Monday, December 17, 2007
I have been spending some time meditating in Psalm 145 lately. What a beautiful declaration of the glory of God. David extols His unfathomable greatness, His goodness and compassion, His love for all of of His creation. Perhaps best of all, though, he tells us that He is “near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” In another place he tells us, “the nearness of God is my good.” And James encourages us to “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
He will draw near to you... to me.
The Creator of the universe will “draw near” to you and me.
What an amazing idea.
Lord, give us the grace to push past all the distractions and deceptions of this world and to draw near to You each day.
“Seek first the kingdom of God...”
Here's the whole psalm.
I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, And I will tell of Your greatness.
They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.
The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.
All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power;
To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The LORD sustains all who fall And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You, And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds.
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them.
The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.
What an incredible God...
Monday, September 10, 2007
What an amazing statement! Instead of "awake", most versions use the word "watching". Watching for what? His return. Two thousand years later, we are still to live this life in the expectation of His second coming. From a human perspective, that is tough. We don't think in terms of waiting patiently for thousands of years. In fact, in this day and age, we don't want to wait for thousands of minutes. We want what we want, and we want it NOW! But that is not my point this morning.
Look at what GOD says He will do if He finds us alertly watching and waiting for His return.
"He will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them."
Once again... amazing beyond words. The Bridegroom is waiting for His Bride, to love and serve her. He wants to serve us. He wants to pour out His great and awesome love on us. And it sounds like its one of the first things He wants to do.
Lord, let me be found awake.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Actually, this startling discovery should make us all let loose with a sigh of relief. Imagine if there had been modern media covering his career. He would never have been president at all. Not photogenic enough. And everyone in the civilized world would have known about the "alledged" depression. Nope, he probably wouldn't have made it past local politics. We value style over substance today. The master of the sound bite wins the day. The guy with the $400.00 haircut.
A modern-day Abe Lincoln could never get elected.
And no... I am not the least jaded toward politics or the media.
But thanks for asking.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God."
I saw the most amazing truth this evening. I was sitting in a class on the Song of Solomon, and the last verse of the passage we were looking at was the one at the beginning of this post. If you have been in the kingdom any length of time, you know that the scriptures describe the relationship between Jesus and the church as a Bridegroom and a Bride. And the Song of Solomon is primarily a poem describing many aspects of that relationship. Its a short book, but absolutely loaded with truths about our life with Him.
So... the teacher was talking about a number of principles found in the passage, and they were all really good, but when he got to the end, I was stunned. In speaking of Jesus, the Bridegroom, it describes His wedding day as "the day of the gladness of His heart." Amazing. We really don't understand the depths of His love. He is really looking forward to the wedding day. He is really looking forward to that full, unbroken face to face fellowship we will enter into on that day. I have often heard people talk about how much we should look forward to that day, but never really thought about how Jesus is looking forward to it. God is anxious for the day when we will fully be one. Sin and this fallen world will be dealt with fully, and we will go forward freely in the love that He created us for. And He calls that "the day of the gladness of His heart."
Truly... "blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."
And it makes me take more seriously a passage just before that, "his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure."
Lord, strengthen your Bride to make herself ready.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Think about this one.
Your pastor wants to teach a message about the bride of Christ, and he asks you to get some volunteers to put together a skit as a visual aid.
You write a story illustrating how Jesus and the church function together, and put out a call for interested people to come to a practice at the church building on Saturday afternoon. You stand before the group, explain the story line, and announce that there are basically two parts. One person is needed to play Jesus, and everyone else gets to be the church. One person gets to be the Bridegroom, and the others get to be the Bride.
"So... who wants to be Jesus?" Almost everyone in the room raises their hands.
"Ooooooookay...hmmm. Well then, who wants to be the Bride?" A few people timidly raise their hands, probably embarrassed that they weren't bold enough to want to play the lead role.
Now you have a problem. You have a story to tell to assist the pastor in his teaching, but it wont work unless the participants are willing to accept whatever role you assign them. So again, you go back over the story line with the group, and explain that you only need one Jesus, and that everyone else will need to be part of "the church." You want to demonstrate to the congregation what it looks like when the church loves Jesus and follows Him in trusting obedience. The role of the church is just as important in the skit as the role of Jesus. It will illustrate to the audience what it looks like to relate to him as our Bridegroom and King. Without the people who "play" the church, the story can't be told. You explain that the purpose is not to show the congregation what great acting gifts we each have, but to tell a story. The telling of the story is the reason you have come together. And the only way that the story can be properly told is if each person can accept whatever role is given to them.
You look around the room and choose Bill Jones to play the role of the Bridegroom. Everyone else will have roles as part of the Bride. Now the problems really begin.
John Brown stands up, "This isn't fair! Bill gets to play the most important part. I am a pretty good actor. I had the lead role in my high school play. I think I should get a chance to play Jesus."
Another guy speaks up, "The rest of us will look like we aren't important. We'll just be up there taking up space."
And then there was Mary Smith, "Yea... I didn't come out here to just stand in the background. I have more talent than anyone here. My gifts are being wasted!" And from there, play practice broke down into people arguing and fighting about who is most qualified to play what they see as the most important role.
No one had noticed when the pastor had slipped in the back door of the room. He sat quietly watching the scene unfold. It didn't look like the skit was going to happen. He could still preach his message. He could still teach the ideas. The Holy Spirit would still use him to reveal fresh understanding of our eternal calling as Jesus' Bride. But the living illustration he had hoped to use to help make the whole thing clear and understandable wouldn't be happening. Nobody was humble enough to play the supporting role. And no one was really qualified to play the lead, either. They had their eyes on the throne, but forgot that He got there by way of the cross. Everyone was concerned with the fulfillment of their own personal goals and desires. Everyone was looking for importance and significance. The sad thing was, no one could see the incredible value and significance of being the church, the Bride. And everyone was so absorbed in their own desire for recognition, that they forgot that the whole point of the story was to exalt Jesus. They forgot that we have to lose our lives in order to find them.
"I must decrease, He must increase."
The pastor shook his head sadly, and slipped out quietly. There wouldn't be a skit this Sunday.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Its not about power. Its about telling a story. Its about demonstrating the kingdom.
Its about exalting Jesus.
This one will probably get me in trouble.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.
Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.
But I like the interpretive version from the New Living Translation,
God's ways are as hard to discern as the pathways of the wind, and as mysterious as a tiny baby being formed in a mother's womb.
This is a truth we must come firmly to grips with. He is great and we are small, and we won't always know or understand what He is doing.
Thats where faith comes in.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding... Proverbs 3
Monday, June 18, 2007
(The kisses of His lips are the revelations of His love, particularly in His word. That explanation is for those who would get nervous with the kissing language, me being a guy and all.)
On the other hand, I have felt lead to spend a lot of time in the prophets lately. Ezekiel, Amos, Hosea, and Zephaniah most recently. I am freshly aware of the general unhealthiness of the western church.
(I am part of that... not the judge sitting up on my high horse.)
The worldliness and compromise so common in the western church today is seen as normal, and to be expected. The prophets called it spiritual adultery. They were generally sent to the people of God with a warning of divine judgment aimed at bringing the people to repentance. The purpose was to bring restored relationship with the Lord. The promise of blessing following the word of judgment is always rich and beautiful. As it says in Hebrews 12, He disciplines those He loves.
Well, this morning I was reading in Zephaniah, and the Holy Spirit told me to go take a nap, because He wanted to speak to me in a dream. Odd. Especially for me. He doesn't often speak to me that way. I can count on one hand the number of spiritual dreams I have had in thirty years. So, I went and laid down, and sure enough, had a dream. I won't go into the details, but at the end of the dream I was picturing a situation in my mind, and how I thought the Lord was going to handle that situation, and suddenly He took that image and shook it. It broke into hundreds of little pieces, and I clearly heard the phrase, "Shaken expectations."
And then I woke up. I believe this could be, and probably is, a word for me, but I feel like it is also a word for the church. (That sounds so pretentious, but I just can't escape it.) We think He is going to do things a certain way. We have promises from His word upon which we base our expectations. And we begin to formulate a vision in our mind of what that is going to look like. That's where we make our mistake. And that is where we set ourselves up for disappointment and offense toward God. Offense toward God is extremely dangerous. We must guard our hearts carefully against it. We must put our hope in His goodness and faithfulness, and not our vision of what that looks like when it is manifested. He is good. He is faithful. He will do what is best according to His perfect wisdom. Those are the truths that we put our trust in.
Lord, help us keep our eyes on You.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Death and life are in the power of the tongue…
You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
I don't think I have much more to say today...
Monday, June 04, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I think the American church is on a crash course with some Tough Love.
Paul wrote to Timothy,
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Do we love His appearing? Does our heart long to be wholly joined to Jesus? Paul said in another place that he would rather go to be with the Lord than to stay here on earth. Peter talked about a lifestyle for the believer that would hasten the coming of the Lord. Do we think like those guys? Would we rather go be with Him than continue to enjoy the pleasures of the earthly life? Are we longing for the day when He will come to judge the earth and fully establish His kingdom?
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Is that the deepest desire of our inner man? Or do we love this present world? Do we want to squeeze every possible drop of pleasure out of this life, and then "go to heaven" when we die? Is that what our faith is all about?
Lord... give me a heart that longs for more of You, and all that You have for me.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Jesus asked a challenging question.
"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?
James commented on that same basic idea a few years later.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
So... when we hear His word, but don't respond in obedience, we deceive ourselves.
Lord, teach me the ways of your kingdom.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Think about that for a minute.
Forgiveness is an absolutely critical element in the kingdom of God. The fact is, we are going to be offended, wounded, and just plain mistreated by people in our lives. Its an inescapable reality of life in a dark world. We have to learn to forgive, or we will carry around wounds and offenses in our hearts, and it will impact every part of our lives. But its not easy. Many people have written books on forgiveness, giving us explanations and formulas of how to do it. One common element of thought is,
"Its a choice, not a feeling."
They tell us how to identify our offense, and steps to take in forgiving the person involved. Its usually pretty simple to understand, and not all that hard to walk through the steps. I honestly believe that when we sincerely pursue forgiveness on that level, that we satisfy God's commandment to forgive. He is simply looking for a sincere heart of desire for reconciliation and peace. Its all we can do.
There is more.
Twice in the past few years I have experienced deep wounding that touched the very core of my being. I couldn't get free from my offense. I tried. I followed the steps of forgiveness. I prayed and spoke the right words before God. But the wound and it's pain were still there. It was like walking around with a knife in my heart. I was functional, but the pain was always there. In both situations, I continued to pray and forgive and ask the Lord to heal my heart. I didn't want to settle for a "technical" forgiveness. I wanted that full emotional release that would enable me to freely love the one who had offended me.
The first release came a couple of years ago. I was sitting with a bunch of friends, studying and discussing the reality of loving without judgment. We were sharing experiences, and talking about principles in a book we were reading together, when the Holy Spirit began to speak to my heart, and show me how it applied specifically to my situation. In a moment of time, He let me see things from His perspective, and my heart was set free. The unforgiveness and the accompanying heaviness lifted like a cloud carried away by the wind. Tears filled my eyes as I described what I had just experienced while we sat there. It was incredible. The truth set me free.
And it happened again last night. I had carried "the wound of all wounds" for almost two years. It had crippled me emotionally. This wasn't a knife in my heart. It was like my heart had been put through a shredder. I forgave and forgave and forgave... but to no avail. I tried to walk in love, but my heart was heavily guarded. I was tempted to shut down completely many times, but the Lord just wouldn't let me. He would always come at my darkest moments and give me hope and strength to persevere.
And God is merciful. Wondrously merciful. He came for me again, and liberated my heart to once more walk in His peace. He came and revealed true understanding about my situation that set me free. I didn't read a book, apply the principles, and experience the results. I had applied the scriptural principle of forgiveness for a long time, but my heart was still bound. This was something more. This was God shining light in my darkness, and the darkness was vanquished. I did have to respond properly. It wouldn't have happened if I had hardened my heart toward this person. "We can't do God's part, and He won't do ours." I wanted to forgive. I wanted to walk in His ways. I wanted restoration.
And He gave it to me. A gift of grace. A healed heart.
Thank you Lord.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Really? They did a study to figure this out? What kind of study? An evening in the corner bar? And I couldn't help chuckling at this statement a little further in the article.
"Brain shrinkage was slightly greater in female drinkers than in male drinkers... the researchers found."
I am pretty sure every guy that walks into that bar where they did their "study" is counting on this.
I know... bad joke.
Seriously, though, I find it sadly ironic that much of western Christianity will measure one's "freedom in Christ" by whether or not they will consume alcohol. If you are a teetotaler you can end up with that most dreaded of titles... religious. We know that alcohol is dangerous on many levels, and science only continues to confirm it.
And yet we love its effects.
Don't get me wrong. I will have the occasional beer, or glass of wine. I am not legalistic about it. I am just wondering about the place it has taken in much of American church life.
Why do we need it?
I remember a statement I made in my search for "meaning" in life as a young man in college. I was pretty serious about my drug and alcohol consumption in those days. Seven days a week, usually a couple of times a day, I was finding some way to get loaded. I wasn't homeless. My outward life wasn't falling apart. I was pretty much a straight A student, drove a nice car, and had lots of friends. But I loved to get high. No... I had to get high to feel happy and free from all my hidden fears and inhibitions. And it brought me to a point where I made this statement to myself and my closest friends.
"I should be able to fully enjoy life without having to alter my consciousness in any way."
I really did say that. Often. It was a bit of a mantra with me in that last year before I encountered Jesus. Actually, I have always believed that it was a thought dropped into my mind by the Holy Spirit. It drove me to pursue that inner freedom. And it ultimately led me to Him.
I will never forget what happened the next day after I surrendered my life to Jesus. It happened late one night in a friends basement. He prayed for me, and I experienced a power that moved through my entire being. It pretty much left me speechless, and I basically went straight home to bed. I had to be at work at 6:00 a.m., to begin my glorious day of washing dishes in a hospital kitchen.
That afternoon, I was standing at the conveyor belt where the trays come through after they come off the food carts, and it suddenly hit me.
"I dont need to get high. I dont want to get high!"
I was free. Finally. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life.
So... I ask again. Why do we do it? Why do we need it?
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Here's a great one.
1Peter 4:1-8 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Peter taught the church to live a life of devotion to the kingdom of God. He didn't make any bones about it. He called the church to holiness, but not haughtiness. He finishes his exhortation with a call to love one another "above all." Love is the goal, always. But the path to experience and walk in that love seems to be separated from the ways of this world.
I want to understand that more clearly.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
A serious mistake in the church today.
"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.
And someone said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from. Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'
Where is the fear of the Lord?
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 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."
I grew up spiritually in an environment that placed a strong value on holiness. We believed that God's people were to live their lives in a way that was "set apart" for Him and His kingdom. It was a unique spiritual family, and one I am thankful for. It was "full time" in the sense that we didn't have outside jobs, and lived together in community. We worked together in a variety of ways to pay the bills, sharing a life of worship, prayer, and service. Then, my wife and I felt that the Lord was leading us to leave that community, and go back into the "real world." I say that with a little sarcasm in my heart today. We were often criticized for living in an artificial environment, isolated from the realities of everyday life that most people have to deal with. Looking back, I think that the kingdom of darkness really hated what we had. Our life looked very much like the church in the book of Acts. We didn't have the everyday miracles, but we lived a life together that strengthened even the weakest among us to walk in pretty consistent spiritual victory. It wasn't perfect. Not even close. We had our problems. We were quite vulnerable to legalism. And eventually sin crept into the leadership in some pretty significant ways, ultimately leading to the downfall of the ministry. But we had something special. The grace of God was present in our midst. Twenty years later, when I see someone from that time, there is an immediate and deep connection. We gave ourselves sacrificially to the kingdom of God together, and it forged a bond of love in our hearts. I will treasure that season of my life forever.
And then we moved on. My wife and I felt it was time to leave. We thought we were going to the east coast to work with another ministry we had become friendly with, but Jesus had other plans. We came to Kansas City to be near my family for a while, and plan our next steps. And here we are, over twenty years later. I expected to be here a few years at the very most. And God just smiles. He had been preparing us to come and be part of something He was doing in the city where I was born. That's a bunny trail. My point is, we left the "artificial" environment of the community we lived in to follow Jesus in the "real world."
And that's been hard. Its been good, too. We have made deep friendships with wonderful folks that we share our lives with. But its been hard. Hard to maintain the life of devotion and love to God that I believe we are called to. I have experienced the parable of the sower firsthand. The cares of the world will choke out the word of God in our lives, if we let them. And then, to make things worse, much of "the church" will tell you that its supposed to be that way. Grace means we can do what we want, when we want and God doesn't care anymore. It's all "under the blood." And this life is about enjoying the world and all it has to offer as much as we can until we have to leave and go to heaven. Its a seductive and dangerous deception, but I am not buying it anymore.
More to come.
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.
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.
As I read this verse tonight, I thought of the movie Braveheart. I remember the first time I saw it. I sat in the theatre when it was over, with tears in my eyes. I saw two types of leadership in that movie. The established leadership was self-serving, and only interested in what would benefit them personally. These were "the nobles." They would put on a show of concern for the people, but usually while cutting deals for themselves in a backroom. And then William Wallace comes on the scene. He wasn't a saint. He had personal motives. He was energized by the desire for revenge. But... he was committed to lay down his own life if necessary to accomplish his goal. His land, his people, they were oppressed and under bondage. He had a vision for freedom, and would pay any price to achieve it. He would give his very life if he had to. And he did. He gave his life.
This is what I hear from Paul. "Jesus is Lord, and I am your servant." Paul went on to describe what that kind of life looks like.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
So death is at work in us, but life in you.
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
The church is desperately in need of this sort of leadership today. When you look around, most pastors look like spiritual entrepreneurs. They are building their church, and measure their success by how many people attend, and how big the offerings are. If the church is "growing" we get to build big new monuments to our success, with bigger stages and brighter spotlights. This is not a blanket indictment, but its an all too common malady. Church leadership isn't about humility and servanthood. Its about glory and honor. We hear talk about apostolic leadership, and we think of "signs and wonders." I think we need the sort of apostolic leadership we see here in Paul. We need leaders who will lay down their lives for Jesus and for those who follow Him with them.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
He calls us to follow in His footsteps.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
God invites us to come before His throne. "With confidence." Some versions tell us to "come boldly." I can't find the words to express how incredible that is.
(Side note, the whole point of blogging is finding words to express things. I am beginning to think that one's spiritual journey is beyond blogging. Most of the stuff that really grabs my heart is beyond words. I guess the best I can do is kind of wave my hands at people like,
"Hey!!! God is awesome!!! Seek after Him in His word and prayer and he will show you incredible things!"
And then you hope they will, because you know He will.)
Jesus became a man to provide a way for us to be freed from the kingdom of darkness. We were prisoners. Sin, satan, fallen flesh... we were slaves. He made a way to freedom. And now He offers unlimited help along the way. If we will come to His throne in prayer, He will strengthen us in whatever way we need to rise above it all. Its a throne of grace. The fullness of grace. Not just forgiveness when we sin. Grace empowers us to turn away from that sin. He will strengthen us to "put to death the deeds of the flesh", and to walk in the freedom He promised.
How does He do it? How does He strengthen us? I think its pretty simple actually. Jesus said the truth would set us free. I think when we come into His presence, our vision of ourselves and the world we live in is brought into a true focus. He helps us to see things the way He sees them. He shows us the truth of His love and goodness, and the deceitfulness of sin. The lies that cloud our vision are exposed, and we are able to see clearly that we might walk in the light.
God invites you and I to come into His presence. He invites us to come boldly before His throne. And there's no time limit. We can stay as long as we want.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
A late night thought, you wrote, "I am always leery of interpretations of any scripture that require us to deny the most clear and straightforward reading."
I have two thoughts on this idea of what is "straightforward and clear" is true.
First, when standing on the earth is clear and quite straightforward that the earth is flat. But as we know that given a different perspective, more experience, and more information what seems straightforward and clear actually is not.
Secondly, when we talk about "clear" and "straightforward" I am reminded of Proverbs 25:2: "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter." Does this verse give us license to interpret scripture in wholly untraditional ways? I hope not--that would be quite outrageous (the idea of someone just carelessly interpreting scripture brings a smile to my face).
However, to some people, the revelations I bring to the table are quite careless. So, I guess, we have to accept the idea that what is careless to one man some how makes sense to another.
Let me know what you think.
And I wrote back,
Lemme see here.... First, I don't see carelessness. In fact, its just the opposite. You care too much to just follow tradition without questioning the reality of it. You hunger for truth and understanding. Proverbs teaches and applauds that approach to life. Many people carelessly say they believe things that they have never really thought and prayed about. Careless? You? Nah.
Now on the flat earth thing. I am not sure we can compare our physical view of the earth with interpretation of language. We can use it for an example, I suppose, but it seems to be sort of an apples and oranges comparison. When you speak of the verse from Proverbs, I think its clear that God hides things at times. And sometimes, as in the parables, Jesus even tells us that he was using that type of communication so that not everyone would "get it". I believe His reason is that knowledge equals responsibility. If God gave everyone full revelation of His purposes, it would only add to the condemnation of those whose hearts are set in rebellion. (Think first degree murder versus manslaughter) He gives understanding in small bites. He wants to see how we respond. Its His mercy and kindness. He will feed the hungry heart. He will reward the sincere seeker. There are times when Jesus is obviously speaking in the language of hiddeness. There are other times when he speaks clearly, such as when he privately interpreted parables to his inner circle. There are plenty of examples of both. And sometimes his speech was both. Sometimes there was a clear and plain meaning to His words, but they also had deeper meaning. Clear and straightforward is obviously a matter of interpretation, but I was using it in a very general sense. The passage we were discussing is a good example. You gave an interpretation that had a principle regarding our journey of spiritual growth. I see it and I think its valid. But if you were to take that interpretation and say that it is "the" correct interpretation of that passage, you would have to disregard the places where Jesus described a finality of judgment. Those are what I would consider clear and straightforward.
the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (yikes)
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' But he answered, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.
For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
That seems pretty clear to me. At least the finality of it does. Clear and straightforward doesn't mean that a passage is not open to some interpretation. It means that its there, and has to be acknowledged in the interpretation process. Now... what is that eternal punishment? That's debatable. Each illustration that Jesus gave in both chapters ended with some sort of punishment for the disobedient. That's pretty tough to miss. But yea... clear and straightforward isn't as "clear and straightforward" as we would like sometimes. However, it seems like we have to acknowledge the fact that Jesus describes a bad ending for those who want to do their own thing. To me, that's the "clear and straightforward" part.
Jesus often used symbolic language to teach His ways, but I cant think of any instances where the interpretation ended up being "red is actually blue", or 2+2=7. In other words, when the hidden meaning comes forward, its like, "Oh yea. I totally get that now." I cant think of any time where my reaction was, "What the heck????" If one were to say, "There is no hell or judgment" it requires that we have to say that a lot of scriptures (including the ones we have been discussing) don't mean what what they seem to say. If He had used language that just sounded like there would simply be "increased difficulty in life" when we don't walk in His ways, then you could go with a "lessons on spiritual growth" interpretation to those passages. But, he uses very "final" and sometimes graphic language to describe the consequences.
At the end of the book we read,
Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:6 And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
The language of Revelation is obviously symbolic much of the time. Not always, but much of the time. So, this lake of fire stuff may not be literal, but the picture it presents is of a final judgment and separation from God. That is the context of those last two chapters of the book. Everything is finished, and we move on into the eternal purposes of God. You know, Boyd entertains the idea that hell is eternal, but not everlasting. In other words, those who end up there are ultimately destroyed. They don't suffer forever. Its like a piece of wood thrown on the fire. Eventually its burned up. He thinks the original language may indicate that. (Satan and the Problem of Evil) I am actually open to that idea. There are some passages that make that a little hard to swallow, but in my rational mind, I don't see a reason for everlasting suffering when they could simply be destroyed. Again, for me, it comes down to the wise acknowledgment that God is a tad bit smarter than me. And He is good, absolutely good. He will do what it right. And just because I don't understand everything He does, doesn't make Him wrong. Its a big big universe, and I have a little tiny brain.
Again, I think your take on these passages is legitimate. People are not either sheep or goats, wise or foolish. On our journey through life, we are both at different times. But that's the point of the parable, really. We are on a journey, or running a race as Paul put it. It's a marathon, not a sprint and its important how we run. Our lives, our works, will be judged in the end. Wood, hay, and stubble; or gold, silver, and precious jewels. Its our choice. We can walk in humble, loving, trusting obedience to His ways, or we can do our own thing, pursuing this worlds values and pleasures. "Choose this day who you will serve..." Am I going to live like a sheep or a goat? Am I going to live like a wise virgin, or a foolish one? He describes both options, because we can be the one we want. And He warns us that choosing the foolish path will not work out well in the end. Not one bit.
I think, though, the real question here may have more to do with another statement from your original email.
"Jesus tells two parables that confuse my ideas of God's unconditional love."
I am thinking the real question here may be about the meaning of unconditional love. If you define that idea in such a way that doesn't allow for God's judgment, then you have to find a compatible interpretation for the scriptures that describe God as Judge, hell, etc..
For me, the resolution lies in the difference between unconditional love, and unconditional acceptance. God loves every person ever created equally and unconditionally. Hitler, Stalin, Reagan...(ha), all of them were loved by God, unconditionally. He wants nothing but the best for any of us. But His acceptance of us is an entirely different story. Sin had separated us from God, and there was nothing in this world we could do about it. Jesus work of redemption provided a means to satisfy justice and righteousness, making restoration of relationship available. We have to do two things to enter into that redemption, and be restored to our relationship with Him. Repent and believe. We turn from our selfishness, and trust in His forgiveness and grace made available through the cross. When we respond to Him on His terms, He accepts us back into relationship. That is a conditional acceptance. He loves us unconditionally. His heart toward us is the same, "yesterday, today, and forever". We enter back into the enjoyment and experience of that unconditional love when we repent and put our trust in Him (believe). We have to submit ourselves to His authority and meet His conditions before He can accept us into His kingdom.
Gotta go. I look forward to talking more about all this.
My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,
The Lord's longing for intimacy with us is absolutely amazing. I could sit here all day and search for words to describe it. And that's all it would be, a description. Talking about His love for us is like talking about a great meal. I can look at a table that has been set with the finest food prepared by a world-class chef. I can tell you how good it looks, describe it in detail, and list all the awards the chef has won. That's not the point. Sitting down at the table and partaking of his culinary creations is the point. When that food enters your mouth, and you enjoy the rich flavors that he has brought together... that's what its all about. Its like that with God's love for us. We can talk about it, we can define it theologically, and even break it down into its many attributes. And that can be helpful. Those ideas can be used by the Holy Spirit to create hunger in our hearts. When I stand at look at that table full of food, my mouth will start to water. When I hear of the beauty and greatness of His love, my heart will start to yearn for more. I start to long for the experience of that love.
And that's the point.
"Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,"
He wants to bring us into the experience of His love. If we will put aside the things of this world, find a quiet place, and wait for Him, He will bring us into that love in tender and wonderful ways. And as we spend that time with Him, we will be transformed into His image. His love will be poured into our hearts, and we will become one with Him, as He is one with His Father.
I want that.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Alright the following is pretty radical, so give me your feedback. Jesus tells two parables that confuse my ideas of God's unconditional love.The seven wise and seven foolish virgins and the judgment seat with the sheep and the goats. What if people are not split into categories of sheep and goats or foolish and wise, but we are all both sheep and goats, foolish and wise. The parables are not to show us what might happen if we do not take Jesus seriously, but they tell us that though we are goats he treats us as sheep; though we are foolish, He treats us as if we are wise? This makes such sense in the light of Luke 6 where Jesus says that the Father is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.Furthermore, when we think about how could we both sheep and goats? it makes so much sense. What person do we know that has not done things in Jesus' name and still been an empty tomb and a white washed grave? I know I have. Alright, let me know what you think.
I wrote back,
I think its probably both. I think the principles you are seeing are valid, but not necessarily THE correct interpretation for these passages. Most passages of scripture have one primary message, but often the Holy Spirit will teach us other valid principles out of that same passage. On our journey through this life, we are at times foolish, and at times wise. Sometimes we act like sheep, sometimes we act like goats. However, the primary message of both of these lessons has to do with a final judgment. Matthew 24 and 25 should be taken together, and it was Jesus' major discourse on eschatology. He talks about literal signs of the times that we are to be looking for, and then he begins a series of stories and parables that instruct us about how to live in preparation for His return, and the ultimate consequences of walking in obedience or disobedience to His instruction. To take your interpretation as the correct interpretation would require us to say that it doesn't mean what it clearly says. I am always leery of interpretations of any scripture that require us to deny the most clear and straightforward reading.
Mat 25:10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.
Mat 25:11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.'
Mat 25:12 But he answered, 'Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.'
Mat 25:13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
The foolish virgins were not ready when the bridegroom came, and the door was shut. He didn't appear willing to reopen it. The Lord is telling us that there will come a time when there will be no more second chances. He will finish His redemptive purposes, and those who have refused Him will be cut off from Him forever. The wild thing about this parable is that it seems to be referring to christians. All the characters in the story are virgins; they are all aware that the Bridegroom will be coming. Some are ready, others are not. Its a pretty sobering exhortation actually. But then again, the end of time is a pretty sobering idea.
As to the sheep and goats, He is even clearer. The last verse of the passage says,
Mat 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Its pretty clear. There is a final judgment coming. And its serious. The interesting thing about that lesson is that He is much clearer about the terms of the judgment. The virgin story is much more open to interpretation. What is oil? What is your lamp? How do you get the oil? Mike Bickle teaches some really good stuff on this, and I mostly agree with it, but its still an interpretation of symbolic language. When He gets to the sheep and goats, He is much clearer. How did you live your life? Did you demonstrate His kingdom in the way you lived? Did you care for the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner? Did your faith translate into works of righteousness? Not works done to earn righteousness, but works that naturally flow from a grateful heart that has been set free from the kingdom of darkness and is walking in the light. Paul says we were created for good works that God prepared for us. Think of James teaching on faith and works. Again, I understand and agree with the principle that you are seeing in terms of our journey. Some days I look like Jesus, and some days I look like Judas. I wish it wasn't that way, but maturity is a process. And we are in a war. Its a battle every day.
Annnnnnnyway, I think the idea of judgment is difficult to swallow in modern western culture. We want to believe there is a better way than something that sounds so harsh. How could a God of love send anyone to hell? It sounds like a contradiction, but I don't think it is. He has perfect wisdom and insight into the hearts of men, and what is best for all of His creation. Sin is innately and absolutely destructive. In His love, He has to take whatever steps are necessary to stand against it. God allowing sin would be like parents allowing their toddlers to play on the freeway in rush hour. When God gives us His law, He is not simply laying down arbitrary rules that He requires us to follow. He is stating what is true and essential about the nature of our relationships. The love He calls us to is the only way that we can experience the life He created us for. Selfishness, which is the essence of sin, will always result in destruction and pain and suffering. He simply cannot allow sin.
What is the result of the final judgment? What is hell? The bottom line is that it is complete separation from God. Is the fire literal? I don't know. Does the devil have a pitchfork? Probably not. Will hell be a miserable place? Ohhhhhhhhhhh yea. Picture a place totally devoid of goodness. Unrestrained selfishness and evil. We live in a fallen world, but evil is restrained. God is present and at work to redeem all who will respond to His overtures. The Holy Spirit is constantly working to persuade us to turn our hearts to the Lord. The whole world lies in the power of the Evil One, but he is still restrained by God. No such restraint in hell. All God has to do to make it the most miserable place in the universe is to lock the door and withdraw His Presence completely. A loveless place of total and complete moral darkness. Your choices for president are Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Its not a torture chamber. Its simple separation from God and all that is good. Its eternal. Its a place for people who don't want to live in a loving relationship with their Creator. Its horrible, but its not necessary for anyone. In Ezekiel, the Lord says, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked." His heart is for redemption and salvation for every single person. And He looks at our hearts. If He sees that a heart can be won, He will. Even if it doesn't look "winnable", He will still try. Its perfect love.
HE is perfect love.
You and I find it nearly impossible to imagine refusing God. How could anyone do that? Its a nonsensical idea. But some do. They simply want to run their own lives. They refuse to trust Him, to submit themselves to His wisdom and goodness. Hell is simply a corner of the universe set aside for those who have made that decision in their hearts. And in His final judgment of things, God won't make a single mistake. He will save everyone who can possibly be saved.
Long answer. All over the map. I am sure you are not surprised. Ha.
Have a great week!
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
These are Jesus' words to His bride. That's us. The heart of God is captivated with love for us. The love of God is not just some theological truth about Jesus dying on the cross to save us from our sins so we wouldn't have to go to hell. At the physical center of the book, the Bible, there is this incredible love song about a bride and a Bridegroom. And at the center of that song, that Bridegroom tells that bride that she has captivated His heart.
Some versions say, "You have ravished my heart..."
His heart is ravished for you and me. Its captivated in love.
This is God we are talking about.
Now I know why Paul was always praying for the church that they would have a deeper revelation of God's love.
I see it dimly. I know its true. I want my heart to be captivated too.
Help Lord. Open my eyes.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
"Japanese scientists have developed an oral vaccine for Alzheimer's disease that has proven effective and safe in mice, the director of a research institute behind the project said on Thursday."
So tell me, how exactly did they come to this conclusion? "Safe" I can understand. It didn't kill them.
Effective?? Really??? So I guess the mouse stopped asking, "Who moved my cheese?"
I am trying to be more sensitive, so I am just gonna leave this alone, but Leno would have a lot of fun with it.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I have always loved this passage. I believe in God's goodness. I am convinced that at the center of His heart is a desire for a deep, intimate relationship with me. Its the reason He made me. Its the reason He went through everything He did to redeem me from my sin and rebellion. He calls us His Bride. His goodness is one of those ideas that is simply settled in my heart. It gets questioned and tested, but its one of those things that I just know is true. I can't prove it to you. Its not a product of my profound deductive reasoning. I don't "believe" it simply because "the Bible says so." Its just true. He is good. When I see or hear something that brings his goodness to question, I go back to a place that says, "There is more going on here than meets the eye." God is infinite. The universe is finite, but expansive beyond our comprehension. Every time scientists think they are seeing the edge of the universe, they develop some new technology that enables them to see whole galaxies that we never knew were there. I will never understand all the mysteries of life. I will never have enough understanding to figure it all out.
"When I consider the heavens..."
Darkness, or some guy you start talking to at Starbucks, will always come and ask the age old question, "Well if God is good then how come ____________." (Fill in the blank. Usually it has to do with pain and suffering and evil in the world.) And from the guy at Starbucks, its usually an honest question. I don't despise it. In fact, if you have never asked that question, well... I just can't imagine that. But, for me, its so settled inside, that the question usually turns into, "What am I missing here?" If I had all the facts, if I could see the big picture, I would see His goodness. Does that mean I think that everything that happens is good? Tsunamis, war, aids, the child sex trade? No... not at all. We live in a war zone. The world is a complex place. Its under a curse, brought on by mankind's rebellion that started in the garden. The cosmos are far more complex than I could ever comprehend, let alone explain. Man's free will, invisible spiritual forces, the inter-connectedness of all things. Too much for my pea brain. And I am okay with that. I have a core conviction that says God is good, in all His ways.
When it doesn't look that way, I understand that I just don't fully understand.
"Therefore my heart yearns for him..." His heart yearns for me? The eternal, uncreated creator of the universe yearns for me? He knows what I am really like, to the deepest, darkest corner of my heart, and He yearns for me.
Yet another way in which I understand that I dont fully understand. Not even close.
You are good, Lord. In all your ways.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I have little or no patience with bad attitudes. That in itself is a little inconsistent, but hey, that’s the way it is right now. I ran across a guy here in blogdom that I found really annoying. I agree with what he sees, for the most part, but also really hate the way he expresses it much of the time. Not always, but often. I am just being honest. He "sees" things in the church that are not good. Actually, its not uncommon for him to have some pretty deep insights. (in my not so humble opinion) And he tells everyone about those problems he sees. That’s where my problem came in. The way he does it often bugs the heck out of me, and I had let it get under my skin. Now, he is not the only one out there that does this. The internet is loaded with "prophets". You could spend your whole day reading their analyses of the church’s problems. My annoyance with many of them and their "bad attitudes" had been building over time, and I guess I crossed some line in my own heart a week or so ago, and decided to say something. I had written posts about the subject on my own blog, but now I took it a step further, and confronted this one particular guy. When I say "confronted", its not like I blasted him with my own prophetic indictment. "Thus saith the Lord, stop judging!!!." No, I took a more subtle approach. I wrote up a "gentle" and "soft-spoken" comment that in a general way spoke out against judging. I think psychologists would probably call it sort of a passive/aggressive approach. As far as I understand things right now, I still believe in the ideas that I wrote, but I shouldn’t have done it. There were things going on in my heart that I was blind to, and that is what the Lord wanted to talk to me about this morning.
I responded to what I perceived as judgment and a "bad attitude" with more judgment. If you read my words, they were measured and respectful, without any direct accusation. But they were motivated by judgment and a critical spirit rather than love. I didn’t think so at the time, but its pretty clear to me right now. And he was justifiably offended. Proverbs tells us that "the spirit of man knows the spirit of man", and that a brother offended is harder to win than a city with high walls around it. He called me on it, and I responded with more blatant sarcastic judgment. Great. Oh, I knew I was wrong, and I even apologized at the end of my reply, but I did it with a sneer in my spirit. How easily we are deceived. I look back now and see the self-righteousness of my heart, and I am pretty disappointed in myself, but hey, that is how this whole process of change takes place. We screw up, God shows us how we screwed up, we try to open our hearts to Him to let him change that thing He is showing us, and then we get up and get back in the race.
Probably I will do it again. I don’t want to, but the chances are that I will. This kind of change is usually a long slow process. At least for me it is. I am a very black and white person by nature. That in itself is not a bad thing, if your heart is motivated by love. And you have to have the necessary humility to recognize that your definitions of "black" and "white" may not always be correct. Jesus was pretty black and white at times. Read the sermon on the mount. He took the typical outward, behavioral approach to black and white, and pushed it deeper to the heart level. He took a lustful look and called it adultery. He took a harsh word, and called it murder. The thing is, He was always motivated by love. Always. My black and white thinking can be very susceptible to that judgment thing when I am not paying attention to the Spirit, and what I know of my own heart.
I so appreciate the mercy and patience of God. More than words can say.
And I am sorry to any who were offended by my foolishness. Really sorry.
Life and death are in the power of the tongue. I want to give life. Always. Even if it is necessary to confront someone. That will probably happen sometime. That’s why I need to listen to the Spirit, rather than my own internal agitation.
Paul told the Corinthians, "Let all that you do be done in love."
I want to live that way.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Psa 45:1 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
Psa 45:2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.
Psa 45:3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!
Psa 45:4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
2Co 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!--
Col 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Col 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
Col 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Col 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Col 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Jam 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Jam 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Jam 1:20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.
Jam 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Jam 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Jam 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.
Jam 1:24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.
Jam 1:25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Jam 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.
Jam 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
I want reality...
Mat 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Mat 5:5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Mat 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Mat 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Mat 5:8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Mat 5:9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Mat 5:10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:11 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Gal 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Gal 6:3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Gal 6:4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.
Gal 6:5 For each will have to bear his own load.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I was chastised recently for using the phrase "kingdom of love". Its seems that this is not found in the Bible. Hmm... let me see. "God is love." I think that John wrote that. So thats in the Bible. And "the kingdom of God" is in there all over the place. In my mind, that would make the kingdom of God a kingdom of love. And Paul wrote to Timothy, "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." So I am thinking Paul would be cool with it.
It would seem that "kingdom of love" probably falls within the bounds of generally accepted orthodoxy, but I will try to remember to always clarify when I use it that it is not a strictly biblical phrase.
Pro 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Pro 16:21 The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
Pro 22:11 He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.
Eph 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Eph 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Eph 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Truly... thank you, Lord...
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Its all about motives. "Man looks on the outward appearances, but God looks on the heart." He is looking for a heart that truly desires to know Him, and to walk in friendship with Him. That will be a life of grateful obedience to His ways. There is no way to read the whole NT and deny that, (not that you would). The point, though, is the motive. You can obey out of a heart of loving devotion, or you can obey out of a desire to win God's approval and acceptance. The two can look just alike. One is a sweet aroma to Him; the other is worthless, even a stench in His nostrils. The challenging thing for us humans is that we can't see into people's hearts. God can, but we can't. Its one of those really important differences between Him and us. One day He will bring everything into the light. In the meantime, we just seek Him, and try to let Him have His way in our hearts. And we allow others the freedom to do the same. God will sort it all out. He lets the tares grow right there with the wheat. He's amazing like that. He knows who all the jerks are in the church. The real jerks. The ones with jerk hearts. And yet he patiently lets the jerks live right there among the sincere. It wont always be that way, but for now that seems to be His good pleasure. And for now He tells us to love our enemies. I am guessing that this would include those awful hypocrites in the church down the street. The jerks. Those people used to drive me crazy. They made me mad. They were dishonoring God with their unloving hypocrisy. I was filled with righteous indignation. Then He showed me my own heart, and He called me to love without judgment.
"Love your enemies, and pray for those who despitefully use you."
"Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
"Blessed are the peacemakers."
God can clean up the mess in "the church" when He is ready. One or two Ananias and Sapphira episodes and He will have everyone's attention. He wants those of us who think we know better to demonstrate the meekness of His kingdom of love, so that He has something to point at when He gets ready to show them what He wants them to be.
The current revolution against dead religious tradition is good. I am all for breaking out of man's philosophical structures and really seeking to know and live in the truth. But that truth is rooted and grounded in love. Love can be tough, but it still places supreme value on the one toward whom it is directed. Ranting about how screwed up the church is can be just as screwed up as the problems the rant is pointing out if its not motivated by a redemptive heart of compassion. That isn't always apparent in a lot of the "angry prophet" blogs out there. I am not saying its not there. I am not God, and I can't see their hearts. Sometimes, though, the love is difficult to discern.
But God will take care of that too. I just want to bless their passion, and trust that Jesus will continue to take them deeper with Him.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us … made us alive together with Christ… so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
I love scriptures that reveal the purposes of God's heart. To the extent that my little pea-brain can handle it, I want to understand why God does what He does. Some would read that sentence and just say, "Duh. God is love, and therefore everything He does is motivated by love." I get that. Its a pretty simple idea. I just love those places in His word where He elaborates a little on the concept. And this is one of my favorites.
The second chapter of Ephesians is about as "loaded" with theological truth as any chapter in the Bible. If they were going to take away my Bible, and I could keep one chapter, this would be one of the finalists in my list of choices. And verse 7 is probably my favorite in the chapter. What it says to me is one of the most overwhelming statements of God's love in the entirety of scripture.
The first part of the chapter is pretty straightforward about the mess we were in. We were dead. Spiritually dead. Cut off from God. Then Paul talks about God's great mercy, grace, and love in saving us. Awesome. But then he takes it a step further, and tells us why God did it. The first time I read that part of the passage and received just a tiny bit of understanding of it, I was stopped cold. I just had to sit there and let it sink in. And it stunned me again today.
Why did God save us? Why did Jesus leave the beauty and glory of heaven to take on flesh and blood? Why did he live a simple life amongst a poor people under the domination of a powerful human empire? He did it specifically for the purpose of suffering His gruesome death on the cross, but why? Paul tells us in verse 7.
… so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Just stop and think about that phrase for a minute. He paid that massive price so that He might bring us back to a position where he could bless us. When we were "following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, ... live(ing) in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind..." we were not in a place where He could freely share His love with us in the way He wants to. We had turned our backs on Him, living in rebellion against His wise and loving ways, and all He wanted to do was bless us. In the coming ages He wants to shower us with the riches of His grace. He wants to share with us all the infinite kindness in His heart. He has gone to unbelievable lengths to reconcile us back to Himself, just so He could pour out His love in our lives.
That's an amazing love. Absolutely amazing.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me.
For whoever might stumble across my humble words, I urge you to take some time, find a quiet place, and ask the Lord to give you a glimpse of the reality of this passage. Think about it and maybe pray it in the first person.
"I am my beloved's..." I am His. I belong to Him. I am loved beyond understanding. The Creator of the Universe has called me His own.
In another place in the Song, the Bride says, "I am my beloved's and He is mine." Its like a couple who stand and look at each other, and hear the preacher speak those words, "I now pronounce you man and wife." They have given themselves to one another. Its what we were created for.
He is hers. She is his.
We are His.
"...and His desire is for me." This is where speechlessness starts to set in. His desires, the longing affections of the heart of God, are for me... and you.
I am in awe.
He is good.
He is so very, very good.
I want to take this and just soak in it. I want to pray it every day, believing for just a little more depth of understanding each time. I want the truth of it to captivate my heart in a way that will set me free to give my self to Him fully and completely, as He deserves. I want to give Him the kind of love and devotion of which He is worthy.
Open our eyes, Lord. Show us the height and depth and breadth and length of your great love. Let that love be poured out in our hearts to be given back to you, and to all of those around us.
Friday, March 16, 2007
We don't just *commit* sins we *ARE* sinners.
Now, I realize that for the committed Calvinists out there, this is a no-brainer. Its a main point in that whole tulip thing. The problem is, like several other petals on that flower, it just doesn't jive with scripture. Here is what I wrote in his comment section.
I don't know, Robert. That's a popular refrain of the tulip people, but I think the scriptures say that when we are born again we become a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, all things are made new. Peter says we are given everything pertaining to life and godliness. Jesus, Paul, Peter... they all challenge us to a life of victory and loving obedience to the ways of God.
In his letter to Titus, Paul said,
"Tit 2:11 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. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
and a little bit later he continues,
Tit 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
The true grace of God doesn't just change our position before God. It changes our hearts and empowers us to to walk in victory over sin. Sinless perfection? No. Consistent and growing victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil? Yes.
I apologize for seeming to be argumentative here in your blog. I just get weary of our calvinized American version of Christianity that seems more focused on our "total depravity" than His total victory. He came to set us free from our sin, not just the guilt of our sin. The Spirit of the living God lives inside us. We forget that Romans 7 is immediately followed by Romans 8. I don't want to get into a debate. I just encourage you to focus on His strength in you rather than your weakness in your flesh.
How do you see yourself? Are you a sinner who struggles to love God? Or are you a lover of God who struggles with sin? Those are hugely different perspectives. I believe that God wants us to walk in the latter. As I read back over your blog entry, I think you do walk in this. I just want to encourage you to let the Holy Spirit fill your heart with the knowledge of His desire and power to lead you into all that He has for you.
I haven't achieved this by any stretch of the imagination, but with Paul, "I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own... I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Obviously, from the title of your blog, you are reaching for the same.
I am sorry, but I get tired of hearing, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace," as an excuse for a carnal self-centered religion masquerading as the salvation Jesus shed his blood to provide. I am not accusing Robert of this, but its a common malady in the church. And its a deception, and an affront to God. He wants to give us victory, but He also tells us to crucify the flesh. I struggle with sin. I am more thankful every day for the grace and mercy of God. If not for His incredible, incomprehensible patience and love, I would be in a whole heap of trouble. But He has called me to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." Salvation is not a free pass out of hell. Its a restored relationship with the Creator and Lover of our souls. If we don't see that, we wont give Him the kind of love, and devotion, and worship of which He is worthy.
"This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God..." Jesus
I want that. More than anything. To know Him... deeply, intimately. And I want everyone to know that this is what He desires for them to have. His Spirit, living inside of them. This is the good news we are commissioned to take to the ends of the earth. He offers us the gift of righteousness, but He calls us to humbly bow before Him in full surrender. Its the only way that He can have His good way fully in us.
This sort of writing aggravates a lot of folks. American christianity is committed to avoiding any feelings of discomfort or guilt at all costs. We go to great lengths to construct theological systems that make us feel good no matter how we are living. As long as we think we are "going to heaven", then evvvvverything is okay.
Religious lies are the most powerful tools of the kingdom of darkness.
I am going to stop... for now.