Friday, May 30, 2014

A Few Thoughts About The Church

Yesterday I was thinking about the concept of 'support' (I am still thinking about it).

I find myself asking, 'How can I be supportive?'

Support needs a support system. Individual support is vital but even that can be an uphill battle if there is a culture that apposes that support. The Church is God's designated support system. I would like to see more Churches planted. I see great value in the Church. It is a unique irreplaceable provision for people. It is the platform for the message to go out beyond individual one on one witness.

There are many great passages in the scripture that involve the Church. Here are a couple that struck me this morning.

"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." - Hebrews 12:22-24 NKJV

Wow. This is a God's eye view of the Church in this age.

Then we move to the very practical hands on personal exhortations of a leader handling logistics.

"Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, 'See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.' I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you." - Colossians 4:14-18 ESV

A few things struck me in this passage... Paul's exhortation to Archippus was one... the other was that they were not to hold onto the letters sent to them and keep them exclusively... the letter to the Colossians could have been put in a case with a gold plaque somewhere like so many other historical documents. No. The letters were to be shared.

I am praying for Churches and people today. Praying that people get the support they need... support that was never meant to come from an impersonal government but from a loving local Church.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Divine Support Has No Expiration Date

It is beautiful when you run across a passage that you must have read before, maybe many times, but then one day it comes alive.

Debt has an expiration date but support is forever.

"If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God. If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers. For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God." - Leviticus 25:35-43 ESV

This is how, under the law, Israel was to treat family. Always support each other, never enslave one another and give opportunity if possible but never hold that over someone forever.

If this is what Israel was to do under law then how are we to operate under grace?

I have seen beautiful Christian people care for others at great cost to themselves. They even face criticism for doing it. We all have likely known people who have been taken advantage of by others also. We see a balance in the new testament.

"For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good." - 2 Thessalonians 3:7-13 ESV

We value people. We value them so much that we are willing to be supportive. We value them so much that we encouraging them to have something to give because it is possible for everyone to contribute in a unique way.

"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all." - Romans 12:13-17 ESV

Grace shows us that God is a giver. He gives with no expectation of a return. His nature washes us and His word is reproductive seed inside of us. He will support us forever. He makes us rich people. Rich in mercy and established in grace.

If people ride on His dime their whole lives what is that to us?

God wants no interest from us. It is not grace if we even think of paying Him back. The cross was our year of jubilee.

"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

We see around us people of tremendous value who do not know their value and we find ourselves laboring.

"Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:28-29 ESV

We were all thieves once... taking what God gave and thinking it was our own. He has given us value. He has redeemed our lives. Do Him a favor... stop paying Him back and live in grace.

So much more will happen happen if we just learn to live in grace.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mercy For Every Moment

I want mercy this morning. I need mercy. The mistake is to think mercy is only needed when I am guilty of something. Feelings can drive us to our knees in our great emotional need. But, God is unchanging. He sees us through the lens of what His Son did on Calvary every moment of every day.

"O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;" - Psalms 130:2-5 ESV

He gives mercy because we ask for it... not because of our great need for it in the moment. He is merciful. We think our sin is the source of our great need and maybe the reason that God helps us.

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all." - Psalms 34:18-19 ESV

God sees us as righteous... upright... able to look Him in the face and ask for provision. Mercy is our provision.

"You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong" - Habakkuk 1:13a ESV

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus," - Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV

God is rich in mercy. He does not give it motivated by our sin. He gives it because of great love intertwined with grace. Everything God does is intertwined with grace. Favor apart from merit. The favor that the Father gives the Son that has been extended to people who are hidden in the righteousness of Christ.

Did the Father give the provision for the Son to heal the sick because they were sick? Many of those people were sick long before Jesus came on the scene. If it was need only they would not have needed Jesus to heal them. God would have just seen the need and acted.

Jesus asked for mercy, God heard Him and there were healings. Eyes were opened and ears were opened. There was healing and good news was preached to the poor (see Matthew 11:5)

Have you ever tried to help an addict who is not ready to receive help? There are things you can do but the bottom line is that until they are ready to be helped the cycle of addiction is going to continue and likely get worse before it gets better. Mankind as a whole is addicted to self-reliance. It might be the death that follows sin that brings us to the end of ourselves to finally cry out for mercy... but it doesn't have to be... humility can come as a cultivated action.

"And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." - Matthew 21:44 KJV

Today I cast myself upon the rock in brokenness and let it break me further. The rock is where my pride and natural arrogance is pulverized.

I know I need mercy in good times and bad. I need it all the time equally. If I have it I won't see the heat when it comes. My roots will go deep and find the water in times of drought.

God, Give us mercy because of love today. Give us mercy in your graciousness. Give us mercy in the name of your Son. Thank you God for mercy that endures forever.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Loving God and People

"If anyone says, I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." - 1 John 4:20-21 ESV

This is a very specific dynamic. This verse refutes any concept that separates the sacred from the mundane in relationships. Impersonal relationships cause an exclusivity that reveals carnality. We can not love God when we do not love our brother. That is a straightforward.

We also can not love our brother when we do not love God.

"The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." - Mark 12:31 ESV

The command is second in priority and in logical progression. Loving God must precede loving people or the love has no foundation.

The interesting thing is the dynamic for loving God and people is very different.

"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. We love because he first loved us." - 1 John 4:16-19 ESV

Our love for God is really a response to His love. We can not see the dynamic but I imagine that the love He pours on us must be huge in quantity in comparison to what He receives back. It must be like washing a very dirty car every day. Lots of muddy water down the drain.

We had no capacity to love Him other than in some sentimental or broken way before He loved a capacity for love into us. We receive God's love then give His love back to Him. It is reciprocal.

This is not always the case with people... as a matter of fact if you have a reciprocal love relationship with people then you are a very very blessed person. Most people have very few true friends that love them that way.

What 1 John teaches me this morning is that we bring this reciprocal flow between us and God into our relationship with people. We extend the flow. We love from an overflow.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'"" - John 7:38 ESV

Yes. That river must be extended to people without condition. People may not respond or they may respond negatively. Our brother may never respond and if in the rare case they extend mercy or grace to us first in a situation that is a blessing but never an expectation.

Loving God includes loving people and a life of loving people always produces unexpected blessings down the road.

Love has it's own reward


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Expectations Of Love

I have been thinking this weekend about love and expectations.

"And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?'

And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, 'What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?'

They said to him, 'The son of David.'

He said to them, 'How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ' 'The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet' '?

If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?' And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions." - Matthew 22:35-46 ESV

I never saw these two groups of verse together before like I have this morning. Love is a moral obligation. The law and the prophets hang on love as a principle. All people fail to love as they should just as they fail to love God as they should.

At times we all feel unloved. Perhaps we feel that way for good reason. People fall short in this area all the time. People who have genuinely loved us in the past may have moved on in life and perhaps they think of us but there is little evidence that they do.

Nursing homes are filled with such people and that is why it is such a wonderful ministry to be a part of. God wants people to be loved by people.

Jesus basically turned the tables on men of obligation by bringing up David. Why did David call his future descendant 'Lord'. David was not only renowned as a King and a warrior... he was the sweet psalmist of Israel and known for his great love for people. David sought out Saul's descendant for the sole purpose of loving him and rescuing him.

He was showing them that love and honor does not just move up the 'chain of command' (the child is obligated to love Father and mother) because of Messiah it moves down the chain of command also. It surpasses moral obligation. David could love like he did because he loved Christ's coming (the first coming) and recognized who Messiah would be.

In a sense we love in grace because we love the same way David did. We love giving Christ a special place. Therefore our love transcends moral obligation.

This idea shut the Pharisees mouths. They stopped asking Him questions. They could not love that way because it would overturn their system.

Who calls who 'Lord' defines our system of love.

'My kid should love me more.'

'My friend should think of me more.'

'My boss should appreciate me more.'

Yes, We may be right to say these things on all counts.

Grace has moved us into a new system where Jesus is Lord and that can satisfy us on a different level where love is outside of condition. We can love even our enemies... and it is sometimes well meaning but fallen people that are counted as friends that fall into that category. They are enemies by omission not commission. In other words it is not what they do that causes pain but what they don't do. Unlike our more obvious enemies they likely don't do things because of malice but because of a lack of capacity. They are redeemed people that still have an old sin nature.

Let's face it. We don't love others as we should. We often don't meet our own standards of what is right... Jesus is Lord... that is good news... very good news to the broken lonely heart. We also are people that still have a nature that falls short and can not process God's ways.

"Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." - Romans 14:4 ESV

"The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.' " - Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV

Yes, He has. Thank God He has. He has loved us in graciousness. In times past He has used people to express this love to us and in He will likely do that again. Perhaps today He will use us to do it to others if we are willing.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Seeing Grace In Human History

Reading Acts chapter 7 this morning and thinking about what seeing grace operate in human history does to a person.

Stephen had just spent several minutes talking about human history spanning from Abraham to the present day (Acts 7:2-53). He was full of God's Spirit and full of the big picture of God's dealings with people.

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

But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.

And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'

And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'

And when he had said this, he fell asleep." - Acts 7:55-60 ESV

Stephen had great grace. He saw grace in history and he saw grace standing for Him at God's right hand and because he had grace he also gave grace to those stoning him.

'Hold this sin against them.' or in the KJV 'Lay not this sin to their charge.'

He had his mind set on a future history beyond his time since his time on Earth was coming to a close. He just recounted a brief history of Israel and his prayer was for an interruption of the pattern of rebellion for the owners of the stones that struck him.

Grace does that. It produces in us a greater freedom based in forgiveness and a great desire to see cycles broken and guilty people free from a history of guilt and future punishment.

God, It seems our minds can only hold so much. Help us to see beyond the horizon today. Give us vision to look beyond what people do and see a great salvation and a standing Savior. Make us rich in mercy so we can function like rich people today. Thank you God.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eternal Words

"He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 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 1:20-25 ESV

Jesus never had a beginning.

"Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.' " - John 8:58 ESV

What a statement to make.

We sure seem to have a beginning. We have 'earliest memories' and for some they are clear but for others they have jumbled cloudy recollections. The scriptures are clear that souls have no end. They spend eternity somewhere. These bodies are more like grass they have a life cycle... a short one at that.

God has given mankind an eternal vehicle for his everlasting soul. Words. Words that purify and words that multiply. We can be born again by words and those words will provide a structure for a forever life.


"And this word is the good news that was preached to you." - 1 Peter 1:25b ESV

The 'good news' here is one word in the Greek Rhema (Strong's G4487) a living word that illuminates.

Non-believers will get a last word from God and never hear Him again.

"And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." - Matthew 7:23 KJV

Believer will never get a last word from God. God will be forever speaking.

"His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.' " - Matthew 25:23 ESV


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Vertical And Horizontal In Proverbs Chapter Three

Proverbs chapter three deals first with vertical spirituality. God and the individual. Trust (3:5-6), Wisdom (3:7-8), Honor (3:9-10) and Correction (3:11-12) are addressed and soon the writer will talk about horizontal spirituality but before that happens wisdom is extolled...

"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew. My son, do not lose sight of these - keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet." - Proverbs 3:13-24 ESV

"Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught." - Proverbs 3:25-26 ESV

This is wisdom. We are given a shield of faith and it protects us if we use it wisely. Trusting, leaning and honoring add a fear free dynamic when we mix faith in God faithfulness while in circumstances.

"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it." - Proverbs 3:27 ESV

In the Hebrew the first part reads 'Do not withhold good from it's owners' and that changes the meaning for me. I don't have to let people bleed me dry because they are 'proactive askers.'

If we are given power it is for a purpose beyond ourselves and not to be withheld but we also are not obligated to give simply because someone asks.

"Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it' - when you have it with you." - Proverbs 3:28 ESV

This is an interesting one.

"Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you." - Proverbs 3:29 ESV

This one is also.

"Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm." - Proverbs 3:30 ESV

All three of these have something in common. They reflect a value system that values things or principles above people. Politics makes people impersonal in this way. Business can do it also. Rationals are formed that justify decisions that would fall squarely in these categories.

"Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways," - Proverbs 3:31 ESV

Sorry action hero fans. Read it and weep. {smile}

"for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence. The LORD's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace." - Proverbs 3:32-35 ESV

The book of Proverbs is not the law. It is a description of principles and dynamics. It reveals how things work giving people of every age a blueprint to work from to live life and live it well.

I want to be wise in my dealings with God. Sin is not in that equation anymore. It has been removed by my Savior. How can I be wise in my dealings with people today. Grace will teach me. Reading the scriptures I see potential pitfalls... now grace will guide me in how to navigate through the day.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Love, Trust And Wisdom In Proverbs Chapter Three

I am reading Proverbs chapter 3 this morning. It is so rich in wisdom.

Here are just a few consecutive thoughts...

"Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man." - Proverbs 3:3-4 ESV

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." - Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

"Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones." - Proverbs 3:7-8 ESV

Love, trust and wisdom all are found in God. We derive and mingle these fine attributes with God regularly and there are specify benefits involved in these exchanges.

God is gracious so don't 'Let love forsake you.' In other words don't get left behind by a quality that would never willingly leave you behind. Don't believe a lie about love. If we let God love us we will have a favor that rests on our life that other people will see and want around. Joseph would not let love forsake him and though he faced prisons he also was favored by the Pharaoh who recognized the greatness he was connected to.

Trust in God that leans consistently on God produces a straightness in our direction, a single-mindedness, that becomes evident.

There is something refreshing about saying no to things... not because you have carefully mulled them over but just because that run contrary to what you know to be true. Awe of God and wisdom from His mind simplify what could easily be a very complicated life.

Favor, refreshment and a clear road ahead. Nice. God's grace simplifies a complex world.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Those Who Get To Ride

"I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves." - Ecclesiastes 10:7 ESV

This verse is from Spurgeon's morning devotional.

This is so true. I know some real spiritual giants that slave all day at hard jobs and when you talk to them you marvel at their wisdom and compassion and then on the other side of the coin there are people who 'won the lucky sperm contest.' They were born into wealth or power yet they lack the utility, integrity or wisdom to use that advantage in a very useful way.

A horse is a vehicle. Something that allows swift and powerful movement. You sit higher on a horse so you have a clearer vantage point of the surrounding terrain.

Here is the verse I got this morning as an answer to this dilemma.  

"Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:30-31 ESV

Eagles have a higher vantage point than horses and those forced to run gain stamina and strength.

"And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on." - 2 Samuel 18:9 ESV

This is the spiritual danger of pride and exaltation. Pride is expressed in long hair in the scriptures. In the old testament men were to have short hair as a witness to the angels. That long hair matched with an exalted position can leave a man 'suspended between heaven and earth' and vulnerable.

"For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." - Galatians 6:8-10 ESV

I am not one who believes that poverty and lowly living are the lot of spiritual people. Yes, It happens in the world but success also happens. It is usually because people see value where no one sees it and nurtures that value through time and resources. We have young princes in our homes, communities and Churches. Let us do good to them and to everyone.

"And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power." - 1 Corinthians 6:14 ESV

Yes, He will.

"And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt." - 1 Samuel 18:4 ESV

We have a robe of righteousness, a shield of faith and a Bible as sword. Let's give those things away to the princes we meet. Each believer in God is a prince in His eyes. To be born from above means to be born into royalty.

I would rather cup my hands to lift a man up to ride as an eagle than to help him up onto his high horse.


Friday, May 16, 2014

The Bugle Call

We were talking last night about what the finished work does to us when we hear it... how good it is to hear something and say, 'That is finished work truth.'

This morning I started to think about bugle calls...

To start the morning with reveille, then later in the day came retreat and taps before bed. To have a musical cycle of life where parts of each day are punctuated by piercing sounds. All three brought attention to flag which represented a nation. No matter what you were doing you and everyone around you stopped and positioned themselves to face the flag if they could see one and the music they were hearing. All would stop at the music and then know what came next.

"If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air." - 1 Corinthians 14:7-9 ESV

The finished work is my certain sound. When I here it I hear a bugle on Earth and a bugle in Heaven echoing one another. There a beauty there... I can stop, reflect and have an idea of what comes next.

The finished work awakens me to prepare for action. It also puts me to rest as I remember a fallen Savior, a casualty of battle, who the rose from the grave. The music reminds me of a plan born outside of time but executed within the confines of historical days and years.

Reveille is playing for me this morning. Promises unfold before me as a flag that has never touched the ground and never will. Promises linked to an eternal kingdom. Promises about who God has made me to be and what He has done on behalf of all mankind will fly high on my person. The wind may blow them so they wave wildly or they may hang still in the heat but they will be there until evening when they are gently caught again and folded up to be safely stored in my heart as I sleep.

"Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!' " - Zechariah 4:7 ESV

We hear truth and know 'It is finished!' It is then when we can shout 'Grace, Grace' at the mountains in our lives. We have heard the music and that is why we can shout that shout.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Who Is Worthy?

"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." - Matthew 10:37-39 ESV

Who is worthy?

In all four Gospels we see that John the Baptist felt unworthy next to Jesus (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16; John 1:27). His feeling of unworthiness is even used as an early object lesson is the Apostle's preaching  (Acts 13:25).

"He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose." - John 1:27 KJV

This saying became attached tp John the Baptist's ministry. It is an interesting thing to say if you think about it. In American society you would rarely take someone else's shoes off of another person's feet. Maybe you would help a child or an elderly person... maybe if a person is sick or has a broken arm you would do it but it is rare.

It that society there were instances besides times of assistance when this would happen.

"And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.'...

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven - for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.'

And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.'

Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, 'Who is this, who even forgives sins?'

And he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.' " - Luke 7:37-39, 44-50 ESV

If you were a guest in a person's home the host would honor their guests by removing their shoes or having their shoes removed. As a sign of honor.

John said He was not worthy to do that. He could not help Jesus nor could He properly honor Jesus. John was not a falsely humble man. He was a bold and radical one screaming at the top of his lungs most of the time calling for Israel to repent.

I think that John knew that even His compliments fell short of reality. He was smart enough to realize that he could not fathom grace and that He had a low minded understanding of a high minded concept.

He knew He was of no help to Jesus also. Jesus would never break His arm so that John would have to help Him with His shoes.

Jesus rarely talked about worthiness except in the verses that were quoted at the beginning (see Matthew 10:37f). Jesus is also talking about honor in relation to worthiness.

The worthy person esteems Jesus higher than parents or children.

Who are the most honorable people? The ones who esteem their parents highly can be counted in that number. (Ladies observe how your potential suitor treats his Mother and Father because when the roses and chocolates of the first bloom of romance cools that is likely how He will begin to treat you also.)

Those who esteem their children highly are often selfless people. They work hard and commit time so that their children can have a good life. It is an honorable way to live.

Jesus demands a higher honor. It is higher than Earthly honor. He requires an internalization of grace.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat." - Hebrews 13:8-10 ESV

John knew He had no right to eat from the table that we eat from. Jesus washes our feet and we wonder at the injustice of it. Grace turns Earthly honor out and dumps it out of the basket to make room for grace. To make room for Jesus. Our description is low minded if He does not have His rightful position in our lives.

Will you put your children before God in priority? It is a mistake. What about how your family thinks... does that come before God? Grace must be first. If it is first we become stripped down so that we fit through the eye of the needle.

It takes first place because it must. We would lose objectivity if it didn't. When it has first place the other things can fall into their right place.

Do we neglect parents and children. No. Jesus chided the Pharisees for doing this in Matthew 15:5-6. They deprived their parents in the name of religious duty diverting money from their care to gain status in the temple. Jesus is first before what is most honorable on Earth but that honor is only displaced for Him... not for us.

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me." - Matthew 10:38-40 ESV

The cross is our link to divine understanding. Jesus' cross becomes our cross. What He did makes it's way into our thinking and decision making daily and then moment by moment. When that happens unworthiness is not an issue. The cross tells us our actions have no bearing on our worthiness. Jesus' actions made the difference. His cross assures the worthiness of the most unworthy person.

Are we worthy to have Christ serve us today? If he does not wash our feet we can have no part in Him.

A life of faith realizes that we can not serve Christ. He decided to serve us.

Today will be fruitful day for me. I am going into with Christ as my focus. Grace is amazing to me today. I have confidence that that is more than enough for any trouble I might face or task that must be accomplished.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Living In The Flow

This morning I choose life.

"My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!... Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways... Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!... This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life... In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth... I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life... I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your word!... Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life... Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!... Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules... Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love." - Psalms 119:25, 37, 40, 50, 88, 93, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159 ESV

Life is much like the rain. We are watered hold that water for a time but then the water is given to the next part of the system. In dryness we need to be watered again.

"For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water." - Jeremiah 2:13 ESV

We have source and we have an ability to hold that water (for a time) available to us. This water is living water... fresh uncontaminated water.

"Moab has been at ease from his youth and has settled on his dregs; he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile; so his taste remains in him, and his scent is not changed. Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces." - Jeremiah 48:11-12 ESV

If we keep what has been given then it will settle within us and grow stagnant and fermented. It is not the freshly crushed grape. It ferments into wine and progresses until it is only vinegar.

Grace has a cycle and that cycle has a freshness to it. We get what we do not deserve and instead of possessing it and keeping it we give it away again trusting in the supply of the gracious one.

To keep what we have been given beyond it's expiration point is a hoarders mentality. Fear can say, 'I may never have this again so I must hold on to it.' but we become cluttered beyond useful expression and kill the thing we are struggling to keep.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive." - Acts 20:35b ESV

Yes. When we go to the source and get fresh water we can give that still fresh water away again and function in a flow. It is a flow of blessing. It is a river of grace.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Seeing The Difference

Reading 1 Peter chapter 4 this morning. It is powerful. It describes a many great truths but the profound one that hits me this morning is 'Control born of loyalty and not legislation.'

Like every portion of scripture. I want to keep the main themes of the Bible before me as I read... redemption... the Finished Work... grace... mercy... love... forgiveness... God's sovereignty and holiness... most of all Christ Himself since He Is the bridge to all things eternal.

"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead." - 1 Peter 4:1-5 ESV

There are open arms that wait for us and there are doors that will shut and smiling faces that once invited us in that will now turn away to other people. It is hard, especially hard, because now unlike before we can truly love but some will no longer love us.

"For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does." - 1 Peter 4:6 ESV

What an interesting verse. If you love Jesus in time you see a difference between what people do and what He does. The sin that you once loved will begin to be revealed for what it really is and become less attractive or even repulsive. What does that do to a person when there is such a drastic value system change?

Some become militantly against what they used to participant in. For many that lasts only for a season... but for others it persists. They use scripture like a club to knock the bad fruit (that now suddenly offends them) out of every surrounding tree.

It is natural to judge people after the flesh that is how people are. God knows the right root will produce the right fruit. He isn't interested in making dead people behave. He wants people to be alive in the Spirit.

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers." - 1 Peter 4:7 ESV

Is the self control spoken here a resistance against sin or an adjustment to grace? Why would our soberness be for our prayer life's sake?

Perhaps we can spend our prayer times lifting up to God sin conscious prayers for ourselves and others that are cut off from God's mind. God cares for souls. He is extending Himself in patience and long suffering not to men men moral but to save.

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:" - 1 Peter 4:8-10 ESV

Loving as stewardship of grace is is devoid of sin consciousness... it sees a difference and It does not compromise but does not magnify sin butcause sin is not the issue.

"whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies - in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." - 1 Peter 4:11 ESV

The new loyalty isn't just ceasing from the old... it is living in the new and the new life has an authority but it isn't the authority of legislation. It is the authority of a supply and a discernment.

There is a confidence in knowing that even though you might not have everything right in life there are things that you can rely on fully and give to others without reservation. Facts not opinions. God's words and not man's opinions.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name." - 1 Peter 4:12-16 ESV

Our new identity is strong tower we can run into and hide. If we live by passion we may well end up guilty of 'crimes of passion'. It is often those who preach hard against certain sins that are later found to be participants in those same things to their own shame. The villagers have torches outside there door and with good reason. Are this hypocrites children of God? These verse suggest that they may well be. They just became sin sensitive instead of grace oriented.

Grace glorifies God in a sober way.

"For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And 'If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?' Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." - 1 Peter 4:17-19 ESV

Obeying the Gospel of God is living in the grace of God with new lips and new eyes. The righteous person can still fall all day long but they get back up again and even avoid pitfalls because they see them coming.

Today we can entrust our soul to the God of all grace. God didn't open our eyes to curse the blind. He opened our eyes so that we could see Him and have fellowship with Him. He is out there doing good. We can go with Him if we have eyes that can adjust to the brightness of His person.


Monday, May 12, 2014

A Still Wounded Savior

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them,

'Peace be with you.'

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.' " - John 20:19-21 ESV

It is one thing to believe that God sent Christ into the World for a redemptive purpose to finish a work... It is another to believe the we are sent into the World to walk in that finished work.

But, Wait before you go. Have Peace. It starts with peace. God does not hit us with our calling first. Peace is first and then peace is second also because it is only from finished work peace that we can even begin to understand how the Father sent the Son and then be sent ourselves.

Peace. Then our eyes moves to his hands and his side. He is wounded but not bleeding. He is hurt but not bitter. It does not stop Him from fellowship. He eats and moves and loves. We are glad to see Him so whole and alive is spite of His wounds.

We are sent ones. We start out young and fresh but in time we are wounded by the wounds of ministry. Wounded in the house of our friends but peace is ours. Finished work peace is ours. People will see our wounds but they will not be our focus. As sent one we are sent with a message and a peace that passes understanding.

You may say, 'I am wounded and I am bitter.'... look at Jesus... look at His joy... Look at His exaltation... look at His power... look at what He has done... all the sin for all time has been paid for by Him. God has forgiven. We are His children and forgiveness is a power bestowed on us.

From a place of peace we can go in the great commission. I'm not going without it. Today it is available to anyone who believes. It is available to those who see Jesus and reckon on what His wounds really mean. By His stripes we are healed. Healed in our emotions and given a life that lives above and overcomes scarring pain.


Friday, May 9, 2014

My Course And The Ministry

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." - Acts 20:24 ESV

The course and the ministry. The Dromos (Strong's G1408) and the Diakonia (G1248). A term of service and a sending out to reconcile people to eternal perspective. The measure of a life and the content of the interaction of that life.

The course is 'my' course but it is 'the' ministry. No one runs my course but me. The ministry is a shared ministry to testify to the gospel of the grace of God given to many by Christ Himself. Given before the ascension and passed on by people to people ever since.

My course is something only I can discern others may be used by God as helpers but it is a 'term of office' that has individual accountability and will ultimately be determined by my decisions. We steer our own boats. At times no one is at the helm, we are carried by a storm or or we are being towed along by others but no one has the power or right to steer but us. We will be accountable to God if we lived by passion or if we lived by principle. Turning over our lives to God transforms us from owners, where we usurp authority; to stewards, where we rule over someone else's possession.

As far as ministry goes we are pieces in a big puzzle. At times we don't see our place but grace testifies to us that we have a place. It is a special unique place that no one else can fill and each one has a similarly unique place.

"To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith," - 1 Timothy 1:17-19 ESV

"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

"Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you." - 2 Timothy 1:13-14 ESV

Only we can disqualify ourselves. God's gifts and calling are never revoked (Romans 11:29). An excess of self examination will lead to disqualification.

There is a course to finish and ministry to participate in. It is not by effort but by illumination that we will navigate the waters... sound words that define a glorious Gospel have been entrusted to us...

Today we can be good stewards of the manifold grace of God.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Ram In The Thicket

"And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham:

and he said, Here am I.

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen." - Genesis 22:8-14 KJV

What a profound passage. It pushes the boundaries of our sanity to try and wrap our heads around. Only Jesus and the account of His death brings this into focus otherwise God appears to be cruel or Abraham seems borderline deranged. Who says, 'God told me to kill my son?'... crazy people that's who.

The KJV is one of the only versions that refers to Jehovahjireh, which only occurs once, as a place of sight. Most of the modern translations refer to it as provision. Interesting. The Hebrew word Strong's Ra'ah (Strong's H7200) does seem to allude to both concepts, sight and action that based on the information taken in.

The verses that follow Abraham's obedience are heartwarming in light of what we know about God as a Father of a Son who would later die also.

"Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said:

'By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son - blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.' " - Genesis 22:15-18 NKJV

Wow. 'Blessing I will bless you'. What a great statement. Abraham as a Father and God as a Father... there was a unique understanding and bond established.

I often marvel at the death of Christ. It is a subject that I think about almost everyday and it is possible to live detached from the reality involved... If anyone deserved to live it was Christ... He was the Son of the promise... He died so that we could live. No one need ever lift a knife again the sacrifice has been made... God saw... God provided... there was a ram right there waiting in the thicket.



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Take Up Your Bed And Walk

Some thoughts this morning about the Sabbath, healing and the finished work of Christ.

"After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time,

He said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?'

The sick man answered Him, 'Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.'

Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.' And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath." - John 5:1-9 NKJV

That day was the first Sabbath that man had had in thirty-eight years. It was suddenly the Sabbath as God had truly designed the Sabbath to be for men. A holy day... a day of rest... God was in his day.

In Exodus 16 we see the connection between the manna and the Sabbath. If they kept the manna more than one day it would go bad in a dramatic way (see Ex 16:20) but on the day before the Sabbath there was extra work so that there could be rest the next day.

"On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses,

he said to them, 'This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.''

So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it.

Moses said, 'Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.' " - Exodus 16:22-26 ESV

It is afterwards that the people go out on the Sabbath anyway that God tells Moses to make going out a restriction. Then even later in is firmed out into a law.

"Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant." - Exodus 31:15-16 KJV

That being said... the leaders of the day call this sick man now made whole out for carrying his bed.

"The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, 'It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.'

He answered them, 'He who made me well said to me, 'Take up your bed and walk.' '

Then they asked him, 'Who is the Man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?'

But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, 'See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.'

The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.'

Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God." - John 5:10-18 NKJV

The picture I got this morning after reading about the Sabbath, this healing and Jesus' statement was this... Jesus was working like the Father worked in creation... Jesus was living in the sixth day of that work. God made man on the sixth day and rested on the seventh. Jesus was a man collecting extra manna and preparing it because there would be no manna in the field once His day was done.

Carrying that bed was a trophy for that man. It was the end of thirty-eight years of paralyzing sickness it wasn't work. Jesus was living in the sixth day so that the sick man could live in the seventh day.

Jesus got in trouble with the religious leadership of the day but God was pleased with Him.

Most of humanity sits waiting beside a pool somewhere. They are hoping that today by some miracle they will muster up the strength to be the first in the water. Only the one in first was healed after all. (The one who needed it the least got healed in that system). Jesus won the right to slip into the crowd and offer us something else. He isn't offering us the 'first prize'. He gives us the manna that He worked to gather so that we can rest.

I imagine that sick man never slept in that bed again... nor did he quickly throw it out either since the Lord told him to take it with him.

The bed is a picture of our old life. It gets us in trouble but God wants us to carry it around for a little while. We will never sleep on that bed again. We have a different rest now. It is the testimony of what once was. It is tells the world we are different. We are a paradox... a walking contradiction that God loves and is pleased with. We have a freedom that glorifies God and bothers those who are living in the the letter bound system.

We are God's trophies of grace.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dark Hours

I never cease to marvel at the Bible's unvarnished accounts of human nature. God gives us glimpses of the future in His Book and He Is not afraid to paint using the darker colors. The following passages speak of a time to come. I can't say who will or won't be an eyewitness of these things. No one who believes now will be on Earth to see them because there is a great gathering before this time comes.

"And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?' - Revelation 13:1-4 ESV

People want to back the winner. Who would want to speak truth to this power? Power that is overwhelming, limited, but humanly speaking overwhelming. People say, 'Where is God?' now... imagine what it will be like then.

"And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months." - Revelation 13:5 ESV

Overwhelming power but limited resources. Forty-two months worth to be exact. Not a penny more or less. When that reservoir is gone it will be long gone. A coup... but one that only has so much steam.

"It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear:" - Revelation 13:6-9 ESV

Wow. You mean the Bible says the bad guys win? Yes, During this season they do. Jesus hung on a cross during such a season also.

We don't like to think of these times but they happen. The enemy comes in like a flood and that tsunami is unavoidable... those who are on the ground are swept away. Those on higher ground suffer loss.

"If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints." - Revelation 13:10 ESV

Ok. Here we go... endurance... grace gives endurance. Grace doesn't demand we win all the time. Our faith is not shaken by losses because we know we deserve to lose it all but we have been given so much. Grace put Isaac on the altar as it trusts in God. Grace endures. The Spirit of Grace is a lasting Spirit who does not flee when the resources are low. He is the provider of resources.

Cancer sucks. It has resources it seems. Those resources are limited.

Death stinks. Separation hurts. Limited. Limited. Limited.

Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. Don't quit. The forces of decay are limited. Let God be your strength. Train your mind to let God be your strength. Fast and let your strength weaken so God can be your strength.

God isn't going anywhere. Not time limits on Him. His mercy endures forever. Faith pleases Him.

"He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head;

He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, And was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, Fury to His adversaries, Recompense to His enemies; The coastlands He will fully repay. So shall they fear The name of the LORD from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the LORD will lift up a standard against him. 'The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,' Says the LORD." - Isaiah 59:16-20 NKJV

Messiah had only God to rescue Him. In those later days there will also be a great rescue and now in our dark times God is a rescuer. I think this morning of people who need to be rescued from peril.

Arise God and show yourself to be strong in people's lives. We know you have a perfect plan and we ask for mercy to be poured out in the midst of it. Raise the standard of everlasting and ever resourceful grace. Raise it high so we can see it and it can conquer us.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Heaven's Reward

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 6:1 ESV

Reading Matthew chapter 6 again and again this morning. Jesus is weaning his students away from natural perspective to spiritual perspective by using rewards as a motivator. What is the reward in a non-meritorious system? That is a good question. I think Jesus brings us to an answer as the chapter progresses.

"Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:2-4 ESV

The need for public recognition stems from insecurity. God wants to bind up the wound so that it can heal. True acceptance will never come from the the recognition of a public display. The Father wants to reward you but not for what you have done.

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:5-6 ESV

Are our words polished and measured for the consumption of those around us? They can be. Natural communication is a form of manipulation. Spiritual communication is filled with adoration. God wants to free our tongue to learn to speak like we give... 'not letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing'. Speaking candidly with the Trinity as our audience will break us of our training. The Father wants to reward us but not for what we say or don't say.

"And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.' " - Matthew 6:7-13 ESV

How much of human communication is really heaped up empty phrases? Reliance on the God of all grace eliminates the need for rituals. We go to the source and there is no song or dance... no complicated custom that proves our worth to gain audience... no forms to fill out with the same information that was on every other previous form.

No. We hallow God's name by cutting out the red tape. God has no want or need for it.

"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." - Matthew 6:14-15 ESV

The reward has horizontal applications of freedom also and not just vertical ones.

"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Matthew 6:16-18 ESV

The Father wants to reward us but not for what we endure alone. We endure together and that is precious. A grace reward of shared experience.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 'The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!' " - Matthew 6:19-23 ESV

God wants to heal our perception! What a reward that is... to have our perception full of light... weaned from seeing what only the five sense can feed us and seeing something else... seeing a kingdom at work... wheels within wheel... God knowing and seeing all of it. Treasure that lasts is Heavenly treasure.

What is the reward in a non-meritorious system? In part it is to see things as they really are and live in freedom in the midst of what we see.

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." - Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

Be free. That is the reward. Be free of worry knowing you are cared for.

Yes. The Father wants to reward us. He wants to reward us with all the rewards He has heaped upon His Son.


Friday, May 2, 2014

One Of Many Options

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?" - Hebrews 10:24-29 ESV

A very sobering and misunderstood passage.

Hebrews was written to a specific group of people split into two categories. It was written to the believers living in Jerusalem who were mostly Jewish people and under incredible pressure to forsake the practices of believing in Messiah and return to a lifestyle they lived before. That was one group, the believers, the other was the people who had not received Christ yet but were influenced by the believers that were there but were not converted themselves yet.

The believers really needed each other. They needs to be reminded daily of the provision they had and what Jesus had done for them because many options were put before them. Faith in the finished work was only one of them and one that had uncomfortable results if pursued. The sacrifice for sins had been paid for by Christ but sacrifices were still going on in the temple and there was pressure to participate... social, economic and psychological pressure.

The finished work presents us with the only true sacrifice for sins. Jesus died, was buried and rose again. He is now ascended into Heaven and sits on a throne never to die again and never to pay for sin again. They need no other payment made for them.

If we forgo the option of believing that and relying on that things get complicated. Fear has an entrance. Unsaved people are suppressing fear all the time... fear of death... fear of judgement... it can be so subtle that they aren't even aware that that is what is motivating them.

Fear is waiting to enter back into our lives if it is given a place. Denial of the finished work theologically or practically gives a place for the fear of an already averted judgement to enter back in. The soul can have an unconscious expectation of doom poisoning the water table that feed their production. Meanwhile there is fresh water that God wants to rain down on them.

It is finished even if we don't know that it is. God is for us even if we don't know that He is.

"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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." - John 3:16-21 ESV

John 3:16 is one of the most quoted versed in the Bible but the verses that come afterwards are very telling also aren't they?

People live condemning themselves on some level unless they are reminded of the only provision there is for condemnation... The Cross of Christ.

If we have an understanding of grace we don't need to hide our actions anymore. We have a way to deal with the pressures of life and the consequences of decisions made. Jesus is a Savior... a rescuer. If you run from Him you can never escape His influence but you will also not escape the sense of doom that will creep into your heart. His light banishes darkness... no other light has that power.

You don't need to chase God down. Just let Him catch you with this truth. The work of salvation is finished. Sins past, present and future are paid for already. You can rest because that truth gives us a shelter to rest under.

You may be reading this as a trapped person... trapped by decisions... trapped by addictions... trapped. The value of the blood of Christ is the way to freedom. The once and for all payment for sin and sins is a well spring of comfort and relief. If you have never received Christ as your Savior then believe on Him and let Him in. Once you do He will never leave or forsake you. If you have Him then let Him minister to you what He has already done.

God has other people for you to be with. The friend with a six pack in his truck may still roll up at your door. Lust is still waiting out there on the internet. Compromise still may seem like the best option at work. You need someone else to call. Some one who will remind you that it is finished. If you have that truth in you by any means necessary (books, messages, people, etc...) you can make it and nothing will have lasting power over you. The anointing breaks the yoke of bondage.

There is only one provision. Don't overlook it. Take it because God wants you to have it.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

To Busy For Grace

"And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast."' But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them." - Matthew 22:1-6 ESV

Two interesting reactions to the already prepared feast this King has made. One group is negative but the other just doesn't want to make the time in their schedule.

It is shocking but people go to Hell because they don't have time for Heaven. Amazing.

One writer brought this out in his devotional this morning and it really hit home with me. Time in this day and age is so hard to find. It seems that the more prosperous a culture is the busier it is. In an expensive place free things can seem optional can't they?

God's grace is so free that we don't take it. It is so guilt free and no strings attached that we don't free pressure to receive it so we don't... we work instead.

This parable is about the 'kingdom of Heaven'. Heaven is gentle. Grace doesn't 'leverage' us.

"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests." - Matthew 22:8-10 ESV

Don't worry the feast will be full... full of hungry people... full of people who can not afford expensive meals.


"But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."" - Matthew 22:11-14 ESV

Four categories of person in all. Who will I be today? The worker, the crusader, the guy who just wants to do his own thing... or the beggar eager for a free meal at God's table.

Like Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9) my legs are lame but no one will see my lameness as I eat at the king's table.