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.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Predators Are Attracted To The Spectacle

I have two themes ricocheting back and forth in my being as a pray for states in the Midwest and think of people living in the plains states. The importance of giving the word of God first place in worship and the unifying power of giving.

Seen in the light of grace both things are a mirror of grace

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures," - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV

Not just teaching but Christ centered teaching that focuses on redemption, salvation and resurrection.

"We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord... For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." - 2 Corinthians 8:1-3, 9 ESV

Giving is such a beautiful thing... such a unifying thing. Grace giving is at least. When people decide of their own free will to give to a cause out of love. The generosity becomes a spectacle. Paul boasts about their lives of faith

These two areas, the spiritual power of transformation that comes to a group from preaching Christ and the compassionate giving that unifies a group, are also the places where we see predators rise up inside the assembly... false teachers and false givers.

"But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, 'This man is the power of God that is called Great.' And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic... saying, 'Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' But Peter said to him, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God." - Acts 8:9-11, 19-21 ESV

Simon the Sorcerer saw the power of preaching and teaching and wanted it.

"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." - 2 Timothy 3:5-7 KJV

Learning, learning, learning but not learning Jesus. Mimics parroting phrases that they heard but they themselves are stones flying through darkness into the void. They may talk about grace and the Bible but really they are trying to buy favor to fill their void with intellectualism. The thing is... you can't buy the Holy Spirit.

Then there are the false givers... Ananias and Sapphira are a perfect new testament example.

"But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.' " - Acts 5:1-4 ESV

True giving is only ever grace giving and true preaching is only grace preaching. These two things create a spectacle that can not be duplicated because the life of God is manifested in the midst of them.

We give by faith and listen to men who preach by faith but it isn't for us to get something. The teaching reveals what we already have. We have God and we have His love and uniquely manifested favor. Teaching shows us that. Giving happens as an outflow of that but it should never be legislated... encouraged but not legislated... individual giving uncorks us so that as we are emptied and God can fill us with freshness and corporate giving edifies those in need and propels the Gospel forward into dark places by providing a means for logistical grace. Logistical grace is much more than money of course but God uses money also.

There are false teachers and false givers but that does not discourage us or make us introspective. There always have been those elements circling the Church and looking for isolated members to prey upon. It has been that way from the beginning.  Genuine preaching and giving are still amazing things. We must use discernment and live in the real thing. The value or the real far outweighs anything else.


Monday, November 10, 2014

The Flow Of Our Soul In Newness

"And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' And he said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.' " - Revelation 21:5-6 ESV

All things new... Really? Yes, All things.

God knows we are used to paying for what we want or need but in this new economy the water of life is free.

Newness. Not tired oldness. Not what we are used to. Our old methods won't work when all things are new.

Our soul is an intermingling of mind, emotions, will, conscience and consciousness of self. We could say that as our personality becomes fixed the arrangement of our soul becomes fixed as well. Fixed like the path of a river becomes fixed... fluid but moving in certain lines or ruts. Some people make primarily emotional decisions or intellectual ones or conscience based decisions. But, In freedom our soul's configuration changes. Our living spirit receives from God and we become healthy people. The water of the Word washes our soul. The Word is built up as line upon structures providing a new framework for our soul to operate in. Our will once ironclad or willy nilly now changes from a yes-no response to a yes-amen response when presented with decisions that are made in God's eternal value system.

"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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 4:11-13 ESV

Paul's soul had become flexible within a new framework. The framework of grace made him rich even when he was poor and poor when he was rich. The water of life was free and Paul's attention was captured by Christ as situations came and went. His will rose to the top and he made decisions in spite of how he felt or what he thought. Paul had a supply from above and a purpose to function in that made him a thankful man who prayed through situations and saw God answer in redemptive ways. God didn't free him from jail but people in the house of Rome were saved one by one and books of the Bible were written there.

God did free Peter from jail (see Acts 12:5f) answering the prayers of believers praying in faith but He didn't free Paul that way. Both men were free inside. Both men had souls that functioned differently than they did before because of a growing awareness of newness.

As believers we are new creatures that inhale and exhale newness. The old things no longer work.

God, Renew our minds. Reconfigure our souls by showing us Christ today in a fresh way. Make us ambassadors of newness in the situations we face with creative methods that come from a perspective of freedom. We trust you for this. It is not by our power but by Your power. Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven in our lives today.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Believing That Will Usher In Understanding

"What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" - 1 Corinthians 4:7b ESV

Understanding will not cause me to believe but believing will usher in understanding. As witnesses of God's mercy we choose to receive His initiations by believing and when we do that we have a spiritual platform for understanding.

God uses the foolishness of preaching (or proclamation) that displays grace and through the channel of grace God's attributes and work are put on display. The Gospel of grace is not a meaty enough argument for the natural man. It is a simple declaration. That declaration seems foolish until a person believes and then it becomes the power of God that dominates a persons life.

The cross and Christ's work there must be our primary apologetic because it is the Spirit of God that must do the persuading that all of our carefully planned arguments would never accomplish. Of course we steer clear of irrational arguments. The message is a rational one. It just can't be received only by the mind. It must be embraced by the heart that senses the presence of a One who Is divine reaching out to them.

"Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding." - Proverbs 4:7 NKJV

When a person becomes wise enough to know where to look they can then get understanding.

"Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear." - Isaiah 65:24 ESV

God's initiation of grace precedes our asking. He has put spiritual desires in our being when He remade us and with our will we exercise the choice to ask and He answers. We don't have anything spiritual of ourselves. What we have has been given to us.

"For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." - Matthew 13:12 ESV

"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." - John 15:5 ESV

Our faith is a gift from God. It is a fruit of the Spirit who indwells us that is now intertwined with our living human spirit.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith," - Galatians 5:22 KJV

In love God has given us faith and all the other fruits of the Spirit so that they can be exercised. We don't have the power to exercise anything. We have the authority as a child of God and when we choose to function in our authority God supplies the power.

We decide to believe based on what we have been given. We say 'Yes' to God in faith thanking Him and rejoicing in Him and then in the creativity that He supplies we keep saying 'Yes'. We thank Him for what He has done and believe Him for what He will do to redeem people and situations

"But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me." - 2 Timothy 1:12b ESV

If my believing lacks content then we will seek comfort and Earthly advantage but when we know Jesus then in wisdom we will have authority to operate in and gain understanding for those things that have a redemptive purpose. That is why we are here on the Earth... to love people and gain what has been lost.

I want to seek the understanding that will further a redemptive purpose.

God help us today. We believe you. Make us wise and give us understanding for all that we do. Understanding for marriage and parenting... understanding for business and finances... understanding for health... understanding for missions and Church life... understanding... we seek it from You our source of all wisdom. Open your book to us. Move our minds to places they have not been and give us deep intuitive insight so that we can function in Your purposes on the Earth. Thank You. We love You and Thank You.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Only One Altar

"Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning, they have become to him altars for sinning. Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing." - Hosea 8:11-12 ESV

For political reasons Ephraim set up many places for people to make sacrificial offerings but those places just became places where the people 'fell short' over and over again.

An altar is a place where religious ceremony is carried out. A sacrifice is made there. It is not a practical place for the person making the sacrifice. No food is made there, no money is made and nothing is learned. You bring something and leave it there to assuage your guilt.

"As for my sacrificial offerings, they sacrifice meat and eat it, but the LORD does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt." - Hosea 8:13 ESV

The priests however do profit from the altar. Portions of the meat brought to the altar are what fed the priesthood. More sacrifices meant more meat.

This whole thing was not pleasing to God. Because of the emotional rebellion of the priesthood bowing to politics for personal gain God would usher a return to bondage for the whole system.

The cross is our one altar and it was outside the religious system. Romans crucified Christ under pressure from the Hebrew religious system of the day who was forbidden to execute criminals. But, On a deeper level God was sending His Son to die for sin. Jesus became sin. All of the sins of the world past, present and future were placed on Him and in one very unceremonious act sins were paid for.

"But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." - Hebrews 10:12-14 ESV

Do we have many altars or just one?

Our many altars just become places where sin is multiplied. People deal with guilt in many complex ways giving and doing all kinds of things as a way to feel better about themselves but God only has one altar. It is a rough hewn wooden cross that stood unceremoniously outside of Jerusalem's walls where a Savior gave His life.

Tear down your altars if you have them. They are worthless places that just usher a return to previous bondage.

It is finished and Christ is alive. We don't get our sustenance from the meat coming off the altar we commune with the blood and body of our once and for all sacrifice. It is free from all political or economic attachments. We live guilt free among a people that live guilt free. Ten thousand subtle rules and guidelines could never produce that in our lives. One Savior on one cross setting us free is what made that happen.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Opening The Channel Of Supply

Meditation is rehearsing, reviewing or exploring a concept we already know.

After the first bite of an apple we know what the apple tastes like the second and third bites taste much the same as the first but we turn the fruit and plan the place where we will bite next. Meditation can be like that. Chewing and planning our next bite.

Meditating on grace is like eating something Heavenly. It is a foreign thought to the natural mind that God would love us just because He Is a God of love and that He would place us in a position of untarnishable favor based on what His Son has done is beyond natural thinking.

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." - Philippians 4:4-9 ESV

Do we know grace? That is a good question. At times we all can say, 'No, We don't.' because it is a Heavenly idea and we are Earth bound people that have souls that cleave to the dust.

Grace is received from God. That is the only way it is obtained. Once given it is never taken away again. God puts an ironclad commitment around every divine decree. God gave grace when He gave His Son. We got grace when we received His Son. So simple. Then God Is right there with us supplying us moment by moment. He doesn't ever stop.

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age," - Titus 2:11-12 ESV

We meditate on what we know and God trains us in things we do not yet know. Grace opens the lines of supply because it makes the Bible alive, gives us access to God's throne day or night and shows us a new identity that is interacting in Trinitarian purposes because it is hidden in Christ.

"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" - Psalm 34:8 ESV

Yes. We take a taste and then another again and again until our heart is established in grace. In time the basis of our functioning becomes grace.

That process is going to take time. We can afford to be patient with ourselves and with others. People grow at different rates and they have complex issues. If we have words of grace that we are chewing on we can give words of grace for other people to chew on and those words will open a supply for them that will transform them in time. That line upon line investment of the Spirit will grow into a beautiful structure that glorifies God.

So... We take bite after bite and chew a little longer instead of just swallowing in a rushed way and God does something invisible in us because of His invisible unending supply.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Let The Loud Things Wait

The urgent matters of the flesh can wait. The weighty matters of the Spirit can wait but should not be kept waiting.

Lust should be made to wait. It can wait forever as far as we are concerned. It can grow old and die waiting. But, It demands attention. It's need is urgent. Let's just leave lust in the waiting room until it dies of starvation.

"For lack of wood the fire goes out." - Proverbs 26:20a ESV

When we speak of the flesh we aren't speaking of the physical body. Our body has needs and we should attend to them but our body is linked to our soul and we understand that correct desires have been influenced and twisted by the fall and wrong desire can be created by chains of bad decisions.

"For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." - Romans 8:13-14 ESV

The natural method of avoiding bad things is to do good things instead but that also has it's pitfalls.

"I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me." - Romans 7:21 KJV

This is a verse that is used as a building block in the argument for the depravity of man but it also exposes the flaws of mankind's effort based methods that put would put wood on the fire of lust.

Trying to good is the problem because when we try intrinsic evil is right there with us.

The quiet weighty matters of the Spirit are the answer. A life occupied with God's light and God's purposes will function in love.

"Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." - Romans 13:10 ESV

"As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." - John 9:5 ESV

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

Worship is a weighty matter of the Spirit. Caring for souls is weighty. Meditating on grace is. Believing in Jesus' character and finished work on Calvary and knowing we are justified and made holy by God apart from our effort or performance is a quiet truth that does not scream for our attention but it has so much value that if we are wise we will make it our focus again and again.

We do what we do to the glory (revealing) of God. We know that how we are affects people's capacity to hear our words and we want to reveal Christ to people. We want to reveal Him to people that are lost and also to ones who already know Him. We are lights revealing the Gospel of Grace just like Jesus was a light revealing His Father's character and will.

In our weakness and in our strength we live in excellence not perfection or goodness. Why? Because God is excellent. Rebound (bouncing back after defeat or failure) reveals God. Love reveals God. Being unashamed of our Savior is excellent. We do all that we do and use all our might and creativity basking in God's light and God uses us as a light to lead people to Himself.

All the while lust can sit out there forgotten rereading old magazines for all I care.