I fought the law and the law won

The law always wins. It was designed that way. That’s part of the brilliance of God’s plan. We keep thinking we can beat the law, but we can’t.

We have all sorts of clever ways of trying to get around the law. Here are a few of the major ones:

  • Pretend it doesn’t exist.
  • Pretend it doesn’t matter.
  • Pretend we are following it when we know we’re not.
  • Pretend we can follow it by altering it to make it doable.
  • Pretend that if we can’t be perfect, we can be better than the next guy, and that somehow that will be good enough.

All these are ways we think we can get around the law, but we can’t. The law ultimately nails every one of us, and though we think we can beat it in this life, we will meet it in the next, and it will have the last say in the last judgment.

There’s only one way around the law, and herein lies the brilliance of God’s plan. Nothing happens to the law; the law is good. It was always good. But we die in relationship to it, so we can be free from its control over us.

It was our first marriage to a good partner, but one that only brought out the worst in us, and because the only legitimate way out of a marriage is the death of one of the partners – since the law will never die – we die instead, so that we can be raised to life and married to a new partner, Jesus Christ. Now how brilliant is that?

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:4-6)

So there you have it: a new way of bearing fruit for God. Not by trying and failing, or by trying and manipulating, or by trying and faking it, but by dying instead of trying. That is by dying and being born again in the Spirit, so that God Himself brings forth good things from our lives by His presence in us. He’s our new husband, and because we are one with Him, what is true for Him is true for us.

So go ahead and let the law win. Don’t even fight it, because it will win every time you do. Instead, be one with Christ, and allow Him to have His way with you. He will bring forth in you the good you want so much to be and do.

Now you have to agree, that’s simply brilliant.

From a Bill, a MemberPartner of the Membership Committee: Day 2
If John and Marti were perfect pitchmen – they could manipulate our giving power by … The Perfect Gift!
Who can resist a new release download, a smart-looking T-shirt, a baseball hat that tells people I am with the ‘in’ crowd, or a matching mug?
Marti and John have yet to incorporate this technique – not that they never will – but for now, they simply ask us to join them in making real the Gospel of Welcome to everyone, everywhere. A simple but brilliant, purpose.
As a Catch MemberPartner and a volunteer on the Membership Committee, if you are like me, you have found yourself spent by methods of emotional creative design to encourage you to give. The practice is called manipulation, and it is used often to empty our pockets.
Paul is clearly opposed to such a practice, and in fact goes further to say in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 9: verses 1-5, “I sent these brothers to you so that you would not be embarrassed at the last minute because you had not had time to get this all together, so that the whole matter can be taken care of before I come.”
Basically, Paul is saying that he has no problem letting people know about a need. His point is that the need does not have to be coerced emotionally. Take care of it in a sensible, rational way before I even get there.

So please consider this very simple request:

Catch MemberPartnerships offer a pain-free way to help further the Gospel of Welcome.  It is a Brilliant idea whose time has come. It is simple to enroll. It is an uncomplicated approach to achieve a vital ministry.  It is Simply Brilliant.
Every time a new MemberPartner is activated, the Gospel of Welcome message extends farther beyond the 139 countries we are presently serving, new enrichment programs are added, and our services are expanded to members, contributors, and readers.
What’s more, a real, tangible economic advantage is offered to all Catch citizens, irrespective of financial capacity:
  • To keep it simple, rich or poor, if there is a “readiness” to give – a built-into-the-heart desire to give, “the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”(2 Corinthians 8:12).
  • For those without the capacity to give, MemberPartner sponsorships are available.
  • Together with this, opportunities exist to register friends and family tax free MemberPartnerships or honor a loved one through an honorary PartnerMembership in his or her memory.
Here is how to sign up:
The easiest way to become a MemberPartner or find out more about becoming one, is to click on the Simply Brilliant button. 
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th-7 The law of God is simply brilliant.

King David, one of the leading characters in the history of the Old Testament, who was also a shepherd and a poet, wrote often about how much he loved the law. He would meditate on it day and night. He would revel in its precepts. He would cherish its statutes.

The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, all 176 verses, is taken up with David’s love affair with the law of God. He sees it as eternal, boundless and perfect. He trusts it, obeys it, and is saddened when it receives no respect, or when it is disobeyed or disregarded. He delights in the law because it tells him, in no uncertain terms, what wrongdoing and right-doing is. It explains God’s heart and mind. It shows him what is expected.

The law makes him wise. It gives him insight and understanding into himself and others. The law makes sense. Imagine where we would be without it? How would we know what to do? Without the law, I could help the old lady across the street or run her over; it wouldn’t make any difference. Without the law we would live in anarchy.

My oldest son (who, yesterday, celebrated his second anniversary with his lovely wife, Elizabeth) is a police officer. He wouldn’t have a job without the law. He loves the law, too. When he was five, he wrote me up on his little pad for sitting too long on the toilet. Tore the page out of his book and handed it to me.

And I am a policeman, too. I love the law, especially when applying it to all the neighborhood kids who hang out around here as Chandler’s friends. I apply it to Chandler all the time; if not in my actions, at least in my head. Actually, all I know how to be around these teenagers is a policeman. Marti is continually catching me in this role, and I hate it when she does, because it just points out how distant I have become. I am not a father, or a neighbor, or a friend; I am an enforcer of the law. I learned it from Christopher: “Here you are son; you’ve been parked on the toilet too long.”

No, I didn’t learn it from him; I’ve had it all along. I grew up in a legalistic home and I like things spelled out. I get angry when rules are disregarded.

All of this is what is simple about the law. It’s all systematically laid out, and it makes simple sense. Read Leviticus. It’s all there.

But here’s what’s brilliant about the law: we can’t follow it. God purposely gave us a law we couldn’t follow, so it would point out to us how sinful we are, and lead us to Christ. That doesn’t mean the law is gone – it’s still here and we still need it and love it as David did – it just means we need the Lord. The law points out to us every day how much we need the Lord. And that’s brilliant … simply brilliant.

A huge thanks to Stephen, Gary, Angela, Robert, Beth, Darin and Jaymi! We have begun. We are 153 new MemberPartnerships away from our goal of 160! Check out this message from one of our Membership Committee members and pray about what the Lord would have you do:

If you’re a daily Catch addict like me, you know the despair of waking up on a cold morning, turning on your computer, and finding something more than the prophetic words of John Fischer or the occasional compelling communiqué from Marti.

At least twice a year, the two of them devote precious time from the Catch Ministry to seek MemberPartnerships from us – the Catch community.

Any membership drive can be exasperating-but this Catch MemberPartnership campaign – well, it’s Simply Brilliant. And let me tell you why.

I am a salesman and a darn good one, I might add, and I know what a band of ace pitchmen sound like, which is anything other than what John and Marti are saying. In fact, John and Marti are not doing anything right – they are breaking every industry rule, beginning with:

  • Not alluding to the superior programs and services they provide to us readers or the number of hours they spend on the phone in one-on-one counseling, or in email communications.
  • Not offering an aggressive, high-pressure sales pitch – they are not even whining or pleading for money.
  • Not taking advantage of the fact that they know us better than we know ourselves, and could easily incorporate manipulating schemes to catch us – a game we pitchmen know so well.

Instead…
Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God. (2 Corinthians 2:17)

It’s Simply Brilliant. Read on:

Catch MemberPartnerships offer a pain-free way to help further the Gospel of Welcome.  It is a Brilliant idea whose time has come. It is simple to enroll. It is an uncomplicated approach to achieve a vital ministry.  It is Simply Brilliant.

Every time a new MemberPartner is activated, the Gospel of Welcome message extends farther beyond the 139 countries we are presently serving, new enrichment programs are added, and our services are expanded to members, contributors, and readers.

What’s more, a real, tangible economic advantage is offered to all Catch citizens, irrespective of financial capacity:

  • To keep it simple, rich or poor, if there is a “readiness” to give – a built-into-the-heart desire to give, “the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.”(2 Corinthians 8:12).
  • For those without the capacity to give, MemberPartner sponsorships are available.
  • Together with this, opportunities exist to register friends and family tax free MemberPartnerships or honor a loved one through an honorary PartnerMembership in his or her memory.

The easiest way to become a MemberPartner or find out more about becoming one, is to click on the Simply Brilliant button:

Or you can call me directly at (949) 315-5533.

Thank you so much for thinking about becoming a MemberPartner. Your tax-deductible contribution will sustain our viability, and, in time we well all thrive. Thank you in advance for your support!

Yours always for the journey,

John

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Why pray when you can worry?

Uh-oh…

You are getting the Catch really, really late today because I blew it. We were to announce the launch of our Membership Committee driven MemberPartner campaign and I had such high expectations on the writing of the Catch today that I couldn’t relax and write what I know I’m capable of writing. I got all tied up in knots thinking, “I’ve got to write the greatest Catch ever so that our readers respond to our call to become MemberPartners.”

Ok – so I am worrying….

Our Membership Committee has invested a lot of time, effort and brain power into putting this campaign together and I’m worrying about whether it will work. This is not a statement of any lack of trust in the Committee. In fact, they have done a wonderful job and deserve all of your and my thanks. No, this is my statement, because I am choosing to worry about the need for MemberPartners instead of trusting in prayer before the Lord Jesus Christ.

I honestly know there is no peace found in circumstances. I know the Lord is in control. I am just not making real what I believe, and I am choosing to worry …

What if we throw a great MemberPartner campaign and no one joins us? It is just that this is such an important campaign, and what if it doesn’t work? What if … What if … What if …

In order to thrive and not just starve a little, our accountant insists we reduce our reliance on emergency fundraising and begin by substantially increasing our MemberPartners.This change in reliance, he warns is not a silver bullet by any means. Yet, it makes sense that monthly gifts in smaller amounts go a long way to help even out our roller-coaster financial cycles that, quite frankly are no fun ride.

The Catch is a Readership Supported Ministry.

The Catch is the telling of personal stories – yours and mine. The value of the Catch is to tell each other’s stories within the Catch community, add depth to our day-to-day lives, and intelligence to how we walk through the day.

The Catch is the basis to speak of the Gospel of Welcome to everyone, everywhere. As fear increasingly grips human hearts, as despair spreads widely at the failure of man to accomplish the great dreams that he is continually having, as the terrible weapons of destruction increase in the arsenals of the nations, as pollution and corruption spread widely around the earth, and people’s hearts are indeed trembling with fear in looking at the things coming on earth, what an hour this is to declare the mercy and the grace of God, that in Jesus Christ there is a new humanity being formed.

The gospel is going to go forward, with or without us. This is God’s great command, a vision He has set in all of us. Yet, if we do not respond, He will work through anyone who shows up.  God doesn’t need us. But He does call us. He wants us to participate – all of us – you and me.

I forget so often but truly I understand we do not find peace because of logic or circumstances, and our peace is the hope we hold, and that hope comes from trusting the Lord who is always in control.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13 (NIV).

Regardless of your decision, I promise to write a great Catch for you tomorrow. I don’t plan on worrying anymore (well, at least not as much as I have been) and I am praying for you as I write.

Here is how to sign up:
The easiest way to become a MemberPartner or find out more about becoming one, is to click on the Simply Brilliant button. 

Or you can call me directly at (949) 315-5533.

Thank you so much for thinking about becoming a MemberPartner. Your tax-deductible contribution will sustain our viability, and, in time we well all thrive. Thank you in advance for your support!

Yours always for the journey,

John

 
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Living through to Sunday

It’s Saturday. Christ is in the tomb. We need to talk about what we’re going to do.

th-4This last Easter weekend, the significance of Saturday hit me harder than ever before. Think about it. We have Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but Saturday has no name. It’s just this big black hole. Maybe we should call it Black Saturday.

On a typical Easter weekend, we normally don’t celebrate anything on Saturday. There are Good Friday services, and, of course, Easter Sunday celebrations, but what about Saturday? Saturday is a very significant day. You have to go through it to get to Easter Sunday, and though it seems like just a day to pass through for us, imagine what it must have been like for those who were following Christ — who had placed their hope in Him for a new order — and especially for the twelve who had forsaken everything to follow Jesus.

For them, it wasn’t just a day to pass through to get to Easter Sunday; it was the end — the bitter end of everything. For them, there was no Easter Sunday, and there certainly wasn’t anything good about Friday.

From what we know in the gospel accounts, there wasn’t anyone of Christ’s followers saying, “Hey, wait a minute you guys. Didn’t He say something about rising again on the third day? Remember He said, ‘Destroy the temple and in three days I will build it back up’? What if He was talking about Himself there? Don’t you think we should just wait and see what happens tomorrow?”

We might be able to imagine someone saying that, but in the record, no one did, so for all we know, that was that. Saturday was just another day like all those other days before Jesus showed up. Back to life the way it was. Back to no more miracles. Back to where we were, only now we’ve just lost three years. They were good years, and we learned a lot, but they are gone now.

I think we need to spend some time reflecting on Saturday. Maybe we should even have Black Saturday services. If anything, we need to identify with those who have no hope in life. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

We need to see the dark side of this so we can better appreciate the brightness of what we have. We have a most incredible hope.

The reality of the resurrection came upon His followers gradually. Even those who saw the stone rolled away were not fully convinced right away. And what about Mary, who actually talked with Jesus briefly, thinking He was the gardener, until He spoke her name. Was she just imagining things?

We need to reflect on that black Saturday. Are we living as if Jesus were still in the tomb? Where is our hope? Are we counting only on ourselves and our tangible, human resources? If we’re not counting on the risen Christ, we haven’t even made it through the weekend.

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‘It is finished’

You are encouraged to find a few quiet moments
to meditate today, Good Friday,
on the death of Christ as visited by the song “Tetelastai,”
graciously donated to us by our good friend Paul Clark.
Click on the picture to listen to the song.
Headphones will greatly enhance the quality of the experience.Jesus asked us to remember His death until He returns,
and surely today is an important day to do that. 
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Tetelastai
(“It is finished”)

By Paul Clark

I was sold and betrayed in Gethsemane
Not for gold, but prepaid by the enemies deal
For the Potter’s field
I was silent and drug in a hurry to a midnight trial
where the judge and the jury all screamed, “He blasphemes.”
Hear them cry, “Crucify Him.”
I was spat on and mocked by their words of scorn,
Wooden bats cracked my skull,
Then, my head was adorned with a crown of thorns
I was scourged, I was bruised, I was beaten
And, now they’ve nailed both my hands, and my feet
To a cross here on Golgotha
Hear them cry, “Crucify Him.”
Father forgive them they know not what they do”
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani”
(“My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?”)
Now the darkness has fallen, the time has come
Not My will Father, but, let Thy will be done
“Woman, here is your son”
“I thirst”
“Tetelastai”

 Minstrel’s Voyage Music / ASCAP 2007

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Getting into the winners’ circle

He walked aboard ship he was runnin’ awayth
A storm hit the harbor and they started to pray
And Jonah said “Please throw me into the spray”
But he came out a winner

Losin’ is winnin’ if it turns you around
It all looks clearer when you’re close to the ground
If you know you’re lost then you can be found
And you walk out a winner

She walked in the room and she looked out of place
Anointing his feet from an alabaster vase
Salted with bitter tears that fell from her face \
And He called her a winner

He fell up the hill with the cross on His back
“The King of the Jews” was the name on the plaque
They drove the nails and the sky turned black
But He walked out a winner

This is not just a song for the bad times – something to cheer you up when things get rough. Nor is it a song for those people who have had a particularly bad lot in life – born into poverty or abuse. Nor is it a song for those who have tried and failed, gambled and lost. Nor is it a song just about Jesus – what He has done for us that we don’t have to do. It is a song about a spiritual reality that is true for every single one of us, and if it is not, then we have not gotten very far on our spiritual journey into Christ.

In his book, Maximum Faith, George Barna has uncovered, through researching the Bible and people’s experience of God, ten stops on a spiritual journey to a truly transformed life that are common to us all. They are not steps achieved, as much as they are stops on our journey, where we can mark certain realities in our experience of faith and our enjoyment of fulfillment and the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In his research, Barna discovered that the vast majority of Christians in America’s churches have not ventured much beyond stop five, and most are languishing around stops three and four. The one stop that was common to all who were experiencing God and being used by Him on a regular basis was stop seven, and only a relatively small percentage of church goers knew anything about it.

Step seven is “Brokenness.”

In his own words, Barna says: “As an important albeit difficult stop on the journey, brokenness enables us to get beyond ourselves and recognize our need for God’s complete, continuing and uninterrupted intervention in our life. For us to become the people God intends us to be, brokenness is not an optional possibility; it is a necessity.”

Brokenness is having our eyes opened to the truth about ourselves that we tend to want to avoid. That truth is the fact that we are all losers, all sinners, all needy, all broken. The difference being those who embrace this and those who fight it, deny it or cover it up.

Jesus had to go to the cross. If He hadn’t, no one would have been saved. In a point of human weakness and struggle, He prayed that He might get out of going to the cross – that there might be another way to save humanity – but there was not.

We can pray and ask God if there might be another way to a transformed life other than by way of our own cross of brokenness, but in the end, there is not. As one of my spiritual mentors, Ray Stedman, used to say, “Resurrection power only works in graveyards.”

As we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection this Easter weekend, let’s be aware of our own losses, our own lostness, our own brokenness, and the wonderful path to God’s love and provision that it supplies. Easter is for losers who know about the path Jesus took – the same path they take, over and over again, to find their place in the winners’ circle.

Losin’ is winnin’ if it turns you around
It all looks clearer when you’re close to the ground
If you know you’re lost, then you can be found
And you walk out a winner

Click here to listen to listen to George Barna talk about brokenness.

Click here to listen to and/or download Losin’ is Winnin’.

 
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The dance goes on

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. (John 10:17-18)

Lord of the Dance
Words by Sydney Carter

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance dance wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance said He
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance said He

I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee
But they would not dance and they wouldn’t follow me
I danced for the fishermen for James and John
They came with me and the dance went on

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame
They whipped and they stripped and they hung me high
They left me there on a cross to die

I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back

It’s hard to dance with the sins of the whole world pressing in on you. It’s hard to dance when you’ve been abandoned by everyone, including your own Father with whom you dreamed up this crazy world and created it out of nothing. It’s hard to dance when all evil is laughing and spitting in your face. It’s hard to dance with disbelief all around you. It’s hard to dance when the people who placed all their hope in you are looking up at you with such hopelessness. It’s hard to dance when you’re hanging on a cross.

They buried my body and they thought I’d gone

That was the darkest hour of all. Dead, buried and sealed up – even guarded – lest someone steal the body and start some cockamamie rumor about a resurrection.

But I am the Dance and I still go on

But the dance went on anyway. He danced through death. He danced into hell and back out of it. He danced on His own grave. He danced the devil right off His back! He is the dance, and the dance goes on!

Truth of the matter … the dance never stopped.

No one took Jesus’ life from Him; He gave it up of His own accord, and because He gave it up, He can pick it up again. Satan doesn’t even get that little triumph. Satan didn’t take His life; Jesus laid it down, and picked it back up again. He has authority to do both.

Jesus wasn’t hanging on the cross waiting for death to overtake Him. He was in charge the whole way. When He said “It is finished,” it’s because it was.

And as far as the dance goes, He didn’t skip a beat.

They cut me down but I leapt up high
I am the life that will never never die
I’ll live in you if you live in me
I am the Lord of the dance said He

Dance dance wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance, said He
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance said He

He is the dance, and He still goes on!

Click here to listen to and download the song for free.

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