Tis The Season

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.-Ecclesiastes 3:1, 1 Cor. 15:8 (NKJV)

I am thinking about seasons.  The author of Ecclesiastes lists fifteen pairs of seasons that are opposites, starting with, "a time to be born and a time to die".  One translator writes, "opportune time", for season.  It's like a season is a window of opportunity.

But what if you miss an opportunity or that opportunity is closed off by others?  What if the plan or the positive, logical, sequence of events, is aborted?  Paul's ministry came in a different or peculiar way.  It was born out of due time; not in season, to the natural eyes.

This is Christmas week.  It is the season to celebrate Jesus birth.  But, there are people who are suffering loss right now.  They are in a sad place.  So, there are two season's going on in their lives, out of harmony.

I believe that God supplies the grace for people who seem to be out of season.

The person who is out of season carries a sort of stigma, that is like what Joseph, Mary and Jesus experienced, their whole lives.

Mary's miraculous conception was something that even Joseph had a hard time with.  It is interesting that Elisabeth was the one person that had no trouble getting it, because she was already pregnant herself with a special child.  It is a gift from God, when we find people who understand, because God has already been working in their lives, in an extraordinary way.

This a message from the Christmas story.  

Tis the season when God intervened.  Remember the words later of Simeon, who met Mary & Joseph, with Jesus, when he was 8 days old:
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,According to Your word;For my eyes have seen Your salvationWhich You have prepared before the face of all peoples,A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,And the glory of Your people Israel.”
And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” -Luke 2:25-35
I am not going to do a study here on what Simeon's words might mean, but in today's language, perhaps, it could be said, that he (Jesus) is going to shake things up and sort things out.  Jesus came to save us, to bring us into salvation.  He himself causes people to make a choice.

This week, I have been thinking about the verse that says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God" (Rom. 1:16).  Jesus is the answer.  Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life; because he wanted us to know that it is all about him - living in him and letting him live through us.

The hope of the world is Jesus.  The gospel is the news about his coming to save us and bring us into God's kingdom, here and now.


Blessings to you,

Steve 

Perseverance...

Now we want each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the final realization of your hope, so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.
-Hebrews 6:11-12 (HCSB)

Do you have perseverance?  It takes perseverance to inherit the promises.  Perseverance is long-suffering.  It is patience, as in a long temper.  It is a "keeping on, keeping on".  Perseverance also means, "delayed hope" (Prov. 13:12).  

A quick diagramming of Heb. 6:11-12 is this.  I imagine this is not perfect, but this is my attempt, to try to understand it better:

Now we want 
-each of you 
   -to demonstrate
       -the same diligence
       -for the final realization
       -of your hope,
       -so that you won’t become lazy
   -but will be imitators
      -of those who inherit the promises
         -through faith and perseverance.

My focus is on this word, perseverance.  It falls within the "imitators" section.  We want to be "perseverer's", who inherit the promises, through faith.  The writer tells us that, indeed, faith is not passive.  Real faith is proven through long-suffering.  That is how it works.

The author says, to do that, by imitating or following the example of others who are doing this.  Verse 12 is somewhat of a restating of verse 11, in which it says that we demonstrate diligence.  Diligence means earnestness or an enthusiastic going after.

Becoming Christlike, is a process to be pursued.  It takes diligence and perseverance.  These verses are in contrast to the verses that precede them, that talk about people who do not diligently go after Christ being formed in them (Gal. 4:19).

I like the Holman Standard Christian Bible (1), here, because they use this word, perseverance.  The King James has, "patience", which is the most common way this word is translated.  I found "longsuffering" in the ACV.  The NLT has "endurance", and The Message says, "stay the course", which I also love.  The other ones that use "perseverance", are The New English Translation and The Jerusalem Holy Bible.

There are "promises" that Christians want to see in their lives.  I was going to say "strive after", but I don't want to say that we make it happen.  However, we do have the paradox, that we need to be still and "be", while letting God "do" and "be".  But, there is also much that we "do".  We do "press on", to finish our race, which is a marathon (Phil. 3:14).

As a young man, I wrestled with the idea of, "waiting on God".  I found out that what this means is waiting like a waiter, at a restaurant.  In other words, it is not passive, and it is relational.  You are active, like the wise virgins, who kept their lamps going, while waiting for the call of the bridegroom (Matt. 25:1-3).

We have to learn to trust God, with all our hearts (Prov. 3:5) and not depend on our own understanding.  That is inheriting the promises through faith and perseverance.  In all our ways, we acknowledge him and he will make our paths straight, or direct our paths (Prov. 3:6).  It is a faith and patience thing.  We keep on, not losing our temper.

We don't want to become lazy.  The world is always dragging us down and back.  We have to work.  Faith saves you, but faith does not work in your life, unless you work it.  It is like having things, but you have to get up and do something, to put them to use.

We inherit the promises (2 Cor. 1:20) of God through perseverance.  Everyone who inherits God's promises has a hard life.  There are bumps, detours, losses, set backs, and betrayals; just to name a few of the challenges.  Things do not always go as planned.

But God has provision there, in the challenges to our faith.  We have to receive and take hold of it, and put it to use.  God provides for us when any bad things happen to us, and God compensates us for the deficits that the injustices of life place on us.  God is huge on justice (Psalm 89:14 & 97:2, Luke 18:7).

Perseverance is the way on.  Those that  persevere will inherit.  That is what it says.  It is a narrow path (Matt. 7:13-14).  If you want to live in Romans 8:28, seeing God causing all things to work together for good, you have to keep loving God, confirming your calling, for his purpose.  We persevere (keep faith-ing, working out a life of believing no matter what, like Job (Job 13:15)), and God works stuff out through provision and compensation.
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I found the photo above on J. Michael Cunningham's blog post, here.
1. A review of the HSCB.

My Mourning

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
-Matthew 5:4

If Jesus said God blesses the people who mourn, then mourning is alright.  Even Jesus mourned (John 11:35).  Tears are good.

I was at a lecture, and I suddenly felt very sad, about a loss in my life.  There was a grief, a loss, to mourn.  We call it "grief work".  Many of us have pockets of loss or hurtful memories in our hearts.  More than a few times, a scene in a movie has resonated with my grief or loss; and I am suddenly bursting into tears.

I also had a dream this past week, and in it, I was reciting a disappointment, which was mourning a loss.  It got my attention and I agreed to grieve it.  If we ignore our "grief work", the hurts stay with us and contaminate our lives.

Blessed are those who mourn their losses.

We need to let go of the hurt, so that we can take hold of the new beginnings, the new seasons, and the second chances.  For example, when you suffer a loss; if you stay in the place of hurt and judgement and anger and resentment, you are looking at and holding onto the old.  That is your obsession and your heart is full of it.

When a new opportunity comes, you cannot see it or take it in, because you are preoccupied with the loss of the past.  In God's kingdom, we get forgiven, we forgive others, and God brings new beginnings and the second chances (and third and forth chances).

In God's kingdom, it is a "fail-safe" environment.  We can try things and fail at them.  We can miss things, but different things come, that we get a chance at.  We can be sinned against, ripped off, lied about, or bullied by others; and God makes up for it.

The one who is stuck, sometimes says, "why oh why did God allow thus and so".  Then they theologize and surmise that their experience of loss means that either God is not good or God is not powerful.  Both of these positions are false.

God gives life.  In living, God gives us the gift of mourning or grieving our losses.  Everyone's story has losses and God's compensation.  "Beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair." (Isa. 61:3)  If you suffered a loss, God has compensation for you, but you have to take hold of Christ (Phil. 3:12) and work it out (Phil. 2:12).  Part of that is mourning.

Without mourning, you don't experience morning.

God has a new day for people who have suffered, but they have to grieve the loss.  Some people laugh inappropriately, when they should be mourning.  James wrote, "Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy." (James 4:9)

Some of our losses are linked with what we have done.  Sarcasm and masochism are not the answer.  Mourning is the answer and healing.  Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free (Isa. 61:1).  He came to tell mourners that the day of God's favor is here (Isa. 61:2).

To receive, you must grieve.

I believe in riding the wave of mourning in our lives, and receiving the blessing of being healed by Jesus from any and all loses.  We do let it go and we do get over it, but not as the world does (1 Thess. 4:13).  The healing and the freedom comes from and through Christ.

He heals my life.  He is my compensation.  He always has a plan, even when I have failed or others fail me.  He is always good.  He always has a way because he is the way.  In him there is always provision.  He is my hope.


My Anger

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
-Ephesians 4:26-7 (NLT)

A few weeks ago, I was on the way, with my family, to go to a performance of "A Christmas Carol".  I had never been to the theater we were driving to, and was taking directions from the GPS.  We got off the freeway, and I was disoriented about which lane to be in.

I was changing lanes and another man honked at me.  There were four lane choices, and I am not even certain I wanted to get in front of him; but just over, towards him, one or two lanes.

When he honked at me, I honked back.  He honked,  then I hooooooooooooonked.  You get the idea.  It was a, "how dare you honk at me, and now here is a taste of your own medicine", honk.  I think I also upset the panhandler, but he may have already been talking up a storm, before I hooooooonked.

We continued to follow the Magellan's directions, and it was funny, because the man that I had the honking thing with, was leading us the same way.  Yes, he was headed to the Christmas play too.  He just went into the adjacent parking lot, to the one I was looking for.

Later, when I crossed through that lot, looking for a coffee shop, I wondered if I would see that man.  In the theater, I wondered where that man was seated, with his family.  We were all there to watch the famous play about the  most famous Christmas grouch, who had his heart changed.

It took me a while, but I realized that even if someone is ungracious, in my eyes, and honks at me; perhaps they are doing it, because they really think I don't see them and want to prevent an accident, which is what horns are for after all.  I'm stating the obvious, because it is so easy to get caught up in a hysterical 'drama-fest'.  If I get honked at, I need to forbear and live out of the provision of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

So, a week past, and it happened again.  I made the mistake of going to the store, "to pick up a few things", in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.  The roads and the parking lots were as full and crowded as they get (accept for on Christmas eve.)  I was carefully exiting the parking lot onto the crowded street, making a difficult left turn.

And then the car in back of me honked.  I was tempted to make a scene by putting my car in park and setting the brake, then walking to their window, and asking them what their problem is.  In that moment, I let my spirit reach out to the Spirit of God and get the provision for the fruit of the Spirit I so much needed.

In the moment, I got it.  I chose not to sin in my anger.  The honk alarmed and annoyed me.  But then rather than escalating it, I reached out to God for the fruit of the Spirit, and God provided.  I made a choice, in the angry moment, to choose not to sin in my anger.

It felt different than the other way.  I felt peace.  There was a sting in the slight humiliation of the honk, but I learned again what it feels like to turn the other cheek.

And a few days later, last night in fact, after I had been reflecting on this, and began writing about it here; it happened again.  Someone honked at me, and I just chuckled and didn't feel anger at all.  All I wanted to do, is recognize them and their concern, and get out of their way.

I believe that The Fruit of The Spirit is there for every Christian, to resource us in every interpersonal situation challenge.  I am learning to live in that place.

I also believe that if we have deep pain, from childhood, that feeds our being touchy or angry adults, that we need to get in touch with it and release it, as Christians, through the cross of Christ.  Jesus helps us forgive.  He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases (Psalm 103:3).  Many people have suppressed anger.
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The photo above is from Jamye Price, Forbearance.
Here are some books for further study:
The Angry Book, Theodore I. Rubin
Deep Wounds, Deep Healing; Charles Kraft
Boundaries, Henry Cloud & John Townsend
Questions & Answers on Anger, Cloud & Townsend
Anger and Assertiveness in Pastoral Care, David W. Augsburger.
The Three Battlegrounds, Francis Frangipane
Hate Work: Working Through The Pain and Pleasures of Hate, David W. Augsburger
(I have not read these two books by David, but he was a teacher of mine, and they look like very good resources.)

He Owns The Cattle On A Thousand Hills -I know He Will Care For Me

He owns the cattle on a thousand hills,
The wealth in ev'ry mine;
He owns the rivers and the rocks and rills,
The sun and stars that shine.
Wonderful riches, more than tongue can tell -
He is my Father so they're mine as well;
God owns the cattle on a thousand hills -
I know that He will care for me.


John W. Peterson wrote this song, published in 1948.  He was born in 1921 and died in 2006.  He wrote over 1000 songs, including Heaven Came Down an Glory Filled My Soul, Surely Goodness and Mercy, This Is The Day That The Lord Hath Made.

It is a great reminder that God takes care of us.  Generous is a word that describes God and we live out lives of generosity:
And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
-2 Corinthians 9:8-10 (NLT)
I have been prompted to think about financial resources this week.  God resources us, and we resource others.  There is seed and bread.  We sow the seed and eat the bread.

In Acts 20:17-38, Paul says goodbye to the Ephesian elders.  This is where he warns them about wolves coming into the eldership of the church.  He also warns them about taking money from the church.

This song, "He Owns The Cattle On A Thousand Hills", is Paul's song.  All through Paul's writings, he says that God or Christ will take care of me.  Paul's bottom line in Christ.  And about the resources in your life, Paul quotes Jesus' saying, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

Is this song your song too?  Do you know that God takes care of you?

The gospel is about giving.  God is a giver.  God is generous.  The blessing comes from giving.  God gives to us and we give to others, showing off God to them.

That's the Christian life.  God gave.  Christ gave.  We joyfully and humbly receive, and then give.

The New Testament teaches grace giving in a lifestyle of generosity, and living by faith - sowing seed and eating bread for today.



How Firm A Foundation

I will not, I will not leave thee, I will never, never, never forsake thee.”
-Hebrews 12:5 (1)

Have you ever heard J. Vernon McGee's "Thru The Bible", radio program?  It has been on a number of stations, here in Southern California, for decades.  He passed on in 1988, but his radio ministry has kept going, because it is so popular.  How Firm A Foundation, is the hymn that opens the show.  I decided to look at this amazing hymn.  Here is is:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

How Firm A Foundation, first appeared in hymnals, in the 18th century.  It is attributed to someone named "K", who perhaps wanted to remain anonymous.

According to this Hymn studies website, it is based on Isaiah 43:1-5:


But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.
I will gather you and your children from east and west.

1 Corinthians 3:11 says:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 41:10 says:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right ha
nd.

And Romans 8:35-39 says, 

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hebrews 13:5 says,

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.”

And finally, Deuteronomy 31:6 says,

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

(NLT)

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1. (The Family Expositor; or a Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament, with Critical Notes and Practical Improvements, by the famous Dr. Philip Doddridge.)  See notes here.

Obedience Is From A Life That Has Had His Love Revealed, & Loves Back

Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.'

“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”
-John 14:21 (NJHB, MSG)

The person who loves Christ, has grasped, has layed ahold of his commands firmly.  That person's mind holds onto Christ's words, which are commands to be obeyed.  The person who loves Christ hears him, takes hold of the commands his gives, and obeys them.

But this does not happen in a vacuum.  It happens through God's love for us first.  It also is able to happen, because we are people who have the Holy Spirit.  We take hold of something that deeply impacts us- God's love in Christ, and become lovers ourselves.  And we express that love through obeying God's son.

The Father has always loved the Son.  The Father loves those who love the Son.  Those who love the Son, show that love by obeying what the Son has said.  And what he says are commands.

Jesus is king.  His words are life.  His words are instructions for life.  If we love him, we will follow him, by obeying his words.  We will observe his commands.

God's love is not conditional.  God loves the disobedient and the ones to even listen, but do not hear or lay hold of his commands and put them into practice.  God still loves those people.  Many verses say this, in John (3:16, 13:34, 15:9, 12; 17:23), and places like Romans 5:8, that says, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".

When we obey Christ's commands, we enter in to the reciprocal love between the Father and the Son.  Conversely, when we do not obey; we close ourselves off from enjoying fellowship with God.  Like Adam and Eve, we end up hiding and putting on fig leaves in God's presence, because of the stain of sin and the shame of it.

God is unconditional, but we put the conditions on our own selves.  Every believer is as close to God, or as much in God's love, as they choose to be, through their own actions in their lives.  God does not decide to be near to some believers and distant from others.  We actually choose how close we will get.

Jesus says that those who enter in to the reciprocal love of the Father for him, through their obedience, will be loved by him in a revelational way, that is showing himself, manifesting himself, in our lives.

To paraphrase, Jesus is saying that if you take his words and run with them, getting it and doing it; that you will find yourself living in the extravagant love of the Father for the Son.  Then, Jesus will show up in your life, in a special way.

His revealing himself to you is not specific, but it is sure.  Your obedience takes you into a deeper experience of God's love for the Son and then, Christ promises to reveal himself to you.

The context of Jesus saying that the one who loves him obeys his commands, and will enter in to the reciprocal love of his Father and be so loved by Jesus, that he will manifest himself to you; is, the whole of John 14, which is a discourse that Jesus spoke to the disciples at their last supper or communion time together.

The backdrop, is when Jesus washed their feet, and had the exchange where he told Peter that he would get it later, on what this was about.  Then, he told them that one of them would betray him; and he dismissed Judas, into the night.

After Judas left, Jesus talked to the remaining eleven about how he is about to be glorified and God will be glorified in him.  Then, he told the eleven that he would be gone from them soon.

Immediately, as if this was importantly linked to how much they are going to miss Jesus human presence with them, he tells them this new command, that they should love one another, as he has loved them.  He said that as they do this, all people would know that they belong to him, are his disciples.

This command was wonderful and awe inspiring, but his leaving them was disturbing.  So Peter, inquired further about it and bragged that he would go anywhere with Jesus, even to death.  And that is when Jesus had to tell Peter that he was going to soon deny him three times, before dawn breaks tomorrow.

That must have broken Peter's heart.  They were all broken up about losing their master.  This is where they are in John 14:1, when Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled".  Jesus said that, because their hearts were very troubled.  Jesus is not saying, "just get over it", and he does not say that to us when we are suffering a loss.

John 14:1-3 is not a sermon to comfort us at funerals, about heaven.  The Father's house is you and me.  That is what Jesus explains in the whole chapter of John.  Jesus was not talking about heaven.  He was talking about the life of his disciples, on earth.

The only way you can live the life is to abide in Christ.  And it is even better than that, because Jesus says that the way that it works, is for the Holy abides with us (14:16).  We are his abodes, the dwelling places that Jesus mentioned in verse two.  He, the Holy Spirit, will remain with us and be in us (14:17).  They, and we, will not be orphans.  Mysteriously, Jesus comes to be with us, through the Holy Spirit (14:18).

Jesus is saying, in the midst of this, "here is what I want to tell you, for you to know."  He then tells them that the life he has planned for them is a life of abiding in God - in him, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  John 14:21:
Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them: it is he who loves me. And whoever loves me shall be loved by my Father. And I will love him, and I will manifest myself to him.”
Do you notice the quotation marks, at the end of Jesus' words, and wonder what the beginning of his statement was, or what he was responding to?  He was responding to Philip, who spoke in verse 8, saying:
Philip said to him, “Lord, reveal the Father to us, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus answers Phillip:
Jesus said to him: "Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me? Philip, whoever sees me, also sees the Father. How can you say, 'Reveal the Father to us?'
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I am speaking to you, I do not speak from myself. But the Father abiding in me, he does these works.
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
Or else, believe because of these same works. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me shall also do the works that I do. And greater things than these shall he do, for I go to the Father.
And whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, that I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you shall ask anything of me in my name, that I will do.
If you love me, keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give another Advocate to you, so that he may abide with you for eternity:
the Spirit of Truth, whom the world is not able to accept, because it neither perceives him nor knows him. But you shall know him. For he will remain with you, and he will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans. I will return to you.
Yet a little while and the world will not see me any longer. But you will see me. For I live, and you shall live.
In that day, you shall know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them: it is he who loves me. And whoever loves me shall be loved by my Father. And I will love him, and I will manifest myself to him." -John 14:9-21 (CPDV)
 That gives us the context.  The manifestation, revelation, that Jesus gives us is of the Father.  He is answering Phil's question, "show us the Father".

The Christian life is a life of God being in us, with us, and beside us; empowering us to love and to obey what Jesus has said.  God starts the relationship and we just have to say, "yes", and enter in.  We agree, we yield, we permit, and consent.  Then we work it out and walk it ou and live it out.  But God supplies the ability to do it.

Those that love Jesus obey him.  They have entered in to the love of the Father for the Son.  They have the Holy Spirit in their lives, who empowers them to live the life.  He guides, he comforts, and most of all, he points to Jesus.

Baptism in water is a blessing.  But what about the baptism of the Holy Spirit?  John, the baptist said that Jesus would baptize his disciples with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8).  John 14 is a chapter about the Trinity.  We need to understand Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.  Only by experiencing God, can we live out the life.  True understanding is when we get it and live it.  And we can only get it, if we genuinely love, entering into the love of the Father for the Son, and allow the Spirit of God to dwell and abide in and with us.
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Verily, verily I say unto you: Jesus Is The Amen

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
-John 6:47 (KJV)

"Verily, verily, I say unto you".  Did you know that Jesus said this phrase twenty times, all in John's gospel?  Verily is the King James word for "amen".  We are used to hearing, "amen", at the end of a statement, and not at the beginning.  Jesus says, "amen", at the beginning of a statement, to bring emphasis to what he is saying.  He says, "Amen, amen", at the beginning of a declaration to really emphasize what he is about to say.

The Catholic Bible is one of the few that reads, "Amen, amen, I say to you".  The Revised Standard, New American Standard, and English Standard Versions, read, "Truly, truly, I say to you."  the New Living and New International Versions read, "I tell you the truth".

When we say, "amen", while someone is sharing; we are saying, "I agree", "that's right", or "that is so true".  There is another variant that we do, and that is to call out, to the preacher, "tell the truth!".  Preachers also sometimes either say, "amen?", or, "can I get an amen on that?".  A new one, that I see on Facebook, is to say, "truth!".  I think that they mean, "amen!", or, "that's the truth!".

Why does John record these twenty statements, with Jesus' special emphasis on each one?  Here are a few ideas from published sermons:
The "Verily, verily" is only employed by John because he sets forth Christ in His higher relations, and therefore conveys transcendent truth that requires emphasis. (A. Jukes, The Verilies of Christ)

(1) His verilies have nothing to do with natural truths which we can discover or demonstrate.
(2) Nor with matters of history which scholars may search out.
(3) Nor with such things as Sanhedrins wrangle over.
(4) But with vital, spiritual, eternal truths not otherwise discoverable by man. (N. Smyth, The Positiveness of Jesus)


Verily is simply the familiar "amen!" which properly is an adjective meaning firm or steadfast, and is used in two connections. Sometimes it precedes an assertion which it confirms, in which case it may be paraphrased by "Thus it certainly is." Sometimes it follows a prayer which it sums up and reiterates, and in that case it may be paraphrased by "So may it be." Doubled it has the force of a superlative, "Most assuredly." It is heard only from the lips of Christ. It becomes no other lips. (A. Maclaren, Verily)
What I believe is that when Jesus speaks, he is speaking authoritatively. He is not just a teacher or even just a prophet. Teachers may teach truth, but Jesus is the truth. Prophets may speak for God, but Jesus is God. Eugene Peterson translated John 6:47 as, “I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life."

This is what the scholar, C. K. Barrett, writes in his commentary on John:
ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν. This solemn formula of asseveration occurs 20 times in John; with σοι for ὑμῖν, 5 times more. ἀμὴν is never used singularly in John, or without λέγω ὑμῖν (σοι). In the Synoptic Gospels ἀμὴν is never doubled, and is always followed by λέγω (except at Matt. 6:13, where there is doubt about the reading, and Mark 16:20). The origin of the characteristic NT use of ἀμὴν to introduce a statement (over against its common use in affirming a prayer or similar formula) is obscure... John has merely taken it over from earlier tradition, and employs it to give emphasis to a solemn pronouncement. (Barrett, p. 186)
Thayer's Greek Lexicon says this about the double amen, preceding Jesus' statements in John:
The repetition of the word (ἀμήν ἀμήν), employed by John alone in his Gospel (twenty-five times), has the force of a superlative.

Here is something that George Ladd wrote (The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism) about Jesus using the double amen:
The presence of the Kingdom in Jesus' words explains his imperious manner of speaking. All four Gospels witness to a characteristic speech form: "Amen, I say to you."  "Amen" is used in the Old Testament as a solemn formula to confirm the validity of an oath (Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15-26), to give assent to an announcement (1 Kings 1:36), or as a doxology.  Jesus' use of the word to introduce a statement is without parallel in rabbinic usage.  Jesus used the expression as the equivalent of an oath, paralleling the Old Testament expression, "As I live, saith the Lord.  Jesus' usage is without analogy because in his person and words the Kingdom of God manifested its presence and authority.  H. Schlier is right: this one little word contains in nuce the whole of Christology. (Ladd, pp. 166-7)
A few more notes on Jesus words, from Ladd (p. 167-9):

  • Jesus' words possess eternal validity (Mark 13:31).
  • His words will decide the final destiny of men (Mark 8:38, Matt. 7:24-6)
  • Jesus' person is inseparable from his words (Mark 8:38).
  • He himself is the message he proclaims.
  • Jesus claimed for his words an authority equal to that of the word of God itself.
  • The prophet announced the coming of the Kingdom; Jesus embodied its presence and power in his own mission.
  • The gospel is present in Jesus' word (Mark 4:33 & 8:32).
  • The Kingdom is God's redemptive rule, now present in the person, deeds, and words of Jesus.

In The Revelation of John, chapter three, verse fourteen; John writes:
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. (KJV)
Jesus is the Amen.  He is the truth.  It is settled in him.  He is the authority.

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He's Got The Whole World In His Hands (You & Me)

For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being.
-Job 12:10

This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God's hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor.
-Ecclesiastes 9:1

He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
-Colossians 1:17

The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.
-Hebrews 1:3

For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
-Romans 11:36 

He really does have the whole world in his hands, including you and me.  "How is this possible?", our little hearts ask.  It is because our God is big, mighty, all encompassing, and real.

And the person or face of our God is Jesus.  The gospel message is that God took on human form and showed himself to us.  The Father and The Holy Spirit are also God, because God is a triune God; which is a mystery or a revelation beyond human wisdom and reason, but it is true.

He has the whole world in his hands.  That's a poetic figure of speech in a song, but it is true.  That does not mean that he is controlling everything, but everything is within his reach or touch.

He is holding everything together, whether we realize it or not.  This realization, this discerning, and this experiencing needs to come from us.  The word of the world, with it's foolishness and deception is that there is no God (Psalm 14:1).

For those who do believe in God, the temptation is to believe in a weak or uncaring God, and get deceived.  The devil is still using the old strategy to tempt us to question what God said (Gen. 3:1), and get us to believe something different (2 Cor. 11:3).

The song, He's Got The Whole World In His Hands, is a Negro Spiritual, that anonymously arose from African American oral tradition.  The whole idea that God or Jesus, has the whole world in his hands, including you and me, came from the heart of an enslaved people, who were living in profound injustice.

Like Job, in his misery, the enslaved people, Africans brought to America; wrote beautiful songs, expressing their faith in God, that we call Spirituals.  Christians have always been suffering people - saved, but suffering.  Spiritual songs (Col. 3:16 & Eph. 5:19) are something Apostle Paul mentions, "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs".

Paul writes, that we should, "teach and admonish one another" (Col. 3:16), with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; or that we should, "speak to one another" (Eph. 5:19), with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Psalms might be the Psalms of the Old Testament.  Hymns are praise and worship songs written by people with talent from God for poetry and tune.  Our hymnals are full of these.

But, spiritual songs are something different.  Spiritual songs are songs of faith, sometimes written in the crucible of suffering.  Despite the real chains of bondage, the injustice, the not-a-good-life-now; spirituals express faith in God, in a faith like Job's, expressing, "although he slay me, yet I will believe" (Job 13:15).

My point here is that the song,  "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands", was not written by an "armchair Christian".  It was written by a community that was going through horrific suffering.  Their suffering was physical.

An authentic mark of a Christian is that he or she trusts God in suffering. We learn how to give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18).


He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the itty bitty baby in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got a-you and me brother in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got a-you and me sister in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands
He's got the whole world in His hands

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The scriptures at the top are from the New Living Translation.

Sent Out Among Wolves (Street-wise)

Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.
-Matt. 10:16 (NLT)

It is ironic or a paradox that Jesus sends us out as sheep among wolves.  Normally, sheep are kept away from wolves.  But Jesus' words here, say that we, as his messengers and missionaries, will be seemingly defenseless.

But, the good shepherd goes with us (John 10:12-15).  The point Jesus makes here, is that we have no self defense, in our own power.  We are completely reliant on our shepherd.
  
We are not force of power, in and of ourselves.  We have a powerful message.  We have a powerful King.  The King can even do powerful things through us.  But we are not a power.  We are defenseless, like sheep, utterly dependent on our shepherd.

But, we are to have a special way of functioning, in our vulnerability.  We are to be as shrewd as snakes and as harmless as doves.  This is a paradox.  

Snakes are careful.  Shrewd, prudent, sensible, or crafty.  All this implies the wisdom in our thinking (1 Cor. 14:20).  Being shrewd, means that we are not naive nor simpletons.

Harmless as doves, means innocent, unmixed, pure, or transparent.    But the dove aspect, means that we are pure in our lack of guile and in our honesty.  We need, as Donald Hagner wrote, "practical discernment and at the same time the sort of guilelessness that characterized Jesus." (1)

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The picture above is from Peter's blog post, Street-smart Disciples
1. Hagner, Matthew, p.277

Watch Out For Wolves and That You Do Not Become One

“Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it.  But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves.  You will know them by their fruit. Do people get bunches of grapes from thorny weeds, or do they get figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and every rotten tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit. And a rotten tree can’t produce good fruit.  Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore, you will know them by their fruit.

 “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.
-Matt. 7:13-21 (CEB)


Jesus says to watch out for wolves, that are dressed like sheep.  Everyone, with their natural eyes, can spot a wolf.  Jesus tells us that the wolves that he wants us to be concerned about look like sheep.

Wolves prey on sheep.  Wolves are completely dangerous to sheep.  That is why Jesus says they are vicious.  They are not 'friendlies', but are 'enemies' of sheep.

Jesus warns us about certain people he calls false prophets, who look one way that is good, but really are another way, that is not good.  Who they are is destructive.  And what is insidious, is that they pretend to be sheep, but inside, they are destructive - sheep destroyers.

On the surface, they look like sheep, but upon deeper examination, we find out that they are wolves dressed as sheep.  In other words, frauds or fakes.  A great danger for the Christian is, 'faking it to make it'.  That is a way of the world that is not the way of the kingdom or of the disciple.

The context of Jesus' warning, tells us a lot about what he means.  We will misunderstand him, if we imagine he is talking about a person who advertises themselves as a prophet, but are not of God.  Jesus' perspective is that the whole people of God is prophetic and there are many prophets (Matt. 23:34).

A false prophet, according to Jesus, is more that just a person who predicts something that does not come true.  A false prophet is someone who's life is not true.  They have not gone through the narrow gate, nor are they on the narrow path.

Some Christians have not entered through that narrow gate, and are not walking the narrow path.  We say we are Christians, and only God can judge if we are.

Jesus tells us not to judge (Matt. 7:1), but here he says, "watch out", for this certain kind of people that will come to us.  Watching out is serious stuff, but it is different than condemning.  We are all called to be watchers.  There is a warning to be heeded, and if Jesus said it, then it is a very serious warning.

We can see, by the context. that these people, that Jesus identifies as wolves, who are false prophets, are people who are not obeying Jesus, in their hearts.  They have refused the narrow gate and they have bad fruit:
  • Go through the narrow gate, that leads to life.
  • A mark of the narrow gate is that is is hard and painful.
  • (That means dying of self, and letting resurrection life happen).
  • Watch out for false prophets that look like sheep, but are really wolves.
  • You will know who the wolves are by their fruit.
  • Yes, they bear fruit, but it is bad fruit.
  • God will judge the trees (people) who bear bad fruit.
  • Jesus has given you the ability to know these folks by observing their fruit.
  • It is not about what you say, but about what you do (the narrow gate).
Being a Christian, means that Christ has you at your core.  He rules how you live.  You are rooted in him.  It is not just about how you look and what you say, but what you do.  

And the Christian life is about becoming Christlike.  It is not about appearances.  Many people know the words, the verses, and even the right message of the gospel.  But, they themselves, refuse to live it out (through the narrow-way-life).

I believe that many of these (wolf) people do not even know they are wolves.  There is self-deception, they are mislead or deceived.  Most, if not all, deceivers are themselves deceived by the deceiver (John 8:44).

That does not make deception ok.  We need to expose darkness (Eph. 5:11, Matt. 5:13, 2 Cor. 4:6).  In our koinonia fellowship, our goal is agape love.  How do we, 'watch out', and 'judge not'?  Ephesians 4:15, admonishes us to, "speak the truth in love", to tricky, cunning, deceitful, scheming people; who do show up among us (Eph. 4:14).  Love here, is key.  If we can not say it in love, then we should not say it.

Jesus says that we will know them by their bad fruit.  Bad fruit can look good, but is is not so good on the inside.  With an eye on context, what does Jesus say that good fruit looks like?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his book - Studies In the Sermon On The Mount, advises us to look at the Beatitudes, the fruit of the Spirit, and finally and ultimately, humility, in the person's life (p. 258-9, 1993 ed.).
“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
“Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
“Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
“Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
“Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
“Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
“Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
“Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you. -Matt. 5:4-12 (CEB)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires. -Gal. 5:22-4 (CEB)
Jones also wrote about what the Puritans called 'temporary believers', who are people who say they have been saved, but do not keep on the path.

Wolf people, hiding as sheep, are ravenous.  The false person is destructive.  This is why Jesus says to watch out.  Henry Cloud talks about wise, foolish, and evil people; as being three categories that people are in.  I think this is helpful.

We want to be on the wisdom track.  But many people are on the foolish track.  I think that wolves in sheep's clothing can be foolish or evil people.  The fool does it 'their way' and wants to avoid the light.  When the light shines on them, they want the light turned down or off.  Wise people yield to the light and let it expose them and want to be transformed.  Disciples are in a transformation process.

Participate Now, Understand Later

Jesus answered, “You don’t really know (realize now, know now) what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
-John 13:7 (CEV, NIRV, NRSV)

I am fond of the quote by Søren Kierkegaard, where he says that life can only be understood looking back, but it must be lived looking forward.  What is implied is that we walk through things that we do not understand, that we do not know.  Later, we can know or understand.  We gain experience.  We are seasoned.  We get it now.

It is encouraging that we do not need to understand all things in order to participate in life.  Not understanding is normal.  I believe that God wants us to participate.  I believe that God calls each one of us to walk with him, into the unknown, in order to grow and to gain working knowledge of how to walk the walk.

I don't really know what he is doing, and that is ok.  God chooses to not have us know.  He is doing something with me, and I don't need to understand it.  He says that I will understand it later.  I think he wants me showing up and not understanding or knowing.  Saying, "I don't know", is humbling, but God gives grace to the humble (1).

We have things we want.  I have had things I have wanted to see God do.  All the time, God has been on the move, doing things, and wanting to do things.  I have not understood what he is doing.  But looking back now, I understand some of it and the good of it.

Peter and the other Apostles spent all that time, intimately with Jesus.  They heard and saw way more than we have in the four written gospels.  They had the day of Pentecost, so they were not lacking in spiritual fullness.  Yet, they did not understand the whole thing, all the time, and had to continually work things out.  They had to pray, they had to be bewildered.  They had to come together and seek consensus.

When Jesus knelt down to wash Peter's feet, it threw him for a loop.  Jesus did something to him that he did not understand, that he frankly refused, but then accepted.  I like Peter.  And after all the intimate teaching, in the communion of the upper room, Peter also struggled with who he was and publicly saying who Jesus was to him.  This wavering, unsteady, man is the man who gets the revelation that Jesus is the rock that the whole called apart, gathered, people of God is built upon.

The lesson here is that we don't have to understand.  He will teach us to understand.  And how Jesus teaches us is that he has us do things or he does things to us that we do not know.  They are not from us, they do not come natural to us.  They are ways of the spirit and they are paths in the kingdom of God.

I believe that God does not demand ever that we understand.  What he wants is faith that is walked out by showing up and participating in his life.  Jesus says, let me do this uncomfortable thing to you, that you don't understand.  It is unknown to you, but see me, experience me in it.

When we let Jesus do something in our lives that we don't know, that is uncomfortable; we end up with a spiritual upgrade.  You don't get it now, but you will have experiential knowledge later.  When Jesus comes to do something to us, it is not optional.  If we don't allow it, then our spiritual lives stunt or stick or halt there.

The road that he has for me goes through the uncomfortable experience.  Any other road is a detour, and when we are ready, the door to that path he chooses, is awaiting.  We talk about waiting on God or laboring in prayer and life, for God to do something.  All the while, God is waiting for us to let him do what he wants to do, with us, so that we can learn and grow, in him, on his path for us.

Jesus is often beckoning us into the uncomfortable, with him; while we are sad that he is not serving us, and making us comfortable and entertained.  The life is not about understanding, but about trust.

To say, "I don't understand, but I trust you", is to have faith and to gain experiential knowledge through intimate relationship.  Maybe God wants us in humility, so that he can grace us.

Real experiences with God are humbling, and that is a good thing.  We need to be obedient to the things he puts before us that are awkward and even seem backward.  We do not ever need to understand, but he says, that like Peter, we might get it later.  Today, he says, "just do it".  And the one who calls us gives us the ability to do what he calls us to do (2).
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1. Prov. 3:34. 29:23; James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5
2. 1 Thess. 5:24

Forgive Seventy Times Seven

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
-Matthew 18:21-35

What if someone hurt you in some way.  That is not too hard to imagine, because many of us get hurt by people all the time.  I heard a man tell his story of being hurt by the written words from someone.  He reacted by being very angry with the person.  He got so angry, that he said he hated the other person for a time.  After calming down, he sensed the Lord tell him that he needed to ask their forgiveness.

Think about that for a minute.  He was the one who had been hurt, so didn't he have the right to be angry?  Wouldn't you rather hear that the Lord prompted the man to confront the other person, and tell them they should ask for forgiveness?  But, God did the opposite!

What is profound to me, is that so often, I believe that we think we have a right to unforgiveness that is expressed in anger, hate, and contempt toward the one(s) who hurt us in word or deed.  Our anger is often cloaked or disguised in sarcasm or a passive-aggressive freeze-out towards the person who we really have not forgiven.

We do get angry and when we do, we need to release it, or process it out: eliminate it.  We cannot stay angry and get bitter.  That is what the verses mean that say, "don't let the sun go down on your anger and (thereby) don't give the devil a foothold (Eph. 4:27)

When we do not forgive, we stay stuck in the past and we punish our selves for the hurt someone else did to us.  Someone has put it this way: that we look at that person who hurt us, or we perceived to have hurt us, and we drink poison that ruins our own lives.

We don't want to let them 'off the hook', but in so doing, we drink poison.  We are tortured, rather than being at peace and in freedom.  We reason that they don't deserve forgiveness.  And, they are not even asking for it, so why give it, we say.

When we get into this mindset, we are stepping away from the gospel and forgetting what's been done for us, and forgetting Jesus command that his disciples - those who are really following him and learning to live out his words - to be forgivers.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

It is not about how wrong that other person is or what they did.  Let's assume it was wrong, even evil perhaps.  We still get to forgive.  Jesus is our example, when he said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do", as he was crucified.  And I say, "we get to forgive", meaning, that we get to let Christ live through us in these moments of forgiveness.

You might say, "it is too hard".  But that is the purpose of Jesus telling this story.   The seventy times seven part means, to forgive again and again, until it becomes second nature.

Imagine that you were forgiven a debt of millions, a hundred million, and it is unlikely that you are going to have that kind of money, over your whole lifetime.  You incur that impossible to ever pay debt.  You offer to try to pay it somehow, but the debt is forgiven by the King.

Then, you have the opportunity to forgive someone's debt that owes you twenty bucks.  And they tell you they don't have it, so you press charges.  Do you see the absurdity?  One hundred million versus twenty dollars.

We are under grace and much grace has been given to each one of us, as Christians, and the Lord asks us to give grace back to others.  If we cannot see this or live in it, some would say that maybe we need to reexamine our own salvation.  Are you saved and do you understand what has been given to you?  In light of that grace, that forgiveness, how could you not be gracious, and forgive others?

What does Jesus mean when he says that if you do not forgive, then God will not forgive you?  And Jesus paints this picture, in the the parable, of being turned over to the torturers, until the guy pays the impossible debt.  What does this mean?

Since you were never called to mete out unforgiveness and punishment, you become blocked from being who you are supposed to be - a person of love, walking in the fruit of the Spirit.  That is the life of being handed over to the torturers.  You drink poison, while looking at the people who hurt or harmed you.  Guess who the poison goes into and harms?  It does not harm that person who hurt or harmed you.

We actually think we are punishing the one who hurt us, but we punish ourselves; and that is why Jesus paints such a shocking picture, to try to teach us not to do that.  Forgive.

There is a distinction between hurt and harm.  Many things hurt us that do not harm us.  Sometimes, we get confused and blow a hurt up into a harm.  Many things in life hurt and some things do harm and there is a difference.

When you just take Jesus at his words and forgive, you get out of the way.  I am a forgiven person who forgives.  I am not the judge or even a junior judge.  I can and do hurt and I can forgive and also be hurt at the same time.

When I am hurt and forgive, I also turn to God, for comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4).  Christianity and it's founder, is not a humanistic psychology that teaches us a better way of life.  Christianity is a God-centered life, surrendered to a savior, who gives us his life to live out, here in this present darkness (Eph. 6:12).  We are in a spiritual battle, which God has already won (Col. 2:15), which plays out now in a clash of kingdoms, where God displays his power through a weak people (Eph. 3:10), you and me, who are forgivers.  Forgiveness is the currency of the kingdom of God.

Forgiveness is not enabling or siding with evil.  Forgiveness is not saying the bad is ok.  Forgiveness does not absolve people of responsibility.

We also need to forgive ourselves.  You may be living out an unchristian life towards you own self, with unforgiveness.  Judging yourself, then meting out punishment to your self is way beyond the life in Christ.  We are never called to torture or selves, or what scripture calls 'the old man'.  We die to our selves, our sinful nature.  It is dead.  If it tries to come to life, like a ghost, tell it that it is dead, and move on in our living life in Christ.

Sometimes we think we have forgiven someone, but we really have not.  It is fake, false, pseudo, incomplete, or insincere.  In his book, Caring Enough To Forgive: True Forgiveness, David Augsburger writes about true and false forgiveness.  In the prologue, Augsburger says:

Forgiveness as it is frequently practiced is a process of denial, distortion, isolation,  or undoing which leads to behaviors of avoidance, distancing, and spiritual alienation.  Any stance of superiority, super-spirituality, or unilateral self-sacrifice reduces the possibility of real repentance and reconciliation.
Biblical agape is equal regard which refuses to stand up over another or live in denial, avoidance, or distance.  Thus it continues loving and living out the works of love as a genuine invitation to mutuality of forgiveness.  It sees the real focus of forgiving not in individualistic release from guilt and proof of goodness, but in interpersonal reconciliation, wholeness and life together in Christian community.
Perhaps Jesus said the seventy times seven word, because he meant that we need to keep forgiving, even the same person, until we process the forgiveness, unto agape love.

Sometimes, we think we have forgiven someone, but we really have not.  True forgiveness comes from the heart.  We need to be specific in our prayers of forgiveness.  We need to be aware of how we blame those who hurt us and try to somehow punish them through how we live and behave, and see the linkage and forgive that person.

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Here is a messege I found on this topic that was good: The Currency of the Kingdom - Forgiveness, a sermon by David Levy

God Sees Me

Be still and know that I am God.
Cease striving and know that I am God.
Be in awe and know that I am God.
-Psalm 46:10a

It is a revelation that can change your life: To know that God is active in your life.  We ourselves are often the one thing that blocks us from knowing this.  If and when we slow down, dial down, and cease from striving, we make room to be aware of or to be in awe of God.  We can not 'do' awareness or awe.  We get to experience it.

The idea or concept that God is watching is something not just for children to get, but for adults too.   Like the song that says, "be careful little eyes what you see".
There's a Father up above
And He's looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see
God is watching as the loving Father.  When you watch your child, or grandchild, you get a glimpse of what God does all the time.

It is one thing to know that God knows me, because he is God.  But to know that he really knows me, as an individual, is awesome.  It completely gives me pause.  It is life altering.  It is empowering and humbling.

I believe we need to live in the reality of God knowing us as The Father who is love.  All of God's knowledge of me is filled with love.  Even when God disciplines me, it is in love.

Wouldn't it be great to see the Lord?  There is a popular song called, "open the eyes of my heart", that says that we want to see God, like Isaiah did (Isaiah 6:1).  We imagine that if we saw the Lord, we would be changed or blessed.  But we also just want to see the one we love.

But when and if you get to have the experience of seeing the Lord, you will be impacted by him seeing you.  This is what Dallas Holm sung about in his song, I Saw The Lord.  Dallas describes the majesty of the Lord, but then adds, "and he saw me".

Even if we go to heaven and experience seeing Jesus with millions of other believers, I believe that we will experience him seeing us individually, like in Dallas Holm's song.  And that is how it is with the Lord even today.  He sees each one of us as individuals.

Be still and know that I am God.  He is loving you and me, as individuals.  It is intimate.  There are no facades or masks or personas.  With Augustine, we can also say, "in my deepest wound, I saw your glory, and it dazzled me".




Faithful in the Small or Few Things First

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!'

“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
-Matt. 25:21-3 (NLT)

I was pondering what are things to have running or have working in our lives, as we walk into a new, upgraded season.  Upgraded software needs upgraded hardware.  The software comes in over the air, but the hardware must be up to spec. to receive it.

Some of the things that have occurred to me, are:
  • Gracious generosity: Give and it shall be given (Luke 6:38).
  • The upside down job/ministry/life of being servant to all (Mark 9:35, 10:34 & Matt. 20:26).
  • The provision that the fruit of the Spirit provides for every interpersonal challenge (Gal. 5:22-3)
  • Having faith in life's storms and recognizing Jesus in our boat (Mark 4:38:40).
The next one, I want to share, is the principle of being faithful or trustworthy in the small things or small amounts first, before you can be trusted with larger things, or more responsibilities.

This is the principle:  You must not wait for the big to come along, nor wait to get responsible.  Whatever God has given you now, be responsible with that.  Faithfulness is the principle to be learned.

Here is a paradox:  When you do show that you are faithful or trustworthy in small things or small amounts, and you do get the promotion, from the Lord; you still have to remain faithful or trustworthy in the small things.  The 'servant of all' message applies to those who get more responsibilities.

These ideas or principles dovetail together, because they are aspects of the Jesus-follower or disciple of Christ.  These things describe how Jesus will live in you as you walk in him.  And there are many other aspects of the life in Christ.  

Jesus taught the practical.  Discipleship is when you learn something new, a better way, and then you try the new way and discover how it works.  And you can do it, because he is with you and living through you.  Discipleship is learning to live the life.


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The painting above is called, 'Young Lady Sketching Landscape', by Henry Le Jeune, from Meghan Gorecki's post, here.