Chapter 3 "A Rogue Story"
Hero’s, Villain’s, or Both?
As you take a look at some of these random characters, notice that there is a plot that has been designed by God and that each story has one or sometimes all of the characteristics and roll’s that play out in the story of God, some stories have characters that played multiple roles. Most had both Hero and Villain characteristics while a few had just one, or the other. They all were randomly chosen for the purpose of showing that all of their lives and stories demonstrate that God see’s the big picture, He knows the plot from beginning to end and that in most cases there is a plan being worked out in their story that encourages us in our walk with God or illustrates the consequences of not following Him as was the case with Saul. Suffice it to say, everything is being played our to an expected end and for the pleasure of our Creator.
King Saul - Bad Apple, Nemesis, unknowingly fosters a Noble hero and a giant killer.
The very first king of Israel, a head taller than any of his contemporaries, the predecessor, mentor and nemesis of King David, the father of Jonathan. His son, Jonathan, was a noble hero, but Saul was not.
Saul started off okay, but his relationship with God was so thin that God didn’t have any room to work with him and so he kind of let himself go and went downhill fast. He was the fraidy-cat of the Philistines, Goliath in particular, and became a deranged mad man who slaughtered God’s priests. He attempted to kill his own son twice, and hounded his best follower, David, for years until Saul finally met his death after consulting with a witch because he was so out of touch with God.
Read about him in 1 Samuel 8-31. It is one of the richest portions of the Bible in terms of story, character and lessons for real life.
Job - A Story about When you’ve been good but now you have it bad!
Job is the original good guy in the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Job was about as close to perfect as you could get and still be human. He loved God. He loved people. He used his great wealth and wisdom to help people. Then disaster struck. His wealth, his ten children and his health were all taken away. Left with nothing but suffering, his friends come to comfort him. But, instead of encouraging him, they start accusing him, and add insult to injury. Finally, he has a “face-to-face” meeting with God. God answers with a set of unexpected questions of His own. Job’s story is told in the Biblical book bearing his name.
Abel - and His Brother and Murderer Cain. A Story of Sibling Rivalry
Abel found favor with God and Cain did not. Read about it in the book of Genesis. Abel is listed as a hero of the faith here. first child born to the human race,
Cain, grows up to become a murderer, killing his own brother in a fit of jealousy. Made bad decisions and even worse sacrifices.
I am drawn to this story because it Correlates well with my own failure in that if I believe that my works, sacrifice, and self-righteousness are sufficient offerings to the Lord that it will ultimately be my demise. Only the Lamb of God should ever be my offering.
Samuel - A Story of What God does when we give everything to Him.
The great prophet, son of Hannah, the childless woman who prayed for a son and promised to give that child to God. She did after he was weaned; she dropped him off at the temple where Eli the priest and his evil sons were the religious leaders of the day. Samuel was still a boy when God started talking to him. Eli and his sons were killed, but Samuel grew up to be the leader of Israel, and the one who selected both Saul and David to become Israel’s future kings. Samuel’s story is told in 1 Samuel and he was a guy who often performed the hard tasks that Saul was not able to perform. For instance He hewed Ahaz, an enemy king, into a 1000 pieces. He was able to do this because He frequented the Altar of the Lord in Gilgal.
He appointed his sons to judge over Israel but they were deemed unfit and God Appointed a King. Sammy didn’t make an issue of it, I think he just had a fleeting moment where his radio got all staticy! The main theme throughout Samuel’s life is that God alone should receive the glory and honor. Read about him In 1 Samuel.
Esther - From Harem to Queen and saving a Nation.
A number of women come to mind as important Bible personalities including Eve, Mary, Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth, Miriam, Mary Magdelene, Deborah, Ruth and so on. But Esther stands alone in the category of saving an entire nation by her courage. Chosen to join the harem of Persian King Xerxes, she rises to the position of queen in time to uncover a plot to destroy the Jewish people. She might have the power and influence to stop the plot, but only if she risks her own life to do so. The book that bears her name is unique in that God is not mentioned once in the book, but His fingerprints are all over the events.
Although God is never mentioned in the book of Esther we can see His acts in the background. Nothing gets past God! His timing is always best but we need to wait for Him before we act and realize that it’s dangerous to jump out before it’s time Your background does not hinder your future with God. Esther was an orphan. God still exalted her and used her. Some of Jesus’s disciples where fishermen, tax collectors, and one was a Doctor. Your background does not determine what God can do with you but your simple faith does! A powerful story!
Samson - Buff guy with a thing for bad girls. Ends up blind guy with bad haircut but finishes well!
This guy very well may have been bipolar! He could go from Hero to Villain in 3 seconds flat. Famous for his great strength, he was an individual fighter rather than a leader of men. Dedicated at birth as a Nazirite, he never had his hair cut. He believed this was the reason for his prowess in harassing his enemies, particularly the Philistines.
Not good at interpersonal relationships, he picked the wrong women and had a propensity for making many enemies. This long-haired strong man once picked up the jaw bone of a donkey and killed a thousand Philistine soldiers on the battlefield. He is still the UFC Belt holder of all time in my book! If Samson were alive today, he would probably spend some of his life in jail–let’s just say he was no choir boy. But he had a job to do, and he did it well, that is until his woman friend, Delilah gave him a bad hair-cut and sold him out to the Philistines for 140 pounds of silver. Now Samson wasn’t opposed to getting back in the ring even though the Philistines had blinded him and put him in prison. He had one last appearance on stage where he finally retrieved his honor, and got back his belt, by killing thousands of Philistines before the curtain fell. Samson’s story is told in Judges 13-16. He was both a Hero and a Villain in the plot and his story warrants exploration and comparison of our own!
Keep your vows and stay away from bad girls. When you feel like you are blind to what God is doing in your story, realize that even though you are a pinhead, God is not finished with you yet!
Jonah - God can use a person even though there is something fishy about them!
Famous for being swallowed by a “great fish,” he had a knack for going the wrong direction. Ring any bells? Ever felt like you’ve thrown overboard? Jonah’s real contribution is presiding over the greatest mass conversion of all time meanwhile learning a few things about human prejudice, what complaining gets you, how storms in life can move you, and how God’s love is at work in you at the same time.
Elijah - Prophet, Part Rain Man, Part Trash Talker and Disposer of False Prophets. Good with fire too!
The great prophet who stared down an entire nation and didn’t blink. After King David, Israel split into two nations. The northern kingdom went from bad to worse until they were ruled by a truly depraved couple, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Elijah walks onto the scene and announces that rain won’t fall without his own personal okay. Then he disappears. For the next three years a bone-dry nation searches for Elijah, but he’s nowhere to be found, until one day he shows up again and offers a showdown on Mount Carmel: your god vs. my God. Elijah was a Prophet on Steroids. His successor Elisha was noted for receiving a double portion of the Elijah stuff and didn’t like having his bald head made fun of! Elijah got a little whiny at the Brook of Cherith when it ran dry and briefly thought God’s provision was for the birds!
Peter - A smart fisherman with a propensity to cause trouble! Freaks out around Little Girls!
Originally known as Simon, his name was changed to Peter by Jesus, and he became a leader of the early church. Hanging out with Jesus will make a smart man out of anyone! Peter had listened to, eaten with, and traveled alongside Jesus for three years. The result was obvious. He was also noted as being impetuous, bull headed, a fisherman, a sword wielding ear lopper, and I’m afraid little girls around burn barrels put him right into a state of denial. Still He stuck with Jesus and that is important because as we spend time hanging out with with Jesus, we will take on His characteristics just as noticeably, as readily, as wonderfully as did the fisherman-turned-scholar: the apostle Peter.
John the Apostle - Can’t you hear that Thunder?
Among Jesus’ twelve disciples, Peter, James and John formed an inner circle. Out of them, John appeared to be Jesus’ closest friend here on earth. He wrote one of the Gospels, three important letters (which are recorded in the Bible) and the powerful book of Revelation. John mentioned himself as the one Jesus loved.
John was initially a walking powder keg whom Jesus called a “son of thunder” (Mark 3:17). John was upset because someone outside the circle of disciples was using the name of Jesus to see people released from demons. “We told him to stop because he’s not part of our denomination,” he said. “He doesn’t share our doctrinal understandings. He’s not one of us.” We do this as well. People can be saved, blessed, helped, and strengthened—but because we might not have doctrinal agreement, we put them down. Because they might worship differently from us, we find fault. Such is not the way of love.
John went through an incredible transformation himself. You see, John is known as the “apostle of love” because more than anyone else in Scripture, John both preaches and personifies love. Another result of being impacted by the work of Jesus.
Paul - Once a poacher of Christians, Goes to work for The Save the Christian’s Foundation!
He was originally Saul (not the king, but the persecutor of Christians who lived a thousand years later). This guy started out as a orange vested, one-man, hunting machine, with a no bag limit tag fresh out of a Sportsman's Warehouse. He became Paul the Apostle after having a powerful encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. First Barnabas, and then Silas were his ministry partners. Most of the books of the New Testament were written by Paul who became a powerhouse leader in the early church. go figure! He is responsible for much of our understanding of Christianity. Paul first bridged the gap between Jews and Gentiles by demonstrating that the way of Jesus was open to anyone, regardless of ancestry. Such a stark contrast in his story! There is hope for you and me!
David - Shepherd, Giant Killer, Worship leader, Womanizer, Murderer, King, Huh?
Best known for facing the giant Goliath and beating him with a sling and a stone, David was the most famous king of Israel, one of the greatest men who ever lived. Author of most of the Psalms, his story is told in 1 & 2 Samuel. He was a shepherd, a worshiper, He had a heart after God and sadly, he is also often remembered for his greatest failure, his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, who later became the mother of wise and wealthy King Solomon. There is much we can relate to in the life of David.
Abraham - Father of many generations, Simple faith, accounted unto Righteousness! Gets ahead of things!
The father of faith and ancestor of nations. In reality, If it were not for some of his major mistakes, Israel would have deign in a great famine! God made His promise to make Abraham the Father of many generations while Abe was still worshiping idols like a Moon goddess. He had a propensity for taking things into his own hands and got ahead of things with his handmaiden because he and Sarah thought that they were too old to cut the mustard! His son Isaac was born to him at age 100 when his wife, Sarah, was 90. Isaac became the father of Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and his descendants became the nation of Israel. One of Jacob’s sons was Joseph (not the husband of Mary mother of Jesus) who was sold into slavery by his brothers, but, in a great turn of events, he was delivered to Egypt by Ishmaelite's or the direct descendants of Ishmael. (Ishmael was the byproduct of Abraham's sexual relations with Hagar who was Sarah’s handmaiden). Joseph ended up becoming second-in-command in Egypt, and in that position he saved his family, providing food for them during a terrible famine. Abraham trusted God and it was accounted unto him as righteousness!
Jabez - The Lord hears you!
Jabez is only mentioned in a few verses of scripture and is known for his famous “Prayer of Jabez” mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:10: Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!’ And God granted what he asked.
It is a simple prayer prayed in faith and serves as a powerful example of answered prayer and receiving blessing from the Lord.
The Thief - On the Cross, Saved by the Bell!
We do not know much more about the thief on the cross other than he was: A criminal, crucified next to Jesus, and brought into paradise at his death. His powerful story is told in Luke 23:32-43, that describes the conversation between Christ and the two criminals crucified alongside of him.
The first criminal mentioned mocked Christ, “Save yourself and us!” (23:29). The other criminal, of whom we are writing, defended Jesus in a humble manner, acknowledging the justice of God and the innocence of Christ. His response to the mocker was, Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. Then in verses 40-41 he pleaded with Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This desperate and humble cry for mercy is all that God needed to welcome him into the family of God. Jesus answered, vs 43. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
What an incredible story! A man who presumably led his entire life in opposition to God, by the great mercies of God, was able to be saved in his dying moments. This demonstrates that a humble heart that cries out to God for salvation will be heard!
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Ehud - An uncouth lefty Gets used by God!
The story of Ehud comes right out of Judges 3, but would fit in nicely into the plot of a James Bond movie.
Israel was under the oppressive rule of Eglon the king of Moab so they cried out to the Lord for deliverance. The Moabites were idol worshipers who did evil in the sight of the Lord. God sent Ehud a left handed man who would have been considered unfit along with his cubit-long (about a foot and a half) sword to assassinate the king and liberate God’s people from his rule.
Ehud must have been a smooth talker, because when he told the servants of the king that he had a “secret message” for him (Judges 3:19), they left Ehud all alone with the king who was built like Jabba the Hutt. Ehud’s “secret message” was the sword that he brought and a stab to the belly Eglon as he was sitting on the pot, which killed him!
Then Ehud quietly locked the doors to the roof to keep the guards out and made a quick getaway. When Ehud returned to the people of Israel, he led Israel in conquering their enemies the Moabites.
It is a great picture and story of how when the Word of God (the Sword) is thrust to the core of our lives, how that the Dirt comes out!
Jesus - Author, Savior, Super Hero, and oh let’s not forget God!
The whole Bible is centered around Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, Savior, the God Man, the solution to the problems caused by our own waywardness and the only Way to living a great Story! Jesus is the center of it all! If you place Him as Lord of all in your life, you will be able to see your story through the lens of The Creator of the Universe, Author and Finisher of our Faith!
The Long Shots and Making the Bad Bets.
Chapter 2: from "A Rogue Story."
I’ve always been a long-shot. For most of my life I have tried to be a leader and the Hero of my story but for the most part, I always felt like I might be the guy who was the last one to be picked on the playground so I would always seek to promote my own character or abilities. I was a man with many gifting’s but trapped like a prisoner in my own self fashioned perspectives of self. Spiritual pride first puffed me up, then it subtly lied to me, and then it left me spiritually bankrupt. I had become stuck there in my own story, un-touchable, un-reachable by the walls that I had erected through spiritual prowess, while devoid of an understanding of my own depravity and need for Jesus to be the Lord of all in my story. I had become a Villain!
What could the Lord possibly do with a man like that? As someone who had become so centered on themselves, I had lost hope, living in fear of the exposure that would ensue if the depth of my depravity were discovered. I was now convinced that I was alone and that everything that I had strived for would soon be lost. There on the edge of my bed, influenced by lies, depression and medication for chronic pain, I had decided that it wasn’t worth it so, with a gun in my hand and in what could have been the last few minutes of my story, I cried out… “Why can’t You pick me for once?” I will never forget the immediate answer — “I did.” “What are you waiting for?” As if being awakened from a childhood dream of playing Red-Rover on the playground, it was if the Lord was standing directly across from me yelling “Send Johnny on over!” Motioning me to run with everything I could muster, I sat my pistol in the dirt of that playground story and dream, but I had no strength to move or stand beyond that. When I looked up, the Heavenly Father had ran across that gap with open arms and with a warm embrace that instantly brought justification. Not self-justification but His Justification. He had not only elected to have me but He had come the full distance that was seemingly so impossible for me to make and was inadequate to travel. He did a work at my core that day and I have not been the same since!
Pick Me, pick Me!!!
1 Peter 1:2…
…Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…
To often we worry more about being the Elect of the people around us than we do being the Elect of God. We perpetually strive for the “People's Choice Award” rather than resting in the knowledge that we are already chosen as God’s glorified one’s! You see, because God elected us before the world began, He sees us as already glorified. People often look at us and they say, “Glorified? Them?” The Father, however, knows better than those around you!
Suppose you could suddenly travel back in time and you wind up in a place where you realize that you haven’t made any of the mistakes of your past yet. There you are and nobody has seen you mess up or make the mistakes that will eventually become part of your story. So, you think to yourself; “Hey, my approval rating is much better now with folks than it will ever be in the future. So with the new found members of your incredible posse and a new approval rating, you find a bookie, and against unbelievably high odds, and even the marvelous expectations that your peeps have for you in life, you place a bet that you are going to have some major shortcomings and that you will fail along the way. Or, maybe you bet against yourself, that you’re going to get beat in some way. Now stay with me!Because, you would walk away rich from your winnings because you would have made these bets with foreknowledge. You would have put your money down not as a gamble, but with certainty because you would have known the outcome despite the fact that you failed, despite the fact that it looked like a bad bet!
Here is the kicker! You see, the Father knows a good bet even before it looks like a bad bet. He sees the end from the beginning. He understands what no other person can comprehend. He knows we are going to struggle and mess up but He also knows that we’re going to make it. As bad a bet as we might seem to ourselves or to others, as steep as the odds against us may be, He calls us already glorified. Therefore, we can approach Him boldly. We can enjoy Him intimately. We can ask of Him expectantly because we have been elected eternally.
Our Father takes an incredible chance on us even when people don’t, even when other christians, family, friends and the crowd around us won’t. Quit seeing yourselves as the good bet, gone bad and start seeing yourself as the bad bet, gone good!
So what, if you are a long shot! The word of God is chucked full of stories about the Long-Shot. Jesus Himself was viewed by His own disciples as a long-shot. This next part of A Rogue Story takes a brief look at the bad bets, the longshot, and the real characters, who were all heroes and villains alike!
Have you ever felt stuck in your story?
A Rogue Story
The Author, The Hero, and The Villain?
All good stories begin with someone who who plays the ultimate character or hero. In developing an understanding of our own story we must first go directly to the author. Now I know this may sound odd because most of us (If you are anything like me) feel like we have been the authors of our own confusion, loss, and failures. Our stories read like a book pre-judged by it’s cover, or one tossed away for some other more practical use like starting a fire in the wood stove. This is the result of a mis-understanding of who the real author really is and what His purpose is for you. You wouldn’t toss aside a novel by Hemingway or Tolkien. You see, we like to think that we are the hero in our own story, but if we take the time to search the roots or ancestry of our stories, we can better understand why things unfold the way they have and ultimately free ourselves from having to be the Author, the Hero, or the Villain! How is this possible you may ask? It is because our Author has experienced every role there is to play and He in fact knew me before I was formed in the Womb..
Jeremiah 1:5 (KJV)
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
It takes very little understanding about our Author to come to the conclusion that He not only knows our story but is orchestrating each roll that plays out in our lives with perfect execution. Every scene is played out perfectly with all of His nature, personalities, and attributes being directed by and in the fulness of the Godhead. When we come to grips with the understanding that the author really knows what He is doing then we must change our perspectives about His plan and purpose for us while accepting that our story has been written by Him. This is the point that can transform our understanding of our story because it is here that we become free to see ourselves through the creative lens of Jesus.
So, how do we view our lives, our story? Is it possible that my story has been hijacked throughout my lifetime? How do we view others around us, our family, our friends, most importantly those who have gone through difficulty whether it is adversity or the consequences of sin. How do we view others who have different life experiences and persuasions? Is it our part to distance ourselves from those who have a different theological perspective? Should we allow ourselves to see others through the lens of past failures or mistrust? Should the view of myself be substantiated by the report of others who have not walked with me, but who know about my past? Or, does Jesus model a whole different perspective for us to follow where none of these questions come into play? These are all important questions to ask as we approach them through the simplistic lens of Jesus, giving us the right view of our story.
Through the lens of Jesus and because I have spent time getting to know the Author, something wonderful has happened in my own story. I have fallen in love with the author of my story and I am certain that on my behalf, Jesus comes to me and He is only motivated by His love for me. It is this passionate attraction for me that is packaged in such a way that it demonstrates itself by being relational with me, speaking with me, and lavishing me with the full provisions of His mercy and grace. He never puts me in a time out; He does not withdraw Himself from me, analyze my actions, and prequalify whether or not I am worthy of love. The Good News is that He is your Author too!
Jesus said “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” This story and lens of Jesus corrects our theology and understanding of the story of God, It makes it relational and not religious! I like how the Story of Christ and seeing things through the lens of Christ drastically impacted the lives of guys like Peter and Paul in the most profound but simplistic ways.
Peter gives me the hope that those who are religious in their theological perspectives can, not only be used by the Lord but, that they can change their perspectives radically. You remember the story when Peter had to go with a bunch of Gentiles to the house of Cornelius. He must have been totally freaked out! Good religious Jews especially Apostles didn’t roll with Gentiles. They were considered to be fodder for the fires of hell. (I have been on both ends of this perspective. I have felt that way about others because of my own religious pride and I have also been on the receiving end of those who are non relational and religious in their theology). Needless to say, Peter is placed in a position where if he is going to develop into the simplistic model of how Jesus showed us to live, then there is going to have to be a change in how he views others and it can only happen through the loving lens of Jesus. Read the story in Acts 10 to see how the Lord lovingly does this as Peter moves along through what could be considered as a very uncomfortable journey into the world of the Gentiles. In the story, Peter becomes what we call a relational theologian, not an academic theologian. I believe that God wants all of us to be relational theologians because they are the best kind of theologians. Why? A relational theologian tracks everything in scripture through the nature and Heart of God. The goal of God is to make all of us into His image. That is why Jesus was so relational In fact that is why we can so easily identify that His attraction was for the sinner and not the religious who thought that they were without sin. One of the first things that God reveals to peter is…
where Is this instruction. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
I used to think that I was a commoner! Now I believe that I am not so common. God has captivated my heart, cleansed me from my sin and pride and filled me with His Holy Spirit. It was a process and a part of my story! Some will be skeptical of my story, others will hear it and relate, and my heart is that they be restored in their relationship with Christ and those around them. The great news is that all of this happens in people prone to fail in their own stories, people who do horrible things like lopping of ears, freaking out over little girls who call them out around burn barrels, those who deny over and over again that they ever knew Him or that He even exists. That is the Story line that Jesus, The Author and Finisher of our faith likes to use. Those are the folks that He makes relational but, not so common!
All that being said, our theology must be relational and in line with His primary purpose if we are truly to become living epistles. Note however that if you are like Peter, this position may get you a reputation of being unlearned but, it might also help the religious folk and sinners alike, identify that you have actually been with Jesus as was the case of Peter. Peter spoke from a level of relationship that the religious leaders never had.
One of the reasons I don’t get systematic theology is because there is no pathway through the heart and nature of God and it mostly ends up as rules somewhere.
When we study the Bible, we are studying the one who wrote it. If all you are doing is studying the principles of scripture then you are missing the heart of love that Jesus had for us while we were yet sinners. The Bible is a love story that causes us to fall in love with the author. When we believe on Him and embrace the simple faithfulness of Jesus towards us, He puts His Spirit in us and hides us in Him. Then begins the glorious process of sanctification where we go from glory to greater glory in His presence!
Paul on the other hand was and academic theologian. He had no understanding of the presence, He had totally missed the visitation of Jesus, and was convinced that he was serving the purposes of God in persecuting the church while breathing death threats to the disciples in the name of Jesus. This is what he said about himself…
I was educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the laws of our fathers. I’m a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee, Circumcised on the eighth day, of Isreal, of the tribe of Benjamin, as to Law a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to legalism, blameless. I lived according to the strictest sect of our religion.
Here is the cool thing about the model of Jesus and seeing things through the lens of God. Christ will reveal Himself and love even the most religious!
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord?
There is Hope for the religious who say “Who are you Lord”? It’s sad to have all that pedigree, all of that learning, to have followed all of the principles and procedures without having an encounter with Jesus in the development of your theology.
The Good news is that Jesus loves the religious and the sinner alike! He sacrificed Himself for all of us. The sinner, the hypocrite, the religious, and the broken hearted alike. Paul exhibited all of these attributes and Jesus identifies Himself to him and shows His love and forgiveness to him, radically opening Paul's’ eyes to what relational theology has the ability to do.
If he can do it in train wrecks like Peter, persecutors like Paul, and guys like me who have been on both ends of the spectrum, then He is able to show himself, and lavish us with His love no matter who you are.
Just ask Him, Who are You?
So Who is Who?
One central character with the ability to assume multiple roles in any story is at the very nature of who God is. We were created for His pleasure and nothing gives him more pleasure than a story that glorifies Him. In order to break our stories down to a very simplistic understanding of the plot behind them, we must also have a simple understanding of what comprises the very make up of who God is. In order to do that, let’s look briefly at the Trinity or the sum total of who God is.
I like to wrap my brain around this Idea by viewing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as… Me, Myself, and I. These are the three distinct person’s of the Trinity where Jesus is depicted as eternally, The One True God.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Whenever the beginning was, wherever it was, whatever it might have been, Jesus—the Word—was already there. He had no beginning and He has no end. He is eternally God. Jesus is also equally God. …and the Word was with God… Jesus, the Word, was with God—equal to the Father and the Spirit.
Now I know what you might be thinking… “I thought there was only one God?” There is. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,” Deuteronomy 6:4 says. But the word used for “one” is the word echad, which refers to a compound unity, like one people, or one cluster of grapes. And so, God is a synthesis, a “tri-unity.” One plus one plus one does not equal one. But one times one, times one, equals one! And that is the mystery of the Trinity.
Allow me to introduce myself! Author, “I Am.”
“My name is I AM,” answered the Lord (Exodus 3:14).
In this particular story, Moses must have scratching his head in confusion and thought, You are… what You see, not realizing that what God really is would only be fully and completely revealed when Jesus Christ came on the scene.
At the end of His ministry, Jesus could say, “I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou hast given Me. (John 17:6). Because of this, He filled in the blank completely and perfectly.
Jesus in His great “Ego-Eimi” statements showed us how that He was fully God and the Author of our Story. He doesn’t tell us the way. He is the Way. “Whom seek ye?” He asked of the soldiers who had come to arrest Him. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “Ego Eimi,” said Jesus. “I AM.” And the soldiers—most likely several hundred in number—fell over backward (John 18:4–6), knocked down not by anything Jesus did, but by the sheer power of who He is. So, too, once you grab this, once you see it’s not something Jesus gives to you, but who He is for you, you’ll be knocked out. You’ll say, “Lord, I’ve been asking for clarity in my story and looking for the answers to my plot. But in reality it’s all wrapped up in You personally. And if I rest in Your arms, My story will have the right ending. If I stay close to You, I’ll be protected. If I cling to You, I’ll feel whole. If I allow You into my life, I’ll feel satisfied at last?” “That’s right,” Jesus answers. “I am the Way. I am the Door. I am the Vine. I am the Bread.” The Story starts with Him and ends with Him!
But there is even more to this Jesus, fully God in the flesh, who has come to be the central figure of our story!
One person plays multiple parts!
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
The Super Hero
Colossians 1 reads like the identification of the Super Hero, Jesus Christ: Creator of the speeding bullet, His Spirit more powerful than dynamite, not just a leaper over problems but a fixer of any problem. Born a carpenter’s son, Jesus learned his father’s trade and, more than likely, he was good at it. His expertise in the art of carpentry isn’t what makes him memorable; it’s his unique knowledge of intimate details related to God. Jesus demonstrated that he was God by performing miracles, resisting great temptations, and teaching life-changing lessons despite his age or lack of education. His business practices are legendary, using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. So attractive is the story of Jesus that the multitudes were drawn to Him and if you introduce Jesus as the real hero of your story, He becomes one who is simple for everyone to believe in and look up to. That’s because Jesus is God. Because of who he is, he has the ultimate power.
Not only is He the One True God, and our Hero, He is the Ghost!
The Ghost Story
As a child, while on camping excursions, we would take turns conjuring up ghost stories to pass the time late into the twilight hours, around campfires or huddled in our sleeping bags, usually with the comfort of a flashlight in hand to shed light on the fears that were now becoming our realities.
The Holy Ghost Story here is much different than the spook tales of old. His work is explosive and His presence is comforting. He goes about His business drawing no attention to Himself perpetually leading, guiding, comforting and revealing the central character of our story. Let’s let the Word of God Speak for itself!
But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
1 Corinthians 2:9-13 (KJV)
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty.
[Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto him].
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
This is one Ghost Story that is vital to having a great story of our own!
Not only is He the Author and Finisher, the Hero, Comforter, and the Ghost in the Story but He is the Villain too!
John 3:14-16 (KJV)
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jesus Christ became the Villain, or the Snake if you will in the story! How, you may ask did He do that? Simple! He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) in order that the wrath of the Father over the sin of the world would be appeased. Instead of smashing a world that is full of snake’s and villain’s, He turned to His innocent Son and laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.
Not only did Jesus know what this meant going into it, He did it anyway, all while knowing that I was the worst villain of them all. I can only assume that this is why in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed with such intensity, and sweat drops of blood. “Father, if possible, don’t let Me drink of this cup” (Matthew 26:39). But, it wasn’t physical death Jesus feared; it was the wrath of His Father that caused Him to break out in a bloody sweat (Luke 22:44). Jesus knew what it meant to be the total satisfaction of my debt, the appeasement of Gods wrath that I had alone deserved.
God Himself became a Man, His name was Jesus. Jesus being fully God, absorbed the wrath of His own indignation. He died, arose again to be seated at the right hand of the Father and sent His Spirit to guide and Comfort me. It is The mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of Jesus covering me, It is the Story of God as my Author, Finisher, Hero, Comforter, Ghost, Snake and Villain who was able to be all of this for me while wielding all of the wrath that I deserved upon Himself. The Ultimate Story!
Hopefully by now, You're beginning to understand why Jesus is not only the best Author of our story but that He is the perfect Finisher of our story!
I Like Action Adventure Stories.
You ever feel like you thought you had a character figured out in a story only to find out that there was another side to them. That is the beauty of having Jesus as the main Character of our story! It makes for a great Adventure!
When I hear the Story of God, when I understand my roots, and believe in His plan for my story, My outlook on the plot changes. There is hope! Life becomes an adventure and the thought of exploring the storybook of my life now becomes one of interest. It as if I have just landed the supporting role in a good Action/Adventure movie and the movies director has just yelled… Action!
Simplifying the Plot of Your Story
Now that we understand Jesus’ part and role in our story, we can warm up to the idea that in order to really live and tell a good story, it all boils down to Jesus being lived out in and through our story!
Hebrews 1:9 says, Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness “more than any of His fellows.” That is, He had a gladness about Him that was unparalleled in any other person. Truly, whoever looks at the Lord cannot help but be impressed with Him. One would think however, that the secret to such attractiveness, effectiveness, and joy would be very complex. One would think that Jesus must have understood esoteric mysteries and implemented difficult methodology. But such is not the case, for throughout the scriptures, we see the simplicity of the secret Jesus understood that produced in Him the life that was so successful and so beautiful. What was this secret? The very foundational principle that governed His entire life was His relationship with His Father. If I were to question you about the defining principle of your life, you might say, “It’s my ministry,” or “It’s my family,” or, “It’s this vision,” or, “It’s this attempt to see the kingdom grow.” You might on the other hand, define your story as one that is full of tragedy, fear, rejection, failure, and disappointment. Regardless of your personal triumph or despair and as valid as those things might be, they are insignificant in comparison to your relationship with the Father. That’s all there is—no other agenda, no other failure, no other ministry, no other disappointment, no other vision, no other attempts to right all of the wrongs, and no other priority. By comparison to what had at one time been my own personal tendencies, Jesus was so focused on His relationship with His Father that nothing else mattered. As a result, everything else fell into place beautifully. His life was fruitful. His relationships were special. His ministry was bountiful, and His Story is amazing! A simple walk of faith in Him is the only thing that will get your story moving in the right direction! It is my hope to share His story, how it has impacted my story, and how every story, every path you are on, has been ransomed through Christ!
The chapters that follow in "A Rogue Story" are all about characters in the bible, characters in my story, a rogue sense of adventure, and how we can go about living out the story of Jesus in in our own lives.
1 Thess 5:16 Rejoice evermore!
In order to rejoice, I must know whose hands I’m in!
The Psalmist proclaimed, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. That means that the hands of the Lord are what forms every day, good or bad and that in order to rejoice I must know who’s hands I’m in!
A basketball in my hands is worth about $19.
A basketball in Michael Jordan's hands is worth about $33 million.
It depends whose hands it's in.
A baseball in my hands is worth about $6. And is good for deterring would be thieves.
A baseball in Mark Mcguire's hands is worth $19 million.
It depends whose hands it's in.
A tennis racket is useless in my hands. More like a big boys fly swatter!
A tennis racket in Pete Sampras' hands is a Wimbledon Championship.
It depends whose hands it's in.
A rod in my hands will keep away a wild animal or poke me in the eye!
A rod in Moses' hands will part the mighty sea.
It depends whose hands it's in.
A slingshot in my hands is! a kid's toy and a good way to break a window!
A slingshot in David's hand is a mighty weapon.
It depends whose hands it's in.
Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches and a lunch I’m probably not going to share. Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in God's hands will feed thousands. It depends whose hands it's in.
Nails in my hands might produce a couple of framed walls But,
Nails in Jesus Christ's hands will produce salvation for the entire world.
It depends whose hands it's in.
As you can see now, it all depends on whose hands it's in. And all you have to do today is put your concerns, your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your families and your relationships in God's hands because...
It all depends whose hands it's in!
Heard it from an Old Cowboy!
You are holy and unblameable and unre-proveable in His sight!
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unre-proveable in his sight:
The world believes that reproof is the way of reconciling things. This philosophy plays out in our everyday life and even in some circles of Christianity. We think that if we can reprove those who have hurt us that it will bring resolve and closure to the circumstances that hurt us to begin with. In many cases related to reconciliation amongst the religious it can become awards based on the performance of the individual who needs reconciliation and is often based on merit before it is provided. Contrast these philosophies with the models in scripture for reconciliation and you will discover polar opposites to what we see in the Kingdom of this world.
The Kingdom Cowboy Perspective that we are given in scripture implies that reconciliation has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Christ and the work of the Cross.
I love western settings and the ranching way of life. I have always wanted more of it and there is much less of it in my life than I have aspired to achieve., However, recently I have discovered that my story is actually the epitome of one of the oldest wrangler functions of all time… Roping!
Have you ever wondered or strayed like a calf or young steer? I would venture to say that we all have. All of us have been wounded, estranged, alienated, distanced, or have felt perpetually reproved by the herd. It is not only part of our story but it can leave us stuck in a mud hole or hobbled like we just threw a shoe. Anytime we have a wrong perspective on what reconciliation truly is, we will look first for reproof and resolve, never becoming truly satisfied through the reconciliation provided by Christ on the Cross of Calvary.
So what is the Wrangler way of reconciliation? Simply put, it is Col 1:19-22.
First, All things are reconciled to Him, through Him, and by Him. There is no mention of you or I anywhere in the text. No rules, steps, pre-qualifications, and nobody else involved in the peace process except for Christ and the blood he shed on the Old Rugged Cross. I didn’t even have to convince Christ that I needed to be reconciled. It’s like He already knew!
Christ is the ultimate wrangler and roper!
The Greek Wrangler word for Reconcile is “apokatallasso.” The first part of this Western style word is “apo” meaning any kind of separation of one thing from another by which union or fellowship is destroyed. It is physical distance of time and place. I guess my best example of it would be like a stray steer or heifer!
The second part of this Wrangler word is “katallasso” it would be the equivalent of lassoing a stray back into the favor of the herd, literally at the expense of trading one life for another. Let that sink for a minute!
This is what Christ does as the greatest Wrangler of all time. He didn’t just wrangle us in, He exchanged His life for ours. He paid the ultimate price to rope me in! Furthermore, He did it for the stray steer not the prize bull! Talk about a love knot in the lariat!
We have been completely returned to favor with God through the work of Christ. When we were away from Him, caught in the snare of the enemy, and wandering away, Jesus saddled up and with lasso in hand, He pulled us back into the fold when we were shut out from fellowship and intimacy. he loved us while we were yet wandering steer's!
So here is is this Cowboy's two cents about reconciliation. You are no longer reproved. You are reconciled into the body of His flesh. You wear the brand that came by the Cross, through His death, and He presents you now as holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight! Quite the Roper isn't He?
You who was once separated, allow yourself be roped back into perfect fellowship with Him! Wear the brand that nobody can remove from you, the brand that nobody else can provide for you. Reconciliation by Christ cost Him everything but He roped you anyway!
But Maybe That’s A Good Thing!
Day three of my recuperation from knee surgery has me contemplating many different things. (It’s not the drugs Just for the record!). The Lord has a way of bringing clarity to those who position themselves to wait on Him especially if you have desire for a work of the Spirit and you are becoming a person who anticipates the fullness of His Spirit as you walk in simple faith with Him. Regardless of whether or not this kind of pause and positioning in life are intentional and purposed or they are imposed like the recuperation process I am presently going through, God is faithful to teach us and grow us up through either posture or process but, that doesn’t mean you are going to always get what you want! One thing that I am learning is that all too often; pain, setbacks, weakness, inability to see what is ahead, are all the venues that the Lord has a tendency to show Himself strong in while at the same time He shapes us to be a perfect fit into the valleys that we go through so that we can be salt and light in difficult times. Post- Surgery I was optimistic that I was going to be breaking all the records for recovery. Raising the bar for other potential candidates of knee surgery! Day 3 has come and my resurrection has been postponed! What the Lord is teaching me in all of this is that He died and was resurrected so that I wouldn’t have to and so that none of us would be able to take any credit for what only He alone could do!
It’s funny how the Lord can position us in such a way so that when we are in our deepest need or things are toughest, He can turn the light on so to speak and reveal to us what His desires are for our life, along with what He wants us to learn, and what is important for us to understand in the process of shewing forth His Manifest Glory, and not ours! I have been able to reflect on how I view the world and how sometimes what I want is in conflict with what I need. I thought about how much stress I often create for myself by fixating on what I think I want instead of focusing on the things my mind, body and spirit need. I realized that if I stop chasing the things that I feel I should have, I won’t set myself up for disappointment when I don’t get them. It is becoming my belief that if I stop believing that something ought to be a certain way, I won’t be unfulfilled if it turns out differently than what I expected. Maybe the things that God has for me are better than the things I want anyway,! Maybe, building a sense of entitlement only hinders me from recognizing it.
Have you ever said to yourself. “I can’t just not go after the things I want in life because isn’t that what drive is all about anyway. If I don’t have drive, I won’t accomplish anything; if I don’t accomplish anything in life, I won’t be happy.” Thankfully, the more I grow in the Lord, those moments of panic become more brief and I realize that kind of thinking is incorrect. The Holy Spirit is faithful to bring a rush of calm when I am postured to tune in to Him. As it falls over me it is as if the God of this universe is gently telling me, “relax, I’ve got this!” He tells me to let go, and to trust that everything will be okay just rest in Me! Your personal drive and ambition may have gotten you far in life but, “how often have you tried to force a square peg in a round hole because you went after something you wanted just to say you achieved it? “ Or, “How often have you come up empty when I wasn’t the Author and Finisher of the direction you were going?”
Those thoughts sink in deeper as I consider how my actions can impact my kids, grandchildren, wife, family and those the Lord has given me. We can all remember experiences where If we look back there are situations where we wanted something for ourselves or someone else and the results were not what we expected. Or, we had a goal to make something happen because we wanted it, not because others did. That really makes us stop and think about whether or not our motives are in sync with His!
Wet can all understand the feeling when moments we thought were going our direction, build up and then fall flat on their face. Much like the process with my knee. Will I have a closer relationship with Christ if I stop worrying about the things I want and instead focus on what I really need and long for which is Him and the work that He has done?” The answer is a resounding… Yes!
All I know right now is that the Lord has given me the down time to try this on. In the process I will be learning to be better satisfied with His timing, His Flow, His perfect rest, and trust that He that is doing the work in me and for me because, when it comes down to it, the work is done! It is Finished! And although the finished results may look different in each of us, It still has the look of the Finished work of the Cross and the look of 3 days and a resurrection for those who walk in simple faith and who simply abide in what he is doing!
Allow me to give you the simple equation again! The work is done so, rest in it, and wait for it. This is the Simple walk of Faith that manifests his glorious resurrection in our lives.
Food for Thought!
Such tremendous power in restoration!
Galatians 6:1-2 (KJV)
1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
After having gone through this process personally, because of my own need for restoration along with the almost 7 years It has taken to see it play out. I have learned many things from my personal story and by the grace of God have a completely different perspective on matters of restoration.
First let me state my personal perspectives on what restoration should never look like.
Don’t Ignore the “lest thou also be tempted,” part!
Here are some of the good things I have seen in the process of my personal restoration. They have forever changed my thinking.
Food for Fought!
My how we have strayed from the New Covenant!
I’ve watched very closely and it seems to me that every moment, of every day provides some new method, some new covenant, some new inside edge on what to believe or how to belong. It seems to me that everyone has the inside edge on everything but Christ and Him Crucified. They will tell you that there is always more to it than just a simple walk of faith and resting in the promised seal of His Spirit for everyday living. It reminds me that anything that adds performance or work to the intended rest we are to walk in under the New Covenant, eventually dries up and dies!
Big Word "Ecclesiology" Explained!
It is the study of the Christian Church and the origins of Christianity however, sometimes it stops short in relationship to Jesus. Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of ecclesiology, the doctrines of the Church and how it operates in the lives of God’s people when it is a response to the work that He is doing in us and not just another millstone around the necks of His children. In Fact, a good understanding of ecclesiology is like saying sic’em to a dog when it comes to fulfilling our part in the body of Christ. We have been given scriptural mandates as a body of believers to be a place of comfort and compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3-7), a place where encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11) helps God’s people grow in knowledge and faith (1 Corinthians 14:3, 31), all for the glory of God.
As an individual member of the Body of Christ, He gives us all responsibilities within the local body.
Side note, but an Important one!
If God has moved on you to sign contracts, be committed to other covenants, and you belong to something you deeply care about then put this article down now. It is not intended to draw lines in the sand, or to cause division in the Body of Christ. I am a firm believer that He who began a work in each of us is faithful to complete it and that it may look differently for you than it does for me. I don't know how He is doing it but He promises to bring us all into the Unity of the Faith. Suffice it to say however, God has laid it on my heart to share the Good News that Christ made things very simple for one and all. Some in the Body of Christ tend to make it more difficult than it needs to be. They do it by burying the purposes of the church and responsibilities of its members beneath rules that have nothing to do with the church’s mission. It is then implied that there are other covenants and agreements to be made with men or the local church.
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
1 John 4:1.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
The problem with man's covenants is that they are often unbiblical, unneeded, do not bring unity, and alienate others.
The Old Testament is full of covenants God made with his people: Edenic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic. If those aren’t familiar to you, don’t worry. The point is that God makes covenants – a type of binding promise – with his people. Today we live under the new and lasting covenant Jesus established. It had been promised in prophecy centuries before.
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:31-32.)
Under this New Covenant, God enables you to know him intimately.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34.)
This is the promise Jesus brought to reality through his death and resurrection. I imagine his friends couldn’t help but recognize Jeremiah’s prophecy when, the night before his death, Jesus said to them at the Passover dinner:
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22:20.)
This is the covenant God has with his people.
You are part of the body of Christ organically, that is, the Body of Christ is a single organism. Here are a few ways the Bible describes Christ’s body:
Every single one of those ways of looking at our place in the body of Christ – the church – is dependent on our relationship with Jesus, not with one another. And it is because of our relationship with Jesus that we are in relationship with one another. Your relationship with Jesus is under the new covenant that Jesus described to his disciples. It is the new relationship God promised he would create with his people. And this new covenant with God is the only one that counts.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” (Hebrews 10:24-25.)
God’s covenant with you leads to fellowship with others who are also in covenant with him. These are the relationships firmly supported by the Bible. And it’s all based on God’s covenant with you, not some extra-biblical covenant with other Christians, Clubs, Denominations, etc. After all, God’s the one who keeps covenants and promises perfectly, so let’s leave the covenanting up to him.
1 As a prisoner in the Lord, then, I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 Now to each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Why is this so important to our understanding!
I run into a lot of folks who are constantly being taught to strive for more. These folks are bound up like a hound Dog trying to pass a peach pit! To me, this is like trying to catch a bus you’ve already caught! It is especially important for those of us who have been freed from religiosity to understand because we have leaned on dispensationalism and old covenants in the past. They became a hindrance to our understanding of the complete work of the New Covenant that Christ established because they are always packed with the emphasis on personal performance. I don’t know about you but the enemy tries to distract me enough from the perfect rest that comes in the finished work of the cross as it is. So, let’s take a fresh look at where we are at in this dispensation, right now as we are walking with and in Him.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10.) I like to phrase it this way:
I may never be the cool, mega-church pastor and I may never be used in the ways I was before, but make no mistake about it. I am on the inside of the only body that really matters, and it has room enough for all. I have no need of any other covenants because for those who have failed, those who live in fear, those who have been labeled, those who have been wounded, those who are weary and weak, flawed, scared, given up, shipwrecked, in prison, bitten by the enemy, and even the religious. Ours is the New Covenant and our position and authority is in Him.
Opps! I forgot to sign a contract with the one who justifies the ungodly! Am I really Righteous?
In Romans. Paul is shows the difference between being made right with God by works, as opposed to by faith. If we could be justified before God by works, Paul wrote in the previous verses, then God would owe us righteousness.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
It would be like our paycheck for services rendered: a transaction with the God of heaven. Paul has already demonstrated in Romans, however, that nobody can accomplish this work. Instead, we all sin and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23).
So now Paul points to the opposite of earning something by work: receiving it as a gift. The difference comes in not laboring with a mind to "earn" or purchase that benefit. The one who receives a gift, as a gift, does not try to earn it. What would be the point? Instead, this person simply believes in the God who justifies the ungodly. His simple belief on the name of Jesus is what causes him to be declared righteous by God. There are no contractual agreements to be signed with the New Covenant, No defaults, tickets, citations, reprimands, condemnation, and no separation from the love of God for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Law was fulfilled once and for all by Christ. Paul gives a new descriptor to God: "the one who justifies the ungodly." This is the entire point of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God does not wait for us to become godly, or righteous on our own apart from Him, before welcoming us into His family. Because of our faith in righteous Jesus, God justifies us in spite of our sinfulness. There is no greater gift than this.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Paul's point to his opponents, the Jewish religious leaders, is that this is from the teachings of Scripture itself and not something he has invented so, look to the only Covenant that matters and enjoy the New Covenant for this Dispensation!
The one who tied my shoes and zipped my britches!
Never did I fully understand the impact that a single person could have on my life until I met my Kindergarten teacher. She was the epitome of Grace and it’s work in the lives of those who lack understanding on matters of navigating life. You know… like tying your shoes and zip’n your pants. I truly would have stumbled around or exposed myself much worse in life, had it not been for the teacher of grace that she was in my formative years. She in my kindergarten year was the object of my affection and in my eyes the most beautiful person on the planet. She had a way at putting me at ease when it came to learning my letters and how to spell my last name. You see, I had come to the conclusion that life as I new it would be insufferable and difficult for me. I would never make it into the first grade with a last name like Fairrington. My buddy had been blessed with the good name of Cox. Three letters to my Eleven!!! He could sign his name to his papers and be done with his work while I was still writing out my last name. In a world that seemed so unfair, there was only one thing that would get me through to the next grade. It was Grace! Grace that would teach me, Grace that was slow to anger, Grace that would teach me how to keep from stumbling, grace that covered me when I was exposed and feeling unworthy. Yes, it was Grace! Teaching me then and it is Grace that teaches us all how to walk in Godliness.
Titus 2:11-14 (KJV)
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Grace is what brings Holiness. It does not demand anything from us. Its work is done for us. I thought it would be something more along the lines of me proving to you that its work is present in my life. I thought it was based on an evaluation of my performance by others. I thought that it could only be substantiated by the recognition, evidence and validation of those who have been wounded by me before I could move on. Now some would say that this is just another way to embrace sloppy grace and continue in sin but look at what the verse says. “Grace teaches us to be Holy”, “Grace teaches us how to say no to sin” More than the Law, More than Religion, More than my self-righteousness, More than my commitments, covenants, piety, or performance, more than anything else Grace is teaching me to be Holy. It is teaching me how to not stumble! This is why we forgive one another, This is why we love each other through the ugliness of life. When I really grasp that God is gracious and slow to anger in my heart, it doesn’t cause or encourage me to sin more, it causes me to sin less. So my understanding of grace is that it is provided not because of sin and not so we can continue in sin, but it teaches us so that we can know how to say no to sin.
When you finally realize you are kindergartner and in the most unqualified state for God’s favor and yet have received the teacher of grace anyway, now all you want is to rest and to walk in the ways of God because His grace is the teacher and she is beautiful, and loves you, and makes you feel as if you are the most important kid in the room!
The Holiest thing you can do is to rest in the finished work of the cross of Christ. You cannot add to Jesus’ work. When we rest from our own works in order to merit Gods favor and blessings, we are honoring Jesus for a job well done!
No more effort on my part. Its all Him, all Jesus.
Never let anyone make you feel guilty for resting in His Grace. It is teaching us to be Holy!
Jimmy's core beliefs on conscience will get you killed!
Let this mind be in you!
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
A Cricket Tried To Kill Me!
The statement “Always let your conscience be your guide, is a profound one if you are a singing cricket with a top hat!” I personally believe that if that perspective becomes one of your core beliefs, eventually it will only produce depression, anxiety, and a trip to the loony bin. Scripture is right when it proclaims that “there is a way that seems right unto man.” It was that kind of Cricket mentality, pride, and self-dependency, that just about killed me. It’s true! A dependence on your self-proclaimed spiritual prowess and matters of conscience will produce the kinds of beliefs that will lead you off course in your simple and restful walk of faith.
Contrary to the hyper-spiritual concepts we have embraced, the Bible has a much different view on the matter than we have adventured out to discover. It tells us that while your conscience may be a good helper, it is also a harsh master. Whenever there are negative implications linked with conscience in the Bible and when words like sinful, evil, defiled or seared are used in conjunction with conscience, it always pertains to the self-effort of one who is striving to appease their conscience apart from the finished work of the Cross. The only way sinful man can have a perfect conscience is by having it covered with the blood of Christ. When we look at The Book of Hebrews in the Bible, any other conscience is a “sinful” conscience and it always results in “dead works.” When I engaged in works to appease my conscience, those works become tainted and impure in motivation. In my spiritual pride I thought I could fix people, denominations, and the church. These perspectives are a direct result of compensating for sin or failures and thus become self-serving at their very foundation. Simply put, this kind of conscience and core belief is nothing more than a mission of self-righteousness because it doesn’t come from a pure conscience.
Identify the presence of Self-Righteousness.
Just a few Examples and Statements of a self-righteous conscience (See more in Galatians 5):
What the Bible does refer to, as a pure conscience is one that is absent of ulterior motives and hidden agendas. That can only stem from a “perfect” conscience. Simply put, it is in resting in the Finished Work of the Cross that our conscience finally finds perfection and rest. It is there that we are freed from the mind numbing guilt, depression, and self-righteous spirit that will drive us straight into the mental ward.
1 Corinthians 15:10 KJV
 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Despite my newfound conscience and a changed heart there are still some who would say that I am a botched up mess and that I don't warrant or deserve grace on any level. That is because my cup is perpetually dirty on the outside but clean on the inside! So, I always reply by saying, You would be right! But here is the deal, I am what I am by His grace! It wasn't something I acquired or earned, or even traded up for. It was given freely to me by the Lord and not in vain as some would suspect, He filled my dirty on the outside cup and made me clean on the inside!
After Jesus had called Lazarus forth, Lazarus’ sisters were given the responsibility of simply removing his grave clothes. I am most certain that he had a look of death about him and quite possibly a stench about him while still wrapped up in the rags of his past. But they didn’t say we can’t be around him nor, did they take the position that Jesus hadn’t really brought life to one who was once dead. To often we disassociate with people who have been brought to life but are still in their grave cloths. The fact of the matter is, we are all packing around a few pieces of the old wrappings. So, try not to be so offended by my old grave clothes that you won’t fellowship with me, lest we make the grace which was bestowed upon each of us in vain. I simply need help to get these grave clothes off! And by the way… So do you!
Now I am free to live in His grace and with a clean conscience but my labor characteristics have changed! Now I labor even more! Not to boast in my self righteous pride or to be a spiritual authority and not for the sake of laboring to be recognized by my good works but now I labor to stand firm in the grace that is with me and unto rest in the work that His grace is already doing! Furthermore I can rest in knowing that He has bestowed His grace upon you too and that it was not in vain!
2 Corinthians 12:9 KJV
 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
The work is done and the rest has begun! His strength has been made perfect even while you're in grave clothes and you are at your weakest point. Yes I have failed and so have you so let’s together glory in the fact that even though there are inadequacies and the outside of our cup may be a little dirty, the power of Christ is resting upon us! Your cup is clean and full on the inside!
Be free, keep your faith simple, and walk in forgiveness with a clean, perfect conscience, through the Shed Blood of Jesus Christ today! Anything else, tramples on Jesus the One who became sin, the One who became the worst version of me, the One who stood in our place and took all of God's wrath so that you and I could be free from the guilt, condemnation, and judgment that we all deserved. Why would we ever want to deprive ourselves of such amazing grace? Unless of course our confidence is rooted in the strength of our own flesh.
The purpose of this thought is to unpack the sin of spiritual pride and self-sufficiency and to remove your grave cloths.