Friday, January 19, 2018

The Glow From The Armor

It's very much a 'thankfulness morning' for me today.

"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." - Romans 13:12 KJV

We can 'put it on' like it is garment handing on a hook nearby. This armour illuminates things and circumstances so we see them as God sees them. If we see them in pale moonlight we see one aspect. In bright sunshine we see another but in divine light we have every reason to be thankful.

Thankfulness is a light others see on us also. It is grace on display. Did we forge this armour or weave a robe of righteousness? No. Never. We couldn't. It has been given to us by God because we are citizens and special guests.

If we look at the world without this light it will look different. Paler. Darker.

"(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)" - 2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV

"We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything." - 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 ESV

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" - Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJV

Heaven sees the glow. So does the accuser. Darkness has no power to penetrate the armour of Heaven. Find it. If you have believed in Jesus you own a garment of praise and righteousness. The armour is the doctrine that your local assembly should teach. Read Ephesians 6 again and again. Learn it. Know it. Wear it. Raise a hand and vocalize the thankfulness you feel when you see the world according to God's glow.

I believe that is how the martyrs of old died a good death and that is how we live a good (Agathos - Useful) life.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Always Invite This Person

This is such a great account of an event and it is only found in one book. Some stories are retold in different ways in different books but not this one. I love Jesus' anonymous standoffishness...

"On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, 'They have no wine.' And Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Do whatever he tells you.' Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, 'Fill the jars with water.' And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, 'Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.' So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, 'Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.' This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him." - John 2:1-11 ESV

Inviting Jesus is always a good idea is one thought I got from this.

Another is that the host seems to know that there won't be enough wine but invites Jesus and His disciples anyway. This is Jesus' first recorded miracle so there is no way they could have thought He would help them but they wanted Him there because He was there in the time of need joy was manifested. Wine often represents joy in the scriptures.

Perhaps we think, 'If we are going to have people over we must have more than enough food and get extra so there will be enough.' That isn't a bad thought. It is very practical but Church life often seems more like a potluck affair. Everyone brings something and Jesus is there so whatever might be lacking emotionally is provided for. Jesus makes the joy in the vessels designed for sanctification.

Lastly. Jesus had disciples and even though He did what He did in a very incognito fashion so that the master of the feasts attention was on the bridegroom these disciples knew who was really responsible. I want to be the person who looks and sees what Jesus does. It is easy to evaluate based on sight and sound and perhaps criticize the details but I want to be the one who recognizes God in the room. It really isn't about the quality of the party people throw. Is God in attendance? Yes. God is everywhere present but He also shows up in special ways at special times when people ask Him to or when a life-changing event or celebration is about to happen and He is invited.

A church is like this sometimes I think. We have invited 100 people but we only have 30 packets of saltine crackers. Jesus and His disciples are coming so we know there will be enough for everyone in the end.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Why Are You Baptizing?

"(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, 'Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?' John answered them, 'I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.' These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.' " - John 1:24-31 ESV

It's a good question coming from a self-centered point of view and John gives a good answer from a Christ-centered point of view.

John wasn't trying to make a name for himself. He was pointing to the One who could save. He was pointing to the One that was revealed to him to be Messiah.

"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.' " - Mark 16:15-16 ESV


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Understanding Fellowship Through Participation

Sometimes it is hard to listen to people who teach concepts dealing with fellowship when those teachers are clearly outside of fellowship themselves. It is like unmarried people giving advice about marriage or people who have never had children talking about raising children. Concepts are present but there are clear blindspots. What is being said might be theoretically compelling but it is going to lack the practical edge that only a participant has. You know that the people who listen and learn from them are going to suffer and that is hard to watch.

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV

This book is called 'Hebrews' for a reason. It is written to the Jewish people living in Jerusalem during the time of the Apostles right before the fall of that city in 70 AD. Persecution was active. If Jewish people associated themselves publicly with the other believers in Christ there were social and financial consequences.

Drawing near was fellowship and it has never been easy to do. Sometimes the obstacles are external to the group and sometimes they are in the midst of the fellowship. That is always how it has been and will be in this life. If we fly solo, for whatever reason, we are going to be missing something. Oneness and identification are needed even if it is long distance identification that has a longing for a future reunion. Life has those times.

"As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." - 2 Timothy 1:4-5 ESV

Yes. We have those times.

Someone who is purposely cutting themselves off may be a fine person on one level but they have nothing valuable to say about the Church or fellowship in general. Their theology is going to change more and more over time in justification of their new lifestyle and become protective of individualism. If someone is not submitted under anyone (except grudgingly to their source of income because of necessity) then they see no value in submission. They aren't disciples and will lack the wisdom of a disciple. Discipleship has submission. It is a vital ingredient.

The Church is a big part of the new testament. I understand people taking issue with places that have problems and not wanting to fellowship everywhere with everyone but to 'throw away' the Church and Bible-centered fellowship and worship has consequences now in this life and later when we stand before God. If teachers teach individualistic doctrine there will be smoke later as the wood, hay and stubble they built their Christian life around goes up in flames. They will also be partially responsible for the smoke in other people's lives also.

If you are reading this and getting angry I understand. Perhaps you are ready to be around imperfect people again. Please pray and seek a place where they open the Bible, worship and pray. If you ask God I know He will be faithful to open doors and show you a place you can call home that will bless you and bring you just a little out of your comfort zone.

God, please keep us from adding wood (human thinking based on natural reasoning) to the foundation you have given us. It looks so pretty and practical at times to add it. It can be moulded and carved in such beautiful patterns. Show us the right way so we can be functioning in a bright eternal mindset.

"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." - 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 KJV

Gold is your deity. Silver is your redemption. Precious stones are the people and memories you give us... relationships formed in the Earth by heat but made to shine in Your hand.


Friday, January 12, 2018

The Wrath Of Man Worketh Not The Righteousness Of God

This morning I am remembering an incident I was involved in several years ago. I was newly ordained and one of my very good friends was being mistreated by another man. This friend was an older more experienced Pastor... a very kind and giving man. I was furious because this treatment was ongoing over several weeks.

One day I got fed up and when me and my Pastor friend were having coffee all my feelings came pouring out. I normally would never tell this person what to do because he was very wise in my eyes but this day I did. I implored him to retaliate or at least defend himself through the correct channels. Part of the abuse involved slander. I'll never forget the look he gave me. He put down his coffee and tears filled his eyes. With a broken voice, he said, 'Show me in the Bible where God says I can act that way. I have looked for a solution like that because I am weary of this but I can't find one. God called me to love people and that is all I can do.'

Wow. My fury dried up in a moment and I realized my long formed concepts of loyalty among friends needed to change. The stakes had gone up. I was now accountable to a higher person.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." - James 1:19-21 KJV

"From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, 'Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.' But he turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.' Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?' " - Matthew 16:21-26 ESV

I have to say that there are still times I feel like Peter.

My friend made it through that time. He didn't compromise his integrity. He is still serving and loving. Thank God he didn't take my advice.

The cross is God's solution for sinful, wicked and shortsighted man. The cross takes something. It interrupts. It is the gateway to burial and then resurrection and then session (sitting with Christ in Heavenly places). It will do it's work if we let it. It will work on us and on the ones we love. This cross isn't our suffering it is Christ's suffering but we get to fellowship with Him and it is a true honor. Painful but glorious at the same time. When emotions threaten to overwhelm we can go there and God will give us something special that can only be found in that difficult place. That is where Heaven meets Earth and transformation begins.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Save Yourselves From This Crooked Generation

"And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.' And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, 'Save yourselves from this crooked generation.' So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." - Acts 2:38-42 ESV

This passage was expounded upon last weekend and it stuck with me. Teaching, fellowship, eating together and prayer. This is what saves us from the corrupting influences of our generation. This is the salt we are preserved in.

I also love How Peter gave them a promise from God. If they 'turned' they would 'receive' the Holy Spirit. It was a sure thing.

If you get in water you will get wet. If you turn because of belief in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit will suddenly saturate and seal you and you will be saved forever and have a Heavenly home. It is a promise. It is a divine post-cross dynamic.

What will we devote ourselves to? Is there a place where we can learn, fellowship, break bread and pray? Is that place baptizing new people? This is what every group of people who believe need. Otherwise, there is no buffer from the subtle corrupting influences of an adulterous generation. Guilt and shame make their way back in again and cause people to forget what happened when they turned to God.

"And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." - Acts 2:43-47 ESV

Wow. That is so good.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

John's Grumpy Babtisms

"He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?' " - Luke 3:7 ESV

This kind of makes me giggle. This was John the Baptist's opening line. He didn't preach the forgiveness of sins. No. He preached that the Messiah was going to come and save people. That was his 'good news'. His baptism was a 'you all are filthy from playing in the mud. Get in this water and wash off your filth.'

Here is his advice to three groups of people. I thought of a parent trying to navigate a car and yelling at his squabbling children in the back seat.

"And the crowds asked him, 'What then shall we do?' And he answered them, 'Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.' Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, 'Teacher, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Collect no more than you are authorized to do.' Soldiers also asked him, 'And we, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.' As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, 'I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.' So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison." - Luke 3:10-20 ESV

John's message was simple, 'Stop being jerks to one another until Messiah gets here to save you!' but people hand out the same advice today as if it has saving qualities. It doesn't. John's 'you all stink' message got him locked up in prison. He is the last prophet under the law of Moses. The law can't save anyone... even it's messenger. John died preaching his 'take a bath already' message.

I don't believe anyone in this age has a ministry like John the Baptist. We don't tell people to clean up their act because salvation is on it's way. We tell them that salvation has already come. We say that Jesus died and is risen from the grave. We preach the forgiveness of sins.

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' But Jesus answered him, 'Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he consented." - Matthew 3:13-15 ESV

I think this is the heart of why John was unwilling to baptize Jesus. Jesus didn't stink. He was the only one that didn't stink. John was well aware all that time as he was dunking others that he needed a bath also but there was no one to wash his soul on the scene yet.

Jesus is the only one who can cleanse our soul. His red blood meets our blackened heart and makes it white as snow. Moral water isn't enough. It never has been.