Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How Come God is not Logical?

I am back from blog vacation! I confess, after many years of blogging weekly, I didn't miss it. It gave me time to think more deeply about new topics, and rethink some old ones... my newest topic has been grace and I am actually teaching and online Bible study on Facebook entitled "The School of Grace", feel free to join me for 8 weeks.

I really hate legalism, wooden literal-ism, liberalism and super-intellectuals when it comes to Bible. I am serious, I have listened to so much "educated" mumbo-jumbo in 35 years I don't know where to start! To top it off I have heard 102,834,727,237,283 people say "I think", followed by a comment that you could't come close to making up with even the most liberal interpretation of the scriptures Therefore; today, I am going to take a look at how Jesus, Peter and Paul interpreted the Torah. It is quite enlightening when you really look into it.

Here is an example of Jesus interpreting the Scriptures:

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'

And what is with Peter, a little too much new wine?

Acts 2:14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
 17 “‘In the last days, God says, 
   I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
   your young men will see visions, 
   your old men will dream dreams. 

Folks we need to ask ourselves this question: How the hell do we know what any of the Bible means? We read the books, study the Greek and Hebrew, listen to our seminary educated pastors and teachers, and yet religion prevails, and God is imprisoned in the minds of many.

Much of Christianity spends time pouring over the Scriptures as did the pharisees and the Scribes. And many just like them become educated in everything but the ways of the Spirit. We are taught that when Paul called his past education rubbish (Philippians 3:8), that somehow he is speaking of his past life, when in fact he is talking about all the education he had which did NOT bring him to the knowledge of Christ.

The relationship with the Spirit of God, the inner working of the Holy Spirit and knowing the voice of God are essential for understanding the Scriptures.

Romans 8:14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

If you read the rest of the the Devil's discourse, and the other places in the Bible where the Torah is quoted, you would think that it was taken out of context - and in truth, it sure seems to be!

Jesus is very clear about who follows him:

John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

God is not logical, He doesn't care if his ways follows scientifically proven "facts" of men, He does't care about your pet theologies, no; He wants you to know Him, to hear Him and to obey Him.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

How about you, do you hear God?

Monday, August 29, 2011

5 1/2 Things I like about Hurricanes - Wussicane Irene

Bass River Hurricane Bob '91
Well, we survived Hurricane err... Tropical Storm Irene. She was sort of a wuss compared to her grandparents Bob '91 (Cape Cod, MA) and Gloria '85 (CT) both of whom I lived through - but you already knew that..

I have lived in New England all my life; almost all of it on the coast. We have some pretty severe weather from time-to-time. I survived a tornado or two in Connecticut. We have Nor' Easters that pound the coastline and drop huge amounts of rain and/or snow - one nearly wiped out the Bush family home in Maine during the Nor' Easter of October 1991 with hurricane force winds and 39 foot waves.

I survived the Blizzard of '78 where we had snow drifts that completely covered every car in the driveway and rose 6 or more feet above the ridge on the roof on the house! Sometimes winter storms don't get much credit, but we had 42" of snow in 32 hours back a few years ago. Massachusetts/Rhode Island had torrential rains that flooded malls and washed out all sorts of bridges last year. Hey we even had an earthquake earthquake in Boston a few days ago, and another one last year.

I have to admit, as dangerous as hurricanes are, and even with the damage they can cause, I really like them - and here's why.

-1 WIND, WIND and more WIND! I like to get right outside and experience the high winds. It's an amazing experience as the winds whip around faster then the speed limit on the interstate highway. The best experience is out at the beach... but I wonder where the sea gulls go?

-2 Giant Waves! The day after a hurricane the waves can be taller than a 3 story house. The magnificent surf simply leaves me standing in awe of the raw power of the ocean, and our Creator.

Matthew 8:27 The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

-3 Power Outage: It's a good reminder of how much we depend on electric current to run our lives. I sort like the eerie quiet and the smell of candles.

-4 Rain: There is nothing more spectacular then to see "horizontal" rain blasting by at over a 100 miles per hour. It has such a distinctive sound.

-5 The Eyewall: One of the most spectacular things about a hurricane is the eye. The sky suddenly changes from the ominous blackness and driving winds, to a beautiful calm with a blue cloudless sky. As it passes overhead the "eyewall" is like looking up from the bottom of a giant empty milk glass - the wall of clouds extending into the heavens.

-5 1/2 Pop-Tarts (the largest selling item at Wal*Mart before any major storm.) ...

Here is brief clip from my front porch.

Friday, August 26, 2011

...and the Oscar for Christian concepts and sybolism cleverly hidden in a secular film goes to...

Even though I’m completely responsible for this weeks Kingdom Blogger theme, this was one of my most difficult weeks. Not because I didn’t have anything to say…the problem was picking just a single movie/television show to focus on and dissect.

Those who know me (or regularly read Tony C Today) are already rolling their eyes and waiting for the Lonesome Dove or The Godfather breakdown. Sorry, Not today. While I often spew quotes from either movie like idioms on commitment to family and friends, I want to go with another one of my favorite classics…

The Shawshank Redemption

Has it been done before? Probably. Is it a tad overt? Maybe. But, the scene in the picture here alone warrants a closer look at how a prison movie can depict Christian values/themes.

The main character, Andy Dufresne, is as Job-like of a character as you will find in modern-day cinema. Convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, Andy is sent to his own person hell at Shawshank prison. But Andy isn’t completely innocent either. While he didn’t actually pull the trigger that kills his adulterous wife and her lover, he did contemplate the act in the movie’s opening scene (Matthew 5:28) and left himself open to incrimination and circumstantial evidence that lead to his judicial fall.

Upon arriving at Shawshank, Andy is first met by the Bible-thumping Warden Norton who professes to believe in two things: discipline and the Bible. The problem, as we come to realize, is Norton has very little self-discipline in his own life and doesn’t really apply the principles found in his beloved Bible to his life. He may know the Bible…but he sure doesn’t live the Bible. Norton would have made a great Pharisee.

After a rough start to prison life, Andy quickly accumulates the right kind of friends…well…as prison friends go that is. One of those friends is an old convict who most of the other inmates look up to called Red. Sentenced as a teenager for murder, Red is the prison ‘go-to’ guy if you need something. Andy’s first encounter with Red is to request a rock hammer which completely baffles the older con. When Red finally fills Andy request, they both share a laugh at the absurdly small hammer and the thoughts of someone being able to dig their way out with something that small.

The Shawshank Disciples

I believe the rock hammer is symbolic of Jesus for several reasons. First, Andy is in desperate need of Hope, and for him, the rock hammer represents that Hope (Romans 15:4). Red initially rejects that Hope stating Hope is a very dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. Later in the movie, Andy leads Red to understand Hope by providing him a incentive to continue on with life once Red is released back into the world. Andy writes to Red- Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Jesus is my rock...hammer.

The symbolism is further carried out between Andy and the Warden. Despite coming to knowledge that Andy may in fact be innocent of the convicted crime, Norton keeps the information buried because he knows too much about his dirty dealings. During one exchange the Warden discovers the seemingly innocent tool handing it back to Andy with-I'd hate to deprive you of this. Salvation lies within. Later the Warden discovers Andy had, in fact, used the small hammer to dig his way out of his cell while all along hiding the tool in a carved out space in his Bible (which happens to start in the book of Exodus if you pay attention closely). Hope, coming from within the Bible, leads to salvation. Hmmmm. Andy jabs back at the Norton in a letter left for him that states- Dear Warden, you were right. Salvation lay within.

One last point (and I’m skipping many others), the closing scene shows Red reaching Andy
on a beach in a scene many would say looks like Heaven…or at least the Sea of Galilee.

Watching this film, it's easy to forget this is actually a Stephen King story.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A little more cheese please

Written by guest blogger and Kingdom Bloggers team mate, Tracy Chiara.

Ok, so the truth is that I really enjoy cheesy, 80s, movies. One of my all time favorites being The Blues Brothers. I mean, what's not to like about really cool music numbers, and car chases and pile ups?!

Elwood was always really terrible in a wonderful way!

But what I adore most about Elwood is that he's "on a mission from God" and he does whatever it takes to follow through on the mission. (Not to mention that I like the way he sounds when he declares that he's on a mission from God.) Nothing deters him. Seems to me that I could take a lesson from Elwood and not grow weary and give up so easy. I'm reminded of the exhortation of Paul in Galatians 6:9-10A:

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people

These words from Galatians are ones that I need to come back to repeatedly when I'm exhausted (like right now) with what's in front of me.

Elwood stayed the course even though he was rather a jerk. May I stay the course simply because I depend wholly on God's grace.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Team Edward

Written by Guest Blogger and Kingdom Blogger teammate, Andrea York.

I’m going to tell you a secret...I’m a closet twi-hard and I’m very excited about the new movie, Breaking Dawn, coming out in November. For the second movie, New Moon, I went on opening night – I took my friend’s 12 year-old daughter because that would have been weird and pathetically sad, otherwise. I’ve been fascinated with vampires since Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. Let me clarify – I’m fascinated by what it reveals about the author’s theology. Aside from Anne and Stephenie’s vampires; I stay away from the R-rated HBO series, True Blood, or CW network’s, The Vampire Diaries.

Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon (not the fundamentalist, sister wives kind). Mormons are known for their good family morals and fresh-faced missionaries.  They are great to have as neighbours but their belief system is based on good deeds, rather than the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Similar to Anne Rice, her predecessor who worked out her theology through her vampire characters, I believe Stephenie Meyer is working out her theology through her characters. 

We are eternally damned. It’s fact. We are all eternally damned because we have all sinned. The response to our dismal-looking eternity is varied and several of the characters offer a different perspective.

Shift the blame
Edward Cullen became a vampire because of someone else’s decision. His *father*, Carlisle made a decision to *save* him from dying from influenza by making him immortal. Blame shifting is as old as creation. We are sinners, period. Blame shifting does nothing other than justify our sin and create a moody, bitter person. 

Don’t acknowledge the problem
Edward spends centuries mulling over his eternity, but others such as his love interest, Bella remain unconcerned. She even goes so far as to say she doesn’t believe it anyway. She is consumed only with the moment. 

Redemption is our own responsibility
Edward desperately is seeking redemption. By his own admission, he is a monster. But he doesn’t want to be. His motive is pure but his execution will always come up short. He’s even willing to lay down his own life to save another, Bella – his love interest. Sadly, even then he will remain condemned.

Supernatural abilities belong to the darkness, not the light
All vampires sparkle like diamonds in the light. Alice can see the future. Edward has knowledge. Jasper can alter moods. Bella is a shield. These are kingdom truths and gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ and yet in the Twilight books/movies, they are given to vampires, the immortal super beings and the human is left without any defense.   

Stephenie’s characters are looking for truth but never finding because truth is Jesus Christ. The Twilight books and movies are indicative of a culture that seeks spirituality but deny its power (which is the Holy Spirit). I learn about mindset and worldviews when I see and read things that are different than my own. And that’s why I like the Twilight series. :)

What movies/TV shows speak to you about theology?

My name is Andrea York and I want to be a trophy wife. Every Wednesday, I join David and the other Kingdom Bloggers on Wednesday for a weekly commentary of various topics and I write regularly about kingdom living on my own blog, Write Down the Revelation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If a picture is worth a 1000 words, how much is video worth?

Written by guest blogger and fellow Kingdom Blogger, Joyce Lighari.

When I preach or teach, I like to use video to emphasize my message.  It can be really effect!  I love doing it.  I’ve had classes on this stuff in school so I know I’m not alone.  I read a good book on preaching that talked about the use of video.  In fact, this is so popular there is a website for preachers/teachers to go to for appropriate video clips.  If you want to use video, here is a good place to start.  Or of course, there is always YouTube

Sometimes God speaks to me first and then I find the movie. Other times, I am watching a movie and the inspiration comes.

A time when God spoke to me first happened just a few weeks ago. 

A number of years ago, when I first started to preach, I preached a message about horses, Run with the Horses, taken from Zechariah 10:3b

…For the LORD Almighty will care for his flock, the people of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle.
When I got ready to live on campus this summer, I was nervous. I asked the Lord for verse of scripture. He directed me to Jeremiah 12:5:

"If you have raced with people on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?

That sermon, run with the horses came to mind… Since then, in the last few weeks, I’ve preached that sermon again. These times I preached it with video clips from Secretariat. Here are two that I’ve used.

I love that line about stoking the fire. I told my daughter, that’ll preach. And it did!

However, the movie that probably spoke to me the most is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy:

Stand your ground, stand your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes, the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves, and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! For all that you hold dear, on this good earth, I bit you stand, men of the west!

Yes, Stand and Fight!  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Celebrity Worship

This week I have a special treat. The gang over at Kingdom Bloggers is going to be doing guests posts (I still have room if you are interested.) each day this week! It is an interesting mix of backgrounds, wit, intelligence (or lack of) and religion over there. There are 5 of us and we post Monday through Friday on the same topic; each from our own perspective. I am little nicer over there than I am here in my hometown, refraining from the use of calling certain low-life segments of society "stupid idiots," however; the rest is pretty much the same. Without further introduction, I am going to start it off, but be sure to catch the rest of the gang right here all week long!

This week the topic is movies and media. Why? Because Tony C, the one who picked this topic, has two freakin' huge TVs at his house and satellite dish as big as Iran. Little does the KB gang know, I watch maybe an hour of TV a day if I am lucky, and most of that is news. I haven't been to see a movie in a theater since Gran Torino in 2008, which starred Clint Eastwood (with his usual gun). It was an excellent movie; one of my favorites along with the The Mission and Bruce Almighty.

Growing up we didn't always have a TV in our house. Back then we had to get off the couch to change channels, and interestingly, everyone watched the same shows. You know, The Wonderful Word of Disney, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, ABC's Wide World of Sports and Truth or Consequences. We even thought All in the Family was funny, very funny!

I know it seems hard to believe, but I never watched Family Guy, Seinfeld, or Lost. I did however; become enlightened watching the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and The Mind of Mencia. I haven't laughed that hard since Cheech and Chong in 1975.

Well now that you have no problem challenging me in the Entertainment category of Trivial Pursuit, I do have a favorite movie that makes an excellent analogy to the Kingdom of God: The Italian Job. That's right. There are the crooks that get robbed by a crook! What did they expect? Most of the "job" takes place in Venice which is sort of symbolic if you think about all that has come out of Italy in terms of religion.

There is the great action packed interaction between characters as one crook tries to outsmart another crook. I love the ingenious and deceptive ego of the character playing the computer nerd and the suspense filled moments cracking safes, planning get-aways and ruses to trip up the others.

The church is sort of like that sometimes. We focus on what others are doing, we trust in man, and we spend all this time trying to outsmart, and out-theology one another. It's all very exciting trying to figure out where we are right and they are wrong - oh and a little success and egos soar as we become "inventors of the Internet" in our own minds.

In the movie there is also a love story taking place. The daughter of a murdered man brings love to a crook's life and it changes him. Love always changes people.

And that is what you and I are supposed to be doing with the Father's love, spending it on crooks who's lives are wrapped up in the wrong treasure - expending love that will change them.

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's the Truth

I am still looking for guest bloggers, let me know if you are interested!

I am eventually going to be teaching at the The School of Grace. It is an awesome opportunity, and a good chance for me to dig into my own understanding of grace. This is one area where I have relied on the teaching of others, and now it is time to go deeper. Even if I don't actually teach on this, grace is part of the freedom I possess by faith.

I don't like to get too Bible about all this, but this is the central truth of the message of grace, and about who we are in Christ.

1 Corinthians 16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.

The Spirit of God in us, which has sealed us for the day of redemption, which has regenerated us, the very one that raised Christ from the dead; who is alive (the Spirit that miraculously co-mingles with ours when we came through the door of faith) is the new man!

If we can simply grasp the very fact that our spirit-man is Christ, that he is seen by God as completely perfect and completely glorious, then we will begin to see how this truth not only set us free, but it sets us free from the law of sin and death!

The Good News of Jesus Christ is not eternal salvation, but that by faith He comes to dwell in us in his fullness  capturing our soul and creating a new man (or woman) that has all the qualities of Christ; for which there are many!

For many years I have been taught 2 things which are suspect. 1) That somehow my sin nature affects my spirit man, and 2) that there just might be something that I need to do to make my relationship with Christ better.

As it turns out, both are untrue. My regenerated spirit man (new man) has everything that the Kingdom has to offer - the inheritance of the riches of Christ. From the moment I was born again, every bit of Christ was manifest in me. My natural body may not have been aware of it all, but that doesn't make it untrue.

The work of the cross - salvation - is complete, and there is nothing that I can do to add anything to tho it. Nothing!

What is holding us back? Releasing the new (spirit) man by a conscious choice so we may connect with the good works for which we were created to do by faith. This becomes easier from spending relational time (not religious time) with the our Father.

What do you think, is the work of Jesus Christ complete? Tell us what hinders you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Who the Heck do You Think You Are?

Note: I am still looking for guest bloggers, let me know if you'd be interested!

Last Friday I wrote about grace and mercy. Today I want to write about grace from a little different perspective.

I have a friend that said: :Mercy is not getting what we deserve, and grace is getting what we don't deserve; I'll take both." I like that, but it still makes grace a verb, when the work of Jesus Christ is really a know. How can that be? Well, John said that God is love, and I would submit to you that he is also grace. His person is pure grace, pure love, and pure peace.

When we connect with the love of God by faith, we become capable of being his love to others. It is the same with grace and peace. We don't extend anyone unmerited favor, we allow the person of Christ to work through us.

As we release the Spirit, the new man becomes Jesus to those in our lives; in fact we are meant to be overflowing with it!

Here is how I got there. Jesus was 100% man, while he was 100% God; it is possible for God to be many things at one time. His attributes and names number well over 600 in the Bible. He is a lot things, but the most important is alive. As he lives eternally, the ebb and flow of the Kingdom of God is consuming souls for eternity! He is constantly at work regenerating men and woman of faith.

Grace is one of those eternal persons of Christ. It is alive. It has a manifest presence just as his love does, and by faith we can feel it. And he can wrap his arms around us, and live in us!

We often talk about grace as though it is legal transaction, but it is so much more than that. Grace is the fullness of Christ in us! It is the new man, it is not help to fix the old man.

How about you, how has grace changed your life?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Shooting Pains

Saturday morning I sat in my car with the window open. I could smell gun powder and hear small arms fire in the distance. My heart rate increased and I fidgeted in my seat as I waited. "Today is the day." I said to myself. Thank you Jesus! Today we are hitting the target range!

Saturday I went to the sportsman's club with my friend from church. We had a blast! (I know, bad pun, but a good time!)

There is nothing like a warm summer day, a pile of ammo, and half dozen weapons!

I have been shooting since I was 14. For my family, guns were no different than owning a hammer for carpentry, or a chainsaw for cutting firewood. We gave them the same respect we did any other potential harmful piece of hardware - like a car. Each of us took hunter and firearms safety courses. My dad was a hunter, and so were the rest of the men in my family; it put food on the table. Me, I preferred target shooting and plinking.

Every weekend I would purchase a few hundred rounds of ammunition and head to the sand lot behind the house. I set up empty cans and targets and fired away for hours. I became quite a good shot; a talent I hoped to use in the US Army some day.

When I was in college I sold or gave away all my guns. It was the cost of education, and I had no where to store them safely. Trust me, bong smoking, beer drinking college students do not need guns! Not long after there were kids in the house, and stifling laws. It was for those reasons I put my interest aside for 2 decades.

In 2000 I worked for a software company and they occasionally delivered computer systems to a "not so nice section of the city," to be installed at night, while the client was closed. Everyone but me carried a handgun. The owner of the company paid for my license and State Police certification as well as giving me a rifle and pistol. Almost exclusively we would hit the local rod and gun club about once or twice a week; we never made any of the late night deliveries.

It is interesting, a lot Christians get lumped into the right-wing-extremest-gun-toting-religious stereotype. Even president Obama used the term "guns and religion" in San Francisco when he thought he was off mic.

I don't think anyone enjoys being stereotyped; I sure don't. I am not a hunter, and I am not sure that I would use lethal force to "protect" myself. Heck, even Peter had a sword in the garden.

I am not so sure the guns kill people. If that were the case, than all mine are defective.

I have very strong opinions about the 2nd Amendment. Of course on one side there is the take them all away crowd, and on the other, the lack of regulation all together. I find it sort of silly that we have certain regulations, while we leave other types of gun behavior, which will often lead to crime, untouched.

If we look at some of the gun tragedies that have taken place, we need to ask an important question: How do these nuts get guns in the first place? Some buy them legally at gun shows where no federal background check is required. I am sorry, that's a good place to start. As much as I hate Massachusetts' ridiculously restrictive guns laws, they have the second step right. They do not allow people that have had ANY admissions to a mental hospital or detox to get  a license to carry. Add to the that, convicted felons. Guns are confiscated when restraining orders are issued, and domestic violence is reported. Bravo Massachusetts.

It bothers me that the media does not report whether or not a gun is legal, or illegally possessed when they report gun violence. It becomes pretty clear that convicted felons in some of the USA's largest and most violent cities are not getting their weapons at Walmart. Don't even get me going about what is happening on the border with Mexico.

Massachusetts has a mandatory sentence for anyone who carries a weapon (legal or illegally purchased) and does not have a permit to carry it. Again, bravo to MA - make it a 20 year sentence!

Children who end up with a weapon that came from a parent, neighbor or relative is one of the easiest gun tragedies to stop. They have gun locks idiots! In MA you may have all the gun locks that you want, and they are free at the police station in every town! For those the feel the need to keep a loaded firearm at the ready, there are gun safes that will open at the scan of a fingerprint.

This is not an exhaustive list of logical gun regulations. It is a little common sense so that those of us that obey the law, and enjoy our freedom as US citizens to bear arms, get to keep on doing that.

What do you think, what other restrictions would make sense without taking away the right to bear arms?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Aren't You Sick of Being Called a Sinner?

The first time I heard about grace, it was one of those silly acronyms used in a teaching. It worked, I still remember it after 30+ years. GRACE = God's Riches At Christ's Expense. It was meant to remind me of the work that was done on the cross for David, and to remind me that salvation is a free gift that I received by faith in that work. At the time it was a sobering message for a selfish sinner. I guess some how I thought that I found Jesus, when the truth was he mugged me at  conference.

Like many other things in the church, the message of grace has been abused in the church. It's been that way for a long time.

Grace is the love of God poured out on those that do not deserve it: murderers, rapists, child molesters, gays and even Democrats and Wall Street Execs. See, I told you it was a sobering message! Some times it is confused with mercy, which is given to those whose hearts will receive it. In the Old Testament, grace is not mentioned with mercy. It is the new covenant, the one in which started after the resurrection of Christ. The Old Covenant fell under the law, and each year the Jews would make a presentation at the mercy seat. There was a ritual in which they would continually ask God to cleanse them of their sins. That is mercy, the repeal of judgment.

Until Jesus finished the work on the cross, that is all there was. They didn't have the Holy Spirit, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead living in them. Once Jesus fulfilled the law, not only did the tombs split open and many walk about the city, but each successive generation entered the age of grace.

For those that ask WWJD, the temptation is to live under the old covenant. Jesus did! He obeyed the law (as it was meant to be obeyed, not some crazy religious bologna!) The cross, however; separates the law from grace, and that is the point of today's blog.

We live in the age of grace, and it is not only free, but freeing too!

This is the wonderful thing about the life of the Apostle Paul, he only lived in grace after his conversion. That is why he was set against all of the religious junk that he had been taught previously - including some of Peter's junk! Paul walked by faith, lived by the Spirit and presented the "new man" in Christ.

I have often heard the term, "sinner saved by grace", but that is really not a correct statement - my apologies to John Newton. We are saved by faith in the finished work of Jesus. What takes place in our conversion, is the result of grace. I was a sinner save by faith, and now I am enjoying the fruit of the grace of God which I cannot manipulate; it is a done deal. In the same way a pickle can never be a cucumber, I cannot undo grace, or make it better by anything that I do.

Not only did the grace of God save a wretch like Paul (and me), but that same grace allowed a new man to be created in Paul, the co-mingling of God's Spirit and the human spirit. It is like God is yellow and I am blue, but together we are green!

When we receive Christ by faith, a new entity is created which unfortunately lives in an old body. The new entity is eternal, and the old body is corrupt, and it will die. That is why we need a new body in the age to come!

We are often taught about the battle between flesh and spirit. That is not really the battle. We are never going to be able to make this body (flesh, bone and soul) conform to the things to the Spirit. We need to hear God, and obey by the Spirit. We are going no where under our own power!

The new entity is entirely the work of grace. The fact that this new entity is eternal, is due to the mercy of God. There is nothing that we can do to earn grace, but to best understand it, we will have to let the old man die - and the sooner the better.

How about you, are you still presenting yourself as a sinner, or are you letting the new man out?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Like Christmas Eve!

I am sitting here in my office, and not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse, or the noisy chihuahuas; not even the 7-year-old. In my spirit I am as excited as a kid on Christmas eve. I don't even know what God is doing quite yet (I usually get the memo about the time it is happening).

So what is going on? Well, the Spirit of God is beginning to move in our region. Some of the things that I have brooded over, prayed about, and had vision for are on the precipice. How do I know? Well, my spirit is raging. Emotionally  life is just the same old, same old.I am working part time, exercising and recovering from a heart trauma. It it has taken a physical and financial toll, but the Kingdom of God is where I live.

There is a saying: some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good, others are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good. it is meant to point out the balance between living here, and living there. Me, I prefer to walk by the Spirit. Whatever Jesus is doing, that is where I want to be. I am not too good at my earthly responsibilities some days; however, I do try!

I had started this post on Monday, not knowing where it is going. Today the phone rang, and I was asked to do some ministry!?!?!

September launches a very special type of ministry for me. I will be ministering at the School of Grace in Keene, NH on the 9th and 10th, with my brother and his pastor. Then I am running a School of Prophecy on the 31st-1st at my own church. Wow! Having sat on the sidelines for many years just writing this blog, it seems a little daunting. In addition I will be training a lot of folks in my church in the basic concepts of personal ministry such as the laying on of hands for healing, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Salvation and the confession of sin. Exciting!

I am also hoping to do a mission trip next year, and I am hoping to see what comes together for that.

If you feel so moved, I would covet your prayers. It is so much more than a vocation, it is a battle and I am sure going to need to be ready for it!

Thanks for reading along. Tell us what you are looking forward too, even if it is vacation!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Is this Crazy Fad in Your Church? - Guest Post by Arny Sanchez

As I promised, we'll be having some guest posts here on Fire & Grace, and today is the fist of who knows how many. As long as they keep coming, I'll keep posting them from time to time. Let me know if you are interested. Today I have a post over on Kingdom Bloggers if you just can't live a Monday without me.

I am regular reader of The Analogous Truth. It is always light while being heavy, and has a sense of humor to it that usually makes me laugh a little to myself. Arny is very good at returning comments, so show him some love and leave a comment here today, I am sure he will reply!

Hardcore or Watered Down?
By Arny Sanchez
The Analogous Truth

It was going to happen sooner or later.  It was inevitable.  Someone was bound to write about.  I just never thought that It would be me.

It’s the latest craze.  The latest, “It”, thing to do.  Everywhere you look, there it is.  It starts to get a bit annoying after a while, but there is no escape.

It can sneak up on you like a bad habit.  It can invade your life and not even know it.  It runs through your body.  It makes you do things you never thought you could do.

Of course I’m talking about the one and only:  Zumba.  Even the name gives me chills up and down my spine. Zumba is the exercise dance craze that is sweeping the nation.

Have you seen it?  It’s everywhere.  Infomercials,  Facebook statuses, our households, and even in our churches! It’s based on Latin dance moves and used as aerobic-like cardio exercises.

It is the answer to our prayers.  The prayers that went out from us who couldn't keep up with P90X or The Bowflex.

The Real Zumba

My wife made me try it once; at home of course. I was not about to 
flaunt my jiggley, husky body by swinging my hips and shimmies in public. I’d probably kill somebody when they’d see how I move these hips of mine.  I haven’t the least bit of dance rhythm in my bones!

I’m not gonna lie, it felt a little dirty inside. You can’t help it when you shake your booty like that! Not even in front of my wife!  

She is really into Zumba, and takes classes at the local gym. She says the best class  is always on Thursday nights. The Zumba instructor is really hardcore and she says he is really difficult to keep up with.  He uses Zumba a lot more like a fast paced aerobics class. (I might be allergic, I am not sure.)

A couple of weeks ago, she went with some friends to a Zumba class they were having at a community center near by.   She said that it was nothing compared to the class at the gym.  This class was like the watered down version.  It was slower, not as aerobic,  and more for just fun and dance.  Not something to exercise your body fully for a work out. 

Watered Down Zumba like Watered Down Jesus.

Sometime I fear that we water down Jesus the same way. We some times present him as a religious side item we carry around in our back pockets.

We present him only as a tender, gentle push over, whom we shout "Shut Up" to with our actions.

But that is far from the real Jesus.

He is God incarnate. Emmanuel, God with us.  Everything was created by Him, through Him, and for Him.

He is the untamable Lion of Judah.

He is the Lamb of God that was slain, and made his enemies his footstool.

At His Voice the Storms bend their knees in reverence.

At His Voice the demons tremble back to emptiness.

At His Voice the dead rise from the grave.

At His Voice, we drop everything and follow.

Our Jesus can’t be watered down.  The dead still have to bury their own dead, and who ever looks back after putting their hands on the plow is still unfit for the Kingdom.

Our Jesus can’t be watered down.  We still have to deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily.

Our Jesus can’t be watered down. He is still The Christ and the Son of God who bled and died on a Cross for undeserved sinners. He is still the one who took our filthy sin and nailed it to the Cross.

Needless to say, my wife went back to the Thursday Night Zumba instructor because he was the real thing. He was hardcore. As she says. I hope that we can do the same with Christ, and not fiddle around with a watered down version.

What “Hardcore” Character Trait of Christ stands out to you the most?
Have you ever done Zumba?  Or what do you do for exercise?

Friday, August 5, 2011

5 1/2 Solving all the Problems in the USA

For those that know me, I am pretty politically involved. God gave me a country, a vote, and a spirit that is co-mingled with His to help me be discerning, have love, wisdom and compassion for my fellow man. I ask you from the very beginning of this blog, how will the government ever be more godly unless Christians get involved?

I have often thought about running for an office. I even received a donation once, as well as encouragement from others to in fact run. I am still thinking about it. We have so many important issues facing us here in the USA, that I would like to get in there and represent the people of my state in some capacity.

Because I care about solutions, I have a hard time with party politics!

Today, if I were running for the Congress, here are my top issues with some simple solutions. (Sure they can be complex, but a broad view often helps put an outline to the solution.)

-1 Taxes, Social Security and Medicare: I think that every one needs to pay taxes. The Flat Tax is the best plan (though I like the Fair Tax except that it screws seniors who have paid under the current system all their lives.). We could get rid of the IRS and take a flat percentage out of every type of income, wages, tips, interest, corporate profits and a short list of capital gains. I don't know what the percentage is, but it would have to fund the budget.

We could tax profits from corporations and lose the subsidies. The only deductions I would give them would be a reduction in employment taxes for keeping jobs here in the US, and for certain types of innovation. For example, ones that get us off foreign oil!

Put SSI and Medicare in their own funds with their own budgets. This is how SSI used to be until LBJ started to rob it to fund the Vietnam war.

We have now reduced the power of special interest groups, and the temptation to rob SSI and Medicare to fund everything else.

I like the idea of a balanced budget amendment as a percentage of GDP! (You do know that this week we hit 100%, borrowing as much as we take in!)

-2 Immigration: Lock down the borders with whatever it takes: fences, moats, soldiers - get it done. Make a line, and put everyone in it! Make a set of hurdles that must be overcome by each immigrant. Learn English, pass a citizenship test (all US students should!), keep your record clean and in 3 years you are in if you have a job.

Get rid of the criminals that are here.

Fine the illegals that are here and put them in the line if they know English and have a clean record. 

Heavy fines for companies that hire illegals!

Start a real guest worked plan that hires immigrants after companies have run an ad for 15 days to hire American Citizens.

-3 Jobs: Provide incentives for companies to hire people, to innovate, and to keep workers. Government jobs cost tens of thousands of dollars to create. The private sector runs a free ad on Craigslist and it is done. Here the employment tax could help as a sort of tariff to keep labor here. The tax could be used to fund education for Americans.

If we are already giving workers assistance for not working, how about we let them have the assistance for a period time after they start a job so that the incentive is there for both employee, and employer? We want people to feel good about getting back to work (or starting work altogether). Unemployment needs some reform here too. It is too easy to take a vacation.

If the Feds reduced taxes on business, the states could do a better job of controlling costs at a local level. This helps create jobs. IE: A financial company got a better deal on taxes from a neighboring state and move 1,500 workers over the border here in MA. Another company sent 3,000 jobs to China after we funded their start up?!?!? Hello!

-4 Health Care: It's a huge mess. Start over! Let's get a basic coverage outline for what health care is. How about a yearly physical, dental and eye exam along with mammograms and colonoscopies (Washington could use a few dozen of these to find their heads!). Then add major medical coverage for important conditions. The pay for everything system is not going to be affordable. Again, safety net, not hammock.

The rest could be picked up by insurance companies if citizens choose to have it. This way no one if forced to purchase something. They have a safety net for huge things, and basic preventive care. Let the insurance companies compete for all the vanity options, additional visits and medication. It is not perfect, but at least people get to see a doctor every year as apposed to never having any care at all.

I like the idea that no preexisting condition can cause you to be declined coverage or dropped for whatever reason.

And how about a cap on malpractice suits? Most life insurance policies are $300-500K. It is a good start.

-5 Welfare: If you can work, you should. Why we pay some people to sit around and do nothing is beyond me! It should be a safety net, not a hammock! I am not talking about sick or disabled people, I am taking about people that don't want to work, or are not motivated to work because, well, it's easier to collect a check. It would be better to put them to work doing something that we pay government contractors for, than to allow this to go on.

While I am on it: Prisoners live better than many seniors in nursing homes. I have a problem with that. And you should too! Oh yeah, and why don't we have non-violent prisoners on home-confinement and let them pay for their room and board?

- 5 1/2 Big Government:: There are too many ridiculous line items to mention. Can't we keep it to military protection, infrastructure for commerce and a few important regulatory and informational agencies (NRC, NOAH, FDA etc)? Leave education to the states along with a host of other things.

So what do you think, did I cover important things? Are my solution reasonable and workable - well once we get rid of the current crop of ineffective representatives!

I have been writing Fire & Grace for many years; in that time I have only had one guest blogger. Therefore, I am inviting you to do a guest post. Yup, that's right. I'd like to feature them once a week, maybe twice of they are really good. They can be fun, testimonies, teaching in nature, or politics. Just leave a comment with a way to contact you. (Comments are moderated, so I don't have to post them!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Blog Redistribution - The Bible is a Good Book! (Bible BS)

I have been writing Fire & Grace for many years; in fact this is my 600th post. in that time I have only had one guest blogger. (Well, I had some on my 500th Blog-a-versary). As I am recovering from all this heart stuff - actually I am feeling pretty good - I need some time to spend on other things. Therefore, I am inviting you to do a guest post. Yup, that's right. I'd like to feature them once a week, maybe twice of they are really good. They can be fun, testimonies, teaching in nature, or politics. Just leave a comment with a way to contact you. (Comments are moderated, so I don't have to post them!)

The Bible is a good book, don't you think? Or, maybe you don't, and think Ex-Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards is a saint. It doesn't matter. The fact that this very blog might be about the Bible may already have you thinking "I'm bored," or "religion is not for me." If it was my kid listening to this, she might slip in one earphone from the iPod as she was talking to me - or disappear into a text message frenzy ending with a one word sentence, "Huh?"

When a message is not received, it doesn't always mean that the message is flawed - but it might be the messenger is - I'll take my chances.

Have you asked yourself if you really believe the Bible from Genesis to Maps - and why? Do you think that Adam and Eve were real people? How about that Noah fellow, did he really build an ark that housed two of each? Do you think the ark smelled after 40 days? I do. And the Gaterenian Demoniac, was he just mentally ill? Then how did Jesus heal him?

It's hard, isn't it, to read the Bible and understand it? But you know it's the truth - and if God said it, you believe it, right? Or maybe you think it is simply inspired writing, a collection of history, poetry, allegory and crazy prophetic visions written by religious folks to inspire people to do good.

Do you have an authorized version of the Bible or GAK! an unauthorized version? For some The Message is absolute blasphemy, for others the NIV, written on a 6th grade reading level, is inaccurate.

How authoritative is your Bible? Has it changed your life? Tell us how in the comments section.

Do you bring your Bible to church? I don't. I kept losing them. They are not very authoritative if you can't find them. And my pet peeve is people that found my bibles, which were inscribed with my name and phone number, and never returned them! Some Christians need to be whipped.

I used to be a religious underliner - well until someone gave me a Sharpee marker that bled through 18 pages of John, obscuring the odd chapters, starting with 3.

Do you share what you know about the Bible with others? I try.

Jonah had a real struggle with getting the word of God to needy folks, and God slowly but surely narrowed his pathway to success until he got it. Do you think that is a historical account? HERE is a great blog about Jonah by my friend Joyce Lighari.

In light of John Edwards admission of guilt for fathering a child with his mistress a few years back, do you think that matters to God? Can God forgive him? How about David Letterman? What about the Oslo killer?Osama bin Laden? Barrak Obama? What does the Bible say about it?

If we're honest, most of us don't have all that much time for Bible reading. Many of us probably spend more time brushing our teeth or putting on make up - even spending more time wolfing down lunch or breakfast at a fast food joint, then we do reading the Bible. Hopefully we do make time every day - at least read a chapter or look for a juicy verse to post on Facebook or Twitter so people know that we are religious folks.

I have met a lot of people that believe the only will of God is in the Bible, so I looked in there to see which job I should take when I had two offers. It didn't help! I thought about putting out a fleece like Gideon, but is that really faith?

And all those supposed biblical errors - I don't know what to do about them. Do you?

I once went to a church that worshipped the Bible. The sermons were filled with proof texts and little else - they called it the truth. So, I asked them about John 14:12, "doing greater things than Jesus." It was puzzling because if Jesus was limited to only the very things we see in the pages of the Bible, then how could we do something greater?

I further inquired (read that , blasted them) regarding John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

For fun I asked them to tell me what the unforgivable sin was.

Tell me, what do you believe about the Bible? Are their parts that are not true? I'm hoping for a lively discussion. But don't give us any BS (Bible Stupidity).

Monday, August 1, 2011

I Can't Believe It, I am Religious Too!

The End of the Block
I am up at 5:45 every morning. I head on downstairs, switch on the PC in the office, make my way to the kitchen for my daily cup-o-joe, let the dogs out while it brews, and head back to the keyboard to check my email, Facebook, log my blood pressure, and get ready to run a few miles.

It is the same all the time; my formula for getting the day started. It's pretty rigid, and very religious. It is sort of like church every day; predictable, ordered and well, routine.

Having suffered a major heart trauma in April, I am not only grateful for the simple things, such as not being in the hospital, that I could not go back to work unless I had my life in better order. Although I was exercising regularly, I wasn't as serious about it as I am now.

I like to run outside as often as I can. We did get 88" of snow this past year, so the gym is a good option during the winter months and the treadmills are wide enough for snowshoes.

As spring became summer, it is best to run early when it a cooler; that and I only have to take one shower a day. Recently I noticed the crosswalk gods were good to me, and repainted them all, not that there are many cars on the road at 6:15 am.

The Pond and the Lily Pads
I get to the end of the block, some times I am still half asleep. My trusty Android watching my heart rate, counting my steps, averaging my pace, monitoring my speed and route along with a custom play list of "running" tunes such as: Take the Money and Run (S Miller), Born to Be Wild (Steppinwolf), Set Me on Fire (Burn Service), Born to Run (Springsteen), Let it Rain, Turn it Around (Israel Houghton and the New Breed) and similar fast paced rock and worship tunes.

The music can really set the pace, and wimpy slow stuff is out!

I pass by a small pond with swans about the same time CardioTrainer tells me that I have just completed 3 tenths of a mile. On occasion there is a Blue Heron who fishes among the lily pads. As I pick up the pace, jogging a few more blocks to warm up, I decide on a route for the morning. I have 4, with the shortest being about a mile and half, and the longest being closer to 4 miles. I like the one with the steady 1/2 mile slope that passes by Mass Bay College the best, though I run it backwards as well.

Mass Bay
A mile in, I check my time to see where I am. My stamina is good for longer, but my knee (some runners knee due to not warming up!) and the fact that I need to get to work, push and pull the pace for the second mile.

Adjusting the tempo of sneaker-to-pavement,  I have certain songs that make me want to pray, so I do. I pray for revival in my town, my church, my state and the US, all while I huff-and-puff my way down the sidewalk.

I don't get to be too religious in my prayers as I am zipping by the scenery at 6.5 miles per hour. I just ask, and move on to the next item on my list. I don't recommend this as a regular way of praying, but some of the music just lends itself to certain prayers.

I pass a few other runners from the National Guard Armory. Those guys move! There are a couple of other faces that give a quick smile or slight wave as they pass in the other direction fiddling with their iPods. On the lawn at the school I see a few folks practicing Tai Chi at 6:30 am.

I often think about what one does in Tai Chi that might connect them with God. I guess it seems a little religious to me - ha!

Like a little city, dozens of squirrels amuse themselves beneath the oaks, gathering acorns and eating breakfast.

As I round the corner and head down the hill towards the lake, I can see the hospital where I was in ICU just a few short months ago. I think about how many thousands of beats my heart has made since that day - I thank God.

I am glad that I had good care, insurance, and have had an excellent recovery; many do not. I often think about folks who rely on all that and don't have Jesus.

I pour on the speed for the last half mile. Now I am thinking about getting home, getting a lunch made, grabbing a shower and heading to work in rush hour traffic.

As I walk the 2 houses to my front door, I often wish I could go longer. Certainly not working would help!

How about you, are you religious about anything?
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