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Being Good Doesn’t Get You Into Heaven

I was watching a movie over the weekend that depicted an apocalyptic scenario in which people were getting wafted up to Heaven in a beam of blue light, and in order to get to Heaven they had to do some kind of genuine, unselfish act. As much as I applaud the idea doing acts of unselfish love, it reminds how much we have the idea of salvation and going to heaven all wrong.

Despite what you might think, being good does not get you into heaven. If that were the case, why did Jesus have to die? If we could get into Heaven on our own merits, we would have no need for a Savior.

It’s funny how unbelievers will say that religion is nothing more than a man-made device to control the populous and get people to behave a certain way, when the whole idea of following Christ has nothing to do with trying to be good, but rather trusting God’s work in you. Only He can make you right, based on what He did on the cross. He made all things right, and as we surrender to the work He has, is, and will do in us, we are transformed more into His likeness.

Don’t you think the world is broken and schizophrenic enough, with most of us either striving to get it right or acting out on our fears because of some abuse or hurt from the past? That is why they call it Good News, because God just wants to love and embrace us all and heal our broken heartedness and pain and forgive us if we will just let Him. Invite Him in today and let Him do a work in you. It sure beats all the depression and heart ache of a life of self-right-ness (self-righteousness), or trying to get it right on our own. He can and will make you into the person you were meant to be, what you were born to be.

Three Kinds of Religion

When we hear the word religion, for most of us, there is a negative connotation connected to this word. I know for me, for years now, I have pushed away from any connection to the word religion, associating it with systems, structure, rules, a man made box to put God in that has little to do with the love of God and the freedom he brings. In fact, religion denotes anything but freedom but rather bondage to all the precepts and the guilt and shame that comes with it.

The actual Latin root of the word is “ligio,” meaning to tie or bind together. An example is a woman having her tubes tied, or a tubal ligation. To “re-ligio” means that something that was once tied became untied, and it is now re-tied or bound together again. So in this case, the actual meaning of the word is to be tied back to God, or intimately re-connected to Him.

Religion that the Bible calls true religion is found in James 1:26-27; “Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.”

So the last two definitions of religion go together. When we are tied to or connected with the heart of God, his love compels us to take care of the least, last and lost. To meet the needs of the homeless, the brokenhearted, those who desperately need to know the awesome love of God. Looking at it this way, I guess I don’t mind being called religious after all.

Brand New

“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.” – 1 Peter 1: 3-5 (The Message). I wonder how many of us truly realize this and live it. I don’t know how many wasted hours I have spent in self-examination, trying to figure out why I do some of the things that I do, or don’t do some of the things that I should do. How many hours have I spent trying to change, to be better, to be less selfish and get out of God’s way. Why do I struggle with self at all when I have been given a brand new life?

This may not be the best analogy, but it’s the only one that comes to mind as I sit in the waiting room of a car dealership. Let’s say we have an old car that is giving us constant troubles, in and out of the repair shop, being miss diagnosed half the time and at others being fixed properly only to break down again. One day we get tired and decide to get a brand new truck, but we can’t afford it. Just then, after our umpthteen trip to the dealership, a salesman walks up to us and just gives us a brand new truck. At first we are miffed and in disbelief, that it’s too good to be true, but then we accept the reality of the situation and feel extreme gratitude. We drive the truck for a week or two still trying to get used to the idea of having a beautiful new vehicle that is worry free, but then we settle in and smile, getting used to the idea of no more repairs.

Would we then, at that point, go back to trying to figure out what went wrong with the old car, what we could do differently to keep the old car out of the shop again, feeling the sting of that old car constantly letting you down? No, of course not! That old car is in the wrecking yard now. It matters not anymore! You have a brand new truck now!

The same is true with our new life in Christ. Everything is made new! We don’t have to worry about the old life, that life is dead and gone. “So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!” – Romans 8:12-14 (The Message). And again, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” – 2 Corinthian 5:17. This new life is a wonderfully expectant and exciting one, one driven by God’s Spirit in us. It’s all a matter of shifting our focus to what is right there in front of us, a new life. Take the keys, jump in, and enjoy the ride of your life!

To Dream

Dare we to dream that God will bring revival to our area and world again? Faith is a dream that is poised toward God. Imagine great transformation of the heart, from a heart of selfishness into God’s heart. Imagine an outpouring of grace and love that fills the region and spills out to the world.

The fact that I even dream it, I believe, makes it a reality. By faith I believe it. I believe that it is something that God has already said will be. Maybe there are some of you who don’t dream such things, who don’t long for such things. Maybe you have never tasted how good it is, and so you don’t really know what I am talking about or what it looks like. But there are those of you who do, who at some level, like Neo in the Matrix, when Morpheus said to him, “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” and again, “Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?” you too feel that there is something more than what this life presents with all of its best offerings and you want to go beyond the menial things that don’t really satisfy you in the long run and discover a life of real purpose, meaning and satisfaction. It is there; I have seen it and tasted it.

The Matrix may be the stuff of fantasy, but the reality of God and His power are even greater. It’s time to seek God’s face, to set the self on the shelf and experience God’s healing and love, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. -2 Chronicles 7:14

With so much unrest in the world, now is the time for Christ’s original mission to come to fruition. It’s time to move out of the comfortable pew and into the world, the Holy Spirit beckoning us forward and giving us the power and authority to say and do all that He wills us to do. There is nothing impossible for us to accomplish through Christ who works in us.

Sharing God’s Love in Creative Ways

A group of Pastors walked into an Armenian Restaurant that they frequented and one of them decided to have a little fun. On paying for his food at the counter, he said to the Armenian man at the register, with whom he was acquainted, “Hold on to my debit card because I want to pay for the next two people who come in”. The Armenian man said, “Whaaatttt, what for!?” “There is only one condition” the Pastor said. “When they ask why, you have to say, ‘because Jesus loves you’”. “Noooo! I’m no gonna do that”, said the clerk. “Ya, I didn’t think you had the guts anyway”, said the Pastor. “Whaaaat!”, said the man. “Ya, I didn’t think you were man enough”, repeated the Pastor. “Ok, I do it!” said the clerk, accepting the challenge.

As the Pastors sat down to eat, they watch an older lady walk in and place her order. When she went to pay, the man said quickly in his thick Armenian accent, “It’s free!” “Really, why!?” said the surprised lady. “Welllll… it’s because Jesus loves you!” he answered sheepishly with his head down.  The group of Pastors all laughed as their Armenian friend shared the love of Christ for them, while taking the opportunity to pay it forward at the same time.

Listen to Jesus, Then Do it!

One of the Pastors from the Church Multiplication Movement was telling us a story about the importance of listening to God and doing what He asks. A woman from his church was a nurse at a local hospital, where a friend of hers lay dying of forth stage cancer.

She asked her Pastor if he would come to the hospital and share the Gospel of Jesus with him. He didn’t want to and thought that she should do it, that it was really her job as a follower of Christ anyway and she had built a relationship with the man which would make it more natural for her to share something like that with him. The Pastor did however feel like God was telling him to go, but he resisted and instead decided to clean his office for the next two days instead, (which was very out of character for him). Finally, he could take God’s tugging no longer and decided to go, all the while feeling angry on the way. When he walked into the hospital, his lady friend from church just happened to come around the corner at that very moment. “Oh good, you’re here”, she said. “They just moved him to another room. Follow me, I’ll show you where he is”.

When they got to the room, his friend practically pushed him in the door, closed it behind him and left. The dying man’s wife and daughter were by his bedside crying. “What am I going to say Lord?” the Pastor asked. “I don’t even know the guy”. God said “Just take a hold of his hand, look in his eyes, and share the Good News about my love for him”. So the Pastor did just that, and when he had finished, he asked the man if that was something he was interested in and if he wanted to give his life to Christ. The man shook his head and said yes through his oxygen mask. A moment later, he closed his eyes and took his last breath. The man’s wife look at the Pastor and said, “He was just waiting for you to come”

If we have entered into a relationship with Christ, we are all capable of hearing His voice. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27. We need to learn to trust Him enough to listen to what He is telling us, and then DO it.

Life and Death

Knowing Jesus Christ and letting Him put down stakes in your life makes all the difference between feeling really alive, and not really being alive at all. There is no greater satisfaction than having the presence of God, through Christ in your life. Absolutely nothing compares to it! Not sex, not drugs, not money, not relationships; nothing! Even the greatest feeling of satisfaction on earth feels worse than death in comparison to this life that comes from God. If you have even the slightest inkling to believe this, please read on.

In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” It appears that they didn’t die and that God was lying to them, but in fact, they did die. Let me explain; the life that we now live, from that time until now, is not really life at all. We have become so accustomed to this life that we really don’t know the difference, until we experience it! Sure it seems like we are alive. We have wonderful moments of happiness, we eat, we breathe, we love; but in comparison to the life God gives, this life doesn’t even feel like life at all. In fact, death is a step up from this “dead” life. There exists a larger, out in the open life. Another comparison would be, this life is the clothes closet and the life God gives is the universe. That’s how drastic it is.

This is not science fiction or fantasy. I have experienced this first hand. A life so full and free, that normal life is less preferable to death. As I have quoted before, Jesus gave us His real purpose for coming to earth when He said, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

I feel so emphatic about this to the point that my greatest desire in all of life is for you to know this life for yourself. I have no greater purpose, no greater desire. It’s easy to attain. Ask God to come into your life and to straighten out the tangled mess that this “normal” life has caused. Ask Him to set you free and to give you His Spirit which brings wholeness of heart and mind. You will probably still have grieve and trials, but He will, either quickly or slowly, begin to give you a level of maturity and growth that rivals any negative mind set, attitude or circumstance that you may be facing. Life to the full; as far as I am concerned, there is no other life!

The Lie

I suspect that all of us have believed a lie about ourselves for one reason or another. Not just any lie, but one that goes down to the very core of who you are as person; one that has integrated itself into your psyche so well that you don’t even acknowledge it or think about it. The lie says, “I’m not good enough”, or if it has worked its way deeper, “I’m no good”.

There are many reasons why this lie becomes a part of our lives. It could be that our parents were going through a divorce and in our childlike mind we said to ourselves, “Maybe if I am really good and get everything right, my parents will stay together”. Or maybe you were adopted into a loving home, but there is this nagging question in your soul, “Why did my birth parents give me up? Was there something wrong with me?” Maybe you were abused and the things that were done to you made you feel like you were, “no good” not worthy of anything good in your life. Or it may be a lot more subtle than that. Even if we have the perfect life, the enemy of our soul has a way of whispering lies to us and uses the mistakes we make as ammunition against us until the lie gets slowly integrated into our lives.

You see, the enemy of our souls is jealous of the creation. He does not have the power to create life or destroy it. He wanted to be God and to have these powers, and because he does not, he is jealous of God, who does this power. So instead he tries to steal the creation, and what he can’t steal, he tries to destroy. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; ” … – John 10:10a. He does this by trying to get us to destroy ourselves. His only power to accomplish this is a lie. If he can get us to believe the lie, and he does, then he can control us and get us to do things to harm ourselves. If I believe I am no good, then maybe if a bunch of women (or men) love on me I’ll feel ok. If I use drugs or alcohol, then I don’t have to feel the internal pain of the lie. If I mood alter with porn, then I’ll feel ok. If I buy a bunch of things, then I won’t feel so bad. If I get immersed in video games I can shut out the world and don’t have to feel the pain. You know how it goes. As consequences mount and the no good feeling increases, some of us may succumb to the ultimate culmination and objective of the enemy. “Look at you! Who do you think you are! Nobody loves you! You might as well kill yourself! You’re nothing! You’re a mistake!”

The lie can become a very powerful force in our lives, tainting everything we think and feel and keeping us from the full enjoyment of life. It makes us angry, cynical and critical of others. It warps our whole outlook on life. The crazy thing is that it’s a parlor trick, the whole bait and switch. Look over here so you don’t see what I’m doing over there. The truth is, the lie is totally false and irrelevant. It has absolutely nothing to do with how good we are and everything to do with how good God is. Even religion itself falls into the same trap that the lie sets, believing that we are not good enough for God so why bother, to the point of convincing ourselves there is no God. That way we can relax and breathe easy, not having to worry about measuring up to Gods standard. We reject God and all religion because it just seems too hard. A lot of us, deep down, believe that God exists and want to believe He is loving and forgiving, but religion keep telling us the same lie we believe anyway, “We are not good enough”. The reason that religion can do nothing more is because it is an institution run by humans who all believe the lie about themselves at some level.

The Good News, the VERY Good News, is that God’s love, peace, joy, forgiveness and every other gift that comes from God is just that, A GIFT! It’s there for the taking. We just need to accept the lie is a lie and accept the gift as a gift. Christ made it all available, … “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10b, (the second half of the verse I quoted earlier, in case you missed it J). It is just that simple, but somehow we miss it. There are some of you that, when I mentioned Jesus said, “oh great, I was fine until you said Jesus. I don’t want to hear any of that religion stuff. That’s just it! Jesus didn’t come to start another religion! He says why he came right there in John 10:10. It was to give us life to the full. What a gift that is! Do you see it? Do you get it? I desperately hope you do! I desperately hope that I do too!

Beware Oxytocin

It disheartens me to see how casually and easily we give our bodies away in our world today. I cannot convince anyone anymore from a moral stand point why easy sex is not such a good idea, but I can give you a scientific argument why.

Oxytocin is a brain chemical that could be called a bonding chemical. When a Mother is breastfeeding her baby, it is responsible for creating a powerful and permanent bond between Mother and child. You experience this chemical to some degree when someone touches your hand or gentle brushes the back of your neck. It is especially strong during sexual intercourse. When we have sex with someone, there is a strong bond that is formed chemically, and when we end up leaving that person, or they leave us, we experience a world of emotional pain.

Case in point; I heard the story of a young woman who dated a guy for five years and did not have sex with him during that time. When they broke up, she missed him and was sad, but not devastated. Subsequently, she met a guy and dated for three months during which time, she was sexually intimate with him but not emotionally or mentally. When they broke up, she was devastated and could not stop thinking about him for months and months.

Maybe you have had similar experiences. Sex is a powerful force and should not be entered into without commitment and intimacy (mentally and emotionally). It’s like a fire; in the fireplace it’s a beautiful thing, but in the curtains, it’s a disaster. 724px-OxitocinaCPK3D

The Good News – The Most Important Message Mankind Will Ever Know!

Most of us have heard the Gospel or “Good News” as we call it in Christian circles, but how many of us really know its breadth and depth. I suspect that most of us do not. How do I know that? Because statistically, abuse of all kinds is just as high in Christian homes as those who don’t claim to know Christ. Divorce is just as high. Addiction is just as high as well. It seems that Christians, on the whole, live with just as much fear, anxiety and worry as those outside the church. Christ’s coming to this world and the implications thereof is very good news, so why is it not having the impact on our world today that it should?

Why, when there is so much freedom and so much joy to be had? There is a much more enjoyable life waiting for us and it is so close, so easy to access, yet we miss it somehow. Jesus told us his main reason for coming to this earth when he said, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” –John 10:10.

So what is the “Good News”, how do we know that full life? To know it, we need a childlike mind of trust. That’s what makes it easy to attain, all we have to do is be like a child. It’s also what makes it so elusive to us, because we are unwilling to let go. Jesus also said, “Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” –Luke 18:17. The Good News is this; God did, and does it all. We do nothing! Our part is to just trust Him. To let go! By doing so, we can do anything; because He can do anything, by trusting Him, we can do all things! Philippians 4: 13” I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [a]infuses inner strength into me; I am [b]self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]”. Ok, that just sounds way too easy. That’s why we miss it!

Listen to what I think is one of the most powerful scriptures written from Romans chapter 8:

1-2 With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved, (the dilemma that Paul is referring to is the struggle with self that he talks about in chapter 7). Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

3-4 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.

It goes on to say:

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

I bolded and underlined, “instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us” because it encapsulates the main problem and its solution. We constantly struggle with self! We constantly kick ourselves when we mess up! We constantly worry and fear what’s around the next corner. We are always trying to get it right. If you are a person of faith, you probably say, “Well if I just read my Bible more and pray more, I’ll be ok”. It’s all about doing more, redoubling our efforts. You see that word “instead”? How did we miss that; because that’s all we do, isn’t it! Try harder, do more!

Oh, but here it comes. Watch it! “Simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us”. There is real power there! There is grace and forgiveness and love there! See, why do you think Christ placed such a strong emphasis on loving and forgiving our enemies? Because He knows that love and forgiveness are the only things that have any chance of breaking through the hard exterior of pride and arrogance in others and in us. Yes, arrogance has been my greatest nemesis also, keeping me from knowing the fullness of what I am sharing with you today. God’s grace is sooooooo huge! Unfathomably huge! And there is great freedom in that grace. Not freedom to do as we please, although we could, but freedom like a child completely trusting its Dada.

Oh, if the world just knew this, imagine the implications! There are implications here not just for freedom from worry and fear; not just for freedom from selfishness, pride and corruption; not just for freedom from guilt and shame; not just for freedom from addictions and obsessions; but freedom from disease, death, and moral decay as well. It’s a package deal. You don’t get just one; you get it all! A veteran Pastor once said to me years ago, “You know God doesn’t heal and perform miracles any more today. He did that back in the early days to confirm the Gospel, but now that we have the Bible, that’s all we need and God doesn’t need to do miracles anymore”. To which I say, The Gospel IS the power of God! To deny the miraculous is to cut the legs off of the Gospel and take away at least half of its effectiveness. If that is what some churches believe, no wonder the Good News has been weakened over the years. You can’t separate any part of it. That too is arrogance and contrary to childlike trust in God.

Now it’s time to start pulling up some floor boards that have been nailed down for a while. When you hear this, do you feel even the slightest pull on your heart!? Let it in! Trust! Let go! God will increase it! He will most certainly pour Himself into your life, whether it is for the first time, or anew, after years of trying to live a life of faith only to find struggle again and again. You see, a life of faith is just that, faith, not struggle.

God is about to do some great things in us, in His church, and in the world. Can you feel it? I know I can. Start trusting Him today for far more than anything you can even begin to think or imagine. Get ready to be a world changer!