Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Touching On Support Systems

This morning I'm thinking about time and support systems. We all need people. Some of us have great support systems and some of us don't. There seems to be a myriad of reasons why that is. Having people who care around in hard times is a real gift.

"Peter began to say to him, 'See, we have left everything and followed you.' Jesus said, 'Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.'" - Mark 10:28-31 ESV

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 'Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.' " - Matthew 6:31-34 ESV

The things in these passages have spoken to me in the last week or so. They are support system items, aren't they?

Then there is time...

"But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.' Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." - Ephesians 5:13-16 ESV

One of the things I see about Church is that if it is done with God's  heart it becomes a hot house for support systems to be nurtured and created. Missions, family and people who have little in common on a natural level form into an interconnecting root system of support and it is amazing.

Time. How will we use it? I want to use it to strengthen and create new branches of support. I see the value of it not only for the needy but the young and strong also get a great benefit from being involved.

My prayer is that God would give us creativity and insight. That He would strength the weak areas and give wisdom involving the pitfalls of interconnectedness. His Kingdom and His righteousness will form eternal bonds of supply. That is so amazing to me.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Another Scoop

There is a market near where I work and a place in that market makes some wonderful rotisserie chicken wings. I went there last week and ordered six wings. The kind woman behind the counter smiled as she handed me the bag and said, 'I put in a few extra.'

It blessed me. The wings were delicious... especially the free ones.

As I read my booklet this morning this passage was quoted.

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching." - 1 Timothy 5:17 ESV

I decided to look into the Greek of the passage and see what 'double honor' meant and it basically translated into 'extra chicken wings with a smile'. The concept did at least. The Greek words would really actually be more like 'an extra scoop of value'. Wow.

I hesitate to speak of this passage because in a way a leader speaking about double honor is like a husband talking about how 'wives should honor their husband.' The motives can seem suspect. 'Why is this person saying this?' and 'What do they expect?' come to mind.

I love the concept of honor. It is a noble idea to place a high value on people. I have seen this applied in strange idolatrous ways and also in beautiful ones. Every human being is worthy of honor. To make a person know that their value is high is so vital and needed.

I like how the passage in 1 Timothy is worded. It doesn't say 'give double' it says, 'considered worthy of double' which is a mindset of adding value then adding more value.

Can we have honor between us? Can we say, 'You are valuable.' 'You are twice as valuable as you think you are.'?

If my honor is small then doubling it doesn't add very much. Zero multiplied by two is still zero. But, If our honor is great doubling it is a great blessing. Let's have great honor. If we see God as He Is will be in awe of His attributes. Then if we look at what He has done for people in Love our honor will be amplified again and again.

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Detective Stories

Detective stories amuse us because they make us feel smart. Clues are fed to us by writers and we get to think we 'discovered' the truth. It is a thing that rarely happens in real life for most of us. Life isn't that cut and dry.

If we spend our life looking to uncover a plot and identify a villain we will be taking a real detour and we may inadvertently sabotage our relationships with people.

The Gospel is the true story of a hero. That hero isn't us. It is Jesus. Once we come to the right conclusion about Him... a conclusion we would never arrive at ourselves it changes our life and perspective. We start looking for the Hero in each situation, not the villain.

I plan to find my Hero again today. He has already gone before me. He Is the one who saves lives and cleanses minds.

He has taken this villain's blame upon Himself.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Low To High

This morning I'm thinking of perspective and leadership because of this passage...

"Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:" - Ephesians 4:8-12 KJV

In a way, this concept is beyond us but Jesus 'fills all things' because He has experienced the lowest position and now occupies the highest position. Why would that be so? He was and is God. Still, This is what the Bible declares.

I find it interesting that God uses this concept to transition into talking about leadership. God's power structure for His Church isn't based on power or resources it is based on knowledge and perspective.

Jesus dove deep into humanity and after His death into Hell itself. He went where we are and then down to where the souls that died were and experienced what they experienced firsthand.

Now He has chosen leaders like that. He has men who came from the lowest places and commissioned them to talk about the highest loftiest truths. These people are gifts from a King who is seated on a throne.

"For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." - Isaiah 53:2-3 ESV

Jesus didn't look like a King when He was on Earth and let's face it the men He sends often don't look like leaders. They are proclaimers, gatherers and teachers. The leadership is shepherd leadership. Instruction is the gift and it isn't always valued.

Jesus fills all things now. His experience spans the length and breadth of human experience and the gifts He gives are based on that experience.

The world is full of leaders. Every area has it's local and regional politics. People also claim spiritual leadership roles. Many who do aren't what they seem to be.

If I find a person winning souls I mark them as a leader. If a person gathers when everyone else is scattering... if words of wisdom point me to God and present Him as better than I thought He was and use the Bible as their text as pointing to Jesus as the reason they do what they do... if that is what is happening then there is the sense that those people are gifts from God.

If the One who fills all things is doing a work in the world I want to recognise and support that work. It may look like 'a root out of dry ground' but it is more than it appears to be.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Shining From A Seated Position

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" - Hebrews 1:1-3 KJV

Two phrases caught my attention this morning.

'The brightness of his glory'
'The express image of his person'

He is the perfect reflection of God in time and space and He is and has the seal of divine authenticity.

Being who He was He did what He did and what He did (among many other things) was purge our sins at the cross. Now He Is seated above in Heavenly places.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." - Colossians 3:1 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

Wow. I hesitate to formulate an application because there are so many but all applications are from a seated position. We operate from rest. Jesus Is shining forth from a place of rest in active intercession for us and as far as God is concerned we are sitting with Christ as He Is praying for us.

Amazing.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Final Cut

Last night I spent over an hour watching color film footage shot by Rosie Newman in the 1930s. She is most famous for capturing footage of the Queen as a little girl but she also shot extensive footage of India, Scotland and Eygpt just before World War II and then footage of the horrors of war in England during that bloody conflict.

I take video and film for granted. I have had access to it all my life but there was a time when film, especially color film, was only for the rich. Most of human history was not recorded in this way. It is a peculiar breakthrough if you think about it but the Bible speaks of this technology in an indirect way.

"And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth... And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here!' And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them." - Revelation 11:3, 7-12 ESV

People from all over the world will see them in the span of a few day? What?! That is preposterous!... two hundred years ago it was unfathomable...

"And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven." - Revelation 11:13 ESV

I hope someone hits the record button because that world will never be the same...


These events haven't happened yet but they will. The text is given in the past tense because that is how God sees it.

Last night I got a rare glimpse of the past because a rich connected woman used some methods new to her time to capture history but this morning I get a rare glimpse into the future because I opened a book the King of the universe inspired human authors to write because He loved a tiny dust mite like me.

If your name is written in Heaven (because you have believed in Jesus) then your history is also recorded there... past, present and future... there is still time but time is slowly running out. Don't wait. Pray today. Ask today. Believe today. Jesus is real and alive and history is already recorded somewhere. Don't end up as a piece of film on the cutting room floor. Trust in Him and you will be in the final cut of the epic of redemption.

--

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Participation In The Vision

I am sitting here this morning praying for people and thinking about what I can do to help. In these times I find I must also apply the doctrines of 'Do not strive' and 'There is no condemnation' into the mix. God must be King. He Is the minister and I am an under-shepherd to the great Shepard. Where He leads I must follow. Sentimentality can't guide me. Rules can't govern this. Love must constrain. But also in my mind is the thought, 'If I don't do this who will?'

These are the passages that are in the orbit of my thinking this day. They are like moons spinning quickly around my consciousness...

"Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." - Romans 14:4 ESV

"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come." - 2 Timothy 4:5-6 ESV

"And he said to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.' " - Luke 10:2 ESV

Many of the things I want to do require people and resources in order for the vision to take form. People stand or fall before God. I sit here and look at areas and avenues and see white harvest fields. I see pain and heartache. But not too far away from where I sit I also see bills and responsibilities. Those must be addressed.

I decide again like I have a hundred times before. I must 'prove' my ministry. I must make decisions and talk about the white fields. I stand or fall before God alone and so does everyone else. I am a minister and not a manipulator but I can communicate vision and then others have a choice. I can listen to those who communicate vision and make choices.

The Bema seat (reward ceremony of Christ) isn't going to be about what others did for me. It isn't going to be about what got worked up as a way to 'fulfill my responsibilities'. The flammable things will burn and disappear on that day.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." - 2 Corinthians 5:10 KJV

It is going to be about the good (Agathos - Strong's G18) that was worked out through a life lived by a faith that pleases God. Every reward will be a grace reward.

Ever person that participates in a vision will be a grace participation.

I deserve Hell but I'm going to get Heaven because of Christ. Amazing.

How can I make that known? Oh God... Help me make that known... with all the pressures and desires... with the need for resources and allies... with the new tasks and concerns that age brings... Help us make that known.

God bless the people I am thinking of this morning... health... joy... hope... protection... vision... You are the source of all blessing... You are the God of all grace... You are the hope of our salvation.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Private Times With Family

One of the thoughts that dominated my meditation yesterday was of 'secret family moments'. Perhaps because Easter is a holiday where families get together and often wear the best clothing they have and sit in a relatives house on a couch they rarely sit on. Perhaps pictures are taken or even videos and people get glimpses into those times but still, they are unique to that group. Other gatherings may be similar and likely are in some ways but only those people get to share that time.

That sounds rosy and wonderful but it isn't that way for everyone. I see some of the craziest driving on family holidays. Stress. Self-medication. These things are common on these days but time with family is very very hard for many folks. I remember what that is like. As a teenager, or younger, (as much as I loved my family) trips to visit were hard for one reason or another. I was itching to do something else or be somewhere else.

"When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, 'With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 'for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.' Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, 'Take this and divide it among yourselves; 'for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' " - Luke 22:14-19 NKJV

Jesus wanted to eat with them and yet it strikes me this morning that it wasn't an easy meal for most of the people there. Judas was also at the table.

It was almost like Jesus was saying, 'I look forward to this night because it will become the night of ultimate strife but it will be the last night of strife. The next meal we have together will be strife free.'

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter filled with joy and laughter and precious memories made but I also know that some of you had a hard holiday. It won't always be that way. He is Risen. Jesus suffered his last hard holiday and you will also.

Belief in Christ has improved the quality of my afterlife but it has also improved the quality of my present life immeasurably. I can 'be abased and abound' now in different ways. Hard days are not as hard. In uncomfortable situations, I still have a supply of comfort. Time is seen in the light of the eternal.

I could say, 'Get to know Jesus and your family get togethers will be more bearable.' but it sounds like a cheap shot to bring a person to faith... even though it is a true statement. {smile}

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Friday, April 14, 2017

He Was And Is Full Of Surprises

Jesus was continuously surprising His disciples. He was more approachable than they thought. His zeal was more. He cried over Jerusalem. He was not only willing to die. He went to the cross like a lamb. He was gracious and true graciousness is shocking. If you see it you are amazed by it. There is no polite applause. There is a heartfelt response or just plain silence. Grace is polarizing. Jesus was and Is polarizing.

"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, 'Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.' And they remembered his words," - Luke 24:1-8 ESV

All of Heaven's shocking beauty will reaffirm Jesus' words. Heaven was witnessing and hearing what those disciples were witnessing also.

Some think they will get to Heaven and after asking about Christ they will find out He was only a fiction but little do those people know that if Jesus is not in their life before they go they aren't going to go to a happy, bright and shockingly beautiful place. Jesus is the surprising doorway into all that God graciously has to offer. He Is the victory over death.

This has been a hard week for me. People have seen me struggle. There was a time when that would have made me self-conscious but now I see it as an opportunity. As I sit here my prayer is that somehow I would be a testimony of something divine and surprising gracious. I'm not going to strive for it. I belong to God because of Jesus Christ and He has risen from the grave just as He said He would. I know He has put treasure in this earthen vessel. I pray people would see that treasure and that they would receive it for themselves also.

Dazzling beings are looking in today on our lives. Oh God... let them see Jesus. Let God be glorified here in the world because we have been available to the gracious One.

--

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Lesson On The Use Of Power

I am sitting here meditating on the 'use of power' and the 'leveraging of advantage' and my studies brought me to this passage.

"And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' And Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.' And they called the blind man, saying to him, 'Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.' And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And the blind man said to him, 'Rabbi, let me recover my sight.' And Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way." - Mark 10:46-52 ESV

Bartimaeus best power was his voice and his perseverance. We could even say that his voice was a tool to be used by his perseverance and that perseverance was his power. Listen to his words and what he asks for. He is looking to 'recover his sight'. That isn't passive. It is like he saying to Jesus, 'My sight is right there but it is just out of my reach. You can reach that far and hand it to me so I can use it again. Let me have it back so I can use it.' Then when Jesus did give it to him Bartimaeus used a new tool to follow Christ.

The disciples tried to use their power to maintain the status quo. They wanted quiet. They didn't want any trouble. They wanted to prevent something instead of see something happen. Blind Bartimaeus had faith but this situation revealed a lack of faith in the disciples.

Then we look at Jesus. He is a true leader. He has and executes what fictional leaders lack. I fear that our young people are learning leadership from movies, television and games and it is dangerous because they see results that are contrived and straw man (a weakened version of a person set up only so it can be shot down) competition that causes difficulties in life because real interactions won't follow the fictional model.

Jesus doesn't just heal Bartimaeus. He corrects His disciples and lets them do what we are to do also. We bring people to the King. We communicate the love of the King.

I like how Jesus says, 'Go your way.' to Bartimaeus. That is grace isn't it? Jesus gives this man what was out of reach and also gives him liberty. Bartimaeus decides that 'his way' will be to follow Jesus. If the disciples had their way he would still be blind but begging quietly.

How will we see disruption? Is it a problem to be prevented or is it an opportunity for redemption?

--
''''''

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

No Law Against Such Things

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." - Galatians 5:22-26 ESV

There is 'no law against such things' that is for sure with God. We don't strive to have them and there is no law against them.

Perhaps we have all seen (or even been) the person who gets a victory over a bad habit and then becomes this crusader of 'making good decisions'. We become conceited in our victory when it was really the fruit of the Spirit and some crucified flesh. God did something that we had the privilege of participating in but can claim no glory for... but we do and perhaps it creates envy in others.

I revel this morning in the effortlessness of the fruit of the Spirit and that my reckoning of belonging to Christ serves to crucify my flesh. Crucifixion is a past tense thing for someone who belongs to Christ.

God is not stopping or regulating love, joy and peace this morning. He isn't saying, 'You can only love in these circumstances.' or 'Please limit your peace to when these things happen.'

...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...

Thank you God. We don't want to limit or take credit for these things. You produce them freely. You get the glory for them if we have them. You are the mighty God and your Gospel is seed that grows up into this fruit. Thank You God. We belong to you. You purchased us with precious blood and knowing that moves our fleshly desires into the category of 'crucified'.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Confess With Your Mouth

Faith confession... very powerful.

"But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' " - Romans 10:8-11 ESV

We can do this today. If we have never done it we can do it and be saved eternally. Then as a redeemed person, we can do it again and again.

Instead of rehearsing our frustrations, seeming limitations or past failures we can rehearse this and speak it and the words have the power to build and restore because they resonate with divine reality.

In my mind, I'm picturing someone overboard and struggling in the water. Then they cry out and the person looking and listening on deck hears them and throws them a lifeline and they are saved.

Let your voice be heard. Confess who Jesus Is out loud. Say what happened at the cross.

If we do that we are bringing those words into our present situation and mindset. Those words need to be said. Heaven hears that humble confession and God gives greater grace to the humble.

--

Friday, April 7, 2017

Dealing With People With Opposing Ideas - Part 2

In 2 Samuel chapters 15 and 16 David is facing an impossible situation. His son Absolom is conspiring against him. He loves his son and the people of Jerusalem and decides that a strategic retreat is the best option (see 2 Samuel 15:14).

This is a kobayashi maru scenario for David. It is a no win situation that reveals the man's character.

On his way out he meets different people with different motives. The way he deals with each of them is very interesting and educational for us but what caught my eye was how he dealt with Shimei. Here was a man with 'opposing ideas'...

"When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, 'Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.' Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, 'Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.' But the king said, 'What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, 'Curse David,' who then shall say, 'Why have you done so?' And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, 'Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today.' So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself." - 2 Samuel 16:5-14 ESV

Was Shimei right? No. He wasn't but David was available to hear from God. He wasn't insecure. His men felt helpless and wanted to act. His men felt protective of their 'anointed one' and wanted to smash the opposition but David had ears to hear and knew God loved him in spite of the situation. David saw a future blessing. He didn't internalize the negative accusations but He also didn't shut down the opposing point of view. Interesting and instructive.

"Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny." - Matthew 5:25-26 NKJV

The adversary here is the Holy Spirit. Wow. Here is an alternate translation.

"Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny." - Matthew 5:25-26 ESV

The prison there is a mental one. Our divine adversary is thinking grace thoughts... pure grace thoughts. The natural mind has earthy dusty thinking but God has wisdom from above. His view is often in opposition to ours. We won't arrive at grace by a natural means. God must impart it to us.

Some teach this passage as a 'conviction of sin' but I don't see that at all. It is not in the context of the passage. God convicts us of grace to restore relationships.

When David's back was against the wall he was available to hear from God. We will find ourselves in those places as well. Our own thinking can become a prison unless we receive the grace of God.

David could have declared Shimei an enemy. It would have been easy to do. Instead, David gave grace to an angry man. What a lesson that is for us.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dealing With People With Opposing Ideas - Part 1

I was thinking yesterday about the difference of people with opposing ideas versus enemies and how we must be careful to tell the difference and not be quick to declare someone an enemy.

"Now John answered and said, 'Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.' But Jesus said to him, 'Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.' Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?' But He turned and rebuked them, and said, 'You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 'For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them.' And they went to another village." - Luke 9:49-56 NKJV

Here is a passage that shows God dealing with a true enemy.

"To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, 'Who can see them?' They search out injustice, saying, 'We have accomplished a diligent search.' For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep. But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!" - Psalm 64:1-10 ESV

Slander is a great litmus test, isn't it? The Devil is called the accuser of the brethren for a reason.

Grace and the finished work never give us grounds to slander anyone. Pointing out error is one thing but we are still for the person even if we are on 'the other side of the fence' about certain issues.

God will shoot an arrow suddenly at our true adversaries in due season until then we battle not against flesh and blood and every soul has immeasurable value.

In the heat of conflict, I want to have the right Spirit. Sometimes that speaks louder than our words anyway.

--

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Taking Down The Hedges

Bryant Park in Manhattan has a long interesting history. In 1934 the park was raised four feet above street level and a hedge was installed around the park. It had formerly been an eyesore so it was a celebrated change but when I was growing up the park was a well-known drug den and you took your life in your hands if you went there at night.

In a recent renovation, they took down the hedges and changed many things. The hedges had created the wrong kind of privacy.

I haven't been back recently but from what I understand the neighborhood has changed drastically. It has been attributed in part to the changes in Bryant Park.

Reading this history it made me think of the value of transparency and not placing people or institutions up so high that you can no longer see what is going on from street level.

Jesus was right out there living His life. When he spoke he did it among the people on their level. He was a man who 'had no place to lay His head'. His home was out among the crowds. He didn't have any back rooms.

Privacy is wonderful. I love my privacy but I also realize that I can't live in the shadows. It isn't healthy.

"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." - 1 John 1:5-7 ESV

Yes. Let's walk in the light and design our spaces so that light shines in. It is a healthy prosperous way to live.

--

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Those Who Turn Many

Those who are wise shall shine...

"At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 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 12:1-3 ESV

'Those who turn many' is one word in Hebrew. It is 'rab' (Strong's H7227) and as an adjective, it means many, abounding in or 'more numerous than.' but it can also be used as a noun and as a noun it means Captain or leader.

Here is a different translation...

"And those teaching do shine as the brightness of the expanse, and those justifying the multitude as stars to the age and for ever." - Daniel 12:3 YLT

In other words... We provide leadership in presenting divine viewpoint and many turn to God. The term 'soul winner' sounds antiquated or religious to some but it is a good fit for what Daniel is proclaiming here. A person who has made it their mission to provide leadership in seeing many people turn to God and His righteousness. It isn't a person who pounds people over the head about their sin. It is the person who points to the graveyard and says, 'All those people are going to stand before God. Some will 'wake' to everlasting life and others to shame and everlasting contempt. Believe in Jesus, the righteous One, and you won't be ashamed.'

This isn't about a natural leadership gift. This brightness will be determined by a decision to live a life that gives others exposure to divine viewpoint. Anyone can shine. Shy people and outgoing ones... quiet and loud... intellectual and plain speaking people. We provide leadership through imparting wisdom and God does the turning.

--

Monday, April 3, 2017

Being His Disciple

I woke up with this next passage on my mind...

"Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:25-27 ESV

Jesus taught in a Hebrew style. He uses parallelisms. The Psalms and Proverbs is full of them. This would classify as a synonymous parallelism. One statement builds on and is equivalent to the next. Claiming co-crucifixion with Christ and hating sentimental attachments with people go hand in hand.

"And Jesus said to him, 'Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.' Yet another said, 'I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.' Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'" - Luke 9:60-62 ESV

When I was growing up we had a term for people who made a claim to be something they admired but did not resemble. It was 'poser'. They wore the shirt but lacked the commitment or qualities of the band or movement they claimed to be a part of.

Jesus was making a statement here. His cross was a part of who He was. In a fallen world the cross is where a holy person goes. You can't be called a disciple if you have no cross. You can't be HIS disciple unless you have HIS cross.

This isn't salvation. Salvation is believing in Christ. This is discipleship and there are other benefits involved in discipleship. Intimacy is one. If you want to 'know' Jesus then you have to be where He Is. Wearing a Christian T-shirt doesn't make you a disciple. Identification with His cross and detachment from the controlling influences of sentimentality are key ingredients.

It isn't a works program. It is a value system. I want to have God's value system and I look to Jesus to see what that means. The way into that system is through His cross. He has born the pain of it. We pick it up and there are echoes. Not everyone will like what we are doing. Our life no longer belongs to us. Our hands rest on a plow that moves straight ahead without deviation. We plow straight lines of grace thinking. If we fail we repent and get back up again and say, 'That wasn't Jesus but the fact that I can rebound is evidence of His place in my life.'

Why say we follow Christ if we don't resemble Him? It is only going to confuse people and later it will all burn up like wood and hay on a fire.

No, Let's pick up His cross. It is a light burden and an easy yoke if we have forsaken everything else.

--

Friday, March 31, 2017

Mark The Perfect Man / A Certain Kind Of Monster

March 31st, 2017

Mark The Perfect Man

"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace." - Psalm 37:37 KJV

This passage came up in our coffee time yesterday and it really impacted me.

I have looked at the Hebrew this morning and the KJV does the best job of capturing what I see as the heart of this passage. The only translation change I would make is to stick closer to the original and say 'perfect' instead of 'Perfect man'.

Here is another translation...

"Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace." - Psalm 37:37 ESV

Jesus is 'the blameless' and 'the upright'. We can be circumstantially blameless but none of us have a blameless life. Only Jesus does.

The word translated 'a future' here and 'the end' in the King James is achariyth (Strong's H319) and it speaks of the last chapter of a life, result or conclusion.

"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

Because of Jesus we have Shalom (Strong's H7965) as the last chapter of our life. We have become the representation of Christ's blamelessness.

----

March 30th, 2017

A Certain Kind Of Monster

Christian legalists are monsters. Not the Godzilla or King Kong kind. More like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde kind. Grace is kryptonite for monsters.

In that story Dr Jekyll was addicted to something. Like most horror the heart of the story touched on some real but taboo subject. The Legalist isn't shooting up drugs that change their personality. They are addicted to performance but it also changes them into something freakishly strong, ugly and sinister.

The cross slays the monster and a new person is raised with Christ. Grace isn't poisonous to that new man. It is freedom and life.

Performance isn't pretty and it is also very addictive. Steer well clear. It can turn our natural man into a Mr Hyde at very unpredictable moments.

--

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Now Meets Later

"Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off." - Proverbs 23:18 ESV

Sometimes 'now' is awesome. Sometimes it is lonely. Sometimes there is pain.

Later can be forgotten or focused on so intently that now is forgotten or minimized.

God links now and later. God lives in both places and we can have hope in both places at the same time and that is amazing.

"And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment." - Revelation 21:6 ESV

Eternal life isn't just 'not dying'. It is living now and later at the same time because of hope.

Now may not be much fun. It may make it seem like later won't be either but that is a self-perpetuating illusion. In time the two never really meet and mix.

In eternity they will mix and hope will not be needed. Hell's pain will be perpetual and Heaven's joy will be unending.

I look forward to meeting Jesus in my moments today. That may sound corny but it is true. It is like meeting my best friend who has come home from war. He brings my future joy into my present life and that means the day has a kind of bright unpredictability to it. Mine does at least.

I hope yours does also. He Is the same Jesus. If you know Him (or get to know Him) the same hope that enabled the martyrs to face death with expectation can be yours no matter what your 'now' looks like.

--

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

O Virgin Israel

I see in this next passage a great parallel to the human experience. We 'grow in grace' and our diminished capacity gets restored.

"There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country. I have heard Ephraim grieving, 'You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the LORD my God. For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.' Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD. 'Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities.' " - Jeremiah 31:17-21 ESV

This is a parallel but not a perfect one. God is anthropomorphizing Israel. Israel isn't a person (anthropomorphizing is giving an object or thing human qualities). People 'slap their thigh' about their past. Their eyes look up and away as they sigh or groan remembering.

God speaks often against Israel in the scriptures but He never speaks against us. We only identify with the 'darling child' part of this passage. That is one place where the parallel breaks down. God does remember the transgressions of an institution but sin and sins of individuals have been paid for on the cross. We are prodigals who have returned. God has nothing but gifts for us and restored status. Our sin was cast into the deepest sea.

He gave them a way back and we have a way back also. Grace thinking is our way back. Maturity is when we return and set up landmarks as reminders.

'Return, O virgin Israel'

Yes. We are clean like that. Grace will establish that reality if we let it wash us. If we learn to think with God. Our groans will turn into laughter. Detachment will happen when there is a new healthy identification with what Christ has done on our behalf.

--

Monday, March 27, 2017

Invest With What We Have

'They gave me a chance when no one else would.' How many success stories have that pivotal point somewhere in the mix?

Trust pays great dividends but it also has great consequences if it is misplaced.

This weekend a was thinking about success stories and great tragedies. These were all things I witnessed with my own eyes. People I know or knew. Some damaged because a loved one trusted the wrong person. Some redeemed because a person made a decision not to 'know someone after the flesh' and 'give them a chance when no one else would' because of belief in a new identity even if that new identity wasn't visible yet.

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands..." - 1 Timothy 5:21-22 ESV

'Laying on of hands' speaks of trust and promotion. I have seen men promote other men as a means of investment and it rarely goes well. If authority says, 'We trust this person. They have what is needed.' but they really don't that authority just gets undermined and people get hurt.

"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." - Proverbs 22:7 ESV

I saw this passage in a new light this weekend. We give. If we lend then we are making a slave. God gave to those who could never pay Him back. No payment could ever be enough. Grace makes us givers because we have something to give. We never borrow to give. We only give what we have or we become slaves.

Trust works that way also. I can't trust if I have no trust but if I have trust I can trust. If we trust hoping to get something in return it is a counterfeit investment but if we see 'Aaron's rod' bud it means we have something. God gave life to that dead stick and it was a witness. We look for the same witness.

"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed." - Proverbs 19:17 ESV

Faith in God makes us rich in trust. We have something but we are wise in how we use it. If there is nothing there throwing trust at the situation isn't going to make something happen. But if there is something there... even if it is a smoking flax looking like it is just about to die we can gently use trust to coax that flame back to life.

I marvel at what God entrusts to man. He is amazing really.

Don't we all want to be people who, 'gave someone a chance when no one else would'? I do. I'm just not going to gamble with what doesn't belong to me. I will give away some, or even all, of what does and God has promised He will repay.

Hyper-spirituality is investing what I don't own. Pragmatism is being so poor that I can only operate by my 5 senses. Sowing seeds of grace words and trusting that they won't return void is the place where miracles can happen because God is present in the investment.

--

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chosen Instruments

This morning I am thinking about people and praying for them and ended up reading this conversation. It is amazing what God says to Ananias about Paul...

"Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, 'Ananias.' And he said, 'Here I am, Lord.' And the Lord said to him, 'Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.' But Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.' But the Lord said to him, 'Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.' " - Acts 9:10-16 ESV

There is so much here. Three people... God... Ananias... Saul who is now Paul.

I have people I love and care much about who are hurting but God has plans for them. I don't know what those plans are but they are chosen instruments of His for some cause.

This thought comforts me today.

--

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Unique Love

"...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8 ESV

Aren't we fortunate that God didn't expect anything from us and hold back His affection when He didn't get it.

He didn't say, 'They never call me so I won't call them.'

He said, 'They are in trouble. Son, please go to them and restore the relationship. Pay the highest price. Do all that can be done.'

Jesus, being His Father's Son, did just that.

Is there a higher love than this? A love that reaches out and gives all.

I haven't found one. Thank You God.

--

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Always A Handful Of Something Good

In the 1930s people in Baltimore were going through hard times. After the stock market crash money and food was scarce but at Thomas and Thompson's drugstore there was always a bowl of Graham crackers that anyone could eat from by the soda fountain. It would be constantly refilled. The owners did it so that those who were buying drinks would be thirstier and spend more money and so that those who had nothing could always get a handful of something to eat in a dignified way. Many a person survived that dark time because of that bowl that was always restocked no matter how many hands took from it.

"Then I said, 'Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.' I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!" - Psalm 40:7-11 ESV

Jesus comes to us in the Bible and we become a bowl that gets low at times but is then refilled. Jesus is the lamp that lights us for the dark times. Those who have get more and those with nothing get something.

It cost money to keep that bowl full. Jesus has paid the price to keep us full. Thank you God for your mercy and compassion.

--

God's Method Of Supply

This is a good 'memory verse'.

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:19 ESV

The word translated 'need' is chreia (Strong's G5532) and it is more of a business need or necessity related to supply and demand.

God meets every 'transactional demand' with the 'abundant outward possessions' of His 'actual character on display' in Christ Jesus.

That is mysterious and wonderful if we let that statement sink in. Here is the context of the passage.

"Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 4:14-19 ESV

Paul was hoping all the Churches would work together and give a little to help the work. That way no one would be overburdened. Good plan. It made sense. It didn't go that way. No one helped and when the Philippians found out they took on a large burden and showed Paul great almost uncomfortable love. God was glorified in their sacrifical love.

Paul was saying that it was going to be that way for them also. Needs 'to do Gospel business' were going to be met but in mysterious ways.

Perhaps things haven't gone the way you planned? Take heart... and get used to it. {smile}

--

Monday, March 20, 2017

Depressed? Please Don't Condemn Yourself

If you are depressed it isn't your fault.

Oppression causes depressions. There is an aerodynamic action we can live in. Eternal security protects the mind. Being given Christ's righteousness protects our heart and vital organs. Faith can block all the fiery darts that would cut us off from our supply. Don't blame yourself. Don't blame anyone. The night is dark but the dawn will come. Get help for your body if that is needed but your soul needs God's sunshine to win this battle. You are a precious needed human being. You are important. God loves you in a special way... please don't blame yourself... see yourself through God's eyes and sometime soon you will soar again.

--

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Believing Caleb / Winning The Wolf

March 17th, 2017

Today is going to be the best day of my life. I have chosen to believe Caleb about the promised land and skip Numbers chapter 14 and all of the rest of the wanderings of that book. The Gospel gives me (us) a land overflowing with milk and honey and giants that will make a big thud when they fall.

A Rhema (divinely inspired word) for me today... We can agree with Caleb this morning when the day is fresh and new and skip to Joshua 1:2 or we can deal with Korah and Balaam for the rest of our lives.

There may be no wedding today... no babies born... no graduation planned... just the Gospel makes this potentially the best day of our lives.

------

March 18th, 2017

"But David said to Saul, 'Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears...' " - 1 Samuel 17:34-36a ESV

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." - Isaiah 11:6 KJV

"The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD." - Isaiah 65:25 KJV

Is nature normal? Seems like an odd question. Secular science says, 'Yes, Of course it is.' but the Bible says that what we see now is not what we will see later.

Wolves don't live with lambs but they will.

Dogs are canines but they live with us they are close to wolves.

I heard an account a while back on radio about an area that had a large number of dogs go missing. One wolf would appear near a dogs yard and play with him or her. Then one day the dog would just disappear. One dog can play with one wolf but then the pack shows up and that dog has no place there. It becomes food for the pack.

"When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." - Luke 11:21-23 ESV

Jesus is the stronger man in this picture. He enters the broken natural world that is influenced by fallen angels and He binds the strong man in his own fortress. He pulls the wild man out of the pack and makes him into something else. That man gets saved not eaten. He is transformed. He or she is made into a family member.

Fitting in (if it is even possible) only makes us vulnerable to a vicious nature. God wants to restore normality. Being with Him is normal and right. This world has been wrong for a long long time. It has been wrong for as long as anyone can remember.

Win a soul today and make it right again.

In this age this restoration is done one person at a time. Walk with the stronger man who isn't lying in wait to shed blood. He is a king who has taken on the role of a servant. He Is the royal lion uncorrupted by the world and the lamb who is no one's victim. He is the Savior and He has come into this world to seek and save the lost. He washes feet and wins hearts and minds with his gracious kindness. We can be 'about' His Father's business.

--

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Time In A Promise Book

Up at 3am. Got out of bed at 3:30am. Prayer and promises... a good way to start the day...

I like how David Wilkerson organized 'The Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book'. He breaks the book into three sections.
- God's Promises for your Spiritual Needs
- God's Promises for your Personal Needs
- God's Promises for your Future Needs

Then he has Key verses with supporting passages for a list of topics in each section. It is very well done.

I think I am going to incorporate a study of God's names in the Hebrew and Greek into my promise book study. God's character is intertwined with his commitment. One hinges on the other. His commitments show something about His character and His attributes (names) prove that He is capable of keeping His commitments.

"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." - Psalm 20:7 KJV

"Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth." - Psalm 124:8 KJV

I also like the idea of knowing the context of the promise. Who is speaking? Who is the speaker addressing? I don't what to quote Job's friends and say that God is speaking when God says Job's friends have wrong ideas. (see Job 42:7)

On the other hand, we can quote passages that are in the scriptures and say, 'God dealt with this person in a certain way...' and then make the claim that God may very well deal with us in the same way as long as it is in the context of grace.

God clearly deals with corporate entities (Isreal, the Church, foreign nations, etc..) differently than He does with a person. I think it is a mistake sometimes to quote a passage directed at Israel or the Church and claim that it is a personal promise or provision. The Church is not Israel and we are not structures with a mission statement. We are sons and daughters and God has mercy for us that He does not have for groups per se. A King deals differently with His child than He does with a foreign nation and with good reason.

Grace isn't for good people or nations. It is for God's people. It is for heirs. The Gospel is a grace initiation to an individual. Salvation then puts people in a place to receive grace. God's holiness and justice are going to be seen clearly by all. If salvation hasn't placed us as individuals into God's kingdom then mercy is going to be far removed from a person's experience. God has promises about that also.

"He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail." - 1 Samuel 2:9 ESV

'Ouch.' But also 'Praise God'. He is just. He is gracious. He is precise. He communicates is a way we can understand if we incline our ear to hear.

Thank You God for Your wonderful book. Thank You for your lasting commitments. You are the Alpha and Omega. You will be around to see every promise fulfilled. You have the power. You are The faithful and True One. We worship You for who You are and Thank You for all that You have done and will do.

--

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dusting Off Old Projects

Yesterday was a great day to pull out old projects and work on them. I reviewed a 'promise book' project that I put a great deal of work into years ago.

It is a colossal subject... huge... and very edifying.

I understand why people look for 'Bible codes' or other hidden messages in the scripture. People crave mystical theatrics that will solve problems all at once. I have to say after looking over my references just briefly again that there is no need to look for what is hidden. What has been revealed is just plain amazing.

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." - Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV

That last word translated 'law' is torah (Strong's H8451) and it isn't talking about rules and regulations. It is referring to inspired scripture as a whole. God's mind given to us. Living eternal ideas. We 'do all the words of Torah' when we have God's mind... when we 'think with God'.

This morning I have been looking through a small book...

'New Covenant Prophecy Edition' by International Bible Society

A man with a heart for Israel gave it to me years ago.

Wow. It is dynamite. I wish a had 1,000 of them and I could just mail you all a copy. Simple. All scripture linked to scripture with a full New Testament and references to prophetic fulfillments.

It has no price on it and no ISBN number. It was made to give away.

Sure. God has His secrets but what He has given us is amazing. I don't ever want to let what He has given sit unused and unappreciated on a shelf somewhere.

Let our minds be a little like this small book... scripture linked to scripture in a stream of understanding... of past, present and future. Oh God! Please illuminate our minds with truth that causes us to connect with You and other people... not antisocial scholars and also not extroverted idiots. Give us a balance of wisdom and love... truth and social connectedness... knowledge and sensitivity. What you have given belongs to us. We want to possess our possessions. Help us Lord. Thank You God.

--

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fined But Not Condemned

"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." - Psalm 51:4 ESV

"If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;" - Psalm 130:3-5 ESV

King David wrote Psalm 51 and he had a confidence about God. As the king he was accountable to no human being. No one could force accountability from him but he recognized God's authority.

'Against You and You only...'

We say this also. We are accountable to people but not like this. Not on the 'sin' level. Sin is a God thing. It is a divine evaluation that God has a right to make.

Psalm 130 is a song they sang on the way to Jerusalem for the feasts and in this inspired song they say something about God's value system towards them. He values redemption highly and He isn't numbering iniquities.

We know the reason for that. Jesus is the reason. God Is holy and Jesus has already made an account for every single sin.

God has the right to call us out but because of Jesus He doesn't. We are hidden in Christ and when God looks at His Son He just isn't thinking about sin.

If a person says to us, 'You dented my car and you need to pay for it.' that is one thing. But if they start listing our sins that is another thing entirely. No one but God has that right and He doesn't do that.

As far as this goes... we are kings and queens. No one can force us to make an account or demand worship. We can be fined and even imprisoned but we can't be condemned.

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." - Matthew 10:28 ESV

Yes. We respect the One who can and does do this. We worship the One who has mercy on many because His Son has paid the price. We trust the One who has better things to do than to count all our failures.

--

Monday, March 13, 2017

Clear Air

Today I'm thinking about 'air'. I'm not talking about physical air. I'm talking about spiritual air that needs to be cleared.

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--" - Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV

It is amazing how a short conversation can clear the air and it is equally amazing how air can form in the absence of communication.

A short kind word can clear the air.

Who is a 'Son of Disobedience'? Sonship is a reference to association or identity. In this passage it is talking about a kinship to the original disobedient One by affiliation. But, We can all have a capacity to associate with rebellion and if we do we will be vulnerable to have 'air' separate us... division... space... disconnection.

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you... addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." - Ephesians 4:32; 5:19-21 ESV

I want clear air with people. If we receive grace we also are letting go of a 'disobedience identity' that identifies with being an outsider. Someone who knows grace is an insider not an outsider. Even if all the world around them rejects them. God doesn't and what God thinks is divine reality. There is no bad air on the inside. Heaven has no bad air.

God, Give us words that clear the air today. We want people to feel welcome around us. We want people to sense You are present and that they are invited and accepted. Thank You God.

--

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Pharisee's Invitation

As I was driving home yesterday night this passage came to mind...

"One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, 'If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.' And Jesus answering said to him, 'Simon, I have something to say to you.' And he answered, 'Say it, Teacher.' 'A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?' Simon answered, 'The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.' And he said to him, 'You have judged rightly.' Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, 'Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven--for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.' And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, 'Who is this, who even forgives sins?' And he said to the woman, 'Your faith has saved you; go in peace.' " - Luke 7:36-50 ESV

It seems that this invitation is an exclusive one. This woman is inquiring about Jesus' whereabouts and is told He is at the Pharisee's house. Yet this woman finds her way into this exclusive meeting.

Her love is heartfelt but the Pharisee's love is shallow and likely non-existent. She would have never been invited to come.

Her love was the lesson.

People argue and debate but I would much rather have love be the lesson.

The Gospel is a theological crisis before it is received much in the way that Jesus' declaration of forgiveness was. This woman's love was a declaration of transformation. Oh that our lives would be that also. Not by effort but just simple love and gratitude.

--

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The People We Know

The seventh volume of L. S. Chafer's 'Systematic Theology' is a 312 page book of doctrinal summaries. My friend Ray Kurowski has been reading this set of books and we talked recently about 'getting to' this volume in the set.

I decided to pull it off the shelf and start going through it again. Why? Because his life sharpens my life. He is an incredible guy. A man of faith.

I got thinking about all of the amazing people I know and have had the privilege of knowing.

My family and my wife's family blesses me so much. Each one of them means so much to me. I wouldn't know them if it were not for her. Now I pray every day for them and I'm part of their family and they are my family.

My old childhood friends from Roosevelt Island. What an eclectic bunch of amazing accomplished people. Some are not with us anymore. Others are artists, musicians and amazing people in a thousand different ways. I wish now I had more of a capacity for friendship as a child. Still our lives touched back them and are intertwined in some ways now. We share a history. We have a heritage.

Then there is my crazy Church family. Wow. If it were not for Jesus I would not know most of these people. I would have no reason to know them or for them to know me. They are gifts from God every one of them. Even the ones that have hurt me over the years. Relationships are like that joy and pain. Fun and trouble. Laughter and tears.

The books I read. The music I listen to. The God I worship. The thoughts I think and the memories that I think about are all shaped in some way by the people God has put in my path.

A man's life is shaped by accomplishment. We are just built that way. I have failed much more than succeeded. I have given up at times when I should have stuck it out and I have held on when I should have let go. Perhaps we all have. But, Oh the people I have met along the way are amazing people. God had a plan through it all.

In the end you and I will be a testimony of God's accomplishment not our own. We will revel in His glory if we have gotten to know Him through His Son. Our citizenship will be linked to that one crucial relationship. It will be the light that lights every other relationship forever.

This morning I lift the people I have known to God in prayer. He is the 'very present help'... He is the 'friend that sticks closer than a brother'... He is my lifeline to sanity and fraternity.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Breakfast Onshore

This is such a picture of Church life to me...

"Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, 'Children, do you have any fish?' They answered him, 'No.' He said to them, 'Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.' So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.' So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, 'Come and have breakfast.' Now none of the disciples dared ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish." - John 21:4-13 ESV

I'm going to work today but really my heart is to sit and eat Jesus' fish. I work to eat but even my ability to do that comes from God. My life is fellowship.

I get the impression that Jesus looked different somehow. The disciples knew it was Him but He was different in His appearance and maybe His voice was also.

Life is like that I think. We do what we must at times but God has a meal for us waiting onshore. We will see Jesus in the midst of the people who believe in Him. We will know it is Him but the testimonies will be unique and fresh. There will be new and old faces as time passes.

Work is work even if you love what you do... but then there is the time onshore... there is the moment when you realize God is inviting you over to the fellowship and you dive in the water to get there... that place has joy, communication and hope.

The building with the sound system isn't what Church is... those are just tools... the time ashore with God is Church.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Blending Faith Into The Promises

"For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it." - Hebrews 4:2 NKJV

The Greek word there for 'mixed' is sygkerannymi (Strong's G4786) and it means to blend together until the ingredients became one new organic thing. Like mixing batter or paint colors. Yellow and blue blended and blended until you have a green.

God's promises are wonderful but they will give you and I no advantage unless we know them and blend in our personal trust.

There is an advantage to be had if we find God's real commitments and trust in them.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Past The Thorny Crown

"Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe... So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, 'Behold the man!' " - John 19:1-2, 5 ESV

"Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain." - Mark 4:7 ESV

Thorns create a barrier of painful experience and yet Jesus endured wearing them on His head in full identification with us. That crown must have made carrying the cross that much more difficult.

I think having painful thoughts is a part of our human experience. We all have them at times. Jesus knows all about that. He led a shame free and guilt free life but He knows.

He wears a different crown today.

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

He identified with us and now we identify with Him. He experienced shame and pain and we experience glory and majesty.

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

God gave us a way to handle the thorns. Jesus is the way. We think with Him. He is past the pain and He extends His hand to us to bring us past it also.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Light-Hearted Quickening

Romans 8:11... eight... eleven...

"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." - Romans 8:11 KJV

We can look to God and say it like a secret code word... 'God, Do you know which passage in your book I like best right now... It's in Romans... the eighth chapter...' {smile}

You can make a little song, '

- Romans, Romans, Romans... Romans 8:11...
- That same power, power, power that raised Jesus from the DEAD...
- That power, power, power will quicken me like you SAID.

'

{Ha. God loves our bad scriptural rhymes... He might just quicken you to get you to stop singing}

'What was that verse again? It's in Romans. I think it's the 8th chapter. It is somewhere between 10 and 12... Oh Yeah... Can we have some of that right now? I want some 11.' {smile}

Starbucks doesn't have any 11 but God does... ask for it by name. {smile}

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fasting From The Process Of Self Fulfillment

I am reading Isaiah 58 again and again and thinking about the rhythms and step by step processes we can fall into as people.

Food isn't the problem. Having food and water is a blessing that many live without. God wants broken chains. Not appearances or expectations based on merit.

Listen with me...

"Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

'Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." - Isaiah 58:2-14 ESV

Wow.

Some shocking promises there.

Fasting is ingenious really because it is a struggle to refrain from something very basic and fundamental. Israel had learned to fast as a religious practice but that was not impressive to God. They turned a 'don't' into a 'do' and then judged God based on the results.

I sit here being bathed in grace thinking, 'What needed to be done has been done. God, I want to fast from my rigid cycles. Help me. Change me.'

How quickly we return to snacking on our old thinking.

No. I want to take my food and give it away instead. I want to look for a way to free someone from the trap they are in. The void needs to be filled but let the step by step process fall away... just for a moment... just for today. I want to live in grace now because now is all I really have.

Then when we face God the merit system is dissolved and communion is fresh and free. Jesus has fulfilled all that needed to be done. God Is with us and we are with God not demanding anything. The sun comes up and our gloom turns into noonday brightness.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Embracing Rejection

When you want something very badly and get rejected it hurts but when you don't want something and it is denied you it isn't so bad. It might even be a relief.

I don't think Jesus came to Earth wanting people to like him. I think He came knowing most people would reject Him but came anyway.

" He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying,

The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." - Luke 9:20-27 KJV

At that point, Jesus didn't want the disciples to talk about Him being the Messiah because He wanted to be rejected on the right terms. He wanted his enemies to hear His words echoing in their heads so that after the cross there would be conversions... and there were... some of the people that cried out for His death at the cross got converted when Peter preached at Pentecost.

Evil should reject God and the things of God. Evil isn't sin. Evil is a kingdom opposed to God that gives alternative provisions. This kind of rejection is right. It shows a person to be on a clear side... the wrong side.

I think confrontational evangelism is healthy because of the rejection not in spite of it. It is very good for those who have been rejected or have a fear of rejection. The only way to effectively deal with fear is to face and master it... not once... many times.

It is also potentially good for the hard-hearted people who do the face-to-face rejecting. When you reject someone just for loving you it haunts you and may make you susceptible to changing influences.

"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." - Hebrews 12:2 KJV

I think the shame Jesus despised wasn't the world's rejection... It was the Father's rejection... He had the shame of the whole world on His body, mind and soul.

When someone you love rejects you that is very very painful. Jesus endured that ultimate pain so we wouldn't have to. He went to a hell we as believers will never face.

We think we need acceptance, love and support from everyone around us but maybe that isn't what we need at all. Jesus had a few close friends and a world that wanted to kill Him and He wouldn't have it any other way. That is an aspect of the the 'mind of Christ' we can have and embrace.

That is a lesson we can all learn from.

--

Monday, February 27, 2017

Praying In The Spirit

Reading Ephesians chapter 6 over and over again and pondering this idea...

Can a believer 'pray in the Spirit' alone or is it a corporate experience of agreement in prayer?'

I have to say that I'm leaning towards the later of the two.

"...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints," - Ephesians 6:18 ESV

This whole chapter is about individuals functioning in Church culture. The relationships. The theology. The armor of God is not a literal armor. The doctrine taught in the assembly functions as armor. Salvation should be taught as a hard helmet and not a paper hat. Righteousness is a breastplate. Truth should facilitate movement. The Gospel gets us outdoors. Faith protects us. The sword should be sharp and useful and those who use it should be practiced in it's use.

And prayer... Oh, prayer...

Praying should be done with people for people.

We pray alone but we also pray with people and when we do it is 'in the Spirit'. Our individual prayer life affects our corporate prayer and vice versa.

There is nothing like praying together in unity or singing together as one. There is nothing like when the sermon comes with such clarity and power that every mind in earshot is hanging on every word.

If you have divisive doctrine that keeps you from assembling it might be good to question it's worth because it may be protecting you in some way but it also is keeping you from this great unique privilege.

I am no one and I 'know nothing as I aught to' but today I read this chapter and ponder the mystery of the body of Christ. Jesus Himself is manifested in the group of believers that gather and pray. A sometimes small group that asks and changes history because they did.

Amazing. Really it is.

I've had times when the group is praying and I am 'out of sync'... It serves as a barometer for my individual prayer life. It might be that the person praying is carnal but at other times it is because I am. There is no condemnation. The realization wakes me up from my slumber and gets me back in the mix.

No group. No barometer. God will use other things. He uses many things... but corporate prayer is something He has given us in this age and it is precious and vital.

It is my conviction that a healthy community is not possible without corporate prayer.

--

Friday, February 24, 2017

Meeting With God

We don't just wait... we agree to meet with God.

"Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing? Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing?" - Amos 3:3-5 ESV

Where will we meet Him? The throne of Grace is always just past the edge of our self-life.

"There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- one Lord, one faith, one baptism," - Ephesians 4:4-5 ESV

One calling. One faith. One prayer life. One message. One body of believers that we have been baptized into that is manifested all over the world in different groups that believe in One Savior... One book.

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

Yes. We agree to meet and He will wrestle with us if that is what is needed. He will minister to us. He will wash our feet. He will love us.

--

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Judge Righteous Judgement

An expert can spot things a novice doesn't think to look for.

"Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things." - Romans 2:1 ESV

"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." - John 7:24 KJV

"I tell you, her sins -and they are many - have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love."" - Luke 7:47 NLT

Our past can make our eyes keen. What will we do with what we see?

The cross can be our frame of reference. Perception can pass through the cross. If it does we will be tender, discerning and loving.


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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Atmospheric Rivers

Here is an interesting term I have been hearing lately... 'atmospheric river'... Our atmosphere can apparently contain huge amounts of water under certain conditions. Which brings me to this passage in scripture.

"In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights." - Genesis 7:11-12 ESV

Before the great flood there was no rain. Mist formed to water the garden. What a different world it must have been. Our first ancestors lived hundreds of years at a time when the world was young. The atmosphere must have been like an ocean not just an occasional river.

But when Noah was 600 years old the bubble burst.

It is always amazing to me how scientific discovery keeps reinforcing the reliability of the scriptures.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

The Rewards Of Honor

Pondering the 'unique rewards' of honor.

"Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, 'Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.' He also said, 'Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.' After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died." - Genesis 9:20-29 ESV

How Noah's sons dealt with Noah's lapse became a reason for blessing and cursing. It wasn't years of faithful service. It was how they reacted or responded on one day of their life.

Also, The two brothers were blessed differently even though they honored their father in the same way. That is interesting to me. A blessing is a personal thing.

If our hearts are established in grace than we will walk in backwards on people's weakness. Such an opportunity may arise today. Such events 'make' or 'break' relationships and then honor comes in a unique form to those who will function in this manner.

As a very flawed human being I am very thankful for those who have 'walked in backwards' on my life and then continued to stay around.

God, cause us to be this way with people. This kind of honor is so rare in this world.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Hannah's Problem - God's Provision

Thinking. Reading. Praying. Planning. Looking at biblical examples. Asking God how and if they fit into the circumstances I am facing now as a person. Looking at my theological framework. Reading. Praying. Wondering what I can do for people. Wondering what to even to say to some people. Time. Money. Support. Miraculous intervention. All of the above.

My mind keeps returning to Hannah (an old testament Israelite)...

"There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat." - 1 Samuel 1:1-7 ESV

This issue went on for years... years!

Her husband loved her and did what he could to help. I look at the account and see his portion in her life. It was needed. It was real. He couldn't solve her problems but he did what he could to bring her to God's provision.

"And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?" After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head." As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. And Eli said to her, "How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you." But Hannah answered, "No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation." Then Eli answered, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him." And she said, "Let your servant find favor in your eyes." Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad." - 1 Samuel 1:8-18 ESV

There is so much here.

Do you think that God doesn't know that leaders make stupid judgemental assumptions sometimes? God uses the partial blindness of people. Notice how Hannah found peace somehow. She prayed. That was part of it but she also interacted with Eli. God used both. God used all of it.

I sometimes look at situations and begin to judge. I see impractical decisions and even what looks to me at first glance like hyper-spiritual logic and start to judge but then I have to check myself. The situation is what it is. What are we going to do now? Prevention is great but any thoughts, or comments, of that nature are not going to be helpful.

It is a long story and I'll just say for those of you who don't know how it ends... God opens Hannah's womb and Samuel is born. He is the one these books are the Bible are named after. He becomes an important figure in Israel.

God comes through for Hannah.

My mind races and I think of a dozen people in need right now. Tears fill my eyes. If each of them cries out to God He Is going to help them. He Is going to come through for them. I don't know how He will. I don't even know my place in it.

I wonder what Eli thought when he saw little Samuel in the temple. Was he reminded of his idiotic behavior towards Hannah and think, 'I am such an idiot.'... maybe... but then standing next to her is that little miracle boy.

That idiot served a great God. God Is great in spite of his mistakes. Eli did it imperfectly and so do I. So I weep. I read. I pray. I ponder. I ask. I help where I can. Money. Time. Support. Prayer. I even rarely tell people what I think... very rarely... because this life has baffling problems that only God can solve.

This morning, as I look at my theological framework and compare it to scripture it has soundness. It is based on grace. Jesus is central. The work of salvation is finished. God loves us. In areas I have slipped I get realigned.

God will give us words when we need them. We pray looking like drunken fools and God answers in miraculous ways.

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