Author Archive: Revraney

Its What I Am

A Preacher – it’s not what I do, its who I am.

Being a preacher is God’s specific calling on my life in service to him. Being a preacher is not what I do, but it is how serving God lives out in my life. It has become how I identify. Don’t misread or misunderstand – I realize and understand that first and foremost my identity is found in Christ and his grace making me a child of God.  I am nothing without him and that is at the very core of my identity. But being a preacher has become a part of that identity. It has become the natural expression of that identity.

Every Christian is called to follow and serve. That calling is to become integrated into who we are in Christ. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” How awesome it is to be the workmanship of God. We are made by him and in him. We have become a new creation with the old put away and putting on the new. This workmanship, carefully and wonderfully crafted by the master, is made for the purpose of serving. We are created in Christ for good works. Serving is not simply something that we add to our lives and try to do as we find time. It is our purpose, what we are built for.

For me, I am called to be a preacher. What are you called to be? God calls all Christians to BE servants. As his workmanship what are you made to be in Christ?

Life – Lost and Found

Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jesus said whoever whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What on earth does that mean?

Not long after Rev. Elliot said this he gave his life in service to Christ as he was killed by the very people he was trying to reach on the mission field. Jesus, too, gave his life after teaching those words. His life was given as a sacrifice for our sin.

What we know as life is temporary, corrupt. It is slowly, gradually rotting away. Our best efforts to preserve it by good diet and exercise are futile at best. As Solomon said it’s all vanity. We think of life as our daily existence, not merely physical, but revolving around the physical nonetheless. Our life does, however involve emotions like love and compassion, mental abstracts such as learning and reasoning and many other things that cannot be described in physical terms. But even those things are corrupt, imperfect, impure.
Real life, as given by God is eternal. It is different than our merely physical presence. It breaks the barriers and limitations of this temporal existence that we currently know. It is better than the tainted versions of our feelings. When we were created we were meant to be permanent. We were meant to be perfect.
So the life that we are called to give away is a temporary, corrupt, rotting existence.  It does not last and even if we choose to not give it away it will be taken away from us. Such is the course of nature. On the other hand the life that we gain, the life given by Jesus is permanent and is being perfected by the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Indeed, Rev. Elliot was right – it is far from foolish to give away what we cannot hope to keep, nor should we want to keep, in order to gain what we cannot lose or cannot be taken away, that which is holy and pure and eternal.

Bible Study – A Critical Assumption

One of the most important Christian disciplines (think habits) is Bible study. As Christians we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Think about that – “The Word of God” – wow! To correctly and effectively study the Bible we must start with a critical assumption – that the Bible is always correct. As we study the Bible we may come across things that do not make sense or we do not understand. We may even come upon things that challenge our beliefs or our world view. But we must accept that the Bible is correct, even if it means we are wrong.

If the Bible is indeed the Word of God it must be always correct. If it is truly divinely inspired then it cannot be wrong. It must stand above all the ideas and opinions of man, including our own. God is never wrong, therefore His Word is never wrong. When we start deciding certain parts of the Bible are wrong we have placed ourselves above God – not a good place to be. The Bible is given by God as a means of revelation. We must allow God’s Word to direct our lives. It starts by approaching it with the firm belief that it is always right.

A Critical Assumption for Bible Study

One of the most important Christian disciplines (think habits) is Bible study. As Christians we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Think about that – “The Word of God” – wow! To correctly and effectively study the Bible we must start with a critical assumption – that the Bible is always correct.

If the Bible is indeed the Word of God, by its very nature it must be, always correct. If it is truly divinely inspired it cannot be wrong. Certainly if one does not believe in God or does not believe the Bible to be divinely inspired there is no logical requirement that it be without error. But if we believe in God and believe that the Word is his means of revelation, it must follow that the Bible is always correct. The only logical set of choices available are whether or not one believes in God and whether he reveals himself through the Word. If a person comes down on the side of belief in God and his choice of revelation through the Word, reasoning demands the acceptance that the Bible is without error.

It is not simply a matter of being error free. The message of the Bible must stand above all the ideas and opinions of man, including our own. God is never wrong, therefore His Word is never wrong. When we start deciding certain parts of the Bible are wrong we have placed ourselves above God – not a good place to be. As we study the Bible we may come across things that do not make sense or we do not understand. We may even come upon things that challenge our beliefs or our world view – sometimes even things we do not like. But we must accept that the Bible is correct, even if it means we are wrong. Our approach to studying God’s Word is to allow it to shape and direct our lives, not validate them. It starts by approaching it with the firm belief that the Bible is always right.

Concrete, Steel and the Solid Rock

A poem by Allen Hayden

Here I sit surrounded by concrete and steel

Nothing can measure the loneliness I feel

I feel hopeless and want give up all

but then I remember my Bible and mothers prayers

So I decide to give Jesus a call

I have one last chance at freedom

Not in the world, but in my soul

So I pray to the man they call Jesus

And start seeing the miracles unfold

Now I know my life will never be the same

I accepted the Savior, Jesus was his name

I know now I have been bought with a price

God sacrificed his only son, Jesus Christ

I take my faith with me as I go on my way

I know  there will be struggles everyday

I pray people learn of God’s goodness

And how easy it is to accept Jesus in their life

How he forgive their sins only,

If they repent and let the savior in

 

 

 

Believing in Christ, Accepting Christ, Being a Disciple – is There a Difference?

By Madison Holbrook

The three terms listed above, believing in Christ, accepting Christ and being a disciple of Christ are, in my opinion three different mindsets describing a person’s behavior about God. In some ways, this could map the natural progression of the Christian journey.

Believing in Christ is the most basic, superficial relationship a person can have with God. In fact, I think the word “relationship” is stretching it. Anyone can believe in God. But it doesn’t require any work on creating a relationship, studying the bible, or prayer. It is distinctly separate from someone who chooses to follow God. Satan believes in God. Agnostics believe in God. Demons believe in God. That doesn’t lead to a relationship. A relationship requires action.

Accepting Christ is the bridge between a person’s superficial, separate understanding of God and the deliberate action taken to establish a relationship with Him. In order to get to this point of accepting Him, it requires an understanding and belief that God sent His son to Earth to tell the world that He is the only way to Heaven; His death and resurrection, His charge to the disciples to spread the news all over the world; and the preparation to live apart from the world. When someone accepts Jesus as their Savior, they are making the conscious choice to put themselves second, and do everything for God’s glory.

Defining a true disciple of Christ is somewhat complex. When someone has chosen to accept Christ, they are electing to become a disciple. The two should go hand in hand. However, on a more realistic note, in today’s pluralistic society, becoming a disciple of Christ almost has a radical connotation. God did not call us, His chosen people to become complacent and comfortable. He has called us to rely on faith, prayer and His teachings so we can be His vessels. This means living with abandon, allowing God to fulfill His purpose in us. Becoming a disciple is making a true concerted effort to leave it all to God, and rely on faith.

A Living Sacrifice

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans12:1

Many things pass for worship these days. We most commonly associate worship with a gathering on Sunday at a building where we sing some songs and then listen to someone speak. Somewhere in between we give some money to that organization.  If we have kids we hand them over to a smaller group where they will probably sing some songs, listen to someone speak, likely for a much shorter period and then make some sort of craft item that mom can hang on the refrigerator or place on the table at home.

After that hour or so of time we can feel as if we have satisfied our worship requirement for our religious life.

With this consumer based approach we can be picky about where and how we participate. The ride home afterward can include a critique of the performance. “The music was way too loud today.” “Seriously, if that preacher preaches any longer I can just bring my bed next time.” “Did you see what (fill in the blank) was wearing today?” If we don’t like the music we can choose another place – maybe somewhere that has a cool praise band and a platform that has awesome lights. If we want less formal we can choose a place where the preacher wears khaki pants and a pullover shirt, or even blue jeans. If we want more formal we can find a preacher who wears a suit.

Worship is for Sunday. Sunday is for worship (well at least a part of it).

Paul paints a very different picture of worship. He says that true and proper worship is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. To understand this better lets first examine the term sacrifice. In its simplest, lightest form, a sacrifice is when we give up something for someone or something else. I’m going to sacrifice my Saturday to help you move. I’m going to sacrifice the last piece of cake so my son can have it instead. This idea of sacrifice does not rise to the level of what Paul is referring here. Paul’s understanding of a sacrifice is more permanent.  I have plenty more Saturdays and there will be more cakes. Paul’s sacrifice is in the sense of the sacrifices offered to God in the Old Testament. For the various sacrifices an animal was brought and offered to the Lord. There was no expectation the animal would be taken back home later. The animal was killed and then offered up by the priest. It was gone, a permanent offering.

There’s two tricky things about what Paul says however. First, with the animal sacrifices, the animal had no choice. It was offered up by its owner.  But Paul instructs us to offer our own bodies, ourselves. We, as the sacrifice have a choice. We are not offered without the choice of our will. It is a voluntary offering.  Secondly, Paul tells us to offer ourselves as a ‘living’ sacrifice. The animal sacrifices were always killed.  They existed no longer. As a living sacrifice we continue to exist day after day. Thus we must continue in our choice.  We must continue to offer our bodies as a sacrifice.  This is not simply a one time deal.  It is on-going, perpetual.  At anytime we can take it back. And to be honest, we are tempted at every turn to do so.  We like being in control, but submitting ourselves as a sacrifice means relinquishing control. This is what Jesus meant when he told us to follow him meant to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily. Frankly we cannot do this without the power of the Holy Spirit.

So to truly worship God in the proper way, we must surrender and offer ourselves completely to him.  And we must continue to do so.This doesn’t sound like something that can be accomplished solely by gathering in a room for an hour or two, one day a week, singing (or just listening to) some songs and listening to someone speak. It becomes easily apparent that worship is an everyday act; even an every moment act. We offer ourselves and we do not take the offering back. We offer ourselves to be consumed, consumed by God. Out of our adoration for God and subsequent devotion to him we find ourselves in a state of worship, a mind of worship at the very core of our being. We are so thoroughly enamored with God, so in love with him and so dedicated to him that we can be satisfied with no other.  We can serve no other. We willingly give ourselves to him to be consumed by him, day after day for all of eternity. We are a living sacrifice. This is worship.