Friday, April 28, 2017

Wandering Immortals

There are several myths and legends that center around Christ's passion week. They imagine that a person who mistreated Jesus in some way (the Roman soldier who pierced Christ's side, a supposed Jewish merchant who struck Him on His way to the cross, etc...) are cursed with physical immortality. Some point to this passage as justification.

"From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, 'Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.' But he turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.' Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.' " - Matthew 16:21-28 ESV

'...Some will not taste death...'

However, This concept doesn't line up with God's character and a careful reading of the scripture reveals that Christ came into His kingdom at the ascension. It isn't a scripturally supported idea. But we do see a temporary immortality that the disciples enjoyed during Jesus' 3 1/2 years of ministry.

"And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled." - John 17:11-12 ESV

"So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, 'Whom do you seek?' They answered him, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Jesus said to them, 'I am he.' Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, 'Whom do you seek?' And they said, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Jesus answered, 'I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.' This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: 'Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.' " - John 18:3-9 ESV

The only disciple recorded to have died was Lazarus and Jesus came and raised him up. But if we follow this line of thinking other passages begin to stand out. Here is part of Martha's (Lazarus' sister) conversation with Christ.

"So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.' " - John 11:20-27 ESV

There was this sense of invincibility around Jesus. Jesus was keeping people safe.

There is no record, other than the Lazarus account, of any disciples dying or even or getting hurt during Jesus' ministry. That is amazing.

Jesus was going to lead the way into death but what He tells Martha has great meaning to us doesn't it. People aren't just safe in close proximity to Him. He IS the resurrection and the life. He plunged into death but came out again on the other side alive forever more.

If you believe in Jesus you will have eternal life. There is no fear of death because you can't die until God allows it to happen.

All believers are 'wandering immortals'. We aren't cursed with it. We are blessed with it. Our life has no beginning (because Christ has no beginning) and no end (because our destiny is forever intertwined with the everliving One). If death has no power over us fear also has no power.

Let's be bold. Why be timid if this is our heritage. They called James and John 'sons of thunder' (see Mark 3:17) because of their lives of wild abandon James was the first Apostle to die and John was the last. We have the freedom to live that way also. Let's plan like we have a long future but live like we have eternal life.

"Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."" - Luke 10:20 ESV


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Our Focus

Powerful focused people control what they pay attention to and they ignore what is deemed non-essential.

In social circles, attention and snubs are used as cues for the group. None of us really need to be taught this. Exposure to social circles at an early age reveal this to us. There are some people who talk to everyone and make everyone feel important but most only have so much attention and they have been taught to focus on the ones they care about and repel those they don't as a defensive (or offensive) mechanism. Shy people get misunderstood because of this. Focused people can see them as aloof or stuck up (a phrase I don't see used much these days).

We can look at Jesus and see who He focused His attention on and learn so much. He was (and Is) extremely generous with His attention.

"...but Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' " - Matthew 19:14 ESV

"The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children." - Matthew 11:19 KJV

We don't see Jesus paying attention only to those who can 'do something for Him' but it is almost the opposite. We see His focusing His attention on the helpless and invisible members of His society. The powerful and focused had to get His attention.

"And the high priest stood up and said, 'Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?' But Jesus remained silent." - Matthew 26:62-63a ESV

Wow. I imagine that was a man who rarely got ignored.

Becoming a believer has changed who I pay attention to. It has changed my value system. I want the people to know how valuable they are because God places great value on them but I also want to ignore the things that are worthless.

I want to pour out even when I feel weak because I know that conserving energy in this way isn't a protection. God fills empty vessels and stale wine just gets bitter in a half empty container.

If we ignore what is valuable we are 'ignorant' people. We will be snubbing what shouldn't be snubbed.

God make us wise. Fill us with Your love. If You are our focus we will have power and focus for that which is truly valuable.


Heaven and Earth will all pass away but souls and scripture have value beyond measure.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Turn To The Kingdom That Is At Hand

Isaiah chapter 30 is an amazing chapter...

" 'Ah, stubborn children,' declares the LORD, 'who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation. For though his officials are at Zoan and his envoys reach Hanes, everyone comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that brings neither help nor profit, but shame and disgrace.'..." - Isaiah 30:1-5 ESV

The Bible shows us mindsets, doesn't it? It reveals the middle ground we can have a tendency to stand on that can turn quickly into a perilous place.

As a believer we are nomads. Our home is Heaven. Nomads live a certain way but Eygpt can begin to look attractive at times. Stability. Opportunity. Conformity that has acceptance.

This morning another passage seems to be a fitting contrast...

"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.' " - Mark 1:14-15 ESV

Turn because God's kingdom is close by. The time for running away is over. Now is the time to draw near to the One who is drawing near to you.

Just one thought sparked from reading a chapter in Isaiah. I plan to read and reread this chapter through the day so that the mindsets that are expressed become familiar to me. Then if they pop up in my thinking I can 'turn to the kingdom that is near me' and not spend hours, days, weeks or years 'adding sin unto sin' in a frame of reference that provides no real relief.

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;" - 1 Peter 2:11 KJV

"...they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." - Hebrews 11:13b-16 ESV

Nomads. That is what we are. Heaven is our real home. This is only a temporary dwelling place... a season of life.

God, Keep our focus. Help us to navigate our wants and desires in holiness. Thank you for setting a place for us at Your table and giving us eternal security in our relationship with You.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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}


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.', 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'.


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.


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.