Friday, October 30, 2015

The Excitement Of Opening Day

We gather because we have an expectation that something is going to happen.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV

Let me first say that one of the things that I love about being a believer is that it renders guilt and shame oriented obligation useless. Conviction is useful but guilt is foreign and abandoned. Jesus became my guilty one. My sins were put on Him. Guilt is never a means to gather because guilt is never a means period.

If you have been part of a play or complicated dramatic production what do you do as opening day gets closer? You gather together more and more to practice and prepare. Why? Is it guilt that draws you? No. It is desire. When that curtain goes up everything you have worked for will be presented to a group of people and that is exciting and scary and wonderful all at the same time.

'The Day' this passage in the book of Hebrews is talking about is the day of God's visitation.

When that curtain goes up the people see the actors and hear the music. Props are moved on cue and the things people are doing behind the scenes become visible to the spectators. At the same time the actors feel the audience and hear their applause. Both groups are seen and experienced by each other.

The same is true on God's day of visitation. God is there observing us and we are there observing Him. All of this is happening as something prepared beforehand is unfolding before us.

I don't want to be a person that has nothing to look forward to. I want to be a person that expects God to show up. God Is faithful. Since I know that to be true I always have something to look forward to. That manifests as a general air of expectation but it also manifests in specific expectations of divine appointments in scheduled gatherings.

If you have ever experienced a visitation of God then you know what it's like but if you haven't I'm not sure if I have the words to explain it. It is the most wonderful transcendent thing.

I don't want to miss it and grace removes all the barriers from us receiving all that God Is in those times. There is no guilt or shame there. God is there and we are in the best possible place to be for that moment in time.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jesus At The Dinner Table

"Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi's house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, 'How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?' When Jesus heard it, He said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.' " - Mark 2:15-17 NKJV

It is one thing to hear a message but sitting and eating with the people who also hear it brings things to another level. Fellowship times make memories and build relationships.

I have some great memories of fellowship times at people's homes.

Grace in action.

We need American Churches. I sigh and groan for it. Not crystallized structures but gathering places where truth is spoken and fellowship is experienced.

My heart is burdened. Too many people hear truth but eat alone. Jesus does His doctoring at the dinner table.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Grace In Luke Chapter One

I'm reading Luke chapter 1 this morning and what a blessing it is. The the angel Gabriel is making visits and speaking to people.

He speaks to an old man who is made mute until he makes a faith decision to act in a window of opportunity but he also speaks to a young woman. That young woman didn't have the stubbornness of the old man but none the less the conversation still caused her trouble.

"In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry,

'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.'

And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.'

And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home." - Luke 1:39-56 ESV

Mary made haste to have fellowship with people who could relate to her. She was a pure young girl and her words reflect her purity don't they?

Mary lived for three months in the stubborn mute old man's house.

"Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered,

'No; he shall be called John.' And they said to her, 'None of your relatives is called by this name.'

And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, 'His name is John.'

And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea," - Luke 1:57-65 ESV

That was no ordinary house. God was doing things there.

Perhaps there is a stubborn old man living in your house. Maybe there is one living deep inside you. A mute relegious person who goes through the motions of serving in the temple but is hesitant to walk by faith.

God may just put a piece of paper in front of you today. What will you write on it?

Or maybe it is Mary that you relate to more in this season of life. You have vision that has yet to be born but the trouble has already begun. Fellowship is what you need. Time with people a little farther along the path.

This morning my soul magnifies the Lord.

I read the words of the account of these people's lives and it is like cold water splashed on my face. It awakens me and cleanses my thinking.

He sent us a Savior and it turned our lives topsy turvey. Thank God He did. We need to get things shaken up so that reality will come into focus.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Trap Or A Stepping Stone?

Here is a great quote from the booklet I'm reading...

"Today, whatever state you are in, never separate your condition from God's compassion nor your pain from God's Holy Spirit. Do not let the pain destroy the amazing thing that God wants to do for you." - The Compassion of Christ

Are circumstances a trap or a stepping stone along the way?

If you look at the Gospel of John it is a series of encounters that Jesus has with people. Many of those people are trapped in some way but then they meet Christ and He frees them or heals them.

"Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?' This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.' And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.' " - John 8:2-11 ESV

Jesus gave this woman the same freedom that He had. He turned an end into a beginning.

God isn't going to leave us in our circumstances. He Is never going to leave us. At the same time He does not plan on staying anywhere for too long either. He Is on the move. His compassion is moving Him.

We don't have to leave where we are to go with God. We can remain true to our commitments and still walk with Him.

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." - Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV

Life isn't a trap when we walk with God.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Send Out Laborers

"And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.' " - Matthew 9:35-38 ESV

I always thought that this was an interesting grace oriented prayer.

The natural thing would be to put pressure on people to serve but instead Jesus said to ask God to send laborers into His own fields.

If you ever have worked in a department that is understaffed you have seen what it can be like. The people there already have to much to do. They are hoping management will hire people to help.

There are times in our lives where we are looking at real deadlines. That harvest must be brought in or else it will be lost.

Jesus saw needs and had compassion but the need He communicated to His disciples was a 'prayer need.' He didn't say do more until you are exhausted. He said, 'Pray to the Lord of the harvest.' Be someone who sees the need and puts pressure on management.

I'm praying for people to show up in situations. I'm praying that God would send people.

That God would send the wife to the young man that is lonely.
That God would send the caretaker to the older person that needs help.
That God would send the leader and the team to place that need truth.
That God would send the benefactor to help those with monetary needs.
That God would send soul winning people into groups and areas.
That God would send laborers into His harvest field.

Our society teaches us to be the answer we are looking for but I see people who often put pressure on themselves and others in ways that aren't realistic.

I'm going to talk to management today... staying in the mix and by God's grace having eyes of compassion to do what a believing person can do. Not as a slothful complainer but as a responsible contributor. Living as a person investing time and love and believing God.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Getting Established

A few subjects are on my mind this morning from our conversation at coffee last night.

One is prophecy in the Hebrew scriptures versus in the Greek scriptures.

The other is the desire to see people 'established'.

This passage (a long one) contains both ideas.

"But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you - I, Paul, again and again - but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you - for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you," - 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:12 ESV

Old testament prophets gave glimpses of future events. The Messiah had not come yet. The Greek NT scriptures are all written after the cross and point back to what has happened not what will happen but there are some rare instances where that is not the case.

Paul told these believers at Thessaloniki that the team was going to suffer hardship before it happened and he later feared that somehow these people would leave the faith and get taken out by deception but then the opposite happened. God kept them.

Can you see the love in the words?

I think seeing people established makes our suffering seem worthwhile. We see a miracle in other people's lives when they persevere also.

Grace is what is able to establish people. It is what is able to establish us. It is the only thing that can truly establish us on the rock that can't be moved.

"To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David. Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I," - Psalm 61:1-2 ESV

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." - Matthew 7:24-27 ESV

I so want the people in my sphere of influence to be established. The Gospel of Grace is what establishes people. Jesus died for sin and rose to reign and we as individuals just believe in what He has done and who He Is. Mysteriously those who mix faith with that truth can persevere because they are anchored to the eternal reality of God and not the transitory difficult situations that we all must face sooner or later.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Effortless One On One Communication

I once asked a man how he became such a good listener and conversationalist and he said it was from years of confrontational evangelism. He had been rejected by hundreds of people and he had learned to be a good listener. He had abandoned formulas and learned to love the lovely and unlovely alike.

"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 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," - 1 Peter 3:13-15 ESV

"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 2:4-5 ESV

There is something about purposefully conversations where personal agendas are absent.

When you extend yourself in love you also learn how to listen. Introvert or extrovert it doesn't matter. Your world may be inside yourself or outside of yourself but in purity Christ becomes the focus and there is a way to be with people that is absent of anxiety or fear because God is supplying a peace that passes understanding.

I see people relate to each other based on sexuality and it is a sad substitute for intimacy. A false identity that is built on attraction is just a distraction. It is a mask for insecurity.

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord." - Romans 12:9-11 ESV

When God is our King we are not seek to please people. God is already pleased with us because of Jesus. People are no longer objects or sources pleasure, prestige, provision or even comfort. God has met those needs in us. We know that whatever need we are experiencing in any given moment has a provision that is on it's way from God. Our souls are weaned and know that they will be fed in due season by the God who loves us.

Jesus could (and did) befriend fishermen, scholars, prostitutes and traitors alike. Mary Magdalene met a man she could not beguile who loved her in purity and had words from Heaven. Nicodemus came at night to talk to Jesus but concepts and theories weren't the basis of the conversation. Jesus loved Nicodemus and gave him an eternal perspective that could not come from any book.

Think about who makes you nervous. The idea of that person is exerting a power over you. If you pray for them and think in purity that power can be broken over time or in a moment because it is a false power feeding off of a personal agenda to be loved, wanted or powerful. When our souls are fending for themselves fear is always an underlying influence.

"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. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." - Galatians 1:10-12 ESV

I post these things on social media but the bottom line is that I don't really care if you like what I have to say or not. I don't care much about if you like me or not either. I care about your soul. The message I have from day to day isn't my message. I hope to have strong relationships with all kinds of people... I'm just not going to compromise to get them.

We can go toe to toe and speak face to face with people who hate us. We are able to stand there loving them as we speak and listen. We don't have to harden our hearts like inmates in a tough prison block. It is a supernatural freedom that is only acquired in a faith relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ but anyone can have this freedom.

"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... So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." - John 8:31-32, 36 ESV


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Operating From Fullness

There is a right time to discuss some things isn't there? God speaks about a 'fullness of time' and it is great concept.

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God." - Galatians 4:4-7 ESV

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." - Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV

Greek word translated 'fullness' is pleroma (Strong's G4138) and it speaks of a ship fully manned or a team that has every position covered.

Grace covers all the bases. I want to wait sometimes to discuss issues because there must be a fullness there or else I will be in the wrong state of mind and possibly cause other problems or at minimum come to wrong conclusions.

If we make major decisions hot with anger or flush with need we are not operating from fullness and instead of redemption we may get something else.

In Jewish tradition a minimum of ten adult men must be present in order for certain prayers to be prayed. It is called a minyan. This comes from the idea that God is present in the congregation in a special way.

"A Psalm of Asaph. God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah" - Psalm 82:1-2 NKJV

The Hebrew word for congregation is edah (H5712) and the smallest number of people we ever see this word referring to in the Hebrew scriptures is the ten spies sent into the promised land to spy out the land. That was taken as the Biblical precedence of the minimum size of a congregation.

There are councils and and other forms of governance that also require a certain high percentage of people involved to be present before decisions regarding the whole can be made also.

Isn't it wise that when we make decisions we should have a fullness before we pass judgement? Isn't is prudent that all the interested players be present for the decision?

"For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God." - 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 ESV

Yes. I don't want to make decisions in discouragement. I want the grace of God and the Truth of God to be present before coming to a conclusion.

One day the Messiah will return and put the world in order but today Jesus can come into our thinking and put us in order. Then we can worship. He is in Heaven right sitting on a throne as angels bear witness to His plan. I want my sphere to reflect the same mind as that Heavenly gathering. That can only happen in fullness.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Asking For The Vehicle

Not having grown up in Christianity I never experienced the idea firsthand of thinking that Church leadership wanted something from me.

Now I see the damage that has been done in people's lives by leaders who have demanded the wrong things.

"Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children." - 1 Thessalonians 2:6-7 ESV

"Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep." - Ezekiel 34:2b-3 ESV

"Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once.' This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 'Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'' The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them." - Matthew 21:1-7 ESV

There is a thing that falls into the category of, 'The Lord Has Need of This' but it isn't food... it is a vehicle. Is was a humble vehicle at that.

Men can use the office to feed their ego. They can use it to feed their belly and bank account also. They sense that there is a legitimate category of demand that an apostle (or sent one which is what that word means) can make but pride or carnality asks for the wrong things.

The Apostles knew they could ask for things within certain boundaries but they refrained. They knew it was more important that these people needed to know that God wanted to give something to them and that receiving from God was of paramount importance.

Later once a team is formed the leader can say please contribute to this humble vehicle that brings Christ into the city and it is an appropriate request. A leader should ask for those things or places might never be reached.

Christ was hailed as The King on that little colt that had never held a rider (see Mark 11:2)

"And some of those standing there said to them, 'What are you doing, untying the colt?' And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it." - Mark 11:5-7 ESV

There are places where we can go and say,'We would like to put on a concert in this park.' or 'Let's go feed the homeless on Saturdays.' or even, 'We want to start meeting here on Sundays to sings songs and teach the Bible.' and the people there who may not know God will just let us when our answer is that we are doing it in the Lord's name.

It seems to work best if the vehicle has never been ridden before. People are less likely to want to participate if they have run into the 'belly feeders' first. {{ Sigh }}

I wonder what that owner of the colt thought when He realized the prophesied Messiah was riding in on his animal? That man became a part of eternal history because he was willing to part with his donkey.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Wholesome Words In The Ark Of God

"By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith." - Hebrews 11:7 ESV

"For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed - God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers." - 1 Thessalonians 2:3-10 ESV

God's Love becomes a refuge from events as yet unseen.

There are men who use the truth to take. But then there are those who labor to give. They labor to give gently.

"The word of the LORD came to me: 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.' " - Ezekiel 34:1-5 ESV

God has given us an ark. He has sent His Son. His Son Is our ark. We labor against the idea that God wants to take something away. Sometimes the labor is to undo the work that shepherds who feed their belly have done.

God wants people to be in the ark He has prepared because they will be safe there. The storm can still be a bruising affair. Even in the ark we get tossed around but it is nothing like what it's like to be outside.

We can have great physical needs and yet we go to God and He becomes our strong tower. He becomes a place of safety and perspective.

We often go through needy times where if we don't get help from people and from God we might not make it. There is no shame in that. Those times create humility. Those times remove sentimentality. We either become people who use others as a lifestyle or we find the ark and become people who labor to be gentle create an atmosphere where people are safe so that they will choose to enter the ark that has been revealed to us.

"Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." - Ephesians 4:28-32 ESV

Yes. I was a thief. But grace transforms thieves into people who give grace.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Our Father's Son

A man's identity is linked to who his father was. He might not know his father or he might know him very well. He might hate his father or he might put him on some kind of pedestal. The variations of possibilities are endless. There is an inescapable link and as men get older it becomes more apparent. Souls beget other souls. That is how God made us.

No matter who a man is or what kind of relationship he had with his genetic father (or other father figures) there are conflicts that arise in his soul that are linked to this father and son dynamic.

These days I don't think women are taught this concept but if they can get their minds around this idea then it will really help them understand the men in their life. This isn't something that can often be faced head on either. It is an issue that lingers near the blind spot of male perception and must be handled with great tact and care.

A man wants to be, needs to be, his own man but in a sense he never can be. If his father was an honorable man he walks in the shadow of that honor and if his father was a dishonorable one he has the conflict of knowing that no matter how honorable he is there might be a seed of the things that he sees and hates in him also. That is only one glimpse of a thousand different less definable reflections that are happening in a man's soul that he can't possibly be aware of.

Then there are the men who never knew their fathers. They live with no genetic mirror to give them a reflection so they wonder and have psychic loose ends that can't be tied up.

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." - John 10:27-30 ESV

Wow. He Is the only man who ever lived who could say that He and His father were one and mean it like that!

"He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 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." - John 1:11-14 ESV

The word translated 'right' in verse 12 is the Greek word exousia (Strong's G1849) and in other places it is translated as 'power' or 'authority'.

What does it mean to be God's son? What does it mean to be anyone's son?

As we get older all men find out what it is like to transform into our father's image.

There was and is no dysfunction in Jesus' relationship with His father and the miraculous thing is that there does not need to be dysfunction in our relationship with Him either.

Grace is the key. Grace and truth.

Grace opens the door for us to go to our Heavenly Father and be close to Him.

Some men have a genetic father or another older man they can go to that helps them along the way. Others never have that or the man they had that link with is gone now. Men age and men die. That is how life is. But those who have trusted in Christ have a Father in Heaven to go to. He sits on a throne... it is a throne of grace.

Our Earthly relationship points us to a greater eternal one if we are available to go there.

Can we put a price on that privilege? I can't.

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

Once we have a Savior we also have a Heavenly Father. It is a package deal.



Thursday, October 15, 2015

Loving People

What a privilege it is to have people to love. There are many kinds of love. We love family and love in a brotherly way. Then of course there is romantic love. Each relationship is different and special.

We miss the ones we love when they are not there. We enjoy the ones we love.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." - Galatians 5:22-24 ESV

There are many ways to talk about this passage but once I heard a man say that the fruit of the Spirit is Love and all the other things mentioned are descriptive of that love. I like that and it has stuck with me.

The Greek word for love mentioned in this passage is agape (Strong's G26) and it isn't brotherly or romantic. It is divine and it seems to cover all of our emotions like a blanket. It sanctifies us and pushes out that which is impure.

Those who have embraced a crucified Savior knowing that they have been crucified with Him decide to mortify passions and desires that are in conflict with this love.

I'll say it again... It is a privilege to have people to love.

When we love people we are on the same page with God because He loves people. He loves as an expert.

I want to learn from Him today.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Abraham's Faith

This morning I have been reading Romans chapter 4. It is a good chapter to read if you have big dreams.

It recounts the faith of Abraham and talks about how Abraham was righteous apart from the rules (It uses circumcision as a picture of the rules in his time and culture). It also speaks of the him conceiving a child with his wife in their old age.

I'll quote a passage near the end of the chapter.

"For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness... No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was 'counted to him as righteousness.' But the words 'it was counted to him' were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." - Romans 4:9b, 20-25 ESV

Abraham believed God and then he did a thing that old men and old women don't do. They had a child together.

"In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, 'So shall your offspring be.' He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God," - Romans 4:18-20 ESV

He said, and rightfully so, 'How can I be the father of many nations unless I become a father?'

His faith is our faith. Abraham's vehicle was fatherhood and parenting but ours is believing in Jesus.

How are we going to function in the impossible thing God has put before us? We will do it by believing in Jesus. Day after day and moment after moment. If we look at ourselves we will disqualify ourselves. Abraham was old he couldn't do what a young man could do... right? If we look at others we will disqualify the situation based on it's conditions. Sarah was too old to conceive or carry a child for 9 months... I mean that's not practical.

I want to look at what God says about a place. What does God say about a drug addict or a marriage? Is there a person I won't share my faith with because I think, 'They aren't going to listen to me.' Who is saying that? Where does that thought come from? Not from God.

God says, 'Believe in my Son.'

"...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:1b-2 KJV

Maybe some will say you are a fool but what does God say?


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Steward Of The True Riches

Jesus is a wise manager of His Father's wealth. Grace is wise management. Mercy is a good investment. What is the result we are looking for?

"He also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' And the manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' He said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' He said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."" - Luke 16:1-13 ESV

The children of light sometime aren't very good with dealing with mammon. Mammon is more than just money. Mammon is the deal itself also. Mammon is leverage.

Sometimes believers in Christ are just not as shrewd as the ones who are in touch with what is happening in this age. The people of the age are looking for a material salvation. They think things and connections will save them so they hone the skills that they can hone to gain an advantage.

God wants us to be good managers at the same time He has praise for those who are generous with His resources.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." - Psalm 23:4-6 ESV

God keeps pouring until our cup runs over.

What does that mean? Often times that does not mean that we have material prosperity. We become generous people who say, 'Maybe you do own 100 but Jesus paid your back bill so let's call it even.'

Our generosity has a purpose. It isn't naive. It is relationship building. We are not givers who just feed the hunger of several takers. We are givers of grace and mercy investors who cut deals so that eternal habitations can happen.

Today is another day to be a steward of the 'true riches.'


Monday, October 12, 2015

A Prophetic Thought Progression

Last night after service in the cafe P Butch hit us with a principle from his apologetics class (He was my apologetics instructor in the 90's when I went to Bible College). He reminded us that we can see certain progressions in the scriptures of how the prophets communicated messages from God.

They often put an attitude or event in context, then communicated divine viewpoint and lastly they gave a starting point for the listener to act. It isn't a formula but it is one of the organic progresses of communication we see in the scriptures.

We see Jesus doing this with Mary and Martha when He went to raise Lazarus from the dead.

"...and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' " - John 11:19-23 ESV

Mary communicates her disappointment. This family had a close relationship with Jesus. Jesus had rushed off to heal others. He had spoke a word with a soldier He didn't know and that soldiers servant was healed that laid far away in a bed somewhere else but now she is mourning the death of Her brother. She was wondering why these recent events had transpired.

Jesus doesn't apologize. He takes from what she said (or in this case implied) and gives that truth back to her by confirming to her that her brother will be raised from the dead.

We use this in apologetics when speaking to people. People have strange ideas about God. Some of them come right from the culture or fiction and others are unique patchworks developed over time. We use the Bible's descriptions of God's actions or nature to put what they are saying in context. We find a point of agreement (if possible) and start from that common ground.

"Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.'

Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?' " - John 11:24-26 ESV

Then Jesus gives her divine viewpoint and a starting point for application. He reveals to her who He Is in a fresh way. She knew He could heal her brother but that knowledge only added to her grief because it made Jesus seem powerful but uncaring.

Knowledge about God divorced from grace does that. We are left confused by circumstances because our expectations are not met.

Human viewpoint was that Jesus was a kind man destined to be Messiah who had the power to Heal. Divine viewpoint shows us that Jesus is the finger of God that pierces the veil of eternity. He Is eternal, sovereign and powerful. He is loving but not predictable in our framework. His consistency is just that... His. He does not act the way we think He will based on experience but He also does not disappoint.

Then Jesus gave Martha an opening to make an application of the truth just presented by asking her if she believed. He challenged her, gently, to mix faith with truth. After speaking to Mary and weeping Jesus gave the whole group another opportunity to apply truth.

"Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.' Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, 'Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.' Jesus said to her, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?' So they took away the stone.

And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.'

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out.' The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.

Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, and let him go.' " - John 11:39-44 ESV

We can communicate this way also. We can put situations in context then reveal to people the divine viewpoint that has been revealed to us. Lastly... we can challenge them to believe.

If they believe they can see the glory of God for themselves just as we have gotten glimpses of that glory when we believed.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Three Prayer Scenarios

"Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." - Matthew 18:19-20 ESV

I am thinking about this verse this morning partly because we had such a great time last night as a small group and with the people we came in contact with.

There was a group of four men but it was a group that people felt like they could join. Some folks said, 'We overheard what you were talking about.' and we said, 'Good. We purposely speak loudly enough so that people can overhear it.'

It was a group that invites people in while also being a group that invites God to act. One that asks God to act.

P Butch made some great statements last night about how God answers prayer. There are three scenarios.

One. Is when we ask for something 'according to God's will' and that one gets a 'Yes' from God.

The second one gets a 'No' from God because it isn't his will for reasons we may clearly understand or because of circumstances we can not know.

Then there is the third answer. It is the mysterious place where God says 'Yes' because of how we ask and who we ask with. It is like a child asking to do something adventurous with his friends. The parent weighs the decision and comes to a conclusion but that conclusion is affected by how the child asks.

The child may say, 'I'll take my coat and I'll leave my phone on. We'll stay together and we won't stay out past seven because I need to get back and do my homework.' and the parent sees a level of maturity that prompts them to say 'Yes.'

Perhaps when two or more ask God see that and it affects His response because He sees a dynamic that pleases Him. He sees Jesus there is the midst because Jesus is correctly portrayed by the group. Jesus' presence is mystical but it is also doctrinal. God sees His Jesus there and not a Jesus that He doesn't recognize as His Son.

Does the group have grace and truth? Are people made to feel welcome or is the group exclusive in an excluding way?

Maybe God says, 'No' when we go it alone but He might have said, 'Yes' if we asked together.

Something to think about.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Conversation Outside Of A Coffee Shop

Went to coffee tonight on the Avenue and we had a great conversation. A father and daughter at the next table overheard us and asked if they could sit with us.

Wow. We touched on a lot of subjects from Tesla to ancient civilizations, free will and the reason for the existence of evil. We talked about mercy and how it doesn't exist in Buddhism or in science but that the God of the Bible is just and merciful.

But then it turned to the subject of Jesus. Was He unique? The scripture says that Jesus was the embodiment of grace and truth. The father approved of Christ in a different way. We have been given grace because of Him and in Him. He died then was raised and He sits in Heaven and that is why Heaven is opened to men. Heaven wasn't opened before the cross... now it is. Jesus is the graced out One and we get grace only by association.

After going back and forth for a while and clearly explaining the Gospel there was a moment with the man (an agnostic scientist) that went something like this...

I said, 'Would you like to pray with me right now? Jesus came to Earth and paid for your sins. Now He sits in Heaven ready to receive you if you will only believe. We can pray right now... together.'

He said 'No...' but he was visibly shaken. Things had moved past the intellect. 'I'm not ready to do that... but... but... I like what you are saying... I want to hear more.'

I said, 'I'm not going to push you but couldn't you sense that the decision you had to make about praying just now was a serious one? I'm just a man sitting in front of Starbucks but you knew just then that if you prayed with me is was a real life changing thing. Just a few words born from a decision.'

He said, 'Yes. I did but I'm not ready.'

I said, 'Where is your agnosticism now? If you can't 'know certain things' then what did you just 'know' a moment ago when I asked you to pray with me? You just experienced a taste of spiritual warfare.'

Then the subject shifted to friendship and I said, 'Jesus is unique and he wants to be your friend. Friendship transcends intellect. People look like they are your friends but it is only in the trials that you find out who your real friends are.'

He agreed and we talked about Adam handing over his power to Satan by submitting to his initiations and why that was part of the reason the world was in such disarray right now. Adam had made a mistake that Jesus didn't duplicate. He didn't join us like Adam joined Eve. He died for us because He was really our friend.

Then I asked him again, 'Again I'm asking... Would you like to pray right now? We can pray right now together.' and looked into his eyes and waited a moment and said, 'See... there it is again. That resistance right there isn't going to come down because you have all of your questions answered. God wants to meet you right there at that door.'

He didn't seem to know what to say.

'When you are all alone' I said, 'Ask this God that you want to believe in to reveal His Son to you. He will... and coincidences you can't explain away are bound to start happening. The barrier will reappear again but I can't tell you how many chances you will have... only you can use your will to choose to believe.'

He looked me right in the eyes as I was saying those words.

Then we talked for a couple more moments and parted ways by shaking hands, smiling and laughing.

I love those interactions. Clearly this man was not offended by my initiation to pray. He was a little surprised but it was more than that. He sensed that if he prayed with me his life was going to change. His thinking could not remain the same. I believe God touched him in some way.

Little does he know that his life is going to change anyway even though he didn't say, 'Yes.'

His agnosticism just got dealt a fatal blow. Now he has Jesus to deal with and Jesus is knowable.


Coming Clean

Talking to God this morning about myself and about people. Shedding some tears and bearing my soul. Some of the tears are for the people and some are just tears because I doubt that God is listening in the way I want Him to.

Ever been there?

I know God hears and I also know enough theology to understand some things about sovereignty and holiness. I can quote Bible verses at God like I sometimes do to people. I know He is listening because my life is hidden in Christ who Is in God. Christ is seated at God's right hand in Heaven as we speak so I know I have an audience. Yet...

This closeness reveals my depravity. I am undone in the presence of holiness. I weep because I sometimes feel like a dirty fraud. I weep for myself and then repent because I am so selfish.

"Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem." - 2 Chronicles 1:14 ESV

"Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity... I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind... Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:2, 14, 2:11 ESV

God came through for Solomon and Israel in so many ways. The land was prospering and so was Solomon. Solomon was a powerful, rich and wise man. But he was miserable at this stage of his life.

You can say that Solomon was saying that believing God has value and Earthly accomplishments are vain. You can make him sound spiritual if you want to but I think he is just miserable because God isn't blessing the work of 'his' hands. Solomon is blessed because of Abraham. Isaac and David his father and not because of Solomon.

Solomon had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen in his little nation the size of New Jersey. He was a powerful man that could direct that power but it wasn't ever going to be about him and his plan.

"He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done." - 1 Kings 11:3-6 ESV

Idolatry is when we look for Gods that will bless our plans.

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ" - Ephesians 1:2-9 ESV

Yes. Knowing this I become a spiritual optimist.

Tears of frustration become tears of joy.

God isn't going to bless the people I'm praying for based on me. They need work, comfort, companionship and hope and I can move my Earthly chariots (if I have them) in positions to defend them but the bottom line is that God must come through for them and in a very real way He already has. He came through long before we were born. That victory was revealed Easter morning when a man rose from the grave.

That victory can be manifested in our moments. That is what I find myself asking for.

I pray a 'grace be unto you and peace' prayer based on the risen Son... not based on myself. I start with myself sometimes but God shifts me to Jesus. I realize that the only reason I even care is because He cares and Is moving me to pray and weep.

I come clean about my selfishness and God cleanses me with His grace and mercy.

God has covered me with His robe of righteousness. My tears are dry.

Thank you God... a thousand times over... 'Thank You.'


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Seasons And Fixtures

There are seasonal things and then there are things that become lasting fixtures in our lives. I have been thinking about what is seasonal and what is not.

"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." - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV

Love becomes a fixture. Lust is seasonal.

"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. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." - Hebrews 11:24-26 ESV

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." - Proverbs 18:24 ESV

Siblings are a fixture. Some have close relationships and others don't but we are born in an order and that order affects us.

God is the one who sticks closest. He is the one who is closer than a brother. That relationship, once established, transcends death.

Seasons can be long can't they? Still they are just seasons. There is a time to have little or to be lonely or to seem limited. Then there is a time to have more and be surrounded by friends and have opportunities. These things as hard as they can be have seasons. We never want the wonderful things to end either but many times they do all to quickly.

But... There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

The decisions we make today may have seasonal impact or they may turn into fixtures that stay in our lives for the rest of our lives.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them." - Hebrews 13:8-9 ESV

I am speaking to myself here and I hope it never comes across in a chiding way. This is for me first. I want to decide things based on the One who stick close because He makes all things new. He Is the One who will be with me for the long haul. If I mess it all up He isn't leaving. If I get ahead in life I haven't gotten ahead of Him.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ESV

I could have just quoted verse 17 here. It's a great verse but I think what comes before is vital to thrive in our seasons and live with our fixtures.

God must be the one to shift our thinking into newness. This newness has a funny way of moving whatever has been built on the sand and revealing the foundation that can never be moved.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Place God Pours Out His Love

God cares about people. He cares very much.

In a way it is almost a secret because the world we live in has both extremes of caring. Many people care and many people don't seem to care... or care in a very focused exclusive way. Caring when you are not cared for is hard for us to do in our own power. When people feel alone they can rationalize many things. If they have been used carelessly then they try to adapt.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." - 1 Peter 5:6-9 ESV

God wants a spiritually minded person to adapt by casting their cares upon Him. It takes a faith decision to do this. Naturally we can't. We must believe to do this and to keep doing it.

"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

People look at a world that will not love them and they are like embers left alone in the windy cold. Their hot initial flame flickers and is overwhelmed by the elements.

"Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:2-5 ESV

We stand in grace and rejoice in hope and God pours love into our hearts. The Greek word used for pour (or 'shed abroad') is ekcheo (Strong's G1632) and it means to spill out in a messy way. Like milk poured on a counter that finds multiple places to drip and make a mess. It is a spill that is not easily contained. The love is unfocused and overflowing.

It is great to watch a person who has been hurt many times and is now humble finally with someone who loves them with God's love. Love begins to be 'shed abroad' in their hearts. The transformation can be shocking.

Yes. God cares. When we stand in grace and rejoice in hope because Christ has been revealed to us that love becomes visible through us and in us.

Then as living stones placed together that heat and light can be felt even at a distance.


God has not forgotten about you. The circumstances are what they are and you did what you did one way or the other. God isn't like us. He isn't saying, 'See you got what you deserve.' He cares and wants to use those circumstances in our life to give us what we don't deserve. Our grip on things must be loosened first sometimes for that to happen.

If we make decisions to hear and learn about grace and draw close to where the glory of God is manifested then so much can happen. That is the place where love is being shed abroad in imperfect people. That becomes an oasis and a place of healing.

"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 8:31-32 ESV

When our hearts begins to cool we look here. The cross is where we find the flame again. The cross is the place of grace and glory. The cross renews our hope. No matter what things look like that cross is a lighthouse that will always guide us safely home.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Clean Feet

It is not easy to trick a person who stands on principles. The person who lives for pleasure is easily drawn away.

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." - Psalm 1:1-3 ESV

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self... lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." - 2 Timothy 3:1-2a, 4b-5 ESV

I want this to be a good week. I don't want to be taken for a ride this week. So, I'll focus on the 'good and perfect' gifts that come from God.

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." - James 1:12-18 ESV

God gives true acceptance. God gives hope for the future. God has given us a cleansing provision that keeps us clean because it continually washes us as we walk in a sometimes dusty world.

"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord, do you wash my feet?' Jesus answered him, 'What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.' Peter said to him, 'You shall never wash my feet.' Jesus answered him, 'If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.' " - John 13:3-8 ESV

We must let Him serve us. We can be kept experientially clean by grace. If we live by principles then we will not be easily drawn away by passions.

Thank you God for another week. Thank you for new opportunities. Give us creativity. Let us see temptation a mile away and help us to flee it's grip. You have made us 'the head' and not 'the tail' and we are believing that you will give us power to in your purity this week. Thank you God.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Bondage Breaking

"It shall come to pass in that day That his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, And his yoke from your neck, And the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil." - Isaiah 10:27 NKJV

The anointing breaks the yoke of bondage. In truth it is the only thing that can break some bondages.

What is this anointing?

Is it a power that swoops in when there is a group worshiping? Is it the force of an idea communicated persuasively from some one who believes it fully? Is it a mood of God's holiness that is expressed at only certain times and places?

The Hebrew scriptures give a recipe for making the oil and we are given examples of when it was used but no one but a certain few were allowed to produce the oil.

"And you shall say to the people of Israel, 'This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.'" The LORD said to Moses, 'Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.' " - Exodus 30:31-38 ESV

Oil was used to anoint kings and priests. It was used to make things holy and acceptable. It was used in commissioning.

"Then Samuel said to Jesse, 'Are all your sons here?' And he said, 'There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.' And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.' And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, 'Arise, anoint him, for this is he.' Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah." - 1 Samuel 16:11-13 ESV

When Jesse sent for David he was just a shepherd boy but after he was anointed David was a king. From the viewpoint of eternity David was destined to be king but the anointing revealed and made him into what he was destined to be.

The anointing isn't God telling us to do something it is when God qualifies us to be someone and gives the message, room or gathering the specific aroma of his gracious presence.

A group sings a song that is filled with God's life. It tells a true account of an aspect of Gods character, nature and work. We hear it and it imparts to us not only God's mood but His mind and the anointing comes in. We smell an aroma as if Heaven's doors have opened up in the room.

A message is preached telling us who we are and sends us into a royal future. Our life of humdrum routine is shattered. We are free from being trapped in natural living and the message propels us into a adventure and relationship with God.

"While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him." - Matthew 4:18-20 ESV

Their yoke was broken.

Could anyone have said that to these men? No, Only Jesus.

The calling is a high, holy and Heavenly thing... when we recognize it and when there is recognition there is yoke breaking power there. An identity is revealed.

I often wonder how to help people. What can I give them? What can I say to them? Sure. There are things to say and give but what people need is hope. What people need is vision. People need the anointing to break the yoke that is holding them in a life of walking straight lines.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Friendship Among The Apostles

Peter, James and John were Jesus' close circle of friends. The twelve apostles were each special people to God and to each other. They all spent holidays together but these three seemed to be nearest Jesus. He was a man who came from Heaven and died in his early thirties. No wife or family to invest in... at least not yet in the traditional sense that we think about these relationships.

I sometimes wonder about these other men and what circles of close confidants they had.

"He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him." - Mark 3:16-19 ESV

James and John were brothers but the scripture doesn't speak of their age differences. Clearly they were brothers but they were close brothers.

"About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church." - Acts 12:1-5 ESV

Here we see the death of James recorded. It mentions specifically that this was John's brother and Peter was thrown in jail. What a time that must have been for John the Apostle. He must have been right in the center of those prayer meetings for Peter. They likely became a place for healing to begin for the loss of his brother.

I often look at and think about the 'people' individuals have (and don't have). Most folks have only a few people. A wife. A parent. A sibling. Maybe many friends but only a few close friends. You can't buy these people. It doesn't work that way. When I see someone go through a crisis like John went through when Jesus died and then his brother went to Heaven soon after I look to see if they have a circle of people and prayer seems to kick into high gear.

The Church became John's friend in his time of crisis but it is friendship that is different than the friendship we have with individuals. In a way it is representative friendship. God loves us through a group of people or a few individuals that emerge from the cloud of that group for a period of time to represent God's heart. Those interactions might bloom into close friendships and they also might not.

Jame wrote this in the epistle he penned sometime before his death in Acts chapter 12.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' while you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there,' or, 'Sit down at my feet,' have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?" - James 1:27, 2:1-7 ESV

We can see the clear references to Church politics but can't we also see friendship mixed in there?

Grace is God's friendship to us and grace is our friendship given to people.

God loves us. He is our friend if we have believed in Jesus. A relationship has formed that not even death can separate. Jesus has pulled us in close if we have said 'Yes' to Him about what He has done for us and the rest of the humanity at the cross. He isn't going to leave us or forsake us.

"Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land." - Psalm 68:4-6 ESV

Maybe I'll just end like this.

"And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them." - Mark 9:2-3 ESV

Let's watch Jesus glow together. Even if it's just for a season. Let's have that kind of friendship and let's bring those who are trapped in prisons of different kinds out again through the power of our combined prayers. The solitary don't have to stay that way if we love each other and give grace as we have been given grace. A group can form where friendships can be born and the wounds of loss can be healed.