Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Notice what Paul says here. He was a prisoner for the sake of others. God's grace was given to him for others. The next verse makes clear that Paul had received revelations from God, not for his own personal "edification", but for the sake of other people.
Colossians 1:28-29 "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."
Do you want "his energy" to "powerfully work" in you? WHY do you want this? Is it for yourself or for others? Is it so that you can labor and struggle to present others perfect in Christ or so that you yourself can be perfect in Christ?
Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ: he made himself of no reputation, he emptied himself, and obeyed God fully and completely, not thinking of himself, "not my will". As we live a life this way, we will find ourselves struggling and laboring for the spiritual well-being of others.
So, if you think you are abounding in the "grace" of God perhaps I could ask you a question. Just like Paul, can you look at your life and say, "God's grace is given to me for the benefit of these people, ______." If not, you are severely limiting what God wants to do in you.
This is not merely "theoretical". Paul had specific, concrete, tangible things that he did and said. Any onlooker would verify that Paul used his "gifts" for others. It was not just a theoretical statement that was "technically" true. He literally labored and struggled in very practical ways. So, please, don't just nod your head and agree that the gifts of God that you have are for others. Look for the practical lifestyle that Paul surely had. Look at the practical ways that Jesus laid down his life every day for his disciples. Is your life FULL of such practical examples?
If not, consider this writing as something to "provoke you to love and good works" (Heb. 10:24). Don't receive his grace in vain. Rather, join with him in accomplishing his purposes for your life. :-)
Thursday, November 09, 2006
"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" (Prov 20:66).
It is true that many claim to be "loving". Many may love with "words". But the apostle tells us NOT to love merely with the right sounding words. "With actions and in truth" is how we are to love.
True love is visible. In fact Jesus said that the love that we have for one another will be expressed outwardly as highly visible declarations. All men will know that we are his disciples when they SEE our love for one another. (See John 13:35)
"Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it" (2 Cor. 8:24).
When God calls us to be "joined and knit together" (Eph. 4) and "members of one another" (Rom. 12:5), and when he calls us to consider others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2), these callings will find themselves expressed visibly among the people of God. The people of God will be a "light" and a "city" set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14)!
Why is this important???? Because it is SO easy to "agree" with something in our heads, but still not experience it. We may think that we love in actions and in truth, but in reality we are loving only with words. We are loving only with our "doctrinal statement" or "beliefs" or "philosophy".
Let me give you an example. There's a movie that was made about a teacher of very poor, inner-city high school students. The students didn't care about anything. But the teacher cared a lot. The teacher visited the students at home and even dragged them to class if he had to. He got involved in their real lives and showed real care outside the classroom. Well, the teacher was a big success and all the students turned around and became good students and got good grades and all of that. The point is this and it's important: When people watch this movie, they often cry; they admire the teacher in the movie; they think he is a great guy; they really find themselves "caring" about the students in the film. People who watch the film find themselves believing that it is a "good cause" to help students like the teacher did. Again, the people watching even cry. BUT.... they never have in the past nor will they in the future raise a single finger to ever DO SOMETHING about helping poor, inner-city students themselves. They find themselves agreeing emotionally with the "cause", but they do not love in "actions and in truth". Understand?
Now, I'm not trying to get you to get involved with inner-city students unless God specifically wants you to do that. But I am trying to get you to not merely "agree" with "loving one another" and "laying down our lives for one another" but never actually DOING IT. Love NOT in words or in tongue, but in action and in truth! :-)
Don't merely LISTEN to the word--you'll deceive yourself. Rather, DO WHAT IT SAYS!
The love we have is a love that is to be SHOWN. It must be visible: "No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is WELL KNOWN for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds" (1 Tim 5:9-10).
"In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden" (1 Tim 5:25).
Friday, September 22, 2006
The Call to Be the Body of Christ,
Rather Than To “Attend” Something
It has become more and more obvious to God’s Chosen, worldwide, that the typical expression of what is known as “church” has been influenced by the enemy, and through worldly culture. Our understanding and expression of “church,” in generation after generation, around the world has been led down a Machiavellian path of shallowness, pride, greed, lukewarmness, worldliness, and Ishmaelic infrastructure. In the institutions of today, the quality of the sermons and teaching is sometimes good. I hesitate, after visiting many hundreds of “services” of every conceivable denomination and “non-denomination,” to say that “most” teaching in these assemblies is Truth-filled. But, certainly some of it is quite good. Sometimes the “worship time” is “encouraging” or “inspiring.” We need to add, though, that accomplishing this has often required Spiritual prostitution to acquire “talented” musicians to “lead”—in spite of the fact that they may have little or no real relationship with Jesus. Their unregeneracy, or worldly life is often overlooked in order to accomplish our desired end of a wonderful worship experience to attract larger numbers. Frequently the “programs” of modern religious assemblies have targeted “worthy” objectives, such as feeding hungry unbelievers, building homes in Nicaragua, or distributing tracts to passers-by in an urban area. Many groups have a formidable number of creative efforts ongoing, many or most of which may be good things to be involved in. And yet...
And yet the quality of DAILY LIFE of people in these organizations is what it’s all about. THIS is the TRUE measurement of how much of what is going on is really of Jesus. The lack of the daily application of the Word of God, by the Priesthood of Believers with one another, is cataclysmic. In most religious assemblies, only the 5-10% “committed nucleus” (a number offered by many “pastors” as the norm) even TRIES to be involved in each other’s lives on a visible daily basis as Jesus commands, and demonstrated. And this number is still fairly accurate, even with the “cell group” programs that have sprung up everywhere as an acknowledgment of this crisis. Even within these cell groups, the stories of surprise suicides, rampant concealed pornography, love of the world, gossip, unforgiveness, pride, ambition, and general shallowness are legion. Simply changing the size of the group, “assigning” a less experienced leader, and trading the religious facility and seating for a home and a sofa...doesn’t change its DNA.
By the way, running away from “institutional religion” so that “you don’t have to answer to anyone but GOD!” is usually a deception as well. Caution and wisdom, and learning God’s Ways are in order here. You cannot just run out and “start a group” (the way men typically do such things) and expect to find much more than heartache, confusion, division, and a colossal waste of time and emotion. Ask most of those that have tried it! Let’s proceed carefully with such delicate and Holy matters as Jesus’ Church!
Laying down their lives for one another, being involved in the homes and work places, sharing in the children’s lives together, living in vulnerability, “confessing sins one to another,” “bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the Law of Christ,” the mutual Life and dependency and Priesthood of 1 Corinthians 12-13...these are almost unheard of as a description of an ENTIRE congregation of Believers. And such a congregation, Biblical and mandatory as it might be to live this way, would be viewed with suspicion and called names. Yet, the rampant lukewarmness and leaven amongst the general population of most congregations is forbidden by God. It is only “preached to”—rather than resolved. The insanity of deception and worldliness amongst the teenagers of these organizations is beyond words. I could refer you to folks from any number of the most highly-respected congregations anywhere that have been totally devastated by what has happened “backstage” at their congregations. All of these tragedies and fatalities, and more, simply say what Jesus said: “You know a tree by its fruit” and “Wisdom is proved Right by her children.”
There is (as hundreds of thousands are now shouting from the mountaintops in every language) something fundamentally wrong with the understanding and expression of “church” as has been so frequently practiced for the last bunch of years!
HOWEVER! This is still worth saying: Though most churches bear precious little resemblance to the Life-filled Church we read of in the Bible (in spite of their good teaching, good worship, and good programs), most who energetically participate in the organizations of today have had only the highest motives all along.
So, why the “wake-up call” now? Why haven’t we seen all of this before? Some in previous generations have, of course. But most of them were martyred, as Jesus predicted. Some were martyred physically, some by slander and libel and politics. Those with something to lose have suppressed God’s prophets in every generation. Why are multitudes in ever-increasing numbers and courage raising their voices as One today? Perhaps, the “Two Witnesses” are ready to stand, and the Bride is sensing that the time of preparation for the Groom is growing short. Perhaps “the Spirit and the Bride,” discerning the Hour to say to Him, “COME!” is drawing near. And still there’s so much lacking in this Preparation!
Too often, we have been hypnotized by the immensity and traditions of the religious world as we’ve known it (“It’s everywhere, and all we’ve ever known!” “Mom and Dad were good folks. They ‘loved the Lord,’ so what’s the problem?”). We’ve been decoyed by men’s religious sentimentalities and emotional devices (“It’s all so nice, so sweet, so moving, so soothing, so fulfilling....”). We’ve allowed ourselves to be threatened and blackmailed into subservience to it. (“You don’t want to oppose GOD, do you? Touch not God’s anointed!”) Sometimes we’ve even been seduced by promises of advancement within it. (“You could be a leader one day! You have a true calling and gift from God! You could have your own ministry one day! Just ‘work from within’ and you can really help us.”) “Pinnacle of the Temple” stuff, for sure.
Yet most of us who have offered our involvement into typical church situations around the world, “staff ” or not, have had only the best of interests in serving our resurrected Messiah, Jesus. We have rightfully chosen and attempted to serve Him within a relevant and Biblical expression of His Body, the local visible Church.
The good news: On a level of global magnitude—stuff ’s getting better every day. Many everywhere have been awakened by the Holy Spirit to His Call for the Life of Jesus to be lived out DAILY in the local Church, reflecting His Glory and Wisdom and Holiness. Though we get letters literally every day in this season of Awakening, there is undoubtedly far, far more than we could ever be aware of. Even the letters we receive come from a cross section of many countries and languages and cultures, crying out to know about Jesus and the daily Life of His
Body in the local Church. I mention this to you for a reason. Many times the letters or telephone calls we receive are moistened with tears. “I’m so happy! I’ve been told my whole life that I’m crazy. I’ve been told that I’m a troublemaker and just looking for perfection that I’ll never find. I should just be content with things as they are, and try to make them better. But I’m not crazy, and God does want to build a VISIBLE Church that lives every day as His Son lived every day!”
He does want a Church that, while not “perfect” of course...still “everyone, from the least to the greatest” loves Him and knows Him and “loves the light!” We mention these other folks out there, because we want you to know that you are not alone, and you are NOT crazy. Or maybe you are crazy like Enoch, like Abraham, like Moses, like Elijah and Jeremiah, like Paul...and like Jesus. So maybe you’re crazy, but you’re not alone.
In Malawi, Africa, a very dear friend and brother (native to Malawi) has likened the Call of the Holy Spirit regarding the functioning of Jesus’ Church to this: “David Livingstone brought to Malawi the Good News of Jesus (in 1859). David Livingstone’s Gift to us is like Lifegiving Bread in a basket. And now, the Good News of the KINGDOM, and the LIFE of the Body of Christ as a daily Priesthood is giving us another companion Gift. This Gift has given us the ability to truly take the lid off of the basket, take the Bread out of the basket, eat it and be nourished to the full!” Precious insight.
In spite of what we have all been conditioned to accept as “church” for so many, many years, many people now know that the Bride of Jesus must be “making herself ready.” And this real Church is unrelated to sitting in a pew, on a bench, or folding chair, or even in a home or living room. Involvement in a setting constructed and controlled by mere men is still not what God intends. Even if some “amateur talent ‘specials’” are permitted, or some filtered teaching or utterances are allowed in some controlled settings (so that all the “laymen” feel involved), this is not the Real thing—born of, sustained by, and defined by Relationship with Jesus and His Body. A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS, daily LIFE involvement by 100% of the “members” of Jesus’ Body, with one another, breaking down hell’s gates—this is all that will ever satisfy His Heart and fulfill His Prophetic Teachings. And the Valley of Dry Bones, touched by the Wind of the Spirit that brought Jesus Christ back from the dead, shall arise by His Grace and Mercy! I love it. Stuff ’s getting better every day. :-)
Working Out His Dream!!
And so. An inner call of God’s Spirit is precipitating a coming “outside of the camp” to fellowship in His Sufferings and BE His Body—instead of just “studying” about it, or singing about it. DAILY. The Church really becoming the CHURCH! As so many are in a Holy pursuit of His Holy City descending from Above, it is increasingly more important to speak, as Paul did, of “the administration” or the “practical working out” of the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8-10). In other words, there are some really practical issues that come up as we move towards being the Church on a daily, interactive, “joined and knit” basis.
They are, of course, mostly irrelevant to those who try to center Christianity around meetings, buildings, hired clergy, and programs. To those religious organizations that have little difficulty or discomfort with known or unknown “leaven in the batch,” there is not much to think about. If someone wishes to move in and “place membership” at such a place, they are always most welcome. At an institutional assembly, the questions are fairly simple. If they’ll “tithe,” have some talents they can offer, and have a commitment to attend regularly, that would nearly universally be sufficient. They would be more than welcome to move and “become a member.” While there are surely many true Christians who are part of these groups, that is not to say that Jesus is happy with those organizations, or that much of anyone will reach their full potential in a place where “a little leaven leavens the WHOLE batch.” Just as Uzzah discovered, when we use the Philistine’s ways to accomplish God’s Purposes, people get hurt and people die. In a Church that is not building God’s Way, even the true Christians will suffer loss. Don’t mistake anything here for saying, “So-and-so can’t be Christians.” We’re not discussing that. This is about how we build. It is shameful that many will never reach their potentials for Jesus because we’ve “tried to grow an orange tree at the North Pole.” It really does matter how we build.
“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If what he has built is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
Now, for those that want to build out of Relationship—rather than org chart hierarchy, programs, forms, traditions, and calendar-ized times, places, and events...there is much to talk about.
(this article was taken from a book; the whole book can be read here: http://www.allathisfeet.com/foundations/hammer.html)
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Although it was technically much easier than the math I took in college, I could not help him in the least bit. I hadn't USED that algebra stuff in a long time and so I LOST the ability to use it.
I recall when I first became a chemistry teacher. I didn't know chemistry very well at all, even though I had a degree in it! I first learned chemistry well when I had to teach it; I learned it just a little faster than I had to teach it. (By the way, I ONLY know the aspects of chemistry that I teach. Many people think that since I'm a chemistry teacher that I know all about chemistry, but I only know the stuff that I use.)
Ask yourself: how would you do on an algebra test if you took it right now? Unless you've used algebra recently, you probably wouldn't do that well. OK, so how does this apply to you and me?
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Last night several of us were having a conversation and a brother read the above Scripture. It hit me that we are supposed to DO SOMETHING with the "Word of Christ". We are not told to just let it "dwell" in us, just let it accumulate in our minds, just memorize more Scripture, just keep on learning, etc. We are told to let the Word of Christ dwell in us as we teach and admonish one another. We are supposed to USE the Word in one another's lives. We are supposed to speak the truth in love to one another (Eph. 4). We are supposed to build one another up in our faith! As we USE the Word for the purpose of building up others we will see that we are actually learning and growing more ourselves. And if we don't use it, we will lose it. We will be like someone who has a degree in chemistry but couldn't begin to teach someone else!
And, by the way, "teaching and admonishing one another" doesn't mean that we need a Bible degree and need to become a "pastor" or something. "One another" means that everyone can and should do it for everyone else at grass-roots, daily levels (Heb. 3:13). As I mentioned in yesterday's post, sometimes it means just being there and being available in the "little" things of life. Don't be tempted to look for great ways to "teach" one another.... don't start making your teaching outlines..... but DO start caring more and loving more and desiring to build up the faith and love of those around you. :-)
Heb 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Monday, June 19, 2006
The man wanted to do a "good thing" so that he could have eternal life. He was looking for something "good" to do. Isn't this human nature?
It reminds me of Naaman, the Syrian official who had leprosy. He was an important man and 2 Kings 5 tells us that he went to the prophet Elijah to be cured of his leprosy. He arrived at Elijah's doorstep with his horses and chariots, probably looking quite distinguished. Naaman was enraged when Elijah himself didn't even come out to meet him. Naaman had pictured that the man of God would come and wave his hand over the leprosy, doing some showy important-looking ceremony, maybe chanting something mystical.... but nothing like that happened. Elijah didn't make a grand appearance. In fact, he didn't even make an appearance at all! He simply sent a messenger and told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River. By the way, the Jordan was much dirtier than many other rivers in Naaman's homeland.
Naaman was not happy. He wanted something big to happen. He didn't want something as lowly as a bath in a dirty river. Fortunately for Naaman, one of his officers said, "if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, 'Wash and be cleansed'!"
Naaman was looking for a "great thing" to do, but he really needed to humble himself and follow what GOD wanted him to do. Similarly, the rich man from Matthew 19 wanted a "good thing" to do, but Jesus just wanted him to become humble (get rid of all of his earthly richness and important status, selling all he had) and come follow the homeless Son of God.
Many times what God wants US--you and me--to do is something very basic, very unimportant.... at least to our eyes. Sometimes we find ourselves asking, "what does God want me to do today?" The answer is often so simple that it escapes our attention. What God wants from us is often something that seems insignificant or unimportant. While we are looking for a "good thing" or a "great thing" to do, we miss the truly important things.
The disciples did this too. They rebuked those who were bringing little children to Jesus (Matt. 19:13). They probably figured that Jesus had more important things to do. But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me; the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them." Remember, "Whatever you do to the LEAST of these you do it for me!!!!" Many times it is the "little" things we do for the "least" that matter the MOST to God.
OK, so how can we apply this to US? Well, I think if we don't understand these things then we will be prone to sitting around and not doing anything for God because there is nothing "great" enough to do. Sometimes people get paralyzed because they are thinking of a "ministry" that they can do for God. Their ideas may include helping out at a nursing home, feeding people at a soup kitchen, writing checks for charity, going on a "mission trip", sharing a Bible verse with someone, "witnessing", etc, etc. These are some "great things" to do and people don't end up doing them very often.
God SIMPLY wants us to CARE about the things he cares about. He wants us to LOVE as he loves. There is great simplicity in Christ. He simply wants us to lower ourselves and become the servant of all. If we want to be great in God's eyes (and we should want to have his approval!), then we need to become the servant of all--that's what Jesus taught.
Can we stop looking for the big important things to do? That limits our vision incredibly. Can we simply be real people who want to help in real ways? The believers in Acts devoted themselves to fellowship. Fellowship, by the way, means "the sharing of life". It doesn't always mean "the sharing of Bible studies" or "the sharing of church services". Maybe we can endeavor to "share real life" more? Not big, important "meetings" or monumental tasks to undertake. But maybe we (Believers) can buy groceries together, work in our gardens together, shovel snow together, wash cars together, change oil together, go to the hardware store together, play with our children TOGETHER, eat dinner together, etc, etc.... If we are together more (i.e. if we are devoted to fellowship--sharing life) then we will be around when we are needed at some grass roots level. We'll be around to help out when someone else's child falls and gets a skinned knee. And there'll be many other things too.
But don't be tempted to say, "nothing really important happened today; all we did is go grocery shopping together."
More probably happened than you realized.... you just need to stop looking for a "great river" to wash in and look at all the miracles that happen in the dirty Jordan River. :-)
Saturday, May 06, 2006
You can listen by clicking here: http://www2.gvsu.edu/~emerysco/In%20the%20Beginning%20Podcast%20-%20128.mp3
The text follows:
In the beginning, A-ga-pe, the Most High, sent forth his Son, Ha-yah, to design a realm where His justice and honor would be upheld. With the unlimited wealth of His Father’s goodness, virtue and wisdom, Ha-yah created the universe to house a sacred experiment, and within the vast expanse of the cosmos, Ha-yah made a planet called Earth where rational creatures known as humans would participate in a divine test that would probe every human heart. Would people pursue truth, humility and righteousness despite the deception, pride and wickedness surrounding them?
It was A-ga-pe’s desire for humans to side with his justice, benevolence and integrity. You see, before the beginning of this sacred experiment, there had been a hideous insurrection against A-ga-pe’s sovereignty and primacy in the Eternal Realm of Light. A horde of immortals had rallied to the cause of Kakia, the wisest and most beautiful divine creature. Though created good, beautiful and noble, Kakia had been corrupted by both his resplendent stature and his distinguished position in the realm;
Pride had twisted Kakia’s heart when he forgot that the cause of his being and magnificence was in A-ga-pe, the Source of Beauty, Goodness and Life. Ha-yah, the appointed Lord of this Eternal Realm, at once confronted Kakia over his arrogance. "Why have you disregarded your Creator and Lord? You have been given the highest honor of leading the immortal host to worship the Most High, but there is nothing innately exceptional about your position and grandeur. Life flows from A-ga-pe and worship returns to Him. You understand your defiance must be dealt with most severely, lest others shame the name of their Maker." Kakia did feel ashamed and hung his head in grief; he realized Ha-yah was right and that he had begun to ponder his own greatness and majesty. But something was rising from his soul’s depths, a dark thought, a corrupting influence. He was truly beginning to believe that despite the wisdom A-ga-pe had granted him, he had been the one developing it and using it; and he believed he could direct things better; he was the director after all.
Ha-yah feared what was to follow but remembered that before He and His Father had designed the realm, the volition they imparted to the created host to practice love, goodness and worship had the capacity for destructive forces like selfishness, hatred and rebellion. Although Kakia had only showed signs of the first, a gathering of everyone in the realm was necessary to reprove this first sign of evil. So, Ha-yah commissioned A-ga-pe’s chief-aid Mikai-ale to seize Kakia and bring him before the immortal host for public sentencing. (3:37)
When many saw Kakia debased and humiliated, they remembered his wisdom and leadership, he was the glorious singer who had directed the whole multitude in songs of praise to A-ga-pe, their Creator and King. As Ha-yah was reprimanding Kakia before them all, some of their minds were being polluted. Instead of listening to Ha-yah, they were venerating Kakia’s gifts and services, they were recalling fondly his most celebrated voice, and the beauty of the songs instead of remembering who the songs were to and why they sang them; in essence, they were exalting the creation over the Creator. Thus, as Ha-yah indicted Kakia for his pride, a small throng was questioning A-ga-pe’s wisdom and Ha-yah’s commanded seizure of the stately director; "How could they dare to shame this most glorious creature," they thought. By venerating his regal status and hallowed leadership, they couldn’t understand how Kakia had so transgressed the Most High’s sacred honor. Suddenly, one in the crowd lunged forward and attacked Mikai-ale. Screaming against the injustice of Ha-yah’s admonishment, he began beating and relentlessly pummeling the head guard, Mikai-ale. But Mikai-ale was defenseless because he had bound Kakia and was detaining him. Confusion erupted; Kakia broke loose from his bonds and gathered his sympathizers to join in the attack against Mikai-ale while Ha-yah ordered the royal guard to defend him. Once they had beaten away the attackers, Mikai-ale assumed leadership of the guard while Ha-yah beckoned to the crowd and avowed A-ga-pe’s justice. Convinced, the faithful rallied to Mikai-ale to suppress the mutiny. A great war ensued, yet the rebellion was crushed rather quickly, despite the chaotic turmoil Kakia and his sympathizers triggered. Upon Ha-yah’s command, the faithful host hurled the accursed horde into outer darkness, an oblivion of nothingness.
It was indeed a solemn day for the Eternal Realm of Light. A-ga-pe and Ha-yah were immensely grieved by the actions of the rebellious mob and they knew that such questioning of their goodness and sovereignty was treacherous. The insurrection and treason warranted utter banishment from the realm of light for Kakia and his followers. However, despite their grief, they had great concern and care for those who had remained faithful to their goodness and sovereignty. Selfishness and Doubt had produced the most heinous of evils and almost complete anarchy in the Realm of Light. Ha-yah and A-ga-pe realized that the faithful must see that Kakia’s wickedness was not limited to sudden revolts; Kakia’s minions rendered A-ga-pe’s benevolence and justice suspect of righteousness, and the attempt to take control was no different than trying to become like the Most High. Yet for this evil to be seen in its totality, its affect would have to be felt yet again before all could see and honor the Most High properly. Evil would unfortunately help show A-ga-pe’s goodness and Ha-yah’s wisdom. Hence, the Sacred Experiment commenced, Ha-yah designed the cosmos, the Earth and its inhabitants to experience the goodness, beauty and perfection of the divine, but allowed Kakia and his minions influence upon this physical realm so that the faithful host would see the devastation of the rebels corrupted ways.
It is true that A-ga-pe knew his most prized creatures would initially choose Kakia’s deception. But because humans had tasted the goodness of the Most High and longed to return under His favor, A-ga-pe understood that his creatures would desire order in their fallen world and justice against those that follow Kakia’s deceptions and corrupt practices. In his benevolence, A-ga-pe made two promises: He promised to bring release from the shameful desires that cause disorder, mayhem and carnage in the world, those desires that make men prideful, jealous and hostile. Secondly, he promised a path for humans to achieve immortality. And here was the plan, the mission if you will: Ha-yah would be sent into the world to display the same virtues that had condemned Kakia and his minions before. He would reprove evil and demonstrate the path of truth, humility and righteousness. Everyone aligning themselves with Ha-yah would understand the nature of evil and the wickedness of Kakia’s schemes and practices. However, in order to align themselves to Ha-yah and become a part of his realm, or kingdom, humans had to admit their guilt and shame, for they had participated in the same deception and corruption that had overtaken the first humans, and ultimately Kakia himself. Ha-yah taught that A-ga-pe would condemn those men and women who followed their pride and hid their hatred, covetousness or lust as much as those who rape, pillage or murder. So, Ha-yah told people to turn from these evils and imitate his virtue. By this, the experiment would show why evil is so reprehensible and why Kakia and all who follow the path of darkness deserve condemnation. Nevertheless, Kakia was determined to fight and deceive as many as possible. A-ga-pe allowed for this deception, i.e. a sharp distinction between good and evil, so that those who pursued goodness, righteousness and truth could see the goodness of Ha-yah and the goodness of His ways.
Throughout the ages, Kakia has schemed with his minions and designated a chief council whose members embody the forces that continue to deceive and corrupt the human race. These gods have morphed throughout time, assumed different names and been worshipped in varying ways. In their highest degree of success, those worshipping the gods that personify these forces of evil do so unawares and steal glory from A-ga-pe and his integrity. Their work in America has been particularly problematic for those attempting to follow Ha-yah. Counter-intuitive forces create a haze of fraudulence and abominable behavior. But the gods themselves describe best the degree of their success:
Kakia: I am particularly pleased with the work being done on the Western fronts, especially in America. Polemos, you have served me well over the years, ever since you first struck out at Mikai-ale. Indeed, the last hundred years have been immensely successful. The number of deaths and atrocities in war are on the increase, but what’s even better is that people don’t know what to do and who to fight. Even now, it appears U.S. citizens are in confusion about how they should repel terrorist attacks we cause around the globe. The religious community is convinced in the righteousness of the American cause, while secular society knows that a failed state in Iraq will only produce worse consequences for their precious nation.
Polemos: Indeed, no end appears in site for the violence and bloodshed. Ethnic tension and cultural hatred masterfully fuel the spread of my art. Even more beautiful is how Atsarah pollutes American churches with a framework the polar opposite of Ha-yah’s teachings. She’s making my job much easier. Instead of loving their enemies and praying for them, they war and fight and take personal vengeance against their adversaries.
Atsarah: The greatest feat has been to convince people they believe something without it actually changing them. They put faith in this creed, some teaching, or that doctrine, but nothing changes – no spiritual transformation. What’s more, I’ve distorted their entire religious paradigm by separating ‘religious life’ and secular life. They can go to church, hear a message and sing a song, but return to the world to party, frolic and indulge. Thus, the masses go to temples, synagogues and cathedrals to feel spiritual, but prefer the pleasures Western decadence offers them. Albeit, I personally congratulate Disneylio, whose job it’s been to infect our hosts with reasons to forget Ha-yah and his teachings.
Disneylio: My team has contrived so many seductive and enticing amusements that Americans can’t stop thinking and talking about the newest movies, the latest fads, the freshest music, the hottest
celebrity-gossip, the fantastic foods, the best teams, and not to mention their T.V. shows, books, magazines, video-games, dance-clubs, peep shows, theme parks and chat rooms - where they can spend their time and money. We’ve made evil either blatantly fun or covertly decent. People don’t even need to waste their time thinking about gods and goddesses, and if they do, they can just visit some sacred building during the week or wait for some religious holiday to feel spiritual again. All in all, we’ve created as much confusion as possible for anyone trying to apply Ha-yah’s wisdom to their daily lives. All hail to you Kakia- the Master of Wickedness!
Kakia: From every aspect of life: religion and education to entertainment and politics, we’ve provided a perspective of reality devoid of A-ga-pe’s presence, benevolence and righteousness. It’s even better when people actually blame him for evil, sorrow and death.
Saquak: Indeed, the increasing spirit among the majority is to make light of social problems and corruption in the world. The entertainers and intellectual elite bow to my schemes. They spend more time making evil something funny and to be mocked, rather than something grave and to be shunned. Sexual innuendos, course jokes, scoffing and teasing are my favorite sacrifices…tis music to my ears.
Academia: Agghhem! You fools’ld have little to play with if Darwina and I weren’t advancing the latest and greatest ideas in classrooms across the West. Science has been exalted to such an extent that people actually believe the Universe and the Earth are billions of years old. Of course, that’s what the evidence tells them, so that’s what they believe…they are so rationale you know. All the while, they forget to rationalize that Ha-yah turned water into wine too; he made something fresh incredibly aged. You remember when Ha-yah made the world, the peace, the beauty and perfection. We came and ruined it all. Within a few thousands years, we’ve taught humans how to be greedy, and in their pursuit of wealth, how to destroy the natural environment.
Darwina: But really, we’ve done more work in the last couple hundred years than you all ever dreamed possible. Consider this: People think they have an id and superego, not a soul and spirit, and more and more actually have the faith to say that mind evolved out of matter, language out of chirps, buzzes, barks, and hoots. The whole system flows so nicely towards more corruption, deception, wickedness and evil. Maybe you’d like to hail us too!
Mythelos: You two are always so stuck on yourselves. Do you forget how little you’d have to work with if I hadn’t confused the very story which gave humans origin, purpose, salvation and destiny? Science would never have stepped in to offer its convoluted doctrines if people’s foundational stories were not in utter chaos and confusion. Despite varying accounts of creation, a great flood, and the spiritual forces of gods and demi-gods, prominent philosophers are now trying to offer meaning in what they deem a meaningless, random world. In fact, the most basic of human desires become hopeless quests when detached from a benevolent, just god. We’ve robbed consciences of pondering the reward for the righteous and wicked even through they long for justice, yearn for immortality, and search for significance. All in all, we’ve utterly confounded the West as they attempt to escape from the nihilism created in their minds! Deep down people want justice against Hitler, Stalin, Milosovic, Ted Bundy, Geoffrey Dahmer, Jim Jones and Charles Manson – they want evildoers to be punished and to suffer for all the misery they’ve caused, but they reject Ha-yah’s spiritual paradigm since it also labels them as degenerate. Humans want to believe that they are good inside and don’t need deliverance from corruption and deception. But Ha-yah promised that all would suffer who spurn A-ga-pe’s goodness and live contrary to His ways. Many think they’re more righteous and pure than the most blatant criminal, and for this, I, Mythelos, am the greatest of deceivers!
And so they schemed, on and on; some were praising the work of others, some flaunting personal achievement. The only consensus was that A-ga-pe must pay for his injustice towards their leader…the deception and corruption must go on…as long as possible.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
I was reminded of a poem recently called "This Drama Earth". It is based on Ephesians 3:10 and some other Scriptures. It was helpful to me in setting my eyes on that which is not seen and considering things in heaven. I thought that it might be thought-provoking and helpful to share.... so check out this link if you'd like:
"This Drama Earth"
Friday, April 21, 2006
Luke 14:33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has CANNOT be my disciple.
"Cannot" in the above verses… I’ve always mentally translated it as "not allowed". If you don't carry your cross and if you don't give up everything you will not be allowed to be Jesus' disciple. That is true. He won't let you half-heartedly think you are following him, but there's more to it than that.
Literally, the word "cannot" is "not able". If you don’t deny yourself you are not able to be Jesus’ disciple. You won’t make it. You are not able to follow "in his steps" if you don't deny yourself.
As an example, consider a firefigher's gear:
To be a firefighter, you MUST have very special equipment. A firefighter's jacked and pants is made of a fire resistant material called Nomex. He wears a tank and facemask so that he can have a fresh supply of oxygen in a smoke-contaminated environment. The helmet is made of heat resistant, heavy-duty plastic that protects the firefighter from many types of danger.
So... Anyone who does not wear his Nomex jacket and pants CANNOT be a firefighter. Unless you take up your tank and mask you CANNOT be a firefigher. They will not allow you to be a firefighter AND you would never last as a firefighter. If you tried to be a firefighter you would get burned up; you are not able to do it.
To be a disciple of Jesus you must "carry your cross" and "forsake all". You must lose your life in his in order to find it (Matt. 10:39). These are not just random requirements that Jesus is saying. Jesus wants us to be successful; he died so that we would be successful--so that we would triumph over the devil through Him! He wants us to be his disciple and so he says that we need to carry our cross, we need to deny ourselves, etc. It will be too "hard" for you, if you don't. You won’t be able to stand up against the schemes of the devil. Temptations will prove to be too much. You’ll fail. You won’t last as his disciple. It is impossible—YOU CAN’T DO IT!
And so, Jesus wisely and lovingly has told us what to do so that we CAN be his disciples! Everyone who wants to be a firefighter must take up a firefighter's equipment or else they will get burned up. Everyone who wants to be a follower of Jesus must take up his cross and deny himself or else you'll get defeated by the enemy. "You CANNOT be my disciple."
By the way, you cannot be a "Christian" without being a "disciple". "And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26).
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
It seems that God uses experiences to teach us things. Often, words are not enough.
Prov 29:1919 A slave will not be instructed by words alone; For though he understands, there will be no response.
Sometimes words alone are not enough for us to truly understand in our hearts. As an example, take Peter. Jesus said, "Peter you will deny me." And although Peter had seen hundreds of times where Jesus was right, where Jesus predicted what would happen, read men's hearts, etc... although Peter had seen all these things, Jesus' words were not enough. Peter told Jesus that he would never deny Him... even if everyone else did! Peter "knew" that to follow Jesus meant that he had to forsake everything. Peter knew that to follow Jesus he must "die" and "take up his cross". Peter "KNEW" all of that.... in his head. But, did Peter have a deep, firm understanding way down in his heart? Apparently not. But the experiences that would ensue in the next several hours taught Peter about the cost of following Jesus. Jesus had said it many times. Peter had heard the words many times. And now Peter thought he was ready. But he wasn't. I know that after Peter denied Christ and then repented he had a MUCH greater understanding of how much he needs God's grace daily, how weak he is, etc. The experience certainly taught Peter that Jesus' words are absolutely true and trustworthy. The difficult situation was greatly used by God to instruct Peter in a way that was much deeper than "head knowledge."
The Bible says that even Jesus LEARNED obedience by what he suffered (Heb. 5:8). Take a minute and reflect on that. Jesus, the Son of God, LEARNED obedience?!?!?!?! How and why did he have to learn anything???? I certainly don't understand this fully at all, but if we picture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane weeping and in great agony, crying out to His Father, "if you are willing, take this cup from me" (Luke 22:42), perhaps we can understand a little better. Jesus already knew everything that was going to happen to him. It was for this purpose that he came. He knew before the "foundation of the world" that he would need to redeem mankind in this way. And yet, when it came down to it and the experience was right at the door, it was hard. Perhaps it was surprisingly difficult for Jesus. He learned a lot about obedience.
And so, what about us? It is not enough to sit and read our Bibles and listen to teaching and to read books.... and to think that we are learning. Learning is going to come from more than "words alone". We will learn through difficult and trying situations. Things that are hard on our flesh.
How do we learn about patience, hope and good character? Through trials (Romans 5:3-4). Yes, we can read an encouraging book on patience... but the heart-level understanding will most likely come from more than words alone.
How much do we REALLY know deep down in our hearts? We know a lot about many things, perhaps. We know that we must "deny ourselves".... but how much experience do we really have in sacrificially denying ourselves? We know the Bible says to consider others more important than ourselves (Phil 2).... but how much experience do we REALLY have in doing that? Think reality here, NOT theory.
Let us be humble in how we view ourselves. Let us not merely tolerate difficulties, let's embrace them and wait expectantly upon God for what he will teach us through them.
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Be assured it will be more difficult than you think. Right now, you may picture some difficult situations that you may have drawn back from.... The difficulties will be greater than that. But you will also receive many more blessing that you ever can believe. Below is a link to a very encouraging song that talks about these things.
Will You Follow Me?
Monday, March 20, 2006
Satan is currently opposing God's rule and trying to usurp His authority so that he (the devil) can reign instead. The devil has the "whole world" under his control (1 John 5:19). That's what the Bible says--the WHOLE world! What is Satan trying to use the whole world to accomplish? He wants to make God's ways look undesirable. He wants to make God's ways seem "burdensome". He wants other things to seem more "fun" than walking in harmony with our Creator. Satan wants us distracted so that the distraction becomes a sort of false reality.
But we--the Church, those who hold to the testimony of Jesus--have another mission, handed to us by God Himself. It is our mission to make God's wisdom known (Eph. 3:10)--to make Him look good, to make His Ways appear as they really are: wonderful, peaceful, joyful, full of goodness, lovely, etc, etc, etc. This is why we are hear.
It is OUR job to break down Satan's distractions, to destroy everything that sets itself up against the TRUTH--we don't want people to buy into Satan's false reality any longer. We are to demolish any argument, reveal any deception, and shed light on all darkness. See 1 Cor. 10:1-5. We don't want people to fall for the devil's lies. The devil has sold millions of people a false hope--a LIE. God's ways actually do bring peace, love, joy, and hope. Walking according to the ways of "the world", which the devil controls, will only bring misery--it would mean walking against everything that we were created to be. A creature trying to go against that for which he is created is most miserable.
And so, we NOW find ourselves right in the middle of a great struggle. The struggle is invisible to most, but it is as REAL as any war that is being fought on the face of the planet today. We must take a step back and recognize the battle. If we don't, we will buy into the lie. We cannot walk around carelessly in the world--the world which is under the control of the devil. We cannot lightly tread in this place. That's why the Bible tells us so often to be sober, to be vigilant, to be careful, to walk circumspectly, to be alert, to be self-controlled, etc. For our enemy the devil currently walks around like a lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
But what a wonderful salvation we have! Jesus came so that the blind may SEE! Oh, if you are blind to much of what I have written, pray that you may have eyes to see, and ears to hear! Jesus opens prisons doors and sets captives free. Our salvation has come. He has delivered us and he will continue to deliver us.
A huge part of Salvation is this: being brought out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light--the kingdom of the Son (Col. 1:13). Salvation does not only concern "sins forgiven", "hell avoided", or "heaven promised". Salvation includes these things, but even more. What are we saved from RIGHT NOW? Have you been saved from the kingdom of Satan and brought into God's Kingdom? Are you demolishing the deceptions of the devil and making God's ways look wise and loving and good? How sad if we wear a name tag that says "kingdom of God" and yet we relish in the things of the world! How hypocritical!
When our time comes and our lives end, we will continue existing in the kingdom of which we are now a part. If we are belong God's Kingdom NOW, we will be in God's Kingdom in heaven too. If we belong to the world now, we will later be in the kingdom of the one who manipulates the world--the devil. Let us war against the world. We must choose sides now. The world or God--you can't follow both. Do not be conformed to this world; rather be TRANSFORMED (Romans 12:1-2). Let us not be a part of this kingdom. Rather, let us give up all this world, to attain that which is True. "He who seeks to save his life will lose it; he who loses his life for my sake will keep it for eternal life" (Matt. 16:25).
John 15:19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
Galatians 4:3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.
Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
Praise God for such a wonderful Salvation! He saves us from an empty way of life NOW. He has delivered us from a wandering existence and filled us with eternal purposes! What a wonderful God we have. May he receive glory. Use us, O Lord, to gain the attention you are due; may all creation praise your holy name.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
The discrepancy exists in part because of how the pastors measure the spirituality of the congregations. If a lot of people volunteer, if church attendance is good, if the people SAY they have had a religious experience then the pastor is likely to think that they value God more than anything else. ALL of these measures are very superficial.
We must go deeper than this. How do we know when our brothers and sisters are "doing well". It cannot be based on attendance. It cannot be based on claims that "everything is fine" or "I've been doing well". The Bible tells us that each of us is responsible to "see to it" that "none" has a sinful, unbelieving heart in departing from God (Hebrews 3:12-13).
Let's take this seriously! Let's not live in a dream world where we think everything is fine with the church but in reality we don't know, we haven't CARED enough to find out, and we haven't been vulnerable enough to really open our lives up to each other. Let's CARE!
Well, that's all for now... the study I referred to earlier can be found at the following link. It's quite interesting and may be worth the read:
Thursday, March 09, 2006
The Life we are seeking as a Body in Christ is much more than merely having a church where we know each other really well. We do want to merely "know one another well". We want to help each other conform to Christ--to become all that he wants us to be. Part of that is being willing to speak up when we see something in our brother or sister's life that appears to be un-Christlike.
We need to be willing to obey God and "speak the truth in love" when necessary, even taking along with us two or three others when a person displays an unopen attitude, or a prideful, rebellious attitude in not wanting to hear.
What I have just written about hardly ever happens in most "churches". Let's break the mold. Let's be willing to not let our brothers and sisters walk around with "mustard" on their faces.
Monday, February 20, 2006
"Men who are busy rowing seldom have time to rock the boat."
I immediately thought about the Church. Instead of sitting back logically deducing the "best way" to row... Instead of watching other people row the "wrong way"... Instead of trying to find an easier, more efficient way to move the boat... Let's just obey God! Let's DO what he wants us to do. Let's give our lives away. Let's love one another with a sacrificial love. And as he sees fit he will steer the ship and point us in the direction we should go. Let's use the oars he has supplied us with and in due time he'll get us more powerfully designed ones--ones we wouldn't be able to handle right now. And PLEASE let's keep our eyes of Jesus instead of the waves.
Ephesians 4 talks about the body of Christ growing as each part does its work. As each person grabs an oar and rows, we will be busy about the Father's business and we won't have the time to get into our own business (our own philosophies, ideas, methods, or who know what else).... which would end in disaster.
There's probably some more helpful meditations about being busy rowing, but I'll leave it there for now.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
It takes time to be a worshipper. We need to stop and look and listen for a while to appreciate all that God does and who He is. It takes time. Take the time necessary to consider the goodness of the Lord.
Are you thankful for your spouse? Take a few extra minutes to think about just what it took for God to put you two together. If you've ever had something happen "just in time", think about that too. Try to consider all of the times that God has put much love and care into your day. When a good thing "happens", think about all the "little" things that God had to do. Think of all the circumstances that needed to be timed perfectly; all the schedules that needed to line up properly. God puts much thought and care into each of our days, more than we often take time to notice or appreciate.
Take time to appreciate the Lord. He cares. Taking time to notice and appreciate Him is much of what I think of when I think about "worship".
Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love (Psalm 48:9).
"CHRISTIANITY is not a technique, something to attend in a home or building, a philosophy of lifestyle, a belief system, or a social and do-good club. "CHURCH" is not something we can attain with knowledge and effort and sincerity. It is a Sovereign issue of God’s Intent, Timing, and Gifts. "I praise You, Father" for that! :) "
Christianity is not a philosophy of lifestyle…Christianity is not a belief system… It is not merely about believing the right things. It is tempting and even easy to begin thinking that what is wrong with some people is that they are believing false doctrines and they have false ideas about what God is like. But if the only thing we accomplish is to reform one's belief system… if all they do is exchange wrong beliefs for right beliefs… if all they do is think about God in a more accurate way… that comes up short. Yes, it is good to not follow false doctrines. But, there's something lacking.
For example: If someone stays married because they believe they "have to" because the Bible teaches against divorce, it is good that they are willing to follow the instruction of God's Word by not getting a divorce. However, their marriage will fall VERY short of what God wants their marriage to be like. He wants their marriage to be an example of Christ and the church, yet they are married only because "the Bible says". There will be many "small" facial expressions of disappointment and deep down there will not be joy in the marriage at all. I'm sure you know people who are "married", but there is very little heartfelt affection between them. How sad!!!!
See what I'm getting at? If we obey God merely because of a belief system… i.e. if we believe that a Christian is someone who must be Christlike, rather than someone who has merely said a prayer (i.e. we "believe" the right thing)… then our lives will lack many characteristics of Christ. We will lack joy. We will not be in awe over our God. A form of thankfulness will be there because the Bible says "be thankful", but it will not be overflowing from our hearts to the extent God wants it to. What about our genuine affection toward God? Loving God with all our heart must come from our heart!
Christianity is not a technique…
Do you ever treat Christianity like a "belief system" or "philosophy of lifestyle"? Do you ever treat it like a "technique"? Ask God to reveal it to you, to search you. I must admit, there have definitely been thinking patterns develop in my own life, that reduced Christianity to such things. Thankfully, God showed me. We are so prone to invent methods and mental compartments. We are so prone to treat the study of God the same way we treat the study of science, deriving theories for how he does things and models for how God works. Hmmm.
So, here's the original quote again. And if you like, I posted the link to the entire article from which the quote came:
"CHRISTIANITY is not a technique, something to attend in a home or building, a philosophy of lifestyle, a belief system, or a social and do-good club. "CHURCH" is not something we can attain with knowledge and effort and sincerity. It is a Sovereign issue of God’s Intent, Timing, and Gifts. "I praise You, Father" for that! :) "
Monday, February 13, 2006
This morning I was thinking about having an eternal mindset. Jesus said that we are blessed if we are persecuted and suffer for righteousness. We are blessed when people say all kinds of evil things about us for his sake. We should rejoice because great is our reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12). When I thought about that phrase, "great is your reward in heaven", it hit me that such a mindset kind of sums up a lot of what I think about the kingdom of God.
When I think about the kingdom of God I think about being under the authority or "kingship" of God and therefore realizing that living with eternity in mind is more worthwhile than living with earthly things in mind. It is the mindset that allows me to say "amen" from the heart to the thought of being persecuted. It is the mindset that recognizes that my current citizenship is in heaven and I'm eagerly awaiting Jesus to return from there (Phil. 3:20). My citizenship in heaven is much more real than my citizenship of the United States. My citizenship here will expire upon death, but my citizenship there will be with me forever. The government of the United States will end; but his government will never end (Is. 9:7).
Knowing that only my citizenship in heaven will last, how then should I live? Such a thought embodies to me what it means to be in the Kingdom of God right now. Right now it is as if our King has gone on a journey and we are waiting for him to return (Matt. 21:33; 25:14). Actually, of course, our King is still very near to us and has not left us alone, but his physical presence is not here. We cannot see him with our eyes or touch him with our hands. The whole world cannot see him. The world does not know him (John 14:17; 1 John 3:1). But we know him. And we eagerly wait for the day when every eye shall see him (Rev. 1:7) and every knee bow before him (Phil. 2:10).
That Day is real to us. It WILL happen and we are excited. So, we choose to bow our knees now. We "see" him now, by faith with the eyes of our hearts. "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor 4:18). And that's what I think of when I think of the Kingdom of God right now--an eternal mindset that lives by faith rather than sight. The things we cannot see are more real than what we can see.
The physical, bodily presence of our King is "on a journey" and he has given us tasks to do. We will be about his business, waiting for his return more than "watchmen wait for the morning" (Ps. 130:6). The Kingdom of God is here right now. God is a ruling King among those who will have him. Not everyone recognizes it now, but soon… "Come, Lord Jesus!" He will come and his reward will be with him. He is actually bringing a reward. What a Savior!
Thursday, February 09, 2006
This truth has been hitting me lately. He loved us FIRST. Before we ever thought of seeking him, he sought us. Before we ever had the smallest desire to begin walking after the truth, he drew us. We love because he first loved us.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).
That's what love is: GOD'S LOVE. It is easy to think about how we love him and how we want to love him more and how we want to love him with all of our hearts. But let's remember that his love is everything.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16).
Do I? Do you? Do we really put our confidence, reliance, trust, faith in the love God has for us? If so, we will be able to live in love; God himself will be living in us. His love will be made manifest among us. This is supernatural and beyond anything that anyone can "work up".
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me (1 Cor 15:10).
Oh, let us get a glimpse of God's grace--the pleasure he takes in us, the delight he has in us, his favor upon us, his love for us! If we RECEIVE that grace, it will have an effect on us... a powerful effect on us. We will no longer be the same. We will walk in the light as he is in the light. Our love will abound.
Love is a fruit of the Spirit. It is the result of his favor and his love being realized within us. Let us KNOW and RELY on the love he has for us. Take the time to consider him. Take the time to ponder his love for you. Think about his gracious hand upon you many times from the time you were a baby until now. Think about his loving, drawing hand that has chosen you to know the Gospel that had been hidden for ages, but revealed TO YOU. Think of the many billions of people who clearly do not have God's favor upon them as much as it is upon you. Think of how "lucky" you are to be confronted with the Holy One of Israel.... and then remember that there is no "luck".... it is God's choice. He has done this because of his great affection for you. An affection you didn't earn. Receive it. Let it be effectual in you.
You'll never be the same.
"The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you... KNOW therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands..." (Deut 7:7-9).
He is WORTHY!
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Epaphras was a bondservant of Christ. And he was a man of prayer. Obviously, Epaphras cared deeply for the wellfare of the Colossians. Paul said that he always labored fervently in prayer, praying that the Colossians would be able to stand "perfect and complete" in all of God's will.
There weren't many people like Epaphras who cared deeply for others. Specifically, he cared for the spiritual well-being of others.
Another man who comes to mind is Timothy. About him Paul said, "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ" (Phil 2:20-21). This is a sad commentary about the cares of others, but a great testimony of the love of God inside of Timothy.
Similarly, today there are not many who take a genuine interest in the spiritual well-being of others. Each person has their own cares of life that they are busy attending to. The call for us is to be a people who care for one another and will "go the extra mile" to help each other grow. The body of Christ grows as EACH ONE does it's part (Ephesians 4:16). Sometimes it is harder than we realize to truly put our own interests aside and invest ourselves in the lives of others.
You don't have to be a "preacher"; you just have to CARE.
"My house remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house" (Haggai 1:9).
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
So far I've written some blog entries about topics like "Shocking" each other with our love and the need to have "Daily" relationships invested in helping each other become more like Christ. Hebrews 3:13 comes to mind: "exhort one another daily, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."
A church where EACH one is devoted to "coming alongside" others everyday to help keep each other from being hardened by deceitful sin is almost non-existent. Where are the people who put Hebrews 3:13 into practice? Where are the people who live like they did in Acts 2:42, "daily with one accord"?
Why don't people live this way? We desperately need "sincere love" for one another. But let us love one another deeply, FROM THE HEART.
When we seek to follow God or keep his commands, we must do so by faith. If we want to "exhort one another daily", if we want to love one another, it must be by faith and from the heart. We cannot merely invent a principle to live by and then try to adhere to the principle. In this case, we cannot merely read Hebrews 3:13 and say to ourselves, "OK, now I'm going to start hanging out with people every day." It goes deeper than that.
The believers in Acts 2 sold their possessions, were together daily, committed themselves to one another and to following the apostles' teaching, etc. They LIVED Christianity. Most of them hadn't heard nearly as many teachings or "sermons" as most Christians today, but their lives were unquestionably committed to Christ and to one another. They were "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37) by God's word and the way they lived was the overflow of their hearts (i.e. Matt 12:34).
We desperately need to be cut to the heart by God's Word. It is sharper than any two edged sword (Heb. 4:12) and it is supposed to go much deeper than our brains. We cannot merely increase in knowledge of what "the church" is supposed to be and then try to walk it out as best as we can.
Here's an analogy. If a neglectful dad reads in the Bible that his heart should be turned toward his children (Malachi 4:6), he may feel guilty and decide to start spending more time with his children. Maybe he will begin spending more money on his children, buying them gifts. But unless his heart actually turns, unless his love and compassion actually increases, his efforts alone will not produce everything that God wants in that relationship. In fact, his actions will be reluctant at times and incomplete, sometimes motivated by guilt and duty rather than love. But the dad who loves his children from the heart can't wait to be with them. He rushes home from work. He invests into their lives and longs to do so more and more. Hundreds of "little" things about him change, from subtle attitudes and facial expressions to large sacrifices of his time and energy.
Applied toward the church, Christ's Body, we cannot be satisfied with an intellectual understanding. For example, we cannot merely read that we are supposed to need one another just like a hand needs a foot and that if one part suffers the rest suffers too (1 Cor. 12) and then change a few of our actions. Let's not merely "hang out" more with one another. Let's love one another deeply from the heart. If our hearts are for one another we will consider one another better than ourselves (Phil. 2). We will honor one another above ourselves (Rom. 12). We will labor to present each one mature in Christ (Col. 1:28). We will wrestle fervently in prayer for one another (Col. 4:12, Eph. 6:18).
"Get a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:31), not just some new actions. May our actions proceed out of a heart devoted to loving God and loving one another. God will do it; he who has promised is faithful. We, however, cannot be content with intellectual understanding. God will quickly put his word into our hearts if we will let him--this a promise of the new covenant. May God receive glory in his church!
Friday, January 27, 2006
Religious expert: "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus: "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?"
Religious expert: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Jesus: "You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live." (see Luke 10:25-28)
The above dialogue from the Gospel of Luke was on my mind this morning. Very simple. Yet, often overlooked. Jesus didn't tell him to make sure he believed a certain set of doctrines or make sure that he did a whole bunch of things. How Jesus dealt with the question got right to the man's heart.
Notice that the man already knew the answer to his own question. Jesus said DO THIS and you will live; he didn't say KNOW THIS and you will live. People who have grown up around religion often know the right answer, but doing it proves difficult. Jesus said that those who hear his words will be blessed if they put them into practice (John 13:17). Otherwise, they will be like a man building a house on the sand (Matt 7:26). There will be a house there; it might look nice to the occassional passerby... but the end is destruction.
I may learn a lot about "the Kingdom of God" or "church" or all kinds of things, but if the things I learn do not find reality in my life, then it is no good at all.
So, if you know the right answer, but do not put it into practice... the answer does you no good. In fact, you have actually deceived yourself.
As we learn more about what it means to be part of the Body of Christ, let's not let our knowledge get in the way of actually doing what we learn.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory" (Col 3:1-4).
That's a big IF at the beginning of Colossians 3. IF you were indeed raised with Christ then seek the things above. Set your minds on things above, NOT on earthly things. Is your life really hidden with Christ in God? If so, what will we be DOING here on earth? If our minds are set on things above, what will our "earthly" relationships be like? What will be the point of our lives? WHY will we be living? WHY will we "get together" with other people? There's more than one way to answer these questions, but here's what Paul said:
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily (Col 1:28-29).
Paul lived for Christ. "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." He labored and struggled mightily so that people could stand before God blameless. He wanted his life to count. When he got to the heavenly kingdom he wanted other people to be there because of his work (actually God working through him). This is one type of fruit that lasts.
Paul was not the only one who was supposed to live this way. Aren't we also? We may not be traveling by boat all over Asia and the Middle East like Paul, but we can have that mindset in whatever calling the Lord has us. We can be like Epaphras, "always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Col 4:12). As Paul said, "Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me..." (Rom 15:30). Isn't this part of what it means to be a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), that we CARE and help others to know Christ? And with others who already know Christ that we labor fervently, with much effort, to do whatever we can to help them know him better?
These things are not just for "the pastor" to do. No, EACH one MUST be laboring to present each other "perfect in Christ". If that's not our mindset, then we need to set our minds on things above; we need to TURN our minds (repent) from earthly things to heavenly things. Stop letting pointless, fruitless earthly things get in the way of a lasting, heavenly calling.
"From him the WHOLE body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as EACH part does its work" (Eph 4:16).
Indeed, there is much work, but not enough are willing to be laborers.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
This portion of Scripture recently stood out to me. I think that most of us know that Jesus is talking about more than washing feet here. Of course, there is nothing wrong with washing each other's feet. But I think we can all see that Jesus meant much more than just literal foot washing. If all we do is get a bucket and a towel and wash someone's feet, I think we will miss a lot of what we need to get from this Scripture.
Jesus set us an example. We should do as he did. What did he do?
He shocked them by expressing his love to them. How do you think the disciples felt when their Lord and Master got up from the meal, took off his garments and girded himself with a towel, and then began to go around and wash each of their feet? At least Peter was shocked. He initially refused Jesus saying, "You shall never wash my feet!" Certainly, this act amazed, surprised, and even shocked the disciples.
So, how do we follow Christ's example? He said that we ought to follow his example in this?
When is the last time others around you were amazed by the love and humility that you demonstrated?
"Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim 4:12).
Let's set a "shocking" example of love, good works, faith, purity, etc. Don't look around you at what other people are doing; think about yourself. What can you do to show your love? How can you be an example for others to follow?
As we seek to apply these Scriptures to ourselves we need to allow God to show us things outside the box. Many people cannot see because they are blinded by their own experience. May that not be true of us! Do we secretly limit God working in us? Have we ever allowed God to take our thoughts to something as radical as taking off our garments, putting on a towel, and going around one by one and washing peoples' feet? Most of the ways Christianity is expressed these days does not live up to what Jesus wants. We must allow God to take our thinking outside of our experiences. We must allow him to radically tranform us. And we must be willing to put into practice a radical, wholehearted love.
We all have a "comfort zone". We will sacrifice for others up until a certain point. Maybe we will allow ourselves to be uncomfortable, but we all will stop at a certain point. My appeal is this: let's be as uncomfortable as Jesus wants us to be.
As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart... Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!" David replied, "...I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. (2 Sam 6:16,20-22)
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
I was talking with a dear brother yesterday and he said something like this: "wisdom is not about content." This got me thinking. Wisdom is not all about knowing a bunch of stuff. Wisdom involves good fruit in our lives, as we can see by the verse quoted above. A few verses later we read:
James 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
That's what we want: wisdom from above. We want these characteristics to be abundant in our lives. We don't merely want to know some facts. Wisdom is not only about lots of content...