Friday, December 14, 2012

A Prayer for Newtown, CT

Lord of Heaven and Earth, Creator of all this was and is and is to come, I come to you now with a broken heart. I confess that I do not understand when things like school shootings and children dying make headlines around the globe. It reminds me that we think we are so good here in the Americas, but the truth is none of us are righteous - not one. I pray for the families of the dead and injured in Newtown, CT, that you would be their source of comfort, whatever avenue that may have to take. Lord, you see my tears as I type this - let this be a reminder that this happens around the world in different places every day, like Rwanda and Afghanistan, and other far-off places. Father, I pray that even if it costs me any reward I might have in Your coming kingdom because I am not ready for 
Your coming, please come back soon. Right the wrongs, fix the injustices, stop the madness that our sins as a species have plunged us into time and again. Father, I cry to you that you would DO something about this before we completely destroy what you have made here.

Lord, I commit the families affected by this extreme tragedy into your hands. Let them be comforted by your words, and your people that you have placed there for just this time, as you always do. Have your holy angels standing by and ready to work for restoration and healing for the people of Newtown, CT, and for the nation we call the United States of America. Father, we look to you, the master of all things, to do your will here on Earth, as you do it in Heaven - and Lord, I pray for a quick work, so that even the people that do not believe in You cannot help but say You have done this.

I commit all these things into your hands, knowing you to be a good and almighty God, and so I pray in the precious name of your Son Jesus Christ, who loved us all, and gave Himself up for us. Amen.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Whoever is President, JESUS is KING!

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NASB)
Ladies and Gentlemen!  I address myself to my American brethren primarily with this thought.  Have you read any of the rhetoric in the press about Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or their respective political parties?  I know, how can you not?  And I don’t even live in the USA!  I’m from north of that particular border, but we have a lot of American TV, Facebook is an American company, you get the idea.  Who is right?  Who is not?  Who cares?  (We should!)  Who do we vote for?  (It should be the one that best represents your ideals, because we live in representative democracies, or so they tell us.)
I’m not saying that character doesn’t matter, it does.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have opinions, clearly we should, and they matter.  I’m not saying that I don’t have a preference, I do, and if I were American I would vote accordingly (Hey, we do this every 4 years in Canada too these days).
What really has me, well, agitated, are the personal attacks on men that you only think you know.  For example, calling Barack Obama the Antichrist - folks, he doesn’t fit the qualifications.  Ostensibly, he was born in Hawaii, and even if he was born in Kenya (I don’t think so, personally, but hey, maybe he was), that’s still the geographically wrong place for that particular individual to enter the world.  (Yes, I actually do study this stuff, and I think everyone should!)  Or calling Mitt Romney a ne’er-do-well with no real ideas of his own - come on, the man actually navigated some pretty choppy financial water successfully, and he does have more than basic intelligence.
I read a poster the other day that says it all for me:  no matter who is President, JESUS IS KING.  It really gets me that some of the idiocy I hear comes from the so-called “religious right wing” folks.  Folks, I speak as one of YOU!  There is no place for the demeaning personal attacks.  They are designed to incite those who are driven by emotion (that’s about 80% of us according to research) to a point of view that they did not think of themselves for reasons that are not their own.  This is not how Christians should behave!
The verse I shared at the beginning of this is how we should treat our political leaders.  Because we live in democracies here in the western world, people have the RIGHT to voice their own opinion, regardless of how right or how wrong it is - and if we want to curtail or manipulate it, however subtly, we do so at our own peril - “do unto others,” Jesus said.
It says in other passages in Scripture that GOD HIMSELF engineers the governments that rule over our nations (Romans 13:1-3 if you demand to see an example of that).  We need to pray for them, that they will allow us to live lives that are representative of Christ in the world, not jump on party bandwagons and lead marches toward legislatures or participate in civil disobedience because the government did or proposed something we didn’t like.  (There is a time for that, and it is laid out in Scripture - and it has been done before, in the formation of the United States of America!)
What we need to avoid is political activism, brothers and sisters in the faith!  We need to be involved in SPIRITUAL ACTIVISM!  We need to KNOW why we perform actions, not just follow the crowd.  In 45 years of life, I have NEVER come across a situation that could be made better by going to war, physically or figuratively.  (I am, however, a proponent of si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war).  We should know the arguments!  We should pay attention to speeches, we should question values and character, because the matter to GOD!  Not because some bunch of guys in some political war room want to stir up your emotions, which let’s face it, don’t always respond the way they should.  I’m not mitigating personal responsibility here, I’m encouraging it!
What we should be doing is quietly voting our conscience and living our lives publicly before God, as examples of the peace and tranquility that Christ brings to our lives.  THIS is good and acceptable to God.  And this is more effective than any other weapon in our arsenal on winning people to Christ - when they see YOUR life change in response to trials.  William Toms said it like this:  ”You are the only Bible some people will ever read.”  Let’s make sure that they read one that is real with God, not some overstated and overrated version of it.
’Nuff said.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sacrifice of the innocent…

The concept of sacrifice in Scripture begins at the fall of mankind from innocence in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:21 tells us that before banishing Adam and Eve from the garden, he clothed them in animal skins.  God sacrificed the life of an innocent animal to cover the nakedness of the guilty.  (As a side note, I don’t imagine it was easy.  God loves His creation, every bit of it, even the parts that have turned away from Him.)  This sacrifice is essential in dealing with our fallen nature as it turns out.
Leviticus 14:25 tells of the sacrifice of a lamb without spot or defect to cleanse a leper of guilt, and the how the priest performs the cleansing ritual.  Without going into the details of the ceremony itself, it is noteworthy that leprosy is a physical disease - but that the leper needed also to be cleansed of the guilt (other elements of the ceremony dealt with the physical presumably) he or she carried.  The innocent lamb was slain to cleanse the diseased one of guilt.
There are other sacrifices of other animals in other passages of the Bible, and all of them have a symbolic significance of cleansing, forgiveness, thanksgiving, and other things that are common with a theme of redemption.  Peter tells us that we were redeemed with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19).  
Hebrews 9:26 tells us that the sacrifice of Christ put away all sin for all time, and that sacrifice is different from all the other sacrifices in Scripture.  How is it different?  It was not merely an innocent being sacrificed.  It was a willing sacrifice with full knowledge of what He was doing.  John 3:16 tells us that this is because God loves us so much that He could not leave mankind in a fallen condition.  He had to redeem us from that state, and the only way he could do what His own justice demands is to take the penalty upon Himself to do it.
Revelation 7:14 and Revelation 12:11 tell of the power to cleanse and keep cleansing in the lives of those who will accept that payment on their behalf and choose to walk in its power.  In the first reference, it talks about those who have come out of great trial and struggle and have washed their robes white in the “blood of the Lamb,” that is Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.  The second reference adds power.  It tells of a band of believers that overcame because of the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony of that cleansing power, and that they did not love their own lives even when faced with death.  That sacrifice made so long ago on a hill outside Jerusalem still carries that power today!  If we will accept the payment made by Jesus’s willing sacrifice and choose to walk in the power of His subsequent resurrection from the dead, we can join the ranks of that overcomer band!
What does this imply for us as disciples of Christ, or followers of Jesus?  Jesus willingly gave His life for others.  We should follow His example.  Does this mean we need to die like He did?  Not necessarily, though He may call us to that.  If you read about His ministry in the Gospels, He was always was giving His time, His abilities, His wisdom and teaching to others - He was giving His life before He ever gave His death for us.  He did so tirelessly and without hesitation.  We as His followers should do likewise.  When is the last time you gave someone your time, or the benefit of your knowledge and experience?  Or how much time during the week do you give to serving those that need counselling?  Or those that need basic sustenance?  Or healing of any kind?  That should be our main driving motivation - to do as He did when He was here.  It is not enough to simply talk about how Jesus saves without being Jesus for people.  Scripture says we are His Body, the Church.  If that is so, we need to follow the direction of our Head, Jesus Christ.  James 2:16-17 says that we must not be those who talk the talk only, but we must also be those that walk the walk.  If we are the Body, why aren’t His hands healing?  Why aren’t His eyes seeking where to help next?  Why are His feet not moving us in that direction?  As James says, Faith without accompanying works is of no value (paraphrase mine).
Let us be those that are seeking opportunity to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  Jesus DIED for us, a most painful execution.  How can we do differently for Him?  Revelation 12:11 - “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”  (NASB)
Heavenly Father, I yield to you.  Let me be, as it says in Your Word, a living sacrifice, and a vessel to be used to help others, just as Your Son did when He was here.  Let me be a help for those that need help, an ear, a set of hands, whatever You need from me, right up until You come for me or until Your Son returns.  I ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen - so be it.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Our Great Need - True Reality with God

There is a tremendous need in the Church today.  Okay, I will pause here, because I see you out there asking what that need is, I see your denominational sign around your neck, and I see your Bible in your hand ready to thump me (making you a Bible thumper like me) at the first hint of heresy.  You’re making my point for me, really.  This need transcends denomination and goes right to the root of the Christian faith, and has no place for the modern phariseeism that pervades most evangelical churches and traditionalism that pervades all forms of orthodoxy, be that Roman, Greek, Russian, Coptic, or otherwise.  That need is so foundational that it applies to ALL forms of Christianity – it is the need to be real with God.
Do not misunderstand me.  I applaud the efforts of the countless Catholic or Anglican or Orthodox priests at serving their congregations and being an example of Christ.  I enjoy reading Canon Law and Church History of all sorts.  I am completely onside with evangelical pastors of all denominations doing the same thing.  However, following these roads and becoming a mere adherent of a philosophy, even the “right” philosophy, does not guarantee the reality God requires when He says his followers must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  (John 4:24)
What does it mean to “be real” with God?  The first thing it means is to come as you are to God.  Some religions put conditions on spirituality like bathing in a certain river, or going on a journey to a certain place, or performing some great deed to make oneself worthy to enter into God’s presence.  Christianity is unique in that it teaches that God came looking for us!  We didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything, God saw an issue and fixed it Himself by sending His Son to deal with the problem.
What was the problem?  I’m about to use a very unpopular word – Sin.  Some have conjectured that sin is an outdated concept that results from a negative self-image.  If that were true, then I wouldn’t be able to pick up any newspaper and read about sin in the headlines.  Even if some acknowledge the concept of sin, they still don’t like to talk about it, and relegate it to a status of non-importance.  In reality, sin is a very serious concept that affects every person on the planet negatively because it separates us from God who created us.  Sin is the violation of the holy standard of God.  Have you ever told a lie, even just a little “white” lie to “protect someone’s feelings?  Then congratulations, you have joined the rest of us among the ranks of the sinful.  Have you ever stolen something, even a cookie from the bag your mom told you was for after dinner?  Again, welcome to the ranks of the sinful. 
Okay, okay, I hear you out there – I have never murdered anyone!  I’m not as bad as that!  Oh, okay, I’m glad you mentioned that.  Have you ever been angry with someone without a good reason?  Jesus said that was equal to murder in His eyes.  Or have you ever looked on another human being (to whom you are not married) with sexual desire?  Jesus said that you have already committed adultery in your heart.  Welcome aboard, sinner.  Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” and without dealing with that sinfulness, we cannot have any kind of reality with God.  That is a real problem, because we are unable to deal with our own sin.  The first half of Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death,” so in order to deal with it we would have to be executed.  That is not what I would call a pleasant thought.  However, the second half of Romans 6:23 says, “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  What?!?  What does that mean?

It means that Jesus paid the penalty for us.  Because our sin demanded a death, He died in our place.  Think of it like this – you just got pulled over by the police and were given a traffic ticket.  You choose option three, meaning that you want your day in court (and we will all have one).  You show up, and the officer that wrote the ticket is there and able to provide incontrovertible proof that you are guilty.  The court orders that you pay the penalty, say $300.  When you go to pay the bailiff, he tells you that another person heard that you were guilty, and out of the goodness of his heart, paid your fine for you.  That is what Jesus Christ did for us, only on a much larger scale.  He died to pay for all sins for all time.  He rose again three days later to show that we had been set free from their power.  For those who choose to accept that payment on their behalf, that freedom is theirs to claim.  
If you are sitting there reading this and you have never heard it before, or if you have heard it and discounted it as I once did, let me encourage you and challenge you to consider the implications of all this.  Okay, if I'm wrong, what am I really out?  Not a great deal, because real Christianity teaches the doing of what is right for all anyway.  But what if I'm right?  Please - think about it honestly.
If you are reading this and you have made that choice already, but you are not living it, and you are discouraged and at the end of your rope as I once was, then let me say to you that it is not too late and that there is hope for you.  You can turn to God and claim that freedom that God promises to all who will turn to Him.
If you're reading this and it makes you angry and makes you hate God because of all the wrong you have suffered in your life, I know how you feel because I've been where you are too.  All I can say to you is that your pain is not God's doing, although He has allowed it in your life for some reason that maybe we don't know and can't understand.  What I can tell you is that God is there for you too if you'll turn to Him.
If you're reading this and thinking that I have some loose screws, maybe you are right, but I'm not making this up.  If it is making you angry at me for even addressing the topic, you're making my point for me about the phariseeism and traditionalism that has bound God's people for centuries - you need to really consider what I have said.  If you can't get past your anger, I understand - I could not get past my own for many years, and I am praying for you, that God would set you free as He has me.
If your head is nodding in agreement and a smile has crept onto your face like it did mine while I was writing this, then hallelujah, brother or sister - let us walk together in the freedom that Christ's historical death, burial, and resurrection has given us and serve Him with gladness and joy in our hearts, even in the midst of our struggles and trials, because ours is the kingdom of heaven.
God bless you, no matter what category you fall into.  Even if you don't believe in God, because that's coming from a really good place in my heart and meant to bless you.
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Monday, September 24, 2012

If being a Christian was against the law, would you be convicted?

Back in 1991, an artist named Steve Camp wrote a song that has the following words:

Could I be called a Christian if everybody knew
The secret thoughts and feelings of everything I do
Could they see the likeness of Christ in me each day
Or could they hear Him speaking in every word I say? 
Could I be called a Christian if my faith I did not show
If I did not go to places where the Lord would have me go
If I do not love His truth, if I do not guard His trust
If I cherish more than Jesus my greatest hidden lust 
To be all He's commanded, to do all that He's said
To be His true disciple and place no confidence in the flesh
To glory in Christ Jesus - It's He who justifies
Oh to find your life you must lose it
To live you first must die -
Let every man examine his own life -
Could I be called a Christian? 
Could I be called a Christian and believe not His Holy Word
If I take Him as my saviour and then refuse Him as my Lord
If I do not love the outcast and am not burdened for the lost
If I fail to deny myself and each day take up my cross?  
To be all He's commanded, to do all that He's said
To be His true disciple and place no confidence in my flesh
To glory in Christ Jesus, for it's He who justifies
Oh to find your life you must lose it
To live you first must die -
Let every man examine his own life -
Could I be called a Christian?

I think it's a fair question.  Christianity that makes no difference in your life is not really worth living.  You cannot invite Jesus into your life as mere fire insurance.  Mark 8:36 puts it this way in the words of Jesus Himself - "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"  Verse 37 adds emphasis to that question with another like it: "For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"  There are serious consequences involved for your destiny, and this passage says so in very clear terms for the believer:  "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."  Clearly, our words and deeds matter, especially when we claim to be followers of Christ.

The apostle Peter put it this way in his first letter to the churches:  "For it is time for judgement to begin with the House of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"

When I first became a Christian in 1985, I started going to a particular place of worship, and I was taught that Christians are blessed of God.  That part was true, and I thank God for it.  Then I was also taught that trouble couldn't touch a child of God.  That we would always have good health, that we would always have enough money, that we would be blessed in everything we put our hand to, so to speak, and if your situation was different, there was something wrong with your faith.  I can now tell you after 27 years that this is unequivocally untrue.  There used to be a commercial for Coca Cola that said "things go better with Coke."  Well, it got turned into a theology - "things go better with Jesus."  I'm not sure I can agree with that statement.  It took 27 years of trial and hardship to get my attention on this fact - real life is all about how you DEAL with trials and hardships, not about their presence or absence in your life.  There was nothing wrong with my faith because God allowed me to experience financial collapse - God was teaching me to do without.  There was nothing wrong with my faith when I was diagnosed with diabetes - it was God teaching me that I have limits and that I truly need Him.  "Unless the Lord builds the house, we labour in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

This teaching did have a really negative result - when the trials came thick and fast, it sidelined me from living victoriously for YEARS.  Then a very good friend of mine pointed out that God was teaching me how to rejoice in Him in any circumstance, and the trials and hard life I had lived to this point were all about getting fruit from my life - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Read Gal. 5:22-23)

Let me return to my original question:  If being a Christian was against the law (and it may be someday), would you be convicted?  I can't speak for everyone, but I know a few Christians, and I know I'm speaking for them as well as myself here - inviting Jesus into our lives has made an amazing difference IN our lives.  I have a friend that was delivered from great rage (we weren't friends in high school when we encountered each other, but we are now), I was personally delivered from great bitterness and a lot of other things, I have friends that were delivered from addiction to narcotics, to sex and pornography, to bodybuilding (yes, it can be an addiction), and a lot of others.  My point is that there is EVIDENCE that God worked in our lives.  Subjective evidence perhaps, but it is still there, and no one can deny it!  I'm not who I used to be.  Several of the people that knew me in high school decades ago can attest to that fact.  I am more patient, more laid back (a manifestation of patience and peace), less uptight, more kind - the list goes on.  I'm not saying hey look at the good person I am, either - I owe all of this character improvement to Jesus Christ, my Lord.

So how about you?  First, are you a Christian?  If not, that is your choice, based on what you know and have learned to this point.  I challenge you to open your heart and mind to the possibility that there is truth to be found in the claims of Jesus Christ. I used to be a hedonist (pursues his or her own pleasure).  I was not inclined to change that pursuit easily.  Yet the Lord found me and saved me out of the downside of hedonism: depression and darkness when you can't fulfill your desires. My particular case is different than some.  I have a close friend that was an atheist (believes there is no God).  God sought out and found him.  He and I investigated the claims of Jesus together - and found that there is more historical evidence to support the historical accuracy of the New Testament and claims of Jesus than there is to support any 10 works of English Literature (including the works of Homer and Thucidides translated, and the complete works of William Shakespeare).  But I digress.  Consider His claims and his invitation to you:  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into them and dine with them, and they with me."  (Rev. 3:20)  He can make a real difference in YOUR life.

Second, if you CLAIM to be a Christian, what difference does that make in YOUR OWN life?  Is it like Robert Frost's "Road not Taken" that has made all the difference?  Or did very little change for you?  Are you still caught in the snares of this present age?  I was for a few years also.  I was an alcoholic - as a Christian!  It was my way of trying to self-medicate a guilty conscience for the way I was living my life.  I knew it was wrong.  I did it anyway.  I didn't know HOW to change!  But in my depression and angst, God found me again, this time in the form of a guy in my first-year philosophy class who invited me to a film called "The Cross and the Switchblade," a true story based on the life of Pastor David Dickenson.  It was a Friday night, and I was trying to avoid the regular party atmosphere on my floor in university residence.  That night changed my life forever.  I saw in that film that Pastor used by God to change the lives of street gang thugs into saints of God.  I realized that the way I had been living was wrong.  I asked God to forgive me.  I stopped doing the things that I had been doing (with a lot of grace from God no doubt).  Once again, Jesus was standing at the door of my heart and knocking. He showed me that it didn't matter how far of a hole I had dug myself into, He was there to get me out of it.  I didn't have to go on some great quest, do some great deed of action, be some holyman on some spiritual journey, or whatever for Him to find me and save me from the trap I had put myself in.  Like before, I opened the door, and He delivered me, and he even brought the food - the means of strengthening myself to get out of the depression I was in.  In other words, He made a difference - again.  It can be like that for you too.

But what if you are sitting there thinking that God has blessed you with material wealth, and happiness and joy?  Personally, I say praise the Lord!  Now - follow Him.  He is standing at the door of your heart and knocking too, to take you out of your lukewarm comfort zone and make you His true disciple if you will open the door to Him.

For those that will open the door, may you be able to say with the apostle Paul:  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes..." (Rom. 1:16)  I pray you would take up your cross daily and follow Him, so that if Christianity ever becomes a crime, we will all be convicted and sentenced to LIFE!

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Our conduct as servants of God

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NASB)
This strikes a real nerve with me, because it is against the natural way that I am.  I don’t think I’m so different than a lot of other people here, either, though what I have found is that everyone has their reasons for being this way.  I could tell you how intelligent I am, listing my genius-level IQ, citing my degrees or equivalents, tell you my work history and all the various responsible positions I have held (Hey, even Paul did that, to show a point to the contrary!), but all it would really be is noise and self-justification for remaining the way that I am.
How is that you say?  Well, the opposite of what Paul is describing here.  When he says that the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome, I sink a little in my chair.  I must admit to you all that I love a good debate, and I often win them because I know my material.  What I lose is the person I am debating, and if our object is to win souls to Christ, that cannot happen - ever.  So what should I be instead of argumentative?
Well, Paul makes the opposite here one who is “kind to all.”  The Greek word is epios, meaning affable, mild-mannered, or kind - that is, gentle.  Okay, that isn’t me, I get downright confrontational - but the Lord would have me learn a new way.  The Lord Jesus said in His sermon on the mount of olives, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5)  The Greek word for gentle here is praos, the same word translated as humble or meek.  The work meek today has come to mean compliant or cowardly submission, but the way Jesus used it is quite different.  He embodied the very character of meekness.  He was God become a lowly man, having all the power he needed at the ready.  All he had to do was ask God the Father for it.  So when his enemies came to get him in the Garden of Gethsemane, he remarked to one of His disciples that if He asked, God would give Him 12 legions of angels to rescue Him.  (In the Old Testament, 2 Kings 19:35, one angel struck down 185,000 enemy soldiers by himself.)  He chose not to call those angels, and modified His response to a humble and gentle (I might add merciful) one.
That’s a tall enough order by itself, but then Paul adds to it!  He tells us that the servant of the Lord must also be able to teach!  Okay, I can do that, you may think.  Think again, and think very hard and very carefully.  The subject matter we are to teach is nothing less than the Word of God!  And that, my friends, is a very serious responsibility!  I won’t get into it in detail here, but the book of Revelation (22:18-19) gives some very serious warnings about doing that in a lacadaisical manner!  The responsibility that goes with this is one we simply cannot shoulder without God’s help - thank God that He wants to help us to do it!
Then Paul says that the Lord’s servant must be patient when wronged!  The Greek wordanexikakos literally means “enduring under ill treatment.”  Okay, I’m an old warrior and martial artist.  When someone hurts me, I have a sincere and understandable desire to hurt back.  Wait a minute, see “meek.”  The ability to choose to modify your response to be one of peace is an integral part of patience.  No, it is not easy.  However, it is necessary.  Why?  Well, Paull tells us we are to gently correct those who are in opposition.  Oh brother, is that a can of worms.
Have you ever heard a hellfire and brimstone preacher really laying into his congregation about some obscure facet of orthodoxy as if it meant the end of the world if one did not obey that very instant?  I have, and it isn’t pleasant.  The assumption of the preacher in that case is that you are all in opposition to the will of God, and therefore he must bring a very strong message to instigate compliance.  The probelm is that it is not gentle and that it does very little if anything to correct.  I’ve heard thundering pronouncements by men who wanted to “put the fear of God” into me.  It did very little more than inspire a supreme distaste for such overt idiocy, and I told more than one of them so, quoting this very verse.  As servants of the Most High God, we not only need to have a care what we say, but how we say it.  Why?  Paul tells us - because there is a possibility that God may grant them repentance - that is, a change of mind so that they may see the truth of God and come to their senses and be delivered from the lies of the enemy of their souls.  One of my uncles used to put it this way - you can get a lot more flies with honey than you ever could with vinegar.  As quaint as that is, there’s real insight in that statement.
What we have to understand is that we WILL face opposition.  We can go over the top about the latest political announcement or the left-or-right-wing agenda of fill-in-the-blank group and make thundering condemnations about their points of view, or we can take a position of peace.  ”I understand that you hold this view or that opinion.  I don’t mean to offend, but that isn’t what I’m convicted of.  God says that [insert scriptural truth here], and He really loves you, no matter what you think or say.  Have you considered this?”  You will get varied responses - most will not listen - but some will, and those will come to their senses when God reveals the truth to them, and they will escape the traps the devil has set for them.  Please don’t make it easy to condemn God’s point of view by issuing idiocy and calling it the truth, like “God hates pinko commies!”  God loves every single one of us.  If we focused on that message instead of reacting in the press the way I’ve seen some of these so-called pastors and teachers, things might be a LOT different.
As the Apostle Paul said to the Colossians, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6 NASB)
(All verses quoted from the New American Standard, 1995 unless otherwise stated.)

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Let us be content with what we have...

1 Timothy 6:3-5 NASB  If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,  (4)  he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,  (5)  and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.

Sadly, I can think of people that fit into this description.  The Christian recording artist Steve Camp wrote a song, "The Agony of Deceit" from his album "Consider the Cost" that reflects this whole type of servant.

They are Wolves in sheep's clothing, they are trying to seduce your souls.Teaching doctrines of demons, lies are all they know. They are prophets of destruction, these are New Age Heretics Say they'll show the way to salvation but their cross is a bloodless stick 
This is the Agony of Deceit, missing truth from the lies they teach. Oh, They come in Jesus name, but they're sons of Hades, this is the agony of deceit.  
They are clouds without water, they have hearts trained in greed.They are like wild animals and you are the food they eat. Depraved in their minds, Deprived of the truth, they promise prosperity. But the cash they steal from you, though the coffin they still have defeat.  
This is the Agony of Deceit, missing truth from the lies they teach. Oh, They come in Jesus name, but they're sons of Hades, this is the agony of deceit. 
Beloved rest in the truth of the Lord, hold fast to the faith Word Guard the treasure by the Spirit of God, a foundation which stands sure. 
They have eyes full of adultery, they never cease from sin, They're exalted in heresy deception is their friend, Speaking out prideful words of vanity, they enticed by fleshly desire, Like a dog returns to its vomit you see, like a sow wallows in the mire. 
This is the Agony of Deceit, A missing truth from the lies they teach. Oh, They come in Jesus name, but they're sons of Hades, this is the agony, oh yeah, the agony of deceit. For all the missing truths for the lies they teach, oh they come in Jesus name, but their sons of Hades, this is the agony of deceit... oh the agony... 
trying to seduce you, lies are all they know, wolves up in sheeps clothing, the agony... trying to seduce you, lies are all they know, wolves up in sheeps clothing, the agony... the agony....

What is very disturbing to me is that these men are usually teachers with a following.  Paul had warned Timothy a couple of chapters earlier about them - "holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."  I have had the unfortunate experience of being involved with more than one ministry like this as a much younger Christian.  I was in one for nearly 20 years before God showed me the truth about the man in leadership and the immorality he had given himself to for the previous several years.  Many left disillusioned when the truth came to light.

I thought before I read this today that this experience had perhaps made me hypersensitive to these kinds of groups, so I did something I should not have - I ignored my better impulses in a more recent situation.  However, God is faithful to teach us when our hearts are following him, and I was shown the truth.  I chose to exit that ministry gracefully at the very beginning of trouble.  In the following few days, many of the friends I had made there made similar decisions.  It is difficult to sit here now and read this passage and read it in context of a brother I hold dear, but I pray for him that God would also teach him in His mercy that true Godliness IS a means of great gain.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 NASB  But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.  (7)  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  (8)  If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  (9)  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  (10)  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

God is saying to me here to be content with what I have.  I have to be honest with you and with myself here - I am an aspiring financial planner, with some skill at helping people make money.  I know by first name some very rich men in my industry.  However, at the beginning of my career in the now, I have nothing.  I have a house, and I have food for my family most of the time.  I have to put in 14-20 hour days to do that sometimes.  God is telling me personally that my answers are to be found in Him, not in money, not in financial services, not in the riches of this world.  Many of you who know me have seen parts of my struggle, and know that it has been a hard thing just to keep my head above water - but I can tell you now that it is WORTH ALL OF IT!!!  God shows us what we need when we are ready to see it, thank you Lord!  More, He gives those who would follow him direction:

1 Timothy 6:11-12 NASB  But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  (12)  Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

The love of money and dollars gained is not the answer.  Instead, God Himself tells us what to pursue - Righteousness, that conduct which is right and good; Godliness, that character which is like God Himself, filled with mercy and grace; Faith, the conviction of things not seen; Love, as Christ loved, self-sacrificially; Perseverance, the quality of sticking with a situation no matter what with the knowledge that God is GOOD, and that He will provide; and lastly, Gentleness, or Meekness, the quality of knowing you HAVE the power, but choosing to govern your response to be peaceful and kind.  This is how we must fight the good fight of faith and take hold of that age-to-age life that Paul speaks of.  In doing so, we become a powerful testimony to the living God!

Friends, let us be those that seek to be content with what we have.  Let us flee the so-called riches of this world and instead pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (1 Tim 2:22).  Let us be that powerful testimony with our lives lived in sacrifice of what we want in exchange for what He wants for us, knowing that He only gives the best to those who love Him this way - and the best is His Son Jesus, and being transformed into His glorious image!  May the Lord of all richly bless you!

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Discipline Yourself for Godliness...

As a preamble to today's meditation, let me say that we call ourselves "Disciples," or followers of Christ.  I choose the word Disciple, because we in some sense get our word for discipline from it.  We are to be disciplining ourselves in spiritual activity, much as a bodybuilder does in physical activity.  There are some reasons why we need to be self-disciplined in the four core Christian activities, and they are discussed briefly and generally below.

1Timothy 4:1  But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

This is one of the most troubling verses of the New Testament to me.  The word in Greek for "fall away" is aphistemi, that is to desert, desist, depart, revolt.  These are all acts of the will, though it may be because of deliberate deception.

1Timothy 4:2  by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 

The word for "hypocrisy" in Greek is hupokrisis, meaning "acting under a feigned part."  This speaks of deliberate deceit on the part of these false teachers.  These people have their conscience seared (to create a state of tissue death that deadens feeling or nerve input).

1Timothy 4:3  men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 

Their doctrines are very specific, too.  In the forbidding of marriage, either as an institution in general, or to forbid specific people to marry (sometimes imposing permission of the teacher or other more draconian conditions), and the teaching of a diet by forbidding specific foods or classes of foods, we see their great error.  Verse 1 names these two specific kinds of teachings as the "doctrines of demons."

In later verses, the Word clearly says that everything created by God is GOOD, and if received with gratitude, thankfulness - then nothing is off limits.

So how does one tell the difference?  Verse 7b says "Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness."  By exercising ourselves in the four core values of Christian practice found in Acts 2:42 (reading the Word, fellowshipping with God and with other believers, in breaking bread - a specific ordinance of worship, and in prayers) we condition ourselves for the spiritual journey we are on.

Let us be those, who as Paul says in Phillipians 3:14, that press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

(All verses are quoted from the New American Standard Bible, 1995)

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Oversight in the House of God

1 Timothy 3:1-7 NASB It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. (2) An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (3) not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. (4) He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (5) (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), (6) and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. (7) And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

This passage (1 Tim. 3) talks about two distinct and related positions in the church, that of Overseer, and that of Deacon. The words are not titles, as some have come to use in the realm of Christendom, but are in actuality job descriptions.

Overseer (NASB - KJV, "Bishop") comes from the Greek word "episkope," or litterally to superintend, or oversee in terms of caring for something. Perhaps you have lived in a place that had a superintendant in the building or for the property. I was actually employed as one where I live now several years ago, and it was my job to care for the property, make sure that repairs were made, that dirt was cleaned up, yards were kept, parking was valid, and the like. So how does that relate to oversight or superintendence in God's house?

Well, I expect that the job is much the same, without the religious trappings and connotations it has inherited over the last 2000 years or so. Remember, we are speaking here of God's house today - this is not a building made with hands, but instead is the souls God has gathered to serve Him, and by extension the world at large. We call this gathering the church, from the Greek word "ekklesia," meaning a calling out - out of the world, out of our situations, out of our own thing, our own selves, our own ways - to serve Him by serving others around us. So how does one oversee or superintend that?

I expect it is in much the same way as when I was employed as a superintendant. The overseer must care for the people that make the church! Dirt needs to be cleaned up (sin must be dealt with). Repairs must be made (healing of body, soul, and spirit must take place). Yards (individual households) must be kept, with the help of a caring superintendant, by any means at his or her disposal. The overseer must teach the Word and LIVE the Word as an example to those around him. Verses 2-7 list off the characteristics he or she must reflect. These are NOT the job description, these are the qualifications for the job! You can't be one without these things!

Moreover, Paul tells Timothy here that to desire this superintendency for the church, the people of God, is a good thing! It is something that we all need to aspire to, and something every true overseer MUST be. Let us aspire to be those who are becoming more like a true overseer of God's people.

 "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Monday, August 06, 2012

God Loves You!

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

The beginnings of a Video Ministry?

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Resignation from GSM - Choices we make in life...

This is a re-post of my resignation from Global Scope Ministries when several of the pages that I serve on were sold to, a multi-faith site.  I have nothing against people sharing their opinions, and in fact I encourage it, but to serve with an organization that espouses goals that are very different from my own is not really possible for me.  I had a choice to make.  I agonized over it for about a day, and then I sat down for over two and a half hours to write out the resignation below.  I have agreed to remain as the page leader of Men of Faith for the transition over to BeliefNet (about a month), and after that, I will step down.  As such, the link at the top of the page will disappear today.  So here is how and why I resigned from a ministry I really thought was going places...

I have done a lot of thinking about this over the last day or so, and I will share my conclusions and reasoning with you in the hopes that you will understand that I am a Christian, and that nothing I do because of my faith in Jesus Christ is random or by accident.  I may have a more “Global Scope” view of what BeliefNet is about than some, not that it is necessary, because I have actually researched many or most of the belief systems that are listed on their page.  I’ll start by looking at the mission statement found on their website.

Our mission is to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness.  
Whether you're exploring your own faith or other spiritual traditions, we provide you inspiring devotional tools, access to the best spiritual teachers and clergy in the world, thought-provoking commentary, and a supportive community.  
Beliefnet is the largest spiritual web site. We are not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement. Our only agenda is to help you meet your spiritual needs.
--BeliefNet Mission Statement

These words have a noble ring to them.  It is a selfless goal to want to help others feel good about themselves.  It is NOT how most people operate, and it is to be respected as a goal.  But is that goal really in line with the teachings of Jesus?  Maybe, maybe not.  Consider what it means to be a follower of Jesus:

Luke 9:20-27 “And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “ The Christ of God.”  But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “ The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.  And He [Jesus] was saying to them all, “ If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.  For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.  But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (NASB)
--Jesus Christ

There seems to me to be a contradiction between these two statements.  Our mission is not merely “to meet your spiritual needs” with whatever it is you choose to believe.  Interestingly, I tried out their “Belief-O-Matic” survey just to see what it was about.  Of course it told me I was a 100% match with what it called “traditional conservative protestant Christian.”  (Yay!  I knew the right answers!)  I didn’t need to be told that, by the way, and I thought it was amusing.  I actually know world religions well enough that I could make the thing say I was a Muslim or a Buddhist or whatever.  I have read the Bible, the Apocrypha, the wisdom of Buddha, the sayings of Confucius, parts of the Koran, parts of the Barvhad Gita, the I-Ching, the Kaballah, and researched at least a dozen other religions just to see what they believed. 

While I can say I found some wisdom in most, I only ever found truth in the Bible, the Word of God.  All the religions of the world contain shards of the truth, but only Jesus embodies that truth.  And if you really desire it and seek it, He says that “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  (John 8:32)

So what is that truth as it is in Jesus?  It comes from understanding our own primary mission goal, given by God.  The people asked Jesus, “Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29).  Interesting, isn’t it?  To do the work of God, we must believe in Jesus, the savior of the world.  We cannot rely on the wisdom of Buddha or the sayings of Confucius or mere human words and works, or simply shards of the truth.  Couple this with Jesus’s great commission to the church:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-20)  So we are to believe in Jesus, and them make disciples of the nations in His name, and not give into fear or compromise because Jesus Himself will be with us.

What that means is that we need to evangelize and disciple people, not “expose them to Christianity” as a mere option among options.  This is not a goal or agenda.  This is nothing other than our main reason for being.  Reading through the life of Jesus Christ, I do not get the impression that he came to give simply comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness.  He came to give Himself, the embodiment of God and all that is holy as a sacrifice for everyone that has ever and will ever live.  Does that give comfort?  Yes.  Hope?  Yes.  Clarity?  Yes.  Strength?  Absolutely.  Happiness?  You bet it does.  But that is the ONLY thing that does.  It isn’t a mere option, it is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.  When Jesus said those words in John 14:6a, he followed it up with “no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6b).  That contradicts the “many ways to God” philosophy of the age and of BeliefNet.

In partnering with a site that does not share the vision of evangelization and discipleship of the Lord and His bride, the “ecclesia,” a situation is created that is described in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be MY people.  “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And 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.”  The context that Paul gives is any type of partnership with unbelievers.  That same concept is shared in Revelation 18:4-5 – “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.”  The context here is the harlot of Babylon, seen by many commentators and by myself as the great world religion that is even now forming in the world, getting ready to step in when called for by her master.  She will be repaid in full for her deeds, and God calls us out of that so we will not participate in her punishments.

I’ve gone on at length here, but it’s important you know how I arrived at my conclusions.  I cannot “stay the course” with the pages at this point.  To do so would be to participate in something that is diametrically opposed to the goals of Jesus Christ as I understand them.  I have a real gift for finding middle ground, but there is none here to find.  I cannot “expose the people on BeliefNet to Christianity” in the hopes of “ministering” to their needs.  That word “minister” originates from the Latin word “ministrare” and means “to serve, attend, wait upon.”  A Christian should always seek to meet the needs of whoever they meet, whether they be physical, mental, or spiritual in nature.  The most often need I seem to encounter on the pages now always has spiritual roots.  How can I offer spiritual truth and healing in a place that has as its primary goal making people feel better?  Sometimes as we grow as people, we suffer.  That suffering is key in teaching us how to be better people (1 Peter).  As I looked through the pages at BeliefNet, I very much got the sense that they were about numbing pain, not using it for growth.  If find that an unfortunate contradiction and cart-before-horse thinking.  (Pain should cause growth, and THAT should make us feel better, not simple homilies meant to numb pain – this hinders growth and does not heal the problem.)

I feel I have no choice now but to resign from all my Global Scope Ministries positions and disassociate The Christian Disciple from the organization.  That will be effective immediately.  As you can see, I have not come to this decision lightly or without prayer and meditation on the subject.

I have made some very good friends here, and I want you all to know that I love you all, regardless of where you come down on this issue.  I have met a few of you in person, and I value that and your fellowship above all.  Mark and Christi Brown, I really do love you both.  Greg Hemsley, stay in touch please!  Karen, I hope to see you the next time I visit home!  Shawn Boreta and Donna Wright, you are both in my prayers, and please stay in touch.  Kimmie, Brad, Lawrence, Sue, and everyone else I have admined with, please stay in touch.  You still are on facebook, after all. J   God bless you all.
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Monday, July 09, 2012

False Emotion Acting Real

2 Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

Our tendency is generally not toward these things, but toward fear. Fear of authority, fear of abuse, fear of rejection, fear of the unknown. God has not given us that spirit.

For authority and its abusers, He has given us a spirit of POWER. For fear of rejection, He has given us the spirit of LOVE. For fear of the unknown, He has given us a SOUND MIND.

Did you know you can make FEAR an acronym? False Emotion Acting Real. Do with it exactly what it deserves. Follow the Lord and reject it utterly.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Rule-keeping or Love for God?

Galatians 2:15b "...a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus..." (NASB)

We like to have our rules, don't we? Rules are sometimes necessary - things like traffic laws, for example. Those are the rules we all must obey for smooth traffic flow on the drive home. But what about religious rules?

Those have some merit as well. "Thou shalt not murder," for example. Rules for basic living that we all must obey for the smooth flow of traffic on the drive home. (I know, ironic!)

When rules become something like they did under the Pharisees, things that we do that make us better than you, they become a problem. "Look how good we are, we're obeying all the rules. See? We obey the rules, and you don't! What's the matter with you? Can't you read the sign? She's wearing too much makeup, he snorts when he laughs, they wear purple shirts, he listens to any music but the two acceptable kinds, country AND western..." you get the idea.

Friends, it is not rules that save us. It is faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing more - and nothing less. If you think you are a "good person," be very careful. The scripture says that "all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment." (Isa 64:6b) There is nothing we can do, no place we can go, no deed we can accomplish that can make us right in God's eyes. If you think following the saviour means "keeping the rules" you are mistaken.

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus explains there are only two rules that matter: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. ’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘ You shall love your neighbour as yourself. ’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” But what does that mean? It means you live your life not to follow the rules and be better than others, but to please Him. In many ways, the effect is the same - but in motivation there is a world of difference.

So pay attention to what motivates you. Is it your pride in "keeping the rules," or is it your love for Jesus Christ? May it be the latter.

Heavenly Father, help us to love you and please you, laying aside our vain pride, that we may win others to your Son through our behaviour and conduct.


"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Someday, we will like Him!

1Th 4:13-18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (NASB)

Death is swallowed up in victory! Jesus rose from the dead to show God's final triumph over evil, and promises someday that all those who have followed Him will rise, even from the dead, to live with Him while the ages roll on. What a glorious thought. And while we are here in these earthen vessels, it really doesn't occur to us that we will someday be made like Him - but rest assured - that time is coming! Praise the Lord! Praise Him for His goodness and love toward us! Praise Him to the ages of the ages!

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On evil and goodness...

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NASB)

Society today has it backwards. They attack, tear down, and try to destroy what is evil, thinking that what remains is the good. However, something good must be deliberately built and nurtured or it simply does not exist. Don't focus on getting rid of the bad - instead, try building what is good.

Gerry @ Global Scope Ministries ~ The Christian Disciple
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Practical Worship in trying circumstances

Psalm 34:1-5 "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed." (NASB)

The context of this Psalm is very interesting. David had turned himself in to his mortal enemy King Abimilech, probably in shock at being betrayed by King Saul of Israel who had tried to murder him. At the last moment, David pretended to be insane and was released instead of executed. This Psalm is the praise that he gave God after that. The last verse (v. 5) says that "they looked to Him and were RADIANT!" Trust in the Lord sets one apart and people will notice it. 

It also says, "And their faces will never be ashamed." God will always come through in some way to help you bear the circumstance you are in, even if no "rescue" is forthcoming. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew this, and when they were confronted with worshiping Nebuchadnezzar or being thrown into the fiery furnace, they still would not bow the knee to those who would take the place of God Most High. They said it this way: Shadrach, Meshach and Abed- nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king." (Daniel 3:16,17) Then they said something fascinating to me: "But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan. 3:18)

Their actions, like all our actions, have real consequences. It is NOT always easy to stand for God. Sometimes it costs us dearly, just like it did to the people mentioned in Hebrews 11:36-38: "and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill- treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground." Those who would preach a prosperity gospel have trouble with this verse, as do those who tell us that things "go better with Jesus," like the old "things go better with Coke" commercial. Not everyone will have a struggle-free life just because they are a child of God. What it DOES say simply mind-boggling - it says that the world is not worthy of those people. (It makes me ask myself if the world is worthy of me. I hope not.)

The direct implication to the Psalm of David is that we need to know and trust our God the way David did, the way Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael (their Hebrew names) did, the way the unnamed believers in Hebrews did. When we see how much God loves us and how much he has done by restoring our souls and our sanity to us by the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, it can only inspire the worship and praise that David expressed in Psalm 34.

Let us be those that are getting to know our God as we continue steadfastly in the apostles' teaching, in fellowshipping with one another, in breaking bread (worshipping) together, and in prayer for a dying world. As we do this, we do the work of God's kingdom. (Interestingly, a direct translation of the Aramaic of that equates to "repairing the world." We repair the world from its current insanity when we follow Christ. Interesting, but another topic.)

May God richly bless you as you follow Him.

Gerry @ GSM ~ TCD

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)