke any quasi-feminist ground.

After my pastor finished his gospel, he asked for family to speak, and I was the only one. What you read below is not "written to impress." Exactly the opposite, it is written to sound conversational in speech, and as empty as possible of "Christianese."

Lizzy kneels by great-grandma's grave



Two daughters, two nieces

I don't have a great sense of humor. I wish I did. Grandma was keenly clever; she was always laughing, always cracking jokes. All three of her sons got her funny bone, and I'm waiting to see if I inherited hers, too.

She always loved me and my sister, and I told her that I knew it without a doubt. She said back to me, "Indeed, I do." I started to get to know her when we moved out here and I was 13. I'm still learning about her. There are so many amazing times and circumstances she has gone through. She knew times of great luxury, and she knew times of poverty. She worked hard, at everything she did. She even gave up smoking just because one day she decided to quit and followed through - she was a determined and strong woman.

One of her greatest strengths, in my eyes, was her optimism. A famous consolation of hers was "Well, it's better than nothing!" and I can see her saying it with a smile. I think she earned the right to say such a thing to others.

I don't know how she would have gotten through without her optimism. She beat a lot of odds. Many of the conversations she and I had in the last ten years were on our crucified and risen Lord Jesus. She and I had started going to church regularly about the same time. I don't think she ever grew tired of thinking about what Jesus has done, for all of us. She's known about it all her life. She believed as Hebrews 9:22 says, that without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness for sins, but since Jesus did suffer and His blood was shed, we who know this have already become sealed with the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of His purchased possession, as Ephesians 1:13 says. That's you and me, if we've believed in Jesus's sufferings for us - even if it's not easy to understand.

Is it just that easy? Would be her question. Yes, eternal life is absolutely free.

Is it just that easy? I like asking the question, too.

One of the last times I spent with her I quoted John 6:47 "Most assuredly I say to you, whoever believes in me has everlasting life." I didn't have to say much to her, she nodded her head in agreement. Then later she was joyful and we talked a lot about family.

My sister and I have this way of differentiating between our two grandmas. Grandma Evelyn is "the cool grandma." She really was cool. I look at her life and realize how great I would have it to be like her. She knew suffering. But she also had learned, perhaps from observing what Jesus did on the cross, that suffering does not last forever. We know this. Suffering is a part of life. But it only lasts for a little while, and then it is done.

It isn't "just that easy" to know this, but by faith I know that she is present with her Savior now, and those of us who have been forgiven of our wrongdoings will also be present with her one day too. I'm an optimist as she was. I need more than optimism, however, and I think I have it. I don't want to ever grow tired of hearing it either. I praise God believing how He holds us through all the circumstances of our life on this earth, and into eternity as well.

She really had suffered, dying from cancer and not having proper pain management. Everybody was just not well, thinking about how needless it was. Her suffering is something God and I really talked a lot about. And when I couldn't tell Grandma a scripture about suffering for glory, I did tell her exactly what I said above.

I said to her, "Grandma I know that you're frustrated."

She raised an eyebrow and said, "Oh; I am??"

"I think so," I replied. "You're frustrated because you don't know how to help yourself feel better lately."

"Yes."

"Well, if you're suffering, just recall that it doesn't last forever. It only lasts for a little while, and then it's gone. And I think you're doing a great job. I love you. If you need anything, you just ask me. And I will get it for you, okay? You just ask."

She spent many moments thinking about what I said, and then replied saying how much she knew that I loved her. But I had already told her before that God loved her so I didn't feel the need to restate this for her.

I'm so thankful for Christ and His saints that the family received the words at the funeral yesterday with satisfaction and gratitude.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"The Very Works"

Are the scriptures saying that the works of Jesus prove His deity and the Trinity, without explicit words and concepts and doctrines? I found these:

Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

john 14:11

What does this passage mean? I tried a measly dose of study and came up with no leads. Is Jesus saying, "Okay, you don't have to believe in the Trinity idea just yet, but at least believe in Me, because the works themselves which I do - the works which are the works of YHWH God alone - if you know your Hebrew scriptures well, you'd know that."

But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

john 5:36

(One of my most favorite passages of the GoJ's (Gospel of John's) deity chapters (5,13-17))

Why "the very works I do"? Because only YHWH had eternal life, only YHWH could forgive sin, and, YHWH had all judgment entrusted to Himself. These works-characteristics of YHWH identify, set Him apart, and distinguish Him from all false gods.

The question I am trying to ask is this: are "the very works" when believed, essentially a transaction of believing in the deity of Jesus? Also, a transaction therefore of believing in the Father?

John 14:11 (above) comes at the tail end of Jesus talking with Philip who asks, "Lord, show us the Father and that is sufficient for us" to which Jesus replies, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?" If you have One you have The Other as well - that's a theme from the deity-chapters of the GoJ.

In John chapter 5, the context from which I'm pulling the phrase "the very works" is on bearing witness. Jesus says,

If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.

john 5:31

As far as I comprehend things, there is an interconnectedness in bearing witness. The Father bears witness of the Son and the Son also bears witness of the Father - and the Holy Spirit might be meant instead in those passages in John 5? But John the Baptist is a forth witness in this passage who God foretold in the OT. John the Baptist was also a witness to Jesus.

If "the very works" bear witness, then essentially we've got the Godhood of Christ, and the Trinity, being believed upon, on that level alone. It's kind of like "pay it forward" - believing on the light you have received, even the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" in the transitory-covenant period, is essentially proving our honoring of the entire Trinity?

Of course, I find this interesting because when I was coming to Christ, I could tell while watching Jesus as an atheist that He had authority on some level, and His works and miracles persuaded me to acknowledge and revere Him. To review an old post I additionally wrote on my testimony of salvation, you might read this...

Who was Jesus when I was Saved?

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