Friday, May 29, 2015

I Love My Friends

I'm very grateful to God for my friends and the shared experiences I have gotten to have with different people.

I'm reading John chapter 6 this morning and watching Jesus weed out His acquaintances. He had no middle ground. You were either for Him or against Him.

"When many of his disciples heard it, they said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?'

But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.' (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him." - John 6:60-66 ESV


"So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?'

Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.'

Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.' He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him." - John 6:67-71 ESV

Wow. Before this Jesus was talking about the need to 'eat His flesh and drink His blood' and He phrased it the way He did to purposely make trouble.

He wasn't tiptoeing around.

I love what Peter says. Peter is friend who was given by God the Father. Peter was eating and drinking the substance of who Christ was with open eyes. I think He was as offended by the thought of cannibalism as any of the people who left but Peter valued Christ in a way that caused Him to hold on anyways.

We don't have to be friends with everyone.

We make a choice to be a friend to people and it is a good choice to make but not everyone is our friend and that is fine. God is our friend.

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

He isn't going to leave us. He also isn't afraid to tell us how it is as needed in situations. This love lack sentimentality but has tenderness, care and ironclad commitment.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Identifying The People

Ok. Who are the people involved in the following passage?

"Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?" - 2 Corinthians 2:10-16 ESV

Paul is the writer. Then we have the people of Troas and Macedonia. Titus is mentioned. We also have Jesus (spoken of using His title as anointed Messiah) and we also have Satan.

We can visualize the groups and make sketch in our minds then draw arrows linking these people and places. We can visualize Paul (who has been given an open door) in Troas. He is preaching but he is missing Titus. He understands the dynamic of fellowship in ministry. He longs for Spirit filled comradery.

'I wish I had fellowship here.' He says, 'Wouldn't it be great if Titus was here.'

So Paul leaves Troas and goes to Macedonia and the aroma of Christ follows Paul to the next place. Fellowship has this unique smell. The message has a certain sound. Jesus is traveling with Paul. Jesus is also with Titus in a different place at the same time.

People is these place are smelling the procession. It is one smell but some get a whiff and say deep inside themselves, 'Death. That smells like my death.' and others smell life. It is like a song that they remember from long ago awakening memories and feelings that register on a barely conscious level.

Paul knows that Satan has techniques designed to hinder and destroy. Unforgiveness is one. Isolation. Doing for doing's sake is another. He is aware that there is an invisible warfare going on around him and the people he visits.

Now back to us.

Who are the people we will face today? There are ones we know about and ones we hope will show up. Satan has devices and without magnifying them we live in awareness of them.

Jesus Is here. Hallelujah! (Wow. I want to take a moment to savor that reality.)

.. Hallelujah!

... We worship You. Jesus. Our Jesus. King Jesus. The Alpha and Omega. Our Jesus.

He is here as we read. He here here as we get ready. He Is with us all day long and won't leave us. Because of that our life has a unique smell that others will respond to on an unconscious level and we are aware of that also.

Forgiveness is a big part of today's plan. Being lead and taught by God is going to happen.

We can have a prayerful preparation before we go into the day. Then we can roll with the surprises as they come. {smile}


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Leviathan Is A Fresh Water Creature

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:13-16 ESV

I often think of this concept that there is a world system that has been declared as the enemy of the believer.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." - 1 John 2:15-17 ESV

"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory." - Matthew 4:8 ESV

"As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful." - Matthew 13:22 ESV

"And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." - 1 John 5:19 KJV

It is almost like a plot out of a science fiction film. The idea that humanity exudes or is swimming in something diabolical and does not even know it. The last verse in 1 John makes the claim that we know that the world is like this. Someone who has faith in Christ looks around and realizes quickly that the culture they are in is much darker than the faith they have.

Can we rid ourselves from this 'world' that the Bible speaks of? People try. They try to pass or establish Biblically based laws and impose structure that is anti-world. America was formed by people who left Europe and many of them had this idea and wove it into the fabric of the national cloth. Salty people with a salty world view made for an incredible success story.

"Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words?... Lay your hands on him; remember the battle - you will not do it again!" - Job 41:1-3, 8 ESV

But, The world isn't passive and cords can't bind leviathan. The cords won't bind him for long. In His element he is the master.

I just want to quote the first verse again because I think it holds the answer for us.

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:13-16 ESV

Salt and light are the answer. The cosmos (world) does not function well in salt and light. Leviathan is a fresh water creature.

"Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it. Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise." - Proverbs 11:27-30 ESV

Changing rules must always be secondary to the great cause of changing hearts and minds. If people with changed minds can get a foothold in society they will change the rules as protection against the darkness they used to know but now disdain.

This principle is true for the individual also. More and stricter rules will not transform me. Salt and light will preserve and change me. Spending time with salty people will make me saltier. Exposure to the light of grace teaching and practical compassion will cause my values to change.

Don't we want to enter the bland situation and bring the presence of God into it? It won't be our personality that accomplishes that. It will be us co-laboring with God that does it.

I want to live salty and die salty.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Work Of The Lord And Our Labors Of Love

Let the finished work of Christ overflow in your life.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." - 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 ESV

The Greek word there for abounding is Perisseuo (Strong's G4052) and it speaks of an overflow. It isn't an overflow of what we have done in some kind of Christian service. It is the overflow of what Christ has done. Jesus' victory has an overflow.

The phrase 'the work of the Lord' uses the word Ergon (G2041) and this is the work of a business. A business is there to make a profit. That is why it exists. Jesus' victory is a profitable one. It has an overflowing pay out.

The 'labor' spoken of that is not in vain uses Kopos (G2873) and this speaks of an emotionally involved labor that is the result of trouble of some kind. It isn't profitable. It is hoping to minimize loss. It is the labor of stacking up sand bang so that an area won't be flooded or of driving all night to be with someone in trouble and help them.

I love that the person who Is laboring must remain steadfast and immovable. They won't leave the spot where Jesus died, was buried and rose again. They live and have power because He Is risen and seated at the right hand of His Father.

Oh, That helps me put things in perspective. I can worship God because the victory has already been won! I have lists of things to do this week that need to be done but I am not doing them to gain something. I have a victory that overflows that I can be steadfast in. I go to work so that I can put gas in my car so that I can drive all night and stack sand bags. I labor so that I can be in front of people to tell them about Jesus to recover something that could be lost.

We can start the day thanking God and then refuse to let trouble move us away from that thankful state of mind. If we begin to stray we can return. That is the place of power and overflow. We are victorious ones when we won't be moved from Christ's victory.


Monday, May 25, 2015

A Day To Remember

Today is day of memory. Today is a day to honor.

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." - Exodus 20:8 KJV

One of the ten commandments is a mandate to remember something. God didn't just set aside a day for man to rest. We are to remember rest on the other six days as well.

Today we remember the fallen soldiers that served the military of the United States of America. Soldiers who left their homes to serve and paid the ultimate price.

Memory is funny. The last few years quickly becomes our frame of reference. If they have been hard then life seems hard. If they have been happy then life seems happy. If you have lost someone recently than perhaps the wound is painful. Life is more then what has happened recently. We have more then is visible to the naked eye.

Today is a day to look back and remember those who we have no way of seeing in person and honor them and it stretches us beyond what has happened recently into the courage and grit of what has gone before. We do not honor just one person. We honor many people. The wound turns to admiration. Our loss has a purpose and we remember that.

God, Make us a courageous generation that mirrors the valor of those who have paid the price for our current freedom.

God bless America.


Friday, May 22, 2015

A Verse For A Friday

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone" - Galatians 6:9-10a ESV

Well, This Is a nice verse to end the work week on.

Today is another day to live in hope!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Clean Victory

There are issues that we face and the only true offense we can take against them is to praise God. On one level this sounds crazy. Shouldn't we be like action heroes and grab what is on hand and face the enemy with all we have in us. So what if the odds are against us. That is what we have been taught but is there a better way?

"Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 'If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you - for your name is in this house - and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.' And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy - behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.'" - 2 Chronicles 20:7-12 ESV

In this case God had held them back from dealing with these people groups and there are things and people we can't deal with head on also. Something prevents us from doing it.

If you have a family you have faced these kinds of things haven't you? If you have had a job?

"And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, 'Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.' And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, 'Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.' And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take their spoil, they found among them, in great numbers, goods, clothing, and precious things, which they took for themselves until they could carry no more. They were three days in taking the spoil, it was so much." - 2 Chronicles 20:20-25 ESV

We worship and our enemies destroy each other. We are left with a treasure and no blood on our hands. Perhaps there is a mess to clean up but we have not been the ones to cause the mess.

"They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the LORD. And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel." - 2 Chronicles 20:28-29 ESV

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." - Matthew 10:16 KJV

"That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;" - Philippians 2:15 KJV

Instead of putting our weapons out on the table and loading them with ammunition to assess our strength we have the great privilege of taking out our musical instruments and tuning them for a day of worship.

There is a balance. Israel used the sword to take the land in the first place and there are times we must fight and we would be fools not to but that should be the exception and not the rule.

Worship may be the last thing we feel like doing in some situations but when our hands are tied it is the only way we can get a true clean victory.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Strong Cord - Part 2

(This is a continuation of Monday's thought.)

"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf" - Hebrews 6:19-20a ESV

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible... 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 11:1-3, 6 ESV

This cord of hope has secured people for centuries. Faith has been the substance of the testimony of each believer. It has been the proof of a connection to the divine. It is the rationale of why we talk about the unseen things of the Bible as if we can reach out and touch them.

Abel offered the correct sacrifice and still has a voice today because of the hope that was real to him.

Enoch has his eyes on God and did not see death.

Noah built an ark.

Abraham went out by faith drawn by hope and secure in hope. Sarah his wife took the lifeline of the promise that was given outside the tent and received on the inside the tent. She laughed at the thought of having a child but God never let go of the cord that He threw to her and she conceived and had a son in her old age.

"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, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." - Hebrews 11:32-40 ESV

Before the cross these believers had hope. We have seen the face of hope. We have the witness of the person of hope being born in Bethlehem. This man who Is God has become a door of hope.

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.' " - John 14:6-7 ESV

Paul was a man who passed behind the veil. God's cord had drawn him all the way home and back again.

"And I know that this man was caught up into paradise - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows - and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses - though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations" - 2 Corinthians 12:3-7a ESV

Perhaps our infirmities leave less slack on the cord. Paul glorified  God in his weakness and did not emphasize His strengths. Paul's faith was substance. It was proof of his connection to the divine. There was little slack on his cord. As he got older he got ahead of himself less and less.

Grace was and Is sufficient for us. It is scandalous and nonsensical when compared to the common practices of the world. To function in grace we must be connected to the beautiful invisible God of grace. We can only do it because He is drawing us out of our homeland. Jesus has become our ark. We look at ourselves and laugh at the idea that we could be used to replicate anything but He uses us.

One day like Enoch we will be drawn up and we will pass by death like a swift runner because powerful angels will have a firm hold on us. The cord will not be cut and we will say...

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" - 1 Corinthians 15:55 KJV


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Valley Of Achor

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me 'My Husband,' and no longer will you call me 'My Baal.' For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more." - Hosea 2:14-17 ESV

If you look in Joshua chapter you see what happened in the valley of Achor. One man's sin halted the progress of a whole nation and a family was buried under a heap of stone because of it. Greed and deception brought the momentum of a nation to a halt. Achan stole some silver, a cloak and a bar of gold and suddenly the nation was living in a contradiction. God promised them victory but now they were suffering defeat. They were losing when they should have been winning and warfare is no game where the score is tallied in some record book and the prize is bragging rights. When you lose in war people don't come home to their families. The blood was on Achan's hands.

Grace turns this loss into a door of hope. It doesn't write the justice of God out of the Bible nor does it remove the consequences of sin. It opens a door of hope for those who have transgressed in ways that had unimaginable consequences. It restores lasting durable intimacy with people. The bondage is real but the freedom is real also.

God uses the framework of our human depravity and opens a door of hope. That boggles my mind.

This is a message for the ones among us that have failed in big ways and not just many small ones. The ones who have hurt people along the way and their conscience smarts and pushes them to work harder to make up for what they did. Working harder isn't the answer. Seeing the door of hope is the answer. Grace is the answer. Grace that makes us free and as filled with joy as those leaving Egypt on dry land with water looming like cliffs on either side of them.

This Gospel is not only for the nice neat Sunday school student brought up in a moral home. It is for the most guilt ridden criminal rotting in a cell of his or her own making.

Both can partake and be free. Both can believe and be made white as snow.


Monday, May 18, 2015

A Strong Cord - Part 1

Do you have hope?

There is an interesting word in the Hebrew often translated as hope. The word is Tiqvah (Strong's H8615) and it literally means rope or cord.

It gives a fresh understanding to this verse.

"My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle and come to their end without hope." - Job 7:6 ESV

Days can quickly pass as we watch threads form a garment but we ourselves are not aware of the cord that connects us to a good ending.

"If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Behold, we did not know this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off." - Proverbs 24:10-14 ESV

A person can be strong when there is a firm cord to use as their strength. Ask a fisherman for five good uses for a strong rope and he will give you ten off the top of his head. Strong cords are very useful to fisherman. They are very useful to those who fish for men also.

God will never cut the cord of those that believe in His Son. That hope is firm and reliable.

"So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain," - Hebrews 6:17-19 ESV

God isn't moving. The anchor will hold. God can not lie. The cord can not be cut. If we go to Him as our refuge then our soul is safe.

The Gospel of grace has given me the option to have faith in the God of all grace. The moment I believed a connection was formed. I have hope because of that and I'm praying people will see my hope this week.

The message gives us a lifeline to cast to others. If they grab hold then the Spirit of God will real them in and The God who loves us will never leave or forsake them either.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Find The Victory

If you or I have a problem we can look up every scripture in the Bible related to that issue and it is amazing How God will speak to us.

"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory." - Proverbs 24:3-6 ESV

Perhaps that requires creativity and a few study tools. A concordance will find where certain specific words are used but we might have to look for synonyms and phrases that touch on the concept also. It takes digging and searching but mining the scripture is like delving into a diamond mine. We become surrounded by treasure as we look for answers.

I'd rather have the abundance of counselors that the scripture provides than any other resource in the world. The scripture often shows me multiple perspectives in the context of divine inspiration. Those perspectives connect with my soul on many different levels. My emotions are addressed. My will is challenged. The mind is nourished with rational thought. My sense of self is explained or redefined and my conscience is cleaned and rebalanced. All this without speaking the problem out loud to any other human being.

There is something very special about taking a deep troubling issue to God and searching the scripture for answers before you ever even say anything aloud to anyone. It is like playing a game of chess and the first words out of your mouth are, 'Checkmate'. I'd rather only speak words of victory about something if it is at all possible. The Bible makes that reality possible.

People are a legitimate resource also. Of course they are. There are things that must be taught or caught from someone else but even then I want the Bible to be my ultimate guide. What people say is never the final authority on a subject. What God says is.

If you would permit me to I'd like leave you with one small piece of advice to close this week of blog posts. Take that problem you have been struggling with and find everything the Bible says about it. Then once you think you have exhausted the subject look awhile longer. After that start to look at those verses in detail. Meditate on them. Memorize them. Pray about them asking for God to give them to you. Internalize them. Don't just do it lightly. Pay a price to do it. Lose some sleep. Do whatever it takes.

Before long that problem won't be such a problem anymore. Jesus won a victory when He was raised from the dead. He wants us to partake of that victory today and forever. That victory is in the scriptures. Find it and revel in it.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Grace And Idolatry in 1 Corinthians Chapter 10

I enjoy reading scriptures and asking God, 'How does this apply to me?'

I've been reading 1 Corinthians chapter 10 this morning

"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. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry." - 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 ESV

The chapter goes back forth on the issue of idolatry. Israel fell into it again and again.

"For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were" - 1 Corinthians 10:1-7a ESV

The Church was face to face with it in the Roman culture.

"For 'the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.' If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, 'This has been offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience - I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:26-31 ESV

The way of escape we are looking for is not just a way of escape from the personal temptation that may assault us. We have that and thank God we do. Jesus Himself is our way of escape. Practicing the presence of God is one aspect of that escape.

Paul is addressing culture in this chapter. Israel's culture and the Roman influenced culture of the day. Food sacrificed to idols was everywhere. The question is, 'Where is the focus when we sit down to eat together?'

What we do or don't do is glory oriented, capacity building and capacity preserving. God sees us all the time. People only see us some of the time and that is good. What we do in those times is on display and knowing that is part of our way of escape.

God dealt with Israel the way that He did for His name's sake. It was not sin oriented judgement because sin is paid for. It was reputation oriented. That is powerful. Israel had a national reputation and we have an individual one. God had to deal with Israel again and again because He loved them and they needed to be drawn back and saved from their own selves over and over again. Is that what we want?

Lust turns wood into idols. Grace turns idols back into pieces of wood. How I see the lumber of life around me adds to or removes from our portrayal of God's reputation. Our freedom and love proclaims that our God is a good God. Our bondage sends the wrong message.

If we focus on grace then at dinner that is what the person in front of us is seeing.

Grace is all wrapped up in our walk with God. Grace is the basis of our walk. The freedom of grace and the constraining love that a graced out person reveals. We are free to eat the food no matter what idol it was sacrificed to because we know that is all garbage anyway but we are also free to say no if it will hurt our brother because grace has loved us so very much that our hunger or desire to exercise our rights can't dictate our behavior.

Glory. What a high thought.

That the God of Heaven is glorified in our little lives is amazing. I want people to see God as He really is through my life. Grace is how God really Is. He Is holy and gracious at the same time.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blame Must Go Somewhere

God is not against us because of something we did. No matter how many times I explain this to someone it never gets old to me.

"the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." - Jeremiah 31:3 ESV

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness." - Romans 8:1-10 ESV

There is therefore now no condemnation. Someone who is trusting in self can't say that. A program can't buy anyone this assurance. Only trust in Jesus gets us to the place of no condemnation. Jesus is the One who has paid for what you, I and everyone else has done.

How many people are out there feeling guilty today? How many think God is against them or has forgotten them because they couldn't measure up? The number must be staggering.

If we have not transferred blame to Jesus and 'condemned sin in the flesh' then we blame ourselves. If not our self then some one else. If we can't muster up blame for others because we see ourselves reflected in them then we blame God who we can't see.

Blame must go somewhere.

Humanism tries to move past blame through identification. It identifies with the humanity of the individual and tries to bring out the best man has to offer. It sounds noble but is fatally flawed because blame must land some where eventually and it ends up landing on those who seem to be less enlightened. Ignorance becomes the enemy.

A believer can get past blame because they bear with them the thing that has taken it away. They pick up a cross. That cross becomes a bridge over troubled waters. It becomes a door opening into everlasting acceptance. God ended our condemnation on the cross. Now we have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Seated Together

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." - Ephesians 2:4-9 ESV

Which is more miraculous? Is it the fact that we are seated with Him in Heaven or that we are seated together with Him?

Fisherman and tax collectors... together. Protestants and Catholics... together. Generations of families will finally be together. Great great grand fathers will have animated conversations with their children's children's children. All of us will be ageless.

Our differences will be nonexistent. Our relationships will be closer. There will be no skeletons in our closets. Our scars will not hinder us from trusting.

At our Church we have something called a 'rap' and during this time people can ask questions. My old friend and I were at one a few nights ago and he leaned over and commented on how he loves that people who are struggling to apply what they just heard can ask questions even if they are struggling even to get the words of the question right. A long time ago we were in many raps together with all sorts of characters. He had his young son with him at this one. Who would have thought we would get so old and responsible.

The rap is a safe place. People who are hungry for more are there. People who have seen the value of fellowship are there. Some just have no where else to go but that is fine if the one place that remains is safe and has love with answers.

On the great day when we are all seated together with God we won't have anywhere else to go either... or will we? I don't know. I imagine however no one is going to go take a smoke break out back. No one will want to miss a moment of it. When Jesus opens His mouth to say something we will be hanging on every word.

I want to bring that rap everywhere I go. I want to bring it to dark places. I want to walk into heathen living rooms and have there be an oasis of safety where love can be communicated and exchanged. Then I want to visit again only to find that the living room is not heathen anymore.

"But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' " - Matthew 19:26 ESV

Yes. Just getting us all to sit together is impossible with man but God makes a space for us to be together. It is a space filled with grace, mercy, love and answers.

Oh God! Heaven on Earth. Can it happen? Some of us have seen first hand how You unite people. Fill our spaces God. We want to sit in places with You here on Earth. We want to see people in chairs who are being loved and are being set free in safety. Your message can create these spaces. The Gospel of grace is the content that dissolves cliques and makes us all equal. Give us the stamina to linger longer. Give us the desire to meet where others are to afraid or unwilling to go. Make us missionaries right where we are and send us places. You are the One who builds Your Church but we long to see what You do planted in needy places.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Beyond The Smoky Barrier

We need full strength truth. Diluted truth has benefits but not the same benefits as full strength truth.

"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 13:12-13 ESV

Right now we are looking at life through a smoky glass. The light reaches us but it is filtered by our fallen perceptions. Faith, hope and love live here on the Earth now. Even through a smoky glass we perceive these things. They are on full display through the life of Christ.

We see Jesus' faith. We see Jesus raised from the dead and we begin to have His hope. We see Jesus go to a cross in our place and Heaven's love is on display.

Face to face will one day transform us on the outside as well as the inside. It will be a reunion like no other. God sees us now. He sees us very clearly. We just have a hard time seeing Him.

Grace when it is undiluted it is full strength truth.

Grace is unmerited favor. Grace sees people as the finished product. Grace makes moves with the end game in mind. Thinking in grace is God's thinking. It is a place where we can agree with Him fully with all the barriers taken away. Condemnation is nullified.

Jesus took our sin away at the cross. It has been taken as far as the east is from the west. Yet here we are failing at times and that truth is challenged because the glass is smoky.

"We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness." - Romans 6:9-13 ESV

"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf" - Hebrews 6:19-20a ESV

Jesus is has passed through the curtain of death and His vision is crystal clear. We make a reckoning that we also have gone with Him because the bond of love links us. We decide to think the way that the one who loves us thinks.

"And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And they cast lots to divide his garments." - Luke 23:34 ESV

What a stark contrast.

God forbid we should dilute what God has been working in our lives to distill. People need to experience truth in it's undiluted form in order for it to heal them. Jesus is undiluted truth.

God please let people see Jesus when they see us. We are often frail and contradictory people but the Book you have given us reveals the Son You have given us so quicken us to mix faith with Biblical thinking. We want to see with eyes of faith by Your Spirit because we have an anchor within the veil.

"May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." - 2 Peter 1:2-4 ESV

Precious promises. Oh how I love them. They move our minds past the smoky barrier and cause us to partake of the nature that lives seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Career Choices

I was thinking today how it is good to think in terms of 'a career'. At some point we must make the transition of thinking moment to moment and start thinking long term. This applies to work but it also applies to our spiritual lives.

"Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual." - 1 Corinthians 15:45-46 ESV

"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." - 1 Corinthians 15:22 KJV

Adam lived but in the end he was known for his failure. Just being alive will not be praiseworthy when we stand before God. Jesus had a calling. He was and Is a quickener. God is very happy with His Son and in Him we find our calling. We have a life through Adam but Jesus gives us a ministry.

"Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election" - 2 Peter 1:10a ESV

We don't have any say in our election. Nor do we have much say in some of the circumstances we find ourselves in. It is good to be sure about why we are in our present circumstances. We are here because God has us here. We are here as called ones. Circumstances are not just things to survive they are stepping stones on a career of faith.

"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 4:5 ESV

Everyone who believes will have praise from God. Anyone who continues believing will have a long list of things for God to commend. It is not our works but our life of faith that is given as a gift from God.

"Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;" - Romans 14:10 ESV

God's judgement seat is a reward seat. God will reward us and he will reward those around us who have believed. I want to cheer for you when you stand there and not be ashamed because I operated as a judge when I should have been a friend.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." - 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV

Good here is Agathos (Strong's G18) which means agreeably, useful or lovely and evil is Phaulos (Strong's G5337) which speaks of easy, worthless or something of no account. A believers judgement will be about useful and not useful.

God is going to deal with our career on that day. It won't be about our self life it will be about our career. A professional makes career oriented decisions. Good or bad is useful or not useful. That is how I want to think. What will be useful when I eventually stand before God?

Men are often not known for the little things they do day to day. History records important moments when people made crucial decisions. Those decisions are often not easy ones. A career of faith prepares us to make useful choices in those crucial moments.

It gives new meaning to the common question, 'So what do you do for a living?'

We can say with confidence that we are more than just alive. Believers have careers of faith.


Friday, May 8, 2015

The Scent Of Water

Renewal is a strange wonderful thing. It can't be planned.

"For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant. But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands." - Job 14:7-15 ESV

We can plan rest but not renewal. We can apply the paddles to our creative chest to try and jump start creativity. Sometimes that jolt works to restart us and sometimes it doesn't. Creativity happens at interesting times. We get 'new eyes' and suddenly possibilities become visible That we never saw before.

Grace is what often restarts me. Perhaps because it is the antidote for the things that stop me. Grace is the 'scent of water' that causes me to sprout in new configurations.

Human beings are creative creatures. We all have varying degrees of it and it is expressed in different ways and times. Some of us are oriented toward creative pursuits and others would rather things stay stable and continuous. Stability is important also.

"Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat." - Hebrews 13:9-10 ESV

The creative person will function in unexpected ways in common situations. It is fascinating to watch. The mundane pedestrian landscape turns into a magical flash mob and songs that never echoed down those streets suddenly do in grand fashion.

We have a table to eat from that not everyone knows about and it makes us special. There is a divine presence with us that is not governed by us or anyone. God is with those who believe. He tabernacles among us.

God fill us today. We have the stability and security of eternal rest. We want to walk in the unpredictable creativity of divine grace.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thoughts From 2 Timothy Chapter Four

This morning I'm reading 2 Timothy chapter 4 again and again. It appears this is the Apostle Paul's last book and chapter 4 is the last chapter of the book. Paul is wrapping things up. For a man who 'forgets those things that are behind' he recounts a great deal of pain and love.

"For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message." - 2 Timothy 4:10-15 ESV

Even in this last chapter of his life Paul is suffering because of mistreatment and separation.

The last few days my mind has been flooded with faces and names of people. I have struggled with giving myself grace for not being able to put a name to a face I am praying for.

At times like this I am very aware of secret pain. People have it. I have had it and I'm sure there is more coming. I was crippled emotionally by pain before I believed in God. Then after God converted me and began the healing process I was hurt again and many times since. I have been hurt in His house and out if it. Patches of my hair has temporarily turned white with grief to the point where even though I believed in God there have been times when I could not imagine ever being truly whole and happy again.

I am happy now and I have no bitterness. Memory... Yes. Blame... No. That in itself is miraculous. At the same time I understand why people are bitter and marvel at the depth of what different people go through.

Over time God has given me ways to process pain. I never hurt alone nor do I desire to push away other people's pain the way I used to. God has become my burden bearer. My arms tire from handing Him things but I am learning not to carry them myself for very long. I identify very strongly with Paul. He is not claiming mastery over these very human issues. He is expressing a believable hope as a little person with real needs.

Paul says...

"For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." - 2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV

Anyone who has ever 'loved His appearing' will one day be satisfied. There will be a grand reunion.

I think of Timothy learning of Paul's death and then at some point pulling this letter out of a drawer and realizing that it was the last one. No more new guidance was coming to him from that man he loved so dearly. Pain mingled with love. Memory. How many times did Timothy read this letter? How many times have believers reread it?

Paul walked with God and finished his course well. He didn't spend his life safely insulating himself from potentially painful situations. He walked with God and knew he had a crown waiting. Timothy remembered Paul and continued in his call having had an example of endurance in his life.

God, Help us to be mindful of each other. We can't wait to see you. Until then we want to live our lives fully casting down anything that would cause us to be bitter. There are many chapters left to be written. We want them to be filled with faith and freshness. Today we are not as naive as we have been before. Today we ask you fill us with hope and childlike faith for what can be if as believers we will only believe.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Change From The Inside Out

People make the mistake of trying to change people to change society when God is interested in saving people.

"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place." - 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 ESV

"For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!' " - Romans 10:13-15 ESV

A good many preachers spend far to much time preaching against the problem without giving the solution. Perhaps because they themselves believe that behavioral change is the solution. Political figures expound on social changes but it is love that changes people not policy. You can try to regulate the boundaries of behavior but how is the content touched?

God will heal a land if the people in it are humble. The Gospel creates humble people. Transformation is what is needed today. Every age has needed it and this one is no exception. Transformed people become salt and light.

As great as our societies are in history and culture I believe God cares much more for one soul than He does for a society. Culture is a vehicle to carry passengers. It is the lives of the passengers that matter. They have souls. The people are eternal, unique and irreplaceable.

In the context of care, respect and honor we make known the consequences of actions and decisions so that people can make choices.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live," - Deuteronomy 30:19 ESV

I tire quickly of critical analysis of social issues that results in a, 'If people only did this or that' answer. People are often just trying to manage as best they can as flawed human beings who lack and want to fill that lack. It is God that blesses and what He puts His hand on is blessed by divine power. That is what will fill up the lack of the human heart.

People can have and keep their social experiments. I choose life.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." - John 3:16-18 KJV

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends." - 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a ESV


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Good Directions

I was thinking this morning how hearing about grace is like getting good directions to where we need to go.

"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." - Galatians 1:6-7 ESV

"Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness," - 2 Timothy 2:14-16 ESV

The first word in the phrase 'ruin the hearers' in 2 Timothy is the Greek word Katastrophē (Strong's G2692). The grace message leaves the hearer in a state of approval but other messages are confusing and they explain a route that is impractical or impossible to follow.

Grace points to Christ's cross and says, 'Go that way. That happened for you. That event belongs to You. Pick it up. It's not heavy. That cross will remove your wrong burdens.'

We are called to the grace of Christ. The message beckons us to come and be accepted.

Arguments can ruin the hearer. They can cause a catastrophe. A person just flees the scene with no direction or resolution and ends up in trouble.

A 'right handling' of the scripture will result in mercy, peace and contentment. That is what the Bible is directing man towards. God is warning us away from disaster and directing us to safety.

The cross is our lighthouse that stands tall and visible in the light and gives off a beacon of light in the fog and darkness. Thank God for His wonderful lighthouse. It has brought me safely home many times.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Knowing What We Need

Maybe we think we know what we want but God knows what we need.

"A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 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 23:1-6 ESV

A friend came up to after service and posed a question to me...

'How did Adam sin without an old sin nature?'

My answer was simple:

'Adam is our old sin nature.'

We are all descended from that one broken man that did not know what he needed. He met God early in the morning and then forgot about Him when the trial came and picked another option. He was a man with the ability to choose who had a blind spot he was unaware of. The serpent saw it and tripped Adam and he fell and was broken. Adam made a choice he could not return from and became a fallen man.

What we need is a shepherd who will give us mercy. What we need is to be led through trouble into the calm stillness of rest. We need a new start. We need a new nature and once we have that nature given to us by believing in Christ we need to choose the new option given to us.

Old Adam is a failure. He must be covered. God kills an animal to cover him. I'm sure Adam was mortified. He loved and cared for the animals. Cain later refused to kill an animal as a sacrifice. They didn't know what was needed.

"Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven." - 1 Corinthians 15:45-47 ESV

"Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:22b-24 ESV

"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." - Colossians 3:9-13 ESV

We need a shepherd. God appoints men to be shepherds in His place on the Earth. These men aren't perfect but God gives them something that people desperately need. Direction. Like sheep we are prone to wander. Like Adam we are prone to trust ourselves instead of God.

"And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding." - Jeremiah 3:15 ESV

"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" - Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV

They are not the great shepherd but they are shepherds none the less. Not all that claim the title have the title but you will know them if you watch awhile. They will take you to green pastures. They help people begin again. They exalt their great shepherd who shepherds them from a seated position in Heaven.

Adam thought he knew what he needed. Jesus never thought that way. He never forgot His father. He shepherded a small flock of disciples on Earth and now has been given charge of the whole herd.

Adam is who we are without God. He is all we know. We can't escape him. Christ is our one way out. Putting on the new nature is our only effective provision and it is effective. God doesn't see Adam when He looks at a believer. He sees Christ. I need to be told that again and again.


Friday, May 1, 2015

In A Name

"But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' " - Matthew 1:20-21 ESV

The Bible has many names for God. Vishnu is not in the Bible nor is Buddha. Zeus is not the God of the Bible by another name. There are great lists you can find of God naming Himself in the scriptures. His names speak of His attributes.

This naming strikes me this morning. The angel told Joseph what to name the child. Call Him Savior. This Jesus would be revealed to be the anointed Christ and titles would be attributed to Him later. Savior needed to be His first name.

"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." - Revelation 22:16 ESV

" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.' " - Revelation 1:8 ESV

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6 ESV

At first we are told the name we should give to Him. Name Him 'Savior.' He Is not a curse word to be said when we hit our thumb with a hammer. He Is not just a historical figure. He may have once been that to us. The messenger comes and tells us who He Is and asks us to name Him as our Messiah.

Many won't name Him that.

"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." - Ephesians 1:16-23 ESV

Jesus' name has grown in my estimation over the years. To me He Is many things. He holds many titles. I have things because of Him. I have lost things also. He Is a matchmaker and a friend giver. He Is my tour guide to crazy places I never would have gone. He Is my banker. He lifts me up when I fall down. He Is the friend I can fool around with and talk to when no one else would understand. He is an activist who shares His causes with me and convinces me that my life can spent in better ways.

As time goes on He will have more names because I will discover more about Him. But, I won't be finding out anything that the Bible hasn't already told me. He Is who He has been and will be.

My Savior is also royalty.

"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." - Luke 12:32-34 ESV

Jesus said this to Israelis living under Roman occupation but the words speak to me now today. Where Is my treasure? I guess it depends on the name I bestow on this one mysterious person.

Who Is He? I find my own name when I find His.