Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Christian Life

If someone asked you to tell them where the Christian life is, where would you direct them? Would you dare point to yourself and claim to possess the entire Christian life?

It is amazing to me how reticent we are to claim for ourselves what Jesus said is ours. He said He is our life (the only Christian life) and we still refuse to believe it and behave as if it is true. The truth we often will not own is that every Christian has the entire Christian life. That entire Christian life is the perfect presence of Jesus in us right now. If we look for the Christian life anywhere else we will look in vain. All the Christian life we will ever have is in us from the moment of our new birth.

Like the DNA we live our physical lives with from conception, Jesus is all the Christian life we will ever have and all the Christian life we will ever need.

The Apostle Paul said "for to me to live is Christ...". He also said that he no longer lived but Christ lived in Him. He also was concerned that the Christian life would not be "formed" in all those in whom that life dwelt. He wasn't concerned they did not have the Christian life. He was concerned that life would not occupy its rightful place of influence and stimulus. Clearly Paul looked at every believer as possessing the entire Christian life since Jesus was abiding in them. Do we see every Christian like Paul did?

As I have struggled to believe I have the entire Christian life already in me, I have sensed that my own pride is what keeps me from surrendering to this profound yet simple way of seeing. I don't want a finished and perfect life in me because that means I will have to live exclusively by grace from now on. Grace means I didn't produce anything. Grace means I simply receive from the resources of another. That offends my desire to contribute something additional to the source of my life other than faith.

We cannot and must not add to the cross of Jesus or we will distort the Gospel. We cannot and must not add to the life of Jesus which is the Christian life. Both Christ crucified and Christ are to be received as perfect and gracious from the moment of receiving by faith.

Little by little I am learning to stop making excuses about the qualify of my Christian life. My Christian life is perfect since my Christian life is Jesus. I have the perfect Christian life right now. I don't need to go looking for it or try to produce it. I need to receive it, rejoice in it and release it.

The next time someone asks you to help them find the Christian life, don't take them to a bookstore or even a pastor. Tell them you know right where the Christian life resides 24X7. Tell them that same life can be theirs the same way you received it-by faith.

"For by grace are you saved and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God."

Oh, the unimaginable patience of God with me. He gives me the entire Christian life and I still live as though Jesus is not enough.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Back In Brazil

Pam and I arrived safely back in Brazil this morning the 21st of February. Our flight was great and we were greeted at the São Paulo airport by Tom and Diana Turley along with their daughter Charity. We felt truly welcomed home.

Tomorrow I begin a three day retreat with the people of the First Baptist Church of Jacareí. We are off and running.

A special thanks for all who made our stay in the USA such a wonderful time. Here are a few pictures of the great time we had while in the USA.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Marriage Seminars

Pam and I are headed back to Brazil on the 20th of February. Our time in the USA and in India have been wonderful. We are living the promise of Jesus that said we would have houses and lands everywhere if we would follow Him. We have only spent a few nights in hotels in the past two months. We personally own no home in the USA or Brazil, but we sure have stayed in some wonderful places that felt like home. God is good.

We have also experienced the great joy of presenting the seminar "Six Metaphors of Happy Marriage" in Riverdale, Maryland and in Houston, Texas. This 5 to 6 hour course on marriage is being greatly used to challenge couples to do a spiritual diagnosis of their marriages. We are extremely gratified with the way this material is being received in Brazil and the USA.

A special thanks to all who made their home our home. A special thanks to all who love us in Jesus' name.

The Question of Evil

Have you ever thought of yourself as being evil? I have to admit I have reserved the title "evil" for the really bad people of history.
People like Hitler and Stalin come to mind for my evil list.
As usual, the words of Jesus recently challenged my habit of personally excluding myself and other "good" people from the list of evil. Jesus said in Matt. 7: 11 "if you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"
Jesus' words "you, being evil" really hit me hard at the exact moment I was thinking of a person who had hurt some people I deeply love and I heard myself saying "He is evil."

So, I asked Jesus to explain the meaning of evil to me and that set in motion some days of intense connecting of Bible verses and Jesus' use of the word evil. Here is what finally came together for me and I have had to extend my evil list to include me.

Evil is the creating of a list of people I give myself permission not to love.

Jesus said we are all able to create a list of people we choose to love. "...being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children"
The children made it on my personal list so they receive the best I am and the best I have.

I know that the Devil is on our list of evil beings. I am beginning to see that the Devil was expelled from heaven because he wanted to be like God. The devil is not a creator. The devil is not omnipresent, omniscient or omnipotent. So, what was the devil wanting that only God is? I think the devil wanted to decide who he would love. I don't think God was really concerned with any other power the devil might grasp for except the power to lead others to live with a list of God's creatures who did not deserve to be loved.

Instead of loving all, the devil wanted to reserve the right for himself and his followers to create a list of people or beings that did not deserve to be loved. This, then, is the birth of evil. Jesus is the birth of the cure for evil among men.

Jesus' birth is the arrival of the first man who would never have a list of who should be loved. Jesus had no list. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son..." John 3:16 Jesus' arrival is the arrival of the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom with no list.

I am evil whenever I keep a list of who deserves my love. When I have such a list I am competing with God for the one thing I can do that only God should be doing. God has already decided who is worthy of love and the list is everyone so I don't need a list at all.

Whenever we insist of keeping a list of who deserves the best of us and the best we have, we compete with God's decsion that love is for all.

Jesus had no list. That is what infuriated the devil, the pharisees and the romans. They all had lists and wanted Jesus either to adopt their list or end up on their list. The no list Jesus even upset the apostles shortly before the crucifixion as Peter tried to stop Jesus from going to His death. Jesus confronted that interference with God's love with the words "Get behind me Satan."

To be a disciple is give up our list of who deserves the best we are and the best we have. Read the sermon on the mount with that thought about evil in mind and verses like "go the second mile" or "turn the other cheek" or "love your enemy" will suddenly seem completely in tune with a kingdom that allows no lists.

The person I was calling evil is evil to the extent that they actually promote lists of who should be loved. The problem is, their evil was leading me to create a list, too. Evil is closer to me than I wanted to admit. "You, being evil" fits us all when we grab our pen to add a new name to our list.