Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Displaced: Published!

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Displaced_Cover_for_Kindle

Displaced is available in paperback or on Kindle at:

http://www.amazon.com/Displaced-IAM-Volume-RM-Steiner/dp/1481236644/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365446742&sr=8-1&keywords=rm+steiner

Other ereader versions may be downloaded at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/298432

 

 


My Journey to Publication

I used to be a quitter. If it required perseverance, endurance, hard work, commitment, or any form of potential rejection, I walked away from the challenge. Quitting was easier than staying committed in the face of rejection, in the heat of inadequacy, when things got too hard and seemed hopeless. And then … a spark. An idea that seemed to attach itself to my soul. One that became a part of me. A dream. A story. The ideas started swirling around in my head, and then soon after that, they evolved and played out into notebooks upon notebooks upon more notebooks.

Displaced was born.

But, who was I to think that I could write a book? The dream was absurd! I had graduated number 67 out of 77 in my high school–the last of my class to graduate. I had flunked out of community college. And I’d read, maybe, two or three books my entire life. I didn’t know the first thing about writing a novel. There could not have been anyone less qualified than me.

Displaced wouldn’t let go.

Many things in my life changed. Namely, I became a Christian. And the dream of being an author magnified, as if God were telling me, “This is what you’re supposed to do.” So, I went back to community college intent on learning to be a writer. (During this time, I continued recording ideas and developing my characters.) A few years later, I enrolled at Grand Valley State University as a creative writing major. I brought with me all my notebooks and character sketches … and started working on chapter one of Displaced.

Displaced was transformed, numerous times.

From conception to publication, it’s been 17 years. Displaced is book one of the IAM Series (yes, a series because I have notebooks littered with ideas that would outnumber Amish fiction or Star Trek books). This one novel, however, has had to undergo many, many, many revisions, hard work, dedication, tears, prayers, and criticism to be what it is today. I’ve had several test readers provide exceptional feedback. I had it professionally edited (which cost close to $1,000). I’ve edited and revised it more times than I can count. I interviewed doctors, authors, agents, publishers, theologians, and musicians. Spent long hours researching physics, geology, theology, biology, astronomy, and psychology to get all my facts right. And I haven’t even touched upon the grueling process of formatting for publication, the tough criticism I had to endure from some professors, rejection from an interested agent, the ups and downs of feedback, the waiting, the seasons of stepping away, self-doubt, wrestling to find just the right words or phrases, writer’s workshops and conferences, timelines, outlines, character sketches, plot points, risk, and failure. I don’t know how I didn’t quit.

Displaced is God’s.

This book, this dream, it doesn’t belong to me. I should not have been able to write a book. I should have quit. But by the grace of God, I persevered. I went against who I used to be and did something that only could be done for the glory of God. You see, Displaced isn’t just about writing a book or fulfilling a dream. It’s about personal and spiritual transformation. Because of Displaced I’m no longer a quitter. When I commit to someone or something, I do not give up unless God says so (which He doesn’t often do). Because of Displaced I endure and persevere through situations and trials I never would have before. Because of Displaced I believe that when commitment, hard work, and determination meet, much can be accomplished and salvaged. Because of Displaced I believe in the power of God to change and transform a life. To take the weak, and make them strong. To make the impossible, possible.

Displaced cannot fail.

It cannot fail because it’s already succeeded. I don’t care if I sell 10 copies or 10 million, Displaced is finished. It’s published. And it’s God’s to do with what He desires. Much of the revenue I receive from the sales of this book will go back to Him. For my part, Displaced succeeded because it was God’s tool to transform and redeem … me.

And now, I start book two….

(Displaced is available in paperback on Amazon.com, as well as in all ereader formats. And note that it’s listed under my fiction pen name, RM Steiner.)

Let Go, and Live

Posted: November 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ John 10:10

A flower blooms with the birth of spring. It doesn’t determine the time. It doesn’t make itself bloom. It isn’t beautiful by its own design. It resigns to God’s timing. God’s design. God makes it beautiful. When free, the flower obeys and opens itself up to a Humanity longing for its life, its beauty, its joy.

But … when a cluster of elements infiltrate its soil, it becomes a prisoner within its stem. There is no joy within a deadened stem.

Who or what has stolen your joy? What are the elements that hold you hostage to something past, or something present?

The elements. Death. Divorce. Job/career loss. Poverty. Relational decay. Anger. Bitterness. Sickness. Rejection. Violence. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. Trials and past wounds will do one of two things: they will either chain us to our pasts, holding us hostage to regret and pain; or, they will strengthen and better us as we move forward in God’s grace and healing, in the freedom that comes from the liberation battle that Jesus Christ won for you, won for me.

A stem wanting to bud. We know how things should be in our lives, and we remain tied to our expectations with such determination that days of stubborn stillness seep into years of dark resignation–we succumb to “this is just how life is: one heartache after another.” We go through the motions until God will finally recant His will and do what we want. Only, He doesn’t. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. A stem can’t determine its time.

In the first few chapters of One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp laments about the deaths of those she loved. She questions God’s will. God’s goodness. Her brother-in-law has lost two of his infant children to the grave. Voskamp wonders how he can still cling to God’s goodness. He answers with an Old Testament story regarding Hezekiah. He says:

“God gave Hezekiah fifteen more years of life … because he prayed for it. But if

Hezekiah had died when God first intended, Manasseh would never have been

born. And what does the Bible say about Manasseh? Something to the effect that

Manasseh had led the Israelites to do even more evil than all the heathen nations

around Israel. Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had

died earlier, before Manasseh was born. … Maybe you don’t want

to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”

My stem story. “How could I thwart God’s plan?” How would I alter the way God has guided my life? What event(s) in my life would I have God omit, prevent from ever happening so that I could live within my expectations and plans? How would I thwart God’s plan?

My parents would not have divorced. They would not have committed that covenant-breaking sin. But, they did. They sinned. Isn’t that what sinners do, apart from saving grace? So, I’d thwart their sin. They’d stay together. … Only, I’d never have my beautiful sister, Kris, in my life. Who knows where she’d be. There’d be a void. I enjoy her sisterly love, her encouragement. Her very presence is the sun. I would not have met Marilyn (my stepmom now). She’d never have been around to believe in my dad, persevere in prayer for him to the point where he was healed from his past wounds, and liberated, redeemed, set free to love and be loved by our Savior. Redeemed into saving grace. Her very presence is refreshing rain. I’d never know how to brave the elements that lead to forgiveness and love despite past mistakes and conflict. So, now, how would I thwart God’s plan?

When his brothers “threw themselves down” at Joseph’s feet, Joseph said to them, “Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:18-20). Satan would have us submit to his authority. We do, when we choose the past over straining toward the prize of Christ, His glory and redemption. I could continue to question God’s faithfulness, His goodness, His love in the face of not giving me what I want, or in the heartbreaking trials I’ve had to endure over the course of almost 40 years. I could exist in the void, waiting for life to be as I want it to be. Merely existing in the void. When I live this way, I have truly surrendered–to the warden of my incarceration. Incarcerated in a dungeon of regret and derailed expectations. I determine the duration of the sentence Satan handed to me.

I made a choice, not so long ago. Now, I am free. My chains are gone, as the song goes. The thief can no longer steal and kill and destroy what Christ died for me to have. Freedom. Life. Joy. Peace. Fruits of reproduction. I live life free in a kingdom of mystery, goodness, love, and perseverance–a kingdom where I’m not in charge, nor can I control. Fellow disciples, such freedom is a gift to all. We cannot change the past. We shouldn’t wish to rewrite the story. The scars remain. Fragmented ashes from imprisonment and pain. Trust me when I say, God’s healing is a salve that mends wounds. And better yet, His glory, redemption, and plans are like crisp, fresh air to the once suffocating stem. Pure spring water to the parched soil. A feast for the hungry flower longing to bloom. The elements are fleeting toils compared to His everlasting glory.

Each of us is a flower. Let go, and live.

An Undivided Heart

Posted: September 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

“There is no power in my prayer because there is no surrender.” Amidst the many sentiments I’ve journaled lately, this one was the most powerful; it was as if my many mindful meanderings were divinely guided into one Spirit-filled revelation. I’ve been studying prayer for several months now, and it seems I’m still lacking in the transformative, life-giving, God-answering prayer that Jesus promises in many Scripture passages like Matthew 21:22, Mark 11:24, and John 14:14. I believe the Word when it says we receive when we ask, we find when we seek, the door is opened when we knock (see Matthew 7:7-8). I also believe the Word when it says that sin separates us from God (see Hebrews 10:26-29; 1 John 3:4-6, 24). But when the Holy Spirit has full control over a completely surrendered heart, we are liberated from the bondage and desire to sin, and infused with power in our prayers to ask anything of God, and it will be given.

So, what prevents us from claiming these Scriptural promises and Holy Spirit-filled power? The answer lies in what distracts or wars against us in God’s plan to make us holy: sin and the flesh. Salvation is not about just getting to heaven and being free of uncomfortable feelings here on earth, that’s a culturally Christian sentiment, not a biblical one. All too often we make decisions and move forward based on how we feel about the people or circumstances in our lives. We pray based on our wants, on our feelings and then we expect very little from God outside of blessing our decisions and making sure they turn out according to our expectations.

What makes “me” happy in the moment is typically the driving force behind our prayers and choices. We break a covenant we made before God simply because we are no longer happy with the covenant we made. We gossip about other people so that we can feel good about ourselves. We lie when the truth is too difficult to admit. We try to find our worth and value in others, rather than from God, because we believe it’s a person or group of people that will make us happy or successful. We look for emotional, mental, or physical needs from someone other than our spouse. We have become obsessed with our own happiness, believing we are entitled to being happy at all cost. In these instances, we have not died to self (see Galatians 2:19-20), and we continue to live with a divided heart (see Psalm 86).

Getting blessings from God has surpassed getting God. Jesus said in John 17:3: “Now, this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” This is the purpose of prayer–to know God, to know His will and to pray in accordance with His will. When we pray in accordance with God’s will, He is delighted to grant all that we ask. But when we harbor unrepentant and/or deliberate sin deep in our hearts, when we seek the happiness we believe we deserve or want, when we will not live in complete surrender to knowing God in the most submissive, and intimate way, our prayers can be meaningless. First John 3:9 states “no one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

God’s will is that we live powerful, Spirit-filled lives. He desires to give us all that we ask of Him. But God cannot bless sin, nor can He fill a sin-stained heart with His divine presence. Just recently, I sinned against God–it was a deliberate sin that I tried to justify (we can be experts at justification). This sin ended up causing significant havoc, and God revealed to me the grave nature of sin and how it mocks (challenges, defies) Him. In His faithfulness, He revealed to me two Scripture passages as I entered into a time of repentance: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” We mock God, we grieve the Holy Spirit, who desires to make us holy, and we insult God’s grace when we deliberately sin.

The second Scripture passage He guided me to was Hebrews 12. God loves us so much–we can’t even grasp the magnitude of His love. Why do we think that obeying God and not sinning is such a burden? The burden is sinning. Freedom and joy are experienced in holiness and obedience to God. Hebrews 12:10-11 says that “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Furthermore, in v. 14 it reads, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

We can be challenged by all the radical sermons, by the most powerful and enlightening books, etc. But, nothing will grow and change us like the Spirit of God. Prayer will remain unfruitful and lacking until we get serious about truly knowing God and being in a transforming relationship with Him. It is then that we begin the process of deep, Spirit-filled sanctification. This is most uncomfortable and revealing. It is not for the faint of heart and should not be undertaken alone, rather it should be done with a couple mature Christians. Significant times of solitude with God are required, as well as confession to a few accountability friends.

In the past several months, in my pursuit of deep spiritual transformation, God has shown me that this is no flippant exercise. God has grown and revealed more to me than I could have ever imagined. It’s been hard, but rewarding. And, as He has shown me today, the process is far from over. I desire to have a powerful prayer life, I crave more of God–to know Him in the deepest levels of my spirit, I seek to bring glory to His kingdom and end the waywardness of His people–this is what it means to love others so as to prevent their eternal demise. This can only occur with an undivided heart.

Prayer God Answers

Posted: July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress. Jeremiah 11:14

I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. John 16:23

What are the benchmarks to prayer? Will God listen to any and every sort of prayer? What if someone you loved was so far gone that God said He will no longer listen to the prayer? What if you were that person? Will God really give you anything that you ask in Jesus’ name?

The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds is, by far, the best book on prayer I’ve read. It is saturated with Scripture references, it’s easy to read, yet so very deep to contemplate. I do not doubt that Bounds was indeed guided by the Holy Spirit as he wrote this book, and he is spot on in his theology of prayer.

I’ve heard of many approaches to prayer, from the very simple (prayer is just having a conversation with God) to the very complex (one must learn to pray through years of study, discipline, and diligence). A middle ground between the two extremes would be much more accurate. To consider prayer as just a conversation with God is to lose its reverence, power, and discipline. To think one needs to be a monk or have a seminary degree to adequately pray negates the simplicity, the relationship of praying to our Heavenly Father.

God hears all prayers, but does He listen? Not to compare a Holy and perfect God to humans, but often we hear God, but do we listen? We know what the Word says on a variety of things, yet oftentimes we overlook the passages that will convict us, those that contradict the way we are doing life. We can sometimes turn a deaf ear and not listen to God, rather than heeding correction. Or, we may lack an intimate relationship with God, one of complete surrender and constant union. God hears and answers the prayers of His disciples, the ones anointed by the Holy Spirit and living within His will. But, does he answer those who are guided by self-will?

In Jeremiah, God did not stop listening to the Israelites forever, but for a time, their adultery, immorality, idolatry, and pride disgusted God to the point that he would no longer listen to Jeremiah’s prayers for them. The Israelites had been given enough chances to obey and honor God, but they refused. So, God “decreed disaster” on them because they had “done evil and provoked God to anger.” God’s anger was the anger of a jealous husband who had reached the end of his rope with his adulterous wife. In His love for her, He had to do something to wake her, to shake her from her adulterous ways so she would turn back to Him. Exile was God invoking discipline in justice and love so that Israel would turn back to her beloved Yahweh.

In John 16, Jesus is talking to His disciples about what it means to abide in Him, to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. He’s talking to men who have fully surrendered to God. The difference between Spirit-led prayers and pre-exilic Israelite requests is faith, trust, desire/fervency, importunity, obedience, character/conduct, and the Word of God. These attributes that constitute effective Spirit-filled prayer is the prayer God hears, listens to, answers, and rewards. Such prayer is not for the cultural Christian who tosses out requests here and there. Spirit-led prayer is for the fervent follow of Jesus Christ who is committed to the will of God for one’s own life, for their family, friends, culture, and the Church.

I highly recommend reading The Necessity of Prayer for a more thorough explanation of the following characteristics:

  • Faith. Faith is the foundation of prayer. Without faith, prayer is useless. One must undoubtedly believe that the prayer being prayed will be answered accordingly. When God answers prayer in the Bible, He does so according to the desire voiced in prayer and the faith of the one praying. “Perfect faith has always in its keeping what perfect prayer asks for.”
  • Trust.  “Trust sees God doing things here and now.” Trust believes God can do anything—but such assurance rests first and foremost on who God is, and on the relationship between the one praying and God—one of intimacy and being mutually known. This is not an intellectual exercise nor is it based on head knowledge; rather, such trust comes from the heart—from a strong feeling that God does bless. Trust counts on God’s willingness and ability to answer what is being prayed for—and there is no backup plan in the mind of the trust-filled prayer.
  • Desire/Fervency. Desire and fervency in prayer is not a mere wish, “it is a deep seated craving; an intense longing, for attainment.” I’ve searched the Bible for one example of answered passionless prayer … I could not find one. When people prayed, they prayed with intensity. “A lack of [zeal] in prayer, is a sure sign of a lack of depth and of intensity of desire; and the absence of desire is sure sign of God’s absence from the heart! … Two things are intolerable to [God]—insincerity and lukewarmness [See Revelation 3:14-22].” The issue Jesus had with the Laodiceans is that they did not need God, they lacked passion and zeal for God, their comfort made them complacent. I wonder, are we more like Paul and the Apostles, or more like the Laodiceans? How desperately do you long for God in your prayers?

In my next post, I will complete the characteristics on prayer and provide an example of such prayer.

Challenge: Apply faith, trust, and desire to your prayer life. If you are lacking in any of the three, ask God to fill you—He provides abundantly to all who ask and to those whose lives are devoted to Him.

To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me?… This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ ~ Jeremiah 6:10, 16

I love the prophets! I suppose someone has to because it’s not as if they are always the bearers of good tidings. God makes His prophets aware of the spiritual and moral decay of their culture and of God’s people. A prophet’s passion and zeal can be irritating and wearisome to others, especially to those convicted by the prophet’s message. Jeremiah was one of those prophets whose message was dismissed and ignored by an adulterous, immoral, and rebellious people. Jeremiah’s unceasing rants about God’s ways contradicted the ways that they wanted to do life. Over the generations that have followed, many Jeremiahs have come and gone proclaiming a similar message. So, what’s our excuse for not listening?

Sports stars, political figures, Hollywood entertainers, musicians—anyone who has TV, radio, or Internet is undoubtedly well-versed in the lives of many such figures. I don’t think I’m way off in saying that the majority of these spotlight performers do not have an intimate walk with our Lord Jesus Christ, and yet Christians know them, and know them well. In fact, we make it a point to know about their lives over and above the godly voices of yesterday. Compare how well you know todays “stars” over the likes of the apostle Paul, or St. Augustine, or Teresa of Avila, or John Wesley, or E.M. Bounds, or A.W. Tozer. This should not be! What makes matters worse, we choose to allow our minds and lives to be consumed with our culturally popular influences—and our lifestyles mirror theirs.

The prophet Jeremiah tried to warn a morally declining culture of God’s displeasure with their adaptation to immoral, unholy cultural practices and lifestyles. The people would not listen. They believed they conformed the Almighty God to their pursuits, and it didn’t matter how they lived because God was on their side—they were chosen, after all. Repeatedly throughout the Bible God commands His people to remember the ways of those who have gone before them. How God was faithful. What He required of His people. To learn of His ways through the chosen saints who had gone before them. But the people would not forsake their adulterous ways and walk God’s path. And so, they were exiled.

Fellow disciples, we are coasting down the same path as the disobedient Israelites. Only, the punishment we incur based on the choices we make will be an exile in Hell for eternity. Why do we risk it? I’ve been reading and studying the spiritual saints of 50-plus years ago and I’m dispirited over how lax Christianity has become, and we deem this acceptable. How can we continue to justify and be satisfied with complacency and being “lukewarm?” (See Revelation 3:14-22) How much and how long are we willing to tolerate and even engage in sinful lifestyles while still claiming to follow Christ? Such a claim is a cultural one, not a spiritual one.

The Holy Spirit will not contradict Himself. If the Holy Spirit dwells inside of a believer, sin will bother him/her. It will bother them so much that, like Jeremiah and the other prophets, they will not be able to keep silent about it. Tolerance of sin will become unacceptable. That which bothers God will bother the true disciple of Jesus Christ!

A true disciple chooses the person they want to be like, and they study that person with wholehearted devotion and abandon. Notice how Joshua studied Moses—he was with him 24/7, learning his ways. Consider how the 12 apostles studied Jesus—they were with him 24/7, learning his ways. Timothy studied under Paul to become a biblical great. All throughout history, the spiritual greats in contemporary times have studied the saints of the previous generations—those whose lives were captured, surrendered, and wholeheartedly devoted to God. This discipleship process is desperately needed. We’ve become disciples of our own wants and desires, of ourselves. We believe we know a right way based on how it feels, how well it entertains us, or how much money it can earn us, or how happy it will make us, or how safe it’ll keep us. We mirror the culture that consumes us with its ever-present influences via media and lifestyles.

I’ve been studying the multiple works of A.W. Tozer (who was said to have written The Pursuit of God on his knees) and E.M. Bounds (The Necessity of Prayer). These men, and a variety of other saints like them, were men of prayer. It’s been said that they spent, not a few minutes throughout the day, but hours devoted to quiet time of prayer, biblical reflection, and communion with God. I’m curious as to how to much time the average Christian spends in such communion with God? We will always, always, make time for what is most important to us. If we are truly surrendered and abandoned to God, hours each day with God will be what we crave. Nothing will be more important than giving our Savior our undivided attention in holy communion with Him.

As I continue to study and be discipled by the Holy Spirit and by the saints of previous generations, I’m going to develop my writings around their ideas and insights, and how these could be implemented in contemporary times. God worked powerfully in their lives, and I’ve witnessed their life’s work account for little. I aim to do my part in continuing the Spirit-filled work of those who’ve gone before us. My next post will be on prayer—could there be a prayer that God refuses to hear?

Challenge: Pray and ask God to reveal a saint of over 50 years ago for you to study in depth. Read their writings, their biography, learn of their devotion to God and then, mirror their life so that you can be a similar example to the next generation.

 

A Prophet Speaks

Posted: June 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

A Prophet Speaks

We hire consultants for just about everything imaginable. I’ve been reading A.W. Tozer’s greatest works and am just as convicted as he was by the need for communal repentance and spiritual renewal. So, I decided to hire a biblical consultant to assess our situation and culture. I chose Ezra from the Old Testament. He had much to say. Here is just a snippet:

Your heart is burdened. This is good. If you felt no burden, then I daresay you would know little of our Lord God Almighty. The difference between your 21st Century and my post-Exilic time is great. I could elaborate extensively on your many pitfalls and sins, but that would not accomplish much, especially since our pitfalls and sins were great as well. You must not waste time complaining and grumbling about how you wish things to be, rather, you must search the heart and mind of God for how to proclaim and declare Christ to your generation.

Speaking of Jesus Christ, I must say, your culture most certainly lacks proper reverence for God. Our God sent His one and only Son to die for you—your reverence should be greater than ours. And yet, it seems as though you’ve pillaged the grace of our God by tolerating and overlooking sin, and even by living unholy lives, believing this is acceptable to God. Yes, God’s Son paid your penalty—He paid our penalty. His grace and mercy and sacrifice set you free. But, it seems as though because of Christ’s sacrifice, sin no longer bothers you—keep in mind, when I say ‘you’ I am referring to yourself, your family, your friends, your community, your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are, after all, a part of the body of Christ. You are not your own any longer, you belong to Christ. Do you believe this?

Would it shock you if I were to tell you that you are responsible for the sins of your family, friends, community? And they were responsible for yours? Search our Word, you’ll find truth to this notion. So why do you live as if everyone’s life is their own business? Why are you all so segregated and demanding of your right to privacy? I see little divine familial fellowship in your time. Why do you demand to live privately from your brother and sister in Christ? Is it to uphold your reputation and hide your true self? Was it not Christ who said, ‘There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after killing of the body, has the power to throw you in to hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” You have no private life when it comes to the only One who matters.

It should be a privilege and a gift to live within a community of believers that will hold each other accountable to living holy and pure lives, worthy of the calling of Christ. Your demand for privacy is your license to sin, not to mention, you are much more susceptible to attacks by the evil one. Why do you allow it? Your sins are not only your own, we are responsible for the sins of our culture.

Let me tell you about what happened after the remnant of my people returned from our punishment in exile. About 80 years after the exiles returned to Jerusalem, I finally returned. Our God had given us many commands, of which we delighted in (why are you so burdened by the commands of our God?). Two of which dealt with our men intermarrying with foreign women and idolatry. In those times, I was appointed by God as a priest, scribe, and leader. Nothing brought me greater joy than to serve our God. Part of serving our God was serving our people. We were one before the Lord. God showed no partiality among us, we were all equal as one people, His people, under Him. We knew nothing of any sort of ‘right to privacy.’

Upon my return, I learned that our people had indeed committed the sins of intermarriage and idolatry. I was devastated, as were those who returned with me. Though I did not commit such a travesty against our God, I was still responsible to God and our people to repent. I wept bitterly before the Lord; I fell on my knees and was too ashamed and disgraced to even lift my face to our God. But God is so gracious, and we repented of our sins before our God. We repented as a community, as God’s people. There was no one innocent.

In this first consultation, I will offer this one practical step: repent on behalf of your people. Gather others who are just as burdened and repent, pray for insight into how to awaken your sleeping brothers and sisters. Pray that God would instill in you the reverence due His glorious Name. My consult is not to condemn, for we serve a gracious and compassionate God who delights in His creation. He delights in His people—you. He will forgive and send His Holy Spirit for a fresh awakening. But you must call upon Him, you must repent and turn back to Him. So much depends upon your obedience, reverence, and love for God.

~Ezra

 

We, God’s People

Posted: May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God … to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthian 1:1-3).

“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” It’s the most prominent question in Christian circles today! I’m certain you’ve been in the service where everyone closes their eyes, bows their heads, and one or two reluctant people raise their hands to “accept” Christ, without anyone looking. I wonder if this private display tells the new Christian, as well as his/her brethren sitting in the pew next to him/her that Christ died for “me?” Or is the message: Christ died for us?

In a Christianity Today article, “Jesus Disappoints Everyone,” John Koessler talks about our disappointment with Jesus when He doesn’t meet our expectations of Him or when He doesn’t come through for us the way we want Him to. I’ve been disappointed in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When life goes from bad to worse, I may wonder if I’m saved at all, or even if God loves me! I made the personal commitment to Him, I “confidentially” raised my hand years ago—I mean, why isn’t my life turning out the way it should? Where are the miracles? Why don’t I feel the love, the peace? When I think like this, then my perception is off. Koessler points out, “Jesus came for us, but that does not mean that he came to please us. Jesus came for us, but he does not answer to us. He will not subject himself to our agenda, no matter how good that agenda might be.”

I believe one of the issues at hand is in believing that Jesus Christ is my own personal Savior, like my own little genie in a bottle. When we hold the genie in a bottle mindset, have we really given Jesus Christ complete rule and authority over our life? When we, as Christian leaders, tell a congregation that Christ died for “you” the individual, are we really proclaiming the gospel Truth? Where in the Bible does Jesus ever say, or do the writers of the letters ever claim that Jesus is “my” personal Savior? It is always, “our” Lord and Savior, or “the” Lord and Savior. It has only been until recent times that we’ve been inundated with “my personal” Lord and Savior. As the world has grown more individualistic and private, so has Christianity. We live in an entitlement time, a “me”-centered culture, and cultural Christianity is following suit.

Of course we need a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. But that commitment means we have been crucified with Him into His resurrected body (the church). Christ refers to Himself as the Bridegroom, and the Church as His Bride—not just me or you. I am a part of the Church. The way I demonstrate my personal salvation in Christ Jesus is by being a part of His body, the Church. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).  In 1 Corinthians 12:14 Paul says, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” We demonstrate our relationship with Christ by how we love Him, how we love and treat each other, how we proclaim the gospel to an unbelieving world by our actions and words.

We, as Christians today, are consumed with our pursuit of pleasure and the “American Dream.” After all, don’t we have rights? Don’t we deserve fortune and happiness and security? Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” nowhere does He say, “Play it safe. Pursuit happiness at all costs.” I would argue that if we truly believed that we, as individuals, make up the body of Christ, and that we were committed to a biblical way of life and community, then divorce, adultery, addiction, depression, violence, and moral decay would diminish greatly. If our lives were not so individualized and private, and we were open to accountability and transparency, the church of Jesus Christ would truly be a power beyond compare. If we as individuals truly loved from the depths of who we are in Christ, and stopped loving others solely for their “perceived value” to our lives, moral decay would be uprooted by selfless love for the body.

Steve DeNeff said in a recent sermon, “Love someone not for what is in them, you love someone for what is in you.” In other words, to love as Christ loves means that you’ve made a decision to love within the bond of covenant. DeNeff said that one of the main causes of divorce is not that people have given up on marriage, it’s that they’ve “given up on an ideal.” Until we learn how to love from what [or who] is in us, we will never truly love from the inner courts of God’s temple. Love is not about what I can get out of the relationship, it’s about how I can give myself to the relationship. Look at the Cross, and you will see the most magnificent display of selfless love.

I recently had the privilege of listening to Francis Chan when he spoke at Central Wesleyan Church. One takeaway I had from his insight was that to truly live as a disciple for Christ, we must live dangerously. If you’re comfortable in your life, taking no risks, winning no one to Christ, how are you a disciple? Every biblical character lived a dangerous, faith-filled life—and God showed up in miraculous ways every time! We can feel the earth tremble, and miracles will happen—but only when we actually do something that warrants such intervention. Such supernatural intervention will not happen by clinging to our individual Savior. We see God’s magnificence when we live lives of risk for Christ, when we don’t give up on our marriages, when we use our gifts and talents for the edification of the body, when we decide to love as Christ loves. Most importantly, we must raise our hands proudly and declare and proclaim that we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, as the Lord and Savior of all.

Challenge: Read and contemplate the beginning of each New Testament letter. What is God saying to you?