Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Expensive Love

Just because a person loves deeply does not make them invulnerable to error. Love can lead us into situations that are precarious and painful.

Elihu, God's young right minded man in the oldest book of the Bible, said this to Job...

"Look at the heavens, and see; and behold the clouds, which are higher than you. If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against him? And if your transgressions are multiplied, what do you do to him? If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand? Your wickedness concerns a man like yourself, and your righteousness a son of man." - Job 35:5-8 ESV

Even in a modern translation this passage can be difficult to understand. But, It is basically saying that we don't know how to love even when we have the genuine desire to love because our thinking can be Earth bound and errors have piled up to a point where we are willing to compromise for expediency's sake and not even realize it. We plea bargain our love to move things along... God doesn't.

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater," - Isaiah 55:9-10 ESV

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." - Romans 12:2-3 ESV

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:" - Philippians 2:5 KJV

"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 'For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." - 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV

Jesus' love was not watered down or compromised. The Pharisees saw people as sinners but Jesus saw people a precious but lost. He loved very aware that the people He loved many times didn't know how to think. That didn't make Him superior to those around Him. He became a servant and teacher in compassion.

I watched a young couple care for their small children at Christmas over the course of a few days. They did it so brilliantly. Even though those little ones often didn't yet know how to think about many things those parents served and led those children with such love even though it was obviously exhausting.

Jesus watched how His Father loved people and then He loved them. We watch how Jesus loves people and then through Him we see the Father's methods.

Our own sentimentality can do a great deal of damage. When we see sentimentality creeping in we don't have to harden our heart, which is a natural impulse to protect ourselves. Instead we can just 'repent' by turning to God and His thinking.

Sin doesn't crowd out God's thoughts causing Him to compromise. God is free to think in grace because transgressions have been paid for and blotted out by the blood of Jesus.

God's love is expensive. He pays a price beyond what something is perceived to be worth on Earth. He pays in time and energy and teaches us to think like He does... if we are available to it that is.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Virtue In The Mix

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence," - 2 Peter 1:3 ESV

The word translated 'excellence' is Arete (Strong's G703)

"by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge," - 2 Peter 1:4-5 ESV

The word translated 'virtue' here is that same word Arete (G703) and it is better translation of the word although God's virtues are also excellent. Arete is linked to Arren (G730) which would be best translated manliness. Virtue is what it means to be God like manliness is what it means to be a man.

All our faith needs is to have God being God added to it. All any sick person in the Gospels needed was Jesus being Jesus in front of them. Their faith was supplemented by God in the flesh being who he was and then knowledge entered the mix and every individual was healed.

"and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins." - 2 Peter 1:6-9 ESV

If we do not know that God is the God of all grace we are going to have huge blind-spots.

Self-control in the Greek is Egkrateia (G1466) and it means the control that is exercised by virtue. If our faith has no grace then who is really in control? Do we have virtue? We have something but it isn't virtue and what we have is extremely inconsistent.

Godliness here is not God-likeness it is more like awe of God's qualities. Eusebeia (G2150) speaks of the devotion a person who outwardly dedicates their life to a divine cause or the awe their devotion generates in others.

Lastly two types of love are mentioned Philadelphia (G5360) and Agape (G26). Kindness must have God's love added to it.

Sorry all you love loving hippy types out there... kindness by itself won't cut it. Kindness alone gets rolled over by the freight train of tyranny and doesn't even see the train coming. Human kindness devoid of virtue gets used by evil as a tool like the grifter uses human decency as a tool in his con.

Without virtue we would be blinded by our own weakness and smallness. Our identity would be based on what we do and how we see ourselves. God's virtue mixed into our faith is the first step to having our eyes opened.

"Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." - 2 Peter 1:10 ESV

God never fails to be God. Men fail to be manly everyday but God's perfections are ever perfect. His love isn't going to fail.

Maybe we need to repeat that again and again... 'God's love isn't going to fail.'

We repeat it again looking past ourselves believing like only a believer has the privileged to believe... 'God's love isn't going to fail.'

Today I move into my day linking my calling to God's virtue. God has chosen to love me and God has chosen to love each person I'll meet today. I choose to supplement my faith with His virtue.

His love never fails.


Monday, December 29, 2014

The Day Of Sevenfold Light

"Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound." - Isaiah 30:26 KJV

In finished work perspective people are healed of the shock that came over them because of wounds. Night seems like day and there is a recreation just like in those first seven days of creation. Jesus was slain before the foundation of the world and has fresh, but bloodless, wounds in His feet and hands when the world ends. Sins are paid for. A way was made before man was formed from the dust.

The word translated 'stroke' in verse twenty six is a unique word. It is the confusion brought on by a severe wound. People go into a state of shock when wounded intensely and then what happens is not processed correctly or at all until later.

It takes this kind of illumination to heal a person of trauma. Or perhaps I should say this illumination accompanies the healing. God does the healing on His appointed day.

The winter solstice just happened in December. It was the shortest day of the year... the one with the least light. But, even the summer solstice does not have seven times more light than that short day. None the less we know that the amount of light in a day is determined by where it is on God's calendar. God uses a timing reference.

People see their relatives at Christmas and strong relationships get stronger and new bonds may form but it is amazing how old wounds remain. Soon after the festivities die down things return to the way they were. Shock from long ago wounded someone's capacity and no healing has come yet. The nights are still dark for the wounded person.

Don't be discouraged. Small times of love can have huge repercussions down the road.

"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver... He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God." - 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 10-11 ESV

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth... For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building." - 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, 9 ESV

Sowing eternal perspective will reap a harvest one day if it falls on good ground. Operating in the kindness of forgiveness is sevenfold light that is water to the seed that will one day grow into a day of sevenfold light. That rare day is on God's schedule.

The seed of eternal perspective is watered by the cleansing nourishing water of God's word that reveals God's heart of love in His completed plan.

"Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;" - Isaiah 59:1 ESV

We sow seeds of the love that has been given to us. We water in a consistent way. We don't strive in it. We live believing in a future healing holding the present miraculous knowledge in our minds so that it becomes a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

I want to be where two or more are gathered together fellowshipping around and in sevenfold light. That is the place where light shines in the world. Theology becomes real time illumination when two or more are gathered and truth is revealed and believed.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Packing The Car To Go Home

Many people traveled to be with loved ones and then went home these last few days. Some are still there resting and enjoying one another and will travel over the next few days.

Jesus packed His car to go home by going to the cross and then ascending to Heaven. At Pentecost He sent us another great gift... The Holy Spirit was just what we needed. He would fill us completely and connect us fully to God. God wants closeness with the ones He loves. He wants it more than a few times a year. He wants an all the time closeness sprinkled with great events here and there.

I want this coming year to be a year of greater fuller connection with God, family and people who are strangers right now. Love can change strangers into friends and family.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Sense Of Belonging

Grace gives us a place where we belong. God extends His welcome to us. Eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil resulted in Adam and Eve being on the outside. Grace results in us being on the inside.

A narcissist never feels like an outsider. I think most of us have felt that feeling of being on the outside even if it was self imposed.

The prodigal son story comes to mind. One son pushed himself outside. His mind was already wandering and soon His body matched his mindset. The elder brother thought his brother was unfit to belong again. The Father was generous and welcoming claiming both brothers were the possessors of his possessions.

"So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." - 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 ESV

There are confident people out there that are admired because of their confidence but their sense of belonging is really theft. Our belonging, if it is real, is a nested belonging that is the result of grace. Like the prodigal we have minds that tend to wander outside and like the elder brother we also have minds that own a position for the wrong reasons.

"You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men." - 1 Corinthians 7:23 ESV

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV

We belong because of grace. We belong to God in Christ who is right where He belongs in the Father's heart. God is everywhere so we can have a sense of belonging wherever we are.

"And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter. Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it. As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message. For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in." - Isaiah 28:17-20 ESV

That takes a different tone doesn't it? It took a famine in the land for the prodigal to discover where he really belonged. If we belong to God than there are places we don't belong. There are ways of thinking that will cause extreme dissatisfaction. If it is not grace than it is like a cover that is too narrow to cover us and keep us warm.

Holidays are funny times because what we have and what we don't have become amplified.

"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;" - Ephesians 1:5-7 KJV

We belong because God sent His Son into the world. We belong because Jesus paid our entrance fee. That is the one and only reason. It is a narrow gate that many do not find but it opens into a wide place.

There is food and comfort aplenty in the father's house. Grace is a warm blanket that covers us in spite of us. God has a table with a place set just for us and a warm embrace waiting that will nourish us and give us back the strength we lost in our wandering.


Monday, December 22, 2014

How We War Reflects How We Walk

"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh." - 2 Corinthians 10:3 ESV

It's funny how these two things are linked. In the previous verses Paul addresses the fact that there are people who think he, and those with him, walk according to their natural tendencies but one of the things that Paul cites as evidence to the contrary is the way he deals with conflict.

When we 'practice the presence of God' our potential reactions can instead be manifested as responses because we are aware of a different provision.

"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes." - 2 Corinthians 10:4-7a ESV

Reaction can undermine our confidence because then our source comes into question. There is a potential opening to self condemnation and accusation from those around us.

Here is a verse that has been a well of refreshment for me.

"Then he said to them, 'Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.' " - Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

God's joy becomes our first line of defense. We go happily on the mission as a person who is sent out with portions to deliver. Conflicts and knowledge of personal shortcomings must catch up to a person with the divine momentum of joy and that in itself is not an easy thing to do.

Away we go plucking accusations against God (and us) out of the air and casting them down as we make our divine deliveries. The care has to catch us first. Correction can be absorbed and applied while condemnation just rolls off of us.

The conflict has to stop us in order to engage us and the joy that has become our strength is God's joy. Someone may not be happy with us but God is. We may feel off balance but God Is thinking great thoughts about us. God has joy because of the finished work. Sin is paid for. He loves the fellowship and communion of His children. His Shalom becomes our peace. His joy becomes our momentum.

Even if we fail and react God stays the same so we can rebound quickly and go on. Condemnation can be cast down and we can be up and moving again by God's power.

People will see the way we 'fight' and become aware of our altered spiritual state. They may just think we have 'happy dispositions' but the Spirit will witness something else to them if they are available to hear it.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pack Some Courage

We are going to need courage.

"The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind. If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Behold, we did not know this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off." - Proverbs 24:9-14 ESV

Courage makes us part of the rescue party. We become ones who go or ones who are praying for and supplying the ones who go.

The scoffer lacks courage and the faint in heart end up in their company by default. Right and wrong is a small cause. It is low ground for those of small strength. Those with little power complain about those in power. Murmuring only results in gridlock and delay.

Courage rescues us and others.

Grace is a high cause. Mercy is royal. Grace is pure unadulterated good news. It mocks nothing. It only invites.

"When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." - Matthew 10:19-20 ESV

Live in grace now and you will have the guts to say what needs to be said later. Pray now and the answer will come later. Live in vision now. You may be mocked for it but you won't be a weak minded mocker.

Courage is cultivated. Sure, Some of us are more timid than others in our make up. There are bold ones that seem to be bold from an early age. Courage is more than that.

"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

We don't know what the day will bring. I want to be ready so I'm going to pack what God has given me right where I can reach it if I need it then take a deep breath and rest in what God has done.

Jesus Is all I need to be courageous. His joy is my strength.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Third Cord

Thinking and praying... praying for marriages to make it... young couples and long standing marriages. Praying for mothers with young children. Praying for men who need to provide for families... that those men would have tender hearts and not be hardened by frustration or despair. I'm Lifting up small churches (small in size that is).

Isolation is not a good thing.

"And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone" - Genesis 2:18a KJV

I look at these early verses written by Moses and it is easy to look at the content of what is being said but God is talking. Who is He talking to? In a way it is a picture of the Trinity. God is speaking in a committee meeting of sorts and saying, 'Man is triune like We are (body, soul and spirit) but he needs an expression of that in an external way also.'

Not only do we need to know we are not alone. We need reciprocating sounding boards that have God's mind. The trinity is one.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one." - Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV

Ideas can isolate us. Right and wrong can. Distance can. Trouble can. We can be in a room full of people and still be alone. It is not good.

We are all individual triune beings on the inside and that is right. Our identity is not lost in the group if it is strong and healthy. We can go it alone if we must but that is not the ideal. That is not our final design.

"And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him - a threefold cord is not quickly broken." - Ecclesiastes 4 ESV

Our friendships need a third cord. Our marriages need one. God is that third cord. Fellowship is when God is in the midst.

So, I'm praying for people this morning. Some are people I haven't thought of in a long time. I'm not even sure if some of them are alive but still... I'm praying that there would be love that flows between people in potentially isolating situations. That love is so needed.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grace In Proverbs Chapter Sixteen

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom of all kinds. I marvel at it often. This morning I'm reading chapter 16 again and again and asking God to teach me. Grace is what I want to learn because grace is the channel by which God manifests all His other characteristics. Grace is the master key to the application of wisdom.

We could go verse by verse and gain so much but here are a few bits and pieces.

"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud." - Proverbs 16:18-19 ESV

Yes! What am I looking for... the big score or the company of the humble?

"The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established." - Proverbs 16:1-3 ESV

The theme I'm seeing this morning in this chapter is the heart attitude that fuels ambition. Like any man I want to see big things happen. There is nothing wrong with that. Who is going to make those things happen?

"The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment. A just balance and scales are the LORD's; all the weights in the bag are his work." - Proverbs 16:9-11 ESV

All the weights are in God's bag. Those weights are 'grace' weights. They are perfectly balanced. No funny business here. God honestly functions in grace all the time.

The royal mind listens to a faithful witness. Am I listening to a faithful witness? The Bible tells me who I am and what I am. It also describes God. Has grace and mercy done it's humbling work so that I have ears to hear? That is what I long for.

"Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly. The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." - Proverbs 16:22-25 ESV

I lean hard on God. I can be a proud man with arrogance ideas and methods but there is another way. Grace. I must have it. I do have it. It has been given to me. Jesus never leaves me or forsakes me. He is the lowly One I want to keep company with. He is the King who has right words. His words of grace are like a honeycomb.

I want the great things He will do. I meditate on the great things He has done. I want to think big in vision but have a humble mind. Only He can produce that in me.

Yes God. Fill us with your Spirit. Put our feet firmly on the ground as our minds are focused on Heaven. Let Your will be done around us and around all those that love you and need You. You are the Alpha and Omega. Your work is perfect work.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Awake To Grace Or Blind In Pride

One thing about grace is that it humbles a person. You have to get used to the fact that God gives you what you don't deserve all the time. Air becomes a gift. Life becomes a gift. Abilities are a gift. Weaknesses are also. God's power keeps us.

"For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together." - Colossians 1:16-17 ESV

God's power keeps creation from dissolving away. God's power keeps our friendships and our marriages. His power allows our will to function and our brain to process thoughts.

Pride is such a dangerous sin because it loses sight of grace. Pride is possessive and exalts itself. Pride sees favor as deserved and gifts as ornaments to it's identity. Pride exercises power because of ability. Pride compares possessions. Pride is deceptive. All of us are susceptible to it. Any fallen person can be filled with pride.  

God did not create pride. Pride is the individual mismanagement of God's generosity. Angels invented it and fell from Heaven because of it. Mankind came under the influence of those angels and also fell.

Jesus is devoid of pride. He is the perfect manager of God's gifts. He got what He didn't deserve and gives others what they don't deserve in love. Anyone who comes under His covering can have a different mind. The mind of humility sees grace. This mind sees favor apart from merit. This mind sees stewardship of possessions. This mind gives second, third and forth chances because it is rich in mercy.

Mercy destroys pride complexes so that grace can be recognized. Mercy wipes away the past. It wipes away the affects of the bad things that hurt us. That is what it is most known for. But, It also wipes away the seemingly good things that we valued as important but were based on a wrong premise. Mercy reduces us to zero and gives us a clean slate so that God can love us and really it is His love that gives us value.

Today is a new day and I need mercy this morning. I need it to take out the trash and I also need it to clear my shelf of all it's shiny trophies so that I can live in grace. Whatever I have is a gift. I go to work but the opportunity to make money is a gift and I aim to be a better steward today than I was yesterday.

People, all of them, are gifts.

Another day of life is a gift.

Thank you God. We are not going to try and pay You back. We are just going to take what You have given. Be glorified today and keep us from the blindness of pride.


Friday, December 12, 2014

From Faith To Faith

Something about God is revealed in every bit of creation but grace reveals a unique kind of beauty that can not be seen anywhere else.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.' For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." - Romans 1:16-21 NKJV

Here we see the opposite of faith is not just unbelief in what can't be seen. It is futility in the midst of what can be seen.

When we believe in the context of the 'good news' again and again we get to know God... from faith to faith... by faith to faith... the Greek preposition Ek (Strong's G1537) speaks of the point of origin where an action was birthed from.

The Gospel has power to reveal what nothing in creation can. It reveals that man can live a step by step life of believing God. God is righteous and in His goodness He is for us, near us and gracious to us... that is unique.

So when we say the Gospel to someone it can be so powerful... When we say...

'God loves you. He sent His Son who went willingly to die on a cross for you so that you could be reconciled to Him. He wants nothing from you. He just loves you and wants you to believe in what he has done so that you can begin a life of believing that he will use to transform you as you get to know Him.'

That is more powerful than any star lit night or calm lake. That speaks louder than a walk in the woods or a quick lightning filled storm followed by a rainbow. Those things are marvelous but the Gospel is personal. Those things are beautiful but knowing God gives us someone to thank for all those things and more. The Gospel gives us a companion that is with us on the mountain and in the valley. The Gospel reconnects us with the maker of all things and give us a lamp for our feet and a light for our path.

Not everyone will understand why this message means so much to us but there is no shame in that. Not everyone wants this power. It will make those who believe again and again seem different. Let's be different today. Let's go from faith to faith and watch what God will do.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Healing In Newness

We can not undo what has been done anymore than we could restore a life once it is over or taken away. Wounds are wounds. They can heal but they can't be erased. Forward movement is the answer. Grace opens the way to move forward with the eternal judicial consequences erased so there is no reason to be looking over our shoulders with God.

We will always bring ourselves into each new situation. Grace and mercy brings a new person into each new day. God's love heals wounds and God's plan has new opportunities.

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." - Romans 6:3-4 ESV

Jesus, the eternal God, woke up one day as a baby then He did that again and again each day for 30 years. He awoke to find Himself still a man, a new man, a righteous man.

"But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth," - Philippians 2:7-10 ESV

Every person that discovers the glory of this name also discovers a new humanity.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Touch Not The Unclean Thing

I awoke this morning with a singular idea...

'Touch not the unclean thing.'

This was not a moral commandment. In the Hebrew scriptures it is primarily contact with things that made you unclean. It was not something you did that was wrong... it was exposure to something.

"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.' " - 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 ESV

I made separation between verses 14-15 and verses 16-18 because the first part is talking about contractual involvement and the second part is conceptual involvement. Contractual involvement may very well to lead to conceptual involvement because of continual exposure. These concepts are not moral in nature per se.

Jesus touched the leper but He did not fellowship with the lepers around their leprosy. He touched an unclean person and made that person clean the unclean thing never touched Him.

I don't want to touch the unclean thing. I hate idolatry because it it a substitute for intimacy. The lottery won't save me. God will deliver me. Pornography is a substitute for intimacy and I won't let my eyes touch it. How many people have been infected by that unclean thing. Liquor is an unclean thing to me. Why? Because at first it does what something else should do then changes and weakens a person. It is a mocker. These are idols, fake Gods, and very common ones among those who don't believe in the God of all grace. These are just things, like idols are just things, but God has come to dwell here with me. He is clean and holy and hates all that would interrupt my relationship with Him.

Modern day yokes are marriages or business partnerships. You may already be yoked to someone who does not see clean or unclean. Why would they if the holiness of God isn't convicting them. Unclean concepts seem useful. They do the job. They don't seem to be hurting anyone if used 'responsibly'. If you are linked long term in this way then you know how hard it is to get away from these concepts you hate. The row needs to be plowed and you are hooked in to someone whose need for God is hidden from them. They already have something to worship and something to put a momentary fleeting hope in. God has a way of escape for you inside each situation. God has mercy and a way for you to touch the person but not be touched by the idol.

For those who are not yoked this way yet... don't be. Righteous lot was vexed because of his long term exposure. He does not even appear to be righteous to us. We have to be told he is righteous (see 2 Peter 2:7).

God has come to be with us. He is our father and He wants to meet our needs. That is what I want today. I want mercy. I want love. I want intimacy. I want the power of an unending life (see Hebrews 7:16) to be on display and not hidden.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Simple Mission Bathed In Prayer

In my reading this morning I landed on 2 Corinthians chapter 1 and a couple of concepts stuck out and ministered to me. One is the way we pray for one another and the other is the simplicity of functioning in grace toward one another.

"Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia... You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many." - 2 Corinthians 1:7-8a, 11 ESV

"For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you." - 2 Corinthians 1:12 ESV

Paul shared his difficulty and asked the Corinthians to help the mission by prayer so that it would be successful. Paul refused to leave the simplicity and sincerity of grace. He would not employ worldly methods. The work was to be a work of God and not of men but still Paul asked for the 'help of prayer'.

Paul knew he could do nothing of Himself but He needed to rely on God. But, He also knew that just him alone believing was not enough either for the work to function. There are shared comforts and shared sufferings in a work of God.

I am thankful that Paul went out on the mission field. I am thankful that people built the Church where I found Christ. I am thankful for the simple clear message I hear and the people that just won't know me after the flesh.

Prayer helps in what is happening right now in the present. It is mystical but real. 'Them' becomes 'Us' when we partner in prayer.

God, Teach us to pray. Not just how to do it but to live a life of seeing and praying with discernment. Not in striving but it proactive involvement.


Monday, December 8, 2014

I Am Not Ready To Stop

Last night we had a wonderful worship time at Church. I raised one hand in worship like I sometimes do and my arm began to get tired so I raised both arms. Then both got tired but the presence of God was so strong and rich that I didn't want to put my arms down. Instead I ignored this small momentary pain refusing to let my bodies wants dictate the expression of my spiritual desire.

This may sound strange to some. Worshiping through the pain. Praying on your knees even though your knees hurt. Studying past tiredness. Knocking on one more set of doors. Deciding to rest when I don't want to rest so that I can have more to give the next day. Resisting the resistance.

"Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler. Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man." - Proverbs 6:4-11 ESV

The ants are not legalistic. They are not trying to impress anyone. They have no ruler driving them. They have a kind of focus and organization that bears mentioning in the scriptures.

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." - 1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV

At times I know it is grace working in me. Other times I'm not sure. There are time when God convicts me that what I am doing is being done in the flesh and to repent by turning to Him and entering into a fresh focus.

"For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." - 1 Timothy 4:8-10 ESV

Anyone who has trained for anything and has stuck it out for a period of time knows that bodily exercise is of great value. The last set of push-ups when your chest is burning and your arms are shaking is the most valuable set. The lap you didn't want to run is what pushes you from good to great.

If exercising the body is good, and it is, then exercising Godliness has that value and more. I want to live on Earth as if I am already in Heaven. The world, the flesh and the devil will say, 'Let's be realistic. That isn't possible.' I say back, 'My spiritual bones are unbreakable.'

Some might say, 'Great. You are just going to reinforce the legalist's works program with this approach. You are in one yourself.'  I say the source is everything.

The fundamental motivation of grace is paramount. I refuse to live in mediocrity. I have been given an instrument and I want to play it. Grace has made me free to give my all. God gave His all to me. Now He is all in all and this old body, mind and soul is getting thrown into the mix by faith.

I choose to exercise my will to function in the quickening available to me in little ways by saying, 'No. I am not ready to stop. This is too good.'


Friday, December 5, 2014

Love, Honor And Grace

Thinking this morning about love, honor and grace. There is so much to say about these three subjects and how they interact....

Natural love finds value and bestows love on that valuable thing. Kindness is returned for kindness. Beauty is appreciated and desired.

"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." - Luke 6:32 NKJV

In the world honor is for the successful, talented or wealthy.

"You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." - Leviticus 19:15 ESV

But God loves everyone equally and calls for honor for those that function in a particular role that he has established.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." - John 3:16 KJV

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you." - Exodus 20:12 NKJV

Love can be confused with honor. We love equally but we do not honor equally. We do not honor someone for a role when they are not functioning in that role.

An employer can say to every employee, 'You are a valued employee.' but they can not say to every employee, 'You are doing a great job.'

Grace assigns roles to people that are not performance oriented ones and then honors people when they step into that role. God bestows honor on us outside of our performance. All we do is show up.

"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." - 1 Corinthians 12:27 KJV

We can think of membership as paying a fee and getting the same privileges as everyone else who pays the fee but that is not what is meant here. All members have equal access but not all have equal roles.

"Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?" - 1 Corinthians 12:29 ESV

Obviously not.

But all are believers, all have the privileged of prayer and all are ministers of reconciliation. Every 'joint supplies'... meaning that every relationship adds something important and needed.

Can God honor our prayers if we don't pray? Can he give us powerful words if we do not walk in our call? Do we get wisdom if we don't meditate or study? Will we be edified if there is no one around us to build us up? No, no and no.

God made us to be a light on a hill. Today is a day to be who God made us to be. We step into our role, whatever it is, by grace and God will honor us in the role that He has given us. His unending supply of love will give us a capacity for what grace has made us to be.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is This What Great Men Do?

I sit here very broken and humbled from just a short paragraph from the booklet I am reading this morning. I read this yesterday but it just didn't sink in. Now I sit here repenting and asking God to not let me forget what I read... to live what I just read.

"Every morning I say to God, 'I am going to have the best day of my life. I am broken before You because I love You. You are so amazing to me!' "

Listen. I am not a naive person and this isn't my first time around the block. People sometimes say things like this because it is how they want to live but don't... or they say them because it is how they think they should live but only sometimes do. People also just plain lie to themselves and others or put on a front to project an image. But, The man who wrote this booklet is a man that I see as a great man. He is a man who had an impact... a man who clearly walked with God and there is fruit that remains in the world clearly linked to his life... he is a man who pastored me. He was many things but he was not a liar. No one is right about everything all the time but his heart was not one of deception.

Really you say this everyday?!?

I honestly bowed my head before God and tried to 'look in God's direction', which is a concept that maybe someone who prays often will understand because that direction is metaphysical in nature, and I said to him, 'Can I honestly say this to You? Forget saying it everyday... Can I say to You that I believe that I will have the best day of my life today? Can I say it just today? If I say 'No' where am I living. Have I forgotten grace? Have I forgotten Heaven? Do I know who I am talking to? You are the Alpha and Omega. I want to say 'Yes'. I need to say 'Yes'.

This is not some person I am trying to impress. This is God I am talking to. He has known and loved me all my life. He sees me when I'm not looking at Him. He sees through my masks.

My day is filled with half a dozen mundane things that will gobble up most of my time. It is fill with things that must be done and no monumental events. Can this be the best day of my life?

Tears start to flow from my eyes. Maybe this is part of why the man who wrote the booklet was a great man. He must have sat here often looking into the place I look... looking at a throne with a Messiah sitting on it and being challenged by the holiness there to be honest.

I decided to whisper it.

'You are here God. I am in You and You are in me. Today is going to be the best day of my life.'

Now my tears are like a river and I can barely see because I know that whisper was not me just lying to myself. God helped me say it. The whirlwind of God's life touched the still pool of mine and a water spout of intermingling was formed.

I am not a great man but maybe this is what great men do.

"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:12-13 ESV


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Perfect Provision

God has a perfect provision for every person. He does what no one else can do. In the midst of darkness He says, 'Let there be light' and there is light.

These verses speak of an operation that God did in the history of a nation that He wants to do in each human heart.

"The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice. And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none." - Ezekiel 22:29-30 ESV

"But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you." - 1 Samuel 13:14 ESV

"And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, 'I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.' Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised." - Acts 13:22-23 ESV

The heart that is like Adam must be replaced with a heart like Jesus. God has to do it. Only He can reach deep inside and change the engine of a person while the vehicle is still running.

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." - 1 John 4:16-18 ESV

Love is perfected, or brought to it's completion, when it is expressed through a certain kind of heart. That heart knows it belongs to God. That heart is salt and light in the world. A person with that kind of heart creates a supernatural hedge when they stand in the gap. God sees what is happening in the world and is looking for people who will stand in the right place with a particular brand of heart attitude.

Some are willing but not able and others are able but not willing. But, There is also a third category of people.

"Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit." - 1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV

The perfect provision for us is Jesus and the perfect provision for the situation is Christ in us. The perfect provision for a community is a group of people united in faith that have Christ in their midst. The perfect provision is perfected love.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Addressing The Elect Lady

I was just thinking as I was reading 2 John again and again how love treats people with such respect and honor. People could say it is a lost art of a civilized culture but it is not lost. It can be picked up at anytime by anyone.

"The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love." - 2 John 1:1-3 ESV

John uses a title. The apostle of love uses a title. I know there are some who don't like titles. Our culture has become progressively casual and some people have been hurt by people who wield titles like knifes to cut other people's self images down to size... but here is the Apostle using one.

He might have used it to obscure his identity so that only this lady and the believers there could know it was him. There were likely many Johns around and he was now an old Apostle so the elder could have been some inside joke that John had with this person and the others who would read his correspondences. Still.

He calls the recipient of the letter 'the elect lady' which also could have been an inside reference bestowing a great honor on a humble but very valued person.

John obscured his identity while revealing himself and magnified her identity all in the very first line of his letter. It is no wonder that this little letter was chosen as canon. It shines of love, honor, respect, grace and mercy. It adds very little that is new to our understanding but there is no doubt that it is God speaking through a man to every elect lady. Every woman who has believed has that title not just this one. Every woman born of God is loved by those who know the truth. No elect lady is ever alone. She is known and exalted in standing.

I call people by their titles and if they insist I call them by their first name then I call them by their title or rank and then add their first name. You may see this as the exaltation of a man or even disrespecting their wishes but I see it as the obscuring of a man and a kind declaration that says, 'You and I are going to have a doctrinal rapport. We have something good and valuable between us. God Is here and I am not now nor ever going to be familiar with you. This is no personality-fest.' I may not give my title to them. I may just let them find out from someone else. Like everything else I want to be led. Even though I am 'formal' with people I don't want to insist they be formal with me. This is my conviction based on edification in these United States of America. I might do something else somewhere else but this is how I combat the air here and now.

Do you think this elect lady was eager to hear what else the Apostle said after this loving generous introduction? I do. If John had started the correspondence with the pressing issues and forgone the greeting would it have been the same?

Grace takes dusty people and downright dirty people and exalts them in brightness as mercy erases the evidence of grime. Declaring to some one that that they are more than just the name their parents gave them reflects a deep truth. God has made us to be more than what we were born with. Our end will be better than our beginning just because we got to know Him.

"To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you." - 1 Peter 1:1b-2 ESV

Can we start and end with love and respect? I want to. It is my desire that everyone I speak to today would have more after our conversation than they did before we spoke. Or if not more than they would realize what they already do have. People who know the King may be dispersed in the world but they are still the chosen of God.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Christ As Our Identity

My identity is Christ. I am not a crazy person who believes he is Christ. I am a person who by the grace of God no longer knows himself outside of who Christ Is and what He has done.

I remember resisting believing in Jesus in every way possible. I identified everything having to do with Him as foreign and strange... monks who lived outside of society and became silent, fanatics, angry people who thought everything was bad and that the world was ending at any moment and passive people with saccharine smiles who acted like everything was nice and rosy. In my mind Jesus was for weak minded people. I wanted my voice and to slip out of the bonds that held me and was wary of submitting myself under some other bondage.

I did eventually believe in Jesus. The evidence was too overwhelming. But, I can't say He was my identity at first.

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain." - 1 Corinthians 15:10a ESV

I think it is very possible that grace can work on you but not in you. That people can have an outward identification with a version of Jesus and never know grace at all. The person who insists that they are Jesus Christ or the raging legalist who condemns everyone who deviates from a strict line of thinking to Hell both use an idea of Jesus to find shelter or justification for what is really is their heart and never find the love in God's heart..

"For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." - Galatians 3:26-27 ESV

Our adoption into God's family hings on Christ's work.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places," - Ephesians 1:3 ESV

Our spiritual blessings are in Christ also. Our spiritual identity is in Christ but do we see ourselves that way or is he just a another cut out for our spiritual collage. There is little power in our faith until He becomes more than that.

"For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ," - 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ESV

Are we wearing a Christian uniform or are we wearing Christ the gentle healer filled with grace and truth, the great I am and the Alpha and Omega.

No one can condemn us when our identity is Christ and we have put on Jesus Christ leaving no provision for our self life (see Romans 13:14). The amazing thing that happens is that we don't lose out voice and we don't become subjective fanatics. We are free and whole because man was created to be linked to God. We find a home when our identity is lost in Christ Himself.

We not longer say, 'I am an orphan.' instead we say, 'I am a son (or daughter)' because Christ is my doorway and anchor within the veil of holiness.


Friday, November 28, 2014

When Did We See You Hungry?

It Matthew chapter 25 starting in verse 31 Jesus talks about when the Messiah will sit on His glorious throne of decision making and separate the righteous from the unrighteous. He calls the righteous 'sheep' and the unrighteous 'goats' and makes interesting statements and no one there really knows the depth of what he is talking about.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' " - Matthew 25:34-40 ESV

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.' " - Matthew 25:41-46 ESV

In a sense this creates a paradox. Few reading these words identify with the goats. It makes sense that they don't know what is happening but what about the sheep? Have no righteous people ever read Matthew 25?

I don't think we can begin to fathom the full identification Christ has made with people.

What happened yesterday at ten thousand Thanksgiving tables? What happens everyday in ten thousand prisons?

There is a kingdom that has been prepared before time began for a group of people that have no idea what they are doing most of the time. They have just received a gift from God because of what Jesus did on the cross. A gift of grace that changes them moment by moment and then they functioned many times unconsciously in that gift. They are kind sometimes but in reality they have no idea who they are being kind to. They love unlovely people and Jesus says, 'I am the unlovely person you cared for.'

The goats may say, 'We gave on purpose. We had compassion. We helped strangers sometimes. When did we not minister to you?' and Jesus will say, 'You never ministered to me.' all those things done on purpose never ministered to God. All those things left Him out in the cold naked and hungry because He was not included. He was not welcome. He was not known. There was no communion there.

I read this and it doesn't make me want to buy coats and give them to the poor or collect more cans for the food bank. Those are great things but there is a deeper and simpler motivation that this sparks in me. I want to know grace and receive it. Then I want to see the person standing behind the person right before my eyes. That cold, hungry, lonely, addicted, successful, well dressed, 'better educated than I am' person is a person that Jesus fully identifies with. So fully that even knowing the truth of that identification I can not fathom the depth of it.

Later, on a day not far from now, millions will stand before a dazzling throne of decision and say, 'When did we minister to you? No, We would remember if we ministered to you.' and Jesus will console some and dismiss others but the blindness will be lifted. They will all see a work of grace. Grace that ministered to people and to God.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Day Thought (The High Road of Thanksgiving)

What does a person grateful to God do when faced with injustice?

"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:8 NKJV

My God sent His Son, who went willingly, to die on a cross to make a way for anyone to be reconciled to Holiness if they would just receive the gift of salvation purchased with the blood of Jesus.

Today is a day when we often list the things and people we are thankful for. It is beautiful. At the same time there can be real barriers between us and those things and people because of wrongdoing. We push injustice into the backround but hurt is there shaping our actions and reactions.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:20 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

So today we can be grateful citizens that do justly, love mercy and walk humbly. We can be grateful family members and friends who do the same.

The cross justifies and makes a clean 'just as if it never happened' emotional slate and turns us into people who will make sure we are not initiators of injustice happening again and again. The cycle ends with us. We don't pass it on.

Anger no longer fuels our fire. We burn with love and gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dig In Deep And Build

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great." - Luke 6:46-49 ESV

Convicting words. What are these things that Jesus is saying for people to do but they are not doing? Here are a few from the same chapter.

Love your enemies (6:27), do good to the haters (6:27), bless those who curse (6:28), pray for those who abuse (6:28), turn the other cheek (6:29), give to the beggar and the negligent borrower (6:30), be merciful (6:36) and point a finger at yourself first before you criticize (6:41-42)

"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

When people walked with Christ they saw the rock and water sprung out from this rock. When people heard the Apostles preach they saw the rock. Grace teaching resonates in your heart and makes you say, 'I can live here. This is a solid place. I won't have to rely on my own ability here. God will be my stability.'

When you find the spot where you know there is a grace foundation dig in. Dig until you hit something solid and then commit to the message, person or ministry by building a place to live there. Move your family, change your job and commit your time if that is what is necessary. Be a disciple. Be filled with the Spirit. Love, bless, pray, forgive and give. Digging in by focusing on the stability of the foundation and not the momentary contradiction of sinners. Respond by grace instead of reacting in the flesh because of The Rock.

Why call Jesus 'Lord, Lord' and then live far away from Him on some sandy soil in sight of the rock but not on the Rock?

Is it too much trouble to move and give up what you have already built? Maybe you don't like the people who live in that neighborhood. Living there is going to require more forgiving and turning the other cheek.

When the storm comes you will be glad you built on the Rock. You will be glad it was no flimsy temporary structure. You will be glad you dug in deep because the structure will survive.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rehearsing The Finished Work

With thankful hearts we can face any challenge. We have a throne of grace to approach in time of need.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV

Only one person receives the prize. Grace has won. The race is over as far as salvation is concerned.

"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest" - Hebrews 4:9-11a ESV

"And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them" - Acts 14:27a KJV

We rehearse what has happened and review the directions to enter into rest.

We are trained in grace and by grace to return to grace and look for grace solutions.

We can have unity as a team when we function in grace. We defer to one another for a common goal... revealing God's Love... revealing the Savior.

Just as runners wake up and tie the laces of their shoes perhaps half awake to go our and train for the coming race we can put on Jesus Christ and become oriented to grace.

It is work for the runner and takes effort. Our faith is effortless. As a matter of fact it is the opposite. We cease from striving and remind ourselves that, 'It is finished.' there was only one winner.

Today is the day to bask in the victory that has already been won.

With thankful hearts we can face any challenge. We are more than conquerors. Grace has won and Jesus has handed the trophy to us.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Responding To God

Responding to God is so key.

People often talk about obedience in terms of response but we only obey someone that we fear or respect because there is power or authority behind their commands. I don't see Jesus barking out commands. He healed people and loved people. He included people. The disciples followed His lead because they spent time with Him listening and saw the results of people responding to His words. They respected Him. They knew His love for people and they 'obeyed' Him.

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works." - Psalm 73:26-28 ESV

We need to be exposed to God in order to respond to Him. It doesn't happen in a vacuum. Where are we going to see God initiate to us?

The Bible is one irreplaceable place. That is where God has chosen to reveal Himself. People and places that represent God's character and nature, like Church, are also places where we can respond to God because there are things to respond to. Prayer and evangelism are places where this is possible. You would think evangelism is where you go to give people something to respond to, and it is, but really we go with the thought of responding to God first. We don't have anything to give anyone but words unless we first respond to God.

So, How is it going to happen for you today? Perhaps it already has.

Jesus is our bridge to eternal things. He is the One who puts things in perspective. He is the One who makes the invisible visible. Let's go be with Him. Let's walk with Him and follow Him. When He is present there is always something to respond to.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Two Types Of Division

Let's look at two forms of division that deal with the outside and inside concept.

Reproduction is division. Cells split and stay bonded together in order for there to be growth or healing. A sperm and an egg meet and suddenly there is a flurry of division and very complex structures form as healthy individual cells that compose a individual life that has qualities of both the mother and the father.

"Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for 'All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.' And this word is the good news that was preached to you." - 1 Peter 1:23-25 ESV

Grass grows and reproduces quickly but it is just grass making more grass that dies. When we believed there was a conception. Now the qualities of the word of God have been incorporated into our being. Our reborn self splits and multiplies but can not die. We have an eternal soul structure.

Churches multiply. Believers multiply. Life is reproduced but there is a duplication and division that still has connection and sameness.

Then there is division where there is separation. Parts are carved off by force or things that were one become separate. Reproduction can be painful because growth can cause strain but this separation is more like amputation.

Bringing the natural man into spiritual things causes this kind of division.

"A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends." - Proverbs 16:28 ESV

The whisper infects the emotions and connects with the wounded natural man and suddenly two people who were one have been separated. The air has made it's way into a space that had no air before. It is a tragic division.

" 'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." - Ephesians 4:26-27 NKJV

If the accuser has a place he will use it like a wedge to divide. A lie is like a thorn that causes pain and creates conditions where infection can occur.

"But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves." - Malachi 4:2 NKJV

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." - Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV

Growth is beautiful isn't it!

Divisions that add to complexity in a structure that is unified is amazing. The same flowers grow on many shores separated by bodies of water but they are there.

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

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household." - Matthew 10:34-36 ESV

Divine reproduction does bring a certain kind of separating division. A great gulf is fixed that only faith in God's gracious character can bridge.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 ESV

God wants to divide us from our burdens. He wants to multiply grace so it surrounds us in our experience. He will at times prune off many things all at once so that in time we can grow and be focused on fruitful reproduction.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." - Hebrews 4:12 ESV

Oh God! Divide what must be divided and preserve that which never should be divided. Make us ministers of reconciliation and give us reproductive lives that spread your words like seed.

"Happy are you who sow beside all waters, who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free." - Isaiah 32:20 ESV


Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Conspiracies of Iniquity and The Parlor of Grace

I am sticking to the theme of 'What is outside and what is inside?' and reading about internal conspiracy. Not my favorite subject but a vital thing to understand. It amazes me that mankind has such a capacity to use information, even Biblical information, apart from intimacy to divide and create disunity.

Here is a great quote from Dr Carl Stevens, "Conspiracies are progressive and begin in the soul. First, the emotions rebel against the mind. Then the mind struggles to use knowledge from God's Word, which stirs the emotions to rebel against people on the outside. The conscience (the place where the norms and standards for right and wrong are established) rebels against the mind. Self-consciousness rebels against oneness with God. The volition goes negative, then the old sin nature connects with the volition and self-consciousness to direct the individual's behavior as he chooses to live in one of the six lust patterns. That's how an internal conspiracy works."


Wounded emotions become a 'trojan horse' that lets something from the outside get on the inside. Battle ensues but our defenses are directed outwards. Wounds created in time find an ally with the forever wounded old nature and eventually move against our decision making and our self-image.

What a dynamic that is. It explains everything from why we can talk ourselves into eating the candy bar we know we shouldn't have to why, 'You deserve better!' is such a popular philosophy among people who are unsatisfied with aspects of their life.

Wounded emotions can become iniquity and iniquity brings the outside in. But the outside can never be inside. The inside just gets divided up into parts.

Grace thinking stops this kind of invasion at the walls of our soul. Our emotions lash out at our mind at times but grace heals them or at least satiates them so that the other parts of our soul are not affected and connections are never made with our old wounded nature. Our will remains free and isn't being flanked from multiple sides. Our will is simple after all. It is an on or off switch that has been trained and regulated by our conscience.

A graced out soul can defend against any invasion and still be inclusive. It is looking for ways to include. It's heart is continually being enlarged.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." - John 3:16-17 ESV

The loving soul sends out emissaries to make peace. The graced out soul is a garden enclosed that has a parlor to receive visitors. A place to come and meet and enjoy others. The windows and doors inside the city are not boarded up to keep people out because the walls are strong and the old nature is locked away and limited because of the death sentence of the cross.

This healthy soul is a hospitable soul and makes provisions to clean up after itself and it's visitors. The water of the Word comes in and washes away the dirt and grime.

The healthy soul expands because it is alive and growing. It is not divided and diminishing. A least that isn't the primary dynamic. People are fallen and we have our trials, wounds and difficult seasons.

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." - Galatians 5:16-17 ESV

But even if it is divided grace and mercy can turn the tide. Grace is willing to suffer and even die to itself for the great cause of inclusion and unification.

That is one reason we want a soul that is saturated with grace and it is such a high priority to have one. The walls must be solid and the old nature must stay locked in his theological cell.

Let's live in grace and turn away the Trojan horse. Why should we spend all of our precious time fighting wars on the inside?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Seeing From Inside And Out

The theme of my studies today is being outside and being inside. This concept applies in the physical world, relationships and concepts. Something often looks very different from the outside than it does from the inside.

Looking at Bible passages in different perspectives is very helpful to me.

"Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation." - 2 Peter 1:20 ESV

We do not impose meaning on the scripture. The scripture will speak to us if we look at it with eyes that see and a heart that desires God and has a connection to God.

So we ask questions like, 'What was inside and what was outside in the prodigal son story?' or 'What was inside and what was outside in the Adam and Eve account in the garden?'

That lens allows us to see a certain isolated spectrum of light. We put the glasses on and look and then we take them off again we begin to notice different things. It is not critical thinking... it is observational.

An artist observes then uses the qualities of a substance or medium to craft something. Then that thing, whatever it is, a sculpture or a photo or a meal coveys an complex set of ideas, concepts or contrasts that affects the audience in some way.

From the outside the Bible convicts us but on the inside the Bible converts us. It changes us on the inside. The change is not cosmetic it is a metamorphosis... like a caterpillar is turned into a butterfly. Observation alone does not have this power. Only the Bible has it because of who sent it to us.

Division is when an outside force makes a single object into multiple objects. Like using a knife to cut an orange into sections. We can look in the Bible and see this dynamic and how it works in relationships from the serpent in Genesis all the way to the White Throne in Revelations.

Conspiracy is when something from the outside is brought in to the whole and used to divide. Inclusiveness is when something is brought inside to include it or make a place for it inside the whole. Do we see this in the world? Can't we even see it in our own heart at times? The Bible exposes the dynamic.

"So Jesus again said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - John 10:7-10 ESV

Jesus is the way (see John 14:6) and He is also the door into a way of perceiving the world beyond what we ever could have done before. We can see something from inside and then from outside because He has placed us to be forever inside Himself at the moment we believed.

Grace proves to us over and over again that we are included in God's kingdom and can never be excluded. Evil is forever excluded but people are invited to be included.

Well, This is a good mental exercise but how does it work in my life in a practical way?

We can go into the day looking at situations as they are and putting lenses on and off to see things. We can ask what is on the inside and what is on the outside at work and because God is both places at once He can teach us things. The Bible can provide us with many lenses to look through to see the world.

If we will wear them by faith what will we see? We are bound to be surprised.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Poem - 'Where is the preacher I saw?'

Where is the father I saw? The one who loved his wife and children.
Why have the public prayers gone silent?
Were the bills too much?
Was it all too uncertain? Walking by faith that is.
Was one good woman not enough for you?
Where is the teacher I saw?
Was it too hard?
Was life too full of tasty morsels?
Why are there no badly recorded audio files or YouTube videos?
Why are there no newspaper clippings of you in handcuffs?
Where is the Bible man I saw?
Was one book not enough?
Was the cross too heavy? Someone else bore it's weight you know.
Where are the badly drawn sketch-board pictures?
You were giving something away but now you sell yourself.
Has grace become something just for you and not for them? The people you see everyday.
Where is the man who served?
Where is the man who knelt by his bed and prayed sometimes weeping?
The soul winning man with the trembling knees.
When did that man learn to get along and go with the flow?
When did it all become secular and social?
Maybe you live a quiet secret life of faith but I can't see you.
Where are you? I need you.
The orphan cries at night and sobs so none can hear. He needs you to hear him.
Where are you? I can't find you. I knew you long ago but now you are gone.
You look the same but the face I saw is veiled.
The voice I heard behind your words has gone silent.
You are in there preacher I know you are.
Come out and die like a man.
Come out and live like God's man.
No one who matters will condemn you.
It was not a boyhood fantasy.
Hit your knees again.
Crack The Book again.
It is a dark world but there is no safety in the shadows.
One day you will stand before the King.
He will call you 'preacher', 'teacher, 'father' and 'friend'
Wake up. The dream is over.
(This just poured out of me this morning as I typed in tears.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Deal With The Ashes

We have a past because we have memory of that past. Events have shaped our perceptions over time. We are made in God's image. He Is omniscient, or all knowing, and he gave us a capacity in our bodies to remember to reflect His nature in a limited way as limited creatures. God's memory blesses Him. He created us this way to bless us. The fall complicated the memory capacity of man in interesting ways.

Our memories are broken.

Hurts and past faithless behavior leave a residue even after they are taken care of. The cross wiped sin from God's memory. His memory is not broken. But ours is. God made a provision for this also. It is mirrored here in Leviticus.

"And the priest shall put on his linen garment and put his linen undergarment on his body, and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and put them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out." - Leviticus 6:10-13 ESV

God did not use fire to remove our sin. God used a cross. Jesus died there and our sins have been taken away as far as the east is from the west (see Ps 103:12). It is a clean transaction as far as God is concerned. We however as left with residue. Wounds, pain, memories and the results that shaped our personal history.

Put the ashes beside the altar. Change your garment (or identity) and find a clean place far from yourself and dump them there. The power of the cross must not go out. That fire must keep burning.

Our new identity can be kept separate from the residue of the old one. We change garments to deal with wounds from our childhood and every other past hurt. Wood represents our humanity. New wood goes on that fire daily and ashes are taken away daily. The sacrifice that is clean and acceptable to God becomes clean and acceptable in our experience.

Problems arise when we feed on our past. When our past is made clean it blesses us like a fragrant smell of something beautiful. We see a redemptive history of God's work not a record of our mistakes.

"He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, 'Is there not a lie in my right hand?' Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you." - Isaiah 44:20-22 ESV

Is the finished work of Christ in our right hand? Our right hand is our place of acceptance. It is what we use as our favored tool in daily life. Right handed people hold their pens, toothbrushes and car keys there.

If the ashes are not disposed of the wind will blow and they will get into everything. The rain will cake them onto our shoes and we will bring them into our homes, workplaces and everywhere we go. The ashes will mix with the atmosphere and turn pain into blame. We will have a lie in our right hand because Jesus' sacrifice will not seem clean to us even though it is clean to God.

The wood of who we are must go on the cross today. That will take care of most of the issue for us. But, then we make a reckoning about our lives that moves the ashes to a clean distant place.

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:20 ESV

"My beloved speaks and says to me: 'Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.' " - Song of Songs 2:10-12 ESV

Blame is gone.

If we don't live in that cycle of ash removal we can start today. This Monday doesn't have to be bad because others were bad before. Today is a new day with new mercies. Old things have passed away. We are not who we were. The cross has dealt with that old person and we have been raised with Christ to be new, clean and full of hope.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Solitary Things Versus Group Things

"So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, 'Get up quickly.' And the chains fell off his hands... When Peter came to himself, he said, 'Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.' When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, 'You are out of your mind.' But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, 'It is his angel!' But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, 'Tell these things to James and to the brothers.' Then he departed and went to another place." - Acts 12:5-7, 11-17 ESV

This picture is an amusing one. The Church knocking on Heaven's door for Peter's release and Peter knocking on the gate for entry. Rhoda had a story to tell her grandchildren.

It brings me back to an idea I have been thinking about lately... solitary activities versus group activities. The group believed, almost as if in a dream, what the individual could not fathom.

There is wisdom in knowing what is a corporate (group) activity and what is a solitary one.

"And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits." Mark 6:7 ESV

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

Time is to short and precious to do the group activities alone or to rely on others for what we alone are accountable for. No one is going to die to self for us or mix finished work faith with God's word in situations. These are things we do behind closed doors with God and God alone. No one is going to study for us and move us from milk to meat.

The battle is a 'we' thing and not a 'me' thing.

It takes humility to be in a group and stay in a group if you are a person more prone to solitary activities. The group dynamic can be sloppy at times. People say silly things like 'Maybe it is Peter's angel at the door!' People have different styles of worship and have varying levels of maturity.

Peter was helpless to free himself from prison but was fully equipped to give clear definition and instruction once the people finally let him in the gate.

Leadership in the group dynamic adds to our individual dynamic and our individual life of faith is vital to the corporate experience.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Divine Parkour

We have been given kind of divine parkour ability by the perfect, or blameless, way of the Lord.

"For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God - his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him." - Psalm 18:29-30 ESV

We can navigate our area in creative and even acrobat ways running through groups of enemies without hindrance. Each step and movement allows for a momentum that makes leaping over certain walls possible. Motion that provides momentum.

God's road is blameless and His speech is tried and true. We can slip through the troop because our destination is refuge... God is our refuge. We don't run away from our enemy we pass through their ranks without a desire to injure them.

"The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, 'I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?' ... Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained." - John 10:31-32, 39-40 ESV

Jesus slipped through their ranks and went back to the place where His ministry started.

"Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life" - Philippians 2:14-16a ESV

Jesus was harmless. He bounced off situations and slipped through crowds because He had a divine destination. When it was time He gave His life but only when it was time to do so.

Grace makes us flexible. Our collisions promote us when we are harmless because we do not impute sins to people as we go. We don't stay in the troop and get distracted by conflict. We swerve, tumble and vault because we have God as our destination.

"And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another." - 2 Chronicles 20:22-23 ESV

We worship God as we go and He sets an ambush so that His enemies destroy one another. The troop turns on itself after we pass through. Amazing.