Friday, September 22, 2017

Salvation Is Of Judah

"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." - John 4:22-24 ESV

A great passage with rich meaning but today I'm focusing in on the 'Jewishness' of salvation. The word translated 'Jews' (Ioudaios - Strong's G2453) is an adjective, not a noun or a proper name. Some would even translate it 'Judahness' making a distinction between the northern and southern Hebrew kingdoms. Historically there was a split between 'Israel' and 'Judah'. Israel is known for making bad decisions because of bad leadership. Judah struggled and teeter-tottered back and forth. Salvation is 'of Judah' because Jesus is descended from Judah.

"And one of the elders said to me, 'Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.' " - Revelation 5:5 ESV

Jesus was and Is the best thing that was ever produced out of that land. He Is the Lion of that tribe. The Royal One.

Is salvation 'Jew-ish' or is it 'Judah-ish'. Is our spirituality? I would have to say based on the passage in John chapter 4 that it is both but it is also neither one.

In verse 9 we see that Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman who had her own somewhat warped ideas about spirituality and He was initiating life to her and saying that God is looking for present-day worshippers who have the right basis of understanding but are in their own category. They are 'graced out' ones who recieve and live in the grace of God. The Messiah was from Judah but what He brought was from Heaven and not steeped in an Earthern culture.

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

Salvation is Jewish but spirituality is Christ-like because Christ-likeness is from Heaven. This isn't left wing versus right wing or based in morality. It isn't Baptist, Lutheran or Presbyterian. It is Jesus being manifested in the world. It is a man walking far out of His way to talk to an ostracized woman at a well and let her know that even though her concepts were wrong and she was known and cared for by just a few people on Earth... God cared for her and wanted to include her in His 'spirit and truth' fellowship.

Jesus provides hope for every person from every culture and economic background. He didn't come to make the world Jewish. He came so that the individual could be Christ-like. He came to save you and i out of all our wrong ideas and give us a new life with a new heritage.

Antisemitism has always been bubbling under the surface in culture after culture. It is no surprise. It isn't just a reaction to a people group that teeter-totters. It is a reaction to the Jewishness of salvation. It is a reaction to one carpenter's Son. Let's love that Son of man and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. That place needs our prayer.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Way Of An Injured Man

I listened to a radio program (NPR - Around The Nation - An Anti-Violence Activist Shares Her Reason For Buying A Gun) yesterday and my heart broke for this woman. A good woman trying to do the right thing and have a positive impact on the world but overwhelmed by the effects her past has on her present.

It made me think of this passage.

"I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. Correct me, O LORD, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing. Pour out your wrath on the nations that know you not, and on the peoples that call not on your name, for they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him and consumed him, and have laid waste his habitation." - Jeremiah 10:23-25 ESV

We see the right thing to do but often it is just past our grasp. Things have happened to us and even though we don't live in them the residue of them remains in our lives.

"A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good." - Proverbs 16:29 ESV

They say that most violence in areas with gang activity is retaliatory. Social media has amplified that cycle. People used to be able to 'talk smack' behind closed doors but now it is out there for every ego to see.

"As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!"" - Luke 24:36 ESV

"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.' " - John 20:21 ESV

The way He sends us is the way of peace but that way isn't in us. It is in Him and He gives it to us.

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." - Romans 16:20 ESV

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 1:3 ESV

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Corinthians 1:2 ESV

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," - Galatians 1:3 ESV

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." - Ephesians 1:2 ESV

"Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." - Ephesians 6:23 ESV

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." - Philippians 1:2 ESV

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:7 ESV

"Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace." - 1 Thessalonians 1:1 ESV

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Thessalonians 1:2 ESV

"To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." - 1 Timothy 1:2 ESV

"To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." - 2 Timothy 1:2 ESV

"To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." - Titus 1:4 ESV

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." - Philemon 1:3 ESV

"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." - Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV

"...according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you." - 1 Peter 1:2 ESV

"May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." - 2 Peter 1:2 ESV

"Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love." - 2 John 1:3 ESV

Do you see a theme here? I do. Peace comes from God through His Son. Maybe you are one of the few who have lived an injury free life and never have felt the need to lash out but this peace comes from the God-man who was mistreated more than any of us. It is a tested and proven peace that will not be overwhelmed.

"So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." - John 6:53 ESV

"Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." - 1 John 5:12 ESV

Believe in the Son and the life of the Son will be in You. Trust in His way and study and meditate on His words and His way will become your way.

"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." - Daniel 12:2-3 ESV

Choose the shining way of grace and peace. Choose the Son as Your Savior. Do it once and then let Him turn you day after day to a path you would not find yourself.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Dark Moon Before The New Year (Rosh Hashanah 2017)

Today the moon is dark and not giving off any light and I am quiet in my soul. Soon a sliver of light will begin to shine. The trumpet will sound in Jerusalem and it will be a new year.

The end of an old year and the start of a new one.

I'm sure for many in Mexico city it has been a long sleepless night. That place and those people are heavy on my heart. Storms and fires rage. Life will never be the same for many of the people in those places because of what has happened in their neighborhoods over the last few weeks.

Quietly I rehearse some of God's promises.

"... I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee..." - Hebrews 13:5b KJV

"Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished." - Isaiah 51:6 KJV

"And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." - Luke 21:25-28 NKJV

"I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." - John 14:18 NKJV

"...God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn." - Psalm 46:1b-5 NKJV

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." - John 14:27 NKJV

God leaves peace with us.

Who knows what this week will bring? The trumpet will sound when the moonlight sliver is sighted and God will still be on His throne. The old year will be over and God will reign in the new one.

God, Help us to wrap up the details of this year. It seems strange to pray a prayer like this in September as an American growing up in the west but today we look up at You and the calendar You gave to Israel and take notice. Renew us in newness and help us to tie up any spiritual loose ends. Thank You God.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Zebulun And Naphtali

Looking at the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali this morning.

The disciples were all Israelites and usually, we don't focus on their lineages. Jesus' bloodline is spelled out for us but that is not so for the other disciples but we do have clues.

"And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles - the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him." - Matthew 4:13-22 ESV

Two sets of brothers... Zebulun and Naphtali. These tribes have long interesting histories. Here is something that is said of one of them.

"Out of Ephraim was there a root of them against Amalek; after thee, Benjamin, among thy people; out of Machir came down governors, and out of Zebulun they that handle the pen of the writer." - Judges 5:14 KJV

The people of Zebulun had a gift for writing and Naphtali had artists.

"He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work." - 1 Kings 7:14 ESV

God used Peter and John to pen most of the new testament. Jesus picked fisherman but they came from a heritage that was great.

I don't know who your parents are or the heritage that you come from. It may be great or it may be quite lowly but light has shone into your life if you have believed in Jesus. You bring your family before God's throne when you come to Him. The gifts He gave to your fathers and mothers are manifested in you as you walk by faith.

"I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven," - Matthew 8:11 ESV

Many will recline at your table also.

It may not be easy to trace your family line but you represent all those that have come before you. Hold your head up high and worship with all that you possess. What you have came from someone as a gift. Let's give what we have been given back to God in gratefulness and thanksgiving.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Expectation For The Day

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." - Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

What is 'the Day'?

This is a great principle. Are you looking for 'the Day'? Do you have an expectation in your heart? What days are you looking forward to? Christmas. An anniversary. The day of your retirement from work. Your birthday. Coming home after being away a long time.

The day referred to here is a 'God' day. We stir each other up in the visitation of God. It is the day when we will see Him move. Is it judgment day? Is it the day we get to Heaven? Is it the next time we all sing together and Heaven comes down on our assembly?

Take your pick. The book of Hebrews doesn't say specifically and I think that is on purpose.

What day are you looking forward to? Get together more and more between now and then and encourage one another. Let your expectation be known. Share it. People need a day to look forward to. 'The Day' is coming. Be ready. Be waiting. Count the hours. Invite as many as are willing to come.

" '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.' The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price." - Revelation 22:16-17 ESV

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Friday, September 15, 2017

The Time Of Jacob's Trouble

What was 'Jacob's trouble' (see Jer 30:7) in the scriptures? To understand the future we must understand what it is referencing in the scriptures.

"Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, 'I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.' Laban said, 'It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.' So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, 'Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.' So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, 'What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?' Laban said, 'It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.' Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife." - Genesis 29:16-28 ESV

Jacob loved a woman but was forced to marry her sister first and work for years before he could marry the girl of his dreams.

The Church will be raptured and go to the marriage supper of the lamb and for seven years God will accomplish much as he waits to take Israel as His bride. All at once a nation will be born in day.

"And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn." - Zechariah 12:9-10 ESV

The day of the Lord is coming soon. God will deal with evil and He will take a wife. The time of Jacob's trouble is coming at us like a freight train. The Church has been longing to see what we may very well be privileged to see in our lifetime.

"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you." - Romans 11:17-18 ESV

"Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure' - for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are the true words of God.' " - Revelation 19:7-9 ESV

Two sisters. The wild olive branches are grafted into the cultivated tree. The Church and Israel. God loves both in a special way and is willing to wait and work just like Jacob was willing.

God isn't done with Israel... and He isn't done with you or i either. He has great plans. They just take time to unfold.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Global Perspective

Studying passages that pertain to Christ's second coming and marveling at the small details that are present.

Take this passage...

"Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 'In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.' " - Luke 17:30-36 NKJV

Many quote this as a rapture passage but it is actually speaking of Christ's second coming if we look at the context and Greek words. 'Taken' is paralambano (Strong's G3880) and according to John Walvood it is 'an association' and not a rapture.

What strikes me is the global nature of the event described. Some are sleeping and others are working. This isn't figurative language. It speaks of time zones. Jesus will return and people all over the world will know it and make decisions based upon their predispositions.

Just a small thought but it blessed me. The Bible was written with a global perspective. It isn't a book written by locals with a narrow view. It is a book inspired by the God of the universe who sees all time and space because it is His creation.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

No Hidden Fees

Ever buy something and feel like you are just getting 'nickeled and dimed' to death with all the hidden costs.

God's kingdom isn't like that.

"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David." - Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV

Sure mercies. No hidden costs. There is always meat and drink and that table and God wants us to partake of what He has given freely.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Turning A Curse Into A Blessing

Yesterday, the phrase 'turned a curse into a blessing' came up in conversation so I decided to look up the phrase in the scriptures. I will never see that phrase the same way again.

In our conversation, we agreed that God is the only one who can 'turn a curse into a blessing'. People can't do that. People can make the best of something but they don't have the transforming power.

The two places this phrase is used are here...

"No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you." - Deuteronomy 23:3-5 ESV

"On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. And in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them - yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent." - Nehemiah 13:1-3 ESV

Balaam is a mysterious person. He is not involved with Israel but he speaks to God and hears from Him also.

Numbers chapter 22 to 24 outlines the account. Israel's enemies come to Balaam seeking to hire him to curse Israel. He lets these people stay in his home and brings the request to God again and again hoping God will 'change His mind' and say 'Yes'. Balaam is seduced by the money and the challenge and tries to curse Israel but Balak brings him to three places to curse Israel but each time Balaam utters a blessing and even gives prophetic utterance about the Messiah.

"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed; Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed. Israel is doing valiantly. And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!" - Numbers 24:17-19 ESV

The talk about a 'star' and 'scepter' point to Christ and they are unique references given nowhere else quite this way. People can make the best of a situation but only God can reveal His Son to people in the midst of great opposition.

Perhaps folks want to lay low when it comes to their Christian life. They worship in their own way but at work, no one would ever know that 'they name the name of Christ' but a person who has enemies because of the faith also has this dynamic working.

"And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse and said,

'The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered: How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the LORD has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters. Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox; he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries, and shall break their bones in pieces and pierce them through with his arrows. He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness; who will rouse him up? Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.'

And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, 'I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times.' " - Numbers 24:2-10 ESV

Yes. Sorry, Balak. God isn't ever going to curse Israel. He will deal with them but never ever curse them. You tried to curse Israel only to discover some interesting facts about the future of Israel's enemies.

"Then he looked on Amalek and took up his discourse and said, 'Amalek was the first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction.' And he looked on the Kenite, and took up his discourse and said, 'Enduring is your dwelling place, and your nest is set in the rock. Nevertheless, Kain shall be burned when Asshur takes you away captive.' And he took up his discourse and said, 'Alas, who shall live when God does this? But ships shall come from Kittim and shall afflict Asshur and Eber; and he too shall come to utter destruction.' Then Balaam rose and went back to his place. And Balak also went his way." - Numbers 24:20-25 ESV

Say God's name. Use words like 'Jesus', 'The Cross', 'Heaven' and 'Hell'. If you do some will conspire against you but the curse will become a blessing and you will have special insight into Messiah and the favor of God or you can live spouting bland generalities to fit in and miss seeing how intensely God loves and favors you.

I will never see this phrase the same way again. God does turn situations and give us an advantage when it looked like we were at a disadvantage but that is not quite the blessing outlined here. The blessing is a glimpse into grace and the person of Jesus Christ.

Amazing.

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Friday, September 8, 2017

The Theory Of Universals

The next passage reveals something interesting about Jesus' incarnation.

"But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:" - Philippians 2:7 KJV

The Apostle Paul undoubtedly knew something about Aristotle. Paul was a Roman citizen and a scholar. Aristotle promoted an interesting idea about 'forms' that we call the 'theory of universals'.  I am going to oversimplify it to explain it quickly but here is the gist of it...

There is a perfect version of every idea that exists in a nonphysical realm but there are multiple imperfect reflections of it in the world we see and touch. Our mind touches this immaterial world and thinks about perfection but our body lives in the physical one. Let's use a horse as an example. There are millions of horses of all shapes and sizes but Aristotle would say that the ideal 'form' (or in Greek Eidos) of all horses exists somewhere in the immaterial realm of ideas. This universal horse is represented in all the physical horses we see and touch in the material world.

I am not promoting this philosophy. I see Greek thought as flawed in many ways and dangerous but the incarnation is mysterious and Paul seems to pluck this one concept out because it can be used as a mirror for our understanding.

God made men in His image and yet Jesus is born into the world as a man. He Is the 'ideal' man who is 'the form' of a servant. The servant who existed before time in the realm of the immaterial now being born as a person of flesh and blood like you and I but without sin. Perfect.

This concept can be taken further into angelology and demonology. In the scriptures, we see angels with animal attributes.

"As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle." - Ezekiel 1:10 ESV

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made... The LORD God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 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 3:1a, 14-15 ESV

"The pillars of heaven tremble, And are astonished at His rebuke. He stirs up the sea with His power, And by His understanding He breaks up the storm. By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent. Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?' " - Job 26:11-14 NKJV

Adam didn't name this serpent. He named all the beasts and birds in the garden but this is 'the serpent'. He was and is an 'ideal' entity that spoke ideas out of his deceptive nature. He snuck into the garden from somewhere else. He deceived Eve but God pierced him.

These angels don't look like animals. The animals look a little like angels. God doesn't look like us. Our bodies look a little like Him and once we believe in the servant of all servants we are born again having an eternal spirit made alive that quickens our soul in life.

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." - 1 John 3:2 ESV

"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," - Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV

Please notice that we are 'raised' and 'seated' already. The ideal version of who you are is now in Heaven outside of time. God placed us in His Son and now we have a perfection that can't be seen fully. It will be seen later but it is partially hidden at the moment.

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." - Colossians 3:1-4 NKJV

Today, I am not looking into the Greek realm of forms and ideas. I focus my mind on Heaven and Heavenly things. I want to dwell where God has placed me. I purpose to ponder Christ and all His many perfections. My feet can be firmly on the ground if my head is in these clouds.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Perception Gap

I'm reading 1 John chapter 3 over and over again and wondering at humanity's perception gap.

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." - 1 John 3:2 ESV

The chapter really links personal sin to a lack of perception. Mankind acts in lawlessness because God's nature and character is not in view.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him... No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." - 1 John 3:1, 6-9 ESV

Many go through life in lawlessness in the way that a person who knows nothing about cars deals with their broken down vehicle. If they can figure out how to open the hood they do but they still have very little idea what they are looking at much less how to begin fixing the problem so they get in and turn the key, again and again, hoping the problem will just go away.

"Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us." - 1 John 3:21-24 ESV

God commands us to 'believe in the name of His Son' and see the pattern of love in Christ. Seeing Him activates us in love. We have access to the maker of all things and He shows us how people are made. Instead of 'ungoverned' patterns of self-destruction, we have other options. Revenge, hatred, envy, lying and taking become obsolete practices.

What we are isn't seen yet.

"For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." - 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 ESV

What we will be hinges on what we have seen. Have we seen Jesus? If we see Him there is a transformation that happens inside that eventually is made manifest outside in love.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stumbling Blocks

Offenses. Stumbling blocks. What happens when you or i are caught off balance? There is that momentary jolt isn't there? If we catch ourselves mid fall and recover it is one thing but if we fall hard there is often injury of some kind which takes time to heal.

A couple of passages I was looking at as I considered this subject.

"SHIN. Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure. I hate and abhor lying, But I love Your law. Seven times a day I praise You, Because of Your righteous judgments. Great peace have those who love Your law, And nothing causes them to stumble. LORD, I hope for Your salvation, And I do Your commandments. My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly. I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, For all my ways are before You." - Psalm 119:161-168 NKJV

The KJV translates verse 165 this way...

"Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them." - Psalm 119:165 KJV

Each section of this Psalm is distinct. There is one for each letter in the Hebrew alphabet and has a theme. This one is 'SHIN' (the first letter in the Hebrew word for 'Princes' (Sar - Strong's H8269)

Jesus said this next passage to John's disciples. John's life was difficult. He was in jail and would later be executed for speaking truth to power.

"And he answered them, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.' " - Luke 7:22-23 ESV

Has a 'prince', a person with power or influence, offended you? Has God's plan offended you?

You or i can only be offended if we stumble.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." - Psalm 119:105 ESV

The lamp shows us our next steps. The light shows us a strategy for the journey.

We may have already stumbled. Maybe it is a loved one that has fallen. The pain of wound recovery is real. Instead of being bitter we can keep God's precepts (spiritual principles and dynamics) and testimonies (stories about past deliverances) in front of our faces. Grace can teach us how to walk in love and forgiveness.

Jesus is doing miracles today. I want that to be my testimony.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Circulating Movement

Many thoughts this morning.

There is one conversation I participated in on outreach this weekend that sticks out in my mind. We were talking briefly about the human lymphatic system. Our heart pumps red blood cells throughout our body but our lymphatic system has no pump. It works primarily on muscle movement bringing white blood cells to where they are needed in the body.

"...for we walk by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV

God has accomplished a great salvation for mankind.

At rest, my heart will still keep pumping oxygen and nutrients all through my body but my body wasn't made to be idle. We need to keep moving by faith in a purpose. That walking movement is needed.

Perhaps we tend to focus on goals and results and that has a place in our life but what about just moving by faith in the moment?

I need outreach. I am there for others but at the same time outreach provides a focused area to operate by faith in God's declared will.

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." - Luke 19:10 ESV

It might be a neighborhood or even this generation of young people that are being raised up in front of our faces that become our focus but we can move with God and all that we have is circulating in our proactive endeavors.

"As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." - 2 Timothy 1:4-7 ESV

I plan to keep moving this week. I don't want to do it in vanity. I want to have God move me as I move by faith.

God, Please stir us up in love and motivate us to move in a redemptive vision. No striving but we want to progress in a progression that blesses You as we walk by faith.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Rock Hard

This morning I am thinking of the heavy boot of oppression on different kinds of soil.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." - Romans 12:2 ESV

Wet soil - A big sloppy imprint
Dry loose soil - An imprint that can be seen and tracked by those experienced at looking for patterns
Solid rock - Barely a scuff if anything at all

Transformation of the mind hardens us from caving under and being changed by external pressure. Water washes us but does not wash us away.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hospitality In Heaven And On Earth

This morning I'm thinking of the concept of 'sheltering people' in a crisis.

Every home has a different culture, doesn't it? Some people live very private lives. I picture the quiet couple that doesn't ever really entertain. They have a home that they live in but not many people ever see it. Then there is the family that has a home like grand central station... children... other peoples children... company that stays over... there is a closet filled with extra bedding.

Then the crisis comes. The flood, fire, war, repression or migration.

Which family opens their doors? Perhaps the decision is different for these different households.

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." - John 14:1-3 ESV

As far as I know there were not many, if any, people in Heaven when Jesus said this. Heaven's doors were not open to people yet. Jesus is the One who would open those doors.

When people died they went to a place we call Abraham's bosom. Jesus speaks of it below and we think of it as an actual place because Jesus uses proper names. He didn't use names in parables.

"There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.'" - Luke 16:19-26 ESV

Jesus opens Heaven. He says that to Mary in the Garden after He is raised from the dead.

"Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' She turned and said to him in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' ' " - John 20:16-17 ESV

Jesus is preparing a place for us.

Does that excite you? It excites me.

I'm praying this morning for all the folks out there in the world who are preparing 'a place' for people because they have compassion in their hearts. The private ones and the ones who are used to feeding many mouths. Their hospitality is not unknown in Heaven. God does that also.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

One Bad Choice And One Good One

I was thinking last night of the 'Law of Imputation' and how it ties in with other doctrines. It basically means that judicially one drop of sin equals a lake of sin so that one drop of Jesus' righteousness can equal all of God's righteousness.

"For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." - 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV

Adam's sin killed him and because of that, all his children die also. Sin is imputed to them by association. We were born in Adam but if we die with Christ on the cross our past gets buried with Him and we get raised with Him as new creatures. Adam made one bad choice and we make one righteous choice.

Not all choices trigger an 'imputation' but only a rare few do. The choice to believe in Christ is one that sets the legal wheels in motion.

"And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." - 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 KJV

As we get older we begin to look like our older ancestors because we are 'of' them. But as we grow in Christ we begin to resemble Him more and more also. We bear the 'image' of the Heavenly. Our change seemed to be only judicial but then we begin to change from the inside out as we behold Him.

"in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality..." - 1 Corinthians 15:52-54a ESV

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

Our failure can't kill us the way Adam's failure killed Him. Jesus' death on the cross killed that person. The person who had sin imputed to them died. Now we who believe are in Christ and it is irreversible. Nothing can change that.

"Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me." - Isaiah 49:16 ESV

No one can wipe away that writing. God won't do it. One decision caused doom and one decision can cause a person to be sealed with the Spirit forever and ever.

Thank You, God. Imputation doesn't seem fair but it is legally sound and we are so grateful that you have provided us a way back. Help us to remember the blood that bought us... today... and in the days to come. Thank You, Jesus.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

May Contain Peanuts

I woke up this morning thinking of 'may contain peanuts' statements on food labels. An interesting thought.

God's grace has no impurities because nothing else is processed in the same place as grace. Our grace must come from God and not ourselves. Our 'processing plant' has impurities.

"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." - 1 Peter 5:10 ESV

He Is the God of ALL grace. That speaks of purity and of sourcing. He has all of it all the time.

If we are truthful about our labeling it would say, 'Unconditional Love' but in the fine print it would say, 'may contain conditions because of my fallen state.'

"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." - 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 ESV

Some amazing promises there!

I must think of myself as poor in this area or better yet as a steward of someone else's goods. God has the grace. I get it from Him for myself then I have something to give.

Trying to muster up something that only God possesses leads us down a road that Lucifer went down long ago.

"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' " - Isaiah 14:12-14 ESV

The 'son of the dawn' soon became the 'accuser of the brethren.'

We have the power to operate in the divine because we have received the God-man.

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, 'This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.' ') For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." - John 1:12-16 ESV

Jesus is the 'fullness' of God. We receive Him once and we are changed forever that reception formed a connection where grace can flow. That flow can be inactive if we live in a mental self-sufficiency. Salvation isn't part of that flow. We can't ever lose our salvation but we can at times lose the experience of our salvation.

"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

People use passages like this to teach that our sinful actions grieve the Spirit but what is says is that our lack of willingness to proactively receive is what grieves Him. The actions become a result of not receiving.

None of us can afford to go into this day 'empty handed'. That is why we go to God 'empty handed' first and get what He freely gives us.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Dunked Into The Name

I'm old enough to remember VCR tapes, cassette tapes and even fax lists as methods people used to spread ideas. The internet and social media have replaced those methods.

Someone would give you a tape and say listen (and/or) watch this and then say, 'Tell me what you think.' or you would get a fax from an unknown number and somewhere on it there would be a statement something like, 'Please send this to everyone you know.'

I don't know about you but my mailbox is still full of junk I have to sort through.

I love Jesus' prescribed method of spreading information to the masses...

"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.' " - Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

I like this translation very much the only thing I would change is that it says, 'baptizing them IN the name' but a better translation would be. 'baptizing them INTO the name'.

Jesus said dunk them into the culture of my name (which carries the idea of character and nature). People get the information but they get it with a simultaneous dose of fellowship that has the Savior who will never leave right there in the middle of it all.

I remember hearing the Gospel and thinking that the people who gave me the information were just well-meaning simpletons. My culture and even my ethnicity excluded me from buying what they were selling. My ancestors had been killed 'in the name of Jesus' but as a group, they had something that fascinated me. Then one day as they sung their songs at the start of Church I sensed something more... a purity... a holiness... a love. As vessels of clay, they had a treasure. It was God's name on display and I was dunked in it subjectively during the song service and then objectively in the clear message of redemption.

Later, still before my rational acceptance of the message, a man who came to Church with us began mocking the Pastor by imitating him and I remember getting so angry that I confronted Him in a brutal way that shut his mouth. Even as a heathen I instinctively knew that mocking God's man was wrong. I didn't yet have The Spirit making my spirit alive in a continual quickening.

There are many causes out there begging for our attention. Many are good and many are not what they seem to be. Nothing has changed my life like the Gospel of Grace has. Jesus' cause has become intertwined in my life. He took someone who was disqualified and baptized him into the name above all names.

Perhaps this blog is my VCR tape and you are my fax list but this is no impersonal communication to get you to change your mind and funnel resources my way. This is just me talking in awareness of the great 'I AM' hoping your day will be touched by holiness from above. My God wants 'whosoever will' to taste and see that He Is good so that He can be a covering.

"...Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by." - Psalm 57:1b ESV

The 'shadow of His wings' is a refuge for you in your personal storm. May you be safe under them today and all of this week.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Distances

"For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." - Psalm 103:11-12 ESV

Great promises.

'Those who fear Him' and 'us'.

We know the path of the moon and its distance but how far is the east from the west?

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Some We Just Avoid

"...avoid such people." - 2 Timothy 3:5b ESV

Yes. The scriptures say this in the new testament. It is a 'seek and save' age. We love and in one sense we are sent in as sheep to the slaughter but it also says that we avoid some folks. We love them and pray for them from afar.

Here is the context.

"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people." - 2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV

Why avoid them? They will steal your time and resources. They will add roadblocks and confusion.

The scriptures go further.

"For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth." - 2 Timothy 3:6-7 ESV

I notice that is says, '...among them...' as if these are a subset of the previous group with attributes of that group. Not all abusive people are users but all users are abusers in some way.

God died on a cross for their sins. He loves the whole world with an intensity we can't understand but at the same time, He gives warnings.

Seducers don't show all their cards until they creep into your house but the warning signs are often there.

"Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other..." - Romans 13:7-8a ESV

Often a sense of duty will seem to be present to help or continue but don't be fooled. Jesus is the Savior not us and we listen to His voice to see what role we have, if any, in someone's life.

Some folks you have to love from far away. Perhaps even through prison bars. Mercy, love and forgiveness... God has given us those things. He also has given us wisdom.

Let's be wise.

The Apostle Paul didn't start out that way. He used to be Saul. Saul was a man to avoid. God had to blind him and knock him down a few pegs before conversion happened in his life. We don't want to meddle in that process. Paul is a man I'm looking forward to meeting... not Saul. That guy can just keep on walking.

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He Became Sin

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

Jesus became us. He fully identified with us and died 'as us' so we could live 'as Him'. Here is the passage in context.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ESV

He took our hit. Adam pointed the finger but Jesus waved His hands and said, 'It was me. Punish me. I will become them so your justice can be fulfilled. Let it be my fault. I am human just like them but with no blemish. Let me be the sacrifice.'

We who believe have become God's 'good deed'. The angels look on in wonder at the grace bestowed on us. We should also.

"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called 'the uncircumcision' by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands - remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility" - Ephesians 2:11-14 ESV

I want this truth to work on me. Jesus has removed a wall in my life that I could never tear down myself. Men like Martin Luther King did what they did and thoughts what they thought because a wall had been torn down inside them.

Blood has brought us close to Him and in doing so it can bring us close to each other also.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Elders Who Were Carried Away Captive

I'm reading Jeremiah chapter 29 again and again this morning and it is very instructive to me. This letter is to Israel and Israel is a unique nation. It isn't the Church. The Church comes from the same root but that is a different message.

We can look at Israel's cycles and see similarities to the cycles and mentalities of an individual human being. Israel is a survivor. God has caused them to survive.

"Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive--to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. (This happened after Jeconiah the king, the queen mother, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.) The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters--that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace." - Jeremiah 29:1-7 NKJV

Perhaps we look at the life we had and the one we have now and wonder, 'What parts have me have survived and what parts haven't?' Our cells die and are replaced and we change as we grow. For many life has taken them captive... or it seems that way. Actually, God sends us all into captivity but it isn't to hurt us. It is to grow us up.

"Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt; each man and his household came with Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. All those who were descendants of Jacob were seventy persons (for Joseph was in Egypt already). And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them." - Exodus 1:1-7 NKJV

Why God does this is mysterious but it clearly has to do with our free will. He wants us to choose freely but fallen people need limitations or they will destroy themselves. We need a tower of Babel as much as we need a Savior. We just don't know it. We long to be free but God sets boundaries and says, 'Live here with these restrictions.' and we fight against those boundaries.

If I kept writing today my post would be 100 pages long because there is so much here in this chapter. There are false prophets in our captivity and all kinds of obstacles but Israel was told to focus on God and the salvation that was coming.

"For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive." - Jeremiah 29:10-14 NKJV

Our salvation is a person. We focus on Him.

Survival mode comes in seasons for us. There is no shame in it. Guilt and shame have real remedies in Christ. Sin, failure and just plain falling short are resolved in Jesus' time on the cross. Shame is self hatred. None of that. No. Never. God loves us and He isn't thinking that way. His thoughts are peace.

"He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days." - Psalm 102:23 ESV

Yes. It happens to all of us but God has a well-timed plan that we will see unfold in due season. Don't despair if you feel trapped. God will release you when the time is right and you will thank Him for all of it. Yes. All of it. We don't know what we need. God only knows that.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Three Things

"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV

"...remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ESV

"But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation." - 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ESV

Faith, Hope and Love

Hope in Jesus... Hope becomes a covering for our thinking.

The work of faith is combined with the labor of love to make up a protection on our heart.

These three abide (have a home) now on Earth in God's plan.

Jesus must be at the center of this and every other meditation. Grace. Mercy. What He has done and how He thinks must be central.

No striving. No outcome driven focus. Just Faith, Hope and Love abiding now.

God show us how that applies today in our interactions and planning. Not just a pie in the sky future. Our thinking dwells in Heavenly places so that we can have a place to abide here and now on the Earth in our actual provisions.

A covering for our heart and for our head. That is what we need and that is what we have.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Amen In Him

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

Wow. It is a great thing to have a 'Yes and Amen'.

Perhaps 'Amen' sounds religious in some way. It did to me at first. Monks say it. Swaying crowds singing Gospel music shout it as they wave their hands. It wasn't a word in my vocabulary or perhaps I uttered a sarcastic, 'Amen brother' here or there to jokingly agree with something.

I didn't see the depth of Shalom that was in the word. 'Amen' has a universal rightness to it. It is agreeing with God. It is uttering a phrase that says, 'I am on the same page with the eternal mind.'

It wasn't in my vocabulary but neither was Jesus. In Him I have my 'Amen' and if I have half a brain I also have a 'Yes' when I hear an eternal truth and it resonates in my being.

Yes and No. Yes and No. Yes and No. People will say these two all day long. They are like the zeros and ones in a computing machine but who in the room will say, 'Yes and Amen'? Who will look at an empty cross and use their sanctified imagination to gaze into Heaven to see a risen Christ? Will take on His light burden and shed their own heavy burden? Who will join with Him in a seek and save mentality and leave behind the judgement of people in approval and disapproval?

I sit here penning a blog entry but my heart is swaying in a great multitude singing and shouting 'Amen'. I have music because of Jesus. I have glory in Him. I have a connection to the Father as a dusty human being anchored to the Earth. My Spirit is free to roam in glory.

Thank You, God. Yes and Amen to Your Son. He Is my glory. Give me words to say that come from You so others will have an Amen today. Maybe it would be their first one. Thank You, God.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Reclining At The Table

I woke up thinking about this passage...

"Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 'Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?' He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, 'Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.' " - John 12:1-8 ESV

We are always going to have needs. The thief says, 'What a waste. That should have been spent another way.' but it is not true.

Jesus could have said, 'Don't have this dinner to honor me. Let's just hand out the food on the street.' but He didn't. He reclined and enjoyed what was put before Him. Far from stopping Mary, He quieted Judas.

We also need to tell that saccharine goody two shoe voice that wants to stop us from enjoying God and each other to pipe down. Special times are special. More will always need to be done. The poor are always around but the visitation of God fills the room with a fragrance.

I for one like the birthday and anniversary party. I like the send off dinner and celebrating some ones return. These are rare times and we should savor them. The fire is always going to demand another log. Fires are like that. Our life with God is a life of recognition.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Study Out Your Approval

"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." - 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

If you study you will find that God approves of you. He doesn't approve of people because they study. He approves because of Jesus. Jesus IS approved and God only sees us as hidden in Christ.

Teachers who teach God disapproves of those who walk by faith in His Son will be ashamed because they didn't rightly handle the truth.

You are approved! Your past can't change that. Your present can't. Your future can't. Study and find out what grace means. Study and prove it to yourself then teach it to others.

"...Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, 'Do not fear, only believe.' " - Mark 5:36b ESV

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39 ESV

Your senses are NOT going to tell you this. It must come from the Bible. It must be experienced by being with people who have studied this out also. Forgiveness is learned. This approval is based on God's justice already being satisfied by Jesus Christ.

Shun the teacher that says you don't measure up and won't unless you do a list of things. They will be ashamed.

Believe and receive. Get a PhD in that and you will have peace in crazy times. You will know how to bounce back when others don't. You will be a 'workman' that does not work for God's approval but reveals that God has already done all the work.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ears They Didn't Have

I tell you a mystery.

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." - John 16:12-15 ESV

Jesus declares that He Is going away. He Is going to go to His Father and the disciples are sad. He declares that His death will be good because He Is going to send a mysterious some one but they are grieved and in that state they can't hear what He going to say with clarity.

None of these men and women are thinking of writing books at this point. They were ex-fishermen and ex-tax collectors and ex-prostitutes. After Pentecost, they would become something else.

I sometimes look at chains of events in people's lives and think, 'Could anyone have warned them off of what was coming? Would they have listened?'

Then I turn to God knowing I can be and probably am just as blind. There are things I just don't want to hear.

"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein." - Hebrews 13:9 KJV

Grace gives us what belongs to Christ. The Spirit of Grace Is going to glorify Christ and draw us into that mix. Jesus said, 'I'm leaving.' and it vexed them even though it had to happen that way. The Spirit never says that to us. He says, 'I am staying with you for the rest of your natural life and beyond.'

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

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." - Ephesians 4:30 ESV

Jesus couldn't tell them certain things because even though they knew who He was they couldn't fathom what that meant. Jesus could die and be raised. Jesus could go and return forever. No one else Is like Him. When the Holy Spirit Is present Christ Is fully present also and not in a way that people would like to think of other people being present after death.

"Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, 'Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.' " - Revelation 1:12-18 ESV

No one can take what belongs to God by force and in separation but He gives to those who believe freely. He sent His Spirit to minister.

This security has given us ears we didn't have. It wears down our stubbornness. It overwhelms our distrust. This voice never condemns. This voice gives and gives.

"If anyone has an ear, let him hear:" - Revelation 13:9 ESV

Yes. God wants to say things to us but we can't hear them until we are secure in His love.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cast That Bread Upon The Waters

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth." - Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 ESV

Cast your bread upon the waters. Bread is useful. Our body needs food. What a risky way to live... or is it?

I think of Moses mother putting him in a basket on the Nile.

"The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, 'This is one of the Hebrews' children.' " - Exodus 2:2-6 ESV

This isn't a story. This is an account.

Risky. Trouble is coming. The instinct is to hoard.

Giving is risky. Grace is risky.

Cast it on the water. Cast the time you could have used on yourself on someone else. Cast the resources that could have built bigger barns. Cast the money on a missionary or send some children you don't know to Christian summer camp. Cast it. Throw it. Don't just toss it down where you can reach it. Throw it over a wall into another country.

God will repay. Let your belly rumble a little. God will fill it tenfold.

Moses turned out to be a great man. I think his mother made a good choice.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." - John 3:16 ESV

I know I quote this passage a lot. I try not to rehash ideas again and again but can you imagine it?? God cast His Son out on the harsh dark waters of this world. He didn't give something extra He had laying around. He gave the person most important and central to His eternal existence because He had confidence that His Son would lead a sinless life and because of that death would never hold Him in the grave. Jesus would return to Heaven again.

Can we live this way?

Will we?

It's a risky way to live... or is it?

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Build Up The Walls

Reading Psalm 51 again and again this morning.

"To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 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. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me...

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar." - Psalm 51:1-10, 17-19 ESV

The picture of repentance and hope is amazing. I marvel at it. David had an understanding of grace and mercy. He saw that it needed a sacrificial system. Zion needed strong walls so that the altars would be right altars.

I don't know about you but I repent regularly. The word doesn't mean to be sorry and beat our breast. It means we turn to God and communicate. Jesus is my sacrifice. He is my only sacrifice.

As the King David saw the importance of the walls. Why does he mention them of all things in this Psalm? The walls were a continual community project. They always needed repair and upkeep. The walls meant that the temple was safe. The strength of the walls kept bulls on the altar.

Is grace taught? Where is it taught? What will keep Jesus' work on the cross preached? What are our walls and how can we strengthen them?

If no one knows that Jesus paid the price people will just be beating their breast and have no way to be cleansed. They will do what we did before Jesus came into our life. They will cover themselves with fig leaves. They will add sin to sin and sink into despair or pile on as many good works as possible to balance a scale that can never be balanced.

Do you have a Bible study or a Church or a place where the message is made known? Reason with God He will make your scarlet heart white as snow and then build the walls of the place that taught you how to do that. Build up the places that teach other how to do that.

David ends the Psalm this way for a reason. Me. Me. Me. Can't be the end of our thinking. A cleansed heart shifts to the needs of others. It contributes to the strengthening of what helps others. It starts to say, 'Hey, That wall has a crack. I'll get some mortar and you bring some bricks and let's get to work.'

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Two Things That The Gospel Of Grace Gives

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again... And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified... You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship." - Acts 20:24-25, 32, 34-38 ESV

Paul is sure that God's grace is able to give us two things. It is able to build us up and it is able to give us a joint inheritance. Now and Later are covered.

Paul knew He wasn't coming back but He also knew that the words He had spoken to these people had been about Christ. The Gospel of Grace had been given. He had explained thoroughly about Jesus in the Hebrew scriptures and about the cross. He had explained the free gift of salvation dozens of ways. He wasn't like other teachers that demanded tribute. He wasn't securing a following for himself for security or financial gain so that if he came back this way as he traveled some scholarly teaching circuit he would have connections in this city. He wasn't networking. He was loving God and working with his hands as he labored in the word.

There may be people who are only in your life for a short season. I feel that way on Saturdays when we talk to people about life, death, Heaven and Hell. I may never see them again but in a moment I (we) can give them something eternal. We don't offer a momentary smile like an entertainer does... smiles are great but they are like flowers that fade. We offer a Savior who saves and sticks closer than a brother long after we leave the scene.

Are people just in our lives so we can get something from them or is it an opportunity to give something eternal away?

Grace is able to build up. Grace is able to give an 'inheritance among all those who are sanctified' and that is precious beyond imagining.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Making Tough Choices

Many of us don't find work to be fun. We go but it is a fight. 'Do what you love.' may not always be an option for us but we make a choice because we have weighed our options and work allows us certain benefits. It is great if we love what we do but even if that is true we likely have aspects of work that are not our favorite but they are necessary. We do what we need to do because we are adults and it is part of being a mature responsible person.

Purpose or pleasure. Which will it be? Sometimes you can't have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes you and I must just make a choice and live with that choice. It we choose in anger, exhaustion, self-justification or exasperation we may live to regret what we did because in those states we are seeking relief and are often not building on a future happiness.

"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." - John 3:16-17 ESV

"But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors." - Isaiah 53:10-12 NASB

God has made some tough choices because of love. We can also. Love is pleasurable but it has stages that we must tough out because we care about the end result. God gave us free will and He has had some hard days because of that choice. His hardest day was the cross but God 'was pleased' to crush His Son so that we could be reconciled. That boggles the mind.

Don't quit.

Don't throw up your hands and self medicate.

Don't choose pleasure over purpose. Let's have pleasure in our purpose because our purpose aligns with God's purpose. If we value investment and redemption all the sweat and tears will contribute to a great increase.

"Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 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 10:35-39 ESV

Yes and Amen.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The New Moon

In the old testament, there were animal sacrifices pointing to the great substitutionary sacrifice of the coming Messiah. Perhaps we only think of sin offerings or offerings on holidays like the Passover but something happened every week and every new moon.

"And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD." - Isaiah 66:23 KJV

"Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day." - Psalm 81:3 KJV

"Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened." - Ezekiel 46:1 KJV

The new moon happens directly after the stage when the moon gives no light because the Earth is blocking the sun's light from reaching the moon then a small sliver of light shines from the moon. This moon that is shining again even just a little is considered 'new.'

"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:" - Colossians 2:16 KJV

Paul wrote this to believers because they had a new life in Christ. No more temple sacrifice was needed to cover sin. Personal sin had been blotted out by the blood of the lamb.

Things get dark in our lives. It comes in cycles but that is no surprise. Life is like that but are we looking for that sliver of light? Are we prepared to worship?

Rosh Hashanah is the Hebrew new year. Many cultures today wait until midnight to celebrate their new year but in Israel it wasn't a new year until that first new moon was sighted. The moon would disappear and when the people saw the first sliver of moonlight shining the trumpet would sound and everyone would welcome a new year.

"And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." - Matthew 24:31-37 ESV

This passage is no mystery. Jesus is talking about a global new year that is coming soon to a theater near you. No man knows exactly when the new year starts. It isn't a time set on a clock. It is a confirmed sighting of a sliver of moonlight after a season of seeming absence.

Will Jesus return this Rosh Hashanah or on Rosh Hashanah? Our God is a God with great sense of humor. He could. He could come at any moment. New testament believers were freed from a lunar system of worship but God has kept Israel in the picture against amazing odds. Rosh Hashanah is still celebrated every year all over the globe and it is a reminder to us.

Every month when it gets darkest God keeps giving the world a sliver of hope that gets brighter and brighter all over again. One day a trumpet will sound and we will be gathered for a great celebration.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Called To A Crucified Christ

"For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." - 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 ESV

Wow. Wow... Wow

We expound on Christ, who He Is, what He has done and Is doing and our Messiah is a crucified Messiah. That message is foolishness unless it is accompanied by a 'calling' and that is an invitation to 'walk together'.

"And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' " - Matthew 4:19 ESV

"And Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.' " - Matthew 8:22 ESV

"And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." - Matthew 10:38 ESV

"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.' " - Matthew 16:24 ESV

That was Jesus 'Calling' His disciples and that is how He calls us. If we say 'do something' or demand wisdom from God that gives us the power we miss it but if we follow we get both and even more as time rolls out. We die to the old and grow in the new. Our Christ is a crucified One.

God's love and mercy are His weakness. He Is generous to the unworthy. He Is gracious. His weakness is stronger than men.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

All From Three Mothers

Just pondering the time between Adam and Noah. It must have been very interesting. Wild. Dangerous. People lived long lives in a world that was very different than our own in many ways.

"The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." - Genesis 3:20 ESV

"Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood." - Genesis 7:6-7 ESV

All of humanity came from one woman but then in Noah's time, the lineage of mankind was narrowed significantly. All of the mitochondrial DNA only gets passed down through these three women. Everyone on the planet today came from the traits these three women possessed.

What variation there must have been in that ancient world.

God narrowed humanity down. Our genetics was focused so that a child could be born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Mary was just a women like other woman but she was the right woman for the job even though she didn't seem to think so.

God arranged things so that you would be who you are. The molecules that make up your body at any given time were arranged by God to give you form so that you could have a chance to know your creator.

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high," - Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV

One day we are going to meet some strange folks. Their mothers died in the flood and our mothers didn't. Eternity has so much to look forward to if we know that baby born in Bethlehem.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Numerical Correlations - Part 1

You may have noticed that I don't rely heavily on 'numerical correlations' in my interpretation of the scriptures. Some preachers do and they use that method wisely. Clearly, some numbers in the scriptures have great meaning and significance.

Twelve, for example, is used again and again. Israel had twelve tribes and many twelves in the Hebrew scriptures relate to that. Piles of twelve stones. Twelve loaves of show bread. Jesus has twelve disciples in the Gospels.

Ok, I see that. The number twelve represents something. The question is, 'How far do I take that?' because I see people go quite far down the rabbit hole and start finding 'numerical significance' everywhere and start using it to justify 'doctrinal significance.' They start saying things like, 'This person should be in elected into leadership because they have twelve letters in their name.' or they use strange arithmetic adding and subtracting and coming to conclusions.

I am very wary of that kind of teaching. Authoritative claims are made that are not found in a plain reading of the text. The scripture has one 'essential' doctrine and to understand that doctrine you don't need any understanding of the numbers of the Bible.

Salvation is the 'essential' doctrine.

"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

The Bible is an amazingly symmetrical book like nothing else. There is much to be learned by examining the engineering of it but Christ must be central.

Who called the twelve disciples? He did. Who gave Abraham twelve children? It was God.

If someone does not have the core understanding of salvation by grace as central in their teaching I really don't care what else they have to say about the Bible or spirituality. Knowledge like that is a distraction and not a blessing.

So, I ask you. Do you have the 'essential' truth of the scripture? Do you know that Jesus came to Earth and died on a cross to save your soul and everyone who would believe in Him?

Let that be our foundation. If we have that we can study the Bible and it will blossom like a flower. Then the tools we have can be useful and helpful in watering the incorruptible seed that has taken root in our life and given us a brand new identity.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Oasis Of Grace

This is a core truth. This truth is an oasis for the self-image...

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

Whatever you 'are' since the moment you first believed can only be understood in God's grace. Every other lens is deceitful.

I have met some awesome people. I'm thinking of a few of them this morning. These people are radically different from one another in so many ways. They look different. They have different personalities and tendencies. Some are so talented and creative. It shocks me. Some are steadfast and patient. Others are quiet and I feel I barely know them because who they truly are is only partially on display while other wear their hearts right out there where everyone can see.

I sit here comfortable in my own skin because I am what I am by grace and I know that is true for each person I love and admire.

I often have wished I had other talents and abilities. I have wanted to be something or someone else. But God's grace is an oasis from all of that. In that place called grace, YOU are loved and grace given is never in vain.

We can seek to understand, praise and affirm people and that is needed but giving and explaining grace by living in it has no substitute.

I pray for the ones in my circle that are so different from me and each other. I pray that God would make me a minister of reconciliation. A priest. A friend. A fellow traveler. A broken man made whole on display.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God's grace..." - Hebrews 13:8-9a NLT

Yes. Yes, It does.

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