Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rename The Year

Looking at the year in retrospect we rename it.

"Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.' And he was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.' So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first." - Genesis 28:16-19 ESV

We may have had a rock as a pillow this year. The rock was not a comfortable place to sleep but it was a grace provision and it was on the rock that we saw God's grace. I stack my discomfort up and make it into a monument. Then I pour oil on it.

This year was God's year. Easy and hard all rolled up into one. It was named something else by someone else but God was in it as far as we are concerned.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Wonderful Hosts

I am very wary of 'us' and 'them' distinctions. The Gospel of Grace is an invitation that excludes no one.

When I start thinking 'they' or 'them' I stop and define the group and why I am grouping them. Is the 'them' defined or am I makings a blanket blame statement to put on a faceless group of 'others'? 'I' could easily have been 'them' if circumstances were different.

Does God group people like that? Are they faceless or are they individuals He sees everyday as they wake up and go to bed?

Are we better than 'they' are? Perhaps we are just looking for someone to blame?

God knew we needed a place to put our blame. He needed one also. That place is the cross. Jesus became 'them' so everyone would have an opportunity to be included.

A missionary can't afford to have a 'them' mentality. I want to repent of every thought like that and cast those ideas down as insults against grace when they arise in my mind.

Grace hosted us when we were strangers and made us feel at home. Grace made us Holy as He Is Holy. Jesus invited us into His holiness freely. Grace and mercy has and can make us wonderful hosts to anyone and everyone.


Order We See Versus Life In Christ

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." - Colossians 2:6-8 ESV

Human tradition and the elementary spirits (principles) of the world both appeal to us on some level. One is human order and the other is natural order... things people do and things we observe in nature.

People have traditions... cycles and methods they have developed. They are not spiritual though they may seem that way.

Nature reveals things about it's creator... those things don't go far enough. Nature is a creation and great to study but we must move beyond it.

Spirituality must zero in on Christ and Him alone. Communion is spirituality. Communion and fellowship... Everything else is window dressing.

"For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. " - Colossians 2:9-15 ESV

In Christ something supernatural has happened and is happening. It is not common sense oriented. Traditions give structure and nature gives patterns but resurrection gives LIFE! That is what we need and what people need. If there is no life the structure is an empty husk. If there is life then there is reproduction.

Grace can not be passed on by tradition and it is not found in nature. It is fresh and from the throne or it is not present at all. There are no substitutes. Love, if it is Love, must be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Today we can live in a natural way or we can live as those who are raised from the dead. We can be filled with our own thoughts or we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can live for ourselves or we can reckon ourselves dead and made alive in Christ. Common sense can guide our decisions or faith can give us eyes to see the invisible.

A new year is coming and perhaps we start to think about what we want that new year be like. Does this year belong to God or to us? Who do we belong to?

God, Help us. Truly... We need you. We want to see You and be led by You. Before it is even here we give 2014 to You. We are Yours in it. We know nothing as we aught to. Our sight is limited but Yours is forever. Fills us, help us and go before us.

If this year is established 'In Him' it will be a wonder filled year.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What Do We Say At Christmas?

"A voice cries: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.'

A voice says, 'Cry!'

And I said, 'What shall I cry?'

All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, 'Behold your God!' " - Isaiah 40:3-9 ESV

We know that the voice crying out in the wilderness was John the Baptist. Grace is what would exalt the valleys and lower the mountains... grace would turn the uneven ground level and the rough places into a plain. A king would be born and all people will one day see Him.

What do we say on Christmas? Life is short and we should cherish it. It is like the flower or grass but something lives forever. Truth.

Behold your God and let the truth of grace live in you!

'What Child is This?'
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.
So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him yeah yeah.
the King of kings salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas and See You In 2014

Hello there...

Thanks for reading these posts. God willing I'll see you all in 2014. There may an entry here and there but there isn't likely to be a daily post for the remainder of the year.

Twitter will still be some what active if you like you can follow me there @Allan_Leitner (http://twitter.com/Allan_Leitner)

Merry Christmas!
P Allan Leitner

Pictures Of Rest

The picture of a little baby sleeping in the manger scene is such a picture of rest. Jesus born into the world helpless, harmless and at rest. God in Heaven at rest that His plan would unfold as He willed it. Angels singing.

Meanwhile at the castle (cue the ominous musical score) Herod stewed seeking ways to secure his power.

It is such a contrast.

We can study the baby sleeping and learn some lessons. The scriptures are filled with these pictures of rest.

This time of year, like many times during the year, is a time of diligence. There is so much to do and prepare but can I slow my mind or pause. Sometimes our body is not moving but our mind still is.

Here is a non-Christmas oriented reference but fitting.

"When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia." - 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 ESV

Rest was a barometer to Paul in his ministry. Sometimes we think completing the task will bring rest but in truth I must find rest first or else ask myself, 'Why am I working so hard?'

I was thinking yesterday about 'sin adding to sin' and how that process unfolds. There are the blatant examples like lying to cover a theft or to cover another lie. Things build and build causing a tangled mess but there are less visible examples like fear adding to fear or unforgiveness compounding upon unforgiveness... or lack of rest adding to lack of rest.

We know that if a person does not sleep for long enough they can lose their sanity. Perhaps Heaven sees someone who works and works without pause as spiritually insane.

Watch the baby. See His little chest rise and slowly fall as He sleeps peacefully in a dark world. Jesus the adult slept in the storm (see Luke 8:22f).

Walking with God means that our pace matches His pace. There is a peace for God's people. Grace labors in rest. It does much more in fact then any other thing can hope to do.

Today I am purposing to cast down the things that disturb rest. Those deceptive helpers will turn into accusations later if they are not dealt with decisively. Today is the day that the Lord has made... I want to rejoice... be glad... and have rest in it.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Throw Some Flour In The Pot

Great time at Panera bread last night and when I got home I was thinking about two potent ideas:
- Flour thrown in the poison pot of stew (see 2 Kings 4:39f) as a picture of grace being added to my thinking to heal my mind
- Bread as a picture of grace and truth. Jesus is the true bread from Heaven (see John 6:32f)

It is amazing how helpful these kinds of pictures are. God built us and He knows we learn in different ways. Seeing, hearing and doing are three main avenues that are crucial to learning. We usually favor one of them but God often puts all three together and uses them as 'object lessons'.

Here He uses grain:

"One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, 'O man of God, there is death in the pot!' And they could not eat it.

He said, 'Then bring FLOUR.' And he threw it into the pot and said, 'Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.' And there was no harm in the pot.

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God BREAD of the firstfruits, twenty LOAVES OF BARLEY and FRESH EARS OF GRAIN in his sack. And Elisha said, 'Give to the men, that they may eat.'

But his servant said, 'How can I set this before a hundred men?'

So he repeated, 'Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, 'They shall eat and have some left.'

So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the LORD." - 2 Kings 4:39-44 ESV

Here we see all three forms grain used: Ears of grain, Flour and Bread.

Notice the old testament multiplication of loaves in the last verses 43 and 44. What was done for a hundred men was done for thousands in the Gospels.

My thinking can get like that pot of stew. The wrong thing goes into it and suddenly it is poisoned. The remedy is to add Jesus but not the raw whole life of Jesus. What is added to is the crushed and evenly ground life of Jesus... His life that gave Himself over to the plan of God... His cross life. Thie flour is used for healing.

The raw life and the baked life are needed to sustain us and they are multiplied in our midst. Grace and truth are like a baked loaf. The parts have become a whole nourishing thing that feeds us. A portion prepared for us and served to us as a thought, concept or doctrine. The bread is the word (Logos) and the life experienced from the bread is the meaning it has (Rhema).

"Jesus then said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the BREAD from heaven, but my Father gives you the true BREAD from heaven. For the BREAD of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'

They said to him, 'Sir, give us this BREAD always.'

Jesus said to them, 'I am the BREAD of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." - John 6:32-35 ESV

Jesus is the bread of life but He is not bread prepared by human hands. Our bread is an object lesson to show us something Heavenly. He is bread that was not made or processed in any way.

Jesus is Heaven's bread. Jesus is Heaven's truth and He functions in Heaven's method. He is seamless and uncreated. He nourishes our soul and feeds our inner man. He is food and His blood is drink for us. A thought that offends the natural man and his thinking but causes the spiritual man to reverence God and partake of Him in an intimate way.

Our thinking can get weird at times can't it. Throw a little flour in the pot and take another spoonful. Grace has a way of giving our thinking perspective and removing the poison.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Skip To The End For Courage

Reading Revelation chapters 19, 20, 21 and 22 this morning and these last chapters of the scriptures are just so profound. Jesus takes a bride and then He goes to war.

"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." - Revelation 19:11-16 ESV

The era of darkness is coming to a close... now it is victory after victory.

"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years." - Revelation 20:1-6 ESV

I don't know what you think when you read these passages but to me this is the weight of glory that makes life bearable.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV

This isn't a pie in the sky with harps on a cloud vision of what is to come. This is storming the castle Christianity.

While on one hand I think I live in the best time to be alive it is also a time where we need courage. Courage to act but most of all courage to believe.

"And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' And he said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

But as for the COWARDLY, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.' " - Revelation 21:5-8 ESV

What tops the list? The coward does. Interesting isn't it.

The one who lets emotion master the will turned back when self is in perceived peril. Not a cowardly act. Perhaps we have all been guilty of those. Adam has a cowardly nature. Christ straps a name to His thigh and goes to war. That is His nature. He is trustworthy and true. That is the nature believers have been given. They are born with a victorious nature.

Are you sick and tired? Read the end of the Book. It will give you courage.

Believe in the darkness. Believe in your weakness and in your strength. Believe today.

God, Today we look up and into the future so that we can really live in present. Help us... we know You will.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Sense of Awe

Just taking sometime to think about awe this morning.

A sense of wonder where your senses or reasoning connect with the deep essence of your being and there is a connection and awareness that you are seeing or witnessing something great or beautiful.

There was a sunset last week that stopped me in my tracks and I got as high up in my building as I could to see it and tried to take a picture of it with my phone but the pictures all came out blurry and crooked. I caught a moment of wonder but I could not capture that moment.

For some it is a mathematics equation that elegantly displays a solution or a play in a game that was executed with such ideal timing and precision that it brings a crowd to their feet all at once in a roar of adoration. Someone with little knowledge of math or baseball would find these things interesting and might respond to a reaction others have but the wonder would be lost on them.

Beauty evokes wonder but function can also. Perhaps function is beauty to the mind of an engineer or scientist. A simple but efficient design is beautiful. A tool that just works for you after trying dozens of different similar tools.

I have screwdriver that I used as a technician and it just always seemed catch the screw just right... it never stripped a screw and I could use it to break the tightest seal. At the same time it caught the screw heads and spun them so easily when I was locking something down also. I loved using that tool.

Writing, plot lines or music can evoke this sense also. A mystery that totally catches you off guard and you can trace the clues back in your mind but never saw the conclusion coming. A poem or song that captures a mood or stage of life so well that you identify with it and it brings you into that time or place.

The God of the Bible is a God of wonder... He is beautiful... He is functional... He is the perfect match and mirror for our soul. Every song, poem, sunset and thing that causes us to take pause and gasp culminates in who He is. He is the deep satisfying laughter and sublime perfection that evokes worship.  Hymnals are filled with hearts that desire to describe and extol Him... all of creation is His artistry.

Grace amazes me... it is like visiting the grand masters section of a museum and standing in front of a beloved painting that I have stood before dozens of times but each time it does something to me... God's grace makes for perfect flawless relationships. It brings all of who God is into communion and union with all of who we are. Seamless and functional in every way. There is no ugly underbelly... it is beautiful from every angle.

I love my Bible but I also understand why people walk right by it. The awe is hidden inside it what looks like a normal book. God hides Himself this way.

Grace and mercy open our eyes to what is hidden. Favor that never fails and is never withdrawn beckons us to enter and see sights and words that change us. Grace reveals God but it also captures Him so that we can keep Him. The wonder lives in us. The flame may flicker at times or it may shine brightly but it will never leave or forsake us.

God, We worship You! You are our God of wonders.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Charm and Beauty

" 'Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.'

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates." - Proverbs 31:29-31 ESV

I hope every husband says this about their wives. There is a caring, industrious, thoughtful, wise woman in every woman that knows Christ. Not everyone sees her but she is there. A sleeping beauty who waits for the son of the King to come and awaken her. Awe of God takes a stepchild and makes her into a princess. Her arms become strong. Her heart reaches out and considers others in her schedule. What she does and says is heard and seen on high.

The word translated charm there is really a word that means grace. Grace apart from substance is deceitful. Beauty apart from substance has nothing behind it. These are not born for adversity.

Grace deceitful? Apart from the fear of God it certainly is. Grace and truth meet in Christ and nowhere else. He is the Son of the King... the true noble man and only He can wake the sleeper. Only He can bring life out of death and redemption out of destruction.

The con-man can simulate favor and charm for a while. He or she seems to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22f) for a season. Grace is many things but above all it is a method or mode of operating. The charmer uses it to establish a connection. They give a person special favor and attention so that they can match their actions to a person's preferences and get what they want from them. The goal is a combination of power and pleasure.

Man's favor and beauty will not last. They will fail the test. Perhaps they will make it through the water but not through the fire. God's throne of grace is ever living. His favor can not lie. His beauty will not fade. His love is true, reliable and clean. God's goal is love. He starts there are ends there as well. Redemption is love worked out in time.

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer." - Psalms 19:14 KJV

If our meditation is on God's redemptive favor our words will reflect that favor and those words will impart life.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Missionary Momentum

I don't often mention the term 'Evangelical' but I am one. People have different ideas about what the term means and perhaps people picture someone who is very stern and has a strict moral code that they live by and want to enforce within their society but really an evangelical is a person that sees the power of the Gospel. The Gospel is the focus and not morality or any other man made methods. A person with this focus talks about salvation and emphasizes that it is necessary that a person be saved by The God of the Bible (not by self effort) and because of that evangelicals are annoying to people or philosophies that emphasize self accomplishment.

The fact is... If my Christianity has made me a moral man without momentum my morality will not be satisfying. It may protect me in degrees but morality is not miraculous and my soul craves the miraculous. Grace is the sweet and satisfying sound a soul needs.

Here is a great picture in Isaiah 48 of God explaining this to Israel. It takes up the whole chapter but I am only going to talk out parts of God's reasoning.

"Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the LORD and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right. For they call themselves after the holy city, and stay themselves on the God of Israel; the LORD of hosts is his name." - Isaiah 48:1-2 ESV

Here God is saying that this people group who are descendants of a man who knew God and was transformed by Him that they are much more like the man before he was transformed.

"The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, 'My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.' You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it?" - Isaiah 48:3-6a ESV

"From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, 'Behold, I knew them.' You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened. For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel." - Isaiah 48:6b-8 ESV

" 'Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together. 'Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he shall perform his purpose on Babylon, and his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken and called him; I have brought him, and he will prosper in his way." - Isaiah 48:12-15 ESV

"Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.'

Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, 'The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!' They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and the water gushed out.

'There is no peace,' says the LORD, 'for the wicked.' " - Isaiah 48:18-22 ESV

That was a big chunk of scripture where God is talking to a particular people group but it speaks to me and tells me something as a believer today. You can read this and say, 'Why is God telling them to talk about the red sea that was hundreds of years before this was written and their society must have changed to much by this time?' Yes, We could say the same things about the cross couldn't we? It is a mirror of this passage.

"Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.' " - Mark 16:14-15 ESV

It is important that the message have momentum in our lives both on a personal level and a corporate one. If the message loses momentum we find ourselves reclining at the table.

The bottom line is that the God of the Bible is a saving God. Jesus saves. We need to hear the message coming out of our own mouths.

Does anyone like to be annoying? Maybe some do... I don't. But that always going to be the secret to gaining and maintaining momentum. For some it will mean life and death when they hear our message. They will embrace it and be transformed by it and one soul is beyond price.

God, Give us courage to be harmless, kind and willing to risk this week. It is social risk to sow seed, water it and open our mouths in hope that someone is finally ready. Make us risk takers. You have to do it. Thank you God for the things of old and for what you have in store for the future.

God has done things long ago but He wants to do new things in dark places in the coming days. The missionary is the one who will see the miraculous. The one abroad and the one at home.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Uses for Old Roman Lead

Thinking this morning about old and new things and the value of memory and discovery.

I read an article yesterday while waiting to have coffee with someone who was running late. It was essentially about the overlap of Physics and Archaeology. It was discussing 'old lead' and it's value and uses. Lead is very useful in shielding from radiation. That makes it a vital material for many types of equipment... especially for sensitive measurement equipment. Newly smelted lead however has a degree of radioactivity that fades over time but it takes a long time. The Romans used lead for a variety of things. Lead smelted 2,000 ago has approximately 100,000 times lower radioactive level than lead smelted last week if it was in a place shielded from other radiation like being deep under water. A sunken Roman vessel loaded with lead would be a great scientific find for an archaeologist and for the physics community.

The question then arises, 'Do you preserve history at the expense of scientific advancement?'. This is a rare man made material. It will always have archaeological significance but will have to be changed, modified or moved in some way to have it's other shielding properties utilized. The scientific communities have their own ways of dealing with these issues and they have not always handled them well but in the article I read it seemed like a good compromise was made. The physics community funded the recovery of a Roman vessel and removed the lead for scientific use while scrupulously documenting as much as they could using proper archaeological methods. An expensive undertaking was funded but part of the find was destroyed.

It made me think of the importance of finding a balance between preservation and discovery.

"Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days? Some move landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them. They drive away the donkey of the fatherless; they take the widow's ox for a pledge. They thrust the poor off the road; the poor of the earth all hide themselves." - Job 24:1-4 ESV

"You shall not move your neighbor's landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess." - Deuteronomy 19:14 ESV

"Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless" - Proverbs 23:10 ESV

There are old landmarks in life. Some take up expensive real estate but there are landmarks of the soul also... things we want to keep as they are so they can be remembered. Once the property line has been removed it becomes a free for all and in the end something is lost.

The question is what do you keep and how much. Some folks make everything a landmark and there is no room for anything new. Not everything old is an antique.

"He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine, and cast off his blossom like the olive tree." - Job 15:33 ESV

"Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion." - Isaiah 52:2 ESV

"See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of things that are shaken - that is, things that have been made - in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe," - Hebrews 12:25-28 ESV

God has a plan to shake what He is able to shake. Eternal things are durable things. I don't want to discard those things.

The shaking away of the natural leaves room for the eternal.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV

A soul is an eternal thing. It is durable and it is also a fertile place of discovery.

"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" - Matthew 16:26 KJV

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise." - Proverbs 11:30 NKJV

Old lead has value to the archaeologist and the physicist. Eternal relationships preserve what should be preserved and propel us into the future.

"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." - Luke 12:33-34 ESV


Friday, December 13, 2013

Keeping the Authority Above Our Heads

"At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison - that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak." - Colossians 4:3-4 ESV

"Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner." - Hebrews 13:18-19 ESV

"Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith." - 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 ESV

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us." - 1 Thessalonians 5:23-25 ESV

We need this prayer support. We are complete in Him but still desire prayer. We see the need for it to fill up the empty places.

Notice it says pray for 'us' and not pray for 'me'. The only place recorded in the new testament that says that is a very questionable reference.

"Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, 'Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'

But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.'

And Simon answered, 'Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.' " - Acts 8:18-24 ESV

This Simon was a 'sorcerer'. He leveraged influence for his own gain. He wanted the juice... to be plugged into the power. He was not functioning in faith at this time.

Here is a great passage that came up last night at Panera. My friend recently spoke on this subject.

"So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun." - Exodus 17:10-12 ESV

Aaron was a the high priest and Hur was just an ordinary guy referenced just a couple more times in the scripture. This is his only recorded action. He ascended the mountain, moved a stone and held up one of Moses' hands.

Moses needed to keep the rod of authority above himself in order for there to be victory on the battlefield. Moses knew this and then found it out by experience also. The things is... Moses was not up to the task alone.

If the rod was above his head... victory. If it dropped to low... people died. Wow!

I love the dual method used.

They moved the rock to Moses. They didn't move Moses to the rock. Oh, that is what I want to do. I want to move the rock to people so they can rest. Even that is not a solitary task. A rock that is big enough to sit on is too heavy for me to move alone.

Then they supported Moses' hands but it was not just Moses they supported it was Israel's army and Joshua down on the battlefield also got that support.

Aaron was a professional prayer warrior and Hur was just a guy who likely worked a job but without them both Moses would not have had the strength needed in the struggle behind the battle.

Just me and Jesus is a majority a for sure but God has designed us to have other branches of that divine relationship for the battles we will face in this life. We will not have the strength to face them alone. God is glorified in our ability and our inability. He has a provision for both.

If God puts it on your heart today please pray for 'us'... we need strength for our hands to hold Jesus and His finished work above our heads.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 17

Man's mercy pales in comparison to God's mercy.

"After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), 'I thirst.' A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, 'It is finished,' and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." - John 19:28-30 ESV

I always thought this was curious. Jesus holds this glorious knowledge in His conscious mind at a time where He is physically at His weakest and purposely brings Himself, at great pains, to say, 'I Thirst'. He wasn't asking for help. He was making a statement and the scripture gives us a reason why He said what He did. It was to fulfill scripture. Here are the scriptures that refer to the Messiah's thirst and the use of vinegar.

"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death." - Psalms 22:14-15 ESV

"Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink." - Psalms 69:20-21 ESV

Man's mercy is the nobility of the powerless. Man wants to ease pain. Sour wine is a trick. It dulls the thirst while doing nothing for the dehydration.

God for His own reasons still wanted to showcase man's response even with the full knowledge of the completion of the payment for sin in mind. John's gospel is an eagle eye's view of redemption.

Here is what the man sees (Matthew's account).

"And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, 'Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.'

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many." - Matthew 27:48-53 ESV

God's mercy opens access, shakes the Earth, splits rocks and opens tombs bringing people back to life. That is God's response to 'I thirst.'

Let's hold the knowledge of the Finished Work of Christ in our mind and bring our thirst to God. Thirst for love... thirst for trust... thirst for help... thirst for change... God has an answer and He will split the rocks to make sure it gets to us. He will shake the Earth and open the graves to bring life out of places that once held only death.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Life is Framed by Relationships

This morning reading Spurgeon's devotional it really struck me how our relationships are ordered. Responsibility and accountability flow from our relationship with God outward. The oil flows down on the head first, the beard and then on down to the garments.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory... and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." Colossians 3:1-4, 10 ESV

It is being orienting in right relationship to Jesus that causes me to experience life. He is my life. My renewal is centered in my role as a believer.

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful." - Colossians 3:12-15 ESV

As 'believers' we relate to others. Ones we are in a relationship with because we have Christ in common. We are 'Body Members' or corporate believers. Our spiritual life is individual and corporate... it has two aspects.

Then that branches out to wives and husbands. Both relational terms. You can be a man or woman alone. To be a wife or husband there must be another person in the picture.

"Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." - Colossians 3:18 ESV

"Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them." - Colossians 3:19 ESV

The children and fathers. The marital relationship is a horizontal relation. The parent-child relationship is vertical in time. It begins but one person is always older and the other always younger.

"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." - Colossians 3:20 ESV

"Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." - Colossians 3:21 ESV

Then we have work. The employee and the manager.

"Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality." - Colossians 3:22-25 ESV

"Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." - Colossians 4:1-2 ESV

Both are framed by what has been spoken of previously. A person is a believer, body member, wife and then a waitress. A young unmarried person is a believer body member, son and then an accountant and so on.

"At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison -  that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak." - Colossians 4:3-4 ESV

Then church leadership and missionary roles come next.

"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." - Colossians 4:5-6 ESV

Lastly are outsiders, unknown people... be kind, be wise and let grace flow.

Alone we are just individuals. It is our relationship to God that gives us a life. It is our relationships to others that make up our life.

God, Fill us with Your Spirit today. We want to live and not just exist... we want you be glorified in our midst.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 16

I touched on this subject back in June but never got to really bring it out. How the Finished work of Christ confers on the believer the status of adult friendship and adult son-ship. He put's us immediately at the 'last stage' of an intimate relationship with Himself.

Grace teaches us how to function in the relationship we already have with Him from the moment of our salvation.

"And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.' " Matthew 3:16-17 ESV

Here we see Christ at the inauguration of His Earthly ministry. I have often focused on the statement of the Father praising His Son but the Spirit here shows His approval also in an interesting way. Like a bird He lights upon Christ. Doves are shy creatures but the Spirit of God trusts Christ like a bird that has times of investment so that trust could be gained. Of course the trust and adoration is there. There is eternal oneness in the Trinity. What would seem to take time is timeless in this relationship.

The relationship between David and Jonathan grew. The relationship between Jesus and His disciples didn't. They got to know each other but He didn't get to know them. It was instant.

"Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!'

Nathanael said to him, 'How do you know me?'

Jesus answered him, 'Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.'

Nathanael answered him, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!' " John 1:47-49 ESV

Was Jesus functioning in His omniscience? I don't think so. He laid that aside as He walked as a man (see Phil 2:7). He was a Man functioning in the Spirit with the knowledge He needed when He needed it and grace was His method. He was and Is the channel of grace. Immediate acceptance is the way grace functions.

"Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." John 2:23-25 ESV

Jesus was no fool. Wisdom is not naive. He was willing and waiting to be gracious but did not cast His pearls before swine. But... when there is connection it is full and free with out a probation period.

The finished work of Christ confers a full free relationship to us. Christ lays it like a mantle on our shoulders. He crowns us with loving kindness.

"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:" - 1 John 3:1a KJV

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Romans 8:14 KJV

The 1 John reference uses Teknon (G5043) a word for children and the second verse uses Huios (G5207) a word for an adult son. A teknon became a huios. We have adult status and function in it when we function led by the Spirit of Grace.

"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:15 ESV

We could look at a verse like this and say, 'Look the relationship grew in some way because He is telling them this at a certain point in the relationship.' but when did we ever see Jesus treat any of them like servants? He didn't. This was the transition that Jesus made possible. Man related to God in a servant-master and subject-King relationship. Jesus broke that mold.

When we see the validity of this truth how does it cause us to function? What is the application? How do we approach God? How do we treat the stranger?

Christian love is not foolish but it may seem foolish because it is lavished so freely and so quickly. That may put people off or draw predators that think their scams will have easy targets. No matter. Love wins. It wins because it outlives it's opponents. It wins because it is not foolish. It is Spirit led love.

Monday, December 9, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 15

It is Monday and I am back to thinking and writing about Christ's finished work. Such a great rich topic.

Jesus functioned in a life of unseen purpose for His whole life. Not only was the cross the end of a period of incredible suffering for Christ but it was also the end a life filled with 'musts'.

"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.' " Matthew 16:21-24 ESV

He was a fireman running in and out of a burning building saving as many people as He could and disdaining anything that would seem to get in His way of going back into the blaze to reach another soul.

The very first statement we hear Christ utter reflects His life of 'musts'. If is uttered by Jesus when He was a young boy thought to be lost but found in the temple teaching.

"And he said to them, 'Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?' " Luke 2:49 ESV

Some translate the 'about my Father's business'.

Crying 'It is Finished!' meant the torture was over but it was over because He was exiting the burning building for the last time. The full debt was paid. This had been some messy business.

After the resurrection we see Jesus moving with a different tone. What the law required was past now Jesus moved easily from appointment to appointment with a lightness.

"But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"

She said to them, 'They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.' Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?'

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.'

Jesus said to her, 'Mary.'

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.''

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord' - and that he had said these things to her." John 20:11-18 ESV

Nothing hinders Jesus now... not walls... not transportation. His 'musts' have been transformed. He is new and is still functioning with purpose. He sends us. He lived a life with a work to finish. We live a life in the finished work.

"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.' " Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

It is the resurrected Jesus that is with us not the one in the 'days of his flesh'  (see Heb 5:7). Our Jesus is resting from His labor. He is seated. He moves effortlessly from person to person in full identification with those walking away on the road disgusted and discouraged... those huddling afraid in the upper room... those weeping and waiting at the tomb. He stands ready at the doors of people's hearts knocking and hoping to make entrance into those lives.

I want to inhale His breath of relief and live in rest. My Jesus is the risen Jesus. He is not striving. He has never failed. There is nothing His love can not accomplish.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Regions Beyond

"Not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men's labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. But HE WHO BOASTS IS TO BOAST IN THE LORD. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends." 2 Corinthians 10:15-18 NASB

That phrase, 'to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you' is the the heart of the evangelist... the motto of the missionary. Inside our sphere we are enlarged to go to the regions beyond our sphere. Where we go is outside the boundary of where we have been.

Grace is good for what is close to us and also for what is beyond us. The good news is good news everywhere. It is good in our comfort zone and also outside of it.

It is healthy to go beyond. I think our fears lie often in that unknown territory. We think that the world is flat and that we will fall off. When we go beyond we see that the Earth is round and we can not fall off.

Grace has given us God's approval as an assurance. That approval extends beyond us. It extends beyond our sphere. The one who never ventures into the regions beyond never finds that out for themselves.

Let's go beyond.

If God leads us let's go and see His faithfulness in a foreign setting. What is now outside our sphere will then be incorporated into our sphere which will leave another grand horizon.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Peter Is Transformed

"Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you mean."

And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." And again he denied it with an oath: "I do not know the man."

After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly." Matthew 26:69-75 ESV

What changed Peter from a man who would deny Christ to a waiter and a servant girl into a man who would die crucified upside down who would not even imagine any kind of denial. Record has it he chose to die upside down because he didn't feel worthy to die in the same way his Savior died.

What does that to a man?

Grace does. Grace expressed in a thousand different ways over many years. Grace, Grace and more Grace.

Regret would have killed Peter. Grace saved Peter. Grace Loved Peter. Love transformed Peter.

So it is with us.

Spending My Pleasure

Here are a couple of quotes from a book that changed my life.

"The privilege of actually smoking cigarettes was reserved for the Capo, who had his assured quota of weekly coupons; or possibly for a prisoner who worked as a foreman in a warehouse or workshop and received a few cigarettes in exchange for doing dangerous jobs. The only exceptions to this were those who had lost the will to live and wanted to 'enjoy' their last days. Thus, when we saw a comrade smoking his own cigarettes, we knew he had given up faith in his strength to carry on, and, once lost, the will to live seldom returned." -Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

"One day, a few days after the liberation, I walked through the country past flowering meadows, for miles and miles, toward the market town near the camp. Larks rose to the sky and I could hear their joyous song. There was no one to be seen for miles around; there was nothing but the wide earth and sky and the larks' jubilation and the freedom of space. I stopped, looked around, and up to the sky - and then I went down on my knees. At that moment there was very little I knew of myself or of the world - I had but one sentence in mind - always the same: 'I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in the freedom of space.'  How long I knelt there and repeated this sentence memory can no longer recall. But I know that on that day, in that hour, my new life started. Step for step I progressed, until I again became a human being." -Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

As you can see it is not light reading. It is a book that helped me connect some of the dots between the roles of purpose and pleasure in my life. Here is the verse Frankl quotes in the verse above in context.

"Oh let the house of Aaron say, 'His lovingkindness is everlasting.' Oh let those who fear the LORD say, 'His lovingkindness is everlasting.' From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place. The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?" - Psalms 118:3-6 NASB

As free people opportunities for pleasure are all around us but what is the role of pleasure... the pursuit of pleasure... are we 'smoking our own cigarettes'... has pleasure ceased to be currency just because I am free? I don't think it has.

Don't get me wrong I'm not an ascetic who spurs pleasure in favor of discipline. I just see the link between pleasure for pleasures sake and hopelessness.

Grace is a wide open field filled with pleasure and freedom.

I think love is linked to this whole idea also. I think we can confuse love and lust very easily. We can enjoy the feeling of caring about someone but never bring God into the center of the relationship. Our love is really a 'smoking our own cigarettes' kind of love.

In grace we find a 'What can man do to me?' kind of love that is extremely pleasurable because it is based in a 'His lovingkindness is everlasting.' perspective. The great commandment and the great commission are based in this kind of love.

Towards the end of the book Frankl talks about the disillusionment of survivors. They may have survived the imprisonment only to find out that the thing that kept them going no longer existed. The town, the wife or the life they had was wiped away. He said that was harder on people then the suffering of imprisonment.

Grace never leaves us disillusioned.

"I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean... So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men." - Romans 14:14, 16-18 ESV

Peace and joy are not situational. Man can not give them or take them away. They are conditions linked to a grace based righteousness that is spirit and communion oriented.

As a free person... How will I find my pleasure? How will I spend my pleasure? This coming weekend leaves open several options. God is not pleased by the asceticism of duty. He is pleased by faith.

God, Guide us into the wide open space. We want to spend the weekend in the wide open spaces.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 14

"And God said, 'Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.' And it was so. ... And God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds - livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.' And it was so." Genesis 1:11, 24 ESV

If 'like begets like' what does the finished work produce?

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 ESV

Why do we not regard Christ, a perfect person, after the flesh? I always thought this was an interesting idea. I think it is the same reason the Israelite's were not to make graven images of God. Any image would fall short of perfection. Jesus is not just the image he bore on the Earth. Men got glimpses of His glory before the cross. He dwells in that glory now. We are not to confine our imagination to the flesh. We see by faith with grace as our lens.

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:29-31 ESV

One bit of a fruit brought ruin to the human race. Things have been decaying ever since. One bite of 'It is Finished' brings a newness that will continue to spread through a person. It will overtake creation and one day death will be swallowed up in victory. The last inch of desert will bloom.

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6 ESV

"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." Colossians 3:9-10 ESV

Natural plants and creatures replicate using seed or cells split imparting the nature to a new version of itself. God creatures using words. Words uncover reality. God's words create reality. His words are seeds and the light that every seed needs.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV

People are so different from each other. Every one carries their own history and unique fingerprint. Grace produces the same kind of newness in each person without destroying their uniqueness.

We speak finished work words by faith. When we do it our mouth is in agreement with Heaven's decree. We bind and loose in a powerful reproductive way. Living in grace and love sets the stage for a glimpse of Christ that will transform.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 13

Can a man lay his hands on another man and bless that man as was done in the Hebrew scriptures? It seems that Christ's finished work includes a wrapping up of blessings and the power to bless into Christ.

"By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff... And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us." Hebrews 11:20-21, 39-40 NKJV

Can a father or mother bless their children. Yes. If a father says to his son, 'I am proud of you. You will be a fine strong man someday.' that is a blessing. Not a blessing like the Hebrew scriptures speaks of but a blessing for sure. Fathers have that power.

Jacob however put his hands on each of Joseph's son and said words that had spiritual power. They had that power because of Christ and what Christ would soon do.

"For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned." Hebrews 6:7-8 ESV

"God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness." Acts 3:26 ESV

God sent Christ to rain grace upon you and water the Gospel of Grace like rain waters a seed. Is there ground that receives that seed? Is so it grows and the blessing that is in Christ is manifested.

"Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them." Mark 10:15-16 KJV

Oh yes He did! He still does every day. He has that power. Our words and our hands bring people to Him and He swoops them up into His arms. He puts His hands on their heads. He blesses them.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" Ephesians 1:3 KJV

God has blessed us. He has blessed us in Christ.

Here are two great sets of verses:

"but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?" James 3:8-11 ESV

"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Romans 7:21-24 ESV

I used to think the verse in James meant that blessing was the right thing and cursing was the wrong thing. I should bless instead. Likewise I used to think the verse in Romans talked about being good and the hindrances that we have that need to be overcome.

One uses words and the other actions. If I try to bless I fail. If I try to be good I fail. That whole system needs to be junked. A finished work economy wraps it all up in Jesus. My words and actions must all point to Him and be sourced in Him. Everything else is corrupt communication.

Jesus sent His disciples and we are sent ones also.

"After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

And he said to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.

Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house!' And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.

Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'

But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.'

I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town." Luke 10:1-12 ESV

It is finished. All blessing sits at the right hand of the father. The power to send is the power to bless. The power to speak about grace that brings a blessing is our power. We don't need to be blessed. If we have received the message and the messenger then we are blessed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 12

When Jesus finished the work He set in motion a permanent change in spiritual leadership.

Whenever leadership switches hands there are changes of some kind. Authority flows from the top down and the tone and philosophy of the leader will trickle down and affect every part of what is submitted under that leadership in some way or another. If that leadership is good then reform happens with resistance. If bad then erosion happens with resistance.

"I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." Psalms 2:7-8 KJV

If we look carefully at this passage (quoted in part in Hebrew 1:5) we see that this is not talking about the incarnation (Jesus' Earthly birth) but His session (Jesus' ascension to the throne).

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high" Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV

The first Adam, a creation, was passed by and a second man was given a place on the throne. This man was not created. We see the blessing of the first born being given to the second son again and again in the Hebrew scriptures (Jacob is blessed instead of Esau).

The moment Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father new policies were put in place for everyone under that new leadership. Grace was always God's policy but it was not Adam's policy. Adam was alienated from God. It is Jesus' policy. Now God and man are of the same mind and a man sits on a throne in Heaven.

"David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.' ' " Mark 12:36 ESV

The policy maker is in place. Now His policy is reaching into all the places were He has been given authority and there is resistance.

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 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: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues' " Mark 16:15-17 ESV

Leadership has changed hands. Adam is no longer in charge. He was given dominion but like Ahab he was a fallen man with evil influences. He is overruled now by a higher authority. Adam never sat on the throne that Jesus sits on. No one else ever has.

No matter what Earthly administration we may fall under. Over the last 2,000 years believers have found themselves in every variety and strange combination. If we are in reform or decline... friendly or hostile... God is our King and we are His ambassadors on the Earth.

An ambassador has the power of delegated authority. That is the power we use in warfare and what makes us salt and light in any place we are assigned to.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 11

Spiritual warfare and the finished work of Christ is a great subject.

'Get thee behind me Satan.' is a phrase an individual may utter all the time or one that they never utter at all. Perhaps that depends on what teachers they have had or books they have read. Is there a devil under every rock and misfortune or is it all people and events? Where is the battle and who are we resisting?

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." Colossians 2:13-15 ESV

I love this verse. The invisible enemy becomes visible right here. A decisive victory is won. The decisive one. When they nailed Jesus' hands and feet to that tree they also nailed the kingdom of darkness' principle weapon there also... condemnation... Christ came off the tree and lives... condemnation never did... those papers are pierced and blood stained... ruined forever.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV

Yes. Every thought that is raised up to obscure or contradict the knowledge of God is a thought that must be cast down. Every thought that contradicts what Christ has accomplished should have a boot firmly planted on it's neck pinning it to the ground where it belongs. Simple really... if we see what needs to be done.

The first step in warfare is to discern that an attack it is happening.

"Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, 'Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.' " Revelation 12:10-11 NKJV

The war is over. We see the future victory here in the book of Revelation. A mighty dark tree falls and crashes to the ground. Hell will be the final destination for these false rulers and authorities. They have been spoiled completely at the cross.

That victory is not seen in time yet but these invisible foes leave foot prints that can be seen... condemnation. The finished work gives us night vision. Grace opens our eyes. We see those glowing foot steps a mile away. Those dirty birds need never make a nest near us or in our thinking.

How did those Revelation Saints overcome?... 'by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death'... that is our victory as well.

Sandwiched between the blood of Christ, a physical gift of grace, and selfless abandon, a result of grace, are words backed by thoughts... words that tell a victorious personal story of grace... those words have power in the context of the finished work of Christ. Those words are filled with light that dispels darkness.

Monday, December 2, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 10

The cross exposes the natural man. Jesus finished that work also on the cross. He proved that independence apart from God not only makes men dangerous to themselves but dangerous to all things that are holy.

"'You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.'

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'

But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him." Acts 7:51-57 ESV

People have wrongly used the cross as a weapon against the Jewish people to justify antisemitism. God used it as a tool to expose the the whole human race.

"For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." Romans 8:6-7 ESV

The law exposed the results of the fall but the cross was the ultimate exposing act. Fallen man not only would murder God if he could... he did murder God when given the chance.

"So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him." Romans 8:12-17 ESV

We are reborn as heirs. We are no longer debtors. Now we are heirs. The Spirit bears witness to that fact.

"Then I said, 'Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.' " Psalms 40:7-8 ESV

The Spirit bears witness to our relationship but we will always need objective truth to guide us. Jesus came in the book but the book was in Him also.

"For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth." Psalms 44:25 KJV

You may have noticed that many born again people believe some very strange things. Lineage does not automatically create wisdom. We need objective truth that the Spirit gives a witness to and uses to teach us. The letter can be dead with out the Spirit but the Word of God made alive by the Spirit of God produces miraculous results.

"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;

The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;

The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;

The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." Psalms 19:7-14 NKJV

The cross has taught me that I can not be trusted to function on my own. I still can not understand my own errors. I need light and the Bible serves that purpose.

"And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Luke 1:33 KJV

Jacob was a deceiver. God reigns over a household of deceivers. He has remade the whole human race as a potter remakes a broken pot. Humanity was condemned but God has remade a remnant for Himself.

"But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4 KJV

This Monday morning I need grace and truth and by God's grace I have both things. I have a bible in my hands that is being hidden line by line in my heart and I have a Savior. They seem separate but they are one. I will never outgrow either of them.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Spiraling Through Circumstances

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you" 1 Peter 5:6 ESV

Humility spirals us through circumstances. When we come under God's might by faith as an overcomer then God shows us Christ's eternal victory in time and space.

Receiving grace is the victory. We come under then God catapults us above the situation where our minds are fixed on the 'above things' that are Heavenly.

As the stones were hitting Steven God was spiraling him into the Heavens (see Acts 7:59f). Steven saw Jesus standing up and forgave those that were hurting him. Steven had great grace for what was happening.

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:37 ESV

Am I small and light enough to come under and be spiraled upward? Perhaps eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has made me high minded and heavy. All that judgement makes me a big, important but Earth bound man (or woman).

"But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." 1 Corinthians 15:46-50 ESV

If justice is not already satisfied then my mind is weighed down by that dilemma. Natural evaluation is going to anchor us in the dust. Jesus is the second man. When we are born of the Spirit and walk in the Spirit we live in the realm of Grace and Truth.

"Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven." - Psalms 85:10-11 KJV

The Cross is where all justice is satisfied. It has removed what was tethering us to the Earth. When justice is satisfied Grace can lighten our load. We are buoyant and not tied down by the dust. God's Love received puts us in a place where God can exalt us if He chooses to.

Friday, November 29, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 9

"For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." Romans 11:29 ESV

"But the anointing that you received from him abides in you..." 1 John 2:27a ESV

"...the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:30b ESV

God does not regret what He has done by grace or what He is doing by grace... His many gifts and many initiations to us.

I was thinking about the anointing oil this morning. It was special unduplicatable oil poured on kings, priests and objects in the holy places.

"Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy." Exodus 40:9 ESV

" 'And do not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you.' And they did according to the word of Moses." Leviticus 10:7 ESV

"He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD." Leviticus 21:12 ESV

The oil speaks of God's Holy Spirit. Once sealed with the Spirit we are considered inside the temple... a part of a holy structure. Just like oil does not sit on the skin and then is gone when washed away. Some gets absorbed into the skin and becomes one with the person.

When we received Christ we became one with Him and what He did. There can be no real and lasting separation. The priests were told not to leave. They could but they were told not to as a picture. We have a work of grace that never leaves us. We are in the temple and the temple is in us... by grace.

The moment the oil touched the man who would be king it sealed the transfer of power (see 1 Samuel 16:13 with David). He was destined to rule. The moment the oil touched the furniture or the priest it or he was made holy. It took shed blood and oil.

At the moment of our salvation... the moment we believed that the death, burial and resurrection was true and for us we were touched and sealed by the Spirit and all kinds of gifts and transfers were made and put on our account. Our destiny was set.

God is going to spend the rest of our lives initiating to us as He sees fit but it will be to open our eyes to what has already happened and based upon what is already finished. The oil is God's finishing touch. We are a finished work also. God loves us just as we are. Our growth and sanctification only changes us into the likeness of what we already have become.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 8

Psalm 119 is such a rich Psalm. If you read it straight from beginning to end it seems to get repetitive but each section is broken out by a specific Hebrew letter. Each letter is associated with words or concepts beginning with that letter.

This particular section relates strongly to our topic... 'The Finished Work of Christ':

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.
The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.
I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad." Psalms 119:89-96 ESV

God's word is forever settled in Heaven. It remains vigilant and ready there in it's correct place forever. God's faithfulness also stands and is expressed in every generation.

What Christ has done covers all of humanity. Our perception of what Christ has done has a preserving power on our mind. God does the keeping. The precepts of God become building blocks for our thinks but they are all nestled under the covering of the big picture.

The last verse is especially telling. Here is a breakdown of the Hebrew.

"I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad." Psalms 119:96 KJV

Seen - Ra'ah (Strong's H7200) - To observe, watch or perceive
End - Qets (H7093) - Cut off point
All Perfection - Tiklah (H8502) - Perfect completion or fulfillment, to be consumed fully as by fire
Commandment - mitsvah (H4687) - Blessed participation
Exceeding - Me'od (H3966) - much, many, abundant force
Broad - Rachab (H7342) - Wide, like the freedom of an open field

If we have consciously observed the work of the cross then we have seen the end of perfection. Sin has been utterly consumed as if by fire and open before us is a broad place of freedom.

The letter LAMED is linked to learning or instruction and the fullness of a people group. God clearly links teaching and understanding to the eternal nature of His word and the finished state of His work. Holy ideas are always resting on the immovable, everlasting and complete. These are not theories they are finished facts.

Hope can't be a theory. Theories have room for doubt. Hope must be based on something proven.

The cross has given us something proven and lasting. We have seen the end of all perfection.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It Is Finished - Part 7

"As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. 

You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment. Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. 

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." James 5:10-20 NASB

Job saw the 'outcome of the Lord' (or end of the Lord) and Elijah was just a person like you and i.
Why bring the elders of the Church to the sick person? Doesn't it say in the next verse that we can pray for one another and there will be healing also?

Is it because the elders have authority? Yes. They do have it. They have the authority given in a structure that is based on knowledge of the 'outcome of the Lord'. If they are anointed and God appointed elders then they are well versed in forgiveness. They aren't going to stop at oil and prayer because they love and see with discernment. These elders are well versed in forgiveness based counseling.

But, Anyone who sees the finished work can turn someone back. Grace words wake the sleeper and provide a way back to someone wandering, lingering or lost.

"I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." 1 John 2:12-14 ESV

"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." 1 Timothy 5:17 KJV

Amen to that. But not because it is about the men themselves. It is about Jesus. It is about the message. It is about faithfulness to proclaim the outcome of the cross and the Lord of compassion and mercy. Don't muzzle that ox.

The Gospel of Grace belongs to every believer. The young freshly forgiven one and the old one who has learned the value of forgiveness again and again.

If we walk by sight the outcome may not look very promising at times. When the finished work of Christ is our frame of reference then our moments can be filled with faith and the miraculous can happen at any time.

A short prayer is a potent prayer when you believe.