Thursday, December 31, 2015

Useful People

This morning I'm reading Acts chapter 11 over and over again. God is sending unlikely people to different groups and it is putting a social strain on the culture of the Church.

"So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 'You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.' But Peter began and explained it to them in order:" - Acts 11:2-4 ESV

"Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch." - Acts 11:19-22 ESV

"So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians." - Acts 11:25-26 ESV

Peter was sent to non-Jews. Groups were evangelizing the Hellenists (Greeks). Barnabas went to look for Saul and they taught this strange mixture of people for a calendar year.

In Acts chapter 11 verse 24 it calls Barnabas a 'good' man. The Greek word used there is Agathos (Strong's G18) and it is not talking about moral goodness. This word speaks of usefulness.

"So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul." - Acts 11:29-30 ESV

Barnabas was willing to go and rejoiced at the grace of God given to people. He encouraged people. He was willing to be the one to go to those in need or carry money back to the elders in Jerusalem. None of these tasks were beneath him.

I sit here thinking of the 'good' men I know. They go. They carry. They get. They approve and edify. They aren't morally perfect. They are spiritually useful because they don't let their flaws stop them from going and doing the next thing whatever that is.

Grace makes us glad and we become useful people who repent (that word really just means to turn to God) and do the next thing.

God give us a vision of grace so that we can live in flexibility to do the next thing... to change gears if we must or keep at it if that is what is called for. Make us useful without striving. Thank You God.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Meeting Him Or Missing Him In 2016

It's funny that if you read an autobiography and then a biography of the same person how different the accounts can be. Usually biographers interview people and have some special interest in telling a person's story. The may have an axe to grind with the person. They may idolize them. Perhaps it is a combination of both.

This time of year can make us retrospective. What really happened this year? No doubt God's account is different from our account but in what ways? What are His plans for this next year.

I want my vision for the future and my perception of the past to align with what God would say if I could sit and have a conversation with Him.

"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." - 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." - Galatians 2:20-21 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

Perhaps these verses sound like religious mumbo jumbo to you. Perhaps this focus on Christ and His cross seem morbid and disconnected but they are keys to understanding God's mind and view of our lives. We are not the main characters in our life story. Jesus Is. Our God Is holy and Jesus was sent into the world to include us in God's narrative.

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned - every one - to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." - Isaiah 53:4-7 ESV

"Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors." - Isaiah 53:11-12 ESV

Meeting Jesus or missing Him will be the focus of God's account of this past year. It will also be the focus of the coming year. If any of you have spent a year with Christ as the focus you know what a relief that is. Years that are filled with Him are amazing years.

We know that when God talks about 2015 He will be gracious. He will reveal the mind of holiness. We can't know all the details. If we know Him now I'm sure He will reveal a great deal to us later about what actually transpired.

I have expectations for 2016. I also have reservations. As I'm sitting here writing and thinking my fervent hope is that I'll be on the same page with God and not at odds with His purposes.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bridging The Distance

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness." - Genesis 1:1-4 ESV

God created distance first then He made light to bridge the distance. That light was then divided in a way that created a means to note the passage of time.

Creation was made out of nothing to be a place of choice... near and far... night and day. God approves and approves until mankind disobeys and sides with a negative point of view.

"And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." - Revelation 12:9 ESV

It seems that God made this great distance (in part) so the He could put Angelic iniquity far away from Himself. But He also made it so that there could be nearness.

We were not made to be far away from God or each other but we are aren't we? Light bridges the gap between the small and the large. It brings the far away thing close.

"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called 'the uncircumcision' by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands - remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility." - Ephesians 2:11-16 ESV

Grace does something for us spiritually. We become connected and incorporated while still retaining the distance of identity. We are no longer cut off but we are still ourselves. It is amazing... really.

For the moment evil is close but it will be made to be far away on it's journey downward. Earth was just the first stop on that journey. Things are going to keep breaking here to make room for that passage.

John the Babtist said this...

"Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." - Matthew 3:10-12 ESV

The barn is near and protected.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV

Ministry brings people nearer and puts evil outside so it can continue it's journey at a distance.

"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

Oh God... please make us creative gatherers. Distance is a funny thing. It grows when we aren't looking. Thank you for people who are joined by love and mercy so that a bond has formed. Make us to be gatherers and not scatterers. Thank you for gathering us from far away places and drawing us close to Yourself.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Jesus, Grace And The Full Reward

"And now I ask you, dear lady - not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning - that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." - 2 John 1:5-9 ESV

Notice how John warns against losing what we have worked for and not what Christ has done. All of this is said in the context of teachers and teaching. We can't lose what Christ has done but we can lose a very precious possession.

I am convinced that the full reward is a grace understanding centered on the the deity and incarnation of Christ. Anyone who undermines the incarnation is seeking to undermine the authority of grace. The word full (used in verse 8) is the Greek word Pleres (Strong's G4134). It speaks of a container that is full to the brim. That fullness displaces everything else.

Grace must displace everything else or it is not grace. God has either given it or we have earned it. There is no middle ground. If God has given it then we can't lose it. It isn't based on us in the first place.

The incarnation makes the gift possible.

Sleeping beauty stays asleep with no Messiah to wake her up. People find that fairy tale to be dated and sexist because it makes one person reliant on another but it is a perfect parallel for us. We need Messiah and if we forget Him, dilute His work or push him to the side God ceases to be 'in' what we are participating in.

I saw a couple of 'so called' christian movies this Christmas season. They mentioned god and spoke about compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption but guess who was missing? All those things are wonderful things but they are just not possible without Messiah. True forgiveness without Jesus is a fairy tale because true forgiveness needs the cross.

"Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 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 4:11-12 ESV

"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." - Jude 1:20-23 ESV

Yes. Don't let anyone mess with the grace framework centered on Christ Himself. Guard it. It is what will build up and reach those who doubt. It is our doorway into rest.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Using Our Elbows

'If you play a little rough, you get respect. And with respect you get just a little bit more space on the ice.' Gordie Howe

This man was one of the toughest and most talented men to ever play hockey. He was also one of the most brutal but he did it to get space.

"He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me." 2 Samuel 22:20

Maybe the tough people in our lives are just using their elbows to get space but God gives us space that we could never get using our natural strength.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!

Merry Christmas everyone! I won't be on here very much the next few days. I hope you all have a great holiday!

I may post here and there but the blog should return to it's regular schedule the first full week of 2016. --

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It Is A Good Thing That The Time Is Short

How much time do we have? Not much...

"This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short..." - 1 Corinthians 7:29 ESV

What does this mean? Is it talking about end times prophecy or about attitude? I believe that it speaks about both. Just a few verses later it says this.

"I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband." - 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 ESV

This statement is in the context of getting married but the two ideas are linked. If we know the time is short we will be free from anxieties. You might think it is the opposite but we worry because we wonder if we will regret later what we are doing now. That is the root of anxiety. We don't want to get stuck for a long time with something.


How much time do we have this Christmas? Not much...

The Gospel says salvation is 'of the Lord' and Jesus has already come once to accomplish it. It is finished. In just a little time He is coming back.

We can live in grace and liberty knowing we don't have much time. We can marry or not marry (see 1 Corinthians 7:36 and the verses following). We are free in Christ from the bondage of pleasing people. In hindsight we will marvel that we lived in anxiety about things that passed in the blink of an eye.

When there is not much time each moment is precious. When there is not much time we are more likely to act on what is important. We tell people we love them when we know there isn't much time.

This Christmas may not be all we hoped for or it may be everything we ever wanted... either way it might be our last on Earth. Let's make every moment count because the time is short.

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise." - Proverbs 11:30 NKJV

Yes. We need to know the time is short in order to focus our strength in wise ways.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Recognizing The Child

"Daniel answered the king and said, 'No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries... The king answered and said to Daniel, 'Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.' Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon." - Daniel 2:27-28a, 47-48 ESV

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'... When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." - Matthew 2:1-2, 10-11 ESV

How did the wise men know to look for this star? Maybe someday we will find out. We do know that God raised up Daniel in Babylon and he brought what God gave him to the table as chef prefect over the wise men of Babylon.

In Ezra we see a return of Hebrew people to Israel after a 70 year Captivity but only a fraction of them went back.

"The whole assembly together was 42,360," - Ezra 2:64 ESV

This isn't the whole number. More returned over time after the temple and city walls were restored but most lived where they were taken and were scattered among the nations of the world.

Daniel's God Is the God who reveals mysteries. The God of the Hebrew Is the Father of the Messiah.

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" - Romans 8:29-32 ESV

This Messiah is the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.

Those who believe have seen a star hover of the person of the Messiah. Jesus isn't just another man to us. He Is the Savior of the World. We go where He Is to worship Him and say, 'This One is special.'

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

'Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.'

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,

'Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel...' " - Luke 2:25-34a ESV

Yes. He Is.

The glory of God hovers over the Gospel of Grace. It is not like other messages. It doesn't tell us how to please God. It tells us how God was pleased with His Son and that we also can come into that pleasure just by believing in what Jesus has done.

That is the star I follow all year long. It brings me to the person of Christ. It brings me into the embrace of the one who has loved me before time began.

Follow the Star home this Christmas. Maybe God will also give us a few who will come with us.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Salt And Light

"You are the salt of the earth..." - Matthew 5:13a ESV

"Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.' " - Nehemiah 1:8-9 ESV

Israel was scattered but God used them to salt the lands where they went. Now in modern culture we salt the lands where we are. We work jobs and live among people and God uses us in big and small ways. We are salt and light in local government. We salt the internet. We salt our families.

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry" - 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:3 ESV

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing." - Isaiah 10:27 KJV

I never saw this before like I did yesterday. Grace lifts the burden off our neck then the yoke is broken by the anointing. We are salty when we point people to God and reveal the truth that removes the burden. We are salty when we have God's mind about situations.

Jesus was 'made to be sin' on the cross. He was the sacrificial lamb that bore own sin so that we could 'become the righteousness of God.'

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," - Romans 3:21-24 ESV

That is a salty statement. That is the thinking that preserves. Anyone who lives with this premise is going to reveal God's life.


Friday, December 18, 2015

A Wise And Loyal Friend

It is great to have people that, 'Have your back.' and when they show up in a crisis it makes you breath a sigh of relief because you know you can trust their judgement and you know that they are for you and not against you.

Loyalty and wisdom is a great combination.

In my experience people who are against us are really out for themselves or have a cause that excludes us. We can see this in people's relationships with God in the scriptures also.

"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." - Matthew 12:30-32 ESV

Wow. What a strong statement. This transcends personal loyalty. Jesus was wise and always loyal to His Heavenly Father. That meant that He was always in tune with the Spirit of God.

"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." - John 16:7-11 ESV

People make many claims about what The Spirit of God is doing but it is given to us right here.

I think it's interesting that even though Jesus was and Is perfect He said that if people have a 'word against Him' that He wasn't going to hold those words against a person.

Let's have each others backs in situations as wise loyal spiritual people. That means being in tune to the Spirit of Love and Grace. We might not always agree with people but we can agree with God and that will make us into people who can handle things with discretion.

The weak and sick people were happy to see Jesus. He was a thorn in the side of those who were working their own angle.

"When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." - Matthew 10:23-26 ESV

This is an end time prophecy but it has principles that apply to us now.

There are more homes to visit. I don't want to amplify attitudes that exclude, demean and attack. I just want to have people's back. There will be some that respond to that and see Jesus in it.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Certain Brand

The other day I came across a list I made of brands that we like so that when we go the grocery store we can look for those brands. That is what came to mind when I was reading this verse this morning.

"But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough." - 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 ESV

The Gospel of Grace is a certain brand of good news. There are other brands out there. If we are fickle we might just compromise and make substitutes. I'd say in certain arenas that isn't a bad thing. I have made plenty of substitutes in recipes only to find that I liked the new ingredient better but spirituality is different. Purity is of paramount importance.

Pure devotion requires a understanding of Jesus' character and nature.

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth... For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." - John 1:14, 17 ESV

Jesus was full of grace and truth. The Gospel of grace also has that unique mixture.

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." - Galatians 1:6-10 ESV

Jesus died on a cross to give each individual a gift with no strings attached. It is pure grace and unadulterated truth.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." - John 3:16-18 ESV

"And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?" - 1 Corinthians 14:8 ESV

I look for this sound. I always need to hear it because this message is the message that gives life. This Jesus is the Jesus where we find salvation. He is not religious or lascivious. He is the Jesus who laughed and cried. He healed and men left their nets to follow Him. His message is empowered by His Spirit and forms His Church.

You can't find this everywhere. Just like not every store is going carry the kind of bread you like no every messenger is going to be filled with grace and truth. When we find it that is where we go and shop... even if it is out of the way to get there.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

We Shall Be Changed

"Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality." - 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 ESV

Wow. What a promise.

There is a moment we can all look forward to when everything will shift. Broken things will be fixed. Incomplete things will be made complete. Short sighted people will hear a sound from Heaven and be baptized into perspective.

I personally feel that there are many great things to look forward to but this one day is high on my list. Worship will move to the forefront of our minds because the resurrection of Christ will become crystal clear.

If the Bible is true, and it is, then this is what we have to look forward to.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 ESV

Faith, Hope and Love. These things won't change. They aren't broken.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Loving Potentially Dangerous People - Part 4

Ruth's account is such great example of God dealing with the outsider.

"In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband. Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the LORD had visited his people and given them food." - Ruth 1:1-6 ESV

Ten years is a long time. Ruth was no spring chicken.

"And she said, 'See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.'

But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.' " - Ruth 1:15-17 ESV

Ruth loved Naomi. She wanted to go with her but that alone would not have changed Ruth's 'stranger' status in Israel. As the account progresses we Boaz enter the picture.

"Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz." - Ruth 2:1 ESV

Boaz is a type of Christ. Boaz identifies Ruth and asks his men about her. Then he initiates to her and says...

"...'Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.'

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, 'Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?' " - Ruth 2:8b-10 ESV

Why? Why is God different with strangers. Why is he kind?

"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called 'the uncircumcision' by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands - remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace," - Ephesians 2:11-15 ESV

We were all strangers. Even children brought up in the Church. Our natural self is a stranger to God but He sees us and inquires after us. He lets us glean in His fields.

"So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law." - Ruth 2:23 ESV

Notice how Boaz makes no demands of Naomi. His kindness has no strings attached.

Because Boaz was related to Naomi he could function as a redeemer. Naomi had an inheritance in Israel. Every native did. The rights couldn't ever be taken from them but because Naomi left this inheritance it needed to be bought back.

The account goes on. Ruth lays down at Boaz's feet and Boaz makes a commitment to redeem Naomi. I love this next statement made by Naomi when she finds out.

"She replied, 'Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out, for the man will not rest but will settle the matter today.' " - Ruth 3:18 ESV

As I said before Boaz is a type of Christ and Jesus takes redemption very seriously. He wants the matter settled.

"Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, 'You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.'

Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, 'We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.' " - Ruth 4:9-12 ESV

The stranger is no longer a stranger. We are no longer strangers. A pre-established identity has been given to us with all of the right and privileges that the new identity affords.


Monday, December 14, 2015

The Prayer Of Faith Will Save

Reading scripture... praying... going through notes... picking up my booklet and reading a little... taking a sip of coffee... the booklet I'm reading is a handout that you might get at a crisis center. It brings a person through the grief process and lists verses that might be helpful. I've been reading it for a month or so on and off. In a way it is very heavy because it deals with heavy subject matters but the verses quoted are amazing even if at times they quote a verse out of context or repeat verses again because they fall under several categories.

I think sometimes, 'These people who wrote this booklet are trying to help but would this be helpful to me if I was in a true crisis?'

I need eternal perspective for a crisis and I think other people do also. Otherwise our world becomes small and our thinking becomes shallow.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus," - Philippians 2:1-5 ESV

I sit thinking of the times when we have oil and stand at the front of the chapel as someone is praying from the pulpit. People who have needs come forward to be prayed for. Some look sick or like they might have a physical need but others don't. Those are special times.

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." - James 5:13-16 ESV

What are these sins we are confessing one to another? The Greek word there is Hamartia (Strong's G266) and it means to miss the mark. When people miss the mark they need prayer. People miss the mark with their  actions and thinking in a similar way as our bodies seem to miss the mark when we are sick.

I know I have sat in the crowd during a healing service and decided midway through to go up because seeing people living in such humility motivated me to humble myself and ask God in a public way for the help I needed.

A few times people asked me to pray for them but I was hesitant to do it. In a room full of believing people I felt I wasn't believing like a person should be if they were going to put oil on a person's head and pray. Those moments have been moments of repentance on my part. I couldn't say 'no' to a person looking at me that way. I had to 'let Christ's mind be in me' and found God touching both of us at the same time. I found words coming out of my mouth and tears streaming from my eyes as I lifted up this humble person's need that did not come from an carnal man's mouth.

The prayer of faith that originates from a mind grounded in truth is a powerful prayer. It isn't asking amiss. The voice that has been baptized in the mind of Christ has influence because the One it represents is powerful and invested in the present situation.

Maybe this booklet that lists verses and asks questions related to grief is helpful to some people. I hope so. I'd rather spend a little time with someone who knows something. I'd rather walk down the aisle and have a frail man who has the mind of Christ anoint me with oil. I'd rather listen to a message that touches my heart and teaches me that my identity is not based on how I miss the the mark but instead it is based on the work of Jesus Christ and His spotless life.

God... Help us today... So many people struggle during this time of year... so many need a different way to think and a touch from Heaven. Use us God. By sight it doesn't look like we have much to give but just like the man standing there with oil in his hand we can give out the words of hope that You have given us. Fill our lantern with oil so that in the crisis we have light. Thank You God. Thank You for healing all our infirmities. Thank You for loving us.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Lot's Yes And Amen Moment

Some verses from one of the Hanukkah messages last night...

"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." - 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 ESV

"As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, 'Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.' But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said, 'Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.' And Lot said to them, 'Oh, no, my lords. Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there--is it not a little one?--and my life will be saved!' He said to him, 'Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.' Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar... But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." - Genesis 19:15-23, 26 ESV

Lot found his Yes and Amen moment while leaving Sodom. Even in his vexed and stubborn state he recognized God's love, mercy and grace and didn't look back. His wife lived a natural life of weighing Yes and No and had to look back.

"...if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked" - 2 Peter 2:6-7 ESV

Lot caused trouble before and after that moment but the NT scripture calls him righteous Lot. That moment alone is how God remembers and knows him. How valuable are the Yes and Amen moments when Christ is revealed?

They have eternal value.


Friday, December 11, 2015

The Underground Work Of Grace

I love how God does His work quietly inside us.

"The house that King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high... When the house was built, it was with stone prepared at the quarry, so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built." - 1 Kings 6:2, 7 ESV

"Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" - Jeremiah 23:29 ESV

"if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 2:3-5 ESV

When people pick up the words of God and use them as a hammer everyone in earshot is disturbed by the noise. People feel beat up and get tired of living on a construction site where nothing is ever good enough.

Solomon was a wise king. He had the loud work done in secret.

There are moments when the Holy Spirit uses the word of God to break things up inside me and carve off my ego so that I will be the correct dimensions to slip right into place. But many times those are secret moments and not a spectacle with a crowd of witnesses.

"With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone." - Proverbs 25:15 ESV

The grace of God is a soft answer that does a powerful work inside a person and it does it without pounding them on the outside.

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." - 1 Corinthians 1:25 ESV

Foolish men think they must see sparks fly and a cloud of dust in order for something to happen. Usually it is the opposite. God does his spiritual work quietly on the inside through investment on the outside.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Loving Potentially Dangerous People - Part 3

"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." - Leviticus 19:34 KJV

For the Hebrew living in Israel before Christ was born compassion was legislated. Foreigners were to be treated with kindness. If a person wanted to live in Israel for a time to work or visit it was allowed. Israel didn't have closed borders. They also didn't have ghettos or prisons.

"Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones." - Leviticus 20:2 KJV

Justice was carried out swiftly and a stranger didn't have to worship God but they also couldn't practice abominable things within the borders of Israel.

"And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 'This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it... If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it.' " - Exodus 12:43, 48 ESV

This part gets very interesting. The males needed to be circumcised in order to partake so it was a real commitment.

No foreigner was to eat of the Passover but a sojourner was a guest in Israel and they lived on a particular tribes land because all the land in Israel was owned by one of the 11 tribes (the Levites had no land).

"It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones." - Exodus 12:46 ESV

Also the Passover was done in homes not restaurants, shops or inns so if you ate the Passover then you needed to do it in a person's house... sorry no leftovers could be brought home from it either.

The Passover was the recognition of the national salvation of Israel. They phrase 'keep the Passover' is often used but a better translation would be 'make the Passover'. There were no spectators at the dinner table. There were only participants.

Ghettos did form in Israel because Israel was disobedient to God's structure and it caused problems in Israel. Samaria was one of the ones we see in Christ's time.

"The Samaritan woman said to him, 'How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?' (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)" - John 4:9 ESV

Jesus was the one speaking to this woman.

"Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.' " - John 4:10 ESV

"Jesus said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.' " - John 4:13-14 ESV

Jesus was offering her a better gift than anything that could have been legislated under the law.

"The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.' Jesus said to her, 'Go, call your husband, and come here.' " - John 4:15-16 ESV

This harkens back to the male circumcision necessary to partake of Hebrew hospitality legislated in the law but of course Jesus knew she had no husband. She was a sojourner and practicing that which was abominable on Hebrew soil. Adultery was punishable by death but Jesus didn't come for that purpose. He came to give life.

As I was doing this study I've been pondering McCarthyism and the error of it. The fear of Soviet infiltration lead to a search for anyone who practiced 'abominable' politics and it singled people out and blacklisted them. A dark chapter of American history. It was loveless and brutal.

How do we love people? We invite them to dinner and share the culture of faith.

"The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." - 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ESV

A circumcision of the heart is needed to take communion. It isn't a ceremony it is an invitation into the family of God. A stranger can't celebrate the salvation Christ gives as a gift. They can do it outwardly by there are no spectators in this celebration... only participants.

I think we can learn a great deal from the way God instructed Israel to handle strangers. There is great honor and decency there.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Logical Fallacies - Part 5

Temptation. I've been pondering the pull of feelings and things this morning.

"By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin." - Hebrews 11:24-25 ESV

Moses knew the feeling of being respected and saw what it was like to be disrespected. One was a good feeling and one was bad.

An APPEAL TO EMOTION is when someone invokes an emotion in the midst of an argument and asks people to make a decision based on that emotion and not purely based on the facts.

If Moses was going to be drawn away it would have been based on a false rational that had emotional appeal. Couldn't he make more of a difference as a respected person? Then he would enjoy himself also. Maybe he could have the best of both worlds?

If he did that then an APPEAL TO AUTHORITY would be open to him as an option. That fallacy says that one person's opinion is better than another based upon their position, accomplishments or position. It is good logic to listen to an expert witness because they have proven knowledge on a subject but it is bad logic to think that because a person is successful, has a title or has been given a position that their opinion is better than anyone else's opinion.

Surely as a son of Pharaoh's daughter he could work within the system to affect change? But Moses was flawed and when He tried to act as a Savior to his people his own passion got the best of him.

We have noted cosmologists and comedians who are outspoken atheists but do their opinions stand up to a historic crucifixion and resurrection? No. They really don't. I'd trust a man who rose from the grave whole and full of love over anyone with a suit and tie or a quick wit. Only one man has authority that can impart hope and that is Jesus. Everyone stands on even ground at the foot of the cross. There is only one name lifted up there. The name of the man who says 'forgive them Father they know not what they do.'

That brings us to the last fallacy of the day... APPEAL TO NATURE. This thinking blames our makeup for our decisions and rules out our will. It uses partial truth to come to conclusions and says things like 'Well you're only human. You couldn't help it.'

"Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. ... That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.' " - John 3:3, 6-8 ESV

The phrase 'born again used her twice is the Greek phrase Gennao (Strong's G1080) Anothen (G509) and it means to be born anew or to be begotten from above. God must give man a new nature because the old nature has limitations. Each soul in accountable in the midst of those limitations so nature can't take the full blame.

"The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all his innermost parts." - Proverbs 20:27 ESV

Our soul is like a dark room without a light to reveal it's shape and terrain.

Moses was born again at the burning bush. God gave him a new life and a new mission because his spirit was ignited with the fire that he saw that sent him back to Egypt. Now he carried God's words and authority not his own. Now he had something to give that had substance and was not based on appearance.

So, When things try and draw us away we can hold on to the rope God has throw to us and not be drawn away.

"I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them." - Hosea 11:4 ESV

Yes. Grace thinking becomes that will lead us in life. It isn't just another person's opinion and it does rely on good feeling as a basis. We are free in grace because God removes bit from our mouth there and feeds us.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Logical Fallacies - Part 4

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." - James 4:3 ESV

While looking at my list of logical fallacies I'm scanning the questions it lists and marveling at how wrong we can be. We think our answers are the issue but it goes deeper. Our questions are often wrong and so there is no answer from God for what we are asking.

"Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint." - Isaiah 1:5 ESV

A LOADED QUESTION as something that has an assumption already built into it. When we are BEGGING THE QUESTION we have an answer already embedded in the request.

'Why don't you love me God?' or 'Why won't you help me God?' are just such questions. They are based on a wrong premise and God must work around us because He can't work with us until we are on the same page.

"Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?" - Amos 3:3 ESV

or in the KJV

"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" - Amos 3:3 KJV

No. They can't. If they do meet it will just be an encounter and there will be no lengthy discourse because those conversations take time.

"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." - Isaiah 1:18 ESV

What a great verse! Many times the red to white part is emphasized because it talks of cleansing but I also like the 'shall become like wool' part... the natural color and texture is restored.

Our questions can be caked and stained with condemnation and judgement but then we reason with God and the first thing He points us to is redemption. The cross kills my wrong questions and gives me new ones. God reveals the natural weave of our being and can impart something real to us because we walk with Him in agreement about that which is most fundamental.

Now we say things like, 'Since You love me so much will You guide me in this situation? I know You will. You didn't bring me this far to leave me now.'

"... for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' " - Hebrews 13:5b ESV

Scripture arms us with good facts to ask good questions and life is full of good questions to ask as we walk together with God.


Monday, December 7, 2015

A Thought For Discouraging Times

There are times when I am discouraged and I just don't tell anyone but God.

I have learned that God has a way of quickening us. He really does.

"And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' And some of the bystanders hearing it said, 'Behold, he is calling Elijah.' And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, 'Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.' And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." - Mark 15:33-38 ESV

I always thought it was interesting that Jesus cried out to God and it was like He was speaking another language. The bystanders heard Him but misunderstood Him. Still... even though they misunderstood what He said it filled them with expectation to see a miracle.

We aren't Jesus. We aren't saving the world with our sacrificial death. That work has already been done by the only one who could ever do it.

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." - Colossians 1:24-29 ESV

Wow. Somehow we live in the cycle of death, burial, resurrection and session (being seated in Heaven with Christ) now here on the Earth and it is a source of encouragement to the bystander who sees our circumstances.

I sat next to a couple last night and they peacefully worshiped God together but I know a little bit about their hardships. They are many and varied. Perhaps in their own heart language they were saying, 'Oh, God why have you forsaken me?' but what I saw was two people with upturned eyes gazing at Heaven in circumstances where that is not natural. I saw powerful miraculous possibilities because I was in the midst of a group of people that live in this upward spiral. Some of them are tasting the bitterness of death or are in the waiting period of burial and others are enjoying the uplifting sensation of ascension and the peaceful glory of session. In two years the table may turn entirely and the people suffering today will be in a peaceful settled place and those who are experiencing victorious living may face great hardship. That is how it works.

We fill up this moment of history as Christ's representative on the Earth. God makes us ministers of reconciliation in time as He sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. His affliction was more than enough to save all of mankind. We are filled with a taste of His range of experience so that we can communicate the hope of His glory.

The night of Jesus death he dealt with politics, pain and betrayal. He was tried unjustly and bribes were given to people to testify against Him. He had little sleep and little companionship. All these things can discourage us also. If we dwell on secular matters without rest we will get discouraged.

"Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." - Psalm 19:12-14 ESV


So we speak to God voicing our feelings but it doesn't end there. In death and burial we speak of resurrection, ascension and session. Then in victory we will not be forgetful of death and burial.

It is good to talk to people sometimes. We seek wise counsel and it makes all the difference because there may be logistical issues that we need wisdom to deal with. We may need someone to remind us that God is still God and that He has a plan.

God is the One who we can pour out our heart to and He understands completely. Jesus is our wonderful counselor.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Whisper His Name

"I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." - Revelation 3:8 ESV

Wow. This comforts me this morning. Some mornings we seem to have such little strength but God sees us and what we do with the little we seem to have.

I often think it is what we do with little strength that counts most. We use our little strength to review what God says and what God has done. God's name is His character and we can't do much at times but we can live not denying His name.

I have never been imprisoned for my faith. I imagine that if you have been in that place for awhile you think things like this, 'God I have little strength but I'm not going to deny You today.'

Changing the world is a lofty goal. Impacting our community is an amazing undertaking. Being salt and light in our family is honorable....

Who becomes a person who does these things?

I think Heaven's records will unveil names we never heard of before. We will see weak people who kept God's word close to them and in key circumstances refused to deny His name.

"To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children." - 1 Corinthians 4:11-14 ESV


Be encouraged and whisper the name of Jesus. All you have may be a whisper but His Name is enough to move mountains. He has done all the heavy lifting... We just lift up His name.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Water Opens Passageways

If you are lost in the wilderness one good way to find civilization again is to follow a water source and see where the water is going. People often build structures near water.

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise." - Isaiah 43:19-21 ESV

I had an interesting thought about dead ends yesterday. In urban centers they are often created by a need for aesthetics or security. Alleys that go nowhere are often dirty places because things build up there. They are places to put storage or for garbage collection.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word," - Ephesians 5:25-26 ESV

The word waters, washes and cuts a path in the wilderness.

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

Grace thinking nourishes a marriage and creates  a flow and not a stagnant dead end.

People attend Churches and they ask, 'What missionaries do we support?' and the answer is, 'We don't do that because it's not in our budget.' They have reached a dead end.

A couple is dating and one day the concept of marriage comes up and a person says, 'I never want to get married.' the other sighs and realizes they have entered an alley with no exit. It's time to turn around or be trapped.

Jobs turn into dead ends. Many things do.

God's kingdom has no dead ends.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."" - Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

There are always people to win and places to go. God wants to join with us and show us reproduction in the world. New friends. New adventure. A way in the wilderness.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." - 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

God will give us a way when there seems to be no way.

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6a ESV

Yes. Jesus is our way to the Father and we become people formed by God to declare His praise. The words that come from the Book and our mouths open passages for people so that they can escape what is killing them and enter into the place where they are accepted and loved.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Logical Fallacies - Part 3

"Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul." - Psalm 143:7-8 ESV

I love this passage so much. As I read this Psalm it made me think of homelessness and the fear of homelessness. This Psalmist (the Psalm is attributed to King David) expresses a fear of misdirection into a set location that will mean death and isolation. He is asking for direction. He want to know how to think and plan.

He is sure that love will direct him because He is sure that God will not abandon Him... yet there is still the possibility that by going down the wrong path he will end up trapped in a situation that he can't get out of himself.

As I review the list of fallacies and copy them over into my notes with personalized explanations I think of how each one of them could potentially lead someone astray, convict an innocent party or cause a person or group to discard something precious and accept something worthless instead.

CIRCULAR LOGIC is when a person begins where they started to prove a point but the place where they started is theoretical in nature. People make the claim that Bible believing Christians (or Jews who believe in the inerrancy of the Hebrew scriptures) think and use circular reasoning because they settle arguments with a return to Biblical principles. It is understandable if you see the scriptures as theoretical or even fictional to think that way.

Those who have embraced the scripture as proven and not theoretical share the Psalmists hope of being lead into steadfast truth because that leading is no longer subjective. God isn't just an unknowable force. His mind is recorded in a reliable record and that record reveals love, holiness, honor and justice that surpasses human thinking.

I don't read much fiction anymore but I did before I became a believer. I am convinced that no one could pen the scriptures but God Himself. It is far to complex and interwoven of a work.


Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word. Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments. My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law. The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts. Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end." - Psalm 119:105-112 KJV


"My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law." - Psalm 119:109 KJV

The word translated law there is Strong's torah (Strong's H8451). It is God's sure, logically expressed and authoritative mind. If we have it then our soul is in our hand and we don't ever need to fear going down into the pit because even if that is where we end up we are sure that God will extend His nail scarred hand to lift us out again.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Logical Fallacies - Part 2

"But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison," - 1 Peter 3:14-19 ESV

As I go through the list of fallacies this morning it strikes me that God is so aware of our bad thinking.

"For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong - not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for." - 2 Corinthians 13:4-9 ESV

I think of the man proclaiming the gospel from a bar stool. He is ashamed to tell his friends when he is sober but he talks about love once he has a few drinks in him. Then people use AD HOMINEM thinking to attack the message. They undermine the messengers character to try and disprove the message but the message is real. Forgiveness is real. The test spoken of in the passage in 2 Corinthians is the 'appearance' test. People look for fruit and make conclusions of fruit production but that is a wrong way to think. Many of God's promises to the believer, if you look at them, are based on relationship and security. God does not guarantee a full transformation before death as matter of fact He promises the opposite and makes provisions for failure because He knows we will fail and that we and others will jump to wrong conclusions based on that failure. The believer is asking, 'Am I in The Faith?' and not, 'How am I doing? because The Faith has an answer. Jesus is holy and His work is holy. Trust in the finished work of the cross is far superior to anything we can see or evaluate performance wise.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." - 1 John 1:9-10 ESV

If we confess (and we will need to) again and again that we sin because we still have a nature that sins God will cleanse us again and again because in truth He has already cleansed us.

"Jesus said to him, 'The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.' " - John 13:10 ESV

THE FALSE CAUSE FALLACY is another interesting one because it jumps to conclusions based on circumstantial evidence instead of using truth as a goalpost. It looks by sight at circumstances and settles on a cause by natural reasoning or emotional bias.

"The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble." - Psalm 37:39 ESV

Jesus makes men 'stand upright' and be able to look straight ahead and up instead of down and back. That is a fact. We might not always do it but the ability has been given none the less.

"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:12 ESV

I don't recommend bar stool preaching. There is great value in letting grace do a work of transformation in us. It is the 'no condemnation' principle working in us and on us that takes us out of addictions and into freedom. That principle also cleanses our thinking because we no longer rationalize away our weakness.

I often look at the cross and see God's victory in the midst of my failure and it heals me. I know that God has made promises and that the victory of the resurrection has been placed on my account in spite of me.

Others might not think that way but it is how God thinks that really matters anyway isn't it?


Monday, November 30, 2015

Logical Fallacies - Part 1

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

I'm going to start a series of posts on logical fallacies. It is what I'm studying these days and it may go on for a while. I am floating a few 'series' these days... 'Loving Dangerous People' is another one. If you lose track or want to go back and see the previous post I try to always put the parts as clear as possible in the index of the blog page. Sometimes it takes awhile to unpack an idea. By God's grace I endeavor to finish each series I start... it just might take awhile. {smile}

The truth sets people free. Truth is always logical. The foundation may be hidden but the structure is ordered. Many times people are in bondage because of illogical biases. The great thing about truth is that it stands up to scrutiny.

THE STRAWMAN FALLACY - Over simplifying an argument or making it two dimensional to make it easier to attack. Don't we see people do this all the time? I look at people's lives and see great complexity. It's true that many things are made overly complicated but isn't it love that simplifies matters. By oversimplifying someones believe system even if it is full of holes we are disrespecting people. When Jesus is presented as He Is He is so 'real' and 'true' that my illusions become transparent in His precedence. I never want to jam the truth down someones throat and demean their experience. I need to see Jesus and His love. It makes me sad and sometimes mad to see people set up a Islamic strawman just so that they can knock it down or an atheist one or a political one. No. I want the real opponents to face one another. The Gospel doesn't need to dumb down everything else in order to win. The cross is lifted up high than the crowd so it can be seen. Jesus' love is unparalleled. His work is unmatched. People try to fictionalize it but the proof is there. It is historically recorded and any honest man must come to the conclusion if he or she looks at the evidence that God's love was expressed on Easter morning in a profound way.

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE - The 'If this happens then that must happen' argument uses cause and effect against someone to try and win them. I love how grace disarms the the slippery slope. Not that I'm endorsing bad decisions but I know so many people who have made bad decisions and are living good lives and vice versa. Karma is fife with loopholes because God is sovereign and has a complex plan. Things don't always add up. Sure there are some real documented consequences to actions and declarations that God makes in the scriptures but if our thinking and reasoning is slippery slope reasoning then we will live out of a deficit motivation and ask others to do so also. If we weigh every decision to heavily on the bad thing that might happen we are being steered by fear and not love. Love is the only thing that will get us where we want to go. Not our love... God's love. We need to know God has a plan and to base our decisions on the content of that plan. God can redeem and He is an expert at it.

I want to be thinking clearly.

"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' " - John 8:31-32 ESV

Yes. That means thinking that is free from restraint and not arguments that are struggling to climb a hill that they lack the energy to climb.

Hey! Let's love one another. Let's love the people we agree with and those we don't agree with.

"Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?" - Proverbs 6:27-28 ESV

Lies are going to burn people. We don't want to embrace them but lets be the people who have a salve to sooth the pain of those burns so they can heal and not the folks who pour salt on a wound.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Moving Through The Seasons Of Life

There are things to do in life but those things to only carry us through the season. We need more than what activities can offer.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end." - Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 ESV

There is a God shaped hole in each heart. Nothing can fill it but someone shaped like God. Children can't fill it. Romance can't fill it and neither can a career or fame and recognition.

We all know men who just march through seasons of life because they have an activity to keep them going. The job becomes their identity. Their children become what they live for But nothing, nothing, nothing can fill that hole but God.

"A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, 'It is finished,' and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." - John 19:29-30 ESV

The cross was the darkest time in human history. It was all the dying, tearing, hating and war wrapped up into one horrible day. Jesus drank the sour wine of all the worst of our seasons when He went to the cross but He went there to make things beautiful for us.

"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." - Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

Activity is a way of coping but relationships are what make things beautiful. If God takes the heart with a hole and replaces it with a new one then we can have relationships and do things for love's sake and we aren't trying to fill a space that can never be filled.

I see people putting on a brave face as they trudge onward and I wonder, 'Will they ever stop doing long enough to just be?' because we all need to just let God love us. Jesus already drank the bitter cup so we can live in the beauty of reconciliation.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

God's Treasure

People are so precious. They are so important. That is the thought a woke with this morning and it dominates my mind and study this morning.

You are important. You are precious. You are God's treasure.

"Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. 'They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.' " - Malachi 3:16-18 ESV

God sees the weakest person that has believed in Him as precious.

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." - Hebrews 11:6 ESV

Then it lists people from Abraham onward in the scriptures culminating here.

"And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets - who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated - of whom the world was not worthy - wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised," - Hebrews 11:32-39 ESV

I am listing the people in my life this morning and thinking... 'This one is precious and I wonder what ever happened to that one?'... Thinking of each one even though I am still sleepy. Old friends and friends I have made later in life. God is here seeing my list. He has a much longer list and He adds to mine. He fills in the gaps of my memory.

You are precious and important. Yes. You. The person reading this right now. You are important to God. You are His treasure. There are some people you don't think so but they are wrong. If God values someone then that person has value and God values you more than you know.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Loving Potentially Dangerous People - Part 2

This morning I am looking in the Hebrew and studying the 'Stranger and Sojourner.' There is so much here about these words and great insight for us in dealing with potentially dangerous people from outside our circle.

Here is a passage where these words refer to Abraham...

"And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead. And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth." - Genesis 23:1-7 KJV

The Hebrew word Ger (Strong's H1616) is often translated stranger from the verb Guwr (H1481) to turn aside on the road (detour). Passages where Abraham stopped somewhere with a different people group such as in Eygpt or with the Philstines seem to use this verb (Genesis 12:10, 19:9, 20:1, 21:23, 21:34)

The other word Towshab (Strong's H8453) is from the Hebrew verb Yashab (H3427) to dwell, to establish or to judge and it is often translated sojourner. The sojourner is just passing through as a lodger but not a citizen.

Israel made a distinction between a citizen with an inheritance and a person who was just passing through. There were certain restrictions but there were also certain provisions given.

If we look at our personal life we can treat it like it is a nation. Is a person applying for citizenship or are they a sojourner? If they are a sojourner that is fine. There are provisions for sojourners but there are also restrictions.

Romantic relationships in modern culture often fail to make these distinctions. Women grant men the rights of citizenship when in truth these fellows are sojourners and strangers. They are just passing through and haven't decided one way or another where they want to be. It is recipe for heartbreak.

It is going to take a while to unpack these words and concepts but notice how Abraham is here in Genesis 23 as opposed to the Hivites in Joshua chapter 9. Abraham is upfront about his intentions. He is staying for a short time and returning to his life.


Monday, November 23, 2015

At The Church

Church is such an interesting place. There is glory, fellowship, illumination and clarity but at the same time there are also often so many needs, pains and unresolved issues. Theology meets sociology at the Church and there are so many that need social services.

Sometimes I have a lot to say at Church but last night God made me very quiet. I sat with people but for the most part I just watched. I watched the Pastor minister. I watched an older man struggle with the dilemma of helping a couple who had been displaced from their home or give two first time visitors that smelled strongly of cheap cigarettes a ride home who had been left without a ride. I saw families living in expectation for a loved one who would return home for thanksgiving and others who had lost loved ones and would never see that person again at a dinner table in this life quietly struggle with that loss. Prosperity walks side by side with poverty at the Church. Wisdom sits next to naive foolishness there. Girls and boys dance the dance of courtship. Friends laugh. People struggle with barely flickering smiles. Translators translate. Some came in rich already but everyone leaves with something eternal. Even those who wonder if anything was there that can help them practically in their barely tolerable situation in this season of life. Eternal words sink deep. Fellowship is eternal.

"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." - Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV

I remember being the stranger coming in the doors of a Church. I rode a bus which brought men from a mission house to this nice white washed Church filled with families and sweet elderly people. I remember being self conscious and feeling like a stranger. I didn't smell like cigarettes but I felt like I did. I had the look in my eyes that I saw in those two men's eyes last night... the ones who needed a ride.

The older man decided he couldn't help the couple but he took the two visitors home and the couple who was displaced got a night, or a couple nights, reprieve somewhere. They got help in the 11th hour.

"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, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints - and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you - see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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 8:1-9 ESV

It baffles me many times. I am not hard like I once was. People's needs affect me. Like that older man I can't help everyone. Last night I wasn't led to help anyone. I prayed but I wasn't the ride and no one is waking up on my couch this morning who doesn't normally live here. The needs did get met. Those needs might not have been met but they did... at the Church.

Jesus purposely became poor so we could be rich. There is a grace that is only seen at the Church. It is place of great joy and poverty. Sometimes it is hard to be a part of but it is always a great honor to see God do what He does there.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Crisis To Process

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:1-2 NASB

God uses the crisis to brings us into a process. Here is a great quote from a booklet by Dr Carl Stevens.

'In presenting my body, I prove what is the perfect will of God. If I don’t present my body, then I will never prove it. Instead of having His perfect will, it may just be something that I want. If we don’t prove His perfect will, God will send trials to make it happen. The Lord will deliver us through death if we haven’t already been delivered from death. He will bring a crisis into our lives so that He can start the process of victory. If you present your body by faith and by mercy, and do it because of the Finished Work, then anything God does will result in you revealing what has been done. When trials come to those who refuse to present their bodies as living sacrifices, they reveal what hasn’t been done and what they are like. All we can do is patiently sit back and hope the day comes when there will be a conversion. But, when trials come to a Spirit-filled Christian, the trials reveal what Christ has done and Who God is.' - Atmospheric Cycles

God is the faithful one. We can love and help but we don't want to interfere with what God is doing in a person's life.

Grace words renew the mind. Truth that emphasizes the finished work of the cross and keeps God's character and nature as the focus will keep a person and purify a person's thinking in the midst of good times and bad.

In the most difficult situations there is a victory that we can enter into. That victory is an eternal victory.

"But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." - 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 ESV

The flesh needs a veil. It needs to hide in emotionalism and shade from the truth in order to preserve it's illusion that in it's dysfunction it is still somehow acceptable. The flesh needs to just endure as long as it can and rationalize why things aren't the way the should be.

When a person turns to the Lord in a new spiritual identity the veil is removed and transformation can take place. The gap between expectation and perceived reality shrinks. Peace and hope can reign in a person's heart and mind. Then a person can say, 'If I perish then I perish' and really mean it.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Loving Potentially Dangerous People - Part 1

Struggling with this question this morning... How do you love potentially dangerous people?

In 2015 it is Syrian refugees... In 1938 it was Jews fleeing Europe... Both groups could contain spies. Both groups would not be easily absorbed into the culture because their beliefs kept them separate. In the midst of needy people there are also a few dangerous ones. The family seeking to adopt goes and visits an orphanage and looks to see if a son or daughter is there that they can love but one or more of those children might be dangerous because of the violence they had to endure... homeless ministry has danger... prison ministry has danger.

In Joshua chapter 9 Israel took in their Trojan horse...

"But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, 'We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.' " - Joshua 9:3-6 ESV

This is what we all worry about. Who is what they seem to be? Who is safe and who is lying?

"They said to Joshua, 'We are your servants.' And Joshua said to them, 'Who are you? And where do you come from?' They said to him, 'From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt...' " - Joshua 9:8-9 ESV

But they weren't from far away. Who are you refugee? Who are you nicely dressed young man coming to our church... Are you here to find God or do you want to corrupt our daughters? Who are you person who wants to rent out my basement apartment... have you cheated the last three families you rented from or are you who you say you are?

"So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them." - Joshua 9:14-15 ESV

Here we see the problem. Israel didn't love with wisdom. Love is dangerous no matter how you do it. People are fallen, broken and damaged. Some need help and some need to loved from behind a locked door because their motives are evil.

We must never stop loving but we must ask God who to love and how to love. That is why Churches have wise watchful men assigned to security.

"Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." - Hebrews 13:1-3 ESV

Fear can stop us from 'letting brotherly love continue' and we never want that to happen.

Pray, love and get involved. Be very careful and prayerful about who you let live in your basement but that room can't be vacant forever.

There is no clear cut answer in this... God must give us an answer... we can't just harden our hearts without consequences and we can't be naive either. If we are prayerfully involved there might still be hardship but there will also be great fruit.