A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

There is a proverb that says, 'a stitch in time saves nine'.  It means that it is better to act on or deal with problems immediately, because if you wait and deal with them later, things will get worse and the problems will take longer to deal with.  That is what the Cambridge Dictionary says.

Here are some other phrases that describe what 'a stitch in time saves nine' means:

  • Sort out problems that arise immediately and it will save you a lot of extra work later.
  • Sew one stitch now, so you won't have to sew nine stitches later.
  • A little effort expended sooner to fix a small problem prevents it from becoming a larger problem requiring more effort to fix later. 
  • A little preparation can eliminate the need for repairs later.
  • If you sort out a problem immediately it may save extra work later.
  • It is better to deal with problems immediately rather than later as things will worsen and take longer to amend.
  • If you fix a small problem right away, it will not become a bigger problem later. Let's patch the roof before that hole gets bigger.
What did Jesus say and what does the Bible say on this topic?

Jesus said,

"Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."
-Matthew 6:34

Jesus was saying to deal with what is happening in the present.

The Biblical issue or topic that the proverb, 'a stitch in time saves nine', addresses is diligence:
  • The diligent hand will rule, but laziness will lead to forced labor. (Prov. 12:24)
  • The slacker does not plow during planting season; at harvest time he looks, and there is nothing. (Prov. 20:4)
  • A slacker's craving will kill him because his hands refuse to work. He is filled with craving all day long, but the righteous give and don't hold back.(Prov. 21:25-26)
  • I went by the field of a slacker and by the vineyard of a man lacking sense. Thistles had come up everywhere, weeds covered the ground, and the stone wall was ruined. I saw, and took it to heart; I looked, and received instruction: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, your need, like a bandit. (Prov. 24:30-34)
The Bible is pro-work.  There is no retirement in the Bible.  All of life is work.  Work should be enjoyable is also what the Bible says.

The richest years of your life are meant to be your grey hair years.  That is when you get to spend your most valuable time working for others, helping others and mentoring others.

The proverb, 'a stitch in time save nine', is about not procrastinating.  Many little things add up to a great life.  Those who don't do the little things never do the big things.

Millionaires or Billionaires are people who have done the small things well, usually.

Here are a few quotes on time:



“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.“

— Stephen Covey

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.“

— Mike Murdock

“The best thing to spend on your children is your time.“

— Louise Hart

“How you spend your time is more important than how you spend your money. Money mistakes can be corrected, but time is gone forever.“

— David Norris

“Time invested in improving ourselves cuts down on time wasted in disapproving of others.“

– Unknown

“Time spent in getting even would be better spent in getting ahead.“

– Unknown

“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.”

— Thomas Edison

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.“

— Laertius Diogenes

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.“

— Carl Sandburg

“The supply of time is a daily miracle. You wake up in the morning and lo! Your purse is magnificently filled with 24 hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of life. It is yours! The most precious of your possessions.“

— Arnold Bennet

“Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

― H. Jackson Brown Jr.


Stop Fighting and Learn to Love


Like yanking the ears of a dog, so is one who passes by and gets involved in another person’s fight.
-Proverbs 26:17 (CEB)

Recently, I got more involved in social media.  It is hard for me, because of the fighting.  I want to be involved but not feel beat up, nor ever be unkind to others.

I believe in civil discourse.  I believe in conversations, discussions and even debates.  But I worry that we, myself included, often have a listening deficit.  

Because of this, we sometimes have 'dialogues of the deaf'.  We just do not hear each other.  But hearing is loving.  Even if we do not understand, listening is the loving start to authentic relating.

I saw the Barna report, that was released a week ago, Why People Fight Online.  It seeks answers to some of the same questions I have and might be helpful to you.

Years ago, for the first time, I heard a Christian leader use cuss words in a dark parking lot where he had to know that other Christians were also on their way to their cars, and I was surprised and realized just how human he was and what pressure he was probably under.  The other day, I witnessed a godly person type a (4 letter) cuss word, in response to a post online.  And almost every day, I witness Christians sneering at each other with words on line.

The other day I wrote that certain ones were 'wrong'.  Hours later, I got offended that someone was calling out someone, perhaps saying they were wrong, but then realized they were doing exactly what I did, except I was more sympathetic to me than them.

I realized that the better way is to say, 'I disagree'.  'You are wrong' can and does devolve into 'you are an idiot'.  I used to see an epidemic of Christians who called themselves idiots and now I see too many calling other Christians idiots. 

When we cease to see someone as a person, we are in trouble.  We see them and treat them as 'the enemy' and go to war with them.  

I met a professional minister at a retreat once.  I questioned a belief of his in a one on one conversation and he snapped into 'war mode' and yelled out to the others who were five or ten feet away, saying, "this guy _____!", and castigated me out loud, for what I had said.  I excused myself from his company after that outburst.  He was obnoxious, but I have probably done that same thing to others.

This is the advice I am giving myself today:

Don't react.  Act, listen and then respond from love and in Christlikeness.  

Live by the motto of, 'you can't win them all'.  If Jesus who was without fault, did not convince everyone; certainly we will not.  

Act in your own life, rather than living reactively.  When you are living your life and from living your own life, listen to others when you come into contact with them.  Many people pass by us or we pass by them, seeing or hearing them, but we don't need to respond to them.  

Live your own life, taking your journey with your fellow journey-people; mainly talking to them.  The new conversations, with new people you come across are just that: new and conversations.  Listen with curiosity and respond with kindness.

Most people we will only meet and greet and possibly become acquainted with.  There is the one chance for a first impression and most likely only one time together.  If you are in Christ, it makes sense to be kind.

If God has been kind to you, it makes perfect sense for you to be kind to those you meet; online and in person.

Take action in your life.
Be a listener.
Respond in love.


Act: 
  • Do your own thing in your own life that God has given you to do.
  • Become who God has created you to be.
  • Create what you were born to create.
  • Find, walk in and live out your own ministry.
  • Cultivate your personal, private, vital union with God.
  • Make sure you are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

Listen:
  • Hear what the other person is saying.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Ask questions for clarification.
  • Cultivate a heart of mercy, love and compassion.
  • Learn that listening is love.
  • Don't stop listening until you get it.

Respond:
  • Only from love
  • With kindness
  • For reconciliation
  • As a peacemaker
  • With the gospel in mind
  • Standing at the cross, seeing Jesus
  • In resurrection life, by Christ

Ordination, Offices, Function and Authority (2)

But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”
-Matthew 20:25-28

In churches there are structures of governance.  If you walk into a church meeting, you might ask, "who is in charge?"  And when someone writes, speaks, prays, counsels or does music; somebody might ask, "by what authority?", or, "who authorized you?"

Some people make these questions more important or a bigger deal.  You mention an author that you read and people might ask who they are or where they are from and what group they are attached to.  And it gets difficult to describe the affiliations or make-up of someone's pedigree, because their are thousands of streams or tribes in the body of Christ.

My friends and I were starting a home group once and a man who was a friend and tried out the group, was very concerned that none of us who were co-leading had ordination papers or were pastors on a payroll or something.  I knew a pastor who's regional overseer was concerned about groups that were meeting outside the walls of the church property and that this pastor was beginning to dress more casually, when meeting with the church.  And I saw a person's article in an online magazine, who was wearing the priestly collar, in which they were questioning another person's authority to teach or lead in blog posts or through speaking and writing, outside of some sanctioned arena of influence.

All of these stories get me thinking about this topic of ordination, offices, function and authority.  The church 'authorities' questioned Jesus about, "who authorized you?' (Mark 11:27-8).  Seems like the same thing still goes on today.  And although people are ordained in the high to the low churches and we have big Christian publishing houses and medium and small; in all these mechanisms or spheres of authority, we have faulty people.

I'm saying that we assume that because a person is ordained with a group, or has a book contract or record contract with a publisher or label, that they 'must be ok'.  And if they 'go bad', they will be dealt with or disciplined by that organization.  But scandal is always a part of institutional power, perhaps because power outside of God or power that is not from and through God is corrupt power.

One of the words that authoritarians use is, 'laity'.  They refer to we who are not in the clergy class as being 'lay people'.  The problem is that there is no clergy/laity dichotomy in the NT.

We are actually all clergy and laity.  A huge variety of gifts are in us all and many of those gifts have leadership attributes or abilities that we may function in for the benefit of others.  The leadership structure in the kingdom is flat, with one person at the top, who is Christ.

Every time you want to argue that there is clergy and they are the ones over others, in charge, the authorities, the bosses or whatever title you want to employ; you must check yourself with Jesus words from Matthew 20.  No dominating exercising of power over other people.  Rather, you get to serve and be a slave; and servants or slaves are not in any way 'over' others, but under them, lifting them up and beside them, holding them up and guiding them and protecting them.

Most every church has officers.  Officers are those who are appointed, ordained, chosen or commissioned to be 'in charge' of some task or duty.  This includes the treasurer, the person who makes the coffee and provides or coordinates the food, the person in charge of child care and men on the board of elders who make decisions about a church's facilities, properties, corporate vision or partnerships (to name a few of the things elders might do).

In the NT, we see the church being led by a plurality of elders.  Even the Apostles that Jesus left behind exercised a plurality of leadership.  Circle back and re-read Matthew 20.  In my life, I have witnessed a popular form of church governance that has perhaps waned a bit in recent years; that is patterned not after the plurality of elders model, but after Moses.

God can call a church or guide a church to have a 'Moses type' leadership structure.  And I believe that God does, but it is a special calling and is the exception and not the rule, nor the pattern expressed in the pages of the NT.  Churches that began with a dynamic leader called to be a 'Moses type' autocrat, must either reproduce Joshua's who are still autocratic,  but maybe, maybe less so; or be transformed into more of what we see in the NT.

What is silly and even ugly is when a dynamic one-of-a-kind leader gets copied by the next gen of leaders who are actors or caricatures of the original person.  And we end up making a norm out of an exceptional person.

It's So Easy to Fall in Love


There is a song by Buddy Holly, called, "It's So Easy (To Fall In Love)".

Is 'falling in love' in the Bible?  And do we marry our spouse because we fell in love with them?

One story about falling in love, in the Bible is the story of Jacob and Rachel.  He had 'love at first sight' with her.  Then he met her dad.

The problem with falling in love is that it is as easy to fall out as it was to fall in.

A person says they got divorced because they 'fell out of love'.  And then there is the statement: "I love you, but I am not in love with you".

Somehow, 'the feeling', has been lost.  There is more to love than the engulfing experience of falling and feeling 'in love'.  

As a young man, one day, I saw a couple where the wife was in a wheelchair, disabled; and her husband was pushing her along.  And I had an epiphany where I saw true love.  C. S. Lewis made the point in his book, The Four Loves, that deep love is not only love that loves unconditionally, but receives unconditionally.

As Christians, we hear and read that we ought to be unconditional lovers, as we love one another.  But the other side of the coin, that Lewis brings up, is the exercise of letting yourself be loved unconditionally.

We have been a people who have tried to love others.  For many, it has been hard and we have not done well.  Maybe it is because we have failed to learn to be loved.

There is another love issue about getting married.  We have this idea of 'looking for the one', or our 'soul-mate'.  In Christian culture, we get this idea that God has one person for us, in the whole world.

A lady named Hannah, wrote a much read and commented on blog post called, 'My Husband is Not My Soulmate'. I have come to the same conclusion as her dad has, who said, "There is no biblical basis to indicate that God has one soul mate for you to find and marry. You could have a great marriage with any number of compatible people. There is no ONE PERSON for you. But once you marry someone, that person becomes your one person."

Some people state as their reason for divorce, and these are people with children in their homes; that they are no longer 'in love' with their spouse.  Maybe they have already 'fallen in love' with someone else and maybe not.  This illustrates that being 'in love' is not enough.

I believe that everyone should have pre-marital counseling before they get married.  And authentic counseling should cause about 50% of engaged couples to postpone or break off their marriage plans.  When you look at something very carefully, you must be open to finding out that you are wrong and be willing to change your mind.

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Bibliography/For Further Reading:

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I'll Be Home For Christmas

By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home.

When he left he had no idea where he was going. By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents. Isaac and Jacob did the same, living under the same promise. Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God.

By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions.

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. 

People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. 

If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.
-Hebrews 11:8-16 (MSG)

Will you be home for Christmas?  What does coming home represent?  What does Christmas mean?


  • Coming home means reconciliation with God or reunion with your family.  
  • Coming home means placing your life on the journey towards God.
  • Coming home means traveling into the journey towards God.
  • Coming home means traveling towards your home in God.
  • Coming home means traveling towards your heavenly home with God.


What does Christmas really mean?


  • Mass carries with it the idea of taking communion or the eucharist and then going into the world.  
    • Going into the world, on the mission of God in Christ.  
    • Mass is where we take the eucharist, receiving the blessing of the bread and wine.  
    • Thankfulness is expressed.  
    • At the dismissal, we go out, in Christ, into the world, carrying God's mission in Christ.
That's 'Mass'.


Christ means Messiah, Anointed One and the Son of God, who is endowed or invested with the authority of God.

Christmas means, 'Christ's Mass'.  The meaning is 'Christ & Eucharist', which means that Christ has come as the blessed gift that we partake of for salvation.  Taking Christ into our lives, who saves us and takes over our lives, transforming us and taking us into his mission; is the whole idea.

What is coming home, going home, finding home or traveling home all about?  We say a person 'went home' to refer to their passing from life, through death, and then into God's presence.

I think that the whole Bible is about finding home and coming there.  God is our home and through Christ we come home.  Coming home means reconciliation with God and reunion with our family.

I think that Abraham and Sarah's story encapsulates the story of the people of God, about our homecoming.

This is what we learn, from Abraham and Sarah; and that can apply to us:

  • They left their known home to go to the home God had for them.
    • This is the same for all disciples of Jesus.  He calls us to follow him, often away from our 'know homes', to his 'unknown home'.
  • Their only map was God.
    • Jesus' call to us of, "Follow me", only has in it, us and him.
    • Jesus does not tell us where he is taking us.
  • God said, "Go out into the unknown", and they obeyed.
    • Trusting Jesus, even blindly is discipleship 101.
  • When they got there, they lived there as strangers, in portable housing.
    • Surprisingly, they did not take over or buy and build.
      • The disciple of Jesus is a stranger and sojourner on earth.
      • The number one thing is to make a home in God, while living in the world.
  • Their home was built on faith before being built with brick and mortar.
    • And they taught and trained their children to live the same way.
      • Making a home in God, on earth is the task of the disciple.
      • The home of our lives becomes the evangelistic door for people to meet God.
      • Building the spiritual comes first before building the material.
      • The height of spirituality is to find your home and living space in God.
  • God gave this couple their child when they were barren and past their prime.
    • They conceived what was inconceivable.
      • The story of God is making the weak strong, the blind see and the lame walk.
      • God takes the people that the world would reject and makes something good out of them.
      • God loves to provide, answer prayers and heal us.
  • Their faith was such that they were ok with not getting what God promised, yet.
    • Instead, they continually grew in their trust and revelation of God's faithfulness.
      • We learn that our faith is more about growing in being loved by God and knowing his faithfulness, rather than getting stuff.
      • Maturing faith that is 'no matter what faith', that is like Job's.
  • They discovered and were transformed into 'heavenly-home-hearted people'.
    • On earth, they learned to make heaven their home.
      • Serenity, tranquility and contentment were theirs.
  • Rather than go back to where they were born and raised, they continually chose God's upward call to 'heaven country', even while they lived in the desert on earth. 
    • Disciples of Jesus don't look back.
    • Disciples of Jesus continually choose to not go back, but prefer barrenness and a desert wasteland, pursuing God's call, rather than the easier life, in the place they came out of.
The whole message of the Hebrews 11 story of Abraham and Sarah is traveling towards God's home for them.  And on that journey, they participated in making their home in God.

This has always been God's call for all believers.  That is the point that the writer or preacher of the Hebrews letter is making.

For anyone who has either had an unfulfilling Christian life or is just beginning their journey, this is what it is all about.  Coming home and being home.

God has wanted his people to come home to him, make their homes in him and for them to have their lives be a home for him to live in.  This has always been God's plan from Adam and Eve, through Moses and David's times and up to when Jesus walked the earth and then into the present.

Look for and listen.  Open your heart to the possibility of your life changing.  Anticipate coming home for Christmas.







I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams
I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Songwriters: Buck Ram / Kim Gannon / Walter Kent

Ordination, Offices, Function and Authority

They came again to Jerusalem. As He was walking in the temple complex, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came and asked Him,"By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority to do these things?"
-Mark 11:27-8

Have you thought about ordination?  Maybe you have a desire to serve and you have older people who you hold in high esteem and you want to be like them.

I think that how we view ordination and church officials depends on our tradition or tribe we have been apart of.  There are denominations and traditions which are heavy on government and there is a whole range of governing styles, practices or models.  At the other end of the spectrum, we have what we could call 'simple' or 'organic'.

Heavy and complicated, careful and cerebral government in the church might be too much of a maze or a set of hoops to jump through.

I understand that safety is the 'good' reason.  But the simple perspective is a very high view of Christ and his power and abilities.  We believe in an active Christ who is building his church through simple people, some who are highly educated, trained and evaluated; but also through many and even the vast majority who are not.

The desire to minister and be an authorized minister is a simple passion and flame of desire to serve the bride of Christ vocationally.  But the daunting complexity makes it seem like you have to do a lot in order to be a recognized minister on the playing field of ministry.

We have made ordination and church offices very complex and complicated for safety perhaps.  But have we also abandoned the original deep and simple, holy and powerful ways that Jesus does ordination and the calling and sending of people?

Church governance is not an 'absolute', like the deity of Christ.  Who Jesus is and why he came and what for is the center of Christianity and the absolute thing.

Remember A-I-D:

  • Absolutes
  • Interpretations 
  • Deductions

Through interpretation of the scriptures and deduction, or perhaps 'what works' or 'what seems right' (your personal common sense or good fruit), and based of your tradition or your study of tradition; you come to your conclusion, or personal and communal belief, of what church government should look like and be.

The dark side is when you take that and try to impose it on other Christians who have come to a different conclusion.  Christians need to cultivate amicableness towards other tribes and traditions who interpret and deduce differently.  

In closing, think about this story:

A famous Christian leader, perhaps an Archbishop or a television preacher, was spotted at the beach, with his family.  He had on a pair of shorts.  A person recognized him and walked up and said, "What are you doing here?"

His answer was pretty simple.  "I am enjoying the beach with my family!".  The question is, is he in the office of ministry when spotted at the beach?  He is known by some as 'pastor', 'archbishop', 'priest' or any other title.  But, is he that when he is at the beach, or when he's taking out the trash at night?


Hail The New

Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
-Isaiah 43:19

God is doing something new.  You can miss it.  God is providing a way.

God is doing something.  But to experience it, we must see it.  If our eyes are shut or we do not look, we will not see it.

God is active.  We first have to get our minds around the idea that God is always on the move.  God is not just the God of the past.

God is also not just the God of of the past and of the future.  God is the God of the present.  He came and is here now.

God is doing something.  We should be looking for what God is doing today.  We are too often fixated on what God did and will do.

God is doing something today.  He is doing something new today.  He is not changing the past, but doing something new in the present.

God has always been actively working among people to help them.  Before Christ, God's people got in trouble, faced enemies and fell into sins.  God both saved people outside Israel, bringing them in and also worked with Israel in bondage, getting them out, when they had lost their way.

The context of Isaiah 43 is a message to Israel, who is in Babylonian bondage.  God is going to show the whole world, again that He is the Savior and the one God.

God is going to deliver his people from their sins.  And God's initiative comes from himself and not because of anything good in the people.  That grace, love, favor, mercy and kindness was true of God in ancient times and is still true today.

We need to see the new thing. We need to hail it. The new is here and we need to give it recognition.
The word says:

Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
-Isaiah 43:19

The idea that I see in this verse is that God does new things for our benefit.  He does the new things because God is active and creative.  He moves to move us closer to him, his mission and for his glory.

We can miss it.  The first word, 'look' means 'pay attention'.  The old King James says, "Behold".  It means 'see' or 'watch closely'.  There is a 'preacher-ism' or a phrase preachers say that is, "watch this", and it means, "listen carefully to what I am about to say", or "pay attention", or "listen up".

We are more distracted than ever.  We have to make an effort to see what God is doing.  We have to make an effort to see it and hear it.

Do you know that song that says, "Did you hear the mountains tremble?"  The point is that you can easily miss it, if you are not paying attention.  A friend of mine came home one day and put a blanket over her tv to remind herself to give her attentions to God more.

The thing that God is about to do and is already beginning to do is like making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.  The symbology of this means that God is going to do something that seems impossible and is impossible, but for not for him.

Being at the end of your rope and being tempted to feel hopeless means you need God and that is super good.  Being upset about things not working in your life and having tension and lack of peace about things is a good thing because it means you need God.  You need God's move, God's way and God to make a way for you where there seems to be no way and to provide sustenance for you where there is none.

The problems and the 'it does not work' and signs or pointers to God giving you a gift of a new way.  We want to be in the place of contentment in Father's lap, being his kids and being taken care of by him.  We do not want to be in the place of proud, smug self-satisfaction that says to God, "I've got this".

The message is that God is alive.  He is here now.  He is on the move.

God is doing a new thing.  Creating, renewing, revitalizing and refreshing has always been God's business.  The question is, "Will we avail ourselves to God's continual renewal?"

God is making a way by doing a new thing.  Same God, same Jesus and the same Holy Spirit; but a new to you way that will be a way where the way seemed impossible and sustenance where there seemed to be none.

Will you take God up on the offer?  Will you pay attention, look and see?  Will you lay down your preconceptions and prejudices and let God show you something and bring you into something New?

Will you let God move?  Will you let God change things in your life?  After you see it, will you walk into it and drink from it?

Will you let God be God?  Will you let your heavenly Father take care of you and lead you?  Will you serve Jesus by letting him lead you in a new way than the way you have walked before?

Jesus is still calling to his disciples, "Follow me".  Will you follow him into the unknown, off your map and out of your comfort zone?  Will you let him save you and keep you, renew you, wash you and comfort you?

Will you step into the place of discipleship where you know him and he knows you?  Your savior is coming to save you in your life right now, in the problems you are facing.  He is Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.

Prepare the house of your life for his coming to make a way for you.  Decorate your house for a celebration of God's gift to you.  Begin to be glad with great joy that God is coming and already here, to make a way in your life.

See what God has already done for you and be thankful.  Get your heart ready to receive more.

Listen to the joyful and thankful people in your life tell their stories of what God has done for them.  Let them encourage you.

Let go of your past.  Let go of your disappointments.  Release any bitterness.

Do not define your life today by the failures and missed opportunities in your past.  Do not wallow in your misfortunes.  Instead, see every liability or negative on your sheet as a place where God is going to move.

Cultivate a revelation of God as being beyond your wildest imagination and dreams, in his goodness and love for you that he will show you.  God's very nature is kindness: love and generosity.  If you have a very low or small revelation of God this way, look and even stare at him to get it in your heart just how good that God is.

Share the goodness of God and let your stories be an encouragement to others.  The life is meant to be lived with God and with one another.  Whether you have one friend or confidant or many, share your story.

The whole life is about God's story and then our stories and sharing them so that we can know and be know, love and be loved and then share, share and share some more.

On the new road, the new way and in the new thing from God, there will be opposition from people and from the dark spirits.  There will be bad weather on the new road, guaranteed.  Regardless of the push-back, keep walking, keep believing and keep worshipping with your life, giving thanks in all circumstances.

The opposition is a sign that you are indeed on God's path and that God is with you and you are with God.  Sing aloud to God on the new path when the enemy opposes you, and find a partner or partners to sing with and give the enemy a hard time back.

Here is the song that inspired me for this message:


Humble Yourself If You Are Rich and Be Proud If You Are Poor

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.  But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
-James 1:9-11 (NIV)

I grew up in an 'upper-middle-class' community.  We weren't rich, but we weren't poor.  My parents were born during the great depression and were children during the second world war, then grew up during the boom-time of the nineteen fifties.

Prosperity has continued to increase all around what I can see, during my life and I am probably middle-middle class.  Talking about 'class' is a crass thing to me.  I have wondered about the idea of trying to get rich or having more money, to somehow become fulfilled.

I have discovered through my life so far, that money does not bring happiness.  Neither does fame or power.  It is very central to Bible wisdom that happiness is an inside job.  

Contentment is a matter of the heart.  Becoming famous, attaining power or riches more often hurts people rather than benefits them, especially spiritually.  We fail in life when we are given too much of these, when we do not yet have the internal structure to carry it.

Nothing has changed since the first century.  Being rich is harder than being poor, because our riches get in the way of our spirituality.  And a communism or socialism system of forced wealth redistribution is not the answer either.

The heart is what is important to God.  And from the heart comes contentment, whether you have abundance or you have little.  The Bible does not teach against being rich.

The Bible teaches about the heart.  We can all be rich, if our hearts are in the right place.  And having hearts aligned with, under the care of and surrendered to God is the Christian life.

Being rich is not the goal nor is being poor.  The goal is love, from a pure heart.  Love prospers and love is generous.

Every time we are tempted to want what someone else has: their nicer house, their in-laid-brick driveway, their shiny stone counters, their cars, their vacations, their private schools, their fancy shoes with the red inlaid emblem on the sole: the list goes on and on.  Every time we lust or covet, are jealous or desire that stuff and the money to 'have it all'; we need to 'check ourselves' and see if we are 'in the faith' and look at Jesus, who said, "blessed are the poor".

I can not find the verse that says, "blessed are the rich", but I know there are plenty of verses about prosperity.  BUT, they are mainly about 'prosperity of the soul'.  Because without a soul that is in God's hands, being processed to become like Jesus, financial prosperity will kill us.

There are many rich people who have an internal gift of perseverance who have gone from riches to rags and back to riches, a number of times in their lives; because something is exceptional inside them that we could call perseverance.

Many other people go from poor to rich, then back to poor for the rest of their lives.  I call them 'lottery winners', because this is what so often happens to lottery winners.  There is a wisdom saying that is, " Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase."  Another one: "An estate suddenly raised, is often as suddenly ruined."  And, "Wealth gotten by fraud may be sweet, for the carnal mind takes pleasure in the success of wicked devices; but it will be bitter in the reflection."

James is saying, "you can't take it with you".  In other words, don't act like it, making money your god.  Money is not evil, but the love of money is the root of all evil.

John Wesley's motto is a good one:  “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can”.

The message from James is: Humble yourself if you have money and be proud if you are poor.  Do not take pride in your wealth, but be humbled that God has saved you.  And don't feel like a victim if you are poor, but take pride in your salvation.

The kingdom of God belongs to the poor.  If you are 'well banked', live with the poor and receive the kingdom.  Don't let yourself feel and believe that you are better than others because of the money you have.

Humble yourself.  Don't be proud of your money, but be humbled by God.  Be humbled that God saved you from so many things and now you have the opportunity to serve God and give.

If you have an internet connection, even if it is free wi-fi somewhere, you are probably not poor.  You may think you are poor, feel poor or act poor.  Cultivate the richness that you do have in the kingdom of God.

Be a proud son or daughter of the king.  How will he bless you today?  What will you find in the kingdom, that is awaiting you?


Sky Links, 5-6-17

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0


Have you ever wondered how the Methodist movement went from 'hot' to 'naught'?  

Alan Hirsch wrote a post called, "It Slayed the Momentum of the Methodists":

  In the opinion of Stephen Addison, a missiologist who has spent much of his professional life studying Christian movements, the key to Methodism's success was the high level of commitment to the Methodist  cause that was expected of participants. This cause declined to the degree that the movement had moved    away from its original missional ethos of evangelism and disciple making and degenerated into mere religious legalism maintained by institution, rule books, and highly professionalized clergy .
In fact, although Methodism in America had experienced massive ex-ponential growth (35 percent of the population in around forty years), two critical “movement killers” were introduced into Methodism in America that effectively hamstrung the movement.
  1. Heightened Educational requirements. In 1850 the leaders of Methodism had tired of the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians deriding them as “uncouth and unlearned” ministers, so they decided that all their circuit riders and local ministers had to complete fours years of ordination studies in order to qualify . Growth ceased straightaway!
  2. Lowered discipleship focus. Ten years later (1860) they no longer required classes and bands—discipleship had become an optional extra. Methodism has been in decline in relation to percentage of the population ever since!

Listening and Hospitality

How are your listening skills?  Adam S. McHugh wrote about how listening happens on the inside and is the best kind of hospitality:

The truth is that only the listener can gauge whether he or she is truly listening, because true listening takes place on the inside. You can have all the trappings of listening – eye contact, appropriate body language, active listening sounds, occasional questions – and still not be genuinely listening. I know, because I have done it. I have been complemented for my listening by people that I knew I hadn’t listened to well, because I was preoccupied with my internal thoughts while sitting across the table from them. I was listening to the voices in my inner world, with their nagging concerns, self-doubts, and judgements, rather than offering my internal attention to the person in front of me. As Steven Covey put it, I was listening to respond, rather than listening to understand.




Unkind Christians who level the 'heretic' charge too easily

Mike Frost wrote a post about the recent fracas (written attacks) over Jen Hatmaker:

I think what conservative evangelicals do to their brothers and sisters who come to different views to theirs is a clear mark of unhealthy religion. And I think the fact that evangelicals seem to focus on one prominent dissenter at a time, making an example of that person by public mockery and critique is cruel and unbecoming.

So, what does healthy religion look like? Well, the opposite.

In her book, Bothered and Bewildered, Ann Morisy identifies healthy religion in the following way:
  1. Healthy religion does not indoctrinate, but teaches people to think for themselves; 
  2. Healthy religion invites us to be humble about what we believe and know; 
  3. Healthy religion does not invest in negativity; it does not major on what it is against but rather on what it is for; 
  4. Healthy beliefs stay in tune with reality, never filling in the gaps for what we do not know.
Here are a few things Mike added in the comments section, that were wise words:

Question:  "I don’t know the specifics on Jen, so just a general comment/question:

When, in your mind, must a leader be called out for heresy or false doctrine? How “bad” does it have to get?

The Bible says that leaders are held to a stricter standard. Jesus was not harsh with sinners; His only harsh words were for wayward religious leaders. I can agree that some Christians do not handle differences well, and that problems are handled in some with gossip, slander and unbiblical methods of correction. But we can’t go to the other extreme and do nothing about wayward leaders."

Mike's answer:  "Good question. Surely, if you think a person is guilty of teaching or promoting heresy your primary motivation would be to want to correct that person and restore them to orthodox faith. Anyone who writes a damning or imperious or condescending comment on their blog is only showing they have no such concern for the person. If your motivation really is loving correction, it’s my view that that can only happen fully and effectively in relationship. Approach them directly; raise your concerns respectfully; where appropriate and reasonable, invite a third party into the discussion. Even if the person you have concerns about isn’t known to you personally (a well-known identity like Jen, for example), a private message or email is a far more respectful (and therefore, more effective) means of exchanging views. If you write a blog to slam her, or design a demeaning meme, or post an essay-style comment on her blog you’re not only being hurtful, but also completely ineffective at the very thing you claim to be doing."


7 Reasons Bi-vocational Ministry Isn’t Plan B  -Josh Presley

Growing up in the church, it was sort of understood that any pastor worth his salt was “full-time.” By full-time, we meant that he was fully financially supported by his church.

Without a doubt there are great advantages to being fully supported by the churches we serve, but I’ve discovered that pastoring bi-vocationally has strengthened and expanded my ministry in ways I could’ve never experienced otherwise. In our time we should not look at bi-vocational ministry as the Plan B of churches that can’t afford full-time staff. Instead, we should view bi-vocational ministry as Plan A for Kingdom strategy.
Here are my notes on Josh's 7 reasons for going bi-vocational:
  1. The church is unburdened financially
  2. The pastor is set free from fear of losing his income if he offends
  3. Forces the church to have a plurality of leadership
  4. Makes church start-ups easier
  5. Pastors who work in the community marketplace make a connection with the local culture
  6. Releases the saints to do the ministry
  7. Grounds you in the reality of work and disciple making, with rest
If you read Josh's article, look at the comments.  Lots of positive stories from guys who have thrived bi-vocationally.



Characteristics of a shepherd's heart


  1. They pray daily for their church members and staff.
  2. They view their family as their first line of ministry.
  3. They connect with and love people in their community.
  4. They choose their battles carefully and wisely.
  5. They welcome structures that make them accountable.
  6. They spend time developing staff.
  7. They expect conflict and criticism.
  8. They connect with other pastors and ministries in their community.
  9. They affirm both theology and practical ministry.
  10. They ask long-term questions.

4 ways to wreck your life, 4 reasons 50-somethings make great pastors and 6 reasons you should lead.


  1. You neglect your marriage
  2. You hold on to offences
  3. You don't take a day off
  4. You believe it all depends on you

  1. We're mature.
  2. We've banked more life experiences.
  3. To us, technology is a means to an end but not an end in itself.
  4. We've established a library of messages.

  1. You will learn more deeply.
  2. You will be able to articulate the faith more clearly.
  3. You will give of yourself more freely.
  4. You will impact others exponentially.
  5. You will be stewarding your gifts and His grace faithfully.
  6. You will be investing eternally.




Double-Minded

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.


Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
-James 1:5-8, 4:8 (NIV)

In James, chapters one and four, James uses this peculiar word, 'double-minded'.  I'm not sure I have ever heard it spoken outside of 'Christianese' conversations.  Every preacher that quotes this verse has to explain it.

'Double-minded' literally means 'double souled'.  James was the first person to use this word in Greek writings.  Scholar Douglas Moo wrote, "James, who uses this same term again in 4:8, has probably coined the term in order to accentuate his concern that believers display a wholehearted commitment to God.  However, while he may be the first to use this particular word, he is certainly not the first to enunciate the concept.  The OT blesses those who pursue God with "a whole heart": (Ps. 119:2) and condemns the person who exhibits a "divided heart" (Ps. 12:2; Hos. 10:2).  Jesus singled out Deut. 6:5, with its demand for total allegiance, as one of the greatest commandments in the OT: "Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."...  James concludes with a final negative characterization of this "doubter" who will not find his prayers answered: he is unstable in all his ways...  The "all he does" reflects again James's concern to portray a basic inconsistency in attitude and spirit rather than an occasional doubt or lapse.  It is what we might call "spiritual schizophrenia" that James criticizes in these verses explicitly throughout his letter: a basic division in the soul that leads to thinking, speaking, and acting that contradicts one's claim to belong to God."(1)

Being 'double-minded' means being 'half-hearted' or 'wavering', according to The Passion Translation.  'Double-minded' is translated as 'divided loyalty' in The Phillips and The New Living translations.  Eugene Peterson's The Message has the word as, 'keeping all your options open'.

James says that this will not work.  He says that such a person will not get their prayers answered, for wisdom in their trials.  James's antidote for double-mindedness is repentance: Returning to God.  Washing your hands signifies getting cleansed.  Purifying your heart means to get your heart set right, toward single loyalty to God.

Here again is the context of James 1:

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Greetings.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

If any of you lacks wisdom, 
you should ask God, 
who gives generously 
to all without finding fault, 
and it will be given to you. 

But when you ask, 
you must believe and not doubt, 
because the one who doubts 
is like a wave of the sea, 
blown and tossed by the wind. 

That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 
Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

In my last message on James, I focused on 'asking God for help'.  And the help we are asking for is wisdom.  The next thing James says is to be careful how you ask: don't ask with doubt, but with belief.  Doubtful people are like wave on the sea: unstable.

And the person with a doubtful open mind, that says 'yes' and 'no' at the same time is a double-minded person.  They will not be able to receive from the Lord and their doubtfulness makes them unstable in how they live.

The NET Bible note says this about 'double-minded': "A double-minded man is one whose devotion to God is less than total. His attention is divided between God and other things, and as a consequence he is unstable and therefore unable to receive from God."  By the way, the word 'man' means 'person', even though it can be translated either 'man' or 'individual' or 'a person'.

Rather than get into a discussion of what Schizophrenia is and how spiritual schizophrenia is related, it is better to let the text define the word.  'Double-minded' simply means, 'of two minds'.  And James says that you don't want to be like that.  The double that is trouble is doubt and belief.

Faith has to do with believing and then living based on believing in something that someone said or did.  Someone promises to love you and to be there for you and you believe them, even when you can not see them.  That is faith.

When the one you put your faith in breaks your trust by deliberately being unloving or betraying you, we call them unfaithful.  But if that one is being faithful, but you mix in doubt in your heart with your thoughts of faith in them, that can become a problem.

Imagine a person who is not capable of betraying you or being unfaithful.  That person is God.  If you approach God with faith in God's faithfulness, but also doubt in his faithfulness, that is a problem, says James.

If, for whatever reason, based on your life's experience or just your personality or journey of faith; you have trouble trusting God and can not believe, but rather doubt; then that is something to work on.

In human relationships we build trust.  It is natural to start out somewhat trusting and then it builds to the point where you might feel like you trust that person to pull you up, if you are the one behind them, climbing the figurative mountain in life.

Some people start out not trusting anyone, because they have been hurt or abused.  We can carry that brokenness into our relationship with God.  We can also have all sorts of misconceptions about God including 'bad theology' that misrepresents God and God's love, goodness and affection towards us.

Working on that and getting clear on just how good and trustworthy that God is, is the homework for the doubter with 'trust issues' to work on.

James does not go into any details like that though.  James just says, "don't doubt".  Remember though that this is from the person who grew up next to Jesus and even during Jesus public ministry years, filled with the incredible things he said and did, James doubted!

James is not degrading or condemning the doubter.  He is simply saying, "faith and doubt together won't work: you can't hold onto both.  You will be unstable, like a two minded person."  And he basically says, "stop it", or, "stop doing that", which is his encapsulation on the 'double-minded' connotation, when he starts to wrap up his letter and says: "purify your hearts, you double-minded".

There is no in-between place of faith and unbelief.  If you have unbelief, you don't have faith.  There is a coming to faith and a growing in faith.  There is a cry of a hurting heart that wants to have faith, but has been disappointed with faith that says, "I believe, but help my unbelief".

There is also the lament of heartsickness that believes, but has not seen very much of God's faithfulness that it has longed for, that is expressed in the words, "hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled if the tree of life".  And the heart longing for God, in the midst of waiting and suffering in a wilderness or lack of fruit, can cry out, "how long oh Lord?"

Unbelief or doubt are different than grief and suffering that laments as it looks to God.  Remember that lament is the highest form of worship.

James is addressing folks who God is being revealed to and yet they still doubt.  Again, this is not unique to James's church.  The Bible is frank about people who stood at arms length from the risen Jesus and still doubted (Matt. 28:17).

The context here is that James is saying you have to stop the doubting, stop holding thoughts of doubt in your mind while praying to God for help, for wisdom in your suffering circumstances in life.  In the trials and temptations and the tumultuous circumstances of your life, wherein you call out to God; you can not hold onto doubt and expect for anything from God.  That is what James is saying.

James is saying don't expect results if you are holding on to doubts about God.  You are either all-in or it won't work.  It is the same today.

The Christian life only works if you surrender all and give up everything.  The kingdom of God is indeed like a person who found the pearl and sold everything to have it.  Jesus does not come into your life as an add-on, but to takeover all of you.

The Christian life is 'goodbye you'; and 'hello Jesus', throughout your whole life, every room, every inch and every part.  He does not obliterate you, but renews and remakes you: Him in you, all that God created you to be.  That means when there are doubts about Jesus or about God, they have to be discarded and thrown out or put to death.  You may not or ever have the answers, but the unbelief and doubt must go.

Faith is rooted in God who is faithful.  His faithfulness empowers our faith which is rooted in his person.  My faith is not built on doctrine, theology, my denominational or non-denominational affiliation.  My faith is not built on my father or fathers.

Neither is my faith built on my experiences or what I have felt, seen, heard or read.  My faith is rooted in the person of God and God's faithfulness.  And God's faithfulness and love is most expressed in the gospel, which is the good news about Jesus: who he is and why he came.

Walking through the doorway of belief in the gospel of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is faith.  Life begins to be defined, measured or seen through the door of Christ.  If we are looking at him and have walked through the door which is him, then doubt has to go: it is incompatible.

Check yourself at the door.  See yourself in Christ and take off or walk away from doubt.  Rid your mind of doubt.    And again, this is not a condemning word, because James himself was a doubter, and he is saying, "you have the truth: cultivate it and don't pick up doubts".  If you do, the life will not work as it is designed to and you are the one who can make the change.

Don't be double minded.  Recognize it and don't cultivate it.  Even if my faith is weak and has many questions, I don't doubt Father God, Christ or The Spirit of God.





_____________________________________________
Footnotes:
1. The Letter of James, Douglas J. Moo, pp. 62-3


Peacemakers

Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
-Matthew 5:9 (CEB, NLT)

Peacemakers seem like rare birds today in Christianity.  But maybe it is the fighting and even brawling that gets the attention and makes it seem like we're all unpeaceful.  Actually, a wide swath of Christians are peaceful.

The nature of Christ and the movement of Christianity is not necessarily characterized as a peace movement, but, as a cooperation movement.  Christians cooperate with God and with one another.  We show people how we do it and invite them to join in.

The identity of being children of God lends itself to cooperation with God and with one another.  The nature of cooperation is the opposite of selfish ambition, vain conceit, suspicious projections onto others and fighting.  When we all know we are children of God, we are then set free to cooperate with one another.

Peacemakers are more than just peaceful cooperators.  Peacemakers show others how to make peace, through example and demonstration.  A peacemaker lets other people go first, especially if those persons are upset and riled up.

When Jesus first spoke these words there were then and there still are now believers who hold the idea that mixing faith with militarism is a good thing, and even is a hallmark or a proof of genuine belonging to God's family.  Jesus gave us this saying to dispel that very notion, then and now.

Here are some notes on, 'Blessed are the peacemakers', from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, spoken only a few years after the great wars of the twentieth century:

  • As with the other beatitudes that precede it, 'Blessed are the peacemakers', is a further outcome and outworking of being filled with God.
  • It is of note the preceding beatitudes correspond to the ones that follow: Being a peacemaker flows out of a life of meekness ('Happy are people who are humble').
  • The outworking of the Christian life is different than the outworking of the life of the 'not Christian'.
  • Jesus shocks some believers with these words, who expect him to bring the kingdom by military means.
  • Even someone as committed to God as John the Baptist misunderstood how the kingdom would come.
  • Bringing the kingdom, establishing Christ's rule through bloodshed, militarism or rowdy political control runs completely counter to Jesus.
  • To those who love the ethical teachings of the sermon on the mount, but dislike Paul's theology and orthopraxy, this verse is a thorn, because is says that sin is the reason for war and mankind has a sin problem that must be dealt with theologically.
  • This verse teaches believers that war is never the answer.  To find glory in going to war is to depart from Jesus.  Human blood shedding war and Christ are antithetical, oxymorons.
  • The maker of peace is someone who is being transformed by God through Christ.
  • Desire for war equates with sin and fallen human nature, whereas peacemaking is a marker of believers.
  • The reason we can not keep the peace in the world is sin and fallen mankind.
  • The answer to war and warmongering is theological.
  • Nothing man made will stop, prohibit or outlaw wars; and Christians should not be excited about such things.
  • The only hope for stopping fighting is people having their lives changed by God.
  • Being a peacemaker does not mean you are 'easygoing' in disposition.
  • Being a peacemaker does not mean you believe in 'peace at any price'.
  • Being a peacemaker does not mean you are an 'appeaser' or will 'do anything to avoid trouble'.
  • Peacemakers have a high regard for justice and righteousness that appeasers lack.
  • True peacemakers are not quarrelsome people.
  • True peacemakers are active in that they work to make peace between parties.
  • Peacemakers both go out of their way to not make trouble and  to make peace.
  • The ultimate concern of the peacemaker is that all people would first be at peace with God.
  • Only a person with a new heart and pure heart, touched by God can become a maker of authentic peace.
  • True peacemakers have been delivered from selfishness and self interest.
  • True peacemakers are absolutely neutral between aggrieved parties, while aligned with God.
  • Peacemakers have one, overriding concern and that is for God's glory among people.
  • Peacemakers of Jesus, in practice are people who listen more than have a need to speak.
  • Peacemakers of Jesus are people who view every (peacemaking) situation in the light of the gospel.
  • Peacemakers of Jesus are action oriented, rather than believers in mind or thought only, who do real things like feeding their enemies.
  • Peacemakers make peace, meaning they reach out, dialogue, and give relief to the physical needs of those who are in strife with them.
  • Peacemakers are people who know how to apologize, to produce peace.
  • Peacemakers are people who diffuse (spread) peace wherever they go and cultivate a style of approachableness, by being selfless, loving, sympathetic, understanding and humble.
  • The benediction upon peacemakers is that 'they are called the children of God'.
  • 'Called' means 'owned'.
  • The peacemakers are people who are owned by God: God's own, God's children.
  • This means that they are just like Jesus in that they are here to bring glory to God and invite all others to join God's family, through God's Son, the Prince of Peace.
________________________________________________________________________
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies In The Sermon On The Mount, pp. 117-127 (1959, 1993)