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.

Subhuman behavior in the Church

But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!
-Galatians 5:15

There are people in Christianity, in Christendom, in the church world who act nothing like Christ, but have taken on beast-like behaviors.  They attack other Christians so savagely, that they seek to utterly destroy them.  Behold, the abominable Christian.  

The Bible warns us about the negative power of words:
The tongue is a small flame of fire, a world of evil at work in us. It contaminates our entire lives. Because of it, the circle of life is set on fire. The tongue itself is set on fire by the flames of hell.

Children of snakes! How can you speak good things while you are evil? What fills the heart comes out of the mouth.
-James 3:6. Matthew 12:34
This verse from James is addressed to those who wanted to be teachers in the church and the verse above from Matthew is addressed to the quintessential teachers of the people of God, in the time Jesus lived.

The warning that Paul is giving, is that if you desire to run down and run over your theological opponent, your love; your love in Christ will be eaten away like salt that is no longer any good (Mark 9:50).

It is interesting that Paul writes that the whole law is summarized in, "love your neighbor as your self" (Leviticus 19:18); just before he makes this statement about people conversely treating each other like wild beasts.

The Jewish religious leaders brought Jesus up on heresy charges and those who persecuted the church did the same.  Were they living out Leviticus 19:18?  No.  When Christians fight in a "take no prisoners", abusive, destructive, hateful way, in the church today, over any number of things; are they loving their neighbors as themselves?  No.

Love builds up.  Anti-love tears down.  Love serves others.  Anti-love serves self.  The ends never justify the means, when it is your brother or sister in Christ.  Satan cannot cast our Satan either.  You just end up more demonized, in a different way.

You can not get away with trashing other people without it ruining you as well.  You could point to the Pharisee's who were against Jesus and say that they did evil, while 'acting' good, because their hearts were bad (evil).  But that person did not start out that way.  We know that the scriptures are good and maybe these men started out loving the scriptures with good intentions.

At some point, people do bad in the name of good.  They fly far off the path of loving their neighbor as themselves.  What happens to that destroyer is that they themselves are destroyed..  When you find yourself acting in subhuman, barbaric ways towards others; you are on the path of self-destruction.  If you don't turn away, turn back from it; you will be destroyed.

This is not a happy, feel-good message, but it is a warning to Christians not to attack each other.  The Holy Spirit, through Apostle Paul's pen, says that this is behavior that is exhibited in ravenous animals and has no place in the family of God.

There are two paths for everyone, including Christians.  One is the path of God's love, expressed in Jesus Christ.  The other path is to not be on the first path.  The path of God's love, expressed in Jesus Christ, is the path of unselfish love: loving your neighbor as your self.

The other path is the path of selfishness.  There is love on the other path, but it is not the love of the first path, but rather, fleshly desire or lust.  In a word, hunger; and it is a hunger that is never fulfilled

The hunger or lust or false love is utterly selfish.  It might mask itself in a hundred ways, but it is selfish.  Self is at the center.

Those who are not in Christ and are their own "christ's" (I am not going to capitalize it).  This is the evil path.  Devil is "duh" plus "evil".  Evil is dumb, even though it thinks it is smart.

The Devil goes to church a lot.  Stay with me here, I am almost done.  He is on the prowl.  The Devil is not omnipresent or omniscient, like God.  I'm referring to the Devil's forces.

The Devil's forces are watching and want Christians to stumble and go back to the hunger games, where they forget the path of Christ and seek self fulfillment.  When Christians do that, they consume and destroy other Christians and self-destruct, themselves.

Don't do it.  If you choose to go back to a selfish life, you will lose what you have in Christ (see Mark 9:50).  You can repent and get it back though.  But, what is tragic is that when someone does not repent of their cannibalistic (Galatians 5:15) behavior towards others in the church, and they go on, like it never happened, perhaps even self-righteously blaming others.

The Christian Way of Talking

Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.
-Ephesians 4:29

Are you into construction or destruction?  Are you helpful or harmful?  Have you got a mountain of bitterness and rage that is ready to blow, if set off?  Or, does Christ take the lead in how you treat others, with compassion and forgiveness?

It would seem obvious that Christians ought not be cussing people out.  If you do, it is forgivable, but should not be your normal, right?  But there is another kind of foulness that some Christians take part in.  The foulness of words can be described in two ways:  They tear down and they are unkind.

Did you know that it was common for Christians to kill other Christians over differences for centuries?  The murder starts off with words, foul words.  Small foul words lead to fouler words.

Foul words (hear the referee whistle and cry "foul!") are words that are not helpful, do not build up others, and do not offer benefit.

Are your negative words helpful?  Do they build up?  If not, do not say them.  Words that call people upward are beneficial, whereas foul words are not.

Remember that out of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt: 12:34).  Those foul things we say reflect our own hearts.  Cleanse our hearts, O God!  Purify my heart!

When we play "Christian" but we call people foul names, what does that say about us?  We need a change of heart.  Our words, including our self-talk, reveal our heart's state.  Bad, corrupt, or stinky words reveal a hidden heart that is in bad shape and needs Jesus.

If your heart is being discipled by Jesus, going to the cross and getting saved, then you stand a chance of talking like Christ talks.  If your heart has been in his hands, open to him, and in a transformational process; then good words will come out of your mouth.  Gracious, loving, and up-building words will come out of the person who hase been spends lots of time with Jesus.

Positive 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

What do you focus your thoughts on?  What we think determines what we say and write, how we act and what we believe.  Our thought life is a powerful thing.  We need our minds to be renewed (Romans 12:2).

Did you know that God is the author of positive thinking?  To think positive is to see the best in people, and to see what people could be; with God in their lives.  To think like God is to be gracious in our thoughts towards others and in how we see situations.

God is optimistic.  God is always willing to forgive.  God has an abundant supply of mercy.  God also calls sin what it is.  God loves the person while hating their sin.  God is hopeful.

When we "go negative", we are moving away from our connection with God in Christ.  There is a place for righteous indignation and godly anger.  But, more often than not, the Spirit of Christ in you will say, "I don't have a dog in that fight".  Translated, that means, "I refuse to be drawn in to negativity and will stay in the place of doing (and thinking) the positive things God has given or called me to do".

We always must remember that we are human, even though we are spiritual beings  having a human experience.  Our humanity has limits.  The H.A.L.T. acronym from recovery circles reminds us that when we begin to go negative, are tempted to go negative, or start feeling and thinking negatively; we need to look at these 4 things in our lives:
  1. Are you hungry?  Unless you are fasting, hunger and low blood sugar can really affect you mood.  Get some food.  You may also be dehydrated.  Get some water.
  2. Are you angry?  Everybody gets angry.  It is normal.  Anger is a secondary emotion.  Behind your anger is a loss or injustice.  Grieve the loss.  Forgive.  Process and eliminate the anger.  Let it go.
  3. Are you lonely?  It is not good that humans be alone (Gen. 2:18).  Phone a friend.  Be friendly and you will gain friends (Prov. 18:24).  Find someone lonelier that you and bless them.  This can be as simple smiling at people who are having their own troubles.  Go to a meeting: a meeting where people meet one another.
  4. Are you tired?  This is similar to the hungry/thirsty one.  We all need our rest.  You are not superman or superwoman.  You have limits and need rest.  Not taking care of the rest will lead to low moods and going negative.
Another reason why people who say they are Christian are so darn negative is that they have been hurt in their past and the toxic roots of their hurts are continuing to bear bad fruit in their lives.  Simply put, we are adults carrying around wounded inner children.

In her book, The Root of Rejection, Joyce Meyer describes in detail how childhood rejection can lead to a life of "negaholism".  When our inner self has it's reference point, it's sense of identity, in our childhood trauma or neglect; then we experience life in a way that God did not intend.  We need our lives healed.  We need renewal in our minds.

We each need to be Jesus' disciple and learn from him about the love of God.  It is a journey.
Painting credit, from Kellie Falconer, artist unknown.

Raised With Christ

Therefore, if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side.  Think about the things above and not things on earth.  You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

-Colossians 3:1-3

Have you died and been raised with Christ?  To live the Christian life you must first die and then be raised to life in Christ.  Your whole Christian life is one of death and resurrection.  You can not be a Christian unless you have been to the cross.

When you go to the cross, you see Jesus there and receive forgiveness and give your life to him.  Your sin life died with Jesus on his cross.  Jesus raises you from the dead to new life, his life in you.  That is the Christian life.  You can only live out the Christian life as Christ Jesus lives through you.

I wanted to look at the verse, "The word of Christ must live in you richly" (Col. 3:16 ), but then I asked, "how do we get to that place where the word of Christ lives in us richly?"  So, I had to back up and read the context.  You will notice that chapter three started with "Therefore".  "Therefore", means, "in light of what I just said..."

In chapter two, Paul was just writing about how legalism and religious rituals do not produce godliness nor do they stop sinfulness.  The only way (therefore) is the cross.

The paramount event of history is the cross of Christ.  Jesus on the cross is my only hope.  The only way of life for me is Jesus' death on the cross. 

How to live the Christian life, is only through Jesus.  Do you want him?  Do you want to live the life?  You have to go through the cross.  Life in Christ is first-person, intimate.  Have you been there?  It could be a daily thing.
Art credit: Raised With Christ from The Sketchbook of Nate

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry.
-James 1:19

The book of James is intensely practical.  James reminds me of Proverbs.  Most of James is not deep theology that is hard to understand, but basic, boot camp material.  Some people want to move on to the deeper waters.  Practical must mean shallow and not very spiritual, right?

A secret of the wise is that everyone needs the basics, the fundamentals.  The so-called deeper material is built on the basics.  To swim in the deeps, everything you learned in the shallows has to be second-nature.  If you observe athletes in training, you will see them practicing the basics; the simple stuff.

How we listen and how we speak are fundamentals, they are basic building blocks that our Christian lives are built on.  If they are faulty, it will negatively effect our lives in Christ.

When we are slow listeners, we are not tuned in to others.  We are distracted.  We talk back fast.  Sometimes we respond back, when the other person has not even finished speaking.  We talk past people.  This all does not make for good fellowship or community!

When we respond quick and don't hear others, it is a "self" problem.  We are selfish and lack self-control.  The Spirit of God helps us with self-control.  Our self wants center stage in our lives.

When we are selfish and want to be the center it is often linked to low self-esteem.  It is like eating candy.  It tastes good for a minute, but is not nutritious and does damage.  It is a paradox that the egotist and narcissist actually suffer from low self-esteem, a deep sense of inadequacy, and self-hatred.

The person who selfishly talks quick, re-actively, and does not hear others ("I knew what you were going to say"), really has a love problem.  They need to receive God's love in their hearts and have that love take hold and bear fruit.  The fruit of the Spirit is firstly love, and lastly, self-control (Gal. 5:22-3).

Christian people with good self-esteem, receive God's love, love themselves, and want to love others.  Listening is loving and basic.  You might have a lot to say in response to someone else.  If they can hear you, you will be able to slowly tell them everything in your heart.

Slowly means hesitant, as in when a filter slows down the flow. We sometimes say to someone, "you are too slow"; or of someone, "he is slow to get this".  James is saying that we need to be like that with speaking: hesitant and pausing.  People who have no self-control and just react will think we are dumb when we are slow to speak.  But you are not.  You are wise if you slow down your speaking and quicken your hearing.

Payback Time

This is the God who avenges on my behalf
He is the God who pays back those who harm me

The God who exacts retribution for me
God who has given me complete requital
-Psalm 18:47a (CEB, NLT, R. K. Harrison (1), J. Goldingay (2))

Do you know the God who punishes your enemy for you?  This is what David said and wrote, giving us a psalm or song with these words in it.  "This is the God who pays back those who harm me".

Was David proclaiming something only true for him, or also true for all God's children?  Psalm 18 is replicated in 2 Samuel, 22.  2 Sam. 22:48 is about the same as Psalm 18:47.

You might know the song, "Oh Magnify The Lord", that states:
The Lord liveth and blessed be the rock
And may the God of my salvation be exalted
Those are the words of David in Psalm 18 or 2 Samuel 22, just before the words, "This is the God who avenges me."  I recently wrote about being saved from my enemies, asking the question, "who is my enemy?"  Another dimension of spiritual warfare is payback time.  God's favor in your life means payback, vengeance, retribution, vindication, or requital against the enemy (Isa. 61:2).
When we think about the vengeance of God, we might think of the final judgement or the apocalyptic judgements written about in the Bible.  But, there is another aspect of God's vengeance, and it is against God's enemies now, today.

God takes vengeance on his enemies all the time.  When you invite God into your life, good things happen and bad things are pushed back, paid back, and cast out.  When God redeems a person, that person becomes a warrior against what they were redeemed from.  That is divine payback.  

God punishes the enemy who has hurt you, who has stolen from you, or who has lied to you.  That is what God does for his children.

We know that we are not supposed to be vengeful people (Rom 12:19, Lev. 19:18), and God is the one who avenges, not us (Deut. 32:35).  We don't do "pay back" to people who have wronged us (Prov. 20:22, 24:29).  When king Saul was out of control and trying to kill David, David knew it was not his place to strike Saul (1 Sam. 26:10-11).  

God avenges on my behalf, extracts retribution for me, or gives me complete requital; from my enemies.  

This Hebrew word for payback, neqamah, can be translated a number of ways, most frequently as vengeance or avenge.

Inflict harm in return for (an injury or wrong done to oneself or another).

Punishment that is considered to be morally right and fully deserved.
God who has given me complete requital. -Psalm 18:47 (Goldingay (2))
In choosing "requital", Goldingay (2, p. 278) states that,
"vengeance is perhaps too strong by way of feelings and that vindication is too abstract." About requital, he writes that, "the word has a legal background and suggests God putting things right by seeing that people in the wrong are punished, by doing so with conviction, even passion." 

J. Alec Motyer concurs with Goldingay, commenting on Isaiah 61:2, where the masculine form, naqam, of the same word is used, wrote that it means,
"just requital, the appointment of what is justly due."(3)
God does payback on the enemy for everything he has done wrong in our lives and we get to participate in it.  When requital happens, it means that things are made right, you get returns, you get rewards.  And God does the requiting.  God does the push-back and the payback.  Lost ground is taken back and the enemy is routed or cast out.

Do you get it?  God is in the business of paying you back for what the enemy rips off from you.  It is what God does and will do in your life.  When you grow in favor with God (1 Sam. 2:26, Luke 2:52), it means vengeance for the enemy.  In other words, God's favor in your life means payback for the enemy.

When we sing:
I will call upon the Lord
For He is worthy to be praised
So shall I be saved from my enemies

The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock
And let the God of my salvation be exalted
We are praising God for his salvation, saving activity in our lives that includes vengeance or payback, which means requital or retribution on the enemy.

The person who wrote "I Will Call Upon The Lord", has given us David's words in the King James version.  Psalm 18, verses 46 to 50 read, in the KJV:
The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
This is "the rest of the story":  God avengeth, subdueth, delivereth, liftest me, hast delivered, deliverance, and shewest mercy.
1. The Psalms for Today - A New Translation in Current English, R. K. Harrison
2. Psalms: Psalms 1-41, John Goldingay
3. Isaiah, J. Alec Motyer

Jesus People

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message.  By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.  One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.”
-Luke 10:38-42

Have you ever been in love?  More specifically, have you ever been in love with Jesus?  When you are in love with Jesus, you think about him all the time, you talk about him all the time, and you talk to him all the time.  It is all about him.

And when you are not talking about him, sharing about him, or talking to him; you are listening to him.  You might be reading the red letters in you Bible, listening to his words in scripture.  You might also be listening to others talk about him or reading what people have written about him.

If this describes you, then you are a Jesus person.  You might even be called a Jesus freak.  Jesus is supposed to be the center of the Christian's life.  He is our occupation.  He is our obsession.  If people in your life think you are going overboard for Jesus, then you are probably doing well.

I have been like this at times in my life.  Fellowship with like minded Christians is wonderful and other Christians may compliment you as being on-fire, while others may criticize you and tell you to tone it down.  I have experienced all this.  I am not like this right now, but I want to be.  I realize that I am more worried, distracted, and preoccupied; even with Christian things, than occupied with Jesus Christ.  I want to be a Jesus person.

I am realizing that it does not matter where you are in time or space in your Christian life.  The main thing, the simple thing, the better thing is to be sitting at Jesus feet.  How are you doing with being in love with Jesus?  There is a verse in Revelation that says, "you have let go of the love you had at first", and that statement is made after the declaration from God, that you have done many good things:
I know your works, your labor, and your endurance. I also know that you don’t put up with those who are evil. You have tested those who say they are apostles but are not, and you have found them to be liars.  You have shown endurance and put up with a lot for my name’s sake, and you haven’t gotten tired.  But I have this against you: you have let go of the love you had at first.  So remember the high point from which you have fallen. Change your hearts and lives and do the things you did at first.
-Revelation 2:2-5
In the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus came to their house and Mary just sat at his feet and listened to everything he said.  While, in contrast, her sister Martha was preoccupied, worried, and distracted by many things.  Martha complained to Jesus that it was not right that Mary just sat there, while she was doing all the work to getting their meal ready.  Martha even told Jesus to tell Mary to help her.

Jesus answered Martha and did not take her order, but rather commended her sister Mary, for making the better choice, in choosing to sit at his feet and listen.  He told Martha that she was worried and distracted.  He didn't rebuke or criticize her, but told her that what her sister was doing the better part.

Notice also in the story that it was Martha that welcomed Jesus.  Martha was ambitious to please Jesus.  Jesus came into their village and Martha invited Jesus to her house and Jesus accepted her invitation.  That sounds good and it is good.

Luke gives the side note that Martha had a sister living with her.  Perhaps Martha was the dominant one?  I had two aunts that lived together.  They were both Christian women, but they had different personalities, and one of the two seemed to be the dominant one.  She was the one who spoke first.  Perhaps that is how Martha was.  She assertively welcomed Jesus to their home.

We need people who get things done.  We need people who facilitate and coordinate the meeting of the church.  We enjoy the decorations that people put up and the food that people make and serve to us.  Some other people put a lot of work into teaching the Bible and ministering to others.

But, there is a person who is just plain in love with Jesus:  They read his words, they talk about him to everyone, they talk to him, and their goal in life is for Jesus to live through them.  That person is choosing the better thing.

Jesus people are people who return to their first love and live a life simply devoted to him.  What we think and what we do and how we talk, all come from being with Jesus.  Jesus people know Jesus is real, because he talks to them and does things in there lives.  

Sky Links, 10-1

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Should a church vote?

The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter.  After much debate, Peter stood and addressed them...
-Acts 15:6-7a

Dave Black posted another excerpt from his book, he is working on, titled, Seven Marks of a New Testament Church:

In chapter 4 ("Genuine Relationships") I deal with the matter of "voting" in church. In case you might be interested ....
In the third place, here was a church where unity was valued. We saw in our
last chapter how this unity played out among the leadership of the church in New Testament times. There was no hierarchy, no senior pastor (other than
Christ), no so-called first among equals. Their leadership was shared. How rarely is this seen in a modern church, even one that practices plural eldership. I am quite certain that nobody would object if the “senior pastor” in their church rescinded his title and receded into the group!
Unity was also seen in their decision-making. A feature of the early church that fascinates me is the way in which consensus was built. They spent time waiting upon God before making a decision. Today we need Robert’s Rules of Order before we can decide on anything. Hardly anybody sits down nowadays to ask where the idea of voting came from. Part of the value of having every-member ministry is the weight it assigns to consensus-building. It seems to me that there are good reasons to reject our manmade modes of decision-making. Not only does it lack a biblical foundation, but it undermines the example of the early church itself. In Acts 15 we read of a time when the early Christians made an important decision. Together the believers sought the will of God, and together they found it. There was nothing mechanical or business-like about their decision-making either. Their protocol was minimal, and the unity it produced was amazing. As James put it (Acts 15:28), “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us….” We vote, and leave an aggrieved minority. They waited upon the Spirit, and it produced a unified whole. This way of making decisions could make a huge difference in the life of many a church today. Why do so many of our business meetings end up in shambles? Are we afraid of the work and prayer needed to come to a common mind? There was no such fear among the earliest Christians. We have a long way to go until we reach their sensitivity to the Spirit.

Did you know that Robert's Rules of Order were published by a frustrated  trustee of First Baptist
Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1876; some time after a terrible church meeting?

There is a quote from an unknown author that reads, "democracy is the enemy of the few and hierarchy is the enemy of the many".  When we vote, without building consensus; we end up with an aggrieved minority.  When you go through the consensus process, those who still disagree at the end can either agree to disagree or part ways as brothers, sisters, and friends.

In consensus building, I propose that:

  • Every person gets heard.
  • We will have dialogue, debate, and discussion.
  • We will wait on the Lord together.  We may sit together in silence, waiting on God together.
  • We will seek a group encounter with God to discern the direction for our church.
  • We will have at least short silences between speakers to consider there words and pray.
  • Filibusters or lecturing are not allowed.
  • A meeting may be adjourned without a decision on a matter when time runs out. 
This process is inefficient and time-consuming, but we will not lose and bruise people and be rejected ourselves.

How to give a talk

I am fascinated by public speaking. I hated speech class at Cal State. I love public speaking now, but I don't do it often, which makes it harder because it's a 'reinventing the wheel' process sometimes of trying to remember 'how to' give a good talk; as in, how to get your message across, so that your audience has the opportunity to get it. I loved Regi Campell's advice on this and am going to use it.

Regi Cambell: 

Here are ten most important things I’ve learned about public speaking…
  1. Prepare and practice
  2. Call to order with silence
  3. Make eye contact immediately
  4. Talk about yourself first and make it funny 
  5. Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  6. Make your talk simple in its content
  7. “Net out” your point to a sentence or phrase you want people to take away
  8. Me, We, God, Me, We 
  9. Your hands are a tool in your toolbox
  10. Close with a story
And when you’re done, LAND THE PLANE. Don’t keep circling, repeating yourself, looking for ‘amen’s’ or ‘alleluias’’. It was your job to talk, their job to listen. Hopefully they didn’t finish before you did.
Regi fills out each point in his full post here

Won’t you bring us back to life again so that your people can rejoice in you?
-Psalm 85:6

We need revival.  What is it and how does revival come?

Alvin Reed (South East Baptist Theological Seminary), author of Firefall, gives an introduction to to topic of revival.  About 18 minutes and worth your time.  Alvin is a historian from a Baptist view, in contrast to Pentecostal, Charismatic, or Third Wave perspectives; but believes in and desires revival.  Watch it here.

Same As It Ever Was

A big insight about church life, with our 40,000+ denominations and tribes is that:
"Wherever you go, there you are."
You or I can change the forms or style, but if you don't change, you've got the same problems.  

Another way of saying it is:  
You can change forms and not be transformed.  
The "R" word is Religion.  Jeff Mc Q has been writing about his journey out of religion and into authentic relationship with Christ:
Religion is a subtle infiltrator. It infuses our thought patterns so easily, for the simple reason that we are so accustomed to it. Even people who are trying to break the molds and try new things are susceptible to it in ways they do not realize, and any so-called “new thing” can become a religious tradition over time.... started off as an honest pursuit of something more authentic and real, and even bore great fruit at first as God met us in those expressions. But then it sort of became an ends unto itself. Without meaning to, I was swapping one form of religion for another. Because, you see, religion wasn’t really to be found in the actual expressions of worship, however
they might have looked. Religion was lodged somewhere else; it was in my own heart and mind. And, if I’m going to be honest, it was also somewhat lodged in the hearts and minds of the people who were on the journey with us. We had a great time in the living room, but we also became somewhat self-satisfied there. It was still a real challenge to infuse the heart of mission in any of us, and I think ultimately it is why that expression eventually had to run its course. We learned a lot, we had great fellowship together–but there was still just enough religion in us to keep us from moving forward. In our pursuit of a religion-free expression of faith, we were still sort of swapping one form of religion for another.

I think it has taken moving to a new place and spending a few years now in a place of “in-between” for me to realize this. It wasn’t until there was no clear expression, no community to lead, no people to convince, that I could look back and see the agendas I still carried with me in those days. Perhaps this was why such an extended period of detox has been needed for me and my family. Even now, I would not venture to say I am “religion-free.” I can simply see more clearly that anything that inserts itself in between us and our relationship with God can be religious–no matter how progressive. And it’s the religion that still lingers in our hearts that makes it so–not the outward thing itself.
The rest of the post is here.

He talks about the angels: He’s the one who uses the spirits for his messengers and who uses flames of fire as ministers.
-Hebrews 1:7
I remember reading Billy Graham's book on Angels many years ago.  I enjoyed the Hunter's book on Angels very much.  It was called Angels on Assignment, when I first read it, which is now under the author's name Ronald Buck.  The Hunter's originally wrote "as told by" Buck.

This was a post on the Promise Keeper's Facebook page:

Here is a comment from Bryan Wyldes, who took the controversial "angel photo" from the "Awakening the Warrior" conference in Cedar Falls this past weekend. Here's his explanation for the picture:

My name is Bryan. I took this pic. I took two pics 30 seconds apart, so it was no random flash or light. I am a "happy Baptist" pastor of an interdenominational church. I don't seek signs and wonders. The Father has nothing to prove to me- He is God. He does what He wants. I believe His Truths. When He does anything miraculous-we rejoice. Believe what u want. if it was a random flash of light- it is an "miraculous" shape. In His love (and with a smile on my face) Pastor Bryan Wyldes. PS- it was taken with my tablet.

Consensus picture by Bec Young
Revival picture from Warren Heckman's post, Two kinds of Revival