He Came Eating and Drinking: God's Banquet

He brought me to the banquet hall, and he looked on me with love. 
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking.
-Song 2:4, Matt. 11:19 & Luke 7:34

Photo: Pixabay
This is from the forward to Winn Griffin's "God's Epic Adventure"

One of the best definitions of the gospel I've ever encountered is this one: "Jesus ate good food with bad people."  Goethe, in a famous essay, suggested that Leonardo's "The Last Supper" was written to convey Christ's words "one of you shall betray me."  But why not "Take, eat: this is my body?"  Why not Christ instituting the eucharist rather than foretelling his betrayal?

A Jesus revolution is a dinner party, the art of play more than work, celebration more than cerebration. Anything artistic involves "play", whether, sports, music, or video games.  You "play" baseball, not "work" baseball.  You "play" piano or violin, not "work" the instrument.  You "play" video games on PlayStation3 or listen to music on RealPlayer.  Liturgy (forms of worship) is not something you "work" at but "play with". If it's not "play", it's not a Jesus Revolution.

The bookends of the Bible are "Eat" and "Drink". God's first command in the Bible is "Eat freely" (Genesis 2;16). God's last command in the Bible is "Drink freely" (Revelation 22:17). In the middle: The Table.  In His book, God's Epic Adventure, Winn Griffin shows how everything in between is a never-ending banquet, not a snack, on which we feast on Him in our hearts with thanksgiving (eucharista).  If the revolution is to mean anything, and if Jesus has anything to do with the revolution, it must "revolve" around that Table.  For as Griffin shows in his winsome books, on that Table is spread out a feast that can give life to a dying people and planet.

-Leonard Sweet (2007)

You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you

I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
-Psalm 16:2 (ESV)

Photo: Pixabay
This is a word of dedication.  What or who are we dedicated to?  We dedicate and re-dedicate our selves and our lives to the Lord.

Christ the Lord is alive and his presence is with us as Christians.  He dwells in and among us, and in our Christian homes.  But there is a dynamic where we must practice his presence, as Brother Lawrence, in his book writes about.

Each day, we can sacramentalize the day, by invocation and dedication.  We are already made holy and set apart by God in Christ.  The question is, will we seek to walk in that?

The presence of Christ is part of the normal Christian life.  Religions and religious activity is when you only go somewhere to seek God, appease God, or worship God.  In Christianity, Christ is in you and walks with you everywhere you go and wants to be present in your home.

To forget the Lord all week, except at church and in your devotional or prayer times or at your small group, is to completely miss out on the life he wants you to have.  The life of Christ is, "hidden in plain site".  He is available and present at your home and with you every where you go.  We just have to be aware of him.

We deliberately say, "You are my Lord.  Apart from you, I have nothing good."

God wants me and you to understand, believe, and agree that He is Lord.  Lord means master, king, and the one I bow to.  He is Lord over everything in my life.  I have made him Lord and I continue to make him Lord.  I dedicate and rededicate myself to that solemn belief, "You are Lord".

Do I believe that I can do good outside of the Lord?  No.  Since he is my Lord, all I have is his and all I have is from him.  Any good I can do is through him.

The stuff that I take part in that is not in him is not good.  What he is involved in, where his presence is in my life is where good is.  I want his presence in and with me always, so that he is there in everything I have and take part in.

When I say, "Apart from you, I have nothing good", I am reminding myself that, "if he is not in it, it is not good".  And I don't want to be involved in things that are apart from him and not good.

Christianity is life in Christ, and life in Christ is not legalism and sin management.  Life in Christ is walking with Christ, learning to walk in Christ.  Like newborn babies, newborn Christians can not walk, but need to be held, nursed, and changed.

But that is a period of time which transitions to 'toddling', when people learn to walk.  Then, children learn balance, and so forth.  We learn to walk in and with Christ.

The walk and the life is the road of the Christian life, on which we learn as disciples.  It is an intentional thing.  We must continually exercise or will to walk.

Salvation is an event and a process.  We work out what he works in.  We continually exercise faith.

There is a paradox involved in that salvation is wholly his job, but it only works if we cooperate.  Sanctification and discipleship only work or take affect, when we cooperate.  We must willingly take up our crosses and willingly die to our selves.  We must willingly give up all to follow him.

When we say, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you", solemnly, sincerely, and truly; it sets the stage for the Lord to move in your life.  If the Lord is not doing things in your life, it may be because you are not allowing him to be Lord.

And the scariest verse in the NT is perhaps where Jesus remarks about the ones who say, "Lord, Lord", but he never knew them.  We can vainly say, "Lord", while not making him Lord.  We can have doctrine and believe we are saved, but not walk with him.

Dedicate your self to the Lord.  Live in and walk in the reality of his presence.  Live in his life, where he does good.  Let him into your thoughts.  Let him into your pain, loneliness, and fear.


Come Let Me Love You, Love me Again

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come love me again

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

"I am a song. I live to be sung. I sing it with all my heart. And that is the essence of who John was and is." -Annie Denver

Photo: Pixabay
I recently watched the wedding video, of my nephew's recent wedding, and I saw so much joy and pageantry.  The smiles on the faces, the celebration, and the sheer beauty.  It was outdoors, in a beautiful vineyard setting.

We make a big deal of our weddings, because they are a big deal.  Two lives are being joined, becoming one, and then they will usually have the awesome responsibility to be parents.  God's plan or design has always been for a man and a woman to find each other, and come together, uniting their lives.

As wonderful as that is, there is something more awesome and deeper about the wedding, because of what it points to.  That is, the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ, and his bride, the church.  The church is Jesus' bride, we are the bride of Christ.

The reason why weddings are awe inspiring, whether they are small of big, on a shoe-string budget, or extravagant; is because of how that event, that wedding, resonates with the impending event of Jesus Christ's wedding to his bride, the church.  You can not make too big a deal of your wedding, because it is a reflection of the very big wedding to come.

What does that have to do with John Denver's song?  I believe in common grace and prevenient grace.  Whether a poet knows it or not, God created love.  Whether a poet believes it or not, God and his son are worthy to be praised, worshiped, and adored.

I believe that the love that people have and display towards one another, whether or not they are believers, comes from God.  Romantic love, friendship love, and parental love are gifts from God.  God also invented erotic love as well.  The Bible teaches us about all these.

John Denver wrote this song for his wife, Annie.  John had a gift with words and music.  He tapped into a love that men and women perhaps can only have fully fulfilled in their relationship with God.

We might love our spouse, or spouse to be, so much that we feel our heads spin, like we are floating, and we call it "head-over-heels-in-love".  God invented that.

John's poetry is about his love for his then wife, but it resonates with God's love for me, for us.  I'm not saying that God put the words in John's mouth, but what I believe is that, in John's longing for his wife, he tapped into God's love for us and our reciprocation of that love.

John Denver was the oldest son of an alcoholic, air force bomber pilot, of German ancestory, "who was stern and could not show love towards his children", according to his wikipedia bio.  He had and Irish Catholic German grandmother that imparted a love for music to him.  

John had personal brokenness and was looking for meaning in life.  He died in a small experimental airplane accident, in 1997, at the young age of 53.  He was low on fuel and the levers that controlled the two fuel tanks were dysfunctional.

___________________________________________
Bibliography:

Annie's Song, Wikipedia
John Denver Bio., Wikipedia

Compelled

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.-Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)

Photo: Pixabay
Question: How do you do, when someone else takes over your control?  How do you do, when someone forces you to do something that was not your plan?  How do you react when someone else's action impinges upon you?

The way of the world is "tit for tat", resistance, or taking offense, when someone impinges on our control.  Generosity exists in the world, but it seems that Jesus calls his followers to a lifestyle of giving and lending freely.  He calls us to a love life that goes beyond the love of the world, where we sacrificially let others impose on us and put others first, in a spirit of meekness, without offense.

When we read Jesus' words in his sermon on the mount, we have to keep in mind that he never calls us to a new legalism.  The Christian life is not a set of "do's and do not's".  The Christian life is a life in Christ.

Christ lives through me, as I die.  I have to die, my self has to die, for him to live.  Holiness comes through his life, living in my life; not through being good, myself.  My self is called to die, so that he can live through me.

I am focusing on this statement of Jesus:
And if anyone compels you to go one mile, go with him two.
We call this, "Going the second mile".

I am on my journey in life, with all the things I do.  I have places to go and people to see.  I have work, I have meetings.  I have all the things and relationships that make up my life.

In the midst of all that is in my life, someone, and they could be a someone I already know, or a stranger; comes along and "forces" or "compels" me to go in a direction I was not planning on going.  We could call this a life interruption.

Jesus says that a person living through him goes along with the detour and does it double.  We generously go above and beyond what is asked.  It is not an exact thing, but a heart and spiritual attitude of character, lived out.

Jesus' saying about allowing yourself to be compelled or forced to do something that was not in your plans, comes in a paragraph or section where he says to have a generous lifestyle.  We don't retaliate or selfishly defend our selves.  The central operating principal of our lives is not self, but Christ.

The verse that describes the gospel message, so often quoted, is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son..."  It is a message of giving for the sake of others.  Jesus gave his life, and we follow him, giving our lives, our time, our attention, and our stuff.

We are not robots, but people being transformed into the image, being like, Christ.  And so he lives his generous, loving life through us.  All the while he takes good care of us too.

Every verse in the sermon on the mount is best understood within the whole context of the whole sermon or collection of words from Jesus.  An outline, suggested by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jone, is as follows:

Matthew 5:3-10, The character of the Christian in and of himself.

Matthew 5:11-12, The character of the Christian, proved by the reaction of the world to him.

Matthew 5:13-16, An account of the relationship of the Christian to the world, OR the function of the Christian in society and in the world.

Matthew 5:17-48, Particular examples of how the Christian lives in the world:

  • A general description of righteousness.
  • His relationship towards: 
  1. Murder
  2. Adultery
  3. Divorce
  4. How to speak
  5. Retaliation & self-defense
  • Emphasizing the spirit over the letter: the Pharisees emphasized the letter only.  The details (letter) are an expression of the spirit, the transformed heart.
Matthew 6, The Christian living his life in the presence of God, in active submission to Him and entire dependence on Him.

Matthew 7, The Christian as one who lives always under the judgement and fear of God.
  • The fear of God, for the Christian, is not being filled with fear, but reverence filled with love.
  • The world lives in fear of judgement, while the Christian lives under the judgement of God.
The whole sermon on the mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or a new law.  Jesus is talking about the character, inside out, of his disciples.  Jesus teaches about the spiritual life of his disciples and how they will behave, under certain circumstances, because of the life they have within them.  

The sermon on the mount is about life in Christ.

Being compelled to do something you were not planning on is an imposition.  Will you respond by being offended, in a "How dare you", sort of a manner?  Will you resist and selfishly not comply with someone else's wishes, spiraling into fear, hurt, and anger?  Will you "hit back" when you feel slapped?

These are all natural reactions, right?  Once again, context is a huge key to these verses.  We must have the beatitudes going or the transformation into Christ-likeness, through becoming his disciples and denying our selves, in process in our lives; because only his life in us can live the life he promises and desires and calls us to.

We can not "drop in" to Matthew 5:41, while skipping 5:3-16.  We must be people of 5:3-16, to live or function in verses 17 onward.  The person who does not take offense, who is generous, and when imposed upon, injured, and affronted; is loving and faithful to Christ, is a kingdom person.

Kingdom people have the central organizing factor in place in their lives of the Kingdom of God, and they behave in kingdom ways, under kingdom rule and reign.  Kingdom people became kingdom people through Christ.  The experiential doors-ways or experiences of becoming kingdom people who are in Christ, are described in the be-attitudes in Matthew 5:3-10.

If one has not entered into life in Christ and gone through these doors, hall ways, or experiences; then they will never stand a chance of behaving in Christ-like (life-in-Christ) or kingdom ways, in their lives.  When we have one of these situations come up in our life, like someone imposing on our time or plans and forcing us to do something different, and we resist, hit back, or get offended; and fail the test, we don't give up and run away, but we run back to Christ, to him and away from our selves, and re-apply and become reconciled to the beatitudes again and again and again.

Here they are:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
It starts with, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".  When I fail, and I fail every day, I am in touch with my poverty of spirit.  The fact that I admit that, means that I get to experience the kingdom of heaven.  It is now my inheritance.

Conversely, if I don't see my poverty in spirit, if I think I am ok, maybe not perfect but just ok, and the problem, my problem is these other people, and I want God to do it my way; then I do not have the kingdom and am not being and becoming a kingdom person.

"Poor in spirit", does not mean self pity or that I am a victim of circumstances and that I am not getting what I am entitled to.  It means I lack heavenly resources to live a life before God.  It means I have realized that I am bankrupt.

"Blessed are those who mourn", means people who feel bad about unrighteousness, their own and others.  Remember that Jesus himself was a man of sorrows.  He was deeply saddened by mankind.  He was grieved.

The mourning for us is linked to our poverty of spirit, our spiritual bankruptcy in and of or selves.  As we mourn, in our lives, we are comforted.  The selfish person is not comforted in their anger about not getting their way.  Their reservoir of anger fuels depression with is not mourning of the need to come into Christ and become kingdom.  Their mourning is over wanting to be king or queen.

"Blessed are the meek".  The person in Christ is meek.  They defer to others, they don't need to be first or in charge, in control, or up front.  They gladly serve as leader if need be.  But they don't lead or serve out of selfish need.

Non-meek means proud and selfish.  The non-meek person needs to have their way and to be in control.  The person under Christ's control does not need to be in control.  The controler controls because they are afraid to not be in control.

The 'controller' may have a control issue that stems from childhood abuse or neglect where they were left out of control, when their caregivers were not caring.  Most people had imperfect parents who failed in some ways and some had horrific parents.  Either way, Jesus can heal and redeem lives and makes provision for your unmet needs and your childhood trauma.

If a person does not accept their poverty of spirit and their utter sinfulness of their self and mourn that, the kingdom in inactive in their life.  They are unable to live out Jesus life, because their un-dead selves are ruling the day.  And we all are in this process.

When we fail the test, when we are not living as Jesus describes the life, we circle back to him for continued transformation, living through him, in his grace, and letting our self life go.  Every failure is not the end, but part of the process.  That was the message of Peter's fall.

The truth is that he is right next to us, with us, in our failures or learning experiences.  We choose to realize he is there or push that reality out of our consciousness.  His disciples are people who practice his presence, in victory and in failure.

When we fall off the path or fall out and fail in the life, it is not over, but is part of the transformational process.  It is non-linear and circular.  We circle back to Christ and embrace him and the kingdom and let him restore us and transform us and intercede for us and the beatitudes become more a reality and then we become the persons described in the rest of the sermon.

The Christian is a person who allows themselves to be compelled, to be imposed upon, to be forced to do things to help others with what they see as important.  And this is descriptive and an example, not a prescription, rule, or law.  We have a spirit within that is being transformed and that spirit is one that goes "the second mile".

We allow ourselves to be compelled to go the first and second mile, because that is the heart of God, and the heart of Christ.  We don't insist on our own rights and wrestle control from others.  We are ok with taking a low seat and not speaking out and up immediately.  We may be a bit further along in the life in Christ, and we make way and go the second mile with the weaker brother or sister, without judgement and with graciousness, treating them as full brothers or sisters who are equal heirs in the kingdom.


_______________________________________
Bibliography:

Studies in the Sermon on The Mount, D. Martyn Llyod-Jones
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
Matthew, Donald Hagner

Less Words

When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.
-Proverbs 10:19

Photo: Pixabay
You can not think and talk at the same time.  We think and then speak.  If someone continues to talk, without thinking, their words are hollow and shallow; not thoughtful.

When you talk, before thinking, before weighing your words, without consideration; you are in danger of being in deception; a deceiver who deceives and propagates deception.  Over-talkers  who are under-thinkers are time wasting stinkers.

Talk without thought is just opinion or gossip.  Much of the time, we just gossip and give opinions.  Thoughtful talk is when we talk about divine principles or the Divine and our lives.

Here are a few examples of thoughtful topics that relate to divine principles:

  • God is love, and how that impacts my life, today.
  • Jesus loves me this I know, or that I don't really know Jesus' love, today.
  • What I am afraid of, today.
  • What I hope for, today.
  • My anger and my forgiveness, today.
  • God's revelation of who he is to me, today.


What if people did not need to give their opinion or gossip so much in conversation?
Photo: Pixabay

What if we all talked less and listened more?

What if we left room for others to talk and for God to move, rather than having to compete or control?

What if we did not need to be the answer person, but instead helped others learn what the answers are and admitted that you don't know everything?

What if we chose not to think about what we are going to say next, while the other person is speaking?

What if we just listen, as an act of love, and make sure we do our best to get it, before we share respond?


__________________________
Bibliography:

The Homilist; or, The pulpit for the people, conducted by D. Thomas. Vol. 1; p 226


Simon, Simon

"Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you (all) like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”-Luke 22:31-4

Artwork: Gerard van Honthorst (1624)


"Simon, Simon", the Lord called out to Peter, from across the table, in the upper room.  Luke records Jesus as peculiarly and particularly, saying his formal, given name two times, to get his attention, or to underscore the seriousness of what he was about to tell him.  Just previous to this, we see the disciples arguing about who is the greatest among them.

If I heard my full name, especially repeated twice,  that would get my attention.  This is very important.

Jesus and the disciples had been eating the meal and Jesus had shown them how the meal was about him and told them to keep having meals together, 'do this': eat together, to remember him and celebrate what he has done, together, in communion. (1)

Jesus mentions that someone at that very table was going to betray him.  The disciples discussed who it could be.

Then, the dispute about 'who is greatest?'  After an intimate time with Jesus, they begin arguing about who is the greatest.

After three years with Jesus, they did not get it.  It is so often the case, that we also do not get it.

But Jesus calls us and uses us anyway.

Living the life in Christ and doing his ministry, always requires on the job training.  Jesus deploys troops on the battlefield or players in the game who are not experts, not seasoned, and not really ready.

To stay on the sidelines or at home base, because you say you are not ready is a mistake.  Christianity, living in Christ and participation in Christ's ministry is always with on the job training.  It is also very common to get into ministry and think we are ready, when we are not ready.

That was the case here with Peter and some of the other guys.

They had that intimate time with Jesus around the meal.  Jesus shared many of his deepest teachings with them that night.

In the midst of Jesus teaching them, they turn to one another and begin arguing about who is going to be the greatest.  Jesus responds by teaching them about servanthood in the kingdom.  Then Jesus turns to Simon Peter and gives him a very serious word about what Satan wants to do to him and the others, in the hours ahead.

Jesus tells Simon that Satan, behind the scenes, has asked permission to sift them, like wheat.  Sifting wheat is when it is tossed and shaken, until the husk or chaff is separated from the edible grain.  The wheat is flailed, threshed, or beaten; until the separation occurs.  It is thrashed.

Satan wants to thrash them.  Peter first.

Peter experienced Jesus, close up, for about three years:  Intensive discipleship, training, teaching, mentoring, and fathering from Jesus.  He still does not get all of it, but that is how Jesus uses all of us, while we are in process.

Satan wants to destroy us.  If he can't wreck us, he wants to corrupt us.  He says, "Let me thrash them".  This is what happened to Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6).

Satan asks to and gets permission to thrash us sometimes.  But there is grace, a blessing, or a gift from God attached to it.  And Jesus says to Peter, that he has prayed that his faith would not fail.

Satan brings flailing upon us, so that our faith will fail.  But Jesus prays for us (Rom. 8:34, Heb. 7:25) that our faith will not fail.

Imagine that Jesus spoke to you.  I will use myself as an example.  "Steven, Steven, look out!  Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail.  When you return, strengthen your brothers."

Bad news and good news, right?

It looks like 5 phases:
  1. Pay attention.
  2. Satan has been given permission to thrash you.
  3. But, the Lord has already, ahead of time, prayed for you.
  4. You can come through this.
  5. When you come through, strengthen (help establish) your brothers.
Jesus first says, "Look out".  Many translations say, "Behold".  It means, "Pay attention", or, "Now get this".  I often hear preachers say, "Watch this", when they are about to make an important point, they want you to get, that is key.  I think that 'watch this' is the modern 'behold'.

Before the thrashing, before the trial, before Peter falls away; Jesus tells him that he has already made provision for him.  Jesus implicitly says, "You are going to fall, but you are also going to return, because I say so".

This is Jesus.  Before a key leader fell, he tells him what is about to befall him, as a strange encouragement.  He then adds, "I have already prayed for you: that your faith will not fail".  Finally, he encourages him some more by prophesying, "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Have you ever heard of or seen one of us prophesy to a brother or sister, that he is about to get hit hard, but that after the storm of it, he will return and minister to others who also got hit?  This is a hard word, as you can see by Peter's difficulty receiving it.

Mature prophetic ministers give words just like this.

Peter's first response is not good.  He says, to Jesus, "No way", or "You're wrong".  In a word, Peter is audacious.


Jesus responds to him, straight up, head on; and gives him specifics.  Peter stops talking.  He is now beholden to Jesus' words, even though they don't make sense and he has not yet lived out the trial that is soon to be:  He will fall and return.

In the midst of the best dinner party so far, these roughneck guys are not aware that history is being made right before their eyes:  The most important event in the history of the world is about to transpire within hours.  In the midst of this, they argue about who is going to be 'the top one' in the kingdom.

Can you identify?

Jesus patiently teaches them about servanthood.  He is The Servant and they are to be servants.

But then, Jesus tells them Satan has requested to thrash them.  It was not enough for Satan to gain access to Judas, for Jesus' betrayal.  Satan also wants them all to go down and be done.

Permission is given to Satan, to thrash Peter, but Jesus has asked his father to help Peter.  The principle here is, "What God allows, he makes provision for".

God already loved Peter before this time.  But, when Satan makes a move on him, God provides provision for Peter to come back from it.

That is good news.

It is sobering news that, "You are going to get hit".  But God always provides for us in life's trials.

We need to pay attention to Jesus as we go into hard times, and realize that he has been and is praying for us.

I remember when I was witnessing and feeling the pain of one of the worst things in my life and I sensed the Spirit of God tell me to turn my eyes upon Jesus.

The trashing still went on, "But I saw the Lord, in my deepest pain, and it dazzled me", to quote a famous saint.  I really experienced that.  I can remember a number of times in my life, when the pain was acute, and I saw him.  It is very special, precious and awesome:

Jesus

In your trial, in your sifting or thrashing, you are going through; God is there.  He has already made provision for you, just like he did for Peter.

In whatever is being done to you or you are doing to yourself, God has given you a grace package, provision, or a care package.  It is a gift for this time, from Father God.

In your trial or after your failure, it is available.  This is sobering and encouraging.  We need encouragement, because life kicks us down, and it seems that our courage is gone.

Open the gift of provision that Jesus has prayed for, personally for you, when he saw that you were going to go through bad stuff.

_____________________________________
1. Remembrance does not mean sadness, mourning and solemnity.  Remembrance means celebration, living, experiencing, sharing, seeing and hearing the living Christ.  And Jesus makes mention that, in the future, they will all be having meals together, eating and drinking in the kingdom.

There were no thimbles of juice or wine and no small plates with niblets of bread.  Instead, there was a delicious spread of homemade foods.   And there were pitchers of wine and goblets.  There was a loaf or loaves of bread.

At the beginning or the maybe the middle of the meal, Jesus took a cup, gave thanks, and shared it.  And then he took up the bread and tore it and said, "This is my body, given for you".  And the meal continued.  

After the supper, he took up a cup again and said that it is the cup of the New Covenant.  John says that he shared the cup, "In the same way".  He shared the second cup in the same way that he had earlier shared the bread.  A meal time is in-between the sharing of the bread and the sharing of the cup.

Jesus shared a cup and a loaf at the beginning of the meal and shared a second cup at the end of the meal.  In many churches today, we edit out the meal and combine the two cups and shrink the bread or take it 'pre-broken'.  But it is pretty obvious that the 'do this' means to share a meal, together, with Christ at the center.

We have combined Jesus two cups and cut out the meal.

The keywords are: 'share', 'do this', 'remembrance', 'eat', 'drink' and 'thanks'

Being Church Differently Than Others

Accept anyone who is weak in (the) faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues.  One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables.  One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him. Who are you to criticize another’s household slave?  Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand. For the Lord is able (for God has the power) to make him stand.

One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind.  Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord (but whoever does not observe the day, it is to the Lord that he does not observe it).  Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat it, yet he thanks God.For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.  If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  Christ died and came to life for this: that He might rule over both the dead and the living.  But you, why do you criticize your brother?  Or you, why do you look down on your brother?  For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written:

As I live, says the Lord,every knee will bow to Me,
and every tongue will give praise to God.

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another.  Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.  (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat. Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men.

So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats. It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble (offended or weakened).  Do you have a conviction (faith)?  Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed. But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction (faith), and everything that is not from a conviction (faith) is sin.
-Romans 14

Photo: Pixabay
In Christianity, we often get caught in the trap of saying, "You are either with us or against us".  Even the first disciples were tempted to think that.  If someone is doing it differently than you and they are for Christ, then they are not against you and you are not against them.  They are your brother, or sister.

Romans 14, echoes the idea that Christ is the center of Christianity.

We live in him, so don't criticize other Christians.

This is what some of the Bible translations say Romans 14 is about:


  • The Law of Liberty & The law of Love (HCSB & NKJV)
  • How to Treat Weak Believers & Act in Love (ISV)
  • Do Not Pass Judgement on One Another & Do Not Cause Another to Sumble (ESV)
  • Welcoming each other like Christ (CEB)
  • The Danger of Criticism (NLT)
  • Don't Criticize Others & Don't Cause Problems for Others (CEV)
  • Cultivating Good Relationships (MSG)
  • Exhortation to Mutual Forbearance & Exhortation for the Strong not to Destroy the Weak (NET)
  • The Weak and the Strong (NIV)
  • Do Not Judge Another & Do Not make Another Stumble (NRSV)

Do you criticize or judge other Christians in regards to how they live out their faith, worship, or fellowship?  The scripture is clear, that we are not allowed to do that.  Debate and discussion are fine though.  In Christ, their is liberty and there is love.  In Christ, we forebear with one another, out of his love.

When you criticize another Christian, you are not recognizing the body of Christ and are criticizing Christ.  So, we can not do that.  I am the first one that needs to hear that.

Christ is the center and he holds together the various believers of different traditions or faith-practices.  The word for each one who is different is not to impose what is happening with you, in a co-dependent fashion, on those around you.
"Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind." (Rom. 14:5c)
You have become convinced in your own mind.  Congratulations.  We celebrate your walk with the Lord and your expression of that walk in your life.

But, you have no grounds or basis for trying to impose your ways on others.  Some of us see differences as not good.  So, we end up shunning those who do things differently or acting out with obsessive critical words towards other believers that are not loving or generous.

We want to share Christ and share the gospel or good news.  We share it and then encourage the person who receives it.  Pretty simple.

But, in matters of practice, practicing faith, we each can be differently persuaded and respect or give honor to one another, in Christ and out of reverence to Christ.  

Have you ever heard the saying or seen the phenomena, that the least tolerant person of something is the person who used to do that very thing they are no so intolerant of now?  We don't want to be like that, and in faith matters, Romans 14 instructs us not to be like that.

"Just stop it", yes; but this is not the new legalism, but following Christ.  If and when you are tempted to judge, to criticize, to control; it is a sign that you need more of the Lord in you.  You see or hear and are tempted to criticize.  That is the moment when you need to say, "Help me Jesus", and let him help you resist the temptation and forbear.


What if the Christian life is walking with Christ, one day at a time?  He is more and more convincing me of certain things, which he is the center of.  I am not following my self or fads, but I am following him.

There is something to practicing the presence of God.  The life is all about being in him.  He wants this and he will help you.  The Helper will help you.  It is the only way to live the authentic Christian life.

There is no shame in following Jesus.  There is no shame in saying, "I don't know, but I am following him".  I am profoundly impacted by his words.  He said, "love one another", to me; and of himself, he said, "I will build my church".

In Christ, there is freedom and liberty.  Also, in Christ, there is love.  That means we are free to explore life and faith and practice, in Christ.  It also means, that my journey is not your journey and I want to honor or respect, as an expression of Christ's love in me; your different journey.

I not only have the freedom to be on a different journey than you, but I also do not judge or criticize your journey and insist that you get into the journey I am on.  There is one Christ of all Christians and we are all on a journey with him.  When we meet one another, Christ is what we have in common.

We meet under the head and through his heart.  I forbear with you and you will forbear with me.  We are different, but have the same savior and Lord, who may be leading us differently.

Those of us who are enamored with the concept of discipleship need this word also.  Jesus may insist on something for you, but I can not.  He is our master.  We are brothers and sisters, called to love and forebear with one another.

We are not called to micro-manage, but to love.  We are sheep that the good shepherd is leading.  He has many kinds of sheep and many parts of his flocks.  You and I are sheep that each look to him for leading.

It is very freeing to not need to try to control others through criticism or micro-management.  I can say, "This is how he is leading me.  How can we walk together, in and with him?"

The Body Has Spoken

Now in giving the following instruction I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. There must, indeed, be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore, when you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s Supper. For at the meal, each one eats his own supper ahead of others. So one person is hungry while another gets drunk! Don’t you have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you look down on the church of God and embarrass those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I do not praise you for this!

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and said,“This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you gather together you will not come under judgment. And I will give instructions about the other matters whenever I come.
-1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Photo: Pixabay
I was in the car a few weeks ago, listening to KBRT, and I heard a remarkable story that I want to share.  I do not recall the exact details, but here it is:

There was a certain church, that was enjoying their lives together and they had a leader.  One day, that leader announced his plans or his vision for the next thing that they were going to do.  It was something like an outreach, a sister church plant, or a mission.  After he laid it out, the people had a chance to discuss it.  It was like, "What do you all think?"

The people, almost unanimously said, "No, we don't want to do that".  The leader listened.  There was a silence.  Then he opened his mouth and said these words:  "The church has spoken".

This church continued life together.  And together, with it's leader and leaders, decided what it wanted to do.

This story is remarkable because, so often this is not how our churches make decisions.  The one leader dictates or the elders or the hidden board decides.  When they do that, they kill body life and are not following the head.

Change is so difficult because the body is not recognized or a person or persons are assuming headship of Christ's body.  When people's voices are not heard, they simply leave.  We say, "They voted with their feet", because their voices were not heard.

The kingdom of God is flat. Everyone is equal, but some are more mature. All are gifted, but some have equipping gifts, to coach and nurture and help set others on the playing field of Christ's ministry.

There are no bosses in the body, only people who live in father and mother roles; and we are specifically forbidden from giving folks titles like "father". We are just people with first names. No titles.

The man that I heard about on the radio, sounded like a gifted individual, who had gathered a group of folks, who were also under his care.  He got it that he is not the head of that body, but Christ is.  He was excited about the plan he had for what they were going to do.

But when they said "no thanks", he accepted it and that was that.  Perhaps the idea he proposed was put away or on the back burner of his mind.  Perhaps later, they were ready and the consensus changed.

The beautiful thing is that, when there was opposition, in the body, he recognized or discerned it.  He (Jesus) is the head of the church, his body.  He leads his church, and we, his body, discern his leading.

In the world, they do not do it that way.  Men and women lead and the followers or employees follow or leave or are fired.  It is not supposed to be that way in the church.  

Are you leading in the world's way or Jesus' way?  In most churches that I have been familiar with, they say Jesus is Lord, but they lead their churches in a dictatorship or ruling committee of "the board" or "the elders" or "the elder board", of people.

Have you ever seen or heard the leader say, "I have decided", or "We have decided", or "The elders have decided"?  Sometimes, when a big change is coming or there is a crisis, they will have a big meeting.  The meeting will be to tell us what they have decided and we will be lucky if they allow for questions.  There is no discussion, because it has already been decided.  

Why not instead, function as a body, where all the members of the body are on the same level, with Jesus as the head?  Watch not just what you say, but what you do and how you do it, in your leadership.
"Ah, I did not recognize you, but now I do.  You are the body of Christ, of which I am also, with only Him as the head."

The kingdom of God is within you

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
-Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV)

Photo: Pixabay
I am thinking about the fact that the kingdom of God is something that works within and inside out.  Based on the translation you read, Jesus either says that the kingdom is within, among, or in the midst of you all.  

Jesus constantly spoke about the kingdom of God.  The word kingdom (Gr. basileia) occurs about 163 times.  If you are curious,  the word church (Gr. ekklesia) occurs about 114 times.  Here is a short definition of basileia:
BasileĆ­a especially refers to the rule of Christ in believers' hearts – which is a rule that "one day will be universal on the physical earth in the Millennium" (G. Archer).
Jesus Christ rules and reigns in the hearts of believers, Christians.  That is the basis for Christianity.  If anything is not working in the believer's life, it needs to be traced back to the kingdom within.

Jesus says to change the inside first (Matt. 23:26), and not to try to look good and say you are ok on the outside, when the inside needs renovation (Matt. 23:25-28).  This inside is the same exact word that Luke gives in Luke 17, rendered within, among, or in the midst.

The message that Jesus preached was the message of the kingdom of God.  He proclaimed, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand" (Matt. 4:17, 23).  He sent his disciples (the seventy-two) out to preach the same message and told them to heal the sick and then proclaim the kingdom (Luke 10:9).

Jesus taught about the this kingdom, in Matthew 13, describing the kingdom:
  • He who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word (of the kingdom) and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matt. 13:23 (19))
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. (Matt. 13:24)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. (Matt. 13:31)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened. (Matt. 13:33)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matt. 13:44)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matt 13:44-5)
  • The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. (Matt. 13:47-8)
I see seed, leaven, hidden treasure, and the pearl worth everything; and then the final judgement. It is easy to imagine the seed and the leaven as being on the inside of our lives: in us, within us, or among us. The treasure and the pearl, to me, speak of giving up everything. The dragnet is the final accounting of the kingdom, when people are in or out.

The kingdom is Jesus' message, then and now. He calls us into his kingdom and then the kingdom works in our lives. It is that simple.

It really is not about doctrine or ecclesiology. It is about Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, and King. We are like the man Jesus healed who was born blind, who said, "All I know is that I was once blind and now I see" (John 9:25).

The question is not, "Have you got good theology?", or, "Are you going to the right (or a good) church?" But, the question is, "Do you know Jesus?", and "Does he know you?" In other words, "Do you have an ongoing, living, vital relationship with the living Christ?"

It seems to me that the Pharisees were into indoctrination and idealogues.  They were idealogues about their ecclesiology, about how they practiced their faith and worshiped.  Strangely, their faith and worship were inauthentic.  Jesus, paradoxically, said that they say the right thing sometimes, but nearly always do the wrong thing (Matt. 23).

Jesus used the examples that were current in the culture of the time.  So, we have his using agrarian parabolic stories and commentary on the Pharisees.  The way you don't want to live is how they lived, on the outside only, with inside-out being out of sync, not in harmony, and living a lie.

Christianity is an inside job.  Knowledge, talent, attendance, or service are not the keys.  They come out of and after a Christ-centered life.

Christ and his kingdom are the seed and they grow life within that results in good fruit.  Christ and his kingdom are the treasure or the pearl that you find and give up everything for.  It is not an add-on or addition, but a giving up all for him, inside-out.

That is the core, the main thing. That is, "The kingdom of God is within you". If Christ has you and his kingdom has you, then you will live his life, bearing fruit and loving others. 

Those that have Christ seek the Father and others who have Christ, for community; and have Christ's passion for the lost, the lonely, and the poor; his mercy for the sick and the lame, and his power over the demonization of people.

Show Us The Ancient Paths

This is what the LORD says: Stand by the roadways and look. Ask about the ancient paths: Which is the way to what is good? Then take it and find rest for yourselves. But they protested, "We won't!"
-Jeremiah 6:16

Photo: Pixabay
When Jesus came, he called people to God and to himself.  While he participated in and often honored the practices of faith in Judaism, he also critiqued it.  Jesus stood in the tradition of Jeremiah, calling the people back to the ancient paths.  Jesus may have had Jeremiah's words in mind when he said, "All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves."(Matt. 11:29)

There is a core to the way of life that Jesus calls us to and it is himself.  He is the way and the life (Jn. 14:6).  He is not just the key to salvation and the great teacher of God's truths, but he himself is the way to live.  Christianity is living through Christ and Christ living through you.

The ancient paths are simply walking with God.  In researching this verse, I found many good sermons and a book or two.  It is easy to call people to your brand, your denomination or non-denomination, or make the case that your tribe is the closest to the pure and authentic spirituality lived out in the pages of the Bible.

The ancient paths are not something that is man made.  They are not in a building or on a hill top.  The ancient paths are simply walking with God on a daily basis (Micah 6:8).

It is good to love your Christian family and honor your tribe, but sectarianism is a sin.  The pride in your brand is sickening.  The problem today with the church is not that it is full of sinners, but how divided it is.

Why are so many Christians so narrow in mind and practice that they only seek out others "like them" for fellowship and in some cases, look down on other tribes in Christs's body as being inauthentic or probably "not saved"?  The world and the evil one laugh at our division.  The words of Apostle Paul yell from the page, "Can Christ be divided?"(1 Cor. 1:13).  The answer of course is an emphatic, "No".

Jeremiah 6 is a word to a backslidden people.  It is a time of crisis and apostasy.  They have false prophets and corrupt priests.  Yet, God calls them to come home.

The fifteen verses before verse sixteen are worthy of study and reflection.  Disaster is coming, there is a false peace among God's people, and these folks are so sinful, that they are shameless.  I am not going to say, "ah ha, that is the church in my country, today".  But it might be.

My point is that, like the folks that Jeremiah spoke to, we today may be confused about how to walk with God.  We may be looking for how to walk the walk.  Jeremiah 6:16 gives some instruction on this:

1. Stand.  No matter how bad you are doing, stand up.  Come to attention.  Stop what you are doing.  Halt.

2.  Stand by the roadways.  Realize that even today, you are at an intersection.  A right turn is available to you.  Wisdom is calling to you and grace is available.

3.  And look.  Open your eyes, perhaps your spiritual and physical eyes, and look.  To see, you must first stand (pay attention or come to order).  Look at the road you are on and see the off-ramp in front of you.

4.  Ask about the ancient paths.  "You have not, because you ask not" (James 4:2), and "Ask and it shall be given" (Matt. 7:7, Luke 11:9).  You must not only get up (stand), but also ask.  Faith is an action.  You must exercise faith and do something.  As much as God wants the best for you, you have to ask him for it.  Ask.  If you are discontent with your walk, with your church or the church at large, ask for the real deal, the ancient paths that Jeremiah 6:16 speaks of.  Ask.

5.  Which is the way that is good?  We want the good way and not the bad way.  Looking at the crossroads, standing, paying attention.  Turn off the noise, turn off the electronics.  Set your stuff aside.  Stand at attention, come to order, and look and ask, "Which is the way that is good?"  this is not about "good to great" or perfection, but simply (it is simple) about good and bad.

6.  Then take it.  You may not identify as a charismatic Christian, but the truth is that all of Christianity, the Christian whole experience, and walking with God, and that's the ancient paths; is charismatic.   John 1:12 is the proof text for this.  Becoming a Christian and being a Christian is wholly a charismatic experience and life. What God does and and did and is doing is beyond our natural world, but God interacts with us on the natural plane, breaking in.  God's kingdom, that reigns in heaven (Matt. 6:10), is continually breaking into this earth realm.  The Spirit of God will show you the way.  Jesus promised that is how it would be (John 16:13).  Ask God, the Holy Spirit, to show you, to speak to you, to give you ideas, to teach you.

7.  And find rest for yourselves.  This takes us full circle back to Jesus words,
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
In Eugene Peterson's, The Message translation, this is how it reads:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
-Matt. 11:28-30

True or authentic spirituality gives us rest.  The ancient path is the 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, abiding in him (John 15:4-7).  There is no Christian life without abiding in Christ.  Jesus called people into God's kingdom (Matt. 3:2, Mk. 1:15).  Jesus called people to follow him (Matt. 4:19), and when you have decided to follow him, he tells you that you must deny your self and take up your cross (Matt. 16:24).

If you do not abide in him, you can do nothing, as a Christian (John 15:5).  If you refuse to deny your self and take up your cross, but claim him; what are you?  Could you be someone like the pseudo-Christians in Matthew 7:21-23, to whom the Lord says, "I never knew you"?

The ancient paths are not found in the newest church in town, nor in the oldest one.  The Ancient paths are the walk ways of you and God, in authenticity.  God has not changed.  He is the same as he was with Adam and Eve, Paul and John, and to today.  He desires to walk with you and have meals with you.  When you are in Christ, your heart will cry, "that I may know him!"

The authentic church are simply people walking with God who come together to encourage one another and be edified, so that they can go out into the world and tell others about Jesus and make disciples, then bring them to meet other Christians and be encouraged and edified.

Walking With God

A man's steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.
Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the LORD holds his hand.
-Psalm 37:23-24


Photo: Pixabay
How have you been doing with walking in the plan of God for your life?  You saw it or heard it and believed it, then went for it.  But what if the plan did not work out?

We are getting it that God calls us to walk with him.  But, we ask, "How was God with me in the failure, disappointment, or when things did not work out, 'as planned?'".  I really believed I had God's plan, for me, and went for it.

How could I be so inspired to follow, but then fail?  Where was God?  God was and is right there.  

Notice how it says that God establishes our steps.  He gives us balance, firm footing, and stability.  And, God takes pleasure in the way we walk.

I am trying to walk in troubles, trials, disappointments, and loss.  God is right there with me, establishing my steps.  He is there wanting to do that, I just have to turn to him and receive his help.

As a good father, God takes pleasure in us.  He enjoys us.  Do you feel God's pleasure when you run?

The next verse gives us some more information about how walking with God plays out:
Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the LORD holds his hand.
This is the HCSB.  The NIV says that, "though he may stumble, he will not fall", and the ESV says, "though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong".  There are stumbles, small falls, and headlong falls, where we perhaps hit our head when we fall.  And those can even be fatal.

When David wrote, "though he fall", he was inspired to remind us that we all fall or stumble.  We all miss it, fail, get rejected, suffer losses, and lose.  There are little and big ones.

But we are not overwhelmed or fallen, because the Lord holds our hand.  The way it works, is that when bad things happen to us, the Lord is there to take our hand.  He is our strength, our stability.

Walking with God means walking through disappointments, loses, rejections, and failures.   The vehicle of God's life in your life goes through difficulties. We don't float through troubles or go out of touch.

The idea is that God gives us stability through life's challenges.  God has plans for your life, but his main plan is for you to walk hand in hand, with him.  We experience God's pleasure and are "in his grip" when painful things happen to us.

Your Ways Are Seen By God

For a man’s ways are before the Lord’s eyes, and He considers all his paths.
-Proverbs 5:21

Photo: Pixabay
Whatever you are going through, wherever you are, God is watching.  God is considering you and how you are walking.  Our paths are the ways that we choose to go, and become our habits.

People who end up somewhere have taken a thousand steps to get there.  We choose paths that go places, good places or bad places, destiny paths or detour paths.  If we make a habit of entertaining sinful thoughts, doing a sinful action is easier.

And that is the context of Proverbs 5.  It is a warning against adultery.  Adultery starts in the mind and the heart.

Adultery is forbidden and completely destructive.   

The writer of proverbs mentions that all your ways, how you look, where you go, what you say, your interactions with people, and what you do in secret are in full view of God.  God is our omniscient father:
Be careful little eyes what you see
O 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
The foundation of the believers life is becoming a child of God.  Men and boys, women and girls who say they are Christian, but do not have a vital, ongoing, intimate relationship with Father; will have eyes and hearts that wander and look for love, or feeling good in the wrong places.

To the man or woman, committing adultery in their minds or hearts or bodies, Father would say something like, "What are you doing?"  It is just like when Adam and Eve sinned and God said, "What are you doing?"  It is an invitation to conversation.

To the man or woman, who is a believer, even if they don't act like it; God shows up and reveals to them that he is watching them.  The fact that he is watching is because he is real and he cares, he is a considerate father.  Will you stop and turn towards him?

Sin starts with a thought and becomes a habit.  We entertain certain thoughts, mulling and pondering them.  Thoughts become ways.

If we let God into our hearts, then we let him be with us in our thoughts.  Throne God in your heart and mind, so that there he is when the thought comes.  How does that thought stand up in God's presence?

Our ways are determined by our thoughts and ideas.  Our thoughts and ideas about our selves and others are determined or influenced by our thoughts about God.  If I believe the truth, that God cares, God is good, God is faithful, merciful, powerful, and completely wise; then how do those thoughts stack up against this or that one?

Wisdom is learned.  A disciple is a learner.  Discipleship is learning how to live in, through, and with Christ, as God's kid.

Many people have not had good fathers or mothers and when we come to Christ and get adopted by God as his child, we have to learn how to be fathered by a good father, who also invented mothers and can give us everything a good mom should give.  This is square one, level one.  If we don't get this then we end up building on the wrong foundation, becoming religiously legalistic or licentious; living out the belief that, "God does not really care personally, so I'll do religion to try to get favor or run wild".

Nope, that is not the reality of things.  Father cares, he is watching, and temptation is all around us.  We have to learn to walk with God in self discipline, learning wise ways; thoroughly enjoying relationship with our spouse, if you are married, or receiving the grace to be single, while obediently following God's path.


The Organizing Principle of Life

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!


The earth and everything in it,
the world and its inhabitants,
belong to the Lord;
for He laid its foundation on the seas
and established it on the rivers.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not set his mind on what is false,
and who has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek Him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Selah

Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of glory will come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of glory will come in.
Who is He, this King of glory?
The Lord of Hosts,
He is the King of glory.

Selah
-Luke 2:14, Psalm 24


Photo: Pixabay
Many people are going through trials and even tribulations.  There are big problems and small ones.  Some smaller ones feel big.  

There are people that are dying, who witness to us about their faith in the Lord and have a worshipful attitude of heart.  I don't know if you have met ones like these.  They have in place in their lives that God is our glorious King.

There is a verse, by Paul, that says, "In every thing (in all circumstances) give thanks, for this is the will of God" (1 Thess. 5:18).  To be in God's presence is to worship Him.  In Heaven, there is continual worship of God.

"Glory", is not a word most of us use in every day life.  The first time it is used in the Old Testament is from the lips of Laban's sons, expressing their jealousy towards Jacob, who was, "getting the glory", or "getting the wealth", that they wanted (Gen. 31).  We call the American flag, "Old glory", signifying the honor that we bestow on it, because of what it represents.

Glory means, abundance, riches, honor, and splendor.  Glory has to do with the dignity of position, character, or reputation.  God is the King of glory and we use glory and honor in our relationships with one another, while never glorifying anyone or any thing except God.

We give glory or honor to one another and act honorably, in line with God's glory.  We see and function in our relationships, according to God's glory.  To dignify others and receive dignity from one another is godly and reflects God's glory.

No matter who you are and where you are and what you are going through in your life, he is the King of glory.  God's will for all humans is given in Luke 2:14, in a statement:
Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!
 God, in glory, who is glorious, who we glorify; wants to give us peace on earth; to those he favors.  That peace is peacefulness in our lives.  It is the opposite of worry, anxiety, strife, and agitation.  And the people he favors or who bring pleasure to him are simply people who respond to him.

Psalm 24 gives a bigger picture of God's plan.  These words describe a person who responds to God and note that we do not come to God or get saved through our works, but we receive his power to do the right thing from him and act on it, saying, "Yes, I will let you save me and receive your power to save me and now here is how I will live because of that work you are doing in my life."  Being obedient to do the right thing results in blessings, but only God can bestow righteous standing before him through Christ.
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not set his mind on what is false,
and who has not sworn deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek Him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
We seek him, who has sought us, to receive righteousness and salvation.  But it is another step to seek God's face.  Seeking God's face is intimacy with God, opening your heart to God in your daily life.  We will be in trouble when we are people who sought him in the past, but are not seeking his face today.

It is always a temptation to be a Christian in name only, but God is alive and relational, wanting interaction and to walk together with his children.  We are stewards of our lives, but always his child and his slave.

So, there is some paradox there.  God relates to me as his child and as his slave.  We need to live our lives happily responding to both paradigms.

The center of everything is the glory of God.  We want to be in alignment with God and his gloriousness.  God is glorified through saving us and then we bring him glory by living saved lives.

As a person in Christ, you are God's child, upon whom his favor rests.  You also are his slave and it's not a bad position because the master is completely good and righteous.  In those two roles that are yours towards God, you live out your life.

You are a citizen, a neighbor, a pensioner, a retiree, a friend, a husband or wife, a student, an employee, or a leader of a company or a business; to name a few roles you might have.  No matter what your place or role in life here, above that, you are God's: God's child and God's servant or slave.  He takes care of his children and he also takes good care of his slaves.

This is the bottom line:  God, who is glorious, lavishes his glory upon us, saving us.  We are now his: his children and his slaves.  And he takes care of what belongs to him.

God's plan is to save us.  Jesus exemplified God's glory.  He is the glory of God.  He calls us into God's kingdom and saves us and we become his, to be cared for by him.

The King of glory saves us, coming into our lives, when we open to him.  His glory shines upon us and we are his children.  And he is a good shepherd and a good father to his children.  And we are on a path, following Christ, dying to our selves, and being his slaves.  And he is the master and takes care of us, because we are not only in his care, as children, but he is living his life through us and his father watches over his life for his glory.

You might ask, "How can I give thanks in all circumstances?"  This is the answer.  God, his glory in his son.  Having his life in my life and becoming rightly related to Father through him gives me thankfulness no matter what, and he uses the stuff of life to help me learn to walk in that relationship and draw upon the life that he gives me through Christ to be his child and let him be the master.