My name is Neo!

I was on a recent flight home from San Francisco and decided to watch “The Matrix” while en route.

I really like this movie from a pure entertainment standpoint and there are and have been lots of discussions about various spiritual analogies in the story line that correspond to the Gospel.

If you’ve read my blogs for long, you know that I very often correlate the everyday stuff of life to a spiritual truth that God’s teaching me.

Anyway, I’ve put a link to a YouTube video of one of my favorite scenes in the movie – not so much for the special effects, but because of the story and one of those thoughts God’s buried in my noggin.

The scene is the subway scene where Neo (the main character) fights Agent Smith for the first time.  For you who haven’t seen the movie, it’s a science fiction thriller in which the world we currently know and understand is really a mirage only played out in our minds -which the machines dictate as we’re all plugged into “the Matrix”.  The story is about the fight for freedom and getting “unplugged” from the matrix to live as real and free human beings – the way we were created.

In the matrix – the main character – played by Keanu Reeves – is named is “Thomas Anderson” when he lived under the veil of the Matrix.  When he gets unplugged from the Matrix to live a real and free human life –  his real name is Neo.  However, Agent Smith (a digital representation of the sentient programs sent to kill and destroy the free human race – interesting concept huh?) always refers to Neo with his old name when he was living in the Matrix.  Always calls him “Mister Anderson”.

The Matrix: Neo fights Agent Smith (played on YouTube site)






I love this scene because Neo is finally beginning to believe that he is not “Thomas Anderson” any more.  He is beginning to understand he is not the same person he was. He is new.  He is Neo.

As I watched this scene – for the twentieth time – God began to really put in my heart that I am not the same man I used to be.   No matter what my enemy – represented by the agent, Mr. Smith in the movie – calls me… no matter what my adversary calls me… I am a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)  17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  

I am no longer what I used to be.  I am no longer what I did.  I am defined by Christ in me.  He died for my sin – all of it – all that I ever committed and all that I will ever commit, so that I will be blameless before God before his throne.

When that sinks in, how can I be anything but grateful.  How can I be anything but the new creation He created me to be.

“MY NAME IS NEO!”

Running After Papa…

God’s Heart is For Us

Here is the good news. God never turns us away. Even in our mistakes – even in our poor choices – even in our willful disobedience… (read more by clicking the title)

1 Samuel 8:19-20
‎19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Israel is demanding a King. They want a king to do what God had done for them – faithfully and perfectly, I might add – up until this time.  This was a HUGE slap in the face to God.

Why do we humans look to find an alternative to the perfect provision of God?

What has God been faithfully and perfectly providing that I continue to look for a natural source of – often under my own strength, power, intellect?

It is interesting the power of belonging – here Israel forfeits the blessings, protection, provision and safety fo God so that they could be “like all the other nations.”

1 Samuel 10:6-9
‎‎‎ 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. 7 And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. 8 You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do.”
‎‎‎9 So it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day.

‎‎God changed Saul. Why? It could easily be interpreted as spite, but I think not. Why did God change Saul into what He said he would become?
‎‎
‎‎I wonder if God gave Saul the same heart the people had – to make Saul want to be like all the other Kings. He didn’t want to be a different King than what the people wanted because “they wanted to be like all the other nations.”

We see evidence in 1 Sam 13:7-14. The very next chapter! The first command God has given Saul as king, he disobeyed.

“As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. 8 Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. “

God very clearly told him to wait on Samuel, but “the people were scattered from him” and I think that took precedence over God’s command. Because Saul was king, his own word and thoughts and compulsions were now priority (v12) “… Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.

Because of that heart (which I believe God gave him in Chapter 12) God already knew Saul would be replaced as King and would not be established in lineage down the royal line.

I encourage you to read the whole passage of 1 Samuel 12:8-25.

‎Here is the good news. God never turns us away. Even in our mistakes – even in our poor choices – even in our willful disobedience – God’s heart is for our best. See the words of Samuel (1 Sam 12:20-22) – “20 Then Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit or deliver, for they are nothing. 22 For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.

Be encouraged today. God wants our best because it pleases Him to make us his people. THAT is good news!

Running After Papa…

The Gift

I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. (Galatians 2:21, NLT)

What is “… the grace of God?

We hear that word all the time living here in the Bible belt, and most of the time it’s coupled with the word “mercy.” Thank you Lord for your grace and mercy! You get the idea. So what is it?

I’ve tried to teach my children in various life lessons what the difference between grace and mercy is. It goes something like this: “Grace is getting a gift that you absolutely do NOT deserve and mercy is NOT getting the consequences or punishment you ABSOLUTELY deserve.” Simple… but effective….

Grace is an undeserved gift. Mercy is an undeserved pardon.

What then is God’s undeserved gift to us that Paul doesn’t treat as meaningless in Galatians 2:21? It would imply the gift is meaningful.

If I did the search correctly, in the ESV translation, the word “grace” appears only 10 times in the Old Testament. Three different Hebrew words translate to those ten occurrences of “grace.” Eight of the ten times it is the Hebrew word chen (“khane”) meaning “1 favour, grace, charm. 1a favour, grace, elegance. 1b favour, acceptance.

In the New Testament, the word we translate into the word “grace” is charis and appears 124 times in 116 verses (in the ESV) and means something totally different: “of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

I bring this up only to point out that grace, as Paul is defining it, is a post-Christ idea. In fact, except for 3 verses in John 1 (prior to Christ’s birth), the word “grace” doesn’t appear in any of the gospels.  The first occurrence is in the book of Acts, after Christ’s ascension.

For the next couple of chapters, Paul compares the bondage of living under the law with the freedom of living in Christ.

4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is a life of freedom from the bondage of the law; a life free from having to perform; a life free of doing in order to earn God’s favor.

2 Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 I’ll say it again. If you are trying to find favor with God by being circumcised, you must obey every regulation in the whole law of Moses. 4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace. (Galatians 5:2-4, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is living life in the power of His Spirit and love.

For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6, NLT)

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13, NLT)

The gift (the grace of God) is a life of transformation into something new.

15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. (Galatians 6:15-16, NLT)

I will not treat the grace of God (the gift) as meaningless….

Running After Papa…

Standing Firm in Weakness (2 Cor 6:3-8)

I don’t have to “BE” good enough… I can be secure and stand firm in my weaknesses!

2 Corinthians 6:3-8 (New International Reader’s Version)

3 We don’t put anything in anyone’s way. So no one can find fault with our work for God. 4 Instead, we make it clear that we serve God in every way. We serve him by holding steady. We stand firm in all kinds of trouble, hard times and suffering. 5 We don’t give up when we are beaten or put in prison. When people stir up trouble in the streets, we continue to serve God. We work hard for him. We go without sleep and food. 6 We remain pure. We understand completely what it means to serve God. We are patient and kind. We serve him in the power of the Holy Spirit. We serve him with true love. 7 We speak the truth. We serve in the power of God. We hold the weapons of godliness in the right hand and in the left. 8 We serve God in times of glory and shame. We serve him whether the news about us is bad or good. We are true to our calling.

When it really comes down to it, I – in no way – understand suffering like Paul did. I’m pretty sure I speak for many reading this blog when I say that. I am NOT saying that real persecution of the Church doesn’t exist, because I’ve been to places where it does. I know that people are imprisoned for becoming followers of Jesus Christ. I know there are places where people are executed for becoming followers of Jesus Christ.

But where I live – in America, in the “Bible Belt” – there is more apathy than persecution. So, does the modern-day Christian, living in the Bible Belt of America, suffer for the faith? While it may not be life or death, for me and my family, our hardship came in the form of obedience – of responding to God’s call.

Two years ago, God put a call on our lives that has forever changed us and is by far, the most difficult thing Father has ever asked us to do. I wish that I could proclaim like Paul that I “… stand firm in all kinds of trouble, hard times and suffering…” but I’m afraid I can’t say that.

Over the last two years I have felt – at different times – un-informed, un-prepared, un-capable, un-able, un-loved, unable to love, and un-sure that I even heard God at all. I have felt, at times, that I totally missed God. I wonder if I have what it takes to answer God’s call. I have discovered that God doesn’t require me to be good enough. He is. I love the way Anthony Evans puts it in his song “Good Enough”.

“Good Enough” on Anthony Evans CD Letting Go

HERE IT HERE on www.Last.FM

Verse1:
Hold on you got the wrong guy
And I’m wondering why you don’t seem to see
The job at hand needs a better man
But for some crazy reason you’re calling me
Overwhelmed and underprepared
It’s written on my face
I’m scared
But I then I hear you call out to me.

Chorus:
You don’t have to be
Good enough
This love is for free
And it’s more than enough
I will be your strength
In all you say
In all you do
My love will make you good enough.

Verse2:
You don’t have to be capable
Just be available to follow where I lead
Whatever, whenever, wherever
Oh, you’ll never believe all the things you can do through me
So when the big world makes you feel small
Hold your head up high and walk tall
’cause this is where the good news begins.

Chorus

Bridge:
Blessed are the poor
They will inherit the earth
And the weak, in him you’ll find your true worth
He says come all you weary
Come get closer to me
You don’t have to be good enough.

(By the way, Anthony is a GIFTED artist and I recommend his CD “Letting Go” with a 5 out of 5 stars!)

Praise God!! I don’t have to be good enough!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (New International Version)

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am am strong.

I’ve discovered that Papa gives me everything I need, but only when I need it. I must rely on His wisdom and trust in His lovingkindness and His continual, passionate pursuit of my heart. He knows what is best for me and is constantly working to mold me into the image of Christ.

So I will persevere and stand firm in my weakness. I will take each day as it comes – starting it on my face before Him – knowing I have no other option but to live in HIS will. When I am weak, then I am strong. As verse 7 says (New Living Translation) I will “…use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.”

Running After Papa…