Friday, March 16, 2018

True Wealth

If I had 1 million more dollars I would have some options I don't have now. Let's then make it 10 million. Ok, 100 million. But would I be happier? Would I be richer or would life just get infinitely more complicated?

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory." - Ephesians 1:3-12 ESV

I am a rich man.

How many people who win the lottery lose what was important to them because of it. Unfortunately, most of them do.

Some money would be great. I am going out to make some today. I need things. We all do. I want to have options and security for myself and for the people around me who might need my help. I want to see people go places and present Jesus in places where He Is needed all over the world.

At the same time, I look around me today and realize in a fresh way that I have many wonderful people in my life and God in Heaven who keeps giving me more. One day we will be before Him and get a better idea of what is really in our Heavenly bank account.

100 million won't look like very much and it won't be nearly as complicated to deal with as it would be for us now.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Finding Those Who Are Out Of Sight

"...for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." - Luke 16:8b KJV

I sometimes ask God in my prayer time 'who have I not seen lately?' because I am aware of the fact that I might not be as good at communicating as other folks are with the people I care for.

"For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel," - Philippians 1:8-12 ESV

"...while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you." - 2 Corinthians 9:14 ESV

"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you - that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." - Romans 1:11-12 ESV

I have noticed that in some circles of Church culture mainstream methods of communication can be lacking because the local assembly becomes the hub of interaction so people just interact there assuming everyone in those circles will be seen and found in that place. Often people can fall out of communication just because they haven't been around.

Out of sight can mean out of mind very easily.

"... for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." - Ephesians 5:8-10 ESV

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing." - Luke 15:4-5 ESV

This passage in Luke came up the other day and we focused on the fact that this shepherd was so aware that he knew that a sheep was missing and went after it. What good is the willingness to 'go after' people if you don't even know who is missing?

That is why I pray, 'Who is missing Lord?' because I know that is a prayer that is pleasing to God. He cares deeply for people. He isn't focused on our shortcomings or inabilities. He just wants our heart. He Is able.

Perhaps you feel like a disconnected person. Maybe you left and felt that no one missed you. I understand that feeling. I have had to give those emotions to God before and likely will again. I think it prepares us to be people who reach out if it gets processed through Christ's cross. We can either decide to blame places or people and perhaps end up with a root of bitterness or we can let God make us mindful of other people.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Golden Rule Is The Narrow Gate

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." - Matthew 7:12-20 ESV

I always saw the narrow and the wide gate in verses 13 and 14 in terms of salvation (and they are salvation verses) but in context, they are speaking of considerate behavior that gives others what we would want to be given.

A false prophet has bad fruit. They aren't gracious.

The wide gate is the 'self-centered life' and the narrow gate is a harder gate. Few find this gate.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' " - Matthew 7:21-23 ESV

Jesus ramps things up even higher here. Considering others isn't enough. We must consider Him and know Him.

"Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." - Psalm 2:10-12 ESV

On the wide road the Son does not get a kiss. It is every man for himself. It is us against them.

False prophets ignore Jesus or reveal a god that is not the God of all grace. Ministry that is man-centered and sourced can't reproduce or give life. The carnal tree is thorny. The spiritual tree has fruit. The shift between one and the other is just one decision away.

Today I am asking God to make me a blessing to people. I want a true prophetic ministry that draws nourishment from the correct life source. I am placing my eyes on Christ and planning to go the narrow way today.


Monday, March 12, 2018

The Place Where Martha Met Jesus

This morning I took notice of Jesus' position...

"So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house... " - John 11:20

Mary meets Jesus somewhere outside the village. Then he speaks to Martha but does not move from that spot.

"Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.' " - John 11:21-27 ESV

Then Martha leaves the place where she met Jesus and enters the village to speak to Mary.

"When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, 'The Teacher is here and is calling for you.' And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him." - John 11:28-30 ESV

Jesus has not moved. He has not come one inch closer to the village.

"Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' " - John 11:32 ESV

"And he said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept." - John 11:34-35 ESV

Jesus weeps right where He Is.

To me, this place outside the village is the incarnation. Jesus meets us in the book and in the place where the truth of His book is being revealed. Martha represents the writers of the new testament. They write and say to me, a person 2,000 years into the future, 'Jesus is here and He Is calling for you.'

You or I might be like Mary. We are stubborn or grieving or just distant because we are occupied in our own matters but it is true. Jesus is here and He Is calling for us. He is just outside the village.

We do what Martha did when we evangelize. We say 'Jesus is here.' and the people might say, 'Listen, It's just you and your ideas.' and we say, 'No, Come where I have been and you will find Him also.'

"Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it." - John 11:38 ESV

Jesus goes straight from that outside place to the tomb. Jesus asks His Father and Lazarus is alive again.

"Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples." - John 11:54 ESV

Jesus never goes into the village. If you missed all these events you would just see Lazarus alive again and grief turned into joy but you wouldn't be able to connect the dots. Jesus might just seem like a ghost or a myth. If asked they would say, 'Jesus never came here. I didn't see Him.' and they would be right to say that.

Is Jesus going with us to work or where ever it is we are going today? Yes and No. We say, 'Jesus is here and He Is calling for you.' but He is doing it from the incarnation. He Is calling from the throne in Heaven. He is just outside the village weeping over the same tragedies that affect the people in that place.

It is very possible that if something shuts our mouth people will miss His visitation. I don't want that to happen.


Friday, March 9, 2018

The Dangers of One-Upmanship

I have tried for a few minutes to summary this chunk of scripture but anything I do just seems to take some aspect of the impact away so I will just quote the whole thing...

"Then Moses answered, 'But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The LORD did not appear to you.'' The LORD said to him, 'What is that in your hand?' He said, 'A staff.' And he said, 'Throw it on the ground.' So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, 'Put out your hand and catch it by the tail' - so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand - 'that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.' Again, the LORD said to him, 'Put your hand inside your cloak.' And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, 'Put your hand back inside your cloak.' So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 'If they will not believe you,' God said, 'or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.' " - Exodus 4:1-9 ESV

Ok. Now Here is the actual confrontation.

"So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said." - Exodus 7:10-13 ESV

So, God has Moses use the first proof of His authority, the staff, and the overriding authority of God is revealed. Moses ran from the serpent at the burning bush but He doesn't budge now. He exercises the authority of the rod.

"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Pharaoh's heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent... Thus says the LORD, 'By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood... Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart." - Exodus 7:14-15, 17, 20-23 ESV

But then the hand turning leprous then made clean is skipped and God moves Moses right to the water turning into blood but on a much larger scale then described by the bush. God said to Moses at the burning bush that water could be taken from the Nile and be turned into blood on a small scale but then has Moses turn all the water into blood. Even the water in containers drawn from the Nile before the miracle was turned into blood.

I don't see another place where the 'hand turning leprous then made clean again' was ever used anywhere else but at the burning bush.

Pharaoh just wasn't available for that kind of miracle. He was living in arrogant one-upmanship. It was a contest he (Pharaoh) was determined to win. Moses was moved by the first two miracles he didn't need to see the third one. God skipped step two with Pharaoh and amplified the third sign.

I don't pretend to fully understand the 'why's of this but i see a great danger in one-upmanship as a mindset. Debates often have this quality and it just isn't edifying.

"Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile. Seven full days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile." - Exodus 7:23-25 ESV

I must see that my heart is sick but can be made clean. If I am not even available to that idea God might have to ramp things up to get my attention and the people around me will suffer because of my stubbornness when it could have been a small one on one exchange.

Do i have the three signs working in my life? Is God's authority overriding? Do I know my heart without God and then the cleansing that comes by knowing Him? Am I just drinking in knowledge from a cosmic source or is it communion with God that sustains me? Good questions to ask.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Unequal Yoke

Wow. This next passage is an intense one. I see it as a plea from God for unity. He is acting like a husband who has found out that the mother of His children is having flirtatious interactions with another man and wants His family to remain whole out of love.

"We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" - 2 Corinthians 6:11-14 ESV

I see broken marriages that had an 'unequal yoke'. One person was pulling in a certain direction at a certain pace and the other one had something different happening in their life. One might have been strong and the other weak. One might have been 'a believer' in Christ and the other one was not. Perhaps the pace was too slow and it never seemed like the marriage was going anywhere and that was disappointing. There was intense compromise beyond what was tolerable.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." - Romans 8:1 ESV

I like what God communicates through the writer about a heart that is wide open. Grace is manifested that way. Grace gives room and can adjust the pace. Grace isn't restrictive. The writer isn't controlling in his communication.

It is a warning.

The Godless philosophy might look effective but it is going in a different direction. He might be handsome and affectionate and need you but eventually, the yoke will begin to chafe for you or for him. She might be soft and willing but will it last?

It is like God is pleading with people who have been hurt by His Church is some way and saying, 'I know they don't look like much. My Church may seem like a collection of broken toys and arrogant fools like my disciples were but I am bringing them along. Please come with me also. If you seek other lovers they are going to hurt you and it won't last. You will be hindered from realizing your potential.'

"Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." - 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ESV

Ouch. It isn't that the person is unclean but the union is. It isn't that the reasoning is unsound it is that we can't sprinkle God on a method and make it holy as if by magic.

Some connections are breakable and others are not but I want to connect myself to grace in every way possible. The message. The imperfect people. The vehicles God is using like the Church, para-Church ministries and evangelism are places where we can connect to God and be yoked to things and people that fit our shoulders and move in God's direction and at His pace.

This may add extra strain to badly yoked relationships but it also may cause there to be a conversion. It is a risk but it is a risk worth taking.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Prayers Of Mercy For Those Who Are Outside

Here is a prayer we can pray for people...

'God. Please don't give that person what they deserve. Then use it to open their eyes to Your mercy and grace.'

The mob never cries out, 'Give mercy! Don't hurt them!' but we are not ones to join the mob. If a person is 'a user' and they don't repent people will eventually be lining up for their pound of flesh. Isolation is inevitable. We can be the ones who represent a divine mindset. We can have the great privilege of being 'mercy people' because God has had mercy on us.

Jesus asked his Father to forgive the people who were crucifying Him while it was happening. What the mob was shouting at Him was dark but the words Jesus uttered were a ray of light in the darkness. His mercy words will be remembered forever.

I don't think we are called to be doormats. We set boundaries and enforce them but it all can be done living in an attitude of love, mercy and grace.

In the mission in Florida where I received Christ the policy about drugs and alcohol were very straightforward. If you show up drunk you won't be spending the night. You are going to have to sleep it off somewhere else. God loves you and we care about you but that isn't happening here. We need to protect the people who are staying under this roof and hanging on by a thread. We can't let you drag them down. If you still need a place to stay tomorrow you are welcome here and the past will be gone forever. If you fail again we won't chide you about last week... but you won't be sleeping here if drugs or alcohol are in your system.

I didn't understand it at first. It seemed cruel but it wasn't. It was Love.

Sometimes it was me who had to send them off into the night and I learned to pray, 'Father, Have mercy on them. Protect them. Help them. Save them from what is out there and from themselves.'

These are good prayers to pray, aren't they? I think they are.

God is the One who can change hearts. We are the ones who can ask Him to do it.