Monday, April 30, 2018

Raised In The Last Day

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.[G2078]" - Revelation 22:13 KJV

This morning i am at John chapter six in my reading.

"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last[G2078] day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last[G2078] day... No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last[G2078] day." - John 6:39-40, 44 KJV

That word 'last' is an interesting word in the Greek. It can also be translated 'lowest'. Jesus is the 'highest' and the 'lowest'.

Jesus will raise those who are his on the 'last day' and we can and should see that as in the future but it can also be seen as our 'lowest' day or our 'least favorite' day.

Jesus is the first and the last. He lived and lives in full identification with man. In a way, the cross was the 'last day' in that it was the worst day in human history and in Jesus' personal history. Jesus became first after He was last.

"For to which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you?'..." - Hebrews 1:5a ESV

Jesus had a rebirth in His resurrection and ascension. He was raised to the highest position. His name Is above every name because of the life He lived and the death He died.

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

Yes. He Is first because He was last. He will outlive all those who hate Him. He died once and will never die again.

"The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms..." - Deuteronomy 33:27a ESV

Underneath the bottom are His everlasting arms.

Monday may be your 'last' (least favorite) day but God will raise you up in it. I pray your eyes will be opened in 'the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him' because you and i are called to live as believers. Our last day is not discouraging. God Is waiting to be gracious there.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Fluctuating In And Out Of Double-Mindedness

There is a mindset that continues to make faithless calculations...

"On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, 'Rabbi, when did you come here?' Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.' Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.' " - John 6:22-29 ESV

This is the same crowd that wanted to make Him a king the day before when God multiplied the loaves and fish to feed over 5,000 people.

"And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." - 2 Corinthians 4:3-5 ESV

Someone who doesn't know God will live in A veiled mindset towards eternal things and someone with 'a casual relationship with truth' will toy with it and fluctuate in and out of double-mindedness. Even though proof is given more will be needed and then more and then more.

"A Song of Ascents. Of David. O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore." - Psalm 131:1-3 ESV

A weaned child has matured enough to see that there is a feeding schedule.

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." - Hebrews 3:12-14 ESV

God is not a vending machine. He has given us minds and abilities to be used in life but our primary work is to 'enter into rest' about who He Is and what He Is like. Jesus is the concrete representation of that character and nature. If we walk by sight we can easily enter into double-mindedness but we are ones whow walk by faith like a weaned child. That child remains calm because they 'calm and quiet themselves' even with an empty belly because trust has formed in their little soul.

Jesus was on the other side even though they knew He didn't get there by conventional means. Only faith was going to make sense of that. Jesus Is here right now in our lives. We can't put it all together yet. We are challenged in the same way. Will we keep asking and demanding or will we just rest and receive?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

They Wanted To Make Him A King

Looking at all four Gospels to see what happened in an event is so profitable. This is directly after Jesus fed the five thousand.

"When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, 'This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!' Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea," - John 6:14-16 ESV

"Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea." - Matthew 14:22-25 ESV

Jesus did this massive miracle. Loaves and fish don't multiply on their own. He could have ridden that wave of popularity but instead, He chose to withdraw and walk on water.

As a man with degrees of ambition, you have to scratch your head at passages like this. I understand it. He didn't come to Earth to be King. He came to Earth to die on that cross. His whole life is about that. It was needed. He never stopped being a lion to be a lamb. He was and is always both. Still... Why not have an Earthly empire first and then die? My red-blooded mind races and searches to understand the plan of God. This plan that always has a cross stuck right in the middle of it.

If He had gone the other road this next part would never have happened.

"But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.' And Peter answered him, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' He said, 'Come.' So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.' Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.' " - Matthew 14:27-33 ESV

There is a point in time when a work starts moving that things can't be small like this. Jesus had many one-on-one times in His future.

I heard Tony Curtis in a rare interview where he talked about Marilyn Monroe and his career and He had an interesting take on it. He was convicted that it was the movie camera that made stars into stars. He saw himself and the others he worked with as genetically blessed nobodies who would have stayed nobodies but that movie camera did something because it showed only parts of things in a certain light.

Jesus isn't a movie star. He isn't a celebrity like we think of them.

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

Jesus is the fullness. He Is the King of Kings.

Can I set my ambition aside? Can you? I would like to say, 'Yes' but Paul was praying this way for a reason. This is a very specific focus. This is Christ-centered living and it is a life that allows for personal investment in others. We stay small so that Christ can be exalted. This is a calling that has hope. This is a life with a rich inheritance.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Respectful Love

A friend and i were speaking to a young man this weekend about salvation and he said (i am paraphrasing), 'I have been saved my whole life. I was baptized as a baby.' and what popped out of my mouth was, 'Don't you think God has more respect for you than that? He wants you to choose Him.'

As I sit here this morning I am realizing how much that concept means to me. My God values each person and He has given us free will. He isn't a micromanager. He respects us.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." - 1 John 4:7-11 ESV

God Is Love and His love is respectful. God sent His Son at a point in human history but i believe this has a personal application also. He sends Him to us at times in our lives to let us know that Jesus was a propitiation (that word is a legal term for satisfying the anger or grievance of another person). Jesus' work on the cross satisfied the anger of God.

People might not value your choices. What you do or don't do might make them angry but God isn't like that towards us. His anger is satisfied in Christ. He wants us free to choose and because He loves us He wants us to choose Him.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Comparing Two Sendings

"The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, 'Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town...' " - Matthew 10:2-14 ESV

"And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe...' " - Mark 16:15-17 ESV

I am looking this morning at these two 'sendings'.

One takes place when the disciples are first chosen and the other happens years later after Christ's resurrection.

I am looking at the first sending like an internship. It is focused. It is within the culture. Jesus is going out also and doing the same thing.

The second sending is broad. These men are going to take what they learned in that focused time and bring it into all the world. Jesus is in Heaven now. They will now lead the mission.

Structured focus is very good for new people. People learn team dynamics. Just saying things like, 'We are all going to go out in small groups and then we will meet at the fountain at 1:15pm. Stay in your groups. Pray when someone else in your group is speaking to someone. Be led but be at the meeting place on time.' is so valuable.

People need this before they 'go into all the world' and leave their familiar culture and the relative safety of familiar surroundings.

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin..." - Zechariah 4:10a NLT

Yes!

Not that the first sending was small. It was vital.

I'm praying that God would raise up leaders who have focused ministries so that others would be discipled and become leaders who want to go outside the walls and minister in far away lands.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Sugar Cube

The other night at coffee we began talking about Richard Wurmbrand. In the prisons that man was in a sugar cube was like medicine because they were all starving. Just one cube was precious and could keep a dying prisoner alive for a few more days. Pastor Wurmbrand spoke of a time one of the men in his cell was close to death and another prisoner spoke up and proclaimed that he had a sugar cube. They watched as he slowly unwrapped it. The whiteness of it struck them. Nothing was white in that prison. Someone in the group said, 'It is like Heaven' the others agreed and the small group of starving, pale men dressed in rags began to dance for joy. Heaven's presence was felt in that cell and the dying man told them to put the sugar cube away and give it to someone in a worse state than he was. The joy of his fellows and the power of that moment had revived him.

It is rumoured that that sugar cube was passed from prisoner to prisoner for years... maybe decades...

"For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see." - Revelation 3:17-18 ESV

God, please lead us today. All of us who have received the Gospel have the brightness of Heaven to offer to our fellow but only those who truly know their need will see the value of it. Lead us. We treasure it but it is not a thing to keep for ourselves it is a thing to be given away and we want to give it away to those who are close to death but may not even know it.

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Friday, April 20, 2018

The Open Place With No Doors

There are doors that only a few people ever use.

One of the things about working somewhere in that you see a side of the business that only people who work there see. You go into rooms and drawers that no one else has access to.

We are curious creatures. We want to see what is underneath and behind things but that isn't always good.

"Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD. None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son's daughter or of your daughter's daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness... You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive." - Leviticus 18:2-10, 17-18 ESV

I only quoted part of that passage but more categories of people are listed. It may seem a bit vulgar to quote from this passage but it is important that we understand where lust comes from. It doesn't start with wanting something. It starts with seeing something.

A thief is looking in his or her mind in places they are not allowed to be and thinking of things that don't belong to them. An addict has often opened a door that should never have been opened and some part of their mind longs for some taste that should never have been tasted in the first place.

Perhaps you have seen something you shouldn't have seen. Now what? We live in a time where images are everywhere and neon signs point to doors no one should enter.

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are his,' and, Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels." - 2 Timothy 2:15-23 ESV

Flee youthful lusts. Be washed in the water of the word. Decide what you are going to be. God sees everyone who is washed in the blood as a vessel of honor. What does a vessel of honor see? Where do they go? What do they think about?

"And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules. I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts." - Psalm 119:43-45 ESV

"For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? - the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip." - Psalm 18:31-36 ESV

Grace is the wide place. There are no doors there. Jesus is the narrow gate but once you pass through you and I enter into a wide place of freedom that is open and has purity.

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' " - John 20:19 ESV

Jesus didn't use the door. He doesn't explore hidden places because nothing is hidden to Him. In Christ we have that also. We have a purity that isn't looking to uncover. We are in the wide place of grace.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fernweh

I love reading the Gospels but I must say they give me a great sense of 'fernweh' (a sense of longing to be in a far away exotic place). You read and Jesus is speaking right there around the corner. People go to Him and ask for a healing for themselves or someone else and in a sentence or two, that person has their healing. I can see why some think of the Bible as a kind of fairytale because needs seem to be met so quickly and completely.

"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." - Hebrews 11:8-10 ESV

I'm thinking this morning of all the people I know who are waiting for doctors appointments and need wisdom. It hasn't been an instant healing. They are on a journey like Abraham was on a journey.

Humanity had Him and His ministry for the space of three years. That time is recorded and it isn't fiction. Still, during those days when He was here Heaven's doors were shut to mankind. God was answering His prayers but no one else had that access.

"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." - Hebrews 4:14-16 KJV

Yes. I see this happening now. Jesus won us this access and God is working every hour and moment in more subtle ways in life after life.

I long for face to face time with Christ. I would love to know I could hear His voice if I walked around a corner and the words He would speak would shock, challenge and comfort me.

Wait a minute... I do have that now. I have the closest thing I could have with Him being there in Heaven and me being here on Earth. I have the Bible and the Holy Spirit making the Bible alive in my mind and Spirit.

Yes. I long for that eternal city that has not made by human hands but I also am alive right now in the moment and in the provision of the moment. God is here. His words are alive. There is healing in His wings. There is wisdom in the book.

Thank You God. Open the eyes of the blind. Please quicken the lonely heart waiting from day to day. Visit us in this moment. Thank You. Praise You. We want You to be close not far and the blood of Christ has brought us close. Thank You.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bonds Formed In The Eye Of The Storm

I have been thinking on and off about 'friendship formation'. We have many acquaintances but strong friendship bonds seem to form more rarely.

The Apostle Paul describes himself and others like him as 'helpers of your joy' (see 2 Corinthians 1:24) and the Greek there is very interesting. The word 'helper' (synergos - Strong's G4904) is the word we get synergy from. The phrase 'your joy' is hym┼Źn (Strong's G5216) chara (Strong's G5479). This joy isn't a feeling. It is rejoicing that happens because there is a reason to rejoice. The word could be translated 'the cause or occasion of joy'.

Here is the context. There is conflict in Corinth and Paul is correcting them and looking to God to find a balance out of love...

"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I call God to witness against me - it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you." - 2 Corinthians 1:19 - 2:4 ESV

I am convinced that humor is intrinsically linked to pain and likewise friendship happens in shared conflict. People who survive something together have great friendship potential.

Grace Gospel preachers produce a 'field of friendship' around them because love is presented in the midst of the conflict that holiness produces in a fallen world.

People 'survived' encounters with Paul and His otherworldly message and became friends through that shared experience. They weren't necessarily friends with him. They became friends with God and each other.

Wartime produces the strongest bonds. That is why it is easier to make friends as children. Children are in the conflict of identity formation.

People want to avoid pain but the grapes need to be crushed in order for there to be wine. Likewise, love works in synergy with conflict to form friendships.

Grace is beautiful. It is God's unmerited favor expressed to mankind because of the work of Jesus Christ. A person who talks about it is going to stir things up but in the center of that storm there is an oasis that is 'an occasion of joy'. The lost are found and bonds are formed that can never be broken.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Few Thoughts From Luke Chapter Eight

I have many thoughts this morning as I read and reread Luke chapter eight...

Jesus charges two people to do two different things in this chapter.

"The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 'Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.' And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him." - Luke 8:38-39 ESV

"And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat." - Mark 5:42-43 ESV

He told the demonized man to talk about what had happened but then he told the parents of the child He healed to keep it a secret. Interesting...

I also was focused in on this idea of a 'moment of truth.'

"And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him... While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler's house came and said, 'Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.' But Jesus on hearing this answered him, 'Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.' " - Luke 8:41-42, 49-50 ESV

The man came to get Jesus. They were delayed on the way and the situation just seemed to deteriorate further. Jairus' worse fears seem to be coming to pass but Jesus says 'only believe'.

"And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, 'Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.' And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead." - Luke 8:51-53 ESV

Here we see that 'moment of truth'. This is how the event is recorded elsewhere.

"And when he had entered, he said to them, 'Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.' And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was." - Mark 5:39-40 ESV

I struck me that this command to only believe was about to be tested when they got to the house. Jesus wanted the room cleared and that was only going to happen with the cooperation of Jairus. Coming to get Jesus wasn't enough. Jesus was going to request access to the child and there was going to be mocking resistance. The Father was unsure what was going to happen but He gave Jesus access in spite of the laughter.

"Taking her by the hand he said to her, 'Talitha cumi,' which means, 'Little girl, I say to you, arise.' And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat." - Mark 5:41-43 ESV

I think many times our faith isn't this sense that everything is going to work out. No. Perhaps we have some serious doubts but we clear the room and let Jesus in any way. That is our 'only believe' moment of truth. Then God gives us that moment and doesn't want us to tell the story a thousand times to everyone we meet. He wants us to keep these moments in our heart and treasure them. We tell people the Gospel but we keep these private moments as precious treasures.

We can have both a public testimony and a private life with God and it is important that we do have both. One reinforces the other.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Love That Is Manifested As Honor

I happen to love this chunk of scripture but I always remind myself that there are eleven chapters in Romans before Paul lays this out...

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' To the contrary, 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - Romans 12:9-21 ESV

There is so much in there but this morning I am seeing 'love that is manifested as honor.' This honor that flows from genuine love sees something special in everyone. Each person is made in God's image and we can honor them in that. We can honor service through recognition. We can even show honor to those who have aligned themselves against us by not 'repaying evil for evil.'

Jesus really honors this next group and models honor in front of them...

"While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him... But He answered and said to the one who told Him, 'Who is My mother and who are My brothers?' And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers! 'For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.' " - Matthew 12:46, 48-50 NKJV

God is revealed when we operate in premeditated honor.

Young men need to see honor manifested in older men. Men learn how to be leaders in an atmosphere of honor. A man who feels powerless has forgotten about honor.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Gracious Today And Forever

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them." - Hebrews 13:8-9 ESV

Gracious stability...

We all want good outcomes. We want happy endings.

Jesus is going to be the same as He was. His grace, divine favor apart from performance, will ground us in that stability and strengthen us.

"But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, 'It is a ghost!' and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.' And Peter answered him, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' He said, 'Come.' So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus." - Matthew 14:26-29 ESV

I see this as a pure picture of momentary divine enablement and I marvel. Peter wasn't sure what was happening. I don't think he was sure that who he was seeing was Jesus but He knew that if Jesus was the one He was talking to that God would give him power to join Him on the water.

Peter's heart was getting established.

Grace doesn't give us the power to do the things we want to do. It convinces us we have access. We are set free. We are strengthened moment by moment because we know access will never be cut off. God will never reject us. Things may not go the way we want them to but Jesus will be consistent.

"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest." - John 4:35 ESV

"Then he said to his disciples, "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." - Matthew 9:37-38 ESV

Jesus is the same and I believe He Is saying this today.

He is the same. Grace will strengthen us. There is power there when God asks us to join Him out on the water.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Man With An Unclean Spirit

I'm reading this next account over and over again...

"And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit..." - Mark 5:1-2 KJV

It is easy to focus on the demonic in this passage because of the context and what eventually happens...

"And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea." - Mark 5:12-13 KJV

This morning I really wanted to focus on the man himself. This man addresses Jesus and asks two things of Him.

"And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not... And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country." - Mark 5:7, 10 KJV

'Please. Don't torment me.' and 'Now that I see You please don't send me away.'

Of the three passages that record this account Mark is the only one that says this.

"And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him," - Mark 5:5-6 KJV

Modern medicine has given the type of 'self harm' described in verse 5 a name. Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) was thought to be a cry for help when first diagnosed but it is seen differently by some experts who study it. I saw one study that predicts that about 16% of young people between the ages of 14 and 21 have engaged in this behavior. The percentage is higher among female teenagers. Often the injuries are done in places that won't be visible. The people who do it often describe it as an 'out of body experience'. They get a high from it. It is a distraction from a great inner pain.

Do you hear the cry?

'Please. Don't torment me.' and 'Please don't send me away.'

Jesus tells the unclean spirit to leave but is very kind to the man.

"And Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?'..." - Mark 5:9a ESV

This weekend I stood by and watching a Pastor minister to a young person who was walking by his group. He engaged them and each person so kindly making sure that everyone knew each other's names. He asked questions. His pure love and interest said in a non-verbal way...

'I won't hurt you.' 'We won't send you away.' 'We see you.' 'You are important.'

One man in the group who is being raised up as a leader just kept looking at his phone and answered when he was addressed but never even looked at the young person and I just thought, 'You have a lot to learn buddy and you aren't going to learn it in that phone.'

"The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid." - Mark 5:14-15 ESV

Just a few minutes with Jesus. Just a few minutes of purity. An oasis from loneliness. What does it mean? How much is it worth?

Jesus isn't ever going to torment anyone. He isn't going to send a living person away. He can disconnect a person from the many things that torment them. Where there is life there is hope. Decisions can be made when a person is brought into the presence of the King. Introductions and healings happen in those times.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

No Wind And No Distance

Everytime I read the account of Peter joining Jesus and walking on water I get something new and different.

"Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea." - Matthew 14:22-25 ESV

A 'long way' is polys (Strong's G4183) stadion (Strong's G4712). A stadion is about 200 yards away. So Jesus was far up and far away but came because the wind 'was against them'.

Maybe the disciples thought, 'Jesus is up far away on that mountain praying while we are battling to make progress.'

This next passage talks about Jesus present ministry as a intercessor...

"Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." - Hebrews 7:25 ESV

He is up high and far away but in a moment He can walk up on the sea. The wind that resists us and hinders our progress does not hinder His progress as He bridges that far distance to get to us.

"But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, 'It is a ghost!' and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.' And Peter answered him, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' He said, 'Come.' So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.' " - Matthew 14:26-30 ESV

What a picture of divine enablement. I don't know this doctrine as I ought to.

"Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.' And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret." - Matthew 14:31-34 ESV

No wind. No distance.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

People To Identify With

I was thinking the other day about how gracious God Is to provide us with a book full of people we can identify with. I am like Abraham and Abraham is like me. I am like Noah. I am like Joseph. I am like 'doubting' Thomas (a nickname I imagine he is not fond of). They are like me.

Perhaps we have all heard a person who was a pioneer in something say, 'Growing up I never saw someone of my race or gender doing this but I had a desire and so I pushed through'. God has given us a book filled with spiritual pioneers. We may not have all the qualities of these people but there is overlap and because of that there is a identification and that identification can bring out qualities that are embedded in our physical and spiritual DNA.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." - 1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV

These people in the scriptures had encounters with God and went through things. That can and will happen to us also.

God had Joshua say this to a group many years ago and it resonates with me today.

"At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, 'As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.' " - Joshua 3:2-4 ESV

Let's keep close but also at a healthy distance so we have perspective. Let's look at those who have gone before us and live in identification.

God has been very gracious to many people throughout history. That same grace is available to us also.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Some Homework That Will Bless You

If someone were to use the phrase 'positional truth' in a sentence would you understand what they were referring to?

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" - Romans 8:29-31 ESV

The passage quoted above make perfect sense if we know the very rarely understood doctrine of 'positional truth' and this passage is a very important passage to understand.

Go find out what 'positional truth' is.

You might be saying, 'Tell us.' but I'm not going to do that... not today... I don't feel led to do that today...

I passively listened to my late Pastor explain this doctrine to me one thousand different times and we can hear something again and again but for some reason, it never sinks in because we don't 'need' to know it.

If this were a men's class I would say, 'Go find out what this means and come back next week ready to explain it in 5 minutes with a few key scriptural references.'

This isn't a class. If you are reading this you are reading my blog and there is some reason that you are here. Perhaps you want encouragement. This doctrine will encourage you.

Google it.... something like...

chafer positional truth

That search may be the best search you have ever made online.

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Monday, April 2, 2018

The Antidote For An Identity Formed By How Others Made Us Feel

I have been studying and breaking down some of the successful YA (Young Adult) novels that have come out in the last twenty years and I see this recurring theme of self-discovery through failed (or quasi-successful) romantic encounters and relationships. I understand why it hits home to young adults. I've been there. In a painful time, people are looking for an identity and how others made them feel helped to form that identity. The crush. What they did or didn't do to act on those feelings. Abuse. Longing. Betrayal.

Sigh. It all falls so far short of what God wanted for humanity. The laws Moses gave to Israel show that. God wants us to have purity. Purity is what will make us complete. The law could provide a fence but it could never produce the life. The life has to come from God. No matter what has gone on before Jesus can bring integrity and wholeness into the most shattered existence.

Here are a couple of passages that just seem to echo in my mind these days.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh." - 2 Corinthians 5:14-16a ESV

"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God." - 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 ESV

To be completely transparent... this last birthday was a hard one for me. It seems like a bunch of forgotten hurts and disappointments got dredged up from the bottom of my soul. I want to be happy and thankful for what I have but at the same time parts of my identity were formed by events and encounters long ago and my hopes and dreams are intertwined with those things in some ways. I wanted to be more powerful by the time I got to be this age. Maybe I thought that one day I'd have more to give and if I had this overwhelming capacity or great resources I could use that power to shield others from what I went through that damaged me.

I can't escape my birthday (I tried but it didn't work) but those two passages are like diamonds to me. They are priceless tools.

Because of Jesus, we can be involved with people and yet 'regard no one according to the flesh'. Tingles or no tingles. Like or dislike. Respect or little that merits that respect. We can care and not have an identity based on what anyone else thinks or says. How others make us feel no longer matters in that arena.

Secondly, We don't have to accuse or excuse ourselves. Our new identity is God-given. God is aware of us. We don't acquit ourselves. God will one day commend us and each one who believes in Him.

I'm sitting here typing this praying that God would give our generation creativity in communicating these truths to young and old. It is so needed. The things young minds are faced with now are so potentially harmful and fragmenting. We had crazy things in our lives back when we were growing up. I can't imagine having to grow up now.

God, Help us, please. Give us the wisdom to apply what you have taught us in our times of crisis but also help us to freely give out what you have given to us.

"But Peter said, 'I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!' " - Acts 3:6 ESV

This can be our legacy.

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