Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Respectful Love

A friend and i were speaking to a young man this weekend about salvation and he said (i am paraphrasing), 'I have been saved my whole life. I was baptized as a baby.' and what popped out of my mouth was, 'Don't you think God has more respect for you than that? He wants you to choose Him.'

As I sit here this morning I am realizing how much that concept means to me. My God values each person and He has given us free will. He isn't a micromanager. He respects us.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." - 1 John 4:7-11 ESV

God Is Love and His love is respectful. God sent His Son at a point in human history but i believe this has a personal application also. He sends Him to us at times in our lives to let us know that Jesus was a propitiation (that word is a legal term for satisfying the anger or grievance of another person). Jesus' work on the cross satisfied the anger of God.

People might not value your choices. What you do or don't do might make them angry but God isn't like that towards us. His anger is satisfied in Christ. He wants us free to choose and because He loves us He wants us to choose Him.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Comparing Two Sendings

"The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, 'Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town...' " - Matthew 10:2-14 ESV

"And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe...' " - Mark 16:15-17 ESV

I am looking this morning at these two 'sendings'.

One takes place when the disciples are first chosen and the other happens years later after Christ's resurrection.

I am looking at the first sending like an internship. It is focused. It is within the culture. Jesus is going out also and doing the same thing.

The second sending is broad. These men are going to take what they learned in that focused time and bring it into all the world. Jesus is in Heaven now. They will now lead the mission.

Structured focus is very good for new people. People learn team dynamics. Just saying things like, 'We are all going to go out in small groups and then we will meet at the fountain at 1:15pm. Stay in your groups. Pray when someone else in your group is speaking to someone. Be led but be at the meeting place on time.' is so valuable.

People need this before they 'go into all the world' and leave their familiar culture and the relative safety of familiar surroundings.

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin..." - Zechariah 4:10a NLT

Yes!

Not that the first sending was small. It was vital.

I'm praying that God would raise up leaders who have focused ministries so that others would be discipled and become leaders who want to go outside the walls and minister in far away lands.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Sugar Cube

The other night at coffee we began talking about Richard Wurmbrand. In the prisons that man was in a sugar cube was like medicine because they were all starving. Just one cube was precious and could keep a dying prisoner alive for a few more days. Pastor Wurmbrand spoke of a time one of the men in his cell was close to death and another prisoner spoke up and proclaimed that he had a sugar cube. They watched as he slowly unwrapped it. The whiteness of it struck them. Nothing was white in that prison. Someone in the group said, 'It is like Heaven' the others agreed and the small group of starving, pale men dressed in rags began to dance for joy. Heaven's presence was felt in that cell and the dying man told them to put the sugar cube away and give it to someone in a worse state than he was. The joy of his fellows and the power of that moment had revived him.

It is rumoured that that sugar cube was passed from prisoner to prisoner for years... maybe decades...

"For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see." - Revelation 3:17-18 ESV

God, please lead us today. All of us who have received the Gospel have the brightness of Heaven to offer to our fellow but only those who truly know their need will see the value of it. Lead us. We treasure it but it is not a thing to keep for ourselves it is a thing to be given away and we want to give it away to those who are close to death but may not even know it.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

The Open Place With No Doors

There are doors that only a few people ever use.

One of the things about working somewhere in that you see a side of the business that only people who work there see. You go into rooms and drawers that no one else has access to.

We are curious creatures. We want to see what is underneath and behind things but that isn't always good.

"Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD. None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son's daughter or of your daughter's daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness... You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive." - Leviticus 18:2-10, 17-18 ESV

I only quoted part of that passage but more categories of people are listed. It may seem a bit vulgar to quote from this passage but it is important that we understand where lust comes from. It doesn't start with wanting something. It starts with seeing something.

A thief is looking in his or her mind in places they are not allowed to be and thinking of things that don't belong to them. An addict has often opened a door that should never have been opened and some part of their mind longs for some taste that should never have been tasted in the first place.

Perhaps you have seen something you shouldn't have seen. Now what? We live in a time where images are everywhere and neon signs point to doors no one should enter.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are his,' and, Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels." - 2 Timothy 2:15-23 ESV

Flee youthful lusts. Be washed in the water of the word. Decide what you are going to be. God sees everyone who is washed in the blood as a vessel of honor. What does a vessel of honor see? Where do they go? What do they think about?

"And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules. I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts." - Psalm 119:43-45 ESV

"For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? - the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip." - Psalm 18:31-36 ESV

Grace is the wide place. There are no doors there. Jesus is the narrow gate but once you pass through you and I enter into a wide place of freedom that is open and has purity.

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' " - John 20:19 ESV

Jesus didn't use the door. He doesn't explore hidden places because nothing is hidden to Him. In Christ we have that also. We have a purity that isn't looking to uncover. We are in the wide place of grace.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fernweh

I love reading the Gospels but I must say they give me a great sense of 'fernweh' (a sense of longing to be in a far away exotic place). You read and Jesus is speaking right there around the corner. People go to Him and ask for a healing for themselves or someone else and in a sentence or two, that person has their healing. I can see why some think of the Bible as a kind of fairytale because needs seem to be met so quickly and completely.

"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." - Hebrews 11:8-10 ESV

I'm thinking this morning of all the people I know who are waiting for doctors appointments and need wisdom. It hasn't been an instant healing. They are on a journey like Abraham was on a journey.

Humanity had Him and His ministry for the space of three years. That time is recorded and it isn't fiction. Still, during those days when He was here Heaven's doors were shut to mankind. God was answering His prayers but no one else had that access.

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." - Hebrews 4:14-16 KJV

Yes. I see this happening now. Jesus won us this access and God is working every hour and moment in more subtle ways in life after life.

I long for face to face time with Christ. I would love to know I could hear His voice if I walked around a corner and the words He would speak would shock, challenge and comfort me.

Wait a minute... I do have that now. I have the closest thing I could have with Him being there in Heaven and me being here on Earth. I have the Bible and the Holy Spirit making the Bible alive in my mind and Spirit.

Yes. I long for that eternal city that has not made by human hands but I also am alive right now in the moment and in the provision of the moment. God is here. His words are alive. There is healing in His wings. There is wisdom in the book.

Thank You God. Open the eyes of the blind. Please quicken the lonely heart waiting from day to day. Visit us in this moment. Thank You. Praise You. We want You to be close not far and the blood of Christ has brought us close. Thank You.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bonds Formed In The Eye Of The Storm

I have been thinking on and off about 'friendship formation'. We have many acquaintances but strong friendship bonds seem to form more rarely.

The Apostle Paul describes himself and others like him as 'helpers of your joy' (see 2 Corinthians 1:24) and the Greek there is very interesting. The word 'helper' (synergos - Strong's G4904) is the word we get synergy from. The phrase 'your joy' is hym┼Źn (Strong's G5216) chara (Strong's G5479). This joy isn't a feeling. It is rejoicing that happens because there is a reason to rejoice. The word could be translated 'the cause or occasion of joy'.

Here is the context. There is conflict in Corinth and Paul is correcting them and looking to God to find a balance out of love...

"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I call God to witness against me - it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you." - 2 Corinthians 1:19 - 2:4 ESV

I am convinced that humor is intrinsically linked to pain and likewise friendship happens in shared conflict. People who survive something together have great friendship potential.

Grace Gospel preachers produce a 'field of friendship' around them because love is presented in the midst of the conflict that holiness produces in a fallen world.

People 'survived' encounters with Paul and His otherworldly message and became friends through that shared experience. They weren't necessarily friends with him. They became friends with God and each other.

Wartime produces the strongest bonds. That is why it is easier to make friends as children. Children are in the conflict of identity formation.

People want to avoid pain but the grapes need to be crushed in order for there to be wine. Likewise, love works in synergy with conflict to form friendships.

Grace is beautiful. It is God's unmerited favor expressed to mankind because of the work of Jesus Christ. A person who talks about it is going to stir things up but in the center of that storm there is an oasis that is 'an occasion of joy'. The lost are found and bonds are formed that can never be broken.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Few Thoughts From Luke Chapter Eight

I have many thoughts this morning as I read and reread Luke chapter eight...

Jesus charges two people to do two different things in this chapter.

"The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 'Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.' And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him." - Luke 8:38-39 ESV

"And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat." - Mark 5:42-43 ESV

He told the demonized man to talk about what had happened but then he told the parents of the child He healed to keep it a secret. Interesting...

I also was focused in on this idea of a 'moment of truth.'

"And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him... While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler's house came and said, 'Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.' But Jesus on hearing this answered him, 'Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.' " - Luke 8:41-42, 49-50 ESV

The man came to get Jesus. They were delayed on the way and the situation just seemed to deteriorate further. Jairus' worse fears seem to be coming to pass but Jesus says 'only believe'.

"And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, 'Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.' And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead." - Luke 8:51-53 ESV

Here we see that 'moment of truth'. This is how the event is recorded elsewhere.

"And when he had entered, he said to them, 'Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.' And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was." - Mark 5:39-40 ESV

I struck me that this command to only believe was about to be tested when they got to the house. Jesus wanted the room cleared and that was only going to happen with the cooperation of Jairus. Coming to get Jesus wasn't enough. Jesus was going to request access to the child and there was going to be mocking resistance. The Father was unsure what was going to happen but He gave Jesus access in spite of the laughter.

"Taking her by the hand he said to her, 'Talitha cumi,' which means, 'Little girl, I say to you, arise.' And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat." - Mark 5:41-43 ESV

I think many times our faith isn't this sense that everything is going to work out. No. Perhaps we have some serious doubts but we clear the room and let Jesus in any way. That is our 'only believe' moment of truth. Then God gives us that moment and doesn't want us to tell the story a thousand times to everyone we meet. He wants us to keep these moments in our heart and treasure them. We tell people the Gospel but we keep these private moments as precious treasures.

We can have both a public testimony and a private life with God and it is important that we do have both. One reinforces the other.

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