Hope Is What They Need

But since we belong to the day, we must be serious and put the armor of faith and love on our chests, and put on a helmet of the hope of salvation.
-1 Thessalonians 5:8 (HCSB)
Picture: Pixabay

People who are lost need hope.  Not false hope but real hope.  Real hope is found in the gospel.

I specifically have in mind, Christians who have lost hope, and have embraced false hope or hopelessness.  I believe that when Paul mentions putting on the helmet of the hope of salvation, here in 1 Thessalonians and in Ephesians 6:17, he is telling us that if we do not, we will get hit and hurt, in the head.

Our heads symbolize our thoughts, our minds.  Did you know that the hill where Jesus' cross was set, was called Golgotha, which is Hebrew for "Skull Place".  We need salvation in our minds.

If we lose the hope of salvation in our minds, then we can become captive to all sorts of other ideas, fantasies, or illusions.

Hurting people have lost hope or are embracing false hope.  The antidote for lack of hope is the gospel.  But delivering the gospel to the person who has become delusional and setting them free is difficult.

You must stand in and on real, authentic love, when you deliver the gospel to the person who has become captive to illusions and is embracing something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Direct confrontation, that comes in pride, arrogance, lack of patience, and with a "you're are wrong, now get with the program" attitute, will be met with defensive push-back, rationales, and hurtful retreat.

See the person with love, mercy, and compassion; as someone who lost hope and became captive to hopelessness and/or false hope.  We are not happy about their lost-ness, but we care.  Show you care by standing in and on authentic love for them.

In the administration of the hope of the gospel to this person, you also want to be praying for them.  Pray for them when you are not with them and be in prayer for them when you are face to face with them.  In prayer, you are getting God's love for them, from which you minister and you are asking God for special help, for grace, for them.  You may receive a spiritual gift for them, which will give them faith to re-assimilate the gospel.

____________________________
Further Reading:

Miracle Work: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Supernatural Ministries, by Jordan Seng

Real (Unconditional) Love

Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not envy,
is not boastful, is not conceited,
does not act improperly,
is not selfish, is not provoked,
and does not keep a record of wrongs.
Love finds no joy in unrighteousness
but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
-1 Corinthians 13:47 (HCSB)
Photo: Pixabay

I was thinking about unconditional love.  I would say that that is what these verses above are about, so I chose them.  If God is love and Jesus came to display God's love, then sends us to love one another and be on his mission of loving a lost world, then we need to learn unconditional love.

I see eight characteristics of what real love is and eight things that it does not do.  Eight "yes, yes's", and eight, "no, no's".  These sixteen items are "love checkers".

We say we love, but let us examine that love to see if it is the love of God in us, or just the "feels good" kind of love.  If I say, "I love chocolate", or, "I love the Star Wars movies", or, "I love to go swimming", it is not the same kind of love that 1 Corinthians 13 is about, and if that is the same way you feel or experience love for a person, then you need to discover and grow into what godly love is all about.

Did you catch that?  We're all growing up into being like Jesus, who loves unconditionally.  If you are a Christian, that's your life.  Loving people as a Christian, goes far beyond selfish, sensual, me-centered love.

The 8 "Yes's" of Real Love:
  1. Love is patient.  Real, true love waits.  Impatience is a sign of lack of love.  If you deem that another person is "slow" or "late", which perhaps they are, you still love them.  You don't withdraw your love when people are slow or late. 
  2. Love is kind.  Kindness is being considerate and gracious, benevolent and merciful, friendly and generous.
  3. Love rejoices in the truth.  Love is not denial.  Authentic love is all about the truth.  Authentic love is not living in illusion, but wants the truth; the good and the bad.  To embrace the good, we have to know that the bad is there too.  The truth is that God redeems and saves.  The truth sets us free.  So love is always, "eyes wide open" to the truth and dreams of God's truth that goes far beyond human reason.  Authentic love is not "kumbaya" (naively optimistic), but is completely sold out on God's love and the truth in Jesus Christ.
  4. Loves bears all things.  This means that you "bear it".  It is the opposite of, "I can't bear it any longer".  God bears with us.  Will we bear with one another.  We will if we've got real love.
  5. Love believes all things.  Love is always eager to believe the best about someone.  Love is always open to a good report.  There is an open door in the heart of real love towards people.
  6. Love hopes all things.  Real love does not give up on people.  Real love says there is always hope.  Real love gives people second chances, over and over and over; always having hope for them.
  7. Love endures all things.  Real love goes through things with people.  Real love endures the hardship of another person's ways.  Real love undergoes suffering from others.  This real love goes through it.
  8. Love never ends.  This love from God that we live in is something that is not only from God, but continues.  There is no limit to it in our lives now and it continues in our everlasting lives.  Authentic love is a resource that we never run out of, and it is never used up.  We continually experience coming to the ends of our self and getting more of God's love, that we live out of.
The 8 "no's" of Real Love:
  1. Real love does not envy.  There is no jealousy in authentic love.  Envy and jealousy are ways of the world.  The child of God has God's love.  When you have authentic love, it is rooted in God's love for you and all you want is for everyone to experience God's love.  We are not jealous of others, because we know God as Father who loves us and gives us all good things, starting with his love.  Any envy of others' things (cars, houses, granite counters), or others' relationships, or positions, is outside of our relationship with God.  A person in God is rooted in God's love and we need to cultivate that love.  Only God can satisfy.  Envy and jealousy is a dead end.  As we grow in real love, jealousy and envy fade to nothing.
  2. Real love is not boastful.  Bragging is a way of the world.  Praising your self is not the way of love.  The proverb says, "Let another one praise you, and not with your own lips".  Real love can brag on others, but not boast about one's self.  When God blesses you and uses you, do not boast in your self, but boast in (about) God.  "Great God of man", not, "Great man of God", is what you always want to be about.  We can let people thank us, honor us, and praise us for our service and obedience; but not idolize us or worship us, or try to make us king!  Come down, sit down, kneel, lay prostrate; whatever it takes so that you don't take the credit for what God does.
  3. Real love is not conceited.  Real love is not puffed up, it does not ever have an inflated idea about one's self.  No way.  We can get delusional about our selves.  Just like bragging, conceit is the opposite of love.  Be careful of arrogance.  You may know the Bible, know theology, know psychological concepts, you may know business principles, and you may know how to build and maintain something.  The proverb says that "Knowledge puffs up".  Real love serves others patiently in love.  Arrogance and telling others how it is, or else, is not authentic love.  Knowledgeable people need to learn Jesus' style, who is not puffed up, arrogant, or conceited.
  4. Real love does not act improperly.  Acting improperly means "being a jerk".  It means "dishonorable".  When a person in the military continually behaves improperly, they will eventually be, perhaps after other disciplinary action, "dishonorably discharged".  Improper conduct is when we look good on the outside, but we act bad from a bad heart: unloving.  Real love acts properly (loving towards others).  Dishonorable acting is rudeness.  Real love is not rude.
  5. Real love is not selfish.  When someone does not have God's love flowing through their life, when they are not living out of that love; the one word that often describes that person is, "selfish".  A "me first" attitude is selfish.  An organizing principle of life that looks at every relationship or opportunity as, "what's in it for me?" is not God's love operating in your life.  This person always thinks of themself.  Their song is, "I was always on my mind".  They serve themselves and seek themselves.  Real love is not selfish.  The Christian life, the life in Christ, is a life of denying and dying to self.
  6. Real love is not provoked.  Being irritable, touchy, or having a short fuse/temper is not real love.  Let that go, set that down.  Each of these are the unloving way.  Easily angered people see the problem as being outside them, saying that others provoke them.  The truth is, that if you have more authentic love operating in your life, you will not be easily angered.
  7. Love does not keep a record of wrongs.  Unforgiveness is completely incompatible with Christian love.  It blocks it and stops is.  Authentic love does not keep records, memories, lists, of offenses or have resentments.  This is super good news, because this means that the Christian is free from all bitterness.  Resentments or records or wrongs are simply not permitted, in Christ.  You do not get to or have to or need to do that, and therefore, you also do not need to, get to, or have to be bitter.
  8. Real love finds no joy in unrighteousness.  If you ever take pleasure in another person's misfortune, you are not living in God's authentic love.  We never take pleasure in the demise of others.  Even when the other person has been bad to us, the heart of God in us does not rejoice in their falling or failing.
The reason I am looking at this and the reason I think this is in the Bible, is to show us how to love.  There is the "how to" and the "that ain't it".  The second lists are the "incompatibles" that need to de-emphasized or gotten rid of.  We just are not like that, in Christ.  So, say goodbye to that style and embrace Jesus' style, His life in your life.

What It Is To "Train Up A Child"

Most translations fail to get at the true meaning of this popular verse on raising children:

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.  (KJV)

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (NLT)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (NIV)

The Amplified Bible shares something that other translators leave out:

Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. (AMP)
Photo: Pixabay

Breaking it down:

1Train up a child means "dedicate" or "consecrate", in the Hebrew.  For dedication and consecration to work, to bear fruit; there must be cooperation from the child, then there will be assimilation.  The older the child, the more responsibility they bear for their own training.

2.  We wrongly assume that "In the way he should go", means "in the way of righteousness.  We are all called to walk in and develop our walk in righteous; but that is not what this verse is saying.  What it does mean, is "according to the individual child's temperament", or, "According to the tenor of his way".  Again, all are called to righteousness, but each child is unique.  Parents are given the call and command to discern their child's unique temperament, disposition, character, talents , and destiny.  The way he should go might look different for each child.  The meaning of this part of this verse is both wider and deeper than some people have made it.

3.  "When he is old, he will not depart from it", means that when they are living as an adult, launched from their parents and childhood, they will have a fruitful life in God; because they have learned how to be who God has uniquely made them to be and given them an abundant life in their unique temperament, talents, and destiny.  Godliness will have become second nature and life will be fruitful.  There would be no reason to depart from the way (becoming themselves as God has deemed), because that is their identity, which their parents have helped them develop.

Summary:

The goal is inside out, not outside in.  We want to see, and to facilitate the bringing out, and the coming forth, of who God has created this child to be, and nurture that life. The huge mistake our parenting culture has made is to neglect the 'inside out' part.  And it is the parents responsibility.  If your child has other teachers, they are in your employ, and it is still your responsibility to train your children.

Fathers and mothers:  It is your responsibility to facilitate your child's activation into their destiny.  Consecrate, activate, and assimilate.  Train (consecrate), in the way (activate), and they will not stray from it (assimilate).

We have tons of people today, some went to church when they were young, and some have never been in a church; who are walking zombies, who are living dead lives.  They have never been activated.  They do not know who God has made them to be.  

This is the opposite of what you want for your child.  Personally, you must take the active role in discipling your child, so that they are launched into living an adult life in Christ, instead of being "adult children".

Jesus has made your child unique and special, destined to glorify God.  Find out what that is and bless it.  Jesus calls us all to the inside out life.  Religion is outside in.  Christianity is people in Christ.

What's The Story and What's Your Story?

“Go back to your home, and tell all that God has done for you.” And off he went, proclaiming throughout the town all that Jesus had done for him.

So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. 
-Luke 8:39, 2 Timothy 1:8 (HCSB) 

Photo: Pixabay
I believe that story is a very important aspect of life, growth, and understanding.  In authentic relationships, we hear and tell stories, ours and theirs.  And God has a story that is His story.

God's story has been going on since before we started and his story brings meaning to ours.  As Christians, we have an inherent desire to know God's story and see how it plays out with our own stories.  In Christian fellowship, community, or discipleship; we learn about each others stories and edify each other around and through the stories.

When we authentically encounter one another, we receive hope.  We tell our stories to one another.  We seek to understand one another.

At the same time, we seek to learn God's story and apply it to our lives.  We do this all the time, as second nature, naturally.  And when we come together, we deliberate about how God's story applies to our lives.

There is something negative and unwholesome about presuming that we understand someone and know their story, when they come into our presence.  We always need to take the posture of curiosity and listening for more.  "There has to be more to the story', is our mindset of love and humility towards the other person.

There is also something negative and unwholesome about presuming that we ourselves fully know ourselves and do not need others to help us understand our own story or how it interfaces with God's story.  We have failed at life if people say they never really knew us.  It nowhere says, in the NT, that certain people are exempt from self disclosure and accountability.

Accountability is when someone gives their account of their lives and someone else counts it with them and might say, "now how does this add up?"  In other words, we ask, "how does a + b = c; in light of God in Christ?"

When you don't believe in the priesthood of all believers and you elevate certain people to top positions in the church ("lead or senior pastor", "the priest") then that person doing the priestly duties gets put in the awkward (unwholesome) position where they are not receiving life from the body.  Dear pastor, minister, or preacher:  stop elevating yourself or letting others elevate you and start letting people speak (talk back) to you.

What if sermons were transformed into discussions and instead of a speech,  you led a discussion?  What if the body was activated and we were all on an even playing field with Jesus Christ as the coach or head of the organization?  What if shepherds just shepherded?

Why do we call "church", going to a building and singing songs, listening to a speech, and taking "communion", in a way very different from how Jesus is documented as doing it?  And don't forget to bring your tithe check.

And we separate the children, because you know, church is mostly for adults, we say, even though Jesus said that we all are supposed to be like children to enter his kingdom.  I actually believe we have it backwards, and that church, the gathering of Christians for edification, is for the children.  Everything should be about the children and "adults" should be taking a back seat to the children. 

Hear the Master rebuke his disciples who wanted the kids separated and away from their time or learning from Him.

I see "the sharing circle" as being a core component of the Christian life.  I need to share my story and I need to hear you share your story.  This is most powerful when we are in pairs and trios.  Yes, when it is 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 people; it really is a circle.

What if Jesus always intended for us to be in twos and threes, and in all the numbers up to about twelve, as our main Christian relational gatherings?  What if gathering in fifties, hundreds, or thousands is for special celebrations, conventions, conferences, seminars, and regional meetings that are irregular in schedule; while the smaller numbered groups are how we gather daily or weekly?

In much of my life, I attended the hundreds and thousands meetings and was committed to that attendance.  But I also did the twos and threes and ten to twenties gatherings.  When times came where my twos and threes people moved away or my ten to twenty people group closed, there was a big void in my life.

I had my one to one with the Lord, and I could attend the "hundreds" or "thousands" services.  I always heard rumors that there were groups that met for services with between fifty and a hundred souls as well, which I always suspected had the potential to be more authentic than the hundreds or thousands groups, as far as feeling connected.  But, what I did was use the telephone and called my Christian brother, who had to move away, and had magnificent one to one fellowship that was a hundred times more edifying than a "church service" where I did not connect to people authentically.

Have you ever wondered about the, "turn to the person behind you and greet them in the Lord", thing that we do?  It is very pleasant, but, but, but...  where's the beef?  In other words, we the people, don't want to play "air basketball" or "air guitar".  We want the real deal.

You know when you eat together after the service?  What if the eating together became the main service?  Look at Jesus at the dining tables or around the cooking fire, in the gospels.

What if God's design is for people, his people, to face one another, talking and listening.  What if we searched the scriptures in the new covenant's testimony and found that the purpose of gathering with other Christians is mutual edification?  We argue that singing times, led by a choir, a band, or a man; a sermon; and taking holy communion, are very edifying.

But, is that what is in the new covenant, practice?  Mutual edification is (drum roll please) mutual.  There is a back and forth, sharing and caring, feedback, discussion, one-anothering.  God makes circles and man makes boxes, with few exceptions.

There is a line between me and you.  We communicate and share stories along that line.  God is with us as well, so you could call that a triangle, but it is really a circle.  Three people may look like a triangle, but they are really a circle and with God in their midst, they are a circle.  We keep adding people and we still have a circle, even though the connections look like something from a geometry diagram.

When you get in a room and make it like a theater or a lecture hall, it is no longer a circle, but something else, with boxes and lines.  Each individual is in theory connecting to God individually and we all are wanting to connect to God together or simultaneously, but is this the new covenant gathering or have we slipped back to the times of Moses or Solomon?

We take this tabernacle of Moses, Temple of Solomon, and even David's tabernacle and then combine it with the "Grecian Formula" of the monologue lecture; and come out with today's church service.  It is good stuff right?  Yes, it is good, but not the new covenant.

Ted talks are good.  They have a time limit and they give a teaching or share a powerful concept in a short period of time.  The briefer the message, the harder it is to craft, because you have to distill it down.  What if our messages were more like Ted talks and then we had more time for one-another, mutual edification?

Two more thoughts:

One: The strangest small group that is unwholesome is when we line up chairs and make a stage and have a service, with all the trappings mentioned above, rather than as meal with all the trimmings as described in the NT.  We set up a worship band in a living room, or we have a teacher give a long monologue or didactic teaching session.

Two: If you go to church, as in a "service" somewhere, it is fine to give an offering there, to help out with the expenses.  But, don't give all your offerings there.  When you get involved in a small group (2,3,4 and up to 10 or 20 people), notice people in need and give directly to them.  You may want to do it anonymously.  Also, keep "cash on hand" or "money in mind" or "goods" and "services", that you will give to those you come across who are in need.

You might mow someones lawn or take someone dinner or simply spend your time with someone.  "voila!", you are now in "the ministry", Jesus' ministry that he does through all Christians.  And what does this have to do with the topic of "The Story" and "Your Story"?  Everything.  It is John 3:16 in your whole life and Christ living his story through your story.

Expect The Unexpected

People plan their path, but the Lord secures their steps.
-Proverbs 16:9 (CEB)

Picture: Pixabay
Don't expect things to go a certain way, good or bad.  But, expect the unexpected.  If we are wedded to our ideas, we will be disappointed with God's ways, because God is bigger than our ideas.

We have to expect something, don't we?  Like looking outside or checking the weather app before leaving for the day.  Have you ever been surprised by rain?

One person has expectations that are not met.  They get disappointed and bitter.  Another person has hopes and dreams, but remains optimistic in their waiting.

Expecting the unexpected is an added dimension to our walk with God.  We don't know when, how, or what; but we believe God cares and may very well do something good.

My primary foundation to my walk with God, is that Father God loves me and cares about my life.  I can trust God.  Look at Jesus.

From that foundation, I can expect the unexpected good to come out of the bad, every time.  Hello, Holy Spirit.

I remember a post by someone who wrote about being, "Strangely Comforted".  He wrote about God's comfort after a tragic death.  When we are grieved and in shock, comfort is strange and unexpected.


In the wake of a defeat or a disappointment, are we open to redemption?  Redemption is when, somehow, and sometimes in a way that does not make sense, we experience or live into God's grace.

It is by grace that we are saved and not by having our lives in good order.

When we suffer a disappointment, it tests our relationship with God and puts our faith at a cross-roads.  We choose upgraded faith and an upgraded relationship to God or not.  We choose faith or not faith, each time we are challenged.

God is good.  God is faithful.  God is loving.  Your faith in these are tested by life, daily.

To expect the unexpected is to have faith in God when you are disappointed.  When "A" does not happen, I don't know that "B" or "C" will happen, but I know God will provide something.  It adds more disappointment, if I assume "B" when "A" disappoints.

God's style is more creative than that.  Expect God to be God.  Let God be a person.  Being The Sovereign means God is unpredicatable, yet true, right, and just.  Very good and very loving.  The Father.

God in interesting, very interesting.  Our illusions about God are boring, very boring.  Let God be captivating in doing unexpected things.  Open your heart to what God unexpectedly does when life disappoints.

Most of our misery is because we shut God out and idolize our ideas, thoughts, and notions instead of letting God redeem us.  We are not blaming the victim.  If he says, "Blessed are the poor", while we are rich, yet feel poor, we have a problem.

The solution is to let the kingdom come in your life, and that is Jesus' rulership.  When we run and try to fix our lives, and use the Lord as a panacea, we are in deep trouble, because that's not what he is.  He's Lord and King

The Lord will do unexpected things to redeem your disappointments.  But you have a problem if he is not your Lord.  Being born again means you can now see the kingdom.

“When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask. Pray like this:

Our Father who is in heaven,
uphold the holiness of your name.
Bring in your kingdom
so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.
Give us the bread we need for today.
Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you,
just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.
And don’t lead us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.

“If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.
-Matthew 6:7-15 (CEB)

Anchors Aweigh

The phrase "Anchors aweigh!", means, "Bring the anchors up", or "The anchors are free of the sea bottom and the ship is underway"(1).  It carries the idea that the anchors are no longer holding the ship in place and it can now sail.

Photo: Pixabay
Anchor occurs twice in the NT.  In Acts 27 and Hebrews 6.  In Acts 27, the anchors were used to keep Paul's ship from being wrecked, in verses 29 and 30.  Then, in verse 40, they cut the anchors loose, when they were about to make a final run for the beach, and give up the ship:

After casting anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach.
-Acts 27:40

In Hebrews 6:19, it says that we have the hope of Christ, as the anchor for our lives.  Christ keeps up during life's storms and anchors us, in himself, as we sail through life.

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 
-Hebrews 6:19

"Anchors aweigh", which means to pull up your anchors and get underway, does not perfectly fit Acts 27 nor Hebrews 6.  But, what about Philippians 3, where Paul writes this:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, all who are mature should think this way.
-Philippians 3:15b-15a
As we pull up our anchors and sail, we forget what is behind and reach forward, pursuing our goal of the heavenly prize in Christ.  This is how we think and therefore, function.  Paul says, in the next verses, that if you don't get it, then let God impart it to you.

If the Lord says, "Anchors aweigh", I think he is saying, "Be free", and "You're underway".  When Jesus says, "If the Son sets you free you are free indeed"(John 8:36), I think he means it.  He also says to the healed one, "Go and sin no more"(John 8:11).

He sets you free, but you must go and be free.  He heals you, but you must continue in your healing.  We have responsibility for our well being.

"Anchors aweigh", might mean it is time to begin sailing and you are in fact underway.  Leaving the port is exciting.  The simple truth is that when the anchors are down, you are stopped; but when the anchors come up, you get to go.

"Anchors aweigh" means that your time to go is here.  There is a time to stay, to anchor, to rest, to be hidden in the harbor, to make repairs, to take on supplies, to get your hull fixed, to get your sails mended, and to learn sailing in a class on land.  There is a time for all that, but then comes the time to sail out into the sea.

There is a time to move, to go out, to leave the harbor. When the anchors are pulled up, the ship is no longer anchored.  The boat enters a liminal space in-between "anchored" and "sailing".  Are you in that space?

There is God's initiative and our responsibility.  We've been filled and filled and filled, repaired, rested, rewired; taught it and caught it, seen it and dreamed it, heard it and spoken about it.  The anchors have been drawn up.  Now God is saying, "Your move ".
___________________________________
1. Anchors Aweigh, wiki

Taking Advice

Arrogance leads to nothing but strife, but wisdom is gained by those who take advice.
Arrogance only produces arguments, but wisdom accompanies those well advised.
-Proverbs 13:10 (HCSB, VOICE)


Photo: Pixabay
Question: Do you take advice?  Life is full of problems that need advice.  Arrogant people do not take advice.  And there is a side-affect to arrogance: it produces arguing and strife.

I am and have been an arrogant person.  I grew up, with an arrogant style.  But, when I was 24 years old, I shifted, when God came into my life in a profound way, and I became a person who sought advice or counsel.  I learned to listen and take it in.



Just the other day, I spent about an hour with an older couple and I told them about my plans and a problem.  They gave me a piece of advice that I had not considered, which perfectly solved my dilemma.  This has happened for me, over and over, as I have sought out advisers.

The arrogance of the proud person that argues in a quarrelsome fashion is that of a person that must have everything their own way, and "won't be kicked around"(1).  The argumentative person, does not just express a difference of opinion, but presents an unyielding personality and a closed-mindedness symptomatic of pride(2).

If you have arguing and strife, you might have an inability to take advice or receive counsel, rooted in arrogance.  Arrogance is pride.  As the arrogance blocks out advice or counsel, it does it argumentatively.  

The arrogant person can not receive advice, but strives against it.  Arrogance argues and creates strife.  When we reject receiving counsel through arguing, we are displaying arrogance.

Wisdom comes through advice and counsel.  The arrogant person thinks that they already have wisdom.  The wise person listens to advice or counsel.  They still have to sort it out and "spit out the bones", so to speak, but they listen and are open minded.  The arrogant one argues with advice and counsel, rejecting it, as it comes in, because their arrogance has blinded them to receiving.

Incidentally, there are many people who need help, need advice, or need deliverance; but there are few who want it.  What is tricky, is that people will come to you who need but don't want, and still others will approach us who seem to say they want, but then they endlessly argue.

There are many people who have limited knowledge and even less wisdom, who are delusional.  In a Biblical framework, we need God and we need each other.  Part of needing others, is accepting advice.  Living as if you don't need God or don't need others is the delusion

We desperately need God and we strongly need others.  Accepting counsel: not arguing against everything that is different from you when it is said to you, is living in your humble need for others.


___________________________________
1. Derek Kidner, Proverbs, p. 90
2. Idid., p. 102

Renewing a Friendship

Now the LORD had said to Aaron, "Go and meet Moses in the wilderness." So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him.
-Exodus 4:27 (HCSB)
Photo: Pixabay

Have you ever renewed a friendship?  Life's circumstances took you apart.  But now, you meet again.  Here are a few tips.

1. When they knock, answer.

When your door is knocked on, answer it.  Don't give up on people.
 
2. Take out the garbage before having dinner.

If you got hurt in the past relationship, make sure you take out the garbage before you reconnect.  Forgive them, before God.  When you see them again, you get the chance to start over.

3. You can't win them all.

Keep your expectations in check or neutral.  If your expectations are sky high, you will likely be disappointed.  You will evaluate the encounter as a "glass half empty", when it is really a "glass half full".

Come down to earth and embrace the reality that, "you can't win them all".  Sometimes, you will re-connect with someone and be disappointed.  Sometimes you will attempt a re-connection and the other person will not answer.  Friendships, even with siblings, require mutuality.  It is a "we" thing.  There is a dance, where we have to gauge whether the other person wants to dance and is dancing. 
 
4. Ask for permission to speak freely, if you need to confront.

Some people exclaim, "I need to say, _____", or, "I have to confront you on, _____".  Another way to share (a share-frontation), that I just learned from hearing John Townsend, is to ask, as they do in the military, "(May I have) permission to speak freely?"  If they say, "yes", then you tell them, gently, how what they said or did hurt you.


5. Say, "That's not my problem."

If you are a caring person who likes to help, serve, deliver, heal, or fix people; you may need one last piece.  That is to be able to say, "That's not my problem".  This is especially apt when the other person triangles in a third party into your conversation (gossip).

You may have to learn to say, "That's not my problem", in your head, a lot.    But, when people are in front of you, asking for your help, that is a whole different thing.

"That's not my problem", is short for, "That's not my problem to fix or solve". 

"That's not my problem", is mainly for when you hear "other people's stories". 

When your friend or sibling tells you their problem, you need to keep in mind that they are not necessarily asking for help or want help.  Let them just tell you.  Let it be their problem and let them ask you for help or advice.

There is a dance involved in a relationship where we inevitably tell the other person our troubles.  It is respectful and loving to hold back and not give advice or try to fix them.  We have to find a way to do step 4, above, and ask permission before dispensing advice.


Conclusion


You might take out the garbage so well, that you forget past slights or offenses and truly start over with this person.  You might have so much grace and godly love in you now, that you no longer need them to give you anything and you do not have a need to fix them.

If you can not be in a relationship with someone who takes and doesn't give much, or who is not whatever you need them to be, then that is your issue to work out.  You might need to lower your expectation of certain people and look around and watch for people who are a better fit for you.







Illusions

They say to the seers, "Do not see," and to the prophets," Do not prophesy the truth to us. Tell us flattering things. Prophesy illusions."
-Isaiah 30:10 (HCSB)


An illusion is a false idea or belief.  It is a delusion, a self-deception, a fool's paradise, misconception, or misapprehension.

We might have illusions about life.  When we accept the reality that the illusions are not true, we can become disillusioned.  Disillusionment is when we are angry or bitter or cynical about life.

God is neither under an illusion nor disillusioned about things.  Disillusionment carries with it the feeling of disappointment.  God can be disappointed, but not disillusioned, because God never was under any illusion.

Children are not born with wisdom about how the world works and how to function here.  Children grow in wisdom and understanding.  We expect children to be childish.  We expect children to live under some illusion.

As life goes on, we grow in wisdom and understanding.  We are not in an illusion or disillusioned, but see life in reality.

Joni Mitchell's song, "Both Sides Now", expresses the idea, that after experiencing adult life, we can still choose the illusion over reality:
I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
The sad state, reflected in her words, is like that of a "fools paradise", or of a person who chooses to wear "rose colored glasses".  Why?  Perhaps because the illusions  keep the pain away.

There is a person, who has had life experiences, in time, but has chosen not to assimilate them into wisdom and maturity, but has chosen the path of illusion.

What is tricky with a Christian is that we are supposed to be hopeful.  Dreamers are hopeful and hopeful people might be accused of being "overly optimistic", looking at things unrealistically, or having "rose colored glasses on".

But, being hopeful and being in denial are different.  The hopeful one does not deny reality and does see it.  Hopeful people deal with hard realities, and find a way, if there is a way; and they know when to go a different way.

Reinhold Niebuhr, wrote about something called, "A flight towards nothingness, where the primary concern it to escape the painful daylight of human consciousness."(1)  People who stay in illusions are trying to avoid (painful) reality.  They want to be unconscious to it.

Addictive behavior in the sensual realm is used to avoid reality.  Sensuality is not just sexual.  Niebuhr wrote this in "Nature and Destiny of Man":
Whether drunkenness, gluttony, sexual license, love of luxury, or any inordinate devotion to a mutable good, sensuality is always: (1) an extension of self-love to the point where it defeats its own ends; (2) an effort to escape the prison house of self by finding a god in a process or person outside the self; and (3) finally an effort to escape from the confusion which sin has created into some form of subconscious existence.(2)
The "sensual man" or woman is failing to trust God, as the bedrock of their life.  If you do not trust God, you put your trust in something or someone else.

When we rely on solutions, be they addictions, fantasies, or will-power; that are not an act of faith that expresses trust in God, we end up in pride, rather than humility, if we convince ourselves that, "it's working".  And that is the life of embracing illusion, rather than reality.

Reality involves painful truth and grace.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the person's life who in living in illusions, is that they bring God into them.  They bring God into their fantasy world of denial, foolishness, and rebellion.  They engage in a "God is my co-pilot", or "The Man upstairs", skewed caricature of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Reality is found in and through Christ.  Finding out that he loves you and you are his will change your life and bring you out of illusion and into reality.  I want to know what's real.  I want something real.  I want the real Jesus with no illusions.


_____________________________________________________
1. Sin, Pride, & Self-Acceptance; Terry D. Cooper, p. 63 
2. Nature and Destiny of Man, Reinhold Niebuhr,  vol. 1, pp.239-40
See also: Attaining true greatness – humility versus pride  By Don Schwager

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.
-Psalm 89:1
Photo: Pixabay

Have you ever had things in your life go in the opposite direction of what you wanted?  Have you failed and hurt over it and asked, "why?".  Have you been disappointed that your life has not turned out as you had hoped?

If you said yes, then you are in the same boat as many believers through the generations, including a man named Ethan, who wrote Psalm 89.  This psalm is not just a song for kids to sing, but a song of worship, for all who have been afraid that they missed it, and feel like things are off-track and off-base; not going as planned.

I will sing

There is something powerful about singing.  Songs release words into the air, where they have affect.  If I do not have a voice, my spirit still sings and releases songs in the spirit realm.  When I sing, "God is good, yes God is good, I do believe that my God is good!", it changes the atmosphere.  It also blesses my spirit and affirms the truth.  It also encourages my heart.  And it does this to those around me who hear my voice.

Songs of praise, worship, and lament also touch the heart of God.  We sing about God, to one another.  And we sing to God, intimately, from our hearts to his ears.  There is a release of spiritual power when we express truth to God.

God does not need our worship, but he desires it, because it positions us in proper alignment with him.  And when we are rightly related to God, we are on line to live the proper way in life.  So, the psalmist rightly says, "I will sing".

There is a willfulness in singing to God and about God.  We could do a hundred other things with our hearts and minds.  But, I will sing, because it is the better thing to do.  God is always worthy of praise.  God is always good and faithful.  God is always watching over us.

There are many, many reasons why we ought to sing about and to God.  God is the center, God is the source.  God answers prayer.  God is the light and the life.  When we begin to consider all these things, the question becomes, "Why don't we sing all the time?"

Of the mercies of the Lord

Especially when things are bad, there is defeat, failure, loss, set-backs, betrayal, and disappointment; we need to call to mind the mercies of the Lord.  Mercy means loving kindness, with the idea of covenant love.  The HCSB  calls it "faithful love", the NLT, "unfailing love", and the ESV, "steadfast love".

The mercy of God is an attribute of God.  God is merciful.  His mercies are new every morning and great is his faithfulness, as Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations.  If you are in a negative experience or circumstance, you can know, believe, and proclaim that, "God is faithful".

This is not denial of the painful situation, but a proclamation of truth in the midst of it.  God never asks us to be in denial or to be stoic.  Lament is not a self-pity party or a grieving without hope, but worship that is completely honest to God.

To all those in disappointment, confused, hurting, and disheartened; the worship leader leads in the song, "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever..."  The worship leader, Ethan in this case, is blessed with this revelation of proclaiming God's goodness, in the midst of life's difficulties.

Forever

The idea of forever means, "At all times", or, "In all times" - always.  When circumstances change for the worse, God has not changed.  This is the big idea to be assimilated: to walk in, believe in, and experience God's mercy when you are in failure, loss, disappointment, or betrayal.

When life is good, it is pretty easy to say and believe God is good.  Thank you, God!  So easy to say that.  We smile at the circumstance and smile at God.

But when we make a mistake, when we try and fail, when we have misfortune, and when something bad happens to us that we did not want to happen; that is when God's mercy is pure gold for us.  He is merciful, he is going to make this right, he is going to redeem us in this, he is going to save us, deliver us, heal us, and make us wiser.

Christ will arise in our situation.  I can not tell you what God will do for you, because it is beyond human reason.  The truth is that God is merciful.  He is a faithful, covenant keeping God of caring love.

When we sing this song, we are tempering our will, or selves, or hearts to the truth, and setting the stage or opening the door for God to be merciful to us.  If you just had a loss, a failure, or a betrayal in your life; then sing this song.  Set the stage and open the door and see what God will do to be merciful to you.

Believe and receive.  Be honest about the pain, the anger, the grief, the disillusionment, hopelessness, fear, and any bad feelings.  Let God in, and into that place, and let him have those things.  Then let him love you where you are and walk with him through this.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever
I will sing, I will sing.
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever,
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

With my mouth will I make known
Thy faithfulness, Thy faithfulness.
With my mouth will I make known
Thy faithfulness to all generations.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever
I will sing, I will sing.
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever
I will sing, I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
I will sing, I will sing.
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever;
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.

With my mouth will I make known,
Thy faithfulness, Thy faithfulness,
With my mouth will I make known,
Thy faithfulness to all generations.
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.


Declarations


The best is always yet ahead, no matter what was great in the past.

Failures do not define us, but refine us.

If you can not "do it over", you can try something.

Replace, "just do it", if you don't know what to do, with, "just do something".

Pray always.

When you pray, you don't have to pray coherently, you may have "no words" and that is ok.

Pay attention to your loved ones, and you will be paid attention to.

Listen to those around you.  Listening is ten times more productive than speaking.

Plan.  Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Plan for drought, death, and loss.

Also plan for fruitfulness, abundance, and multiplication.

Be flexible to modify, improve, and change plans often.

Be open to new ideas.

Do not live today, based on what has been.

See now as becoming and preparing for what your future is.

Know where you are going, and live like that person who is there.

Cultivate a generous heart daily, giving to others in any way.

Reach out to others and you will quickly find someone hurting more than you, to love.

When we focus outwardly, on others, God will touch our lives.

Whether you are rejoicing or weeping, always share with God and let Him know.



_____________________________
Picture: Pixabay

Jesus Walking, Then and Now

As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen.  “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fishers of  people!”  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Photo: Pixabay
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  Then the news about Him spread throughout Syria. So they brought to Him all those who were afflicted, those suffering from various diseases and intense pains, the demon-possessed, the epileptics, and the paralytics. And He healed them.  Large crowds followed Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
-Matthew 4:18-25 (HCSB)


Jesus was a walking teacher.

Some teachers have class rooms, but not Jesus.  He went from town to town.  He encountered people, where they lived and people were drawn to him.

Jesus modeled for us, how to be a people person.  Maybe he had, what we would call, a magnetic personality.  I believe that Christ in you, is also a people person.


Jesus is our model for teaching, for leading, and for training others in God's ways.  There is a lot to learn from his style. We don't want to make Jesus fit our style or our ways; we want to learn to do life his way.


Jesus is the model for the Christian life.

When we tell people that Jesus is the model, I am not sure if they don't believer it, or think, "that's too hard".

Jesus teachings and trainings are very practical.  They were also "doable" for all.  We see here, Jesus calling some of his first disciples.  They are like most of us, and they walk along with Jesus, learning by listening, watching and doing.  And they ask questions too.
 
One of the things that Jesus did, in his ministry, was to walk around.

He was a teacher without his own classroom, office, or lecture hall.  He would come to your street, your town, and your home.  He would come to where the people were.
Jesus called his disciples, as he walked.  Jesus went (walked) and taught is the synagogues of Galilee.  His message was the good news of the kingdom.  And he healed people.  He still heals today, by the way.

There might be a bumper sticker that says something like, "There's a Whole World Out There".  One thing is certain, and that is, that you will not meet anyone, if you don't get out.  You may or may not meet someone, when you go out; but you will positively not meet anyone if you stay home, by yourself.

Jesus is a person who goes out and finds people.  He goes out and investigates. 

What if, the church in the future is going to be a "going" church, where the ministry occurs in the going?

There is a saying, "The meat is in the street", which means, that the real Christian life, is "out there". 

Jesus began his ministry as the "walking teacher" and did his ministry on-the-go.  He sent his first disciples to do the same.  And, to this day, during the age of the great commission, we are all supposed to be on-the-go.

The objections come in, like, "I don't have the gift of evangelism", or, "I am not called to missions or church-planting", or, "I will just make money and write checks to others".  

The truth is that we all, all Christians, are called to be Jesus' hands and feet, arms and legs, in this fallen world that needs him.  Jesus' plan was never to have you and me, "bring them to church", but his plan has always been for us to go to them.  He modeled this.

Loving Your Wife As Your Own Body

In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

-Ephesians 5:28

Photo: Pixabay
In Ephesians, Paul uses the metaphor of the body, to describe the church, and it's relationship to Christ.  Then Paul draws a parallel between Christ's and the church's relationship, with the husband and the wife's relationship.  As Christ loves his body, the church; husbands also love the their wives, as they love themselves.

There is a method of teaching "the husbands and wives passage" in Ephesians 5, where the teacher says, "this is for you, wives", or, "and now, this is for you, husbands".  Worse than that is to talk to the men, the husbands, about, "what those wives need to to", or to talk to the ladies about, "what those husbands need to do".  We end up blaming the other party for our lack of obedience.

"If she would just be submissive", men lament, or, "If he would be more loving, like Christ"; ladies cry.  And both of these whinings are wrong.  If you have a crazy, wild, rebellious wife; love her.  If you have a un-Christlike, boar of a husband, then submit to him anyways (1 Peter 3:1).

When we only look at one verse, there is truth there, but we have trouble understanding it and applying it, unless we look at the context.  The context of Christian marriage is Christ.  And, Christians are members of Christ's body, metaphorically speaking, which is the church.

Christ loves his body.  And, like a human body, all the parts of the body follow the head and work together, in harmony.  Working together is inherent and learned.

When the body does not work together or follow the head, metaphorically speaking, then, it does not work, and if you press the metaphor onto that situation, you have an absurd picture of a body, not connected to it's head or parts of the body operating independently or out of harmony with the rest of the body.  Today, Christ's body, the church on earth, is much like this; not always following it's head and with body parts acting independently or unharmoniously.

The body metaphor of Christ and the church is that Christ cares for the body and the body submits to him and comes under his headship.  As I stated above, how a husband or wife functions in Christian marriage is not predicated on how well their spouse is doing, but upon their own obedience to Christ.  And where Christ guides, he provides.  What he asks of you, he will help you to do.  In fact, Jesus called the Holy Spirit just that, "the Helper" (John 14:26).

It is very common, for a person to be angry at their spouse.  But, anger is a reaction to something.  Anger is a secondary emotion.  Perhaps, you got hurt or your expectation was not met.  Or you are afraid or disappointed.

Remember that anger never accomplishes the righteousness of God (James 1:20).  You might be angry at your spouse.  There is healthy and unhealthy anger.  Jesus got angry.  But he did not punish and abuse or harm people with it.  We can learn to express and release our anger in healthier ways.  Passive-aggressive anger or "stonewalling" are also dysfunctional (they do not help you or the other) and sinful.

Christ is the mediator in all conflict.  Christ is your healer, for all your damaged emotions.  You must cultivate your own relationship to Christ as the one who is making you whole, and then relate to your spouse as a person also being made whole.

Each one of us is responsible to have our love relationship with him and to let him give us the ability to have grace, speak truth, and forgive.  He's got patience and truth together.  We are his disciples, learning to live his way.

Christian couples who forget Christ and just just see their spouse, put too much on them.  Christian marriage has Christ holding the couple together in their covenant.  Christian marriage is impossible without Christ in the center of it.  You must actively participate with him.


The husband and wife relationship is written about in Ephesians, by Paul, in the context of the body metaphor.  Husbands love their wives, as they love their own body.  You don't get mad at your body, but you nurture it.  You care for your body.

Even though you are a man, you are called to nurture.  Nurturing is not effeminate, but Jesus-style leadership.  Remember that Christian leadership isn't bossing, but serving (Matt. 20:25-28, Mk. 10:42-4, Lk. 22:25-6).

Let's look at the body metaphor in Ephesians, from chapter's one through five:
And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church,  which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way. (1:22-23)
In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
(2:15-17)

The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
(3:6)
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (4:4-6)

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ. (4:11-12)

But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. (4:15-16)


Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.
(5:22-24)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body.

For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh.

This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.
To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.
(5:25-33)
If we want to find out what it means for a husband to love his wife as himself, we find out by looking at the previous verses.  It is right there in verses 25 to 32.  Paul compares the relationship of husband and wife to Christ and his church.

Look at how Jesus treated people.  That is how husbands should treat their wives.  Husbands get to be disciples in learning how to live in Christ.  Then we get to learn how to treat our wife the way that Jesus treats his bride.

God wants each of us to walk in a one flesh relationship with Jesus.  Husbands and wives also live in a one flesh relationship with each other.  On both fronts, it is profound and mysterious, yet real.

When we do not take our relationship with Christ seriously and walk in him, it is not a surprise that we would be flabbergasted by the call to a marriage just like that.  The calling for husbands is very high, but God is happy to help us learn to walk in it.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless." 
Here is the "tall order".  I see agape love, sacrifice, and a call to holiness through the word.  It looks like husbands are called by God to do every good thing they can do, to help their wives to be Christian women - women who are like Christ, godly.

I don't think this means that the husband has no life other than this ministry to his wife, but that it means that this is how you relate to her.  And the Christlike life of the husband is a life of being on-duty or on-call for his wife and not absent, like a good shepherd.
"In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body."
The husband has a relationship of being one with Christ.  He is a disciple.  He is a Jesus follower and servant.  He serves Christ and serves his wife.

Remember the word and command, to, "love God with all your heart, mind, and strength; and then to love your neighbor as your self".  When you are loved by God, you begin to love your self in a wholesome and healthy way; with dignity, based on self-esteem from God.

When the word says, "husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies", we are talking about the love of God, not selfish, self-centered love.  This is reflected in the next statement, "He who loves his wife loves himself."  If you are not loving to your wife, or others for that matter, it says that you don't love your self.

Selfish people are not lovers.  Authentic love is godly love and godly love is giving, generous, and sacrificial.  Giving, generosity, and sacrifice is when you share your time, and resources.

The more relational that these acts of love are, the more authentic are.  Every recorded moment of Jesus life shows us what God's love is like.  Jesus' life is love actualized.

A husband might worry that if he really goes with what the word of God prescribes for him, then he will get lost and pretty much cease to exist.  "What about ME?!", the soul of the husband cries.  The truth is that the husband is called to follow Christ, taking up his cross and following; becoming a person who says, "I no longer live, and the life I now life is by faith in the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).  You will not disappear, but become what God wants you to be.

A side note, is that we do not crucify our selves.  There is no masochism in Christianity.

You must lose your life, for His sake, to find your life (Matt. 10:39, 16:25).

One last note, is that a Christian man can be very devoted to Christ, but not be a very good husband.  In other words, neglectful.  He is "doing great things", while his wife and children suffer the ongoing loss or absence of a husband and father.  This is a failure on the man's part and has never been God's plan for any man.

You can not be too devoted to Jesus.  But if that life is not lived out in your marriage and your fathering, then your life is not really Jesus' life, but a misshaped caricature.

How can it be, that a Christian speaker, author, or musician can be effective in ministry; while failing in their personal life?  All of us are broken, cracked-pots, who are on-the-mend or being sanctified.  We are all becoming more Christlike.  And, it is the God who touches people and saves, heals, and delivers them.

You are not the gift.  A man may be something special and effective, in his giftedness.  But when he comes home, his wife still asks him to take out the garbage, and he serves her, with love.

We don't expect perfection from anyone's life.  But when someone has a gift from God and people are blessed by that gift, then the person's life can become driven by the "success" that the gift brings to them.  On the one hand, God gave that person the gift (we are not arguing that point) and God raises people up into particular leadership roles.  On the other hand, that person is still called to their second role as husband or wife and fathering or mothering.

Loving God comes first, loving your spouse and children comes second, and then everything else comes in a distant third.  In this "third tier" is ministry and vocation.  The man or woman that puts ministry or vocation before their spouse or family has failed and is wrong.  A mistake, delusion, or error is when you believe that ministry or vocation come before spouse and children.

Christianity is not "the new legalism", but life in Christ.  His guidance and restraint is actually easy (Matt. 11:28-30).  That means that, walking with and living through him is life-giving, to and through you and not that zapping burnout or work.

Walk with Jesus who loves you.  Love yourself as He loves you.  Then love your wife with that love.  Repeat.

Bad Moon Arising? Don't Give Up The Fight

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,  because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.
-Galatians 6:7-10 (HCSB)
Photo credit: Pixabay

Don't give up the fight.  The epitaph of every Christian's life, should be, "I have fought the good fight" (2 Tim. 4:7).  I could not find a verse that said, "don't give up the fight".  But, Galatians 6:9 comes the closest, with the phrase, "don't give up", or "do not give up".

The perseverance concept or way-of-life is common to the believer's life, referenced in the Bible.  Galatians 6:9 is one of the best verses that expresses this.  I grew up, hearing the KJV version that says,  "Do not become weary in well doing". 

That verse is there, because believers can become weary in well doing.  We get worn out, discouraged, and we forget the value and need of rest  We also get tired, because we keep sowing or doing good, with seemingly little return.

So, as we go on to maturity, we must learn perseverance.  In Romans 5, for example, Paul teaches that tribulations (NASB), suffering (ESV), or problems (CEB); produce in us perseverance (NASB) or  endurance (ESV, CEB).  Persevering and enduring during hardships build your character, resulting in solid hope.  Being justified by faith is a glorious experience that gives us great hope, as we move through this life.  We take that righteousness that we have received through Christ's faithfulness and let God apply it transformationally, to our lives as we endure suffering.

Don't give up the fight.

The book of Hebrews mentions "Don't give up", several times:
  • "Don't give up meeting together" (10:25), means don't stop having fellowship (twos and threes (Matt. 18:20)) with other believers, when you get discouraged in life.  
  • 12:3 says that we have the example of Jesus who did not give up when he continually faced opposition, during his life.  We should fix our eyes on Jesus, when we are going through problems.  
  • 12:5 tells us to not give up or not fall down, fainting, when God disciplines us as his children.

We just had the "Blood Moon", this past weekend.  Some Christians have made a serious issue of that astronomical event.  Some others have said that it is, "much ado about nothing", and just like any other eclipse.

I was considering Credence Clearwater Revival's song, "Bad Moon Arising".  I read that John Fogerty was inspired by the Faustian movie, "The Devil and Daniel Webster", wherein he saw a hurricane coming in one scene, foreboding calamity.  Seeing the trouble coming, John's lyric says, "Don't go out tonight".

I thought about this song, related to current events and the end of times, and I changed the line, in my mind, to, "Don't give up the fight".  I don't know if that Blood Moon means anything, but I do believe that the world will end one day. Christians are called to keep on keeping on, fighting the good fight, doing good, and praying; until the end.

The word to all Christians is, "Do not give up", "Don't give up the fight, no matter what happens in the world."  The call is to perseverance, endurance, and sharing in Christ's sufferings.

If you are very interested in The End Times; there is nothing wrong with that.  The Thessalonian church was very interested in this topic.  If you open 1 Thessalonians, in chapter 1, verse 3, perseverance is mentioned.  And both of these letters are encouragements to Christians.  Opening to 2 Thessalonians, chapter 1, in verse 4; endurance is mentioned.

I give this example to say that if you are a Christian who is very interested in "End Times", then, you are not alone.  The first churches were also very interested in this, and Paul wrote to them inspired words, that today is the Bible.  All of the letters are about, "how to live in the end times".  The four gospels and Revelation are also about how to live, in Christ, in the end times, too.

We are people living in the end times, but the big question is not, "when will the end come?", but, "how then shall we live?"  Matthew through Revelation answer that question.

So, if we ask, "Are apocalyptic events about to unfold?", the answer is always, "perhaps", or "they may".  Asking that question, puts us in very good company.  After everything they had seen and experienced of and with Jesus, and when he was about to ascend to heaven, the first disciples asked him if this was "the time", or when would "the time" happen; and he told them two things (Acts 1):
  1. It was not for them (or us) to know, and only the Father knows (Mt. 13;32, Matt. 24:36).  Jesus not knowing shows us that his submission to the Father is eternal.
  2. That they would soon receive power, when the Holy Spirit came, and be witnesses to the ends of the earth.
So, we are still in that time, the time of receiving power and being witnesses.  Don't give up in this time.