Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Doubting My Salvation

Today, I listened to one of Matt Chandler's most recent sermons, "Dealing with Doubt."  It was very challenging in the sense that I'm not sure where I'm landing spiritually right now. 

You know, you grow up thinking a + b = c... but now I'm not so sure. Now my eyes are starting to be opened to the fact that it's all about my heart.  I can say with my mouth and my mind that I believe one thing, but if my heart is not landing there, then how can I truly believe what I think I believe?  Does that make sense? 

I may post more of his sermon later on, but here are some questions to think over regarding your salvation.  It's essentially a way of measuring where your heart is.  Don't get me wrong, there's more to being saved than these few questions, but asking them is a great way of getting me thinking about the state of my heart!

-Do you see moral conformity to Jesus Christ in your heart?
-Do you hate indwelling sin in yourself?
-Do you desire holiness?
-Are you growing in graciousness?
-Are you growing in generosity?
-Is your heart delighting in what God delights in?
-Do you love your brothers and sister in Christ?  Do you extend grace to them?  Do you grant them the benefit of the doubt?

This sermon is so weighty, I definitely need to listen to it again... 

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."  This verse keeps running through my head.  I tend to focus more on the "confess with your mouth" part than the "believe in your heart" part.  However, I DO believe it in my heart, but do I apply it to my life???  Lately, no.  All I can do is pray that God will change my heart... That He'll make "yes" be my answer to all of the questions above. (Sure, you can't be perfect so there will be times when the answer is "no," but overall there should be consistency.) 

God = success, not God + Dacia = success.  It's totally out of my hands, otherwise my flesh wants to think it's all on me. 

As Lloyd Shadrach says, "Christ + nothing = EVERYTHING."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Great Faith

From today's sermon at Fellowship Bible Church.  Four phrases about faith; inspired by Luke 7:1-10.

1) Faith is not what you believe about Jesus.  Faith is what you DO because of what you believe about Jesus.

2) Faith understands that living under authority is life as it is meant to be lived.  [It is freedom, not bondage like we tend to believe.] 

3) Faith embraces a wholesome consciousness of our unworthiness and sin.

4) Faith takes Jesus at His word and takes no other.

--Lloyd Shadrach 7.3.11 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Open-hand Slapping A Bear

An excerpt from Matt Chandler's "Remember & Rejoice" sermon on 4/10/11. (Loose Quote)

I think a lot of you are owned by sin, because you're not using the sword of the Spirit.  You're trying to open-hand slap a bear, and it just makes it angry.  You can subdue it for a while--maybe, but eventually it's going to devour you.  The Bible calls sin a lion--a roaring lion--seeking someone to devour.  You don't open-hand slap that; you put it to death.  How?  The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

I am not a mature Christian.

WARNING: This is a long one, but well worth it!!

Just when you think of yourself as a mature Christian... The Bible, via Matt Chandler, steps in a helps you see otherwise:

Now, two things: Christian maturity is absolutely behavioral modification and it is absolutely not behavioral modification. See, the water is dirty, it's muddy. It's not as clear as we want to make it... Galations 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness [or rightness] were through the law [being obedient to the law], then Christ died for no purpose.

So, we'll take behavioral modification and go, “now that I'm living right, I'm maturing.” That could be true, but it is just as true that you can change the way you behave and that [change] have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and the knowledge of God. People do it all the time. In fact, one of my pet peeves before I was converted was that Christianity felt like they had a strangle hold on life transformation. ... Life transformation you can do with a good deal of will power. But it doesn't mean you're free, it just means you modified your behavior.

And so the point in Galatians 2:21 is that rightness with God can't be purchased by obedience to the Law, because if it could, then Christ wouldn't have needed to die. …

Are we immature, but maturing? Are we mature? Or, are we stuck in immaturity? You're going to have to answer that question for you. ...

Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. So, here's the first real sign of Christian maturity.  If we think back on Habakkuk 1 and parts of Habakkuk 2... Habakkuk has this goal, this thing that he wants more than he wants to know God, worship God, follow God, love God. Early on, you begin to see he wants justice to be done in Judah; he's frustrated that justice isn't being done. He complains to God...God answers his prayer and says “I will execute justice in Judah,” and then, Habakkuk's complaint is now against God exercising that justice and discipline against Judah.

See, Habakkuk is wanting to use and utilize God for some other goal. The mature man doesn't use God like he's Aladdin holding a lamp. God is the foundation of his deepest joy. God is the pursuit of his joy. And that's a mark of Christian maturity.

As one of the many pastors who pastors this church, I can't tell you how common it is for men and the women to be exposed as using God to some other means, to some other end. People will go, “Yeah, I'll take God, if God will help me with my marriage, if He'll help me with my finances, if He'll help me with my maybe-Satanic kid, if He'll rectify this situation.” And then when that doesn't happen, now all of a sudden God's betrayed them because God didn't give to them what He promised to give to them to begin with. The end goal wasn't God, but rather what God could bring. Now, [thinking that way] is not sinful if [you're thinking that way about] salvation. It is sinful in every other category. If that's you, you have put yourself in an unbelievably dangerous situation. And I'll tell you why.

The only joy in the universe that cannot be taken from you is joy in Christ.

Every other joy can be taken from you. No matter how much you lock it down, no matter how much you defend it, no matter how much you try to protect it, it's like trying to hold oil in your hand. You can't.

So, three weeks ago, we (the church) buried a 25 year old; two weeks ago, we buried a 21 year old; and last night, we prayed with a family who buried their 6 year old son. In my nine years here, I've done dozens and dozens and dozens of funerals. ONE has been for someone over the age of 30. Dozens have been under the age of 10. The rest are between 10 and 30. When tragedy strikes like that—when you lose your health, when you lose a loved one, when the bank account dries up, when you get fired from your job, when your business tanks, when you are rejected, when all that you built your worth on and all you've stocked your joy in is stripped from you—man, you're in a lot of trouble, aren't you? You're very identity is lost. So, if your greatest joy is in your spouse, what happens when they die or get hurt or get weak and can't do for you the things that make you feel like they're your deepest joy? Well, now your life is wrecked.

If your greatest joy is your children, what happens when something happens to one of them? Even that thought, for some of us, is too much. But, I believe that my job before the Lord is to speak truth to you in love, and sometimes truth is hard to hear.

If you build on Christ, if you trust in Christ, if he is your greatest joy, then joy can be taken from you, for your greatest joy serves as the firm foundation that can be rebuilt upon and trust can be established. Why? Because God is sovereign over all. … In the face of Jesus Christ and his glory, does all of that [joy created by anything other than Christ] fade away? Yes, it does. It just doesn't look as important once you're full on in the presence of Jesus Christ. And that's what we've missed out on.

And because he's not our greatest joy, we don't view loss correctly, and we don't view suffering correctly.

Paul looked at it this way: Since Jesus is my greatest treasure, anything—whether it's good or difficult—that gets me closer to my treasure gets rejoiced in. …

Now, think about how often that doesn't occur with us! We want out. We're gathering a bunch of people around us to pray, we're putting weird oil on ourselves, “Get this [burden] off of me!” “Change this circumstance!” And Paul, our dear brother, is going “Hey, this [burden] has got me more of Jesus. This is a good thing. I have learned to be content in all circumstances. So, when I've got money, praise His name. And when I've been broke, praise His name. When I preach the gospel and every body responds, praise His name. When I preach the gospel and they hated it and tried to kill me, praise His name. When I got on a ship, and the ship got to port safely, praise His name. When I was shipwrecked in the open sea twice, praise His name. One time, after I was shipwrecked in the open sea and finally crawled up on land, tried to preach and a snake bit me, praise His name.” …

And so, you've got Paul rejoicing in what? Stuff that you and I do not rejoice in. Why? Because Christ isn't our treasure. You want to watch people with cancer rejoice in their cancer? Why? Because it gets them closer to their treasure. You want to watch people with financial hardships rejoice in Christ? They'll do it if Christ is their treasure.

Now, let me be very clear. I am not talking about some fake, false, smiley, spirit-sprinkled ridiculousness. When we had the [family who lost their 6 year old son] stand up last night at the 7:15 service here, this whole room wept with them, thinking about the loss of their 6 year old son. We got more of Jesus in that moment, when we were hurting and wounded at that loss. …

But, if Christ is your greatest joy, all circumstances push us towards him. If he's not your greatest treasure, then whatever you are ultimately treasuring is at risk to be removed from you. Christ is what can't be taken from you. Everything else can.

The first mark of maturity is that joy is set fully in Christ. He is their treasure.

Here's the second mark of maturity. Habakkuk 3:19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. … He's saying “I can't do it. God can do it. I'm going to get out of this valley, I'm going to get into the high places, and I'm going to get there not by my own strength, but by the strength given to me by God.” … Another reason a lot of us lack maturity is that—God help us—we're way too confident in ourselves. And for those of you whom He loves deeply, He will eventually expose your confidence in you, that you might place confidence where it is owed in Him. But, my fear for us in Western society, where a lot is easy and a lot just works well for us, is that some of us are not going to hit that spot where we realize that. … The ones I'm concerned about most are the ones stuff comes easiest to, because you get seduced into believing that your strength is adequate. It's simply not.

How do I know this is true? I know it's true because we don't pray well. I know it's true because we don't run to the scriptures to get fresh perspectives on who Jesus is so that our hearts might be stirred up by the Holy Spirit to worship Him more fully. … I know it's true when our single young men and women go “Yes, I love the Lord. Yes, I want to follow Him. Yes, I want my life to be caught up in Him. But, I'm LONELY right now and so I'm going to date and marry someone who doesn't love Him and doesn't worship Him and isn't prone to follow and submit to Him...” and making an unbelievably dark exchange—trading one sense of loneliness for loneliness on a more monumental scale once you've entered that covenant relationship. …

Where we stop—in that Western sense of things—pulling ourself up by our bootstraps and begin to develop a prayer mantra before the Lord that says, “I don't have to carry this. I cannot carry this. You will provide. These circumstances have sovereignly been placed by You to get me to more of You. So, carry me today, even though there are no figs on the vine and there are no blossoms either... Be. My. Strength. Walk me through this.” And we throw our confidence on Him and off of us, and it lightens up hard times.

It's when you believe that you've got to fix it and make it happen, that you take all the weight that you are not meant to bear and heap it upon your shoulders, and in so doing, begin to crush you and those around you.

We might not be [in that place of maturity] today, but we should be heading in that direction.

So, you've got to answer for you. Are you immature? What's the foundation of your joy? What are you really after? Where is your strength? How confident are you in you versus Him?

  • From “A Glimpse of Maturity” sermon. Matt Chandler. The Village Church. 4.16.11

Wow. I listened to all of this sermon on my drive to and from work yesterday. Ya know, if someone would have asked me the day before if I thought I was a mature Christian, I would have said a simple “yes,” all the while thinking in my head, “Of course I am! Look at my background and my experience!” ...HAH. How arrogant.

To answer Chandler's questions...

Yes, I am immature.

Currently, the foundation of my joy—if I'm blatantly honest with myself—is my husband. If things are going well with us, I feel full. When things are not going well, I feel... devastated and extremely frustrated. I can completely relate with the section in which Chandler talks about if my greatest joy is my spouse, what happens when bad things happen to him? I've spent many, many moments thinking about how awful my life would be if my husband were to die or something terrible were to happen to him. Anytime I think of it, I feel LOST...HOPELESS...EXTREMELY DEPRESSED...SCARED. Just the fact that I more-than-occasionally think about my spouse dying seems to be a red flag to me that he is my hope and my foundation right now, not Christ! I'm so afraid to lose him—whether physically or emotionally—that it's what I think about more than I should and perhaps more than is “normal.” Instead, I should be thinking about Christ and about finding joy in Him. And I'm not talking about happiness. Joy and happiness are two very different things. Joy does not depend on circumstances, happiness does.

Right now, I feel joy because I'm married to a wonderful man who, although not perfect, loves the Lord and loves me well. I feel joy because I “know” (or think I do) that the future holds a family for us, and I want to be a stay at home mom and raise a family in the Lord. That's the entire plan. That's what gives me joy, what I place my hope in.

Instead, I should constantly rejoice in the fact that God is in control and that HIS plan is sovereign! It scares me to death not to be in control and to know that at ANY MOMENT my husband and my “future life” could be taken away from me.

So, as of right now, that is why I am immature.

Part of me wants to say, “Okay, Dacia. It's time to mature. You can do it.” But alas! Isn't that the second part of immaturity that Chandler talks about?! My instinct is to put my effort into becoming mature. BUT I CAN'T WILL THAT INTO BEING. I have to ask for it... for God to grow me into maturity.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Black Like Me" - Distraction

The music consumed in its blatant rhythm all other rhythms, even that of the heartbeat.  I wondered how all of this would look to the casual observer, or to the whites in their homes. "The n------ are whooping it up over on Mobile Street tonight," they might say. "They're happy." Or, as one scholar put it, "Despite their lowly status, they are capable of living jubilantly." Would they see the immense melancholy that hung over the quarter, so oppressive that men had to dull their sensibilities in noise or wine or sex or gluttony in order to escape it? The laughter had to be gross or it would turn to sobs, and to sob would be to realize, and to realize would be to despair. So the noise poured forth like a jazzed-up fugue, louder and louder to cover the whisper in every man's soul. "You are black. You are condemned."  This is what the white man mistook for "jubilant living" and called "whooping it up." This is how the white man can say, "They live like dogs," never realizing why they must, to save themselves, shout, get drunk, shake the hip, pour pleasures into bellies deprived of happiness.  Otherwise, the sounds from the quarter would lose order and rhythm and become wails.    From "Black Like Me" by John Howard Griffin (p. 69-70)

This passage spoke to me.  I had never really looked at the African American's plight in the '50s and '60s from this angle before... Never really saw what this lifestyle ("shout, get drunk, shake the hip, pour pleasures") was covering up, what it was distracting them from.  Honestly, in my great ignorance I thought, "That's just how they were; it was their culture."  Oh, how ignorant and naive... 

But, I wonder, is it oh so different nowadays, even in 2011?  Maybe it is, but maybe it isn't.  I do know that, in a way, that kind of living, the life of self-indulgence--white or black, poor or rich, accepted or alienated--is a mask, is a distraction from the void that can only be filled One Way. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why an echo?

So, I've never really been super creative.  I'm not that torn up about it; I know that this is how God created me.  Sure, I have my occasional spurts of innovation and "original" thoughts and ideas, but overall... not so much.  I much rather enjoy quoting or paraphrasing enlightening things I've heard.  In fact, most of my Facebook status updates tend to be quotes!  It seems like everyday I hear something or read something that I want to share with people, but then I second guess myself about sharing it on Facebook because I'm, quite frankly, afraid that people will think it redundant or boring. SO. That being said, I've decided to start a blog that's strictly quotes, paraphrases, etc. If people read it, cool.  Hopefully they'll feel encouraged or a passage will make them ponder, like it did me.  If they don't read it or don't care at all, that's cool too.  In all honesty, this blog is more or less for myself--for me to write what I've heard or read and perhaps "talk through" my thoughts once and a while. 

Bottom line: I need an outlet, and I'm tired of Facebook being that outlet.  Huzzah!