Monday, February 29, 2016

Foreknown Children Of Grace

God knew that Adam and Eve would have children before they did and said...

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." - Genesis 3:15 ESV

This is the first prophecy we have in the scripture about Messiah.

In the next passage we see another inner working of God's foreknowledge.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." - Romans 8:28-30 ESV

We make choices but God knows our choices before we make them because He knows everything. The past, present and future are already laid out before Him. This doesn't negate our ability to choose or the consequences of our choices.

If we respond to the Gospel (and God knows whether we will or won't) then we are justified and eventually glorified. Just as children grow up to be little versions of their parents. Similarly each believer grows up to be like Christ. We are not exactly like Him because we are all unique but we bear his name like a child would bear the family name.

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel." - Philippians 1:3-7 ESV

Believe it or not some people hate grace. They hate the idea that God must give them spirituality for free. They hate the idea that their right standing would be based on some one else's work and not theirs. They hate that God has authority over them because they want to rule themselves at any cost. There is no evidence that these people are partakers of grace.

Are they called? Or in other words have they responded to the calling that God has initiated to them?

Moses saw a burning bush and turned aside to look at this rarely seen wonder and when people hear they Gospel they get a spiritual glimpse of God waving them over from the across the room. Only an individual can make that decision to respond. Some people get many chances and others may only get one. We don't know how that works. Just one chance is more than we deserve. Salvation is a gift after all.

But if anyone has responded then we know that God is going to complete the work He started. Every person who believes is justified and every one of them will eventually be glorified.

Jesus is the first man to be glorified but we are next in line. Wow. That is exciting to think about. It gives me hope.

Are you a partaker of grace? If you are then you are on a good path. Even if other things don't seem to be going well don't worry. God is going to bring you through.

We can spend our days loving the free gift and spreading it in other peoples lives like seed. The seed of the Gospel has transformation potential. If it takes root and is established then God is going to complete the work He started in that life. That is a promise He has made and I trust that He knows what He Is doing.


Friday, February 26, 2016

The Deafening Sound Of The Waterfall

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life." - Psalm 42:5-8 ESV

The Hebrew word translated as waterfalls here is tsinnuwr (Strong's H6794). In the KJV it reads waterspouts. It could describe a tornado touching down on the water and drawing the water from the ocean into the sky or water roaring as it falls and mingles into the water below.

If you have ever stood next to a sizable waterfall you know how loud it is. A tornado sounds like a freight train is roaring right past you when you are close to one. It is almost deafening. This speaks of a sound that overwhelms our senses or waves that buffet us so that we can't keep our footed and we must hold our breadth as they come in to survive.

At times God's grace voice must overwhelm our inner voice. We construct these complex rational structures but God wants the water to flow so He floods us with grace so deefening that we stop listening to ourselves.

This has happened to me in worship. I go away. I enter in the music and participate with all rest of creation and celebrate my creator. Work problems don't exist. How I look in the mirror is far away. I have no past. There is only worship.

It has happened to me when I have heard a message preached by a man of understanding who was anointed by God to deliver that message. The water of God's word was so forceful that I was overwhelmed and brought into the thinking environment that was being presented to me. Jesus didn't die 2,000 years ago on a cross. It was happening right in the moment as it was being described and the waters of it pounded me and life poured into me as life drained out of Him for my sake.

"The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." - Proverbs 20:5 ESV

Are you cast down? God wants to draw the poison out of your soul and pour His life into you. Your inner recriminations must be silenced and replaced by grace thoughts. Speak grace to yourself. Be around people who speak grace.

Sometimes silence is the worst thing for us because we need to hear words from God. There needs to be an exchange of life. Two friends who don't speak can grow distant from one another because one, or both, of them are speaking the wrong things to themselves.

Sometimes we all need peace and quiet but we also need the place that deafens our inner voice and replaces it with God's noise and God's mind. A balance of both is a healthy thing.

God loves you without conditions because all the strict conditions were already met by His Son. I pray that God overwhelms you with this concept this weekend or one day very soon.

It is wonderfully refreshing when the fresh water from the waterfalls fills our pool and displaces what was there. Life can happen in that noisy flow.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Now Is The Hour

Jesus was and Is courageous.

"And Jesus answered them, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.' " - John 12:23-26 ESV

Jesus was not timid and careful. Passages like these challenge me to step out and not play it safe.

Different people have different 'safety margins'. For an introvert losing their life may mean one thing in practical application. Dying to self might resemble what an extrovert does... and vice versa.

Jesus knew that the moments to come would reveal the glory of God. Glorified here in this passage is the Greek word doxazo (Strong's G1392) and it means to magnify, celebrate and reveal.

Jesus didn't die to self to please the Father. The Father was already pleased with Him (see Matthew 3:17). He died to reveal the Father.

I don't know what this means to you personally. All of us struggle with different decisions at different times.

At one point going to Bible college was losing my life. Dorm life definitely was at times. {smile}

I lost my life when I handed a person a Gospel tract on the street. The only 'evangelists' I ever remember seeing growing up were a group of people in African dress in Times Square who had a big picture of Jesus drawn as a black man and wanted to argue with me that Jesus was black that white people had stolen their Bible from them. They were angry and violent men shouting through a megaphone who looked like they would happily hurt people if they could justify getting away with it. I didn't want to be associated with anything like that.

Can we walk into situations and say, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.' even if it means risking that people might misunderstand us?

I want to have this attitude for every hospital visit and each conversation with someone new. Jesus was going to the cross thinking this and I want to think this way as I go to His cross.

"If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." - 1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV

This is the religious sacrifice. They do it to please someone who can't be pleased that way. They labor and hurt themselves and others in their labor because God's love isn't in it. God isn't motivating it. God isn't ultimate revealed in it.

Jesus can be revealed today. We don't have to say 'brother' a hundred times and end every sentence with 'Amen' to do it. We must however travel to the edge of our comfort zone and be willing to step into action by faith so that redemption can be manifested in the world.

Rest might be the thing at the edge of our comfort zone.

Can we rest saying, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.'... Yes... Resting in the storm glories God. Acting in faith obedience outside our personality glorifies God. Praise in the midst of chaos. Objectivity in the midst of the mob.

Thank You Jesus. Thank You for going to the cross. Thank You for coming to Earth and showing us what courage really is. You are our hero. Inspire us today. Send Your spirit to quicken our human spirit. We want to reveal the Father today. We want the invisible to become visible. Please make that happen and give us the backbone to go forward and not fall backwards. Thank You God.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Justification By Faith Brings Us To Newness Of Life

If the only true justification available to a human being is a faith justification (that is what I wrote about yesterday) then the only true walk is a resurrection walk...

"...And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness," - Romans 4:5 ESV

"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." - Romans 6:4-5 ESV

Romans is building a case for us. It is a very legal and mechanical book. A religious person is convinced that what they do makes them acceptable to God but this book reproves them.

We must die with Christ in order to be raise with Him and any hope of self-righteousness must die with us. Once dead we can be raised and walk with God in newness of life.

All of humanity has died with Christ. He became a man to represent all men.The moment we believed the gift was placed on our account.

"For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 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." - Romans 6:7-11 ESV

This translation says 'you also must consider' but the KJV says 'reckon yourselves' and I like that better. Reckon makes it sound like a math problem and that is just what it is. We remove our self and add Christ.

We have a God who will only justify those that say, 'I won't justify myself. Instead of doing that I will reckon myself dead with Christ and let God justify me by His power.'

Can we shift from a, 'You are Good therefore I like you.' mentality to a, 'God has justified the ungodly.' one? It will take dying to self but it will mean that we can be raised in newness of life.

God. Please help us to think like you do. We want to live in a justification that comes by faith and not by performance. Quicken us by your Spirit. Raise us from the grave of our old way of thinking and into the newness of grace thinking. Thank You God. Thank You.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Justified By Faith

"Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness," - Romans 4:4-5 ESV

This is a cornerstone principle. Trust is the foundation of any relationship. God is basically saying, 'Trust in Me and I will justify you.'

If our relationship with God is based on us and what we bring to the table there is no justification but if it is about who Jesus Is and what He has brought to the table then we are justified. The cross has that power like nothing else does.

If I found out a friend cheated me or betrayed my trust in some way it might damage my relationship with them but if instead I learned that a friend was speaking kindly of me to others and was helping me in ways I was not even aware of it would affect me in a much different way. God has been loving us behind our backs all along and the moment we trust Him we become connected to Him by that love.

Grace must have this element.

"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

The world is a hard place sometimes but is God good? Yes.

Does God care about us? Yes. He sent His Son as proof that He cares and His Son healed the rift between divinity and humanity.

Unconditional favor is not possible without this understanding. God Is holy. He does not compromise with sin. God has a method that applies favor apart from sin because the transgressions have been blotted out by Christ's blood.

Now I can look at another person and say, 'They are justified because of what Jesus has done.' Their actions are not justified but they are. It isn't what they bring to the table. It is what Jesus brought to the table.

If we think this way we can give grace because this is how the God of all grace is thinking about us.


Monday, February 22, 2016

A Sound Strategy

A good plan can produce a good result. A good recipe makes for a good meal. A good business plan produces a profitable business. A good blueprint makes for a sound structure.

Is it possible to get a good result without a good plan. Yes. But it isn't a reproducible result.

God makes good plans for things.

"But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe." - Galatians 3:22 ESV

"Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit... The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven." - 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47-48 ESV

When Adam fell in the garden all of mankind fell with Him. As soon as we are old enough to be a accountable for our actions we suffer the consequences of our actions. If we live in Adam and sin we die because...

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 6:23 ESV

One decision kills us forever so that one decision can save us forever. What a good plan that is!

"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 11:26 ESV

Not only does this work for one person here or there. It can work for everyone. It is a fool proof recipe. It is a proven blueprint.

Red grabs the attention of the viewer. If someone is wearing red they are going to stand out in a crown that is wearing more muted colors.

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

One slip caused a great fall but each decision to take God's outstretched hand produces a relationship that lasts forever. Amazing.

I am formulating a plan for this week. I am going to base it on Biblical principles of rest, integrity and vision. Not every minute is going to micromanaged it is a plan that involves faith in God's plan. I'm not sure what the results are going to be but I know I have a few good proven recipes and fresh ingredients.

I look forward to seeing what happens.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Deceitfulness of Riches

A phrase I keep thinking about from my study this week is 'the deceitfulness of riches.'

This Greek construction is only used in Matthew 13 and Mark 4 in the parable of the sower.

"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

"but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful." - Mark 4:19 ESV

It is not used anywhere else in the Bible and it is not used in Luke's version of the parable in Luke chapter 8.

It is amazing that cares and the illusion of security are what stands between us and fruitfulness isn't it?

'If I only had more ____ then I would be free.' Is an illusion. A very powerful deception indeed.

The 'have not's of this world greatly out number the ones that have material wealth and even then rich people feel lack also in a thousand different ways. Very few of us are ever rich enough in a material sense.

I want my desire to match God's desire not interfere with it. Oh, What a miracle it is when that happens. Fruit abounds when that happens.

We all have needs and money helps. No doubt. But I don't want to live in the lie that it is going to fix everything. Only Jesus can fix everything and He has laid all the groundwork for that to happen at the cross. It is finished!

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:4-7 ESV


Friday, February 19, 2016

The Rocky And Thorny Ground

I'm still chewing on the parable of the sower in Luke chapter eight.

"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." - Luke 8:11-15 ESV

Parables are interesting things. They are very good to chew on because the meaning of the parable is deep and lasting but if you play with them to much they will break because they have a central meaning and it can be lost if you focus on the wrong things.

Someone could say, 'We are not farmers. Does He want us to be farmers? Is farming a more spiritual profession?'.

Whole groups of people have gone in directions like this. Jesus used Earthy illustrations and so people surmised that Jesus preferred rural activities and therefore they must be more spiritual but that is a stretch. Grace is white collar and blue collar. Grace is God's method for dealing with all people.

Robertson McQuilkin calls a parable one of the 'figures of comparison' in his book 'Understanding and Applying The Bible'. Figures of comparison are a distinct form of literature. Like a question or a command it has a primary usage and that must be known in order for it to be understood correctly.

The disciples understood that what they were hearing was a riddle of some kind. Jesus goes deeper and explains...

"And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.' " - Luke 8:9-10 ESV

So, I want to avoid how 'others' would interpret Jesus' words about the seed and the ground and find the way that is 'given'. The grace way. The gift way.

On the wayside the seed gets trodden down before it takes root. On the rocky ground things begin in joy but never progress. If there are thorns the plant grows to a certain point but never produces fruit. Only the good ground has fruit.

We talked about wayside ground but today I'm looking at rocky and thorny ground. Rocky ground is shallow and thorny ground has three aspects in the Gospel of Luke.

"...they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature..." Luke 8:14b

That is distilled further in Matthew.

"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

Grace understanding is good soil. The seed is given and the understanding is given.

If our understanding is shallow we will like what we hear but it won't take root because we have a system underneath that is incompatible with growth and maturity.

Thorns are unlike rocks. They are allowed to grow. They happen and they have benefits attached with them. Those benefits are deceitful ones but pleasurable for a season.

"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." - Jeremiah 8:20 ESV

It is a sad lament. Jeremiah said this of Israel. Opportunities were wasted in their window of opportunity and there was no spiritual food to satisfy the hunger that was to come upon them.

God has good seed but do we have good soil?

Grace. Grace. Grace. That is what is needed.

My effort will fix nothing. God's grace is everything. Truth is given as a gift. I don't want to be shallow or distracted. There is to much at stake. The harvest season is only so long and what is planted today is needed for tomorrow.

God help us. Help us to handle the truth with care. Cause us to receive the truth with depth. Teach us grace. We want the principles to turn into application in our lives. We want to live the message. We want the fruits of the Holy Spirit to abound in our lives. Thank You God. You are the farmer and we are your field. Thank You God.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

What Is Our Message?

I am not impressed by nice people talking about how nice we should be to one another. I am equally unimpressed by those who harp on how bad this group is to that group. Yes, These are real issues but they are not THE MESSAGE. They are distracting headlines that bury the real news and make it a foot note so that it is easily overlooked. If we move from a spiritual message to a moral message we lose the power to live because without spiritual quickening we become subject to our own depravity.

The first seventeen verses of Exodus chapter twenty lay out the perfect frame work of morality. We have ten fingers and God gave Israel ten principles that span the scope of morality but then in the verses afterwards things get interesting.

"Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, 'You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.' Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.' The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was." - Exodus 20:18-21 ESV

Beware when people front-load the treatment of other people as the message. If they talk about the high respect we should have for one another but exclude Jesus and His cross you are hearing a smoking mountain message. If they harp on injustice without Jesus or talk of equality without a cross they are bringing you to a holy mountain that can not sustain life.

"Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more," - Romans 5:12-13, 20 ESV

"For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death." - Romans 7:5 ESV

"Then the disciples came and said to him, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?' He answered, 'Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.' " - Matthew 15:12-14 ESV

Moral teachers are blind guides. They mean well but they just get other people killed and trap others in pits that they can't see themselves.

Depravity can not be educated out of us. Making people aware will only take them so far but it isn't ever going to be far enough. It isn't ignorance that brings people to Hell or creates Hell on Earth. It is that man is fallen and broken beyond repair.

THE MESSAGE brings hope. It is a lone beam of light that can enter a person and make them shine with light. The message is that Jesus died on a cross and rose again. The message is that God has made a free provision for everyone to have a new clean identity because of what Jesus did if we just believe in Him.

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil." - John 3:14-19 ESV

Spirituality produces a moral climate but morality alone can never produce one drop of spirituality. Without Jesus men only have a smoking mountain to look at and deep within their depraved little hearts they know they should die if they touch that mountain.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." - Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV

"Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." - Isaiah 40:30-31 KJV

Don't be fooled by the moral messages out there. They don't save anyone from Hell.

I am looking at the cross this morning and marveling at an empty tomb. Jesus has washed my sin away. God above smiles on me in love and nothing I do can change that. Oh, That is good news. It makes me want to be kind and no one has to tell me I should. I am so rich that I can share what I have and never have any less no matter how much I give away. Thank You Jesus. You are my headline. May You forever be on the front page of my life and the reason I do anything.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Avoid Creating A Wayside

"A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it... And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.' Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." - Luke 8:5, 9-12 ESV

The Greek word hodos (Strong's G3598) is used in these passages and it is translated 'path'. In the King James Version it is translated 'wayside'. Wayside make it sound like it is outside the field somehow but this Greek word speaks of a road used for commerce that many people travel on.

This soil speaks of demonic influences where the other two don't...

"And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature." - Luke 8:13-14 ESV

This is interesting to me this morning.

"As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." - Luke 8:15 ESV

The good soil is free from big rocks, thorns and traffic. When something hard or something new happens in a person's life there is great potential there for words from God to be planted. It is like soil that has been turned over. If people walk all over that area it can ruin it as a place of growth and that would be a shame. That difficult event can soon turn into a fruitful place if there is not too much traffic.

I want to help people but I don't want to walk all over their problems. Walking back and forth isn't going to help. Perhaps we are just there to sow seed, pull some weeds and remove some large rocks but not much else because a fruitful field is the real solution for a person.

Waiting isn't easy. That is why we just keep sowing and watering.

"Happy are you who sow beside all waters, who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free." - Isaiah 32:20 ESV

Yes. We sow the seed, remove a hindrance here and there and God gives the increase.

It might also be a good idea to advise a people to rope that area off also. If they invite to many people in the soil will just get trodden down by other well meaning foot steps.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Good Ground

"A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold." As he said these things, he called out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.' " - Luke 8:5-8 ESV

If I don't speak the language then I don't have ears to hear. I lack comprehension.

I want to speak God's grace language. What does that mean? He interprets situations a certain way. He has a priority system.

"And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?' But He turned and rebuked them, and said, 'You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 'For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them.' And they went to another village." - Luke 9:54-56 NKJV

God give us ears to hear. We need to learn your language through immersion. We want to walk with You and learn your ways. We know nothing as we aught to. We want the seed to fall on good ground so it will produce lots and lots of fruit.


Monday, February 15, 2016

A Body Member

Christianity isn't one person believing. It is many people believing in One person.

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many." - 1 Corinthians 12:4-14 ESV

Church life is mystical. It isn't always easy.

"For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body." - 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 ESV

These questions do arise because each person is self aware and as fallen people we have had exposure to the effects of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As fallen individuals we amplify differences and make distinctions but God is saying that the group is His body. He thinks about 'us' the way we think about our physical frame. That is his frame of reference.

"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." - 1 Corinthians 12:21-27 ESV

God tells us this and then we know it. The group is His body. A Church is seen by God this way. It is so easy to be cut off from this reality. We wouldn't even know about it if He hadn't told us.

Now that we do know what do we do with that information?

This reality is challenging for me this morning. If this is true (and it is because the Bible reveals it) then the decisions I make matter on a larger scale. It isn't just me. It isn't just me and my family. It isn't just me and my political party. It isn't just me and my ethnicity.

The King James Version puts it this way.

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

If we believe we are part of something larger. What will we be in that arena? What is our function today?

"But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way." - 1 Corinthians 12:31 KJV

Chapter thirteen is about love for a reason. It is linked to this reality. We love knowing this. The more excellent way is love that recognizes and unity that transcends right and wrong.

If I feel small and I often do. I remember this. There is much more at stake here then me and my needs. God will meet my needs. I want to stay connected in the way that glorifies God. There is life there and provision there. I am a member in particular.

If you have believed then you are also.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Fellowship That Is Eternal In Ephesians Chapter Five

"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

Are the days evil? Are they? In a comparative way they are.

"Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 5:17-21 ESV

Ephesians chapter five is about marriage and partnership. Chapter four was about individual integrity and living in the position that God has given us in Christ. Chapter six is about family and the corporate (group) dynamic.

Time works against us in partnerships. We must understand that God's will is eternal as well as temporal. Each moment is eternal. Wine can be a substitute for spiritual songs, hymns and thanksgiving in our hearts for the work Christ has finished.

Fellowship is the best use of our time. Fellowship is a Christ centered thing and not a wine splashing in a cup kind of thing.

"But others mocking said, 'They are filled with new wine.'

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'" - Acts 2:13-21 ESV

People thought that these believers were drunk but they weren't. These people weren't drinking to escape. They had escaped and they were living in the joy that freedom brings.

Time can be a prison for relationships. Married people can have a marriage that is outside of time. We can have friendships outside of time. We can use time instead of it using us when we practice God's presence and live in a mission instead of drifting from party to party.

I see grandparents with their grandchildren and they treasure each moment they have with them. Maybe they wish time would freeze.

Let's fellowship and live in a mission. The days are like waves. They will keep coming but if we know the eternal One we can live in eternity right now.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ephesians Chapter Four Into Chapter Five

"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

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 5:1-21 ESV

I wrote a blog post based on these passages but I 'pasted' when I should have 'copied' and lost it before I could post it.


Well. Here are the passages. I pray God blesses you as you read them. They are amazing!


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Way Into The Banquet

Have you ever felt insulated from truth?

We all perhaps have felt insulated from an idea. Maybe we have heard something and just felt like an outsider. We acknowledge what another person is saying but do not feel the conviction they feel.

An older person who is technologically challenged might say, 'Cell phones are stupid and they are ruining society! I'm never buying one.'

We nod and acknowledge that they have a point but as cell phone users we are insulated from that conviction. We can't reject it even if we see children crossing the street as they look down at a tiny screen. This technology is the water we swim in.

I often feel insulated from truth. I read my Bible and it doesn't sink in. I look at a passage that once filled me with wonder and feel nothing as I read it. It can be like walking down a hallway that has windows but no doors. I can see the beautiful thoughts but I don't experience them.

We need a bridge to reach Heaven's shores.

"So Jesus again said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture...' " - John 10:7-9 ESV

Jesus is our bridge. We can smell the banquet without Him but we can only taste it if He opens access to it..

"To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." - John 10:3-5 ESV

"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

There are other voices that give access to other things. Jesus gives access to Gods things and closes off access to evil.

"O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!" - Psalm 97:10-12 ESV

"Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph." - Amos 5:14-15 KJV

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:43-48 ESV

Only Christ can give us this balance. If we hear His voice we can love what God loves and hate what God hates.  If we hear His voice we can love people even if they participate it things that we have decided to hate.

I don't want to live insulated from love or cut off from truth. I must hear my shepherd's voice. Behind that voice is my father's voice. If I hear my shepherd I find pasture. It is there that mercy becomes my bed and my banquet.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cold Transactions

I was thinking this morning how Jacob and Esau saw their family life as a business deal and because of that it cost them.

"Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, 'Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!' (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, 'Sell me your birthright now.' Esau said, 'I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?' Jacob said, 'Swear to me now.' So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright." - Genesis 25:28-34 ESV

What a contrast this cold transaction is to Jesus walking the streets and back roads of Israel teaching and healing strangers until they became friends and disciples.

Jacob and Esau seemed to have little love for one another. In a few short sentences we see the culture that Isaac and Rebekah brought these brothers into. Sometimes it happens that way in families but in a loveless world Jesus loves. His transactions are grace transactions. His favor reveals the heart of the Father. When someone needed to be healed there was no talk of bargaining.

"Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him." - Luke 8:40-42 ESV

Jesus didn't need much convincing did He?

"And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?' - so that they might accuse him. He said to them, 'Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.' Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him." - Matthew 12:10-14 ESV

These men accused Jesus of working on the Sabbath but this wasn't work. This was no business deal. This was the Father loving people through His Son.

When loving people seems like work I want to return here. When I start to think about how much effort it takes to maintain relationships I want to look at Jesus. He walked miles to meet a woman at a well. He stopped what He was doing to love a person.

He had grace transactions. He revealed God's favor. No one felt like a secondhand citizen around Him.

I'm so glad that my Father in Heaven doesn't love me because I am a good hunter. He just loves me and somehow that creates a capacity in me to love others.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Spiritual Autonomy And Sexuality

Spiritual autonomy is a wonderful thing. It is the ability and right to govern ourselves. When the writers of the American Declaration of Independence spoke about 'inalienable rights' that is one of the things they were referring to.

A liar loses their spiritual autonomy. Why? They have taken the right God gave them to be autonomous and surrendered it. They have usurped authority and somewhere in the back of their mind they feel that the one who granted them freedom is chasing them. Autonomy is lost.

"Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." - Psalm 51:6-7 ESV

It is no coincidence that the age of accountability is closely linked to the age of sexual awakening. This is often the time in a person's life when they begin to hide or display themselves to others in exaggerated and deceptive ways.

"and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" - Matthew 19:5 ESV

I am so happy when I hear of a young couple who is getting married. I know that this is the beginning of a great adventure. They both finally have an avenue to deal with their sexuality (among many other things of course) with someone else. Those who were hiding won't need to hide anymore. They now have someone who they can share their life with for better or for worse.

Marriage isn't necessary for spiritual autonomy. People can have truth that gives them the ability to operate in the light in every situation and instance. Everyone can live in transparency towards God. God does however use marriage in an amazing way in people's lives.

We were born to be ourselves but when needs go unmet people create masks. No one wearing a mask can truly say they are free.

Biblical sexuality is private in nature. The doctrine isn't but the rest of it is. Many cultures have made it a public issue but exposure isn't the answer. Exposure can not exorcise shame or guilt.

Autonomy and interdependence go hand in hand. People need people. There is no economy without commerce. God's transactions are grace transactions. Autonomy just means that a person, group or nation is free to govern themselves without oppression.

This is a sensitive subject but if your sexuality is keeping you in bondage then going to God is the answer. He made us as sexual creatures. He has a way for us to live in the light for every area of our life. Even this one.

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

Yes. Those without Christ are condemned already. Somewhere in the back of their mind they know they have transgressed holiness and there is no remedy. Some work for appeasement. Others just run and hide for as long as they can. Others recreate God in their own image to create a false sense of security.

No one can run forever and God has only ever been satisfied with one person. Jesus is the answer. Jesus was the only answer for the woman caught in the act of adultery and He Is the only answer for us.

"...And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.' " - John 8:11b ESV

Let Him say that to you. We all need to hear it. It is what gives us the ability to operate in our inalienable right of spiritual autonomy.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Publicly Or Privately?

I was thinking this morning about dealing with problems privately versus publicly. Oh how important it is to know which one must happen. If we deal with something publicly when it should be done in private then we expose someone but if we keep everything private then we can become accessories to crimes to avoid exposure.

"Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool." - Proverbs 17:9-10 ESV

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church." - Matthew 18:15-17a ESV

It is out of order for the Church to know things that no one has discussed face to face first. But there is an order that escalates issues. People need layers of actual accountability. Men need to have someone who can rebuke them. They need someone who is willing to humbly get in their way as much as they need for there to be respect in the relationship just like a woman needs someone who will care that she is crying even if there is nothing to be done but to just stand there caring and listening.

I want to expose the abuser and cover the victim but issues are rarely that cut and dry. Many times this happens the other way around in this world and people bristle at the injustice of it.

By exposing the abuser we may inadvertently drag the victims out into the public as well. We need wisdom. Oh, Wisdom is so needed.

I carry some secrets that I will carry to my grave because there are situations that need to be covered. Exposure should sometimes happen for a season and a reason but sin is ultimately covered so I don't want to know people after the flesh either. God's history is a redemptive one. I want my history to be redemptive also.

"It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." - Matthew 13:32 ESV

Some of these birds are dirty birds. The Church should be a place of rest for everyone but not a place to hide from everything.

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing." - 1 Corinthians 5:1-3 ESV

"For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you. Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure - not to put it too severely - to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him." - 2 Corinthians 2:4-8 ESV

"For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it - though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us." - 2 Corinthians 7:8-9 ESV

Even if something must be exposed the end result should be one where people 'suffer no loss.'

"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:11 ESV

This is God's work and I don't want to play God in people's lives.

It is a balance that we must find as we are on our knees. Formulas only go so far. We need God's heart and God's mind. We need courage. We need convictions. We need mercy. God is faithful to supply us with all we need.

Let our Churches be places of worship and voluntary accountability to spiritual authority.

This is not me rebuking anyone in particular. This me thinking about God's structure and marveling at it. This is me reminding you and myself that holiness is wonderful and that people need a place of refuge. People need to be covered and people need to know that they will be safe and that issues will be handled with clarity and discretion.

This is me reminding myself that as a man I must walk as a man.

God please bless us and raise us up as wise people that can make hard decisions with integrity. Real men and real women are so needed in this world. People with backbone and kindness. There is a gap but who will stand there? God. Help us to be the ones who do in our generation. Without You we can do nothing. With You all things are possible. Thank you God. Thank You. Thank You.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

What Knits Us Together?

I woke up with parts of this verse in my mind.

"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God." - Colossians 2:18-19 ESV

Being knit together.

This verse says that being knit is more important than having a spiritual experience. Spiritual experiences can set us apart at times because one person has it but the others do not.

"And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them." - Mark 9:2 KJV

Jesus brought these three men up on the mountain together to see something that would knit them together. I am wary of spiritual experiences that set people apart because God gives them (in part) to bring people together.

Have you ever done a 'word study'? It is when you take a word and look up every occurrence of that word in the scriptures. Often more than one word in Greek and Hebrew are translated into the word you are studying so then you look up the Hebrew and Greek words and see where they are used.

The Hebrew word Chaber (Strong's H2270) is translated 'knit' here...

"So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man." - Judges 20:11 KJV

In most other cases it is translated 'companion'.

Qashar (Strong's H7194) is also translated as 'knit', 'bind' or 'conspire.'

"And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes." - Deuteronomy 6:6-8 KJV

What a great passage! As you bind your mind to the word of God it is knitting your family together. We meditate and then we share what God gives us with our children as we drive them to school or put a meal in front of them.

This isn't a 'I saw an angel.' experience. It is a shared experience where intimacy is created.

The Greek word used in the passage that opened up this devotional is Symbibazo (Strong's G4822). A it is translated as 'held together' in the following passage...

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." - Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV

Yes. A word study can be edifying. It's not hard to do once you learn how.

It takes us down surprising roads. We can find hidden treasures in those places. Then we can share those treasures with people. God begins to knit different parts of the Bible into our experience and then uses those words to knit people together in understanding.

'I had a dream' is a subjective experience. Subjective experience are wonderful because they are personal. But the word gives us an objective experience and objectivity is so needed. When we have that a group is edified and a group that is edified is a powerful force.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Treacherous Path

"Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard." - Proverbs 13:15 KJV

This is so true.

All the modern translations of this verse seem to take away what this verse says in the Hebrew. In the Hebrew it says that the path of the transgressor is washed out like a strong river washing out a road during a storm making it 'hard' or treacherous to pass.

Passion that runs outside it's channel ruins the path.

Good understanding opens the path of favor.

"Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will." - 2 Timothy 2:21-26 ESV

Yes. Here we are back at this passage.

Wisdom does not quench our passion. Discouragement can do that. Shame can direct our passions in unhealthy ways but knowledge of the truth harnesses passion so that it is useful. Grace tames the savage beast by restoring the equipment that was lost at the fall. Adam died spiritually but Jesus is the second Adam.

"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. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." - 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ESV

Our spirit is quickened by God's Spirit and made alive in a new economy of Grace.

As P Schaller said this weekend in Baltimore. This new man has 'likability' and favor with God. His path is a grace path.

Is your path hard because your passions are not under control. You are not alone and it doesn't have to be that way. Damming up the river doesn't have to be the answer. It also doesn't have to ruin your life in cycles. God has a way for your river to flow that won't make your way treacherous.

It is called grace and it can only be found in Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

40 Years Of Change

Mercy does a long term work.

"Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, 'This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,' and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would." - Nehemiah 9:18-24 ESV

God took a nation of slaves with a slave mentality and made them conquerors.

"You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great." - Psalm 18:35 ESV

As we dwell on His mercy some thing is happening in us. We may say, 'Why haven't I changed?' but God has changed us with His mercy and that mercy is shaping our growth over time.

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." - Colossians 1:9-14 ESV

We have been taken out from under a power that oppressed and shaped growth be oppression and we have been placed into a kingdom where there is strengthening power. Paul prays that these people would have 'spiritual wisdom and understanding' and that understanding becomes a catalyst for transformation.

A catalyst remains unchanged in the chemical reaction. We had 'golden calf' understanding but in time that changes as God shows us over and over who He really Is.

Good teaching is invaluable. The Bible is an amazing gift.

"Then I said, 'Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.' " - Psalm 40:7-8 ESV

We see Jesus and the Spirit creates a capacity in us over time. We become reflections of the life we are beholding. It isn't imitation. It is transformation.

God make us patient people. Make us patient with ourselves and with others. Patient and diligent to meditate on the only person that transforms. Thank You God.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Larkin's Charts

This morning I am reviewing the images of Clarence Larkin.

Perhaps you have never heard of him. He was born in 1850 in Pennsylvania. He became a Pastor and wrote a few books. He is best known for His Dispensational orientation (a literal view of scripture that breaks history down into time periods and makes the claim that God showcases different aspects of His character in unique ways for periods of time) and his charts that illustrate visually what the scripture says about history and prophetic events.

This past Sunday (yesterday) the Church in Baltimore spoke much about the judgement seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10 and related verses 1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 11:2f, Revelation 5:9-10, 2 John 1:8).

It is such an edifying study because when we see How gracious God Is it removes any fear we might have.

"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

This reward stretches beyond what we will see in this lifetime in this age. It can seem like people are punished for their spiritual success on Earth if you look at the difficulties they face but God is not punishing people. Sin has been paid for and a provision has been made.

We can store treasure in Heaven for this great day...

"When Jesus heard this, he said to him, 'One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' " - Luke 18:22 ESV

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

"For, 'Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls." - Hebrews 10:37-39 ESV

Yes. It is good to look at Larkin's charts and think about all that God has in store for the world. Some of it is scary and intense because God deals with everyone and not just those who have been brought into His family through faith in Jesus Christ.

Inside God's house there is warmth and generosity. I think we will be overwhelmed by it and shocked at how kind He Is.

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" - Matthew 7:11 ESV

Yes. This theme is very motivating. If we walk by faith we can look forward to a good Bema seat judgement.