Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Expensive Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Virtue In The Mix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His love never fails.


Monday, December 29, 2014

The Day Of Sevenfold Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Packing The Car To Go Home

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Sense Of Belonging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 22, 2014

How We War Reflects How We Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pack Some Courage

We are going to need courage.

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

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

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

Courage rescues us and others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Third Cord

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

Isolation is not a good thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grace In Proverbs Chapter Sixteen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 15, 2014

Awake To Grace Or Blind In Pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People, all of them, are gifts.

Another day of life is a gift.

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


Friday, December 12, 2014

From Faith To Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Healing In Newness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Touch Not The Unclean Thing

I awoke this morning with a singular idea...

'Touch not the unclean thing.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Simple Mission Bathed In Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 8, 2014

I Am Not Ready To Stop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 5, 2014

Love, Honor And Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously not.

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

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

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


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is This What Great Men Do?

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

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

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

Really you say this everyday?!?

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

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

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

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

I decided to whisper it.

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Perfect Provision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Addressing The Elect Lady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 1, 2014

Christ As Our Identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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