[Godly] love is as new as every new moment.
I love this concept. There is something so comforting about knowing that at each and every moment of the day, God is there, loving me regardless of my shortcomings and failures. Chris Tomlin, who has become the forerunner of modern worship music, portrays it perfectly:
"This one thing remains: Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me."
If I lose all that I am, all that I have gained in this world, I know one thing will always remain, his great, mighty, powerful, and unyielding love for me. It was that love that led to the suffering on the cross. His love never fails!
Getting Back Into Wesley's Journal:
"About a thousand people stood patiently (though the frost was sharp, it being after sunset) while, from Acts 28:22, I simply described the plain, old religion of the Church of England, which is now almost everywhere spoken against, under the new name of Methodism. "
I love the satire that I get from these words of Wesley. His work in England was largely chastised by the Anglican Church, although he never yielded his foundational loyalty to the Church of England. Wesley surely laments the fact that the Church of England did not view Wesley's Methodist movement as being a part of the their team.
I think we can fall prey to that in our modern day. We live in a consumer-driven world, where people can come and go to restaurants, stores, even churches as they meet or do not meet specific needs. We can become resentful of other denominations or churches that seem to be attracting more people. The truth is that all who claim Jesus Christ as our God, our Lord and Savior must recognize that we are all on the same team! We are all living this life to further the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and to that end we must respect and applaud the work that others are doing in the name of Jesus. I remember Jesus' rebuke of his disciples, who told a man not to cast out demons in Jesus' name because he was not "one of them". How many are there who are not "with us" that have the power to do great things in the name of God, that we hinder because of our own pride, vanity, or ambition?
It is a divine evidence and conviction, first, that God hath promised it in the holy Scripture . . . It is a divine evidence and conviction, secondly, that what God hath promised He is able to perform . . . It is, thirdly, a divine evidence and conviction that He is able and willing to do it now. And why not? Is not a moment to Him the same as a thousand years? He cannot want more time to accomplish whatever is His will. And He cannot want or stay for any more worthiness or fitness in that persons He is pleased to honour . . . To this confidence, that God is both able and willing to sanctify us now, there needs to be added one thing more—a divine evidence and conviction that He doeth it. If you seek it by faith, you may expect it as you are; and if as you are, then expect it now . . . Expect it by faith; expect it as you are; and expect it now. To deny one of them, is to deny them all; to allow one, is to allow them all.
I love that point of sanctification: expect it by faith, as you are, right now! We have the ability to live a life of holiness and honor unto God right here, right now! We don't have to wait until we are "mature" Christians, we don't have to wait until we have graduated from the Sunday School curriculum. We have the ability and the power to live a life worthy of God right now! We have the ability to go out, seeking God and serving him with all we are, loving him and loving others with all that we are, in the here and now. God is so good!
It is extremely important to know that the doctrine of holiness is a biblical doctrine. It is no less important to see that it is also a historical one, sewn securely into the fabric of Christian orthodoxy from the beginning.
I think the point in this statement about holiness being historical is very significant because I believe that when Holiness has been the focal point of the Church, it has resulted in the great change in the lives of humanity. Often times Christianity gets a pretty harsh treatment in the Historical Context; issues such as the Crusades, Slavery, and Civil Rights have at times thrown Christianity in a pretty poor light. But on the other hand, there are many instances in history when individuals have thrown themselves on the Altar of God, submitting to his will above all else. I think of people like Xavier, Zwingli, Luther, Wesley, and others who, forsaking all else, found no higher calling than to follow God and follow him alone. I think when we set ourselves aside and do the great work that God has called for us, then we have the ability to seek his perfect and pleasing will.
The interpretation of issues such as righteousness, holiness, sanctification, and perfection are non-negotiable in maintaining our theological integrity. They are at the very heart of the “analogy of faith,” the primary lens by which Wesleyans interpret Scripture.
I like this quote, because I think it points to the fidelity that Wesley had towards the scriptures. Above all else, Wesley maintained his integrity to the word of God: Love God, Love Others, Be Perfect as your father is Perfect. Through this lens, it is easy to see why Wesley thought the idea of Christian Perfection was attainable. If I love God with all that I am, and if my love for him also extends to the people I encounter, then I have no reason to believe that would flow. The issue arises when I allow myself to get in the way, when I start to consider my own interests above God's or other people I am supposed to be showing love to.
The Bible finds its authority in its faithful witness of Christ and in the fact that its truth of salvation and sanctification through Christ has been experienced and verified by believers through the centuries.
I think verification is a very important word in this phrase. The Bible by itself is a powerful story, telling the tale of a loving God revealing himself to all the world through a chosen people, culminating in Jesus reconciling the world through a sacrificial death on a cross. Its narrative, drama, and poetry are the things that Hollywood movies are made of; further, many of the Biblical stories have even found themselves on the big screen. The thing that makes the Biblical story greater is the fact that its theme, the message of God reconciling himself to humanity, has been shown and proven in the lives of countless individuals over the last 2000-plus years. The story is living! It lives in the hearts and lives of all of those who have received the loving power of Jesus Christ. Verification is crucial to the credibility of the story, and it has proven to be verified by the experience of individuals across time.
"We do not seek holiness for our own sakes, but for the sake of loving God with our whole being and loving our neighbor as ourselves. When we do this, we are being who God created us to be."
I think this is a great way to sum up what it means to seek holiness. The tenets of holiness run counter to the views of this world. The world trumpets personal accomplishments and extravagance, while the viewpoint of holiness is simple: to love God, and loves others, so much that we place our own interests and personal accomplishments on the side as we seek to serve others.
Its a new Class, so its time to restart the old Blog. This term's class is called "Becoming a Holy People".
I will freely admit that I am excited for this course. I think it is easy to throw terms around like "Holiness" and "Christian Perfection" and "Entire Sanctification" without knowing how to clearly communicate those in ways that people can understand and hold as their own. My hope is that this course will help me to be able to better explain not only what it means to live a lifestyle of holiness, but what I it is especially beneficial to do so.
Reflect on where you are today in your journey of Christian maturity compared to where you were when this module began.
For this particular module, I am thankful that it is over! I took the first section of this course in 2009, and finished the second section almost three years later. I put it off for so long because the content overwhelmed me. In retrospect, I am glad that I did, because I was able to get three more years of maturity and study under my belt before I embarked on the second component of this course. Thankfully, the course work was not as overwhelming as I remember. Further, I found that things were clicking better for me. I don't know if it was a place of maturity, or if I was less stressed out, but I am thankful for taking this course and learning more about who God is and how much he truly loves me.
Have you been exposed to the idea that Satan is the personification of evil? What do you think of the idea? How do you respond? How much of what we think about the devil comes from Milton’s Paradise Lost?
I have been exposed to this idea before, and I think a lot of what we see in evil is personified in Milton's portrayal of Satan. Satan had the arrogance to think he could overcome God; humanity has a flair for the prideful and arrogant. Satan is persuasive, as he depicted in the Biblical text as a sneaky snake that can convince humans of doing wrong while thinking it is all right.
I think Milton does a great job of showing what truly is difficult about evil: That evil is a very tricky path of life that is filled with deception. Crops up in good intended people doing bad things, all in the name of what they think is right, even though they are very wrong. Far too often do we travel down the road of good intentions, simply seeking out our own best interests, only to fall into a trap of despair.
Reflect on a time when someone reached out to you in loving-kindness. When was the last time that you saw someone in need and responded in loving-kindness?
I remember when I was younger, being ministered to by a youth leader. He genuinely was interested in me; he built a relationship with me, got to know me, shared himself with me. I think that is missing in a lot of relationships these days. Many people are hesitant to share themselves with others, I think for fear that they might lose something of themselves. This person looked in a different way, sharing himself for my sake. That is loving-kindness.
I think when we are building relationships, we have a variety of opportunities to reach out to others in loving kindness. Too many times we are too busy to look around and see the need around us. I recently went and visited a friend in a nursing home, just to cheer them up. It was a blessing to me that I could be a blessing to them. Often times we don't recognizes the benefits we get of being a blessing to another.
Reflect on your life in relation to the biblical concepts of perfection and greatness.
I think the most prominent Biblical example of perfection comes from The mouth of Christ: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48 NIV84)." That would appear to be a tall order! How is it possible as a human to gain perfection? I think think of the words of Paul when it comes to seeking perfection:
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you (Philippians 3:13-15)."
Perfection walks hand in hand with maturity; those who seek to make God the number one priority in their life are able to press on towards greatness. Those who are immature, who are not able to readily distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, struggle. I think the goal is not so much that we attain perfection, because I don't think that is humanly possible in this life; instead, I think the goal is that we seek to live our lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. We live in such a way that we are no longer dragged into the ways of the world, but we are compelled to live outside the influence of our cultural norms and worldly values. A life of perfection seek Christ first and foremost, and everything else is subsidiary to this goal.
Reflect on your sense of hope. Do you tend to be optimistic or pessimistic in most areas of life? How does that affect your faith?
I think as I look at this topic, I fall into the optimistic category. I think that in the world that we live in, it is very easy to fall into the pessimistic side of hope; when that happens, I think people are more apt to disengage. We can easily come to a place of resignation, telling ourselves "what difference does it make?" The truth is that we must continue to put our hope in Christ! For me, I always come back to the promise found in Christ, that he will never leave me, and that he has overcome this world and all the dark and pessimistic things it throws at me. Christ is ready and willing to lead me in faith, and I have to put my hope and trust in him alone.
Reflect on your response to this lesson. Were there areas of resistance? Were there moments of enlightenment? How will this lesson make a difference in your life and ministry?
This particular lesson was on Biblical Ethics, which can be a very tricky area to navigate, especially when the Bible can seem to be saying two different things. I recall watching a media production against California's Proposition 8 banning Gay Marriage. The production, done in the form of a musical, showed the bigoted Christians fighting against the Gays. In the end, Jesus comes in the scene, with a shrimp cocktail. The justification then becomes, if it wasn't all right to eat shrimp, but now it is, the same logic applies in regard to homosexuality. The issue I have with this logic is the lack of context for those justifications.
I think the one thing that is important in regard to Biblical Ethics is context and consistency. If a message or ethical decision has what appears to be a contradiction in the scriptural canon, I think it is important to look at the historical context in which a moral value was given. Often times, the context is more revealing for a specific instance, and not for a universal value. I believe that you can point in many ways to ethical values that do not change regardless of historical context, such as the notion in regard to Gay Marriage; others can look at the same passages and come to a different conclusion.
Needless to say, this is not an easy task. Interpretation of ethical values are made by individuals with their own notions and biases. Look at all the denominations in the world that claim Christianity, some divided by a single ethical value, like Gay Marriage. Who is right? Who is wrong? It is definitely murky water to tread.
Does your life reflect the joyous party of God’s grace? How can you change?
I think my life does reflect the joyous party of God's grace. As I look at my life, where I have come, and where I think I am headed, all that I see is the power of God transforming my life, renewing me into the image that he intends me to be. As a result, I look at my life as a thrill of riding a roller coaster, filled with ups and downs, yet never lacking in fun and adventure. It certainly makes my life very joyful.
Reflect on the power of bitterness when people refuse to forgive.
I think bitterness is something that can completely destroy a person. I have seen people who have been wronged (and have every right to feel upset for what has been done wrong to them) who are not able to give up being wronged. Sadly, the inability to forgive in one instance can quickly effect every other relationship one is involved in. If someone is wronged and loses trust in an individual, it can be difficult for that person to find trust in others. Often when we do not forgive, we are showing that we refuse to let go of the situation, and move on. It is like a good quality steak marinade. The longer you let a steak rest in the marinade, the deeper the flavor, the more tender the meat becomes, the more the marinade permeates the entire steak. In the same way, bitterness clings to the soul like a good steak marinade, permeating the entire human being. When this occurs, it jades every perspective in relationship.
I guess the greater question to ask when it comes to bitterness is "Where's the Beef?"
Reflect on how this lesson has helped your understanding of many passages of Scripture.
In this particular lesson, the faith chapter (Hebrews 11) has really stuck out to me. Each character in the story acted in faith, and they were rewarded for stepping out and following God, even when the outcome was not certain. I think too often we find our self in a place of having very little faith. We look at the struggles of our lives, the difficulties that come our way, and we look around scratching our heads trying to figure out how we can make things happen. So often the way that things come about is when we step back and stop trying to control the situation and let God do his thing.
In this chapter, Abraham is mentioned several times for his faith. It wasn't an easy task for Abraham to maintain his faithfulness. Several times he did not rely on God to see him through; his half-truth to Pharaoh in Egypt and taking Hagar to produce an heir both show times where Abraham tried to control the situation when he could have instead relied on God to see him through.
I think this example proves that it can be difficult to let go and let God do his thing. Faithfulness requires letting go of the steering wheel and letting God drive us, often in places and situations we never would have driven ourselves.
Write in your journal. Listen to the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel. Reflect on all that you feel as you listen.
As I listen to this song, I keep coming back to one specific phrase: And He shall reign for ever and ever." I can't help but think that this sums up the entire song, the entire feeling of what life should be. Our lives should be lived in such a way that we bring glory to the name of the one true God who will reign for ever and ever. We, the beneficiaries of God's great mercy and grace, have the opportunity to serve him, to see his Kingdom built, to see him reign for ever and ever as his people. What a great blessing we have!
Reflect on the difference between discipline and punishment. Who are the people in your life that have positively shaped you by their discipline and holding you accountable? Have you ever thanked them?
As a parent, I see that discipline and punishment go hand in hand. I think often times, discipline is a method and means of learning the correct and moral way of doing things. Having discipline is something that has to be worked on; I can't become a good reader without using the discipline of reading, and I can't be a good person if I don't have the discipline to act in a moral and proper way.
Punishment is often meted out when a person lacks discipline, or defies discipline all together. Punishment can often be painful or stressful, but it is often a necessary component to get an individual back on track to living a disciplined life.
I think I have learned from the discipline of older individuals who have gone before me. Their example of discipline has given me a model to replicate. As I watch those before me show the quality characteristics given by God, I am able to live my life in a similar way.
Has Christ’s passion for the lost become your passion?
I believe that as I have continued to grow in my knowledge and understanding of Christ, my desire to be a part of his mission has grown. I believe that God is continuing to develop me into the person that he wants me to be, and that as I can continue to grow in my understanding of him, he will continue to reveal to me the work that he has in store for me. It is up to me to follow in his passion for people by working to meet the physical, aesthetic, and spiritual needs of others. When I do this, then I am right where I need to be.
How has God used people and/or events to fulfill His purpose for your life? Who are the people around you who most need you to bear witness to God’s goodness in your life?
In my early years, my Parents played a significant role in guiding me towards God's purpose for me life. They did this by making sure I went to Church, that I learned about Jesus in the Church and in our home. They weren't perfect, but they excelled at loving me the way that Christ called them to love me, and sharing their faith so I could begin to make a faith of my own.
I can remember another individual that God used to fulfill His purpose in my life. He goes by the name of Ben Elery Barnes. The Barnes showed his love for Christ through his love for me. He didn't have to be all preachy and teachy with me; he instead witnessed the love of Christ through his relationship with me. I can't remember a single sermon he preached, except for one that had something to do with toilets. But his love for Christ and his love for me impacted me in such a way that I committed myself to loving Christ and others in a similar fashion.
I can think of several people that I need to bear witness of God's goodness. First off, I think of the young people that I minister to on a regular basis. They come from varying degrees of spirituality, and they need a tangible example of God's love for them through my actions. I also think of family and close friends that need this same thing, the same thing I received from those close to me in my younger years.
How closely does your life mission approximate the mission statements of Jesus?
· To seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10)
· To heal the sick (Lk 4:18)
· To minister to the poor (Lk 4:18)
· To give life (Jn 10:10)
· Not to be served, but to serve (Mk 10:45)
I think my mission meets up very well with the mission statements of Jesus. I feel that as I have grown in my faith and understanding of God, that he has enabled me to be a servant, to heal and give life, and to seek the lost. I think he has especially placed a soft spot in my heart for the poor, to minister to them, to be an advocate for their needs.
Recall the first person that you led to Jesus. Pray for that person. Recall the last person that you led to Jesus. Pray for that person. Pray for the family and friends, of those two, who are in need of Jesus.
The first person I ever led to Christ was a girl that I went to High School with. She had been going through a rough family situation, and I was able to share about the power of Christ to restore her life. She accepted Christ quickly, and I maintained a good friendship with her until she moved to Texas later on that year. After that, I wasn't able to maintain contact with her.
Lord, I pray for this young lady, that you would be with her. I hope she is still following you. Be with her, and surround her with people that will love her, and build her up in Christ. Be with her family and friends, that they may know you as well.
The last person I led to Christ was a young man in my youth group. He doesn't come from a Christian family, but is supported by the family of his best friend.
Lord, I pray for this young man, that you would be with him. I pray that you will continue to surround him in your love, that he can continue to grow in his faith. I pray that the situation at home would not be a bowl that puts the fire of his conversion out. Rather, I pray that he will be the first of many of his friends and family to accept you as their Lord and Savior.
Write a prayer for those individuals you have personally led to Christ.
Lord, I pray for those that I have helped lead towards a relationship with you. I pray that as each day goes on, that they can grow closer and closer to you. I pray that their desire would be to know you and grow deeper in a personal relationship with. I pray that there faith can continue to grow and mature, and that you will show them the great work that you have set out for them in the body of Christ. Protect them from the evil one, that he may not take away the joy of their salvation. Bless them I pray in Jesus name, Amen.