Monday, September 30, 2013

The Authority of Citizenship

"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:11-14 ESV

We are pulled out from under a power or domain of oppression and ushered into a kingdom filled with patience, joy and thankfulness. Grace involves the belonging of citizenship.

The word for domain here is Exousia (G1849) and it speaks of an authority. It is the same word used here:

"He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." Colossians 2:15 ESV

Authorities govern social laws or rules. They impose isolation using darkness. It could be anything from racial segregation to cliques in a high school parking lot. Some people may seem to be on top but really everyone involved is under it.

"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. ... But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. ... If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." 1 Corinthians 12:13-14, 18-20, 26-27 ESV

Grace removes every reason for isolation. Now everyone involved really is involved. No one is forced to be under anyone else. In honor we exalt each other in love.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35 ESV

That is the love that people will see and be amazed at.

"By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another." 1 John 3:10-11 ESV

This equality in honor is the practice of righteousness spoken of here. Only grace can produce it in relationships. Religion will impose one social bondage or another. Secularism will exalt a kind of equality without power. Grace is Godliness. It has all the authority of citizenship.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Stubbed Toes

"Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him,

'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'

And he said, 'Who are You, Lord?'

Then the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'

So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do You want me to do?'

Then the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.' " Acts 9:1-6 NKJV

Saul was a tent maker who had wandered blindly unto God's job site. Like a visitor up at night in a strange house stubbing his toe on an unseen end table Paul also stumbled over what God was doing. It's structure was unfamiliar. The stakes that held it up were unyielding.

Saul knew God was using tent making language. In one statement God revealed Paul's unseen and uncommunicated frustration. God gave Him the missing puzzle piece. Saul became Paul. It was 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting...' that was missing.

Life is hard we lack ability to cope wit it because we don't know who Jesus Is. We don't see how He knows us, excepts us and identifies with us. Either we have forgotten or we have never been told. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Rain may be a blessing to some and a curse to others. The circumstances may seem similar but hearing 'I am Jesus' changes our focus entirely.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Comfort in Identification

"You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip." Psalms 18:35-36 ESV

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Psalms 23:4 KJV

God's gentleness does something to us. God's power, willingness and availability to protect and cover us does something also. Both provide comfort. The comfort and contact combined with God's ability to be less gentle with those that mean us harm. The arms that embrace us are the arms that protect us.

We all need comfort don't we? Sometimes the comfort is the simple idea that we have not been forgotten. At other times it is a more active thing.

There is an identification in comfort. A person comes from a position of strength and meets us where we are living and by their actions or words reveals a connection to our circumstances or feelings. It could be just a hug or sitting together for a time. Sometimes it is a certain look across a room and it just says, 'Although I am standing over here I am also with you over there.'

Jesus mastered identification... the woman at the well... touching the leper... weeping over Jerusalem... Martha, Mary and Lazarus... He even identified with Judas although it was never reciprocated... Saul was persecuting Christians but Christ still said to him, 'It is hard for you to kick against the goads...' Christ knew what Saul was feeling and He communicated it. Saul became Paul the Apostle due to that brief encounter.

Jesus so identified with us that He hung on a cross in our place absorbing the full fury of God's wrath. He satisfied God's justice and made peace for us while shielding us.

God the Father looks at Jesus on the cross and sees us there also. That full identification carries us through burial into Resurrection and sitting with Christ (in Christ) on a throne in Heaven at the Father's right hand.

"Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you." 2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV

"Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NKJV

We comfort one another in identification... that is why condemnation is the relationship killer. It creates a barrier where identification has been denied for some reason.

Jesus never condemns us. He always identifies with us.

I don't know about you but that comforts me greatly today.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Give Me The Foolish Cross

"For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 ESV

King James uses foolishness instead of folly. I like foolishness better. The cross is either foolishness or it is the power of God. It may be the most polarizing act in human history. It will not fit the mold of man's natural thinking.

The cross becomes hope the the hopeless. It is medicine for the sick. In it the meek see instruction. For the humble it becomes a doorway.

All the while the intellectual can look on and find reasons to scoff it. The healthy see no need for that kind of healing. The Earthly minded just person sees forgiveness like that as a dangerous precedent.

"For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 ESV

We are all become equals at the foot of the cross. Christ had such power in His weakness. It is a drawing power. God's love on display.

One of Christ's names is the Rose of Sharon. A flower is a good example and lovers use them all the time. If you chop up a flower and examine it's chemical properties you discover one thing about it. If you pluck it fresh and hand it to a young lady you discover another.

I want to hand out the cross like I would hand out a flower.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Going After It

A message we often hear is, 'Go after what you want.' Passivity is made out to be the greatest character flaw. If the pursuit is done in a moral way that is fine but becoming more and more optional. Nothing should stand between a person and what they want (need, love, etc...). The hero is the person that steps up and goes for it. Doing this is supposed to complete a person somehow.

The religious hero is one who puts what their God wants first. That sounds better... selfless. Several questions then arise:

Who is their God?
What does this God want?

Religion has wrong answers for one or both of these questions. It can't get them right. What people want themselves always seems to get in the way. How they think they should be or think becomes a hindrance.

"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers." James 1:13-16 ESV

"But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish." Deuteronomy 30:17-18a NASB

If a person lives pursuing what they want they will be tempted and drawn away. That direction always leads to death and emptiness.

Being good doesn't help much. Trying to be good just produces evil.

"Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me." Romans 7:20-21 KJV

It is not just that I can't be good. Trying to be good is a flawed act in itself and produces flawed results.

That just brings us to religion of some kind. It is so safe. We can just honor someone else's wishes. If they are wrong for wanting what they want the blame is off of us and on them. It could be God's wishes. It could be our family's wishes. It could be our country. That way is the way of darkness.

"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! - assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV

Take Ananias and Sapphira from Acts chapter 5. They tried to have their cake and eat it too.

"But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.' When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it." Acts 5:3-5 ESV

Here the word for Satan means adversary. What did the adversary do? He filled their heart with what they wanted and got them to commit (or conspire) to some outwardly religious act. Their lust made them blind to the real person they were lying to.

"The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." Psalms 16:5-8 ESV

What a stunningly simple passage. It is spiritual... not moral or bogged down in self. This is where joy and peace live.

God said this to David after lust had drawn him out into la la land.

"And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight?" 2 Samuel 12:8-9a KJV

The path to life is in dying to what we want and living a transparent life before God. We receive grace upon grace in freedom. What we want is dead already. We are dead already. The cross killed that life so a new person could live today.

"For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions." Romans 6:10-12 ESV

"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14 ESV

What is the true selfless act? The thing that pleases God that we all know we should be doing but can't find in morality.

"What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people." Psalms 116:12-14 ESV

It is to receive grace! Grace makes our measuring lines fall in pleasant places. Grace gives us a cup that overflows. When what Christ has done on the cross is 'always before us' and 'at our right hand' of approval then we will not be shaken.

God knows what we want and He knows what we need. He sees things in clarity. If we go after Him it will all fall into place in time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Redeeming Isolated Time

"See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV

The dominoes of the fall are still knocking one isolated moment into another in a stream... cause and effect... cause and effect... cause and effect... faith interrupts that cycle and redeems time moment by moment. It reveals God's presence. Faith unveils eternity like an island in the stream of time.

Days without faith are evil because they cause ruts in a person's thinking. Innocence is lost and cause and effect begins to seem normal. Wonder is discounted as childlike and foreign.

Some people turn to magic as a pale substitute for wonder. Magic exalts the possible. Fiction is interwoven with magic... lives and lands created by fallen men for fallen men. Wonder begins with God and returns to Him. That awe is the beginning of wisdom. Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all wonder. Everything made begins and ends with Him. Unbelief gives us no choice but to settle for second or third best substitutes.

"If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 ESV

A home that has a believer has a witness of Christ's presence in it's midst. A believing spouse sanctifies that household. That person is redeeming time within a certain social space. Evangelizing speech gives people an entrance into their first eternal moments. Edifying speech builds a capacity to stay in eternal perspective and live there.

Quiet believing gives a witness of the eternal. Communicating the Gospel of Grace gives an entrance into the eternal.

The world is filled with people who are being buried by time. Cause and effect is slowly killing them. Christ is God's finger reaching in through the veil of forever to save us from isolated faithless moments. People need a way in.

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." Jude 1:20-25 ESV

The Gospel has been given to us to connect us and remove the illusion of disconnection.

Lord, Fill us with Your Spirit and by love let us live eternity in every moment so that we function in wholeness. Make our lives a light on a hill and open our mouths to communicate an entrance into our Hope.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Only Believe

There have been things we have prayed for and they happened just the way we asked. Sometimes the answer or provision was so quickly executed that it shocked us. Other times our prayers seemed to go on deaf ears. Maybe all of us have invested time and resources based on an certain answer not getting the result we expected or thought we needed.

Prayer has left me elated and disappointed. It has strengthened my faith and also weakened it.

To believe in a good God but still face disappointment can turn a person introspective. It is not God's fault... maybe something is wrong with us?

"And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, 'What are you arguing about with them?' And someone from the crowd answered him, 'Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.' " Mark 9:14-18 ESV

The scribes and the disciples are arguing. Why? Mainly it seems because Jesus was away on the mountain and this man had brought his son so that Jesus would heal him and the disciples prayed but it was unsuccessful.

"And he answered them, 'O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.'

And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.

And Jesus asked his father, 'How long has this been happening to him?'

And he said, 'From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.'

And Jesus said to him, ' 'If you can!' All things are possible for one who believes.'

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.'

And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, 'He is dead.' But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose." Mark 9:19-27 ESV

No one at this scene seems to understand why things went this way. The disciple had been healing people. Jesus seemed to impart His authority to them at one point and they lived that way until now.

"And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, 'Why could we not cast it out?' And he said to them, 'This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.' " Mark 9:28-29 ESV

A lot can be said about prayer and fasting but let's focus on the question we started with, 'What do I do with unanswered prayer?' and 'How do I cope with the results of unanswered prayer?'

Both the father of the child and the disciples did the only satisfactory thing we can do. They went directly to Jesus and talked to him about it.

He graciously answered the father and told him how profitable faith was... He looked him in the eyes and basically said, 'Trust me. Trusting me is always a good thing to do.'

To his disciples He said, 'I will give you wisdom. You have authority but as you walk with me you will get wisdom. Grace will teach you.'

Instead of searching out our 'double mindedness' and getting introspective we learn over time to look to Christ and listen to him. We learn to trust his plan and that active faith is profitable beyond the results we desire. To a believing person 'all things are possible.' That is an amazing truth.

Jesus is the one who refocuses the lens of our faith to a place of clarity. Grace is what we need. Grace and lots of mercy. Scripture will change our thinking over time and show us how to think. There will be a day when our heart will overflow with gratefulness. We will thank God even for the things that disappointed us when clarity comes.

We see through a glass darkly now. Let's take the light we have been given and use it to 'Only Believe'. In the end we will not be ashamed that we did.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Choose Life

Why do people who would never think about playing the lottery start thinking about it when the winnings start getting really really high? Maybe it is because the cost to investment ratio becomes more and more disproportionate. Suddenly it seems worth it.

"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. ... I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20 ESV

Life is the greatest possible return and death is the greatest loss or risk.

I sat with a man recently who is angry about the slaughter of millions of people over the centuries... It is a contradiction that he can not reconcile against the existence of a good caring God. There either can't be a God at all or if He has the control He claims He must be immoral.

Knowing the capacity of the mind to suppress things it can't reconcile I can understand how negating God's existence on a conscious or subconscious level would be the easier choice. The thought that God is immoral or evil would produce a fear I wouldn't want to live in.

Back to choices. What if all my choices are life or death ones? What if time is short and each moment is more costly than any lottery prize could ever hope to be.

Mankind has suffered like they have because of choices. God is not immoral... he is respectful. Yes, He has set the stakes very high because He wants each of us to get great returns on each investment of faith.

Without Jesus we could not find the right choice. It was death, death and more death. We were condemned already.

"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus" 1 Corinthians 1:4 ESV

Grace was given in Christ so that we could say, "Yes and Amen'. Every time we do we win and live in the victory that is already ours.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Quit Ye Like Men

A drill Sergeant looks at young undisciplined men unloading from a bus and does not want those young soon to be soldiers to die on the field of battle. He wants them alive and growing old somewhere. He is indifferent to their feelings but he wants them to fight and live.

"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." 2 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV

"In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good." Ecclesiastes 11:6 ESV

God is a King and a Father. He has a will and a battle plan. He wants his soldiers and his civilians to live.

Grace is the channel that love and all it's attributes are expressed. The battle field is in the mind. It is the soul. Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost so that those lost people would be found and saved alive. Grace will bring the love that saves them.

"But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." 1 Timothy 6:11-12 ESV

We are armed with the Gospel. Idleness will kill us. Our moving feet allow us to dodge death.

"He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." Isaiah 2:4 ESV

If I am armed with the right weapons I can not harm my fellow soldiers with friendly fire.

"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10 ESV

God... govern us with Your love today. Let grace and mercy remove any hindrances in our mind or soul. Give us objective insight into Your battle plan God. We are not our own. We need You to lead us to the green pastures and the lost sheep. Give us ears to hear Your leading.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Faith That Conceives

"As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.

And Eli said to her, 'How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.'

But Hannah answered, 'No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.'

Then Eli answered, 'Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.'

And she said, 'Let your servant find favor in your eyes.' Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her.

And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, 'I have asked for him from the LORD.'

The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, 'As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the LORD and dwell there forever.'

Elkanah her husband said to her, 'Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the LORD establish his word.'

So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli.

And she said, 'Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD.'

And he worshiped the LORD there." 1 Samuel 1:12-28 ESV

There are three people represented in this passage... Hannah, Elkanah her husband and Eli. I can relate to all three of them. It would not be hard to walk around in the shoes of these people for a while and relate to their lives.

As I look at them I imagine a preacher giving a neat thorough three point sermon on their lives... Hannah's faith... Elkanah's consistency... Eli as a kind of clueless person used by God...  verse by verse and point by point it would all come out... then at the end the impassioned plea calling us to faith for one reason or another because we were brought down a logical road that brought us to a conclusion. I get it. I've been that guy also. That's great... just reading the passages I have composed pieces of sermons in my head that may end up as seed thought for messages spoken in the future but in me is a longing for more... I must have something from God.

I want the miracle. I ask for the thing that won't happen by sight. I yearn for it. There must be a connection... a conception... I want new life.

My lips move but no words come out of my mouth... like Hannah did. I live in my spiritual routine but I'm ready to make grace adjustments... like Elkanah did. I stand in wonder looking on a bit befuddled at what the God of all grace does like Eli might.

God sees faith. God remembers faith.

"And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice." 1 Samuel 2:19 ESV

One day we will make little sets of clothes for our miracle. That is one of the beautiful things about dealing with God. Then it will grow and we will make some more and so on and so on.

So this is a place where I would normally put an 'impassioned plea' for the reader. How about a suggestion today instead... read your Bible and send a prayer up to God. Make an 'impassioned plea' of your own. Send a prayer up like Hannah did.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Distractions from Grace

I have been bouncing from Song of Solomon to Job and then to looking at these three temptations this morning.

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, 'IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, COMMAND THESE STONES TO BECOME LOAVES OF BREAD.' But he answered, 'It is written, ''Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.''

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, 'IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD, THROW YOURSELF DOWN, FOR IT IS WRITTEN, ''HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU,' AND ''ON THEIR HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'' Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.''

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, 'ALL THESE I WILL GIVE YOU, IF YOU WILL FALL DOWN AND WORSHIP ME.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ''You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'' Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him." Matthew 4:1-11 ESV

If we are drawn by grace we will see making our own provision as a temptation. If we are drawn by grace we will see forcing God's hand as a temptation. We need to be unstable in how we relate to God in order for either of these to work. They are like moral questions. They push us in directions that have answers without the Spirit's guidance. They deal with issues in the moment... hunger and need is the first level of testing... security and response time are the second.

Once our identity is proven to be secure the accuser does the full frontal attack and tries to overwhelm us and shake us from that position by saying 'If you have such a great relationship with God why don't we have the same relationship. Worship me and I'll do things you like on your time table.' It is a lie of course.

We are tempted by all these things as well. If we fall at number one we never get to number two. If we fall at number two our identity is not where we are living or it has not been established in our thinking. Number three is always going to be out there. Number three got Jesus angry because He had the loyalty of unity and the World held no attraction to Him.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Secret Love

I was thinking about concealed or hidden affection... No one really wants love to be hidden but it often is. Why? Maybe because of a lack of certain communication skills or in seeming opportunity to warrant communication.

There can be blockages or funny masked methods that express love. Men kid each others in almost insulting ways saying things in humor. It is really affection of some kind but the signals can seem a little mixed. Strange how that is.

"Open rebuke is better than secret love." Proverbs 27:5 KJV

The verse above is a proverb and Hebrew proverbs have a few defined rules and if you know them it makes them easier to understand.

There are three kinds of parallelisms we see in the book of Proverbs. Truth is built using these parallelism that take short statements or nuggets of truth and builds them into a structure of wisdom. Here they are:

Synonymous Parallelism (Repetitious) - Repeating to reinforce a truth
Antithetic Parallelism (Contrastive) - Just as one side or concept is true the other opposite concept is also true
Synthetic Parallelism (Completive) - Expanding a truth with a new or reinforcing truth

Now let's look at the proverb above with the verse that accompanies it:

"Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." Proverbs 27:5-6 KJV

What would we say about the proverb now? It is a little contrastive and a little completive.

Rebuke and love seem like opposites. Few people enjoy a good old fashioned rebuke. Maybe on some level the invisible person could like it better than being invisible.

What about the unloved person? I'm not talking about the person who has few people that love them. That is sad. But, I mean the person who does not love themselves... the person who does not know that God loves them in a deep way that penetrates the soul.

What good is our silent secret love? It is good for something but how much better would it be if it had a voice. Sure... there are barriers...

I think old me, who is in the twilight of his life reflecting back on what was, would tell younger me some things about this subject. He might have regrets about how silent I was... how un-creative I was in making opportunities happen to communicate love. Would he kid me about it? Or would he look me in the eyes and say, 'Listen. You need to get before God and let him love you. Let him love you until it overflows out of you. Then get out there and make opportunities with God to tell people the truth about His love that is now your love.'

No one will get hurt if we keep our mouths shut and mind our own business... or will they?

Silence is easier but is it better?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Look At Us

"And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, 'Look at us.' And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, 'I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!' And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God." Acts 3:2-8 ESV

Peter said, 'Look at us.' Then he made a very clear defined faith statement.

Here we are. This is what a have. It isn't what you expect. It is a miracle.

I roll this around in my mind and almost tremble at the words and reality of it. I dare not make it a formula of some kind. What a travesty to take a miracle and turn it into some religious action.

"And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." Acts 3:9-10 ESV

The miracle produced great joy but there is more.

"While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: 'Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?... But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name - by faith in his name - has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus' " Acts 3:11-12, 14-20 ESV

What did Peter and John have? Peter had it together with John. He had the Gospel and a ready mind to share it to a person or to a group. He had a ready mind. It is something to think about.

What do I have today? What could I give someone?

If I spend time with a person like John what happens then? If we go out on purpose with the Gospel what will that mean? Can there be an 'us' to look at for needy person trapped in the grim small reality of their limited existence?

I'm not knocking silver and gold. I need it. I will leave my house today looking for some of it. Thank God I have had the ability to make some and it assists me in many things... but what about the miracle?

I want the miracle. It is that simple.

God has given me many things by His grace and I can sit on them and enjoy them.

'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.' John 12:24-26 ESV

It is grace so we are free to do that but just as wheat was made to multiply we can multiply.

It was the father that honored Peter and John. The Father made that lame man walk.

We want miracles in our cities and on our street where we live. We want miracles in our families and places far away.

My life alone... or the miracle together. Help God. Today we need your help. Guide us in proactive faith. Give us a John to call if we don't have one. Lead us where we would not go ourselves and fill the space with joy and great amazement.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Ghosts of Leadership Past - Part 5


Out at Panera bread last night a great friend, P Sturge, brought up this verse:

"Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, 'Have I also here seen Him who sees me?' " Genesis 16:13 NKJV

Hagar is a picture of a person who received grace from God even though she suffered and the origin of that suffering seemed to come right from the decisions of people that represented God. Abraham and Sarah were Godly people. God has nothing bad to say about them. Abraham was the father of our faith.

Hagar did what she was told and yet she still ended up in a bad place. God watched over Hagar and her son. This woman observed God observing her and God gave her favor. What a picture of grace!

She could have lived in a 'cast out the bondwoman' mentality (see Gen 21:10) but God opened her eyes and gave her promises.

"But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15b NKJV

I want to live my life with grace as my teacher. Living in awe of God and having nothing bad to say about people who wrongly interpret their roles. I can learn from their mistakes but to accuse or excuse is the low living of the flesh.

If Christ is lifted up He promised to do the drawing. I want to lift up Christ and what He has done.


King Saul was the picture of a carnal thinking believer... disconnected from God and from any concept of grace. Because of that he has big conflicts with the two men who represent God in his life... David and Samuel. Samuel dies but King Saul is 'haunted' by all the unfinished business.

"So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night.

And he said, 'Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.'

The woman said to him, 'Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?'

But Saul swore to her by the LORD, 'As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.'

Then the woman said, 'Whom shall I bring up for you?'

He said, 'Bring up Samuel for me.'

When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, 'Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.'

The king said to her, 'Do not be afraid. What do you see?'

And the woman said to Saul, 'I see a god coming up out of the earth.'

He said to her, 'What is his appearance?'

And she said, 'An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.' And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.

Then Samuel said to Saul, 'Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?'

Saul answered, 'I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.'

And Samuel said, 'Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me, for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.'

Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night." 1 Samuel 28:8-20 ESV

King Saul was not seeking a living God he was seeking a dead prophet. He wanted closure and it could not ever be satisfying because there could be no connection. King Saul lived as a tortured soul and would die that way.

That kind of closure is unattainable. Left unreconciled we will bring the old relationships into the new ones and relive the break again and again. God wants to end that cycle.

"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 5:18-19 ESV

Our break from God the Father can only be healed by Christ and His ministry. He has satisfied God's need for justice and He did it before we were born... before the World was born. That is settled on God's end. At the moment of salvation it becomes settled on our end and healed forever.

Christ's reconciliation is good for our one way relationships with people also. We can be reconciled with everyone and anyone, from our end, because Christ reconciled the World unto Himself on the cross.

The parent who died before we can make things right. It haunts people. God has a remedy. God can reconcile us to anyone from our end... even bitter enemies.

Let us seek the living and not the dead. The Living God is our provision for all relationships.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ghosts of Leadership Past - Part 4

Looking at the different roles that provided a covering for people. A big brother or sister... a father and mother... aunts and uncles... pastors... coaches... mentors and teachers.

Paul said this to a younger man that he had a great influence on. His name was Timothy.

"For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel." 1 Corinthians 4:15 ESV

That is such a true statement.

I see a distinction between a role and an identity. Our role changes. It ebbs and flows at times like the tide. It shifts like the seasons. It changes as we age. Our identity is fixed but forms in us. We have parts of our identity we see and parts we only get a glimpse of. Our identity is how God sees us.

"As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother." 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 ESV

Paul identifies himself as a brother to any and all believers. That identity is hinged on the fact that all believers have the same father. He also saw his role as a communicator of truth. He took both very seriously. Both aspects of his life shaped his interactions and initiations. He wasn't haphazard about what he did, or said, or wrote because this was at the forefront of his thinking. Familiarity robs us of the power of truth. Paul was not familiar with where God placed him geographically or in relationships.

Both our identity and the many roles we function in are discerned. The definition is formed in the mind and the spirit.

How many of us are blind to the roles we play? Maybe the concepts are distorted about what our role is and because of that our initiations are distorted, false or just plain absent.

In a way the 'ghosts of leadership past' are echos of distorted or wrongly interpreted roles. There was a breakdown in reception or initiation and it produced pain.

Grace removes the distortion. Love rightly relates us to God and people. Mercy restores focus. Peace calms the turbulence in our souls.

Disfunction is often something we see in hindsight but even our hindsight is distorted by blame and fogged by pain.

"So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God." 2 Corinthians 7:12 ESV

Being in God's 'sight' is being close enough for us to see Him and His awareness of the situation. God's sight is based on His grace and because of that we are free and observed in our freedom. That freedom also gives us open eyes to see who we are are where we fit moment to moment.

I don't want to play a role that is not mine to play or neglect the place God has given me. At the same time I can't place blame on those who have done that and caused me pain. Grace transcends both my roles and anyone else's roles. It gives me a basis to have a role at all that will be pleasing in God's sight.

God refocus us today. Help us to walk by faith in what you see. Help us to be a good brother or sister... father or mother... coach or pastor... friend... we can only be those things if you go before us into that territory and show us the way.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Ghosts of Leadership Past - Part 3

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:31-32 ESV

These verses give such a deep understanding of the grace economy. We see deep love unvarnished by sentimentality. The God who gives gifts with no strings attached because of His Son and creates unbroken relationships also does not let hardship tip the scales of His judgement.

He did not spare His Son. He might not spare us. Not because He is against us. He will never be against us. If the situation needs a victim then all believers are candidates to fill that position.

Are you edified yet?

Grace is a 'get what you don't deserve' economy and that goes for blessings and hardships. Grace puts all our concepts of human fairness and shakes them until nothing is left.

The moral person wants everything 'even Steven'... 'One for you and one for me'... It is not that way. Our concepts of fairness can haunt us and lead us down a road without satisfactory answers. Why? Is a maddening question at times like those.

'Who?' Is a better question. The God that is our Father is also a potter and a King who makes personal decisions and decisions on a global scale. He is our King and also our Comforter.

"Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat." Hebrews 13:9-10 ESV

I need a voice that tells more more than 'Everything is going to be alright.' and 'Don't worry God is going to fix it.'

Everything is going to be alright but things break and they aren't always fixed the way we think.

Jesus had a God that raised Him from the dead but didn't save Him from the cross and so do we! I need to hear that. All my effort may not save me from trouble and I could not ever put enough effort forth to save my own soul. My only hope in this life is to have a God who is for me and has mercy on me.

If we have Jesus that is the God we have. If Jesus has us we can be comforted and held in safety by His nail scarred hands. No trouble need ever separate us from love. Fairness has gaps... Grace doesn't.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Ghosts of Leadership Past - Part 2

I have been thinking about the bully. The one who takes. They take what they can't or won't go through right channels to get.

"For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own. They are dreaded and fearsome; their justice and dignity go forth from themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves; their horsemen press proudly on. Their horsemen come from afar; they fly like an eagle swift to devour. They all come for violence, all their faces forward. They gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and at rulers they laugh. They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!" Habakkuk 1:6-11 ESV

Evening wolves are hungry wolves who have not eaten yet.

It is interesting. Jesus has something to give not to gain.

"Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.' And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 'What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God.' But Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be silent, and come out of him!' " Mark 1:16-25 ESV

Come follow and Jesus will make you into something. He will give to you. Notice the demons were worried about what Jesus would do. He had power. If they had His power they would destroy and they feared that Jesus was like them. He wasn't and isn't.

He will not tell you that you are lacking and make you hungry to get more. He will declare that it is finished and make it so that you can rest in His supply. A life of freedom.

"As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating and awakes with his hunger not satisfied, or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched, so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion." Isaiah 29:8 ESV

" 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. ... 'You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. 'You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.' " Matthew 5:6-8, 13-16 ESV

Righteousness comes after meeting the Savior. Mercy and purity are part of the new nature. These are all things you only have if they are given to you. They can not be taken. God gives us these things in His Son. We want more of what we have and not what we can not get.

A blessed person does not seek a blessing. They have a blessing already.

The World, the flesh and the Devil are all bullies. They are all a product of disconnection from the divine.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:28-32 ESV

The voice I need to listen to is the one that tells me what God has done. Then faith is produced in me and what is and always will be can be manifested in and through me. I hunger for what I already have... right standing.

A young girl or boy looking for acceptance makes for easy prey. If a child is loved and accepted they have a better chance in this world. If they know that they are covered by God's own blood nothing can master them for they have already been mastered by the gracious King.

People see the power of acceptance and try to harness it but the basis of acceptance is not a person's worth alone. Christ is the reason God accepts us. Each soul is worth more than all we see and hear and yet souls are lost everyday. Christ's blood is the payment for our acceptance. Superficial acceptance produces a contradiction in the soul that lacks power and produces prey.

Christ will never drive us. Grace will give us what he has done and the voice that tells of Christ's glory is a voice that we can find rest and healing in. The new voice replaces the old just as love casts out fear.

Grace worked in and out of a person produces a portion that transcends the personality. I thank God for the different people in my life who had a portion that fed me grace. The styles have been different because each person is different. The portions have been grace portions.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love." John 15:9 ESV

God use us today. As we rest in You and receive from You our lives can have an overflow that blesses those around us. Let our words be words of grace today.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Ghosts of Leadership Past - Part 1

The disciples had never followed anyone like Jesus before.

"Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." Matthew 6:11-13 KJV

Why the phrase 'lead us not into temptation'... maybe because they have been led by other voices into places of temptation. Jesus is not like that.

God is not like the other voices. Grace provides good leadership but not like the leadership we have had before by those who did not know grace.

"And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the LORD. In those days they shall no longer say: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. 'Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.' " Jeremiah 31:28-33 ESV

This new covenant is a covenant where the Spirit of Grace seals the believer and makes a permanent home in a person.

"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:11-13 ESV

Earthly fathers mean well but grace does well. Leaders have a goal or intention that is meant for someones good. Grace glorifies God who Is good.

Grace ignites the new nature to be free to function. We are under new leadership and yet there are old lines formed by the old. Our teeth were 'set on edge' by the sour grapes of the past.

God knows. God knows. What we see and hear of Him will convince us of a new way. A way that build up and enlightens our eyes.

Friday, September 6, 2013

When Systems Collide

"And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, 'These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.' And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go." Acts 17:6-9 ESV

Grace is a heavenly system. When systems collide things get overturned.

See how oppressive regimes banned free speech and many different kinds of literature. Why? Different ideas are threatening to a system of oppression and control.

A system of grace is threatening to a system based on merit.

Don't be surprised when grace causes a reaction. It will. It should if it is truly grace.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." Matthew 10:34 KJV

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV

Jason had no problem putting up money for freedom if that was what was needed. Jason was free already.

We must be led by God in how we function in different systems.

The Gospel is the message that wins souls. If my soul is won over today first in my experience of truth... my will... my emotions... my mind... then the message can have free course as I navigate the world around me.

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:16-21 ESV

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A New Year

Today I am thinking of birthdays and new years maybe because someone very special to me, my sister, had a birthday yesterday and it fell right on Rosh Hashanah which is a Jewish new year celebration.

A birthday is a day when you stand of the threshold of the new year and the old year. It is your year mark because you were born that day many years before. The new year is ahead it is full of possibilities and the old year is behind it is finished and can not be changed. Our perception of what happened can change but what happened 'is what it is' forever.

I can only really have rest and joy in what is finished and what is beginning. You may say that is not true. There are plenty of ongoing things to have joy in like relationships or things that are in process like a journey or a goal. True. But the past must be 'put to bed' in order to really have rest.

Trouble is funny in that it follows you. Ever notice that. The skeleton in your closet can show up at unexpected times and give you a good fright.

God has special compassion on those who are held captive. A person living in fear is a captive of that fear. God wants people to live free.

"Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion." Isaiah 52:2 KJV

"But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD'S flock is carried away captive." Jeremiah 13:17 KJV

Birthdays are those special days of perspective. Because you are standing on a day in your history with the past and future eclipsed before you both are present at once.

"And He said, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.' " Exodus 33:14 NKJV

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

One of the things I love about being a believer is that newness and perspective are possible in every moment. Things don't even need to change in my circumstances for it to happen. When my mind is set on Christ and what He is done I find that goodness and mercy are following me all the days of my life (see Psalm 23). My past is wrapped up in a peaceful way and the future holds many good things I could not even conceive of at this moment. I am set free again and again from what was into what forever will be.

Happy Birthday to my sweet sister and Happy New Year to everyone else. May God's love rise in your heart like a colorful sunrise this coming year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Just Measure

God is very keen on correct measurements and very generous in His dealings.

"You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." Leviticus 19:36 ESV

"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:37-38 ESV

God is never unrealistic. We can be. We measure situations incorrectly. We underestimate or overestimate often. True there are some of us that are sticklers for measuring everything just right.

There are a few things needed to make right assessments:
- A Just Balance: A tool that properly compares the weight of one thing to another
- A Just Weights: A standard object that is the model for the weight
- Just Ephahs and Hins: Liquid and solids are measured in different ways we need containers for both

Once the standards are set then the measurements can be made.

Measurements are useful as a means of comparison.

"But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift."  Ephesians 4:7 ESV

What is the measure of Christ's gift! I get broken thinking about it.

How can I balance mercy against that... or forgiveness?

Grace seems like an unjust measure until we compare what is on the other side of the balance. God correctly assesses each situation and grace is His way of operating because of the standard set by His Son.

I want to live a realistic life. I don't want to go around overestimating or underestimating situations, resources or relationships. It is not good to take lightly what I should go out of my way to address or overcompensate on the less weighty things in life.

Along with a mind that weighs things well we all can also have a generous spirit. Why? Christ's gift makes us generous people.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Fixture in History

I am sitting and reading chapters in 2 Kings (specifically 8, 9 and 10) as God deals with Damascus and Israel. It is not a pretty picture and Elisha the prophet is woven through these books. At key moments this man of God is used by God as his representative.

In the beginning of chapter 8 we see the Shunammite woman whose son God had restored to life. God takes care of her and gives her a redemptive provision.

"And at the end of the seven years, when the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, she went to appeal to the king for her house and her land. Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, “Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done.” And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. And Gehazi said, 'My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.” And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.' " 2 Kings 8:3-6 ESV

It is a redemptive happy account. But then the narrative shifts to Hazael and Jehu. Both men had dealings with the prophet or men sent by the prophet. These men are bloody men, rulers of that time, and Elisha deals with them but his tone is so different.

Here is his exchange with Hazael...

"So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, all kinds of goods of Damascus, forty camels' loads. When he came and stood before him, he said, 'Your son Ben-hadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, 'Shall I recover from this sickness?' ' And Elisha said to him, 'Go, say to him, 'You shall certainly recover,' but the Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die.' And he fixed his gaze and stared at him, until he was embarrassed. And the man of God wept. And Hazael said, 'Why does my lord weep?' He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel...' " 2 Kings 8:9-12a ESV

Then he goes on to describe the horrible things that Hazael will do and Hazael spends his life going and doing them.

Jehu likewise spent his life using what God said through His prophet. Jehu is anointed king at the prophet's command but Jehu's heart is not God's heart. Jehu sees God's word as leverage for his own ambition.

We are not prophets. We are not like Elisha was. Believers in Christ have the same Spirit. The Spirit of God rested on the prophets but now He lives in us. We encounter many people as we walk along the road of life. Some like the Shunammite woman and some like Hazael and Jehu. We will laugh and be filled with joy when people embrace God and His grace and we will cry and stand and watch some use God for leverage not knowing that God is aware of what is in their heart and has a plan to work it out for good anyway.

Elisha is a fixture in history. This is our time to be a fixture. Not a judge but a beacon on the hill shining a light that shows God's character of grace and mercy. We can't change people. We can't even change ourselves.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved" Ephesians 2:4-5

Grace did it in our lives. God knew all our natural tendencies but he gave us a new life and a new hope so that we could have His thoughts. God's thoughts can break the cycle of the old life and make us co-laborers with Christ. What a great privilege that is!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Grace Is a Subtle Wonder

"After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, 'Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.' The official said to him, 'Sir, come down before my child dies.' Jesus said to him, 'Go; your son will live.' The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, 'Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.' The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, 'Your son will live.' And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee." John 4:43-54 ESV

If is one thing to be at the feast and it is another to believe. Results... we look for them. Jesus chides them about the need to see results. He doesn't want results like we do. He wants faith.

At Cana Jesus gave joy. He turned water into wine. He took a wedding that was going to end in disappointment and turned it into a great success. People remembered the success. Now, He returns and gives something else... Life. The family traces the timing of words and healing and all signs point to Jesus. Life from death is the ultimate sign and wonder but grace is subtle.

I awoke this morning thinking about Adam and Jesus. They are both men. They eat and drink. They sleep and go about their day. But, One grows old and dies and the other dies once and then lives in newness forever.

"And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." 1 Corinthians 15:45 KJV

Jesus is the last Adam. The first would be last and would outlast everything.

In many ways Jesus looked just like everyone else. The little boy who was healed looked like he did before he got sick. This family did also. There was something new that would be revealed in time. Grace had done a work. There had been a quickening. A renewing that would forever renew. Those seeking a sign now got something else. They died once and now would live forever.

We look much the same after believing in Jesus. When by faith we touch Christ, the quickening Spirit, we are forever changed.

Adam can trace his moment of failure back to the moment he took that fruit and ate it. We can trace every victory back to the moment Christ was presented to us as he really Is and we believed.