Sky Links, 12-30-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
The journey is harder and more rewarding than you thought it would be

Alison Brown, writes:

“10 Steps to Freedom” or “5 Ways to Instant Maturity” are popular paths dependent on someone else’s revelation and my self-help prowess.  Wide at the beginning, they quickly become dead ends.

The Road Less Traveled is where we can settle for nothing less than our personal encounter with God when we are challenged or pressed.  We want to know God in this place for ourselves and discover who He is passionate about being for us now.
It’s a toll road, but pay the price gladly.

.No Neon Signs Along The Road Less Traveled, by Allison Brown.


Have you been called?  Are you called?  What is calling, anyways?  I have been asking this question and pondering it for a very long time.  Mathew Schuler wrote:
For me, the concept of “calling” can quickly warp relationships by imposing a power structure that diminishes one party and exonerates the other...
...So am I “called?” I would say I am being called. Someone or something from somewhere is calling to me, and I am trying my best to make my way toward whatever that is.
Though that was shorter, by Matthew Schuler

Wounded healers with an education in empathy

Don Miller wrote about bitterness and forgiveness, citing Desmund Tutu searching for people to help him serve people who had been devastated by apartheid.  They had to be people who had learned forgiveness. Having been through unjust suffering and processed that experience with forgiveness, we have empathy that is a costly and valuable tool for healing others.

The Greatest Impact You Have May Come Out of Your Pain by Don Miller.

Stop saying, "It's a God thing"

I could make my own list of things Christians say that are odd.  I knew a man who was a fairly new believer and he soon discovered that Christians speak "Christianese", a language all our own.  Jason Johnson posted his brief list.  There is a very good discussion about these in the comments section.  I have been perplexed with, "it's a God thing".  What?

5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying by Jason Johnson.

Church without building

77% of Americans claim to be Christian, but only 20% go to church (builings).  4000 churches close every year.  What is going on?  There is a movie coming out next spring called When God Left the Building.  Watch the preview here.

Happy People Know The Shout For Joy

The people who know the celebratory shout are truly happy!
They walk in the light of your presence, Lord!
-Psalm, 89:15

Happy people know the shout for joy.  "Blessed are they that know the joyful sound" is how the New King James Bible says it.  I have known the song that says this for years, but I did not know that it meant more than enthusiastic singing.  In the translation I use, the Common English Bible, it says, "celebratory shout".  Happy are the people who know the celebratory shout.

I was wondering what this joyful sound was, that the psalmist had in mind.  We might assume that he meant the sound of voices praising God.  That seems like a good answer and that is what I assumed for these past 25 years.  Thank God, for a newer translation, that tries to get closer to the original language's meaning.

The NIV Bible version has been pretty popular, and it says, in Psalm 89:15, "blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you".  Even though I use the words, "blessed", and "blessings", in personal speech and correspondence; I'm not sure it works with a wider audience today, especially not with those outside our faith.  I'm not sure that I use the word "acclaim" very often or that most people use it.

The ESV translators keep "blessed", but translate the NKJV's, "joyful sound" as "festal shout".  I think that is a good translation that takes us where the Hebrew word teruah goes.  By the way, I am not a Hebrew or Greek scholar and don't claim to be.  I look these words up and see what the scholars or experts say.  

Even more so than "blessed", we have to explain what "festal" means.  That is a word I have never used and it is an example of why I do not use the ESV.  Like the NASB, it tries to be literal, but uses words that most people don't use or know.

So, what is a celebratory shout, the joyful sound?  Have you ever been to a sports game and heard what people do when their team scores?  They yell and shout and hoop and holler. They jump up and down and wave their arms in the air.

Christians ought to be the most happy people around.  What Christ has done is a much bigger deal than the points scored at a game.  If you are a Christian and your songs are about Jesus and God and if that is what the speaker's sermons are about, why are there no shouts, no cheers?  

Remember the song, "if you're happy and you know it"?  In that song, we teach kids to use their voices and their bodies.  Adults need that training too.  The church should be the people with freedom of expression to shout for joy to God. 

If you allow yourself the freedom to shout for joy, the next thing is that you might start bouncing a bit.  Soon, you'll be jumping for joy.  Then you'll twirl a bit.  Next thing, you are just plain dancing for joy.

The church I am wanting to join is a church where we shout for joy at what Jesus has done.  This is what believers did in the Bible, so why not today? 

Happy People

“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
“Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
“Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
“Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me.  Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
-Matthew 5:3-12

Do you want to know who the happy people are?  Happy people are the people who are experiencing deep inner joy....  because us Jesus.  Happy people are not happy just because they know something or have been taught something.  Happy people are happy because something has happened to them.

A person brings happiness to us.  It is personal.  I am happy because of a person.  That person is Jesus.  I am happy because of him.

But he is not just like any person or like something you put on a shelf, in a drawer, on your dash board, desk, fridge magnet, or bumper sticker.  Unlike every other religion, self-help program, education, indoctrination, boot-camp, or guru; he is a person who is personally involved with each one of us.

The whole thing is that Jesus is savior and Lord.  You don't go to school to get saved.  You can not do independent studies or classroom work to get saved or sanctified or empowered.  It's all personal and relational.  Someone had to die and that same someone calls each one of us to death to our selves.

Happy people are people who recognize the kingdom of God, who see it and respond to it.  Jesus mentioned people being in a negative state like hopeless or poor, mourning or grieving.  Jesus says that these people are happy, because of his kingdom, because of him.

We are happy because of Jesus, because of the kingdom of God in our lives, because we are being saved- saaaaaaaaaved.  A man does not "go forward", or "wave his hand with every head bowed and every eye closed"; and then go back to a life of sin, with "Jesus" tacked on.  Salvation is an event and a process.  It's just like starting over.

In the kingdom of God, every problem comes with a promise – and provision – attached to it; Graham Cooke is fond of saying.  If you are poor, grieved, humiliated, boxed in, or vexed and perplexed; then in your world, God has placed a gift box that has blessing in it.  Find it and open it.

Contrapunctus - Counterpoint - Singing Your Part

We have many parts in one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function.  In the same way, though there are many of us, we are one body in Christ, and individually we belong to each other.  We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us.
-Romans 12:4-6a

Did you know that you are music that is meant to be sung?  Did you know that your life contains a specific gift or destiny for you to uniquely minister or serve?

God has a creative voice that speaks out into every place.  God has also given each person a creative gift or voice.  When we express our gift, sing with our voice, or operate in our special gift, we voice something that is interdependent harmonically, but independent in rhythm and contour.

Interdependent means that you are aware of others, you take your turn, and you are a team player.  Independent means that you have your own goals you are going for, you express your uniqueness, and maintain your individuality.

Contrapunctus means, "melodic material that is added above or below an existing melody".  Contrapunctus is Latin for counterpoint.  It also means, "the technique of combining two or more melodic lines in such a way that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their linear individuality."

I believe that God designed us to harmonize with individual voices.  In other words, we all sing the song of Christ, but express different aspects of him.  Our voices sound different, our rhythm might be different, and that through which our sound comes may look different; yet we are all in harmony and unity.

Unity is not uniformity.  Choirs, bands, and orchestras; by definition, have sections that sing or have different notes, while harmonizing with the whole. 

Contrapuntal, counterpoint, or polyphony is when you have two or more melodies or parts going at the same time, that are different, yet complementary or harmonious; involving juxtaposition and contrast.  I believe that this is God's plan or how God does it.  Music is made when voices sing together and complimentarily.  Music is rich when different voices are heard,

Joseph's Story

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly.  As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
-Matthew 1:18-21

Joseph's story is a smaller story within the bigger story of God's story, His story, the story of Jesus birth.  Joseph is a credible witness of Jesus birth.  We have already learned that Joseph was a righteous man, who displayed God's kindness and wisdom in his life.

In his righteousness, Joseph was deciding what to do.  He was a sensible man, a practical man.  He was a servant.  He put God first and others second.  He believed that God was faithful, so he was free to serve others, rather than himself.

Joseph might have been confused or disappointed by Mary's news.  But his concerns were to do the right thing in a gentle, kind, and benevolent manner.  He wanted to do the right thing before God and for Mary.  Joseph was all about serving God and serving others.

Joseph may have just set aside Mary's story of her miraculous conception.  The truly righteous person has a humility in them that believes that God is the judge and ultimately has the wisdom to judge others and that God is very kind, gracious, and generous in his judgements.  The truly righteous person carries with them the thought that only God can judge and says, "who am I to judge?"

In the midst of this time when Joseph was deciding what to do, he had a dream where God's messenger angel gave him guidance.  The angel told him that he should take Mary home to be his wife and that she is carrying a child conceived by the Holy Spirit.  The angel also told him to name him Jesus or "God saves", because the child will save his people from their sins.

Joseph, the good man, the righteous man; who had so many godly qualities, had to get special guidance from God, through an angelic messenger, sent to his dream.  God sent the guidance before Joseph made his next move.  Joseph was diligently making his plans and God directed his steps (Prov. 16:9).  It is normal to make plans and it is normal to be directed by God.

God is a God who initiates and intervenes.  God has plans and we have plans.  God might guide us from the good plan we are living out or executing, to a particular plan or special plan that turns out to be his best plan for us.  That is what happened to Joseph.  He was not about to drive off a cliff, but he was about to do the right thing.

We want to be living out a life of doing the right thing, while being open to and obedient to, if called to do a special thing.  Can you imagine Joseph awakening from his sleep and saying, "I had the strangest, most preposterous dream last night", and then continuing with his plans to divorce Mary?  Can you imagine that this could have been a possibility if Joseph was not the righteous servant, who was ready to do something "outside the box"?

The same Joseph who was so righteous and benevolent, kind, and gracious; in a word, godly.  That same man was also willing to "course correct".  He was willing to receive this different and outside the mainstream input and obey it.

There is a sad observational saying about the church, that goes something like this:  The people in the most recent move of God are the ones to persecute the ones in the new move of God.  What that means is that there are godly people, who's movement or now a denomination, started with a move of God, where people got revived and renewed in God.

Things settle down at some point and a new group of people, either in their midst or next to them, get a newer move of God and they become revived, renewed, and restored to God.  Now here is the sad part.  Some people in the first group persecute the people in the new move of God group, saying it is not real, that they are into the strange and the false, or that they are into heresy.

How this all applies to Joseph is that he was a righteous and godly man in Israel, but he was also obedient to or open to God doing something different peculiarly and particularly in his life.  There were going to be people in that day to this who would whisper that this child was illegitimate and his parents were frauds.  He and Mary would be the first to carry this stigma.

We can understand that people in the world who are atheists or agnostics might be offended by the virgin birth and not get it, but it hurts when your own people who claim the same God and same community of faith not only don't get it, but persecute you for it.

You might be like Joseph in that you have cultivated righteousness and godliness in your life and you were on a path to a good life in God.  But then God interrupted and called you onto a special path.  That special path you have been called to and are trying to live on is not understood by most others.  It is a lonely path.  People in your own community, tribe, or family have not understood the path God has you on.  Sometimes you have even felt persecuted by other 'good' people.

When God conceived Jesus in Mary, it was a secret only known to God, to God's messenger angel(s), then to Joseph.  The good news is that it was God and God's plan and Mary and Joseph were assured of that.  Joseph took Mary as his wife and perhaps, as the painting above depicts, Mary was showing, when they had their wedding.  The judgmental whispers might have begun then.

Everyone in the community of God is not like Joseph.  Many people are unfortunately, judgmental or are quick to condemn without knowing the whole story.  The most godly people look to God to judge, and many people are godly like that.

When Mary told Joseph the news of her pregnancy, Joseph did not immediately have a supernatural touch from God on his shoulder or in his heart, that told him the revelatory truth.  God did not even speak to him as he departed from Mary or when he got alone.  God had to wait till Joseph was asleep and send a royal messenger angel into Joseph's dream.

When we are asleep, we are unconscious.  Our minds are no longer at work, thinking, planning, or deciding.  When Joseph was awake, he may have been having a furious dialogue in his own mind, with himself.  No one could get a word in edgewise.  He perhaps could not hear when he was awake, because he was so engaged with himself is solving this problem and wanting to do the righteous thing.

So, God sent him a special message when he was asleep.  One lesson here is that God knows we are human and works with our humanity.  After all, God designed us and knows how our human bodies work, including our minds; conscious and unconscious.

We learn from Joseph that we all have a story that we are living out.  God also has a story and we are in God's story too.  We do our best to live out our story, inspired by God's unfolding tailor-made plan for each of us.  Through Joseph, we see that God intervenes in our lives, in our plans, at times, to help us follow his tailor-made plan for our lives.  God is also gracious to speak clear enough so that we hear and know it is him guiding us, but God is also often secret in what he does with us and many others may not understand and even oppose us as we follow God.

Jesus' Prayer Request

“I’m praying for them. I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours.
-John 17:9

It is astonishing that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would humbly ask a request of his Father for you and me.  Today, that is just what Jesus is doing.  He is praying for us.  Jesus is asking God on behalf of you and me.

If you can let that sink in, it seems to me that we would want to know just what he is praying for us and pray with him.  What is it?  Do you think that each of us can go to God and ask God, "what it is that Jesus is praying for us, for me, because I want to pray that same prayer to you".

I believe that the Father listens to Jesus' prayers.  I also believe that Jesus is wise and would know what to pray for me.  Maybe what Jesus is praying is so deep that only my spirit and can receive what it is a pray that back to God.

When Jesus' life, before being executed on the cross, was coming to an end, he prayed.  He prayed a lot for his disciples and for those who would believe after them and through their witness.  Jesus sets the example for us of prayer.

The fact that Jesus prayed teaches us a lot about prayer and about how things work spiritually.  Almighty God needs people on earth to partner with Him, in order to get good things done.  The fact that Jesus prayed and prayed often tells us that his followers, Christians, will need to pray as well.

When Jesus said, "I am praying for them", it could also read, "I am asking for them".  If Jesus asked, we will need to ask.  It was not that God was holding anything back but that God is relational.  God is not controlling.  God wants to be asked, to be invited, to be permitted.

It is a profound mistake and error to believe that everything is set in motion, all is God's will, and there is not much we can do.  Fatalism is an error.  The truth is that God partners, covenants with, and uses flawed, broken, and imperfect people on earth to establish and herald His kingdom.

If you are a Christian, then you belong to God, in Christ, and Jesus is praying for you.  That encourages me and teaches me that if he prayed for those disciples then, I want to pray for the people in my life now who are his and ask God what Jesus is asking Him for and pray with Jesus.  The Christian life is very exciting when you focus on what is happening in heaven, that is focused on earth and get in tune with it.

Insights For Living

  1. You are what you eat and what you focus on or give yourself to is what you become.
  2. Your destiny is hidden in your daily routine.
  3. What you say is what you are.
  4. You can understand your life with your mind by looking backwards, but life can only be lived looking forwards with eyes of faith, hope, and love.
We are designed to worship

A life of bad eating leads to poor health and a chance of earlier death.  There is also a spiritual principle that what we behold we become.  If you behold Christ, you will become like him.  I know it is not enough to just look, but by looking at Jesus we hear him and obey him, imitate him, and have his nature imparted to us and are transformed; which is the Christian life or "Christ-i-an".

There is nothing wrong with many things in life like work, hobbies, creative interests, and important relationships; but if any of these becomes what we are living for, they will take over.  We were designed by God as creatures that worship Him in relationship to him.  It's not like God needs or wants the worship or the preeminent place in us to fulfill Himself, but we worship Him and Give him the throne because of who God is.

You don't know God if you don't get how worthy of our praise and worship that God is.  Worship is a life and a relationship, not just an expression or time at church.  We were designed to worship the King and then enjoy the life he gives us.  If we get is backwards and begin worshiping anything or anyone else besides God and place God anywhere in our lives to the side, when God needs to be in the center, on the throne, we are in trouble.  We will begin to become what we focus on outside of God.

Seed and harvest

Seeds sown germinate into plants.  In a spiritual sense, we sow seeds daily and they will grow slowly.  We want the short cut of bringing in partially grown or full grown plants to our personal gardens.  Or we might want to buy, borrow, or steal someone else's harvest that we desire.  But who you will become is actually grown slowly over time.  A journey is thousands of steps.

Often people have a realization that they want to make a change, they want to walk with God, they want to live righteously, or they want to find and move into their destinies in God.  That new path or journey is going to be a series of small steps, small decisions, in minutes, hours, days, and years.

Turning to God and going towards your destiny, living towards the answers is God's way.  "Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey." 

The power of speech

We can be our own worst critics and tear ourselves down with our own words or we can over inflate ourselves into delusion with our self-flattery, believing our own press-releases.  Many of us need self-esteem adjustments.  The narcissistic egomaniac and the self-loathing worm-theologist have in common that their self-esteem is out of whack.  Self love is a good thing.  But we love ourselves because we are loved.  God's love defines me and makes me lovable.

So when I talk, it reveals my theology and my theology reveals or defines what I believe about everything, including my self.  Bad speech is a symptom of a bad heart.  Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.  If the mouth speaks things that are ungodly, then the heart needs saving; perhaps even deliverance, and there is no shame in that.

There is power in our tongues.  We can bless or curse with our words.  How we talk is very important.  Nasty, sarcastic, or cursing talk is a symptom of a heart that needs to be be saved.

Living by faith

The guidance system does not come on until the rocket has been launched.   We were never called to understand with our minds, but to trust with our hearts.  Christians are called to be a prophetic people who's lives don't make sense to onlookers who do not share the secret passion for Jesus.    The call to follow does not carry with it a guarantee of understanding.  The call is a call to love and obey.  He is good and takes care of those who put their faith in Him.

We learn from our mistakes and are comforted in suffering by his grace.  We learn from the lives of others in scripture, in history, and from our elders who have pioneered on similar or same paths that we are traveling on.

Sky Links, 12-7-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching.
-1 Cor. 1:21

I love what Paul Pastor wrote about preaching is his article, Have We Forgotten the "Foolishness of Preaching"  Paul asked if preachers today are raising up a church of gnostics, who take pride in hidden knowledge while avoiding transformation and Jesus' mission.

Paul wrote:
"I am weekly in danger of forgetting the “folly of preaching”, not through rejecting a deeper understanding of scripture, but by allowing that Teaching to usurp the place of my Teacher. The lines that determine where that process sours are beyond me right now, but somehow I set my mind on wisdom, and miss the Wise One.

As I think back, some of the worst sermons I’ve ever heard in my life ended up changing my heart, because in some nearly intangible way, they connected me to Jesus."
That picture above is actually from another great article on preaching: Is It preaching? Or Sermonizing?   That post makes the point that preaching is for unbelievers.   

Jeff Mc Q, wrote about time, God's timing, waiting on God, and God waiting on us; in regards to fulfilling our destiny's:
"What I didn’t understand as a counterbalance to waiting on the Lord was that God had given me a mind, a strength of will, and a sense of ambition–and a dream. He hadn’t given me those things just so I could sit passively on them. Sometimes He doesn’t just solve our problems or break through our resistance because He’s already equipped us with the tools we need in order to break through it ourselves, if we would just put forth the effort. He doesn’t always have to work a miracle. Sometimes we wait on God, but sometimes God is waiting on us....

... I began to question how many boats I had missed–how many times my so-called breakthrough might have passed me by because I didn’t even see the opportunity–because I had faulty theology about the timing of God, and my role within it. I began to understand that the dreams I’d carried in my heart all those years should not have been passed off as sinful, selfish ambition; God had actually put those dreams there in order to help chart my course through life. It had been my responsibility before God to pursue those dreams..."
The whole piece, The Elusive Variable of Time (part 2)–Faulty Theology, is here.

Alvin Reid, gave a thumb-nail sketch of Jonathan Edwards, in his When The Fire Falls series, that I Jonathan Edwards: A Life.  Doctor Reid wrote:
have been enjoying.  Much of George M. Marsden's biography of Edwards, in on-line:
"Oliver Wendell Holmes called Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin the two most significant minds of early America. Edwards, as a pastor, theologian, philosopher, and revival leader, wrote some of the most remarkable works on revival in history. His precocious intellect did not limit him from a fervent piety. We should never see intellectual acumen and the desire to learn on the one hand, and the hungry heart of a humble saint on the other, to be seen as mutually exclusive. The following video offers a brief overview of the life, ministry, and writings on revival of Edwards."
The video is here.

I heard Bono interviewed on Focus On The Family, by host Jim Daly.  I could hear him light up when he talked about David being a musician and writing "Blues",  but the quote that stuck with me was when he said that Jesus was "punk rock" in his response to the man who said, "I'll follow you after I bury my father".
Bono: And politeness is, you know, is a wonderful thing. Manners are, in fact, a really important thing. But remember, Jesus didn't have many manners as we now know. And He didn't have to.

Jim: He said it like it was.

Bono: Yeah. He just spoke directly to the situation. I always think of that dude who came up to Him, you know, saying [whispering], "Listen, I think You're incredible. You are amazing. You may even be God incarnate, and all of that. But I've just gotta go and bury my father, you know, 'cause I've had a trauma. You understand." And Christ says, "Let the dead bury the dead."

Jim: Seems cold-hearted.

Bono: No, seems punk rock to me. It's like, He knew. He could see right into that fellow's heart. He knew he wasn't coming and he was just -- it was pretense. And so, we've gotta be a bit more cutting edge. Not look to the obvious signs of righteousness. Jesus was very suspicious of them. And I think, look deeper. Look to the actions.
The whole transcript is here.

Breakthrough Is Preceded By Breakdown & Breakout

Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.-James 1:4

 I have learned that breakthrough comes through breakdown and breakout..  The kingdom of God is paradoxical compared to the world.  To become big, you must become small; and to live you must die.

People who want a break through, but are refusing to have a break down, never break out.  The Christian life is a life of transformation.  To be transformed, you have to give up something and leave it behind. 

A nervous breakdown is when someone falls to pieces.  A breakdown in God is when we put our sinful nature to death,
So put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).  The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things.  You used to live this way, when you were alive to these things.  But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language.  Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices  and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it.  -Colossians 3:5-10
To break-through, we must put to death, set aside, and take off the old human nature; then put on the new nature.  Breakdown and breakout of the old will take you to spiritual breakthrough.

The Christian life comes from one place or source and that is Christ.  You only get the Christian life by spending time with God.  It is personal.  It does not work to be a crowd member and to see God from a distance.  You have to get real close to God and learn to know Him.  He wants all of you and wants you to be all filled with Him.

Do you remember the time when Jesus said to the crowd following him that unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood, they would not have his life in them?
Jesus said to them, “I assure you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me lives because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. It isn’t like the bread your ancestors ate, and then they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Many of his disciples who heard this said, “This message is harsh. Who can hear it?”

Jesus knew that the disciples were grumbling about this and he said to them, “Does this offend you?  What if you were to see the Son of Man going up where he was before?  The Spirit is the one who gives life and the flesh doesn’t help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  Yet some of you don’t believe.”   -John 6:53-63
I think that what Jesus meant is that the Christian life will not work, if you keep him at arms length.  You have to partake of him.  The first step towards breakthrough is to partake of him, in your life (time). 

Power for life was released through Jesus' life.  His life in your life brings breakthrough.  We start over in him and have new life, born from above life, like a child.

Power for breakthrough was released through Jesus' death on the cross and his rising from the dead.  Sin was broken down, so we can break out through Jesus death on the cross.  The cross is an essential part of the Christian life.  The way in is the way on.

There is no cross-less Christianity.  The Cross is at the center.  There is no breakthrough without your cross.  We each must take up our crosses and deny ourselves and follow Jesus to get breakthrough (Matt. 16:24-25, Mark 8:34-5, Luke 9:23-24). 

If you are seeking breakthrough without taking up your cross and denying self, it is like driving a car without wheels or trying to fly without wings.  There is always the opportunity to, "go fake".  There is the false and the counterfeit. There is the short-cut that bypasses His and your cross.

Breakthrough does not involve getting the old man into the new place.  The old man must die and the new life in Christ is what goes forward into breakthrough.  We don't clean the old nature up and dress it in Christ.

God wants to transform each of us, to make us complete or whole in Christ.  We cooperate with God and discover who God has uniquely made us each to be in Christ.  God has specially and specifically designed each one of us for a purpose. The only way to breakthrough is transformation which involves intimacy with God (into-me-see).

The way in is the way through and the way on: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in your secret life.

The Power of High Praise

Sing to God, play music to his name, build a road for the Rider of the Clouds, rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.

Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the Lord; exult before him!

Sing hymns to God; all heaven, sing out; clear the way for the coming of Cloud-Rider.
Enjoy God, cheer when you see him!-Psalm 38:4 (Jerusalem Bible, ESV, MSG)

When we praise the Lord, we are making a way for him.  When we worship God, we are opening a door for God to walk through.  Singing to the Lord invokes the in-breaking of the kingdom of God.

God is a covenant God.  God only does things in partnership with his children.  When we praise God, we are welcoming him to come and set things in right order on the earth.

When we sing praises to God, we are making a highway for him to come down into the earth on.  We are removing anything that would obstruct God's coming.  There is a time to repent for what we and our people have done to sin against God.  This is called identificational repentance.

When we praise God and make a highway for him, to come down through the dry places; God comes and displaces the dark spirits called demons, thrones, principalities, and powers.  God dwells in the third heaven, but the devil and his group dwell in the second heaven.  The earth is a battle field.

When we call upon God and praise him, making a way for him, he rides; and he rides means that he leads a host to war (Psalm 68:17).  He rides through the waste plains or deserts, the dry places where evil spirits dwell (Matt. 12:43).

So, when we praise God, praise the Lord; God pushes back the darkness, the evil beings that are reeking havoc and encouraging evil and sin in the earth.  Invoking God through praise is a very powerful weapon of the church.

God Notes

The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.
-John 10:10

God is positive.

God is optimistic.  God is a "glass half full" person.  God sees the best in people- what they could be with grace.  God is hopeful and merciful.

God's love is relentless and crazy(1) by human standards.  One poet described God's relentless love as "the hound of heaven".

What are you thinking?

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. -Philippians 4:8
That's life!

"I have come that you might have life", and, "I am the life", Jesus said.  Are you getting his life?  Do you have it?  He came to give us a life.  The Christian's life is life in Christ.    Go where and do what has Jesus life in it.

Jesus' emphasis was on living.  Living with God, living through him, and living with each other.  Our Christian culture has emphasized teaching and learning as the path to spiritual growth.  But we don't teach and learn the way that Jesus and the Apostles did.  We teach and learn in our heads, through our eyes and ears.  God wants to enlarge out hearts and make us like Jesus in our way of life.

Just do it!  (That's how you learn it)

What do you do for a living?

Jesus taught his disciples to do it.  The Jesus way is when your teacher is a guide by your side.  The Jesus way could also be called, "teach, do, learn".  It is kinetic and charordic: chaotic, with order.

Have you ever been to a birth?  It does not always go as planned and it is messy.  But look at the life.  Children make messes and break things.  Does that mean they should be institutionalized?  No.

People who are truly living out Christ and learning, have messy lives.  They fail, they blunder, they make messes; but their character is formed and they grow up in the Lord.

Jesus saves!

"I have come to seek and save that which is lost."  Has he been seeking you and saving you?  Has your lost-ness been found?  Are you on mission with Jesus to seek and save lost people?

Most of all, he loves the children.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  -Matthew 18:1-5
How are you doing with being child-like?  Childish and childlike are two different things.

To be childlike, is to be:
  • Curious
  • Honest
  • Unselfconscious
  • Fearless
  • Trusting
  • Approachable
  • Wonder-filled
  • Playful
1. Crazy Love is a book by Francis Chan

Stressed Out?

“Hey there! All who are thirsty, come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway—buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money—everything’s free!
Why do you spend your money on junk food, your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest.
-Isaiah 55:1-3

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
-Matthew 11:28-30

Halt.  Stop.  Stop it.  Freeze.  Before you take a negative thought, before you say something negative, and before you beat yourself or someone else up... just halt.  Hey there, ho!  Can you hear me?  You look tired, thirsty, hungry, and lonely.  God sees you and so do I.

When you are tired, hungry, thirsty, or lonely; you need a re-charge, you need a rest.  Take care of the rest.  I repeat, take care of your rest.  God designed us to work and rest.  God designed us to need people and to need relationship with him.  Are you on empty again?  Get filled up, get re-charged.

On the one hand, we are called, but some don't get the call; to a life of service, a life of ministry.  But, on the other hand we are called to a life of rest, living by grace; by the rhythms of grace, which are work empowered by God, then rest in God.  That's the way that Jesus showed us to live and work.

Before You Call, I Will Answer

Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.

I will answer them before they even call to me.  While they are still talking about their needs,
I will go ahead and answer their prayers! 
-Isaiah 65:24 (CEB, NLB)

Did you know that God is waiting or standing in your future, anticipating your needs and waiting for you?  We don't make God aware of something, so that he can help us.  He already knows and has the answer before we ask, before we seek him.

If our whole life is about walking with God and being discipled by Jesus, then we can expect all our needs to be met.  Instead of being far off from God and crying out for vision, we are close to God and have provision.  In every situation, we can expect provision.  In every providence, God is provider.

God knows when you are going to have a bad day and places provision in that day and time.  You don't see it or recognize it, before you need it.  God is already catching you, with arms held out, when you start to fall, and call out.

Oikos: Baptism, Family, and House

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
-Acts 2:39

Oikos baptism

Oikos (household) evangelism, led to household baptisms in the book of Acts.  The father got saved and the whole household (wife, children, and perhaps servants) got baptized.  Nothing in the text indicates that the father carefully led each of his family members to Christ before they were baptized.  As far as we know, all of these family members were baptized just as infants are today, in some of our denominational traditions, before they understood the gospel messege and have repented and believed.  Read the story in Acts 16.

Household baptisms also occurred on the day of Pentecost.  Read Acts 2:36-40:
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
We are in a pickle, if we are completely invested in believers baptism (only).  Peter's words are, "be baptized, every one of you in the the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  And you will receive the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children...."

We take this text and impose our tradition on it, and cannot imagine that children could possibly be baptized.  "Every one of you", means 'every one of you'.  Children were present, families were present, on the day of Pentecost.  'The promise' is the gift of new life.

The question about baptism is, is it about God's grace or my faith?  God's grace in Christ for me precedes my response.  I can be baptized before I even have the ability to reason enough to believe, because baptism is about God's grace towards me, even before I make a decision.

I can also be baptized as an adult, when I believe (repent), and that is good too.  In adult baptism, I am acknowledging what God has already done and affirming it.  Do I need adult baptism, if I was baptized as a child?  No.  But, can I be baptized as an adult, if I was baptized as a child, but chose not to walk with God and only came to genuine salvation as an adult?  Yes.

Baptism is open to all ages, because that is how it was done in the book.  Baptism does not save you.  Christ saves you and Christ does not save you through baptism either.  Christ only saves people by what he did on the cross.  Jesus' blood saves us.  There will be no other boxes to check off.

Baptism is also immediate upon believing.  It's, "let's find some water and do it".  No waiting, no classes, no test, no confirming.  All of that is baggage we have added- 'hamburger helper'.

Oikos: family and house 

Oikos of God: family of God, house of God.  the people are the family and the people are the house or temple.  God is a family man.  In the new covenant, the people are the temple that God comes to dwell in for service, Christ is the only sacrifice and we offer ourselves as sacrifices to God in Christ, and there is not special class of priests, but we are all now priest and Jesus is the only high priest.

No more going to the temple to find God, no more sacrificial rituals to please God, and no more priest-class that is a go between.  In the oikos, we are all equal, we're all children, it's flat; there is no hierarchy.  Every gift is for serving one another, like when many peolple bring different foods to a pot-luck buffet.
Thirty Years That Changed The World - The Book of Acts, Michale Green
Acts, F.F. Bruce

Oikos: Spiritual House & Household Evangelism

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

 -1 Peter 2:5, Hebrews 3:6 (NIV)

Spiritual house

"You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house..."  Peter tells us that we, as Christians are God's new temple.  We are not the stone blocks.  Wayne Grudem wrote about the meaning of Oikos in 1 Peter 3:5, stating that the spiritual house is,
"an amorphous 'building' that continually takes on the changing dimensions of God's assembled people.
  Spiritual (pneumatikos) when applied to 'house' and 'sacrifices' does not mean 'immaterial' (for the believers are not immaterial persons!), but rather 'influenced or dominated by the Holy Sirit; sharing the character of the Holy Spirit' (Rom. 1:11, 1 Cor. 2:13, 15, 12;1; Gal. 6:1, Col. 3:16).  Christians are a new temple of God under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit."...
  The encouragement in these verses, then, in this sense: 'As you (keep on) coming to Christ (in worship, in prayer, and praise), you are (continually) being built up into a spiritual temple, a place in which God more fully dwells.'
"And we are his house..."  William Barclay wrote this about Hebrews 3:6:
"We use the word house in a double sense.  We use is in the sense of a building and also in the sense of a family.  The Greeks used oikos in the same double sense...                            The whole world is God's house, but in a special sense the Church is God's house, for in a special sense God brought it into being.  That is a picture the New Testament loves (cp. 1 Peter 4:17, 1 Tim. 3:15, and especially 1 Peter 2:5). 
So, when Peter and the author of Hebrews wrote these words to the ancient church, it was fresh and new.  This new revelation of being the people of God was given, and it contrasted with both Judaism's practices of worship and life with God, as well as the pagan religions.

The people are now the temple.  Does that mean we no longer seek God?  No.  We seek God even more now, but we do it all the time.  Dwelling with God is supposed to be the normal Christian life and when we gather with other Christians, we actually come from having been with God all week and share with each other what God has been doing in our lives, during the week.

When we go to church to look for God, or an impartation, or a new prophecy; we have it backwards.  We're supposed to be getting that all week, and some of it in twos and threes as we disciple each other or rather make one another disciples of Jesus and let Jesus do the hard parts of building his church.

Oikos evangelism

Oikos evangelism is when a person evangelizes their family or extended family.  The family has known a person and they see the positive changes in their lives brought about by Christ.  The new believer is a credible witness, because their family knew them before and after their change.

Oikos evangelism makes sense and is completely natural.  God wants to save households (Acts 11:14 & 16:31).  Oikos evangelism is not my topic here, but I wanted to mention it and then note also that whole households got saved in the book of Acts.

Some more reading on Oikos Evangelism:

How Oikos evangelism grew a church to 11,000 attenders , Tom Mercer.

The 'person of peace' and their 'oikos', JR Woodward.

What is Oikos?  Bob & Mary Hopkins

Thom Wolf
1 Peter, Wayne Grudem 
Hebrews, William Barclay

Oikos: Household

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.-1 Peter 2:5 (NIV)


Your house, my house, the house of God.  We say, "in the house", to mean dwell.  Before the church, the Bible's writers referred to the temple as God's house (Isaiah 2:3).  Even Jesus used that language, referring to the temple (Matt. 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46).

After Jesus rose from the dead and the day of Pentecost,  when the church was born, a shift took place.  The house of God, or the dwelling place of God was no longer the temple in Jerusalem, but was now the people who are in Christ.

Rather than being a fixed place, location, or house; the dwelling place of God was and is now super-portable.  The people of God are now the house or temple of God.  We no longer go to a place where God dwells, but God dwells with each one of us, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When the church gathers or comes together or congregates, all these mini-dwelling places come together.  Instead of being like concrete or hard walls, Christians are a building that is continually changing shape, to fit together with each other and God: living stones.

A household is not a business.  A household is a dwelling, a dwelling place; a refuge, a sanctuary.  You are that and you all together are that.  The church is a portable dwelling place.  We know that the church is also a family and a body.

We are brothers and sisters, in the household of God.  We have elders, people who are older and wiser.  We have mamas and papas, but we are all children of God.

Bodies need healing and houses need repairs

Bodies and families and houses can also have problems or get broken.  The body is repaired organically.  Families may need talk therapy.  Therapy does not mean psychology, but healing.  Houses may need repairs.

The help for all the problems that the household of God might have, comes from the Holy Spirit.  That is the living stones part.  The church is the family of God, the body of Christ, and the household of God.  It's not just a club that serves, like the Rotary club or Kiwanis.  Nor is it only a group of people that gathers like congress to debate, legislate, and decree.  It is that, but a lot more.

The church, the household of God, is all these things, and works like a family, like a body.  But the church is not a business.  God could easily have said that the church is like a factory or a franchise or a store or a payroll; but he did not.  We added that and changed everything.

The church is not a business, as a body and family is not a business

When we see the church as a business, rather than a body or a family, we've walked away from the blueprint.  Staff, bosses, firing, and political maneuvering; to give a few examples, are not things that happen naturally, organically, functionally, and healthily in a family or body.

This is what Dave Black wrote in response to a post called ransom note ecclesiology, wherein Alan Knox posited that the church cuts and pastes pieces of scripture together to get things that are not there, such as ideas like 'the church is a business':
We are going to have to give up one of the greatest myths of Christendom -- that the church is a business. If we want true restoration, we must be willing to give up all professional ministries. The church would again become an oikos, the household of God, a family in which everyone had a job and was a real minister of the Gospel. The New Testament is clear that ordained professionals did not exist in the early church. I take seriously the awful drain on the church's energy because of all the institutional baggage we carry around with us. We must learn to mobilize lay elders in every church. As long as we have salaried professionals some faction of the congregation will always find the pastor's (i.e., their employee's) theology, personality, social views, family, wife, etc. unacceptable. The minister is no longer a brother or even a person. I talk to more and more clergymen for whom the professional ministry is becoming an impossible burden. The reason for this is that our Lord never entrusted leadership to one man, let alone to a "professional." What can we do, then, to hasten the demise of clericalism? (Notice I did not say hasten the demise of elders or pastors or overseers!) Return to the lay-based church of the New Testament. Remove our clerical robes. Stop trying to be the people's burden-bearer and priest. Divest ourselves of our professional illusions. Rediscover what it means to witness to our Servant Lord in the midst of the world. Let our seminaries move beyond the theoretical study of the church and put into practice the training of the laos ("laity") for ministry. These may be but first steps in the search for the biblical church, but the search can and must begin.
The oikos, is where everyone has a job and is a real minister.  In a family, we have face time and work out differences.  We don't fire people and we only ask people to leave if, unless their behavior is destructive.  When people want to move out or move on in their journey, we bless them as they leave.

Get Yourself Free

Get yourself free like a gazelle from a hunter, like a bird from the hand of a fowler.
-Proverbs 6:5

As Christians we are set free to live in freedom.  "It is for freedom that he has set us free".  Jesus paid the price and now we have to live the life... with God's help and the help of others.

We don't save our selves but we steward the salvation God has given us.  Viktor Frankl, who survived a concentration camp, during World War Two, said that freedom is the choice we make after something happens to us.  He set us free so that we would be free to make good choices with how we live, talk, and think.

When something negative happens, like a disappointment or an offense or a loss; we get to choose, will we go negative and grouse, murmur, pout, wine, and grumble?  Or will we exercise faith and focus on God, what can be, and find the silver lining in the dark cloud, or make lemonade out of the sour situation?  Freedom gives us that choice every day.

When we are in a negative situation, we can look for the provision of God. When we find God's provision, we appropriate it and stay free.  God promises, for example, to comfort the brokenhearted, never leave us or forsake us, and cause all things to work together for good.

There are a thousand reasons to go negative every day, "but  God", trumps them all.  Temptations to sin come our way and we may open the door or fully go forward with that sin.  It is never too late to turn away from it and get yourself free.  "First John one nine it", or "admit it and quit it."  Ask for deliverance, if something has got a hook in you.  Get yourself free.

I realize that the context of Proverbs 6:5 is cosigning loans, too casually.  My understanding is that generosity and compassion towards people in need, who are not in your immediate family, is part of the counsel of God.  "Love your neighbor as yourself", the example being the story of the good Samaritan.

At some point, in ancient Israel, borrowing and lending money go out of control, meaning that people began asking for loans that they might not be able to pay back or began taking loans, and perhaps from peoples outside of Israel, who did not worship God.  Then, there were also loans with an interest rate attached, which the Bible calls usury.  The longer the loan stayed unpaid, the more it grew.  The Bible counsels against the practice of usury.

So, the immediate context of Proverbs 6:5, is to get yourself free from a foolish pledge you make, even with the shake of hands, to help someone, to put your finances on the line with someone who may not be able or willing to follow through and pay off the obligation.

The picture is of you giving a gambler your money, that he or she says they will pay back, because in their addiction or delusion, they actually believe it.  They are your neighbor or your friend.  They are charming, neighborly and friendly; but they have a problem that lurks beneath the surface of their life.  We all have hidden problems, hidden sins.

Your friend or neighbor gets into your favor or good graces.  It is a human, God given, inclination to help someone.  The person does not just ask for 10 dollars, they don't just ask to borrow hundreds; but they ask you to co-sign their loan.  This is the picture in Proverbs 6.

It is also interesting, that after the author of Proverbs vigorously enjoins the one who made the foolish agreement to get out of it, whatever it takes, even begging their friend or neighbor; he says to take a look at the hard working ant, who gets ahead and stores up for hard times.  Then, in contrast, the author rebukes lazy people.

So, one could easily surmise that the message of Proverbs 6 is that lazy people are enticed by loaned money, rather than industriously earning it.  The kind person, who is walking with God in a life of generosity and compassion towards others, can be taken advantage of by people who are not choosing God's path, but are going for short cuts in their lives; which is reflected in their finances.

If you found out that the money that you gave someone was being spent on gambling, or something else immoral or illegal, would you keep giving money to them?  A long time ago, I learned to try to, "meet the need", of the person asking for help.  Give them food if they say they need food or fill their gas tank if they say they need gas.

So, Proverbs 6 is saying to get out of those agreements or relationships you got into where you are cosigning or being surety for someone else.  Get out of the unequal yoke business relationship.  People talk about the unequal yoke as being married to a non-believer, but it is really about not being in a business relationship with an non-believer.

But, I believe that the phrase, "get yourself free", is a powerful one that applies to the believer fleeing from sin.  Remember, that we stand against the devil and demons and their attacks (James 4:7), but we flee from sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), and we put to death sensual sins, including greed (Col. 3:5).

Get yourself free from foolish relationships where you have agreed to help someone who is not in a covenant relationship with God or with you, and who is not family either legally, by blood, or through loving trust.  Let go of obligations to people who have not earned your trust and who's obligations entrusted to you could endanger those you are obligated to, in covenant with, and love.

Renewing Your Love

Dear friends, I’m not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the message you heard.
-1 John 2:7
If you are wanting to mature in Christ and get closer to God, to live the life; you might be searching for the deeper things, the deeper teachings, or the deeper knowledge.  There are dozens of things you might do, which I will not list.  Most of them are dead ends.

Only Jesus himself is the way, the truth and the life.  The essence of the Christian life is the person of Jesus Christ.  It is personal.  Do you as a person know him as a person?  

To find out what the Christian is all about, we have to look at where we came from.  What birthed Christianity?  Christ birthed Christianity, but where did Christ come from and how did Christ happen and what was Christ all about?  In other words, what was the motivation of Christ or God in Christ?

If the Christian is part of a family, referred to as friends or beloved: brothers, sisters, dads, and moms in Christ; then how did it all start?  

It started with God's love.  It was God's love that sent Jesus, who is Christ.  That's how the Christian began.  Those are the roots.

Jesus loved God and loved people.  He instructed his first learners who he called to himself, to love each other the way he loved them.  That is the message that is not new.  

How is your love doing?  Are you loving others as Christ has loved you?

God's love in Christ is the root of Christianity.  If you are not loving, then you are not in harmony or are out of synch with the root.  

The test of love is obedience.  We were set free from bondage to sin, but now we must choose love, choose obedience.  That means a life of loving God and loving others.  Receive God's love and love others.

Apostle John is the one who rested his head on Jesus at the last dinner they had together.  He is the one that Jesus entrusted with the care of his mom.  Some people call John, the Apostle of love.  Read 1 John and you will see the word love a lot.  I think it is fair to call John a lover, full of Christ's love.

John says that if you say you've got the love of God in Christ, but are not obedient; then you are a liar (1 John 2:4).  John also calls out people who hate their brothers or sisters, while claiming to be enlightened, as people in darkness.  What this means is that Christians can delude themselves.  

Christianity is not a self-improvement program, but it only works if you work it (Phil. 2:12-13).  You have to work out, but the Holy Spirit will be your trainer.  You have to turn to the Lord and he will transform you.  You have to open your mouth to share Christ and God will give you the words.

Imagine with me, that you were in the ancient church, perhaps in Ephesus, in the first century.  You are a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.  You have heard all the stories.  

Your brother in Christ, who led you to know him had some good news for you one day.  That news was that Apostle John, one of Jesus' original disciples is coming to speak to your gathering of believers next week.  You and your friends are thrilled to hear this news.

In the week before John arrives, there is a buzz among the Christians about what new revelation that John will bring.  People have said that since Jesus ascended to heaven, John has had many visions of the future that some are calling apocalyptic, like end of the world stuff.

Here is the testimony of what happened:  When John came, we were not disappointed.  I have never sensed the presence of God stronger than on that day.  I almost could not stand when we were singing and hearing songs before John came forth to address our group of brothers and sisters.

He stood up and didn't say anything for quite a while.  He looked at us like a loving grandpa.  It felt like his eyes could see into us, but it also felt very loving to be in his gaze.

Finally, John spoke.  It was one of those, "you could hear a pin drop", moments.  He spoke three words and then paused.  The three words were, "love one another".  

He went on the expound about God's love in Jesus.  He talked to us about the last time he had dinner with Jesus before the cross and how Jesus told them to love each other.

John told us about when Jesus washed their feet that night and told them to care for each other.  He reminded us of the Father's love for Jesus and Jesus' love for the Father.  He told us that how we love each other is a reflection of Jesus' love for us and the Father's love for him.

He told us that if we are not living in this love, then we are fooling ourselves and are deceived.  We can have our loved renewed, he said.  He said, we can return to and be renewed in our love for Jesus, which will then be reflected in how we treat others.

Many of us asked God, that day, to fill us again with Christ's love, so that we can love others as a witness to the world that Christ is real.

It is the same today.  We need the old command renewed in us.  We need the same love of God in Christ in our lives to love each other.  Some of us need to return to our first love and do what we did at the beginning (Rev. 2:1-7).  What most of us did at the beginning was to love God and love others.

We can work hard and persevere in the faith.  We can be rightly intolerant of evil.  We can expose false apostles and endure under hardships.  We can do all this and more, but lose the love we started with.  When we realize this, all we have to to is repent and return to that simple love.

We all can get self-righteous and start running the program.  But all the good works are for naught, if we have disconnected from the simple, humble love for Christ.  

Receive his love, and love others.  That's the root of the Christian life.  We love because he loves and he loves from his Father's love of him and his love of his Father.

How great is the love
That you have given us
That we should be called your children

Great is your love
Great is your faithfulness
Great is your gentle touch

-Craig Musseau, 1989

Many Thoughts, Many Cares

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
How amazing are your thoughts concerning me! I couldn’t even begin to count them.

-Psalm 94:19 & 139:17

I was thinking about thoughts and worries or cares.  Some translations do a play on words for 1 Peter 5:7, stating, "cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you."  Simply stated, the only way to live the life is in and through Christ.  We must interact with Christ to live the life.  That's discipleship.

If you've got worries or negative thoughts, your antidote or medicine is God's thoughts: specifically, God's thoughts concerning you.  He loves you.

So, if you have a bad thought; take another thought, from God.  It is that simple.
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so...
So, if I get it that he loves me, then how does that change my thoughts?

Healing or memories and transformation happens from taking another thought.  The light of God's thoughts changes the atmosphere of my situation.  One candle expels all the darkness.

If you realize you are loved and cared for, it changes everything.  God's love and Christ's care define me, no matter what happens to me, no matter what comes against me.

Following Jesus and being his disciple is very simple form our end.  All we have to do is say, "yes, Lord."  Then we've given him permission to lead us, guide us, teach us, and mold us.

Some of the pain in our lives comes when we forget who we are and who we belong to and who loves us.  It's a discipline to turn your heart towards the Lord when pain comes.

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Is prayer like leaving a voice-mail or an email, if you are a prayer journal person?  Or, is prayer a conversation where you talk and listen?  Or, is prayer when you seek and find God, and sit in Father's lap and your heart is transformed?

Sky Links, 10-27

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
All things are from him and through him and for him.
May the glory be to him forever. Amen.
-Romans 11:36

These are a few of the interesting things I read over the past two or 3 weeks:

Have you heard about food allergies, wheat allergies, or gluten intolerance in particular?  I started hearing about these allergies about nine years ago.  So, what about bread in the Bible?  Luke Gilkerson wrote on Is Gluten-Free Biblical?.  One take-away is that today's wheat is not the same as in the Bible.

I remember in High School, that we had an assembly where a lady came and told us her story about going through World War Two in Europe.  We who have been born in the USA and never known anything else, don't really know what it would be like to live under a totalitarian government.  It is interesting that before Nazi Germany, Germany was a democracy and Hitler was democratically elected.

Kitty Werthmann lived in Austria during the time of Nazi Germany.  Her country was taken over by Germany, before the war started and she experienced all the loses of freedoms that the National Socialists imposed.
   She wrote this piece in 2003, so she was not speaking against the government we have now, as some have supposed.  Her written account is an eye-opener about the dark side of government control, socialism, and humanism that disposes with God:  After America, There is No Place to Go.

Rick Joyner wrote about how America is headed towards Martial Law.
He wrote again, clarifying why America is headed towards chaos and financial collapse: The Straw That Breaks The Camels Back

Are you a good listener?  The ministry of listening is an important and perhaps more important that the ministry of talking.  That was a paradoxical understatement, by the way.  Adam S, McHugh wrote, Why I am a Listener.

A small quote I loved: "The kingdom of God is flat.  Aren’t you glad?"-Dave Black's comment on Craig Benno's post, The Eldership.  That is Dr. Black with two of his grandchildren.

We are learning that God's way of leadership for Christians is getting behind people or coming along side of others. 

 Marsha Burns wrote this on October 23rd:
  • There will be opportunities to react inappropriately, but if you maintain spiritual awareness and self-control you will come through unscathed. 
  • This will also be a test to see if you will take things personally and be rejected. Instead, you must forgive quickly, receive My love, and go on. 
  • Let Me lead you to a place of security in Me, says the Lord.  
  • Stay calm and keep your emotional responses under control.
2 Peter 1:5-7  But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
That's a good word, at least for me.  I love that 2 Peter 1 passage.  I've thought of it as "the recipe of righteousness."  I think that the diligence part is important.  Did you see the test part?  Things do need to be tested and proven, like testing a new bridge.  Men and women go through tests.  This is only a test, not the final exam.  Forgive.  Maintain self-control and be aware spiritually.  Receive His love. When you are in trouble, in pain, or being tested in some way; add to you little faith.  God has provision there, even if you are between a rock and a hard place.

Jesus Burst into Tears

Jesus began to cry.
-John 11:35

Have you cried lately?  I mean, have you shed tears?  Specifically, have you shed tears over someone else's plight?

Jesus shed tears.  He burst into tears when they were taking him to Lazarus' tomb.  Why?  The surrounding verses tell us that he was moved deeply and that he loved the man who died and his grieving sisters.

But, what makes Jesus tears so astonishing is that he is God.  He and Father are one.  Many verses in John teach us about Jesus' divinity.  He is God, so we should listen to him and follow him.

History is filled with man seeking after God.  Who is God?  What is God like?  Jesus comes and reveals himself as equal to the one God, and we start to learn about the Trinity; God in three persons- the Holy Spirit being the third person.

But that is not the most amazing part or the key.  What is the most amazing and unique thing about Jesus that sets him apart is that he is God and man: fully God and fully man.  Jesus was not an avatar or the greatest actor ever.

Some people believe Jesus was the greatest performer ever.  Remember the paradigm of Lord, liar, or lunatic, from Josh Mc Dowell?  He was one of the three, goes the thought.  There are folks who say, "liar".  So, to them, it was all an act and, like the rest of us, he was acting his way through life, perhaps with some good intentions or perhaps not.

What Jesus really is, is Lord; he is God.  But Jesus is peculiarly different in a many special ways from other persons who claimed to be God.  One of the these was that he was fully man and fully God.

A demonstration of that was when Jesus wept.  He wept and it was real.  He did not burst into tears as a liar or a crazy person.  God cried.  Let that sink in.

The One God, revealed in Jesus, wept.  It was not anything but authentic.  Lee Harmond wrote:
But, you see, gods don’t weep. To the Greeks (and all of the Gospels were written in Greek and among the Greeks) the primary characteristic of God was something they called apatheia, which means total inability to feel any emotion whatsoever. This verse, one commentator of John supposes, may be the most astonishing verse in the Gospel.
The God we serve is fully sympathetic with our human frailty.  Jesus knows how we hurt.  We can never say, "God does not empathize or sympathize with my pain".  He feels it.  He knows every physical and emotional pain.

I once heard the story of a person who stood up and gave a prophetic word in which they attempted to bring a word from God, saying, (paraphrased) "my people, I know how sad and depressed some of you are, please know that I get depressed too."

This would-be-prophet had it wrong.  God does not get depressed, or get in a 'funk'.  Jesus bursting into tears does not mean he lost control, that the sadness of the situation pushed him over the edge, or that he was hopeless.  When God cries, he does not lose faith, hope, or love.

Christianity, unlike all the other religions, is not about mankind seeking God; but about God seeking mankind, out of pure love.  All of that is wrapped up in the the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, "the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world", as Martha said in John 11:27.

"Jesus wept", or the more accurate translation of, "Jesus burst into tears", should astonish us and cause us to realize, he loves us: he loves me!   The fact that Jesus wept should give us no reservations about letting Jesus into every painful moment of our lives; letting him walk with us through everything and every place in our life.

Give the Lord Jesus the key to your 'chamber of horrors', that room where you store your worst memories that affect you, even though you don't want them to.  Let him take that painful thing onto his shoulders and let him lift you up.  He is your consolation.