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.


Do Something!


“So always be ready. You don’t know the day or the time when the Son of Man will come.

“At that time God’s kingdom will also be like a man leaving home to travel to another place for a visit. Before he left, he talked with his servants. He told his servants to take care of his things while he was gone. He decided how much each servant would be able to care for. The man gave one servant five bags of money. He gave another servant two bags. And he gave a third servant one bag. Then he left. The servant who got five bags went quickly to invest the money. Those five bags of money earned five more. It was the same with the servant who had two bags. That servant invested the money and earned two more. But the servant who got one bag of money went away and dug a hole in the ground. Then he hid his master’s money in the hole.

“After a long time the master came home. He asked the servants what they did with his money. The servant who got five bags brought that amount and five more bags of money to the master. The servant said, ‘Master, you trusted me to care for five bags of money. So I used them to earn five more.’

“The master answered, ‘You did right. You are a good servant who can be trusted. You did well with that small amount of money. So I will let you care for much greater things. Come and share my happiness with me.’

“Then the servant who got two bags of money came to the master. The servant said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of money to care for. So I used your two bags to earn two more.’

“The master answered, ‘You did right. You are a good servant who can be trusted. You did well with a small amount of money. So I will let you care for much greater things. Come and share my happiness with me.’

“Then the servant who got one bag of money came to the master. The servant said, ‘Master, I knew you were a very hard man. You harvest what you did not plant. You gather crops where you did not put any seed. So I was afraid. I went and hid your money in the ground. Here is the one bag of money you gave me.’

“The master answered, ‘You are a bad and lazy servant! You say you knew that I harvest what I did not plant and that I gather crops where I did not put any seed. So you should have put my money in the bank. Then, when I came home, I would get my money back. And I would also get the interest that my money earned.’

“So the master told his other servants, ‘Take the one bag of money from that servant and give it to the servant who has ten bags. Everyone who uses what they have will get more. They will have much more than they need. But people who do not use what they have will have everything taken away from them.’ Then the master said, ‘Throw that useless servant outside into the darkness, where people will cry and grind their teeth with pain.’
-Matthew 25:13-30 (ERV)(1) 


We are all given something from the Lord and he expects us to do something with it. We are all called to serve, and the court we serve on is the the kingdom of God.  All Christians are in the kingdom and the church is in the kingdom.  The church comes out of the kingdom. It may look like the kingdom comes out of the church, but the church is the vessel of the kingdom; not the other way around.

Jesus' message was the kingdom of God. Jesus and his kingdom is the central principle of Christianity. We are servants of the kingdom, living in the kingdom, beholden to the king.

The kingdom is unlimited: "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", and the kingdom works in the world through the church. We serve God, in the kingdom, in our daily lives. There is no kingdom work in the world outside the church. But this does not mean that kingdom service only happens in church, in church gatherings.

There is a phrase, "church gathered and church scattered". We are the church, "out there", and "in here"; or, "out here", and "in there". Christians are in the kingdom, which encompasses our whole lives. And all Christians are in the ministry. Kingdom ministry and service happens among church gathered and church scattered.

The Bible passage, from Matthew 25, above, which is commonly referred to as "The Parable of The Talents"; is about the stewardship of Jesus' deposit in your life. A talent is a weight amount of money in the ancient world. It gets confusing, because we might surmise that Jesus is talking about God given talents: singing, preaching, counseling, cooking, artistic or athletic talent.

Photo: Pixabay
The lesson here is, "Do something!". Doing something with what you have been given gains you something. If you try and fail, you gain experience. If you minister, being kind to people in your daily life, you are being a servant of the king.

Don't think of minister as a person up there, whom you are not, or as a position; but think of minister as "administering" as in, "administering first aid".  The concept of certain people being "ministers" and the rest of us being "lay people" is not in the New Testament.

In the church, we are all ministers and we are all priests.  There are some who are elders, who shepherd and manage the affairs of the church, and there are people who are gifted to equip others.  But there is no special class of people called "ministers". 

The lesson here is that passivity is a sin. It is wrong to do nothing. You may have a small or a large deposit in your life.  What are you doing?  Do something.

Jesus says, "to who much is given, much is expected" (Luke 12:48). What matters is, are you doing something.  Life brings forth life and light shines out light and those empowered move.

Jesus is not looking for perfection or stellar results.  He wants faithfulness.  Doing something, doing anything in faith, is being faithful.  Doing nothing or doing what you know is wrong is being unfaithful.

We are in a covenant relationship with Jesus, where faithfulness is required.  And the good news about the covenant is that he holds it together, just like Christian marriage; but you must participate for it to work.

There is a principle here that says, "Do something", or "Just do something", or "Just do it". This harmonizes or goes hand in hand with the principle of waiting until God comes. The context of this teaching by Jesus is how to live while you are waiting for his coming.

We are all waiting for something: Waiting to get married, waiting to be a parent, waiting for a job or a promotion, waiting to see people we love get saved, waiting to be healed, waiting for deliverance, or waiting to get out of prison. Waiting and the waiting room are part of life.

So we know that we must wait sometimes or much of the time. And the Bible says this about waiting: "Wait upon the Lord", and the "upon the Lord" part is the key to waiting.

Consider waiters and waitresses at restaurants. They "wait" upon the people. They are also called "servers" who give service. Can you guess what I am getting at?

Waiting in the Bible is active. The idea that I will engage in ungodly or sinful activity while I wait, is completely foreign and completely antithetical to our walk in Christ. While we wait, we serve, we do something, we are "on our feet", attentive to serving.

We serve by doing things for people and thereby, doing something with what the Lord has given us, to and for the Lord.


The creativity that God has given each person is unlimited. Doing something, till he comes is simple. Just do something, anything, that is from the deposit God has made in you. Get up and do something.



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1. Easy To Read Version, 2006 

Philip Learning

After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias).  And a huge crowd was following Him because they saw the signs that He was performing by healing the sick.  So Jesus went up a mountain and sat down there with His disciples.

Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near.  Therefore, when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward Him, He asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread so these people can eat?”  He asked this to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do.

Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.”
-John 6:1-7 (HCSB)

Picture: Pixabay
Are you looking at the circumstances of your life, evaluating them, and saying, "It doesn't look possible to have the life I desire"?  Let's assume you want good, normal things, like: healthiness, nourishing food, safe shelter, a peaceful home, love, friendship, fellowship, and godliness; to name a few examples.  And, everything you want is part of what you believe is God's plan.

You are a believer after all, and you just want the life that God gives.  You have a sense of God's calling for your life.  And I am not talking about a special, unique call; and we all indeed do have a unique calling, because God is so creative that He does have a unique call for each one of us.  But I am talking about the general call that is upon all of God's children, to live the life in Christ.

Jesus Christ calls us each and all to life in Him.  But, it often seems impossible.  We reason, "that's impossible."  We look at our selves and each other and say, "we can't do that".  But, the that is something that the scriptures tell us to do.

We may even say, "that is crazy!", or "you've got to be kidding!", or "leave me alone!"; if we dare personalize Jesus' words, to us.  It is interesting how we read the Bible as historical stories about other people and we pick out the principles for our selves or figure out an application that is acceptable.  But, what if we take the red letters, the words of Jesus, and let him speak to us?  What if we believe that Jesus is alive and still speaks and we listen?

If he tells us something to do, we have to respond, right?  We can obey, if it is a command, and show our faith in him and love for him.  If we do not obey him, it means we don't believe, don't have faith in him, or don't love him.

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commands"(John 14:15, 23; 1 John 5:3).  What if his commands seem too hard, outrageous, or impossible?  One of the ways we don't obey is to either rationalize, "he didn't mean (couldn't have meant) that", or somehow say, "that was for the original disciples, but not for us today".  These sound ridiculous, but it is what we say.

So, we do not obey him and act like we're cool, like everything is ok and we are on track: "Christians", "walking with the Lord", yet living in disobedience.  Another variant is that we do this play-acting thing while trying to save everyone else.  This is living in hypocrisy, and that is why Jesus talks so much about avoiding it.

But, what if you sincerely want to obey Jesus, but it seems impossible still?  Rather than flat out disobeying him or playing pretend, either saying that "he didn't mean that", or "I am a special case and don't have to do that"; what if we are just real and say, honestly, "I don't see how this can work or happen".  This is the group of people, of who Philip was one of, that I want to talk about.

This group can be divided into two groups, separated by a "but".  The "but" goes like this:  "This looks impossible, what you are calling me to, asking me to do; but I know that you can do it", or, "But, I have faith in you to help me get there", or "But, I have faith in you to do what you have called me to do".

The other side, which is what Philip said, is to assess the situation, with your limited resources, just being honest, and saying, that, "it is impossible".  We evaluate or take account of a situation and say, that it is impossible.

In each of the three synoptic gospels, Jesus makes the statement that what is impossible to us is possible with God (Matt. 19:26, Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27), and in the instance of giving this word, he was referring to God's ability to save a rich young man, who was living by his own means, while actually obeying God's laws, rather than living totally dependent on God's means.

This is a hard word for us, that it is hard for rich people to enter into the kingdom of God.  The Bible does not condemn riches, but teaches against a dependency on wealth that blocks ones's dependency on God.  I always remember that it says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10).  It does not say that money is the root of evil or money is evil or having lots of money is evil.  The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. -Mark 4:19
In the opening words of John 6, we read that Jesus had been healing many sick people.  He saw a huge number of people coming towards him and his disciples.  They are outside of town and meal time is approaching.

We see here that Jesus has something in mind, but he asks Philip first, "What do you think we should do?"  Jesus asks us, "What do you think?, to get us thinking with faith.  Jesus is actually teaching or giving Philip the opportunity to learn by exercising is own mind, through faith.

One of my favorite verses is, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5).  When we assess a situation, when we look at our resources and take account, and we use our logical problem-solving skills, do we apply this word of wisdom?

Even though the backdrop of this story is that Philip and the other disciples have been realizing that Jesus is Messiah (John 1:45) and they have seen him heal the sick, Philip uses his own mind to answer the question that Jesus is putting before him.  It would be a nice story, if Philip said something like, "We know that Moses fed the people in the desert and You are greater than Moses".  He didn't say that, even though he believed in Jesus.

He also could have said, "I don't know how we can feed these people, but I know you can do it".  He did not say anything like that either.  Instead, he matter-of-fact-ly calculated and surveyed the situation.  I have not researched it, but the two hundred denarii, which I did read was 6 months wages, was maybe what they had, cash on hand, and Philip was saying that it would not even be enough to give everyone an afternoon snack.

Jesus put Philip on the spot, by asking him this question, which Phil tried to answer.  Can we say, "good try"?  If we read on, we find out the rest of the story.  Jesus took a boy's 5 loaves and 2 fish and multiplied them, with leftovers.  Philip was there and witnessed this miracle and learned something that day, through experience.

Fast forward to the book of Acts, chapter 8.  This is Philip's chapter.  Recorded there, we read of Philip preaching with signs and wonders following: demons came out of people and miracles and healings occurred.  And Philip took part in the conversion of a notable sorcerer named Simon.

Later in Acts 8, God sent an angel to guide Philip to an Ethiopian man, to explain to him the gospel.  Philip became a powerful evangelist.  After chapter 8, Philip is mentioned one last time in Acts 21:8-9, where he is called an evangelist and it says that he had 4 daughters who were prophets.  Jesus impact on Philip's life resulted in not only power evangelism, but fathering 4 prophetess daughters.

Philip learned, caught, was trained in, and lived out Jesus Christ, Messiah, Lord and Savior; in his life.  He is the same guy, who said, "Come and see", to his friend Nathaniel (John 1:46), and was friendly enough with Jesus, that Jesus turned to him, and said, "What do you think we should do?", perhaps knowing that he would get it wrong and Phil would be humbled into a teachable moment.

Phil leaned something and continued to be transformed by Jesus words and life.  Remember another teachable moment, when at the last supper, Philip turned to Jesus and said, "Just show us the Father and that will be enough", and Jesus said to him:
Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves. (John 14:9-11)
When Jesus insults you, it hurts, heals, and teaches you.  Jesus was completely a straight shooter.  His words are never sugar coated.  He speaks the truth in love.  This is the last time we hear about Philip, until 5 years later in the book of Acts.

In-between John 14 and Acts 8, for 5 years, Philip continued to be faithfully developed.  And between Acts 8 and 21, he fathered for 19 years; resulting in 4 prophetic daughters.

Why would the Bible record the details of a conversation where Jesus asked someone a question he already knew the answer to or planned the answer to himself?  It is the same answer as to why God puts us into or allows us to be in puzzling situations in our lives today.

Jesus asks us, "What do you think you should do?", and he is not playing games, but he is teaching us something.  He is teaching us something about him and our relationship to him.  Every problem we face is really about our personal, intimate relationship with God.

The bigger the problem, the bigger God will be in my eyes and heart, when I let him handle it.  Will I let go and let God be God?  It is interesting that in the story in John 6, we see that Jesus cares about the people and their most immediate need, to eat.

Jesus sees the problem and the need and has a plan to meet it, before he asks Phil, "What do you think?"  He really wants to know what Phil thinks, because Jesus is real and does not play games.  Jesus really wants Phil's relationship with him to expand.

When we have a problem and our solution is limited, Jesus invites us into relationship with him in the now and asks us to invite him into the equation and let him move.  We serve the living Christ who is still on the move, shepherding and building.


Leave Room For The Grace of God

Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God.
-Hebrews 12:15a (HCSB)

Photo: Pixabay
When we are struggling with discouragement we can forget about grace and fall into religious legalism or carnality.  Both of these ditches or ruts are on the sides of the grace road we are called to.  We always want to leave room for, expect, or position our selves to receive grace.

Grace is the unmerited favor of God and the presence of God that enables us to do and be what He calls us to be and do.  Grace does not empower our selfishness to sin or to be sanctimonious.  Grace empowers us to let God move in our lives.

When we are going through something: a challenging situation, spiritual warfare, conflict, grieving a loss, releasing anger, processing hurt and offering forgiveness, or being disciplined, to name a few examples; we need to leave room for the grace of God.  I have to be real and being real is realizing that God is real, God loves me, God is present, and I am God's child.  In that reality, I neither get bitter and go into selfishness, acting like God is not real; nor do I go into self-righteousness, deluding myself about my superiority over others with some crazy false place in God.

Life happens to me and it hurts.  I could be misunderstood, tired, stressed out, not winning, failing at something, not chosen by others (rejected), or even be attacked by someone.  In that place, and this can even happen daily in little ways, I leave room for God's grace.  In other words, when anything, not positive, happens in  my life, even something like being tired or hungry or lonely; I leave room for grace.

The huge mistake we can make, is to close ourselves off to grace, when we go through anything painful.  We have to get it, preaching the gospel to ourselves and getting saved in those parts if necessary, that God loves us and we are his kid and he is a good father.  When I live in that place, I constantly turn to God and let him grace me.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:35-9) and God's presence for us is everywhere (Psalm 139:5-12).  These scriptures are words to live by.

New & Old

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. Otherwise, not only will he tear the new, but also the piece from the new garment will not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.  Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, it will spill, and the skins will be ruined.  But new wine should be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one, after drinking old wine, wants new, because he says, ‘The old is better.’”
-Luke 5:36-39 (HCSB)
Photo: Pixabay

There is an observation, that Jesus makes, and that observation is that sometimes, the old containers will not hold the new thing; and some people do not want the new thing, but prefer the old. 

God is a God of the new.  God does new things (Isa. 43:19).  Jesus brought about the new covenant (Jer. 31:31, Lk. 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8-10).  And in the second to last chapter of the Bible, the new heavens and the new earth and the new Jerusalem are described and God says, "Behold, I make all things new".
 
He does not throw away the old, but renews it.  God also redeems, rebuilds, reforms, and restores.  God transforms people.  Transformed people function differently.  The new wine and the new fabric are the new or renewing work of the kingdom of God.

This parabolic saying about the new and old fabric, new and old wine, and the new and old wineskins  is also found in Matthew and Mark.  But in Luke, we have this last word, where Jesus remarks that, "And no one, after drinking old wine, wants new, because he says, ‘The old is better."

Wineskins were holders of wine, like bottles, in ancient times.  New wine would expand a bit in it's wineskin.  New wineskins were soft and flexible, allowing for expansion.  Once the expansion occurred, the skin would become harder.  If you tried putting new wine in old skins, the new wine would burst the old skins.  That's what Jesus is saying.

Originally, Jesus was saying that his ministry was the new wine, which requires a new wineskin.  It will frankly burst the old.  He comments at the end that older wine does taste better to some people and they have no desire for the new.


We know that Jesus' ministry in word and deed, was out in the open.  He walked from town to town, throughout regions, and ministered even in the temple courtyards.  His "new wine" was on display and flowing, yet some people watched and said, "no" to it.  And that is what this word is about, "the old is better".

How does this apply to today?  If the wineskin signifies the holder of the wine and Jesus is dispensing new wine, we need new wine-holders.  But what does "new" mean?  Jesus inaugurated the new testament, new covenant over 2000 years ago. 

The big new thing, new wine, came in Jesus; so the old holder of the older wine was not going to hold the new wine in Jesus.  On a macro level, we have the old covenant, given through Moses, that we call the Mosaic Covenant; and then the new covenant, given by and through Jesus, called the New Covenant.

But on a micro level, we have a people, at the time of Jesus, who developed a system, a style, a way of life, or an institutionalization of how to live out their lives before God.  On the scene were rabbis, scribes, pharisees, priests, and synagogue rulers who were all functioning in a way, and in different ways, at odds with one another; that were their wineskin, metaphorically, to hold and dispense their expression of religion.

The person who says, "I like my old way.  I am very comfortable in it and have no use for new ways", does not want the new wine.  Another side-note about wine, aged wine, is that it does not last for ever, but does go bad.  It has a shelf-life, like any food.

Jesus is not saying that fads and trends and novelties are where he wants us.  He is saying that it is not good to resist the new and be suspicious of it.  New will not fit in the old.  The holders must be renewed to hold the new and new is good. 

The test for the new is, "Is it true?"  Is it true to the scriptures, not to just how we've always done it or believed it.  Are we willing to be renewed, refreshed, and revived?  Some of us need rebuilding.

The reformation was and is about getting back to the authentic Christian life that we have wandered from, with our traditions, that are our wine holders and dispensers.  The reformation was incomplete under Luther and his friends, but continues today.

Jesus is reforming, restoring, renewing, reviving, and rebuilding his church.  He is still doing the kingdom, with people and building his church.  This is the new wine today.  Our customs, traditions, and well-meaning religious activities often can not handle or hold Jesus' authentic ministry of the kingdom, so we oppose, resist, and reject it.

The New Testament scriptures brilliantly give us this account of people coming into Jesus' authentic life in their lives and working it out together.  I believe there are so many stories and words about the folks who were religious and claimed to follow God and the Bible, yet opposed Jesus and his church, because we would need to see and know about falling into that trap, that is as easy to fall into and be captured by today and it was when Jesus lived, as a man.

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For further reading:
Custom and Command by Stan Firth (paperback), or PDF
The Problem of Wine Skins,   by Howard A. Synder (1975, dated, but timely principles)
Bursting The Wineskins, by Michael Cassidy (1981, historical testimony of personal renewal)

How to Receive Answers to Prayer or Gifts From God

God gives grace to the humble.
-James 4:6

Photo: Pixabay
We have learned how to wait until God comes or until our prayers are answered, but how we receive answers, gifts, or God's move is also important.  The answer usually comes in a different way or form, than we expect.  Imagine spending a significant amount of time asking for something, but when it comes, you reject it.

This is tragic, seems absurd, and is a paradox.  How can this be?  The biggest example is when Jesus came.

Messianic expectation was great, by the time that Jesus was born.  The Messiah had been promised from Genesis through Malachi.  Yet, when Jesus came, he was mostly rejected.

I have a few thoughts or ideas on how we can prepare ourselves to receive God's gifts and answers to prayer.  The first one is humility.  There is a Proverb that says that God resists the proud but gives grace or favor to the humble or the afflicted (Prov. 3:34).  Peter and James both cite this verse (1 Pt. 5:5, Js. 4:6).

It is a Biblical concept that humility is good and pride is bad.  Jesus says that the humble will be exalted, but those who exalt themselves will be humbled (Matt. 23:12), and that people have the choice to fall onto him and be broken, or he will fall on them and crush them (Matt. 21:44, Lk. 20:18).

We have a collection of Jesus' sayings in Matthew 5, that have been called, "The Beatitudes".  This word means, "state of bliss".  Many translations have Jesus' words as, "Blessed are ...", but another way to say it in English would be, "Happy are ...".  When they translated the Bible into Latin, they translated this word, that most translations in English have as Blessed, or as Happy, as Beatus in Latin.  That is where we get "Beatitudes".  They went with Beatus, and the Greek word here does mean Happy, according to Greek dictionaries.

As is often the case, the Greek word has deeper and wider meaning than we can cram into one English word.  Blessed works really well because it carries with it the meaning of happiness and good fortune.  It makes perfect sense for Jesus to say, "Fortunate are you".

In any case, I want to tell you that this word for "blessed" in Matthew 5:3, literally means "happy", and that is what Young's literal translation, the CEB, and a handful of obscure translations, including Phillips (1), and the Amplified Bible, parenthetically, has.

The collection of sayings from Jesus in Matthew 5 through 7 are about how to be his disciple.  And Matthew begins all of this teaching with these eight or nine (the ninth seems to be an amplification on the eighth (5:10-11)) beatitudes: "You are happy, blessed, very fortunate ..."  All of these have the cord or chord, running through them of humility.  Jesus' disciples are humble.

These are the beatitudes in the J. B. Phillips NT:

  1. “How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs! 
  2. “How happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort! 
  3. “Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them! 
  4. “Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied! 
  5. “Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them! 
  6. “Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God! 
  7. “Happy are those who make peace, for they will be sons of God! 
  8. “Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs! 
  9. “And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad—for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way. 
I see humility in all these sayings.  Every verse in Matthew 5 has a sermon in it.  Disciples need to hear and assimilate these words of Jesus.

Check yourself against these words of Jesus.  The discipleship process, in Christ, is to become like him and let him live through you.  How are you doing in regards to these 8 or 9 check points above, from Jesus?

If you are very weak on these and don't really care, you may not be his disciple.  There are people who say they are Christians, but are not disciples.  That is actually an impossible thing, an oxymoron.  And yet, people live in this deception.

Jesus never called and does not call people to church membership or attendance.  He calls us to radically change our lives by following him and learning to live through him.  Did you see that word I used, radical?  The statements above, the beatitudes, are radical.

If we fall short, if Jesus' words bring us under conviction, then we repent.  Repentance is part of the life of humility.  Just like salvation, repentance is an event and a process.

And what was Jesus' message when he preached?  It was, "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand".  Do you think his message has changed?

Jesus followers are called to be radical, radically different from those who are not his followers.  There is radical love and a radical lifestyle.

That Love is certainly the marker of the Christians.  "They will know we are Christians by our love".  And our love from God through Christ and by the Spirit, is not like the love that is in the world.  Our brand of love, that comes from God, is authentic and real.

And the way that we are able to operate in that love is only through Christ, living in Christ and by humility.  We grow in, develop in, humility; becoming more and more humble.  Jesus is our example of humility and our quest in life is to live humbly in him.

The life in Christ is able to receive answers to prayer and gifts from God gladly.  That is the message I am trying to get across.  I am saying that when we are not humble, we can not receive.

Pride has preconceived notions about God, other people and how things ought to be.  Pride has a narcissism that believes it is God and all others must bow to it.  Judgmental-ism is pride.  My way or the highway is pride.  Forcing others to do what you want them to do is pride.  Pride ends up deciding what God can and does do and what God thinks.  Pride stinks.

Pride despises, pride has contempt, pride leads to rebellion, pride rationalizes its sin and makes excuses.  Pride is unrepentant.  Pride is hard hearted.  Pride is selfish.  Pride is cruel.  Pride is not content, because proud people have no peace and are not satisfied and never will be.

Pride is actually not love of self but love of accoutrements.  Why did Satan fall?  Pride.  Why do people go to hell?  Pride.

The disciple has to always be letting God develop humility and purge pride in their lives.  Humility comes through humbling your self or being humiliated.  We may resist the former, but it is the easier way and if we do not humble our selves, we will indeed be humiliated.

The way to operate in real love, and real love for the brother or sister in Christ is the mark of the Christian, is through humility.  Godliness is love and humility with wisdom and grace.  People in this place can be trusted with power and prosperity.

Humble people are able to receive gifts from God and answers to prayer.



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1. The Emphasized New Testament: A New Translation (J. B. Rotherman), The New Testament: An American Translation (Edgar J. Goodspeed), The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips), The New Testament in Basic English.


Making Plans

A man's heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.
-Proverbs 16:9 (HCSB)

Photo: Pixabay
What are your plans?  After we ask this question, then we have to work out the "when", "how", and "who".  

What are your plans?  Saying, "I don't know", is not an answer.  Doing nothing is not an option.  For the time we have here, we are stewards of our lives and we get to and must make plans.

What are your plans?  Are you making plans?

There is a question and a statement that asks and says, "If you could do anything and you knew you would not fail, what would it be?", "Do that thing."  A similar question and statement says, "What would you do, if money was no object?",  "Then do that."  The idea behind these, is to ask you what is in your heart to do.

When we make plans, we make them with God in mind.  When we make plans, we make them on the basis of our faith, in God.

When we fail to plan, we are planning to fail.  We are designed by God to plan.  When we plan, that is part of our ongoing dialogue with God.  We walk with and talk to God.

Our God is a God who talks to us, directing us, as we talk to and walk with him.  For there to be direction, there must be movement.  For there to be hearing, there must be listening, and listening comes within the context of relationship.

This verse in Proverbs says that I plan and God determines.  I believe that "directs" could also be a way to say this: "I will make my plans, Lord, but You direct my steps".  Some people have been crying for God's direction, but refuse to make plans.

To us that desperately want God's direction, God's will for our lives, he has already given it to us, in the scriptures.  The arc of the whole story really is, "God loves you.  Repent and receive God's love.  Love others.  Repeat.  Walk with God.  Let God love you.  Worship God.  Tell others all about it.  Live before him."

Within that context, make plans and God will determine or direct your steps.  It is pretty simple.  If you are stuck on that "faith challenge" I quoted that says, "If you could do anything and you knew you would not fail.....", that is ok.  Just do not stay stuck forever, but process your "stuck-ness".

What comes to my mind, is the question of, "what if I fail, then how does it work?"  Here is the answer.  Are you ready?

God loves failures.

We are talking about people who try and fail.  People who attempt things that do not take off or flourish.  People who take faith risks.

I can hear God say, "I love you when you try and fail", or "I wish you had tried more things, even if you failed".  

A high percentage of books are not "best sellers".  A large percentage of church-plants fail.  Many people do not become converted or born again, after hearing the good news.  Many people have started blogging, then quit.  Many people started learning a musical instrument, then stopped.

This list could be endless.  All of these things that are not quantifiable successes, are called living.  If you are alive, you will try stuff that does not flourish.

An interesting side-note, is that professional musicians or athletes have tremendous discipline to practice for hours and hours.  There is a giftedness, but then there is a desire and a discipline.

Plans.

What if you make plans that do not come together?  You keep failing.  We have something called perseverance.  Learn perseverance.  You must.

We are not called to success or to be successful.  We are called into relationship and to live in and by faith.  God loves people who are faithful.  

Winning or quantifiable success is not the goal.  Faithful love is the goal.

Perfectionism, sophistication, and logic are not Biblical, faith values.  We instead live by faith, in hope, and through love.

When you come up with a plan, then comes the step of, 'should you share it'.  We are relational beings.  It is natural to share your plans, but sometimes, we have to also be wise and sensitive about sharing our plans.  

If you belong to a fellowship of fellow-dreamers, who commonly have plans that are humanly impossible, it is almost "anything goes" and they will encourage you and say, "Amen!"  But, many other people may not like your dream.

We can make plans and not have the wisdom to follow God's direction for those plans.  We can also get a plan from God, but not execute the plan with God.  The scriptures and history are full of these stories.

There are two legs to walk out good plans.  You have plans and God determines how those plans plans play out.  We run with God.  We both plan before God and execute the plans with God.

What have you got?  What plans do you have?  What would you like to do?  These are questions for everyone to consider and answer.  After we answer, we talk to God about them in prayer and begin to process our plans with God.

We also need mentors, teachers, counselors, friends, fathers, and mothers to tell our plans to and seek wisdom from about the implementation of those plans.  However, we need to know that human nature is often skeptical, lacks faith, is jealous, and will take offense easily to your plans.  So, you must be careful not to be put off or devastated when people you love reject your plans.  

There is almost a 100% chance that some and even all of the people you value in your life will reject your plan.  Jesus was often rejected and Jesus did nothing wrong in how he followed the plan and lived it out.  So, do not be surprised if your plans are rejected or criticized.  

Relationships are sometimes lost, because of our following the plan we believe God has put in our hearts.  Even and often, parents forsake children, who decide to follow God's plan.  Understand that God has no grandchildren and the plans of God may cause a break and it is not your fault.

You might say, "What if my plan is not God's plan?'  That is why we walk with God today.  That is why we all need a relationship with God, the Spirit of God, who is here now, sent by Jesus, to guide us.  We need to live out the life in Christ, where Jesus is active and working through his disciples on the earth today.  He will determine your steps.  What did you say your plan was?