Friday, March 30, 2018

Pure Devotion

What is pure devotion to Christ...

"For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough." - 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 ESV

"Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." - 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 KJV

God came to Earth and died on the cross. God was buried. God rose. Jesus is fully man but He Is also fully God and has never stopped being God.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." - Philippians 2:5-7 ESV

This passage is not easy to translate but 'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped' basically means He never lost confidence in His own diety even as He was becoming a man and limiting Himself in full identification.

Pure devotion isn't doing better or performing at a higher level. Pure devotion is beholding the glory of the Lord. Pure devotion is full recognition of Christ's character and nature.

That wasn't some random man who had a few good ideas dying on the cross as an example of some kind. That was God Himself. That was the only perfect lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. He didn't come to get us to behave. He came to reunite us to God the Father in transformation.

Another Gospel will condemn you for what you have or haven't done. Another Gospel will give you a system to function in where they have Jesus depicted in artwork but He is not at the center and His true character and nature are veiled. There are many Gospels fueled by different spirits but the Gospel that saves and transforms is the Gospel of Grace. It is the one that says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 ESV

Your creator died on a cross when we were still His enemies. We can let that love wash over us. His love will produce change if it is needed. We don't have to work anything up or change anything to be pleasing.

"What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD," - Psalm 116:12-13 ESV


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Attacks On The Morality Of The Hebrew Scriptures

Some folks have a real problem with the Bible and its teachings. Those problems almost always focus on the Hebrew scriptures and I see three main moral issues. The scriptures give Isreal guidelines that permit and regulate slavery. There are issues with the treatment of women and children. Lastly, the way Israel acted towards its enemies in wartime.

"They said, 'Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.' And Jesus said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment...' " - Mark 10:4-5 ESV

"He said to them, 'Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so...' " - Matthew 19:8 ESV

It is clear that Jesus had disagreed with Moses on this issue. He obeyed the law in every point but He stayed at the higher end of the law. He never hurt anyone. He never took a wife. He never owned a slave.

People look for moral perfection in Abraham and his children but they don't find it. God never claimed that the rules given to Israel were going to be 'perfect'. Those rules and instructions were for 'holiness' which means to set them apart from the nations around them.

The ten commandments are moral perfection. But, It seems that God delegated much to Moses who was by the Bible's own account a very imperfect man.

"Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries." - Exodus 23:21-22 ESV

I see this command in the same light I see this next one.

"Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you." - Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV

Are all fathers and mothers perfect? No. Some are just plain terrible people but honor is something we do to honor God. Jesus honored Moses and the law of Moses but he didn't do all that Moses said to do. He never broke the law. Never. Not even in one point but He also didn't do all the things that were permitted by the law.

In order to understand and fully embrace the Hebrew scriptures, we must 'follow the scarlet thread' and see Abraham's descendants and the nation that arose out of those people as a vehicle to bring Messiah into the world. At times they were commanded to do things (by a God who had full authority to issue the command) to protect that bloodline from harm or interruption. This explains to me why God would tell Israel to destroy whole people groups. He knew those groups would infect Israel's biology and culture with outside influences that were destructive.

Jesus birth and death are a turning point for all of humanity. Those who believe in Christ are not ruled by the law of Moses. It was never meant for the world anyway. It was meant for one nation.

You may say, 'Why didn't God correct it?' or 'Why did He let it happen that way?' but we could also ask, 'Why does God let me make mistakes?' and perhaps the answer to those questions is the same answer.

What would we do if a people group had a virus that was going to kill all of mankind if it got out? Perhaps we would do our best to isolate them. What if that was not possible? Would we just let all of humanity die because of sentimentality?

Those who mock the Bible just don't understand it. The Bible is a book about Jesus, not morality. Morality is low ground. Love is what Jesus brings to us. Love transcends culture.

The Hebrew scriptures chronical history and explain how the Saviour came into the world. The Greek (New Testament) scriptures illuminate the new life we have in Christ.

Mocking the Bible is a dangerous business. The only hope we have is found only in those pages.

I love my Bible. Some of the older portions are difficult to read. The cross is difficult to look at. I cringe at His pain but He went there so I could have life. I am so thankful.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Jesus Standing Before The High Priest

I really find this next progression interesting. Jesus is welcomed as the King into the city. Then He has Passover with His disciples but the drama is about to begin. The guards are led by Judas to take Jesus when He is praying in a garden.

"And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none." - Mark 14:53-55 ESV

As my friend P Devendra said in a recent video. I am paraphrasing, 'What could they say against this man? He healed and cared for people.' There really was no way to accuse Him. He was innocent. He was the purest man who ever lived.

"For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'" Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?"" - Mark 14:56-60 ESV

Ah Ha! He threatens our structured way of life!

I see this same obstacle in evangelism all the time. The common man receives Him gladly but then some authority in a person stands up and objects to what is seen as a destructive change. It appears that things are going to get taken away and to someone who has only those things it is challenging.

"But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" And Jesus said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death." - Mark 14:61-64 ESV

Jesus is silent about our real and imaginary loss. He just proclaims who He Is.

"And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, 'Prophesy!' And the guards received him with blows." - Mark 14:65 ESV

They are cruel to Him and play games at His expense by hitting him with His face covered and daring Him to use His 'prophetic power' to tell them who it was that struck Him. These same people who could find no objective proof against Him have to vilify and mock Him to justify the evil they are planning.

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

Security seems to become more and more important to a person as they get older. Things getting ripped down or taken away is a real fear. Is Jesus able to take care of us?

I say He is. Resurrection always follows the death and burial we experience at the cross. Jesus said, 'you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power' and those who believe see that now by faith. His power is able to save us. That power is able to preserve us. If our natural structure does get torn down it is for a reason. God wants us to be free.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Passage Loaded With Benefits

Here is a good passage loaded with promises for us today...

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." - Psalm 103:2-5 ESV

I tell my soul to 'bless the Lord' and ask the questions. Then the answers come in an attitude of worship.

Who forgives all your iniquity? - When my emotions get off track and maybe I play right into the hand of the enemy of my soul...

Who heals all your diseases? - When my body isn't healthy or co-operative or I have a lingering cycle of some kind...

Who redeems your life from the pit? - When I am isolated and trapped in it...

Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy? - When I just plain need kindness...

Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's? - this one breaks me today... they all do in combination... when an old dog needs to learn some new tricks it can happen...

Are we going to muster these things up?

"The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!" - Psalm 103:6-22 ESV

Yes. We worship You God.

I am still alive because of You... I shouldn't be but I am.

All who trust in You will live forever not just with everlasting existence... You give eternal life and that life has benefits... You are God almighty... You are the One who loves the unlovely and loads us with benefits. Thank You. Thank You.


Monday, March 26, 2018

A Sanctified Memory

Perhaps we see forgetfulness as some kind of flaw in our ability to remember But I think it has it's uses and God built in this ability at creation. It has just gone a bit haywire because of the fall.

"The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. 'I have loved you,' says the LORD. But you say, 'How have you loved us?' 'Is not Esau Jacob's brother?' declares the LORD. 'Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.' " - Malachi 1:1-3 ESV

"Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?" - Psalm 88:10-12 ESV

Esau dwells in the 'land of forgetfulness' but God thinks about Jacob all the time.

"You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:48 ESV

I often ask God to quicken and heal my memory. I want to love (remember) and hate (forget) perfectly.

We are limited beings and we aren't going to remember everyone. Forgetting can be a defense mechanism triggered as a reaction to pain. In a way forgetting is a form of 'hatred' but there is a perfect hatred... a perfect love and a perfect hatred.

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." - John 14:26 ESV

There is no condemnation for our limitations. If we rely on God we will remember who and what we really need to remember.


Friday, March 23, 2018

For Everything There Is A Season

Seeing this next passage with new eyes this morning...

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil?

I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil - this is God's gift to man." - Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 ESV

God-given seasons. God-given toil. I think the key passage that puts the rest into perspective is this one.

"I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with." - Ecclesiastes 3:10 ESV

" 'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor... So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31 ESV

Yes. Yes. Yes.

When we are in the glory of God business each season has a place and makes sense eventually. The Greek word there is doxa (Strong's G1391) and it is a 'revealing.' It is a true account made by a believable witness.

A polished outside isn't what glorifies God. Grace, mercy, truth and redemption do. Forgiveness. Rebound (getting back up when we fall). Living in a new identity. Being free inside. Struggling with God for 'the blessing' until He lets us win.

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." - Romans 14:17 ESV

Not every season is easy or comfortable or fun but there is a glory waiting in each one for them that believe. God can be revealed as He Is.

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me...' " - John 14:6 ESV

Jesus is the revealer of God. God can't be known correctly without Him but if we have Him and He has us glory is going to happen. That glory is man's highest truest joy.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

An Echo Of Victory

"As he was drawing near - already on the way down the Mount of Olives - the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples.' He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.' " - Luke 19:37-40 ESV

Just thinking about this day in history. What a day it must have been.

In the back of my mind I can't help but think, 'It was a great day but it is short lived. The cross is coming in just a few days. He will endure so much. Trials. Rejection. Pain.'

That is true and we can flinch at that but this short day was an echo in time of this great future day.

"Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king's winepresses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security. And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the LORD shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever beasts may be in those camps. Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths." - Zechariah 14:3-16 ESV

2,000 years ago Jesus rode into the city in humility on a borrowed animal of small stature that had never held a rider but in this future day He will roar like a lion and break that mountain in two. Oppression will also be broken. 2,000 years ago He gave a quiet answer to His critics but in His future return He will rule in glory and have a zero tolerance policy for anyone who tries to oppress His people.

Yes. 2,000 years ago was an echo in time of a great thunderous future event but this morning this event echoes in my soul. I read it and I believe it.

If His cross is our cross we can also expect His victory to be our victory.


Friday, March 16, 2018

True Wealth

If I had 1 million more dollars I would have some options I don't have now. Let's then make it 10 million. Ok, 100 million. But would I be happier? Would I be richer or would life just get infinitely more complicated?

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory." - Ephesians 1:3-12 ESV

I am a rich man.

How many people who win the lottery lose what was important to them because of it. Unfortunately, most of them do.

Some money would be great. I am going out to make some today. I need things. We all do. I want to have options and security for myself and for the people around me who might need my help. I want to see people go places and present Jesus in places where He Is needed all over the world.

At the same time, I look around me today and realize in a fresh way that I have many wonderful people in my life and God in Heaven who keeps giving me more. One day we will be before Him and get a better idea of what is really in our Heavenly bank account.

100 million won't look like very much and it won't be nearly as complicated to deal with as it would be for us now.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Finding Those Who Are Out Of Sight

"...for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." - Luke 16:8b KJV

I sometimes ask God in my prayer time 'who have I not seen lately?' because I am aware of the fact that I might not be as good at communicating as other folks are with the people I care for.

"For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel," - Philippians 1:8-12 ESV

"...while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you." - 2 Corinthians 9:14 ESV

"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you - that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." - Romans 1:11-12 ESV

I have noticed that in some circles of Church culture mainstream methods of communication can be lacking because the local assembly becomes the hub of interaction so people just interact there assuming everyone in those circles will be seen and found in that place. Often people can fall out of communication just because they haven't been around.

Out of sight can mean out of mind very easily.

"... for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." - Ephesians 5:8-10 ESV

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing." - Luke 15:4-5 ESV

This passage in Luke came up the other day and we focused on the fact that this shepherd was so aware that he knew that a sheep was missing and went after it. What good is the willingness to 'go after' people if you don't even know who is missing?

That is why I pray, 'Who is missing Lord?' because I know that is a prayer that is pleasing to God. He cares deeply for people. He isn't focused on our shortcomings or inabilities. He just wants our heart. He Is able.

Perhaps you feel like a disconnected person. Maybe you left and felt that no one missed you. I understand that feeling. I have had to give those emotions to God before and likely will again. I think it prepares us to be people who reach out if it gets processed through Christ's cross. We can either decide to blame places or people and perhaps end up with a root of bitterness or we can let God make us mindful of other people.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Golden Rule Is The Narrow Gate

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." - Matthew 7:12-20 ESV

I always saw the narrow and the wide gate in verses 13 and 14 in terms of salvation (and they are salvation verses) but in context, they are speaking of considerate behavior that gives others what we would want to be given.

A false prophet has bad fruit. They aren't gracious.

The wide gate is the 'self-centered life' and the narrow gate is a harder gate. Few find this gate.

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' " - Matthew 7:21-23 ESV

Jesus ramps things up even higher here. Considering others isn't enough. We must consider Him and know Him.

"Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." - Psalm 2:10-12 ESV

On the wide road the Son does not get a kiss. It is every man for himself. It is us against them.

False prophets ignore Jesus or reveal a god that is not the God of all grace. Ministry that is man-centered and sourced can't reproduce or give life. The carnal tree is thorny. The spiritual tree has fruit. The shift between one and the other is just one decision away.

Today I am asking God to make me a blessing to people. I want a true prophetic ministry that draws nourishment from the correct life source. I am placing my eyes on Christ and planning to go the narrow way today.


Monday, March 12, 2018

The Place Where Martha Met Jesus

This morning I took notice of Jesus' position...

"So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house... " - John 11:20

Martha meets Jesus somewhere outside the village. Then he speaks to Martha but does not move from that spot.

"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 11:21-27 ESV

Then Martha leaves the place where she met Jesus and enters the village to speak to Mary.

"When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, 'The Teacher is here and is calling for you.' And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him." - John 11:28-30 ESV

Jesus has not moved. He has not come one inch closer to the village.

"Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' " - John 11:32 ESV

"And he said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept." - John 11:34-35 ESV

Jesus weeps right where He Is.

To me, this place outside the village is the incarnation. Jesus meets us in the book and in the place where the truth of His book is being revealed. Martha represents the writers of the new testament. They write and say to me, a person 2,000 years into the future, 'Jesus is here and He Is calling for you.'

You or I might be like Mary. We are stubborn or grieving or just distant because we are occupied in our own matters but it is true. Jesus is here and He Is calling for us. He is just outside the village.

We do what Martha did when we evangelize. We say 'Jesus is here.' and the people might say, 'Listen, It's just you and your ideas.' and we say, 'No, Come where I have been and you will find Him also.'

"Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it." - John 11:38 ESV

Jesus goes straight from that outside place to the tomb. Jesus asks His Father and Lazarus is alive again.

"Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples." - John 11:54 ESV

Jesus never goes into the village. If you missed all these events you would just see Lazarus alive again and grief turned into joy but you wouldn't be able to connect the dots. Jesus might just seem like a ghost or a myth. If asked they would say, 'Jesus never came here. I didn't see Him.' and they would be right to say that.

Is Jesus going with us to work or where ever it is we are going today? Yes and No. We say, 'Jesus is here and He Is calling for you.' but He is doing it from the incarnation. He Is calling from the throne in Heaven. He is just outside the village weeping over the same tragedies that affect the people in that place.

It is very possible that if something shuts our mouth people will miss His visitation. I don't want that to happen.


Friday, March 9, 2018

The Dangers of One-Upmanship

I have tried for a few minutes to summary this chunk of scripture but anything I do just seems to take some aspect of the impact away so I will just quote the whole thing...

"Then Moses answered, 'But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, 'The LORD did not appear to you.'' The LORD said to him, 'What is that in your hand?' He said, 'A staff.' And he said, 'Throw it on the ground.' So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, 'Put out your hand and catch it by the tail' - so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand - 'that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.' Again, the LORD said to him, 'Put your hand inside your cloak.' And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, 'Put your hand back inside your cloak.' So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 'If they will not believe you,' God said, 'or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.' " - Exodus 4:1-9 ESV

Ok. Now Here is the actual confrontation.

"So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said." - Exodus 7:10-13 ESV

So, God has Moses use the first proof of His authority, the staff, and the overriding authority of God is revealed. Moses ran from the serpent at the burning bush but He doesn't budge now. He exercises the authority of the rod.

"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Pharaoh's heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent... Thus says the LORD, 'By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood... Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart." - Exodus 7:14-15, 17, 20-23 ESV

But then the hand turning leprous then made clean is skipped and God moves Moses right to the water turning into blood but on a much larger scale then described by the bush. God said to Moses at the burning bush that water could be taken from the Nile and be turned into blood on a small scale but then has Moses turn all the water into blood. Even the water in containers drawn from the Nile before the miracle was turned into blood.

I don't see another place where the 'hand turning leprous then made clean again' was ever used anywhere else but at the burning bush.

Pharaoh just wasn't available for that kind of miracle. He was living in arrogant one-upmanship. It was a contest he (Pharaoh) was determined to win. Moses was moved by the first two miracles he didn't need to see the third one. God skipped step two with Pharaoh and amplified the third sign.

I don't pretend to fully understand the 'why's of this but i see a great danger in one-upmanship as a mindset. Debates often have this quality and it just isn't edifying.

"Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile. Seven full days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile." - Exodus 7:23-25 ESV

I must see that my heart is sick but can be made clean. If I am not even available to that idea God might have to ramp things up to get my attention and the people around me will suffer because of my stubbornness when it could have been a small one on one exchange.

Do i have the three signs working in my life? Is God's authority overriding? Do I know my heart without God and then the cleansing that comes by knowing Him? Am I just drinking in knowledge from a cosmic source or is it communion with God that sustains me? Good questions to ask.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Unequal Yoke

Wow. This next passage is an intense one. I see it as a plea from God for unity. He is acting like a husband who has found out that the mother of His children is having flirtatious interactions with another man and wants His family to remain whole out of love.

"We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" - 2 Corinthians 6:11-14 ESV

I see broken marriages that had an 'unequal yoke'. One person was pulling in a certain direction at a certain pace and the other one had something different happening in their life. One might have been strong and the other weak. One might have been 'a believer' in Christ and the other one was not. Perhaps the pace was too slow and it never seemed like the marriage was going anywhere and that was disappointing. There was intense compromise beyond what was tolerable.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." - Romans 8:1 ESV

I like what God communicates through the writer about a heart that is wide open. Grace is manifested that way. Grace gives room and can adjust the pace. Grace isn't restrictive. The writer isn't controlling in his communication.

It is a warning.

The Godless philosophy might look effective but it is going in a different direction. He might be handsome and affectionate and need you but eventually, the yoke will begin to chafe for you or for him. She might be soft and willing but will it last?

It is like God is pleading with people who have been hurt by His Church is some way and saying, 'I know they don't look like much. My Church may seem like a collection of broken toys and arrogant fools like my disciples were but I am bringing them along. Please come with me also. If you seek other lovers they are going to hurt you and it won't last. You will be hindered from realizing your potential.'

"Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty." - 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ESV

Ouch. It isn't that the person is unclean but the union is. It isn't that the reasoning is unsound it is that we can't sprinkle God on a method and make it holy as if by magic.

Some connections are breakable and others are not but I want to connect myself to grace in every way possible. The message. The imperfect people. The vehicles God is using like the Church, para-Church ministries and evangelism are places where we can connect to God and be yoked to things and people that fit our shoulders and move in God's direction and at His pace.

This may add extra strain to badly yoked relationships but it also may cause there to be a conversion. It is a risk but it is a risk worth taking.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Prayers Of Mercy For Those Who Are Outside

Here is a prayer we can pray for people...

'God. Please don't give that person what they deserve. Then use it to open their eyes to Your mercy and grace.'

The mob never cries out, 'Give mercy! Don't hurt them!' but we are not ones to join the mob. If a person is 'a user' and they don't repent people will eventually be lining up for their pound of flesh. Isolation is inevitable. We can be the ones who represent a divine mindset. We can have the great privilege of being 'mercy people' because God has had mercy on us.

Jesus asked his Father to forgive the people who were crucifying Him while it was happening. What the mob was shouting at Him was dark but the words Jesus uttered were a ray of light in the darkness. His mercy words will be remembered forever.

I don't think we are called to be doormats. We set boundaries and enforce them but it all can be done living in an attitude of love, mercy and grace.

In the mission in Florida where I received Christ the policy about drugs and alcohol were very straightforward. If you show up drunk you won't be spending the night. You are going to have to sleep it off somewhere else. God loves you and we care about you but that isn't happening here. We need to protect the people who are staying under this roof and hanging on by a thread. We can't let you drag them down. If you still need a place to stay tomorrow you are welcome here and the past will be gone forever. If you fail again we won't chide you about last week... but you won't be sleeping here if drugs or alcohol are in your system.

I didn't understand it at first. It seemed cruel but it wasn't. It was Love.

Sometimes it was me who had to send them off into the night and I learned to pray, 'Father, Have mercy on them. Protect them. Help them. Save them from what is out there and from themselves.'

These are good prayers to pray, aren't they? I think they are.

God is the One who can change hearts. We are the ones who can ask Him to do it.


The Good Fight

Fight the good fight of the faith...

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." - 1 Timothy 6:10-12 ESV

This fight is the fight of 'the faith'. The definite article 'ho' (Strong's G3588) is there in the Greek for a reason. This is a specific faith and a specific fight. It isn't striving for the dream you believe in for your life. It is striving for the dream God believes for mankind.

Jesus won something for us. We need to take it and protect it. Sometimes it feels like a game of 'capture the flag' but 'the faith' is needed in our personal lives, in our families and in our society.

There are many fronts to this fight. I don't know what you are dealing with but when Jesus said, 'It is finished.' on the cross that statement was made for you. It isn't just something that happened in the past. It can be manifested in the present when we function in 'the faith.'

"... God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!" - Psalm 68:1b-3 ESV

When you fight the good fight God may sovereignly decide to stand up and when He does that the smoke flees away in a thousand directions.


Friday, March 2, 2018

The Sluggard

Normally I shun 'label' words for people. These label words are often used as a hammer or as justifications for unflattering generalizations. A person (or people group) can't be defined by a word but yesterday the word 'sluggard' came up at the lunch rap and it got me thinking about identities.

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise... How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?" - Proverbs 6:6, 9 KJV

"As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him." - Proverbs 10:26 KJV

"The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat." - Proverbs 13:4 KJV

"The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing." - Proverbs 20:4 KJV

"The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason." - Proverbs 26:16 KJV

I had always thought of a sluggard as a lazy person but yesterday it was defined as an 'unmotivated person' and that triggered many thoughts.

Christian spiritual warfare defines two invisible forces, God's kingdom and the power of darkness, they are at odds and human identities come from one of these two places. The dark force wants people to be trapped and never reach the light. God wants people to choose His Son and be free if they choose to take the gift given to them. That gift brings in a new identity with different characteristics.

In reality, we are not what we do or don't do. We are who God says we are. The sluggard finds no motivation. Circumstances don't seem to change their mindset. That is not who we are as children of God. That identity is a trap.

I have often wondered in my own life why some things come easily and why others are so hard. There are some things I can knock out in an hour and others I just want to put off almost indefinitely. There are many reasons involved and I'm not sure if comprehending all the 'why's is really necessary.

I do know that my identity is linked to my motivation and a healthy identity overflowing with motivation is possible if I am thinking with God.

"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain..." - 1 Corinthians 15:10a KJV

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:20 KJV

The cross refocuses my life. I can do what I need to do. I can start and I can finish. I can abandon what is not needed and neatly tie up the loose ends honourably. I can endure. I can cast down negative Godless labels others put on me or I'm tempted to put on myself. I am free because love is flowing in me and constraining my movement. The weight is removed and the depression that has formed because of oppression will disappear in time as I continue to be transformed into the image of the One who has overcome the grave.

The great commision to seek and save that which is lost and the great commandment to love provide endless motivation.

"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." - Romans 13:14 ESV

Yes. Wake up you who are asleep and take on the identity that God has for you. That person shines brightly. They are sitting at God's right hand of approval in Jesus Christ.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Leanness Of The Soul

Looking at this progression today...

"Then they believed His words; They sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul." - Psalm 106:12-15 NKJV

That word leanness is razown (Strong's H7332) and it means scantness (of measure) or a wasting disease where mass is lost not gained.

The thing I love about grace when it is taught correctly is that it has embedded in it a sense of history and a lack of moral self-reliance.

Knowledge of my depravity makes me rely on grace. It isn't just an option it is everything. I am disqualified. I need counsel. If I have any native goodness I become double minded because I can forget my past and push forward with renewed effort. I can reason by 'sight' and moral principles. Then in the wilderness, I can become indignant and see suffering as unfair.

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." - Titus 2:11-14 ESV

A grace believer is motivated in gratitude that remembers a continuous need and desire for the Saviour who will give counsel using the Bible, people and insight by His Spirit as events unfold. This person isn't looking to do 'the right thing'. They long for the redemptive outcome and they have longsuffering love to endure the wilderness with 'rebound' when they fail.

If you have any native goodness then you will be too good for this. Your goodness will result in a 'wasting disease' that hinders spiritual growth. God is the only good one. We can be hidden in His goodness by grace and have peace that passes understanding. That strong tower is a greenhouse for spiritual growth.