Ready or Not, Ready For The Lord

But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the groom! Come out to meet him.’  “Then all those bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps.  But the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps have gone out.’

“But the wise bridesmaids replied, ‘No, because if we share with you, there won’t be enough for our lamps and yours. We have a better idea. You go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’  But while they were gone to buy oil, the groom came. Those who were ready went with him into the wedding. Then the door was shut.

“Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us.’

“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

“Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.  On the Judgment Day, many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name and expel demons in your name and do lots of miracles in your name?’  Then I’ll tell them, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you people who do wrong.’
-Matthew 25:6-12, 7:21-3


My dad was called up to be checked out, to see if he would be eligible to serve in the Korean War, in the 1950's. The young man behind him in line asked my dad if he had an extra pair of underwear, because the fellow was not wearing any and was about to be given a physical examination. Sometimes, we are not ready for what is about to happen to us. Christians do not wear special underwear, but there is the issue of readiness to meet the Lord. Are you ready? Are you prepared?

In the parable of the bridesmaids, all of them started with lamps. They all got tired and were susceptible to dozing off. God understands that humans need sleep. But there was a difference between the two groups of five and five. One group, the wise group, had their lamps and had containers of oil. While the second group only had their lamps.

When the call came that the bridegroom was coming, it was time to light up your lamp and greet him. But, that second group, who were foolish, had no oil. It was "ready or not" time. The ones lacking oil asked the wise ones with oil if they could have some and were told, "no". There was not enough to share.  They suggested that they go buy some; but it was too late.

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus says that there will be religious people and charismatic people who don't make it on judgement day. The ones who do make it are the ones who do the will of the Father. Apparently, a person can say, "Lord, Lord", and not make it. Jesus is saying that it is not what you say, but what you do. We are not saved by works, but saved people do the will of the Father, which includes good works, but is about a whole righteous life. It's a Christ life.

Also, Jesus says that doing spectacular things in his name does not mean you'll make it. There are people in ministry and who do ministry that is prophetic and supernatural, who are not in alignment with God. Like the 'Lord, Lord' people who can parrot words, they are not living in relationship with the Father.

These folks are not disciples. They do not have an intimate working relationship with God. There are people who are Christian in-name-only. Real Christians are Christians 24-7 and have an ongoing relationship with God that is transforming their life unto Christ-likeness.

The oil in the parable of the bridesmaids symbolizes the anointing from God. Jesus is The Anointed One. That is what Christ means. Your lamp is your heart, burning for the Lord, and burning from the Lord. You are the light of the world. We have that light because Jesus is the light. Are you letting it shine?

The way you keep your light going is to get more oil. The getting takes work. You won't get more oil if you do nothing. You must go to the source, Jesus, and get more oil. Jesus is God's Christ, God's anointed one. You have to go to God and get more oil for your lamp. When you originally came to the light and got your light lit, there was oil to start; but it runs out and you must get more.

Here is the key. You must get your own oil. It is like the verse, "bear one another's burdens, but each one must carry their own load". That is what it was about when the bridesmaids that had oil would not share it. You must get your own. We can point the way and even help you get there, but you must buy your own oil. There is a price for each one to pay to get their own oil, and it is completely worth it.

It is called discipleship, walking before the Father; and living out your life in Christ. That is the saved life. That is the life of the one who has salvation.

   ...the essence of discipleship, and hence the participation in the kingdom is found not in words, nor in religiosity, nor even in the performance of spectacular deeds in the name of Jesus, but only in the manifestation of true righteousness - i.e., the doing of the will of the Father as now interpreted through the teach of Jesus.  Relationship with Jesus is thus impossible apart from doing the will of God...  Religion can never take the place of actual obedience to the teaching of Jesus...  At the same time, the larger framework of grace should not be forgotten, nor the reality of forgiveness available to disciples (Matt. 6:12).  The seriousness of the ethical demand upon the disciples does not cancel out the priority or significance of grace manifested in Jesus and the kingdom.  (Hagner, Matthew; pp. 188-9)

The way in is the way on. We are saved by grace and we keep saved by grace. How do we get more oil, get anointing? Grace. How do we live out the Christian life? Grace. How do we walk with God? Grace. It is all grace. Grace calls us to Jesus and grace empowers us to be like Jesus.

To be ready for anything, especially for when the Lord comes; we need a life of grace. We receive grace and walk in grace and give grace. We are in a grace relationship. Upgrades of more grace are available if your life is not working, but you have to pursue the relationship. You have to do something. You can't get someone else's anointing nor fake it with a good vocabulary.

Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful)

Who is like you, Lord God of heavenly forces?
Mighty Lord, your faithfulness surrounds you!
Your throne is built on righteousness and justice;
loyal love and faithfulness stand in front of you.
-Psalm 89:8 & 14

I have an announcement to make.  God is always faithful.  Great is God's faithfulness.  It is part of God's character.  God is trustworthy, reliable, and loyal.  God is so faithful that you and I can always put our faith in him.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

God is always faithful.  Every good and perfect gift comes from God who does not waver (James 1:16-18).  If you are in the pits, depressed, down and out, beat up, or suffering; there are still new mercies coming to you from God, a glimmer of hope, because God is always faithful (Lamentations 3:1-33).  You aren't grabbing at straws, but holding onto Him.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians three times that God is faithful (1 Cor. 1:9, 10:13, 2 Cor. 1:18).

Paul told the Galatians that we are made righteous through the faithfulness of Christ (Gal. 2:16, 2:20, 3:22).
Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider was called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war justly. -Rev. 19:11
In the book of Revelation is not merely John's Revelation, but it is The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1).  The book of Revelation, chapters 1 through 19:10 are in a sense an introduction to the revelation of Jesus Christ.  John declares that Jesus is faithful and true.  If Jesus is anything, in his nature, he is faithful and true.  That is good news.

As a Christian, you are putting your trust, your faith into and onto a person who is faithful.  It is personal and it is relational.  We trust the Bible, because it is God's word.  But it is the person whom we put our trust in.  It is personal and it is relational.

Semper Fidelis is Latin for Always Faithful

God is always faithful.

Faithful One so unchanging
Ageless One You’re my rock of peace
Lord of all I depend on You
I call out to You, again and again
I call out to You, again and again

You are my rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm
Your love is the anchor
My hope is in You alone

-By Brian Doerksen

Sky Links, 7-27-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Houses and riches may be inherited from parents, but a sensible wife is a gift from the Eternal.
The man who finds a wife finds something good, and the favor of the Eternal is indeed his.
-Proverbs 19:14, 18:22

I read this post, My Husband Is Not My Soul Mate, by Hannah.  I was already thinking about those verses above, reflecting about my own time before I got married.  Like Hannah, I also read some of the books she mentions, like "I Kissed Dating Goodbye".  The one that sticks in my memory the most is, "Passion and Purity", by Elisabeth Elliot.

I had a close friend who read a book on "Soul Mates", and he really believed in the concept, as did another close friend.  I did not.  But when I met my wife, I did realize that God can select a person for you. 

An interesting thing about Elisabeth Elliot is that she has been married to the "right person" several times.  She had a great husband, who died; then another great husband, but different that the first, who died also.  She then was courted again by her third husband.  She only had her first husband for 3 years and the second one for 4.  She has been married to her third husband for over 35 years now.  My point is that we can have more than one marriage, whether it is wonderful, soul-mate-like or not so wonderful. 

Have you been in or ever heard of accountability groups?  Jeremy Meyers wrote a piece called, Why Accountability Groups Don't Work.  I agree with Jeremy's side note, that if it works for you, that is great.


Like Jeremy, I wonder if they are the way to go.  I think that we need discipleship, which accountability groups are trying to be.  I think that in our discipleship, we call each other upward.  I think that in our Christian culture, we have a high percentage of people who are not living a trans-formative life.  The bottom line is that not much discipleship is going on.  Jesus said to us to make disciples, but we build the church; when he said he would do that.

To be blunt, I am heartbroken that surveys have revealed that something like 50% or more of "Christian" men who attend church view pornography during the week.  We have a consumer culture where we do some "drive-thru" sex during the week and then pop in and out of church on Sundays.  Other surveys have shown that 40% of "pastors" view pornography.  These shocking statistics have come out in the age of accountability groups.

The only cure as I see it, is in transformation.  Discipleship is not encouragement towards legalism, but encouragement towards Christlikeness.  Sin is dealt with at the cross.  Jesus' cross is at the place of the skull. Our minds need sanctification.  We need deliverance.  We need to re-discover dying to self and taking up one's cross as we follow Christ.  This is where the rubber meets the road for us.

What if the Christian life was a life of encountering God and being transformed?  When we meet together, we encourage each other in what God has been doing in us during the week to transform us.

Call To Me


Let your cry come to me, and I will give you an answer, and let you see great things and secret things of which you had no knowledge.
-Jeremiah 33:3

What if God suddenly interrupted whatever you were doing and whispered these words to you, "Call to me and I will answer and reveal to you wondrous secrets that you haven’t known".  What would you say?

Maybe you would hesitate or get tongue-tied.  Are you and I more used to the status quo than than asking what we really want?  Children are always asking for stuff.  We are God's children.  Perhaps we are a little bit "too adult" towards God, or are perfectionists and want to ask rightly. Our minds get in the way, so we don't know what to ask for.


Our minds can get log-jammed, so it is hard to know what to ask.  We think too much.  Some of us, because of the disappointments with asking and not seeming to get, have, "hope deferred makes the heart sick", disease.  This heart disease is fatal, but reversible.

We often need our hearts softened, purified, and changed before we can approach God. 

God says, "call and I will answer".  My heart says, "I have called and there was no answer."  But God says, "call and I will answer".  Am I going to listen to my disappointed heart or to God's inspired word?  Sounds like an easy dilemma, but that sick or disappointed heart comes to the forefront when God comes.

God wants to show us things that we do not know.  But, we fall for the know-it-all-trap.  It is a human condition.  To be a learner, a disciple, we have to focus our selves on learning new things, perhaps better things, perhaps more Christlike ways.

The truth is that we don't know it all.  We know a little.  We also may think we know something, but we are wrong.  We might be doing life very inefficiently, we might be hurting ourselves and others by the way we live, and we just don't know any better.  God says that if you ask, that He will answer and show you things that you do not know.

Did you get that?  You and I don't know a lot and God knows everything.  God says that He will show us things we do not know.  God says to ask and He will answer and show you things you do not know.  Your knowledge will increase and expand.  You will see things as God sees things.  What you know will change.

The answer to your prayers will change what you know.  God can answer any prayer for what you want or need, but what God really is after is to change what you know.  You might think you already have the essential doctrines down and know them.  That is not what I am talking about.  God wants a people who know His ways.  God wants a people who don't just know about him, but know him personally.

"I will show you great and mysterious things that you do not know."  Are you a disciple?  A disciple is a learner.  Learners are always learning more, learning things they did not know.  Be a life long learner.

What God has for us is beyond what we can imagine (Eph. 3:20) and God does not have a limited budget.  We limit ourselves by not asking and seeking (James 4:2, Matt. 7:7).  The wondrous or great things that are the answer to our prayers, if we would just ask and persevere in asking, are jaw dropping places of grace, grace, grace.  These answers that God has for you are nothing short of incredible.  God takes you into a new, higher place on the inside and on the outside.  Who do you think invented the concept of generosity and giving gifts?  God is generous and loves to surprise us with good gifts.

Derek Kidner puts it this way:
Although God can make himself heard, and has already done so in saying this, nevertheless to reveal all that he wants to say, he desires a hearer who is already reaching out to him. This is why prayer is never superfluous to the study of Scripture or the quest for guidance. God is then speaking to an upturned face, not a preoccupied back. 1

Call, pray, cry out, and ask.  When God asks us or invites us to do something, it is optimal to do it.  The Bible is a living book and God can highlight a verse to you.  Jeremiah 33:3 is not just an inspiring verse to put on a plaque on the wall,  but can you hear God making it alive to you today?  I do.  If you do, then please pray and let God answer.  Walking with the living God is exciting.  That is what life is, surprises, growth, being loved, and loving.  Jesus came so that we might have life, abundant life.  Go for it and let God be your father and lavish His generous love on you.  Amen.
________________________
1. Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah, p. 141

Musing In The Solitary Place: Intimacy With God

One evening, Isaac went out to inspect the pasture, [to walk around in the pasture or to meditate in the pasture] and while staring he saw camels approaching.-Genesis 24:63

How are you doing with getting alone and focusing on God, daily?  Bible study and reading is a good activity.  Singing worship songs is another good thing to do.  Fellowship and service are other good things.  But what about just you, being still?  You can walk and be still, because being still is about your heart and your mind.

Isaac had a practice of doing something that we could call meditation.  The Hebrew word might be closer to the English word "muse".  To muse means to be absorbed in thought, to reflect, to meditate, to ponder, contemplate, or ruminate.

Meditation is Biblical and Biblical meditation is not the same as in other religions.  Joshua told the Hebrews  to meditate on the Law day and night.  Psalm 1 says the same thing, and many other times in the Psalms, mediation is mentioned.  This kind of meditation means going over again, like how a cow chews it's food.

Isaac did not have a copy of the Bible, but he had a history with God, and his father, Abraham's history with God had been given to him orally.  Isaac was probably concerned with and taken up in thought about various things, but we can only imagine how he must have been concerned about what God was doing in his life.  He was a unique child and had unique parents.  They were very old, and had passed on many stories of their encounters with God.

Isaac was a prophetic person, birthed through a promise, and in whom even bigger promises were yet to be fulfilled.  This is a lot to ponder.  Isaac's promise he carried was that a huge amount of descendants would flow from him, "as many as the stars in the sky", God told his dad one night, while his dad was standing in a field.

Jesus had this habit of getting away, to a solitary place, to pray.  Jesus spent a whole night in prayer before he chose the twelve.  Some people think that everything Jesus did was easy, because he is God; but everything he did, he did as a man, empowered, anointed, and filled with (the) Holy Spirit.  Jesus knew (the) Father, but he still needed to get alone with Him.  It was because he knew Him intimately, that he needed to be with Him.  It is the same with us.  We all need alone time with God.

Isaac was out there musing, in deep thought, pondering, and staring at the horizon.  Jesus also was in his solitary place praying, at times.  But is prayer always making requests and going down your prayer list?  Do you believe that is what Jesus did in prayer, or do you believe he recited the "Our Father" prayer?  He might have, and we do have a record of an extended prayer from Jesus in John 17.

There are all sorts of prayers you can do and practice.  You can also chew on and go over scriptures that are important to you, or that you are trying to assimilate into your life.  You might have promises, yet unfulfilled, from God that you ponder before Him.  You might have disappointments over hope differed, that you offer to God while you are in your solitary place.

But, what if there is a type of prayer where we just be with God and ponder things?  You might have prayer requests, intercessory declarations, and questions.  These are all good.  But, what if you and I also had the habit, discipline, or custom of musing before God?  Reflect and ponder on things while inviting God to be with you and seeking to be with God.  What if that is the higher place of prayer, that we want to go to?  What if that is the way to the portal where we do go into God's presence?




Sky Links, 7-21-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Now to the king of the ages, to the immortal, invisible, and only God, may honor and glory be given to him forever and always! Amen. 
-1 Timothy 1:17

The most precious thing I read this past week was Becky Lynn Black's essay called Running To Home Base.  Becky is Dave Black's wife.  Becky has been dealing with cancer for almost 5 years now and is focused on Jesus more than ever.  What is precious is how she articulates a wholly Christ perspective.  I am deeply touched by her words.
And now my dear friend, I want to say a special word to you. I want to tell you as clearly as I can that there is nothing, nothing, nothing in this life that is worth the cost, and worth the sacrifice, except the Lord Jesus. Everything in life will fail: marriage, children, career, money, prestige, possessions, relationships, all things will turn to vanity. All things will fail you. Only Jesus will never fail. Only Jesus will stand by you in thick and thin, in peace and in turmoil, in feast and in famine, in illness and in health. Only Jesus will never fail. So I want to say to you, my dear friend, give your life to Him, dare to obey Him, dare to live in the reality of who He is, dare to believe that He is who he says He is and that He does what He says. If you will do, this listening to the Holy Spirit as He makes the Scriptures alive in you, then you will have your feet upon the Rock, you will have your shelter in the storm, you will have your reward that does not fade, and you will know the joy of the Savior.
Rejoicing in my Lord Jesus,
Becky
July 7, 2013


I read Doug Addison's post called Dreams Come True.  I like what he wrote about how to change the spiritual atmosphere:
There are three things that will change the spiritual atmosphere around you.
  • Grace: loving people that are different than us. It is cutting people slack instead of cutting them down.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. Matthew 7:12
  • Gratitude: being grateful instead of grumbling will open a highway of blessing to you.
I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12
  • Generosity: not just your money but also your time, energy, love, and all that you have.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38
Because of the spiritual principles mentioned above and “what you sow you shall reap,” if you consistently sow grace, gratitude and generosity, it will indeed open the Heavens over you.
Grace, gratitude, and generosity.  I believe that. I get that.

Here are some recent quotes from Dave Black. See if any of these grab you.

"Non scholae sed vitae discimus." This little Latin saying summarizes my entire view of education. We learn, not for school, but for life. I have little use for knowledge for knowledge's sake.

"There are no closed doors to the Gospel provided that, once you get inside, you don't care whether you ever come out again." Brother Andrew.

"Life is lived in depth, not length." Adrian Rogers.

...I did not know how to give the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted without giving something of my own soul also. Amy Carmichael
"Faithfulness in a little thing is a great thing." Hudson Taylor.

Yet for all their qualifications elders remain mortal. They make mistakes. They err. To demand flawlessness of an elder is unreasonable and places upon them a requirement not even the apostles could claim. Bryant Evans

"When fear knocks let faith answer the door." Robin Roberts.

"The best cure for discouragement is another daring plunge of faith." A. C. Studd 

"Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell. I want to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." C. T. Studd 

"There is no university for a Christian like that of sorrow and trial." C. H. Spurgeon.

 

Lazy


The lazy have strong desires but receive nothing; the appetite of the diligent is satisfied.

The path of the lazy is like a hedge of thorns, but the way of those who do right is a clear road.

The desires of the lazy will kill them, because their hands refuse to do anything.
The lazy desire things constantly, but the righteous give without holding back.

A lazy person says, “There’s a lion in the street! I’ll be killed in the town square!”

-Proverbs 13:4, 15:19, 21:25-6, 22:13

Laziness is epidemic in our society today.  We have a consumerist, entitlement culture; where many people are lazy.  There are people who don't want to work.  There are people who do have jobs, but there lives are filled with couch time.  They expect to be entertained, amused, or catered to.  They work so that they have money to shop, eat out, and be entertained.

You have probably heard the saying that I heard growing up, "idle time is the devil's workshop."  Another saying is, "the idle person makes themselves a target for the devil; and the devil is a good shot."

God designed human beings to work, to be productive.  "Go to the Ant, you lazy person", Proverbs 6:6 says.  Ants are workers, builders, and harvesters.  The whole created universe is moving.  Things that are not moving are dead.  We are called to live life, live it out, work it out; build, produce, and grow.  In a word, work.

The refusal to work is the sin of idleness or laziness.  Work is wider than punching the clock and getting a check.  Work is productivity, building, or care-taking.   The community is made up of workers who are producers, builders, and caretakers on the one side, and children, the elderly, and the infirm on the other side.  Those who refuse to work are alien to the community, meaning they are pseudo-infirm.  These are people the Bible calls lazy, sluggards, or laggards; who are out-of-synch with God's design.

The sin of laziness is a sin of omission, a sin of neglect, a sin of ongoing missed opportunities.  But, people who are in that category are not doomed, because the Bible says that where sin abounds grace abounds.  Every day is a day of possible new beginning.  You can start over right now.

The idler may take pride in themselves that they have not given way to excessive sins, things they deem as the bad sins.  But while they sit idle, a nest is made in their lives of snakes.  There is a principle in the kingdom that says that if you do nothing, you will lose what you have: "use it or lose it".  You either have faith, that is moving you forward; or unbelief, that is pulling you backward.  The lazy person is under a delusion that they can play it safe and do nothing.  They are fatalistic.  The truth is far different.  You can change your future through your actions today.

A life of frivolity, and amusement is not God's plan and is sin.  The lazy person wants, but refuses to do.  

The antidote to laziness is diligence.   God is found by those who diligently seek Him.  God gives everyone work to do.  Industriousness preserves one against vice.  Diligent ones use God's means of grace.  Wishing and magical thinking are different than dreaming and miraculous breakthrough.

Lazy, slothful people are not righteous.  They are opposites of and in contrast to the righteous.  The idle person does not love their neighbor.  If your life is a field, the sloth's life is a field of weeds and thorns.

Righteous work is not work for work's sake or to build wealth with no end.  Righteous work is work with purpose, for self-discipline and unto service of others.  The Sloth serves himself and the greedy worker serves herself too.  Good work serves a purpose.  You might work your garden, work at your vocabulary, work at studying the Bible, writing or inventing, learning, or caring for others.  Work is God's design.  Retirement is not part of God's design.  When you stop working, you die.

Lazy people are self-indulgent people who say, "let me alone to enjoy myself ".  But, the lazy person is not lazy with their tongue or their mind.  They do little, but say a lot.  Nothing is done, but much is talked about.  Lip service is the lazy person's modus operandi.  They talk but don't walk.  Lazy believers listen to and talk about faith, but don't practice it.  They can talk to you about Christ till midnight, but nothing comes of it in their life.

The lazy person has an over-active imagination.  The idle person's mind is on their difficulties because they don't have a heart for work.  The idle person is never at a loss to invent excuses for their laziness.  Their tongues are busy and imaginations are on overdrive, while they sit idle.  Their wild imaginative excuses become their best friends in their lazy world.

Ironically or paradoxically, the lazy person puts forth great mental and verbal effort to rationalize and excuse their idleness.  They argue for their laziness.  They make a case for it.  They have a belief system that rationalizes it.  They die a thousand deaths in the safety of their home, just thinking about what's out there.

We are limited in our time we have in this life.  We can go bust or waste our money and always get more of it, but we can't get back lost time.  Giving God time and giving people time is your most precious gift, because it is limited.

To sum this up, listen to what the writer of Hebrews says:

We want you all to continue working until the end so that you’ll realize the certainty that comes with hope and not grow lazy. We want you to walk in the footsteps of the faithful who came before you, from whom you can learn to be steadfast in pursuing the promises of God. -Hebrews 6:11-12 (The Voice)
Working means good works.  Our lives are poems written by God, who saved us to do good works He prepared for us to do, in advance:
For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago. -Ephesians 2:10
God has made unique arrangements for you and for me to do good works.  God is a worker and we participate in God's good works.  God also is a planner and it is Godly or righteous to be a planner.
_____________________________
I am indebted to Charles Spurgeon's  sermon, "One Lion, Two Lions, No Lion At All", from June 8, 1882

Friend

Friends love all the time, and kinsfolk are born for times of trouble.

There are persons for companionship, but then there are friends who are more loyal than family. 

Trustworthy are the bruises of a friend; excessive are the kisses of an enemy.

Someone will say to him, “What are these wounds between your hands?”
And he will say, “These happened when I was hit in my friends’ home.”

But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him.

-Proverbs 17:17 & 18:24, Zech. 13:6. Matt. 26:47-50

I've had the idea that friendships are important to God and I believe God notices lonely people and tries to find friends for them.  If you are a child of God, it is likely that God may place you next to someone who needs a friend.

A friend can be someone just a bit beyond an acquaintance.  They might be someone you connect with, have something in common with, or enjoy laughing with.  This friend might not be there for you on your rainy day, which I guess is why we call people in this category, "fair weather friends".

At the other end of the range on friendships, there are friends that are closer to you than your own family.  Some people might say, "what closeness from family?"  Those people, for many reasons, might never have had genuine closeness or loyalty from family.

Have you ever been beat up, with words; and have you ever been confronted or cared about enough to be confronted?  These are two different things.  When we are beat up, we might be shamed, judged, or cut into.  When we are confronted, in love; it is completely different.  That person is siding with God's love and you, in wisdom.  That is the essence of confrontation.  It might bruise us, because we are the one who is out of control, without restraint, and our friend has put a hold on us that says, "no further in our space"; and when we stubbornly writhe, we bruise.

Another aspect of friendships is that our friends wound us.  These are not the bruises of a faithful friend who is standing with God and us in wisdom.  We are like porcupines and when we draw close to one another, we hurt each other.  For this reason, some people stay away from intimate Christian fellowship, and prefer to just be a consumer.  But the rewards of koinonia, massively outweigh the pain and disappointment.  The house of friends is a house of healing and grace. 

Jesus called Judas, "friend ".  How can that be and what does that mean?  It means that we can be betrayed by a friend.  It is always a possibility, but friendships are still worth it.  It also means that friendships have a range of loyalty and faithfulness.  Your friendship towards another may be light years ahead of their friendship towards you.  Your friend may be a taker and an opportunist towards you, while you lay down your life for them.  If that is you, you are in very good company.

Sky Links, 7/13/13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Here are my links to share, or Sky Links, for the week.

Holy Discontent

Gene Redlin wrote this word, that he says Father God spoke to him :
I have placed discontent in your heart.  It is designed to move you from complacency to action.  Only when you find yourself in that place where you no longer can abide circumstances as they are, will you be motivated to step into the destiny I designed for you.  I so loved the world I SENT. Holy Discontent has caused ME to reveal a new level for you.  Greater than you can think or imagine.  Don't allow complacency to be misidentified as contentment.  Start again.  It is a new day.
Do you know 'Holy Discontent'?  It's when God is rustling the nest of your life.  Time to move on, time
to do something more, something different, time to grow, time to move up.  Your discontentment is not depression, but it is God lifting off a little bit of that feel good, snuggled in feeling.  You are like the teenager, who's parent has had to turn on the light and pull off the covers, to get the child to wake up.

You are being poked and prodded.  It's Holy Discontentment.  God is saying, "time to move".  I remember experiencing this the first time, when I decided to go back to school.  God did such a 180 in my life, because I had been a poor student in high school and college.  I was the last person that I would imagine would be a graduate student, going on the earn two advanced degrees.


When you experience Holy Discontent, don't be alarmed, but start your adventure.  Get up, look around, listen, and pray.  If God is prodding, God will lead you.  Remember that the "guidance system" does not come on until the rocket gets off the pad.  You must get up and go out, not knowing where you are going, as an act of faith.  Then God will guide you.  You can't stay lying by your pool, complaining that no one will help you.

That is a picture above is of a labyrinth, which is symbolic of the unexpected twists and turns in our lives.  To me, the issue is grace.  We think we can't do it, but God's grace is enough.  We have failures, but do we receive or walk in grace?  We want our thorn in the flesh removed, but God says that his grace is sufficient.

Boundaries

I read Cloud & Townsend's book on Boundaries and volunteered to facillitate a group on the topic, at my church, years ago.  What a topic that we all need to know and I need to grow in!  If you grew up in a dysfunctional home, your boundaries were probably violated.  You did not learn how to say, "no".

It's important to remember that family comes before ministry.  God comes before family, and your love for God is first lived out in your love and care for your family.  Love and care equal time and attention.  If you are an unmarried, celibate person; then you do have more time for ministry.

Kris Vallotton on Boundaries, posted on Facebook:

You might have learned what we call passive aggressive behavior.  In the church, especially in some forms of it when we put a lot of pressure and spotlight on individuals, boundaries come into play.  We need to set them and honor other's space.  Good stuff here from

It's really important to set boundaries with people. If you don't learn to set boundaries in your life, other people will superimpose their priorities and values on you. The people who hate the fact that you're setting boundaries are the very ones who need them the most!

Some people view boundaries as unloving or harsh. They think that you should run to every emergency, let people violate your values, and never say no to anyone or else you are not being loving.

Jesus loved people and yet he had no problem confronting them. Personally, I'm tired of marshmallow Believers. Doormat Don and Molly meek need to get some courage and leave the powerless, victim camp of spineless Christianity.

It's funny, when I share things like this on my Facebook page people think I'm venting or I'm in a bad mood. I don't need to be in a bad mood to set boundaries, I've had to learn to live with them or die without them. No public figure could survive very long without setting boundaries. For example, it's common for people to talk to me while I'm in a bathroom stall or even slide a book under the stall for me to autograph. Often people will follow me out to my car after a 12 hour day of ministry to take a picture with me. All these people mean well, and it is really nice to be loved. But it takes a toll on you and soon you find yourself exhausted; not wanting to be around people. So you finally learn to set boundaries and risk being misunderstood. But it's better to be misunderstood and fruitful, than to be burnout, broke down, and useless.

Touch

Janet Petersen wrote about the power of touch.
There have been times in my life when I’ve needed to hold on to someone’s hand.  It may sound kinda pitiful and needy to ask someone to hold my hand, but at those moments of heart wrenching pain I needed to feel the strength in the touch of someone’s hand.  Ever been there….??
I am so thankful that the church taught me to be a hugger.  To me, hugging means unconditional love.  Unconditional love is what the family of God is all about.  Hugging is a great equalizer.


God is Good - Tobias

You are good and you do good.  Teach me your statutes!

The Lord is good, a haven in a day of distress.  He acknowledges those who take refuge in him.

-Psalm 119:68, Nahum 1:7

Tobias or Tobit means "God is good".  The book of Tobit is the story of God's goodness.  Tobit is a good man  who has a good son, named Tobias.  Good, meaning godly.  Tobit has themes of the importance of family, angelic help, spiritual warfare, romance, inheritance, prayers for divine help, hospitality, revering the dead, and it is the only book of the Bible that features a pet dog.  I highly recommend reading Tobit.


Mountains Into Roads

I will turn all my mountains into roads; my highways will be built up.
-Isaiah 49:11

The mountains before you, in your life seem to be the obstacles, but they are also your higher calling in Christ.  What seems to have blocked you from blessings is actually the path nearest to God.  You have heard right, God's call to you; and you are also right, that it is impossible.. without God. 

What if the mountains in front of you may have been made by you?  If you belong to Christ, God calls those mountains his.  He will make a highway through his mountains.  You can't fail so badly as to exhaust the grace of God.  You may have failed, sinned, backslid, hardened your heart, been a rebel, or been deceived after you became a Christian.  The Cross of Christ can get you through those mountains.

It says, "where sin increased, grace multiplied even more", in Romans 5:20.  As Eugene Petersen put it in The Message Bible, "Sin does not have a chance in competition against the aggressive forgiveness that we call grace."  You just have to exercise some faith, some little action.  Is your heart towards God?  Then God's grace is towards you.  And God's grace flows through the cross of Christ.  It is very costly, but free.

Every Christian eventually gets a glimpse of what they are called to and it is impossible.  It is impossible for you to do it.  He has to do it.  Christ has to do it.  "Christ in you, the hope of glory."  That does not mean a hope of heaven, some day.  It means heaven on earth now.  What do you think the Holy Spirit's goal is for each of us? 

Maybe your life is hard.  Maybe the path before you seems too steep.  The sorrows, the sufferings, the hardships, or the injustices are all mountains that God will turn into roads for you.  He can make a way where there is no way.  God defies logic.  God is not logical.  God is wise, loving, merciful, and gracious.  The worse case scenario for us is that, "We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose."

All of the mountains are God's.  Nothing can separate you from God's love.  Every obstacle can be turned around and made into a road to God.

Mountains are natural obstructions that separate and block, but God makes a road on them for us.  Mountains are a higher place that is dangerous or impossible to walk on, but God makes a road on them for us.   We can get through and over mountains, in Christ.  We can travel up to and on top of mountains in Christ.

The call to the mountains is the call to come up higher.  The call to the mountains is the call to be delivered and live free. 

Sky Links, 7-7-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0

"Skylinks" are topics that other people wrote about, that got me thinking.

Tim Stevens wrote about grief this past week.  Grieving is a healing process in time.

There is a grieving process that heals us, but we may
still have a scar.  The person who has not done their "grief work" is not healed or healing and has an open wound.  That open wound hurts, might be infected, and can lead to premature death.

Last week, I wrote about Leonard Hjalmarson's post on preaching and growth.  The main point is that we only retain or remember 10-20% of a lecture, monologue, or talk.  Preaching is a tradition that is deeply embedded in today's, western church.  A very high percentage of self-identified Christians file into buildings that resemble class rooms or theaters and listen to a person give a talk or a lesson, sermon, or monologue.

Preachers or pastors who give sermons do it because they believe in it.  We equate church with sermons and the pastor or preacher.  It is also not uncommon for home groups or small groups to be mini churches, where one person does a monologue.

Preaching must have a place, because it is in the Bible.  Gary Goodell, in Permission Granted,
gives some ideas about sermons:

Being connected, not just consuming, is what changes people.  It is people walking through life together on the same journey...

...the Western concept of teaching, where the teaching is usually an address- a professional monologue geared at students in an academic setting removed from real life, has been proven to be the least effective learning tool.

...On the other hand, the Eastern teaching style is kinetic- the topic of discussion literally moves from person to person, and everyone is involved.  After such deliberation, consensus is built, a collective opinion emerges, and corporate action can follow where questions and interaction reign.  Over the ages, this has proven to be the most effective in changing opinions and values and, therefore, in changing people.  Even the Greek word that is often translated "preaching", is actually the New Testament word dialogizomia, which means, You'e got it:, dialogue between people!

Well then, you decide- what is the optimum form of learning?...

Remember, this could also mean an entire change in the building, the meeting time, the way you set up the chairs, and basically the whole format, as you create a new environment where people connect in order to learn.  This community style is geared to help people become, "doers of the Word" teaching them to not just hear, but to obey, to do everything Jesus taught us (see Matt. 28:20). 

Many feel that this pattern of learning is what the early Church  enjoyed best, as it was patterned after the synagogue as a house of discussion (see Acts 2:42).  However, when Gentiles brought their one-man-in-charge customs and lecterns, their meetings eventually became closed to real participation.  Only authorized clergy taught others to guard against heresies.

Gene Edwards, in his lighting-rod book, Beyond Radical, passionately reminds us through his research on weekly sermons that rather than being a New Testament pattern or tool, they date back to Aristotle as he taught on the subject of rhetoric (Greek: retorik...the art of the orator), and John Chrysosom in Antioch Syria, circa A.D. 400....

First-century Christian preaching was more characterized by being extemporaneous, spontaneous, and urgent...and it belonged to the entire Body of  believers, not a special class of men trained in Aristotle's concepts of oration.

I love what Steve Eastman wrote about Gary & Graham's book:
Perhaps the greatest paradigm breaking suggestion is the redeployment of pastors. They become trainers and enablers, encouraging others to share their insights from God. The trained become the next spiritual generation of trainers. On the rare occasions when pastors do preach, the talks can be interactive.

He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.
-Ephesians 4:11

What is kind of jarring is that pastors, as we know them today, especially the "senior pastor", "c.e.o pastor", are not found in the Bible, nor in the first century. In Ephesians 4:11, it is a plural term. I just read this from Gene Edwards:

The Pastor

Where in the NT do you find a man who preaches every Sunday, marries people, does funerals, and baptizes new converts?

Such a man is not in the NT, but he is the central figure of protestant Christianity.

How did the pastor idea get into Christianity? It came from Pope Gregory the great in 550 AD. The

term pastor appears nowhere in Christian literature before Gregory's book, on the "pastoral duties of the priest". The term pastor occurs once in the NT in Ephesians. The practical meaning of the word is unknown.
Gregory had a list of pastoral duties for priests including sprinkling babies and blessing
festivals. No such man existed in scripture.

Martin Luther came along a thousand years later and took Gregory's ideas about the pastoral duties of the priest and put then onto the protestant pastor, and gradually, the term pastor replaced the term priest in the English speaking world.

We Anglos carried this pastor idea, which Luther invented, to the ends of the earth and it is now Christianity. If we removed the present pastoral role from Christendom, there would be an almost total collapse of "church" worldwide. Yet the present pastoral practice has no scriptural grounds. Try to find this man in the first century. If we move away from the pastor being the center, we move beyond radical.

From Beyond Radical by Gene Edwards, p. 17-19



Give Your Attention To What God Is Doing Right Now

Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.
-Matthew 6:34

Stop worrying about tomorrow

God has got our past settled and our future planned.  God has covered our past and has our future supplied for.  Forgiving our past sins and having plans and a budget for our future is not a problem for our heavenly Father.  So, Jesus says to stop worrying about tomorrow.

Don't go to pieces

When we worry, we are unnecessarily dividing out energies.  Jesus is saying, "don't go to pieces".  The worrying that Jesus says to stop, is an anxiety that preoccupies you over your future.  Jesus says,. "stop it, and live in today."

Don't miss today

A person who worries about tomorrow misses out on today.  God has the future covered.  He will be with you, when you get there.  God is already in your future, if you consider that God is not in time.

God's mercies are new every morning

The Bible teaches us that God gives us grace for today and hope for tomorrow.  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to and end; they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22).   God helps us in our daily problems.  He knows about future problems, so that should help us to let them alone.

Walk with God in today

The way that the life of the child of God works, is that we walk with God in today.  God is our safe place to hide when trouble comes today.  He is always near or ever-present, when you have problems (Psalm 46:1).

What is God doing in your life?

So, the question is, "what is God doing in your life?"  Being a Christian means we have become God's children (1 John 3:1).  God takes care of his children.  So, the issue for us is not the problems of life, but the care of the Father.  How are you doing with being a child of God, a son or a daughter; fathered now by Father God?  If you are a Christian, then that is what your life is all about.

Intimacy with God

We are capable of getting our attention onto issues and problems, conflicts and disputes, addictions and personal brokenness; when our attention needs to be on God and what He, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, are doing in your personal life.  How is the into-me-see going?

Life is about you and God today

The beside your self, anxious worrying is like a person who's life is about UFO sightings.  It is a huge distraction from right now, present reality.  Life is neither about self-introspection or distraction.  Life is about you and God today, right now.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  -Matthew 6:34 (The Message)