Grace—Freedom From Sin…

Last month I posted a blog on grace as unmerited favor, and also as divine enablement. It’s the divine enablement that empowers us to live in God’s favor. Unfortunately, there is a movement in the church referred to as “Hyper-grace”. Since we’re all under grace we an live any way we want. In his book, Hyper-Grace; Exploring the Dangers of the Modern Grace Movement, Dr. Michael Brown writes:

The truth is that the modern grace message is quite mixed, combining life-changing, Jesus-exalting revelation with serious misinterpretation of Scripture, bad theology, divisive and destructive rhetoric, and even fleshly reaction. And, in all too many cases, it is being embraced by believers who are not just looking for freedom from legalism but also freedom from God’s standards.

It’s in God’s grace we walk continually in forgiveness, but Paul addressed “freedom” versus “license” in his letter to the church at Rome:

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans‬ ‭6:1-7‬ ‭NKJV)

The message here is: Experience God’s grace. Grow in His grace. Enjoy God’s grace. It’s God’s gift. But realize that grace is freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.

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My Plan or His?

Or, it could have been said, “My will or God’s?”

I’m asked the question, “How do I know God’s plan (will) for my life?” In most cases, the person asking the question is a believer in Jesus Christ, but not necessarily a follower. A believer acknowledges the existence of Jesus, and may have even asked Him for salvation. But a follower is a student of Christ, studying His Word and seeking to know Him better.

Here’s the thing: up to 99% of God’s will for your life has already been given to you through His Word. So, in order to know His will, you have to know His Word. Don’t ask somebody else to tell you what His will is until you’ve sought His will on your own by asking God as you read the Bible regularly.

As you read the Bible, ask God to reveal His will for you through your reading. As you read, He’ll speak to you as the written Word (Logos) becomes the revealed Word (Rhema). As you read, your SHAPE (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience) will begin to give you an understanding of His plan for you. When you do begin to grasp His plan, talk to your pastor or a trusted Christian friend to help you understand and fulfill that plan. And, above all, as He reveals that plan, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!

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Ephesians 5:22-26: Wives and Husbands

In our book, “God’s Blueprint for Marriage”, and in our marriage seminars, we look at the relationship between husbands and wives as it reflect the relationship of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. I’m always looking at ways to explain through scripture what submission means in a marriage relationship. This morning, during my daily devotional reading, I found this in the J. B. Phillips translation, one of the early contemporary English translations. I like the way Phillips speaks of this relationship in Ephesians.

“You wives must learn to adapt yourselves to your husbands, as you submit yourselves to the Lord, for the husband is the “head” of the wife in the same way that Christ is head of the Church. This willing subjection of the Church to Christ should be reproduced in the submission of wives to their husbands. But, remember, this means that the husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the Church, when He sacrificed Himself for her. Christ gave Himself to make her holy, having cleansed her through the baptism of His Word—to make her an altogether glorious Church in His eyes.”

The husband-wife relationship becomes one of mutual submission when this scripture is looked at in its entirety. Unfortunately, particularly in fundamentalist circles, it’s taken out of context. Yes, wives are to submit themselves to their husbands, but husbands are to give themselves up for their wives.

Learn more about God’s Blueprint for Marriage on our website, Godsblueprint.info.

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More on Grace

When you see the word “grace”, remember it may mean “unmerited favor”, but it also might mean “divine enablement”. Look at the word in context of the scripture. For example, in Ephesians 3:8, Paul refers to the “grace given me to preach to the Gentiles…”. Is this “unmerited favor”? Or, is it “divine enablement”? Or, could it be both? “God has given me unmerited favor to divinely enable me to preach to the Gentiles…”

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It’s not all that complicated!

A few years ago when Marsha and I were in Peru speaking at a house church, a man announced he was ready to take the step of faith and become a Christian. (His wife had recently made that same choice.) So, I had him turn in his Bible to Romans 10:9, where it says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” I asked him, “Do you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead?” His response was affirmative. I asked him, “Are you ready to make Jesus Christ your Lord (Greek: kurios lit. “master”)? When he said yes, I prayed with him and he asked Jesus to become his boss. His countenance changed; he looked at me incredulously, and asked, “Is that all there is to it?” “That’s right!” I replied.

It’s not following a set of rules. It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ, made possible by an invitation extended to us by God’s grace. It’s just not all that complicated!

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Bad Times Don’t Last!

Over 30 years ago Marsha and I were struggling financially, and saw no light at the end of the tunnel. We were having a “discussion“ (if you had been listening you might’ve called it an “argument”, but we were just being “emphatic “ :-), when Marsha asked “emphatically” “What are we going to do about it?“ I replied equally “emphatically”, “ I don’t know what we’re going to do about it!”

Looking down at the table beside me, I saw these words in the Phillips translation I have been reading: “Present distress is temporary and negligible.” Reading the words that follow, “In my opinion, whatever we may have to go through now is next to nothing compared to the magnificent future God has planned for us.” (Romans 8:18). Those words gave us hope.

At times, we need to reminded, again, that “present distress is temporary and negligible,” and thank God for the magnificent future that lies ahead.

Years later, I am reading through the Phillips translation of the New Testament again. It brings back memories of how God has been with us through bad times, and promises better times in the future. And, if today’s times are good, think how much better they will be!

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Grace!

My goal normally is to read five chapters in the Bible per day, knowing that I can read the entire Bible in one year. But lately, I have been camping out in the Book of Romans. Rather than focusing on reading five chapters, I find myself contemplating and medicating a chapter, or maybe even a few verses. The more I dig into the word, especially Romans, the more I realize the good news is the grace news. It’s not “hyper grace “, where we have a license to do whatever we want because it’s all “covered by grace”. It is, rather that the realization of grace – the love that God has for us extended through his grace and mercy – that enables me to live for him rather than myself. Grace is most often defined as “unmerited favor “but it is also “divine enablement“. In walking in both his unmerited favor and his divine enablement, I want to live a life pleasing to Jesus out of gratitude rather than fear or obligation.

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It’s True, Cover to Cover!

I had a liberal theological background and, therefore, believed much of the book of Genesis was a “true myth”— fables intending to teach us truth, but the stories themselves never happened. There really wasn’t an Adam or an Eve. They were characters created by an ancient civilization to try to explain a creation they didn’t understand. There was no “Jonah and the whale”….You get the picture by now. But on August 28, 1980, I declared my faith in Jesus Christ, declaring it was all true. If it said the creation was a 7-day event, it was a 7-day event. Adam and Eve existed. There really was a Jonah, and he was swallowed by “a big fish”. I concluded the Bible is true from cover to cover and if the cover says “Holy Bible” the cover is true.

So, if the Bible says “…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12b), and Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6), those words must also be true.

The great truth is this: Jesus Christ died for my sins, and was resurrected three days later! Because I have bought into this truth, I have so many rewards, the greatest which I’m forgiven, my name is in the book, and I’m spending eternity in heaven. I’m saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

To know more about what this means, check out Wednesday night’s message given at Word of Life Bentonville at http://Gbpfm.sermon.net/main/main/21409770.

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A Leap of Faith

After twelve years full time at Arkansas Security, I have stepped down from my management position, going part time. I’m still available to help you analyze your security, fire, CCTV and access control needs, so please contact me if I may be of service in those areas. In the meantime, my focus is serving the Benton County Sheriff’s Office 1/2 time as Chief Chaplain, working toward full time when funds are available. My salaried position and operating expenses at BCSO are funded solely by Northwest Arkansas Chaplain Ministries, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. Initially Part of my responsibilities in includes fundraising for the ministry.

Here’s what you can do to help:

1. Pray for our chaplains, jail ministers and the people they serve at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office

2. Consider serving as a jail minister at the Benton County Jail.

3. Like and follow us on Facebook at NWAChaplains.

4. Sign up for our newsletter.

5. Help us find opportunities to share—in churches, civic clubs, wherever we might find an audience to listen to what God is doing at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

6. Consider supporting Northwest Arkansas Chaplain Ministries financially with monthly or one-time gifts.

Learn more, including how to sign up for the newsletter or support the chaplain ministry financially at nwachaplains.com,

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TIME TO LEAP

From today’s devo, “Pastor Rick: God has told you something that’s illogical and foolish. It makes no sense financially, relationally, or emotionally. Worse yet, you’re scared to death. But God says to do it anyway.”

I’m faced with such a situation, except for the “scared to death” part. I’m fully confident that what God has told me to do will succeed.

The sense of urgency to move forward began at the James River Church Stronger Men’s Conference, when Pastor Jeremy Foster from Hope City Church in Houston seemed to be saying over and over, “When are you going to do what God has called you to do?” I’m not going to make a major life decision on one conference speaker. But, since then it seems the same question keeps coming up over and over. I’ve discussed it with people I trust to tell me, not what I need to hear, but what they believe is best, and there’s been no negative response. And, importantly, my wife is beside this decision.

Today I’m meeting with my Board of Directors of the ministry today, to share with them I believe it’s time to take a leap of faith and launch full time, even though it seems “illogical and foolish…..”. (Read the entire Rick Warren devo at https://bit.ly/2WOEjIH).

I stand on God’s promises, ready to leap, confident of these scriptures:

“Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.” PROVERBS 16:3 (NASB)

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” PHILIPPIANS 1:6 (NASB)

And I’m ready to leap.

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