Monthly Archives: July 2017

The finish line

 

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Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time now and forever.  Amen.  Jude 24-25

 

These words were embedded into me at a camp I worked at in my twenties for several full summers.  We sang it as a benediction countless times when we met for chapel services at a point that jutted out into a huge lake.  We would canoe to get to it, and met up with two other camps around the lake.  When we sang, nature sang with us.  A thousand strong, we would sing:  “Now onto Him who is able to keep, able to keep  you from falling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…”

They still echo in my heart some thirty years later.  It is a great promise of the faith.  God is the One who keeps me from falling and will bring me safely home to Heaven.  One day I will stand faultless before Him, with exceeding joy.  Philippians 1:6 reinforces this: “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  God started my faith, and God will finish it.  What great news as I muddle through most days.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, recorded in John 17, He said to the Father, “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction (Judas), that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”  Add to that Luke 22:31-32 when Jesus speaks to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

Jesus was guarding Peter’s faith, the other disciples’ faith walk, and he guards ours.  Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “Consequently, He (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost (completely, for eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  In other words, Jesus is praying day and night before the throne to guard our faith.  We probably all get sifted like wheat because Satan is the enemy of our souls, but our faith will still stand.  That’s a promise.

This does not mean that we can live however we want and Jesus will pick up the pieces.  If you really belong to Jesus, God is at work changing your desires and giving you the power to live for Him.  Philippians 2:13 tells us, “It is God who at work in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure.”  If you see yourself not longing for holiness and obedience, pray and ask God to change your heart, to place His desires on your heart, and to give you the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to carry it out.    

When God does a work in you that you didn’t have the desire or power to accomplish on your own, then use that as a sign that your faith is driven by God and that you belong to Him.   God is able.  He is able to bring you safely home.  I cry out with David in Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”

 


Truth matters

 

 

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Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.  For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers and sisters came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  3 John 2-4

Pilate asked Jesus this question before he turned Him over to be crucified: ‘What is truth?’  That’s the question we must all answer.  The Bible contains absolute, objective and unchanging truth.  As Christians, we subject ourselves to the truths of the Bible such as: we are created by God; there is a Heaven and a Hell; not everyone goes to Heaven, but only those who place their trust in Jesus; there is such a thing as right and wrong; God wrote the Bible through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and the Bible is our authority for living.        

This is not popular or widely accepted in our culture.  There is a way of thinking that prevails called “Postmodernism.” Postmodernism affirms that there is no absolute truth: instead, the thought is that  truth is relative to the community in which we participate.  This mindset drives political correctness, tolerance, and an acceptance of any and every lifestyle as all being okay.   It used to be that people criticized Christianity because it was thought to be unscientific and untrue.  Now we get flack because we have the audacity to claim that Christianity is true. When Christians proclaim truth, we are called arrogant, bigoted, intolerant, offensive and haters.  

There were false teachers and prophets in John’s time, and there are false belief systems in our “post Christian” era.  To hear that people are walking in the truth was important to him and it is important to our time and culture.  We can’t shrink under the push back on our beliefs.  Jesus’ proclamation of John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me,”  is still what He would shout out today.  

Philippians 2:15-16 urges us to “do everything without complaining or arguing so that we would be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which we shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the world of life.”  As we hold out our torches against a dark backdrop, the challenge is to not be obnoxious, argumentative, or irrelevant.  In 2 Timothy 2:24-26 Paul told them that the Lord’s servant must not engage in foolish and ignorant disputes that produce quarrels, but to be gentle to everyone and to teach with love and patience in the hope that it would lead to repentance.

People need Jesus to give them the forgiveness of sins, hope, and eternal life.  Our culture needs people radically committed to loving not just in word, but in deed; to shine brightly without being abrasive; and to rely on the power and love of God to work through us as we proclaim truth.  We cannot water down the truth to fit in, or shut up to keep from being harassed.  May we walk in the truth boldly, love fearlessly, and live radically to reach this generation.

 


The Overcomers

overcomers

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world…For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  1 John 4:4 and 1 John 5:4-5

John was writing about false prophets, lying spirits and antichrists that deny that Jesus lived in the flesh and rose from the dead.  That’s who he was saying that we have overcome.  Why?  Because we’re on the power side, the winning side.  The false prophets and lying spirits are from the world and the world listens to the lies.  But we are from God.  God is greater than Satan, greater than false notions and ideas about what is going on and what we need to do.  And He is in us, so that makes us overcomers.  To be an overcomer means to prevail, to conquer or to win the victory.  It also implies that we face a battle.

Do you feel like an overcomer?  Or are you weighed down by the many things from life and from ‘the world’ that pull at you?  We are overrun with ‘fake news’ that makes you wonder what is true and what isn’t, and who’s lying and if there is anyone out there that isn’t involved in deception.  In our daily lives we encounter mockers, haters, obstacles, and internal struggles of all kinds.

The good news  to anchor our souls in is the fact that God is on the throne.  And through faith in Him we can experience joy, freedom and victory.  Our faith isn’t just a random, fuzzy faith: “As long as you believe something sincerely, that’s all that matters,” or “Everything is all the same, just under a different name.  You just need a higher power of some sort.”  1 John 5:5 counters that with this truth:  Our faith must be in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.

In Acts 4:12 it says that there is “No other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  That name is Jesus.  Don’t believe anything else, no matter how sincerely you think they are okay to blend into your life.  Everyone has to leave some belief system to follow Jesus.  Further, Colossians 2:9-11 declares, “For in Christ the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.’  (NIV)

Jesus is the top dog, with all of the power.  Don’t settle for anything less by doing what Colossians 2:8 tells us: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  When you place all of your trust in Jesus, you will have the power to overcome whatever comes your way.  

You don’t have to fear, nor do you have to resort to your old way of getting things done.  Maybe you used to use anger or some sort of manipulation to get what you want.  Now, you commit your situation to God and let Him do His work.  You may have been consumed with worry, thinking that somehow through your fretting that things would change.  Now you pray.  Or, you might have taken things into your hands to control, taking charge over others to make them comply to get things done.  With Jesus in your life, now you only concern yourself with your matters and leave God to work in other people’s’ lives just like He has in yours.

You are from God, you have overcome and you will overcome future problems through faith.  You have placed your faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Through that you have a power to see God work in situations that look hopeless, and to use you for His glory in ways you could never have dreamt of on your own.

 


Where the rubber meets the road

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We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers and sisters.  Whoever does not love abides in death.  By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:14, 16-18

John makes several statements in his book that have to do with figuring out whether you really have passed from death to life, or that you have Jesus.  I have been in settings throughout my life that urge people to simply pray a prayer, commonly known as the sinner’s prayer, and that is the proof that you are now a Christian.  In 1 John, John never mentions a prayer.  Rather, he mentions keeping God’s commandments, not practicing sin, and having love for others as ways to know that Jesus is really at work in our life.

Today’s verses are tough ones.  I gulp as I read them because I have a letter sitting next to me from someone who habitually asks for money.  I have left the letter sit, not quite knowing how to proceed.  I struggle with the adage, “If you give a man a fish…”  I want her to learn to fish and not be dependent.  Yet, this says if I have the world’s goods, which I do, then I can’t close my heart against her.  I can’t say I love God and not be generous when and where I can.

John also says in chapter 3 that we can’t hate anyone if we are a Jesus follower.  Are there people that you change walking routes if you see them coming?  I must confess that I do that occasionally.  It is time to examine my heart.  John asks the question, “How does God’s love abide in us?”  That is a good question to let rattle around in our heads.

How does God’s love abide in us?   In my job I can get so jaded by the demands of people, which as a principal includes kids, teachers and parents.  I have many people manipulating, blaming, making excuses, calling me many expletives and even sueing.  I can sit stoically while someone on the other side of my desk cries, usually in an attempt to control me.  I get it when Jesus said we are “to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” in Matthew 10:16.

Yet I must find a way to keep God’s love in my heart.  And I must keep a passion for His kingdom and His glory to fuel me.  I’m guessing your workplace and living space encounters aren’t much different, though the details may vary.  There are some passion fuelers that we need to make a consistent part of our lives:

  • Have consistent time in God’s Word and in prayer.   It has to be complete with a “so what?” question, that leads to application.  Our love for God, and our ability to be equipped for every good work, comes through getting grounded and centered by Him.  Jesus had to go away and pray to the Father, and consistently went to the ‘lonely places’ to do so.  If He needed it, so do we.
  • Following the model of passionate saints.  I love biographies of missionaries and of people who have done great things for God.  I find that the writings of those who lived before the 1970’s (just a ballpark date) to have a stronger metal that we do now.  My all time favorites include biographies of Jim Ellliot and the other four men who gave their lives in Ecuador, Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd, Gladys Aylward and Dr. Helen Roseveare.  
  • Worship music.  You have to weed through some of the Christian music that is a little too ‘me’ centered, but there are great songs of the faith that can fuel your passion for God and passion for others.
  • Find people who need Jesus to minister to.  One time I was giving a talk on Matthew 22:29, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”  Someone asked how they could get their kids to not tune out to the Bible, Sunday School or church because they think they know all of those stories.  Ya da, ya da, ya da.  My quick response, so quick that I think it was from God, was to suggest that they go as a family to find people who haven’t heard about Jesus and minister to them.  Having the opportunity to tell women in jail about Jesus and the good news of forgiveness and peace with God fuels my passion.  Ask God to lead you to someone, and He will.

Back to our verses for today, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18.  May God’s love and your passion for Him fuel you today.

*Image from The Bear and the turtle – wordpress.com

 


Sin and the Blood of Jesus

Jesus blood.jpgIf we walk in the light in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  1 John 1:7,9; 2:1-2

If you asked 100 people what they think our biggest problem is, you might get quite a broad range of answers.  Some might say something about politics, others about countries who want to attack, others may talk about the environment.  God tells us in the Bible that our biggest problem is sin.  When Adam fell in the Garden of Eden, we fell, separating us from God and alienating us from Him, ourselves, others and nature.

God sent Jesus as a perfect sin offering to save us from the His wrath and the penalty of sin.  This is the heart of the Gospel, the good news of salvation because of Jesus.  When we repent of our sins, asking God to forgive us and to give us a new heart, we receive the righteousness of Christ.  When God looks at us, He sees Jesus.

But after this glorious transformation, we still sin.  We still need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us of the guilty stain that sin leaves so that we can stand clean before God.  The good news of our verses for today is that God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness–if we confess our sins.  It doesn’t just happen automatically.  We can’t just do things that are offensive to God and everything to be okay because “it’s all under the blood.”  It is all under Jesus’ blood once you confess that sin and turn from it.

The other error that we might be prone to is to fall apart because of our sin.  It’s like falling down and not getting up again.  The good news is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us,” as Psalm 103:12 declares.  He wants us to come and repair our broken relationship with Him, the sooner the better.  There is no sin too dark or too big that God can’t or won’t forgive.

When we sin, we have a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one.  Picture a courtroom scene.  When the judge asks “How do you plead?”  We say, “Guilty.”  The Judge delivers his sentence and then offers for his Son to pay it for us.  Though that would be preposterous in real life, that is exactly what happens when we confess our sin.  Jesus, our advocate, stands in our place.

This is made possible by the blood of Jesus.  Throughout the Bible, from the very beginning, blood had to be shed.  In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig  leaves after they sinned.  God stepped in and covered them with animal skins.  In doing so, blood had to be shed.  All of the way through the Old Testament, the people brought animal sacrifices and their blood spilled out on the altar to show that their sin was covered by blood.  It was a down payment until Jesus came and shed His blood once and for all on the cross.  

There is power in the blood of Jesus.  In Revelation 12:10-11 it says that the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…  Satan accuses us day and night, trying to get us to wallow in guilt and shame.   But if we stand in the blood of the Lamb, bringing those sins that Satan is accusing us of to God and confessing them, then Satan has no dirt to dig up on us.

If Satan is badgering you about certain events and sins of the past, confess them to God out loud, announcing to yourself, to God and to Satan that the debt is paid.  If there is something you need to do to make something right, do it.  Then you can stand free before God and before everyone else.  

Finally, Satan wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  He will use any open door to torment and to taunt us.  If you have been abused or wounded in spirit, that puts a hole in your heart that Satan can use to mess with you.  Perhaps you have held bitterness against the offender, against yourself or against God.  Bring that incident, or string of incidents, to God in prayer, asking Him to cover those holes by the blood of Jesus.  He will set you free from that bondage and from the torments of Satan.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our tresspasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.  Ephesians 1:7-8

*Image from speakthewordonly63.wordpress.com


The Day of the Lord

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But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed… But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.                                2 Peter 3:10, 13

 

This is a big topic that many people have of a lot of different views on.  It is the topic of Jesus’ return and the events surrounding it.  I could call this “The Day of the Lord for Dummies” as I don’t get technical, but offer a simple explanation of end times events using a face value interpretation of prophetic passages.  This is just dipping our toes into the water on all there is to say about Jesus’ return.  Peter spent most of chapter 3 telling us about this day of the Lord.   Let’s check out some of the things that he describes.

Four things about the Day of the Lord from 2 Peter 3:

The Day of the Lord  (DOTL) will come like a thief .   Peter describes the coming of this day being like a thief.  Paul used the same description in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5, For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light.  

The day of Jesus’ return will surprise those who do not know Jesus, the children of the night.  Like a thief, it will sneak up of them and catch them ill prepared.  But not us, for we are children of the light.  This means that there are signs that we can look to for a heads up.  Those signs are detailed in Matthew 24.  Matthew 24:15 says, When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  That is one definitive sign with a sequence of events to follow, listed in Matthew 24:21-31.

The heavens and the earth will be burned up.  2 Peter 3:7 tells us, By the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.  That means that the earth, as we know it, isn’t going to be around for another million years or so.  While we still need to be good stewards of its resources, the day of the Lord includes the earth being burned by fire.   A non Christian friend asked me to read the book, The Road.  It is a post nuclear world with a few scavengers left fighting to survive.  I told him I knew that wouldn’t happen because that’s not the way the Bible says it will happen.  

As you read the book of Revelation, you will find what God says really will happen.  This DOTL is one continuous chain of events that includes plagues and destruction of all sorts.  Revelation 6:12-17 describes the beginning of the DOTL, with the sun becoming black as sackcloth, the moon turning blood red and the stars falling to the earth.  It culminates with a battle between Jesus and Satan, and (spoiler alert) Jesus wins.

When Jesus appears on this DOTL, believers will be taken to Heaven.  This isn’t explicitly talked about in 2 Peter 3, but 2 Peter 3:7 describes the DOTL as “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”  That’s not us.  Matthew 24:29-31 describes the cosmic disturbances of Rev. 6 and 2 Peter 3, but includes the fact that “the angels will gather His elect from the four winds.”  The word ‘rapture’ has been used to describe this event.  I prefer to call it ‘the gathering.’  Others refer to this event as ‘parousia’ which is a Greek word used for Jesus’ appearing.

There will be a new earth after the DOTL.  The heavens (sun, moon and stars) have passed away with a roar, burned up and dissolved.  The earth will have been trashed with locusts on steroids that eat everything up, the waters having been turned to blood, 100 pound hailstones pounding the earth and the battle of Armageddon piling up dead bodies everywhere.  Before Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom centered out of Jerusalem, there will be this new habitable planet, along with the heavenly bodies  (see also Isaiah 66:22).  

Again, many different Christians have a variety of views of how things will transpire surrounding  Jesus’ return.  My attempt is to take prophetic Scriptures at face value, matching up both Old and New Testaments passages up against each other and laying out a sequential scenario.  When we get to the book of Revelation, there will be more to chew on!

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  2 Peter 3:14

*Image by Crossriver

 

 


The Bible: Written by men moved by the Spirit

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Spirit.  2 Peter 1:20-21

writing Bible.jpgAs Peter is writing this book,  he is about to die (2 Peter 1:14)  so this is his final words from a life of following Jesus.  If you remember from the Gospels, Peter was this bold bumbler that was brought in as a disciple early on by Jesus.  After the shame of denying Jesus, Jesus restored Peter and gave him a prominent position as an evangelist in the early church.  Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16 that he did not follow cleverly devised myths, which is exactly what some people view the Bible as being.  He was an eye witness of Jesus and His majesty.  In 2 Peter 2:1 Peter warned of false prophets and false teachers that would  secretly bring in destructive heresies.  And in 2 Peter 3:15 he talked of how they twist Scripture, to their own destruction.  

What was written in the Bible is not cleverly devised myths, nor should it be twisted or interpreted according to one’s own personal whims.  That means we cannot take and twist the words of the Bible to conveniently suit whatever personal theology or position on God that we want.

The books of the Bible were written by 40 different men, over a span of almost 1500 years.  Many of the writers did not know each other, but yet what they wrote about does not contradict or negate each other.  Peter here is talking about words of prophecy, which are words about what Jesus was going to come and do from the Old Testament, what He did, as written in the New Testament, and what He is going to do when He returns, which is woven throughout the Bible.

God used these men’s personalities, but He told them what to write through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Peter wrote in his writing style and from his own vantage point in history, but God told him what to write.  2 Timothy 3:16 informs us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”  The Bible is God’s breath, His words, His authoritative commands.  

With that in mind, here are some principles in approaching the Bible:

  • There is a true meaning to the words of the Bible, and there are false meanings.  We must submit our minds to the discipline of finding out what the true meaning is, rather than presuming that whatever pops into our minds or suits our lifestyle is the true meaning.  
  • The Bible is not our story, but it is God’s story.  God is telling us a complete story of who He is, who we are, what sin is and how, in His perfect plan, He prepared a people (Israel/the Jews) to produce a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus, who is perfect God come down in the form of a man to die on the cross for our sins.  One day He will return and establish His kingdom, and only those who put their trust in Him will be there.  Get to know that story by reading the Bible from beginning to end over and over.  Don’t just look for random verses that produce a good feeling for today.  We fit into God’s story and plan, not the other way around.  So often people want their own “personal” God that helps them to find good parking spots or to get them out of jams.
  • God’s words are authoritative for our lives.  That means we can’t pick or choose, taking only the promises and leaving out the commands.  His words are difficult and radical, and sometimes hard to understand.  Don’t water them down, or skip parts.  So often I hear people say, “My God isn’t like that.”  If the Bible says that God is a jealous God, for instance, then that’s what He is and we ought not to put anything ahead of Him in our heart’s passions.
  • The Bible demands our obedience and humility.  Since it is the very words of God, we must obey God’s directives.  In order to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and the authority of His words, we need a humble spirit that causes us to say “no” to our flesh and its desires and to say “yes” to God’s leading in our lives.
  • Don’t be like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, who He rebuked in John 5:39-40: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me that you may have life.”  Some people can be experts in the Bible, but yet they refuse to come to Jesus.  The Bible is about Jesus, and eternal life is found in Him.

There are many more principles to approaching the Bible, but this is a start.  May you grow in your love of the Bible and of the God who wrote it.  And may its very words get under your skin and change your life!

*image from Christianity.com

 

 


Fully supplied

divine power

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  2 Peter 1:3-4

God’s divine power has given us everything we need for our lives and our path to godliness.  When we take a hold of this we are fully supplied, in other words.  The Christian life isn’t about just accepting a bunch of doctrinal creeds that we nod our heads in agreement to.  It is a power to be experienced and a divine power that saves us and changes us.  In 1 Corinthians 4:20 Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”  And in Ephesians 1:19-20 he prayed that we would know this power in our lives, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead.

What we need to get through this life and to be godly comes from relying on God’s divine power, not our own striving.  According to Peter, this power comes through the knowledge of God.  That is, the more we get to know God, the more we are able to access this power.  Some people want more of God’s power so they can heal others or do big things for God.  But here it implicates that we get more of God’s power so we can be godly and have what we need for this life.

As we get more godly and get life figured out, it isn’t so that we become great somehow, but it is for God’s own glory and excellence.  We become like John the Baptist, who got people ready for Jesus, introduced them to Him, and then got out of the way.  He didn’t look for his own glory or legacy, only that which would point to Jesus.  The more we walk in this divine power, the more humble we become.  The less credit we get and the more Jesus gets.  And it’s okay.

Peter indicates that our knowledge of God’s divine power comes through grabbing onto His precious and very great promises.  We get to know God’s character through actually doing something because we believe in those promises.  Maybe that’s where we move from less talk and more action.  If we believe the promise of James 1 that if we lack wisdom we can ask for it, then we will ask for wisdom and actually expect an answer.  If we believe the promise of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” then we will actually do the things that God has put on our hearts to do–without fear or hesitation.

When we grow in the knowledge of God and put that knowledge into action, we become more like God and less like our flesh driven self.  That’s what it means to partake in the divine nature.  In other words, we are changed to wanting more of God and less of ourselves.  This will lead us away from the corruption of the world and from our sinful desires.  

I want more of God’s power.  It is easier to talk about what God can do than to actually get out and do something He is prompting me to do.  Right now I am trusting God, along with a small group of people, to establish a halfway house for women once they get out of jail or prison.  It is so difficult to continue walking with Jesus if women go back into their old environment, or if they really don’t have a place to go.

We are believing that God is in this, and now it is time to take action.  We have looked at three different houses, but none of them seem to be ‘the one.’  We are also trusting God for a supervisor to live there, that could hold them accountable to a different way of life and to keep them safe from old ties.  This involves both a larger money and time commitment on our parts, and it is scary.  We are standing on promises such as the ones in Isaiah 58 that talk about spending ourselves on the poor and the oppressed,  the hungry and the afflicted, and then we will see our light rise in darkness and  healing break forth like the noonday light.

God, may we grow in accessing this power through getting to know You better.  May we take a promise a day to stand on and then to actually do something that requires faith in You and power from You.  May we grow to be more like You and less selfish and small minded, and to put away the sinful desires that wage war against our souls.  I can’t wait to see what You will do for the glory of Your great and excellent name!


What’s your superpower?

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As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  1 Peter 4:10-11

 

This little passage is about spiritual gifting, which is the empowerment by God to do things for the kingdom. There is a difference between doing things that we are naturally good at and doing something by gifting, leading and enabling power of the Holy Spirit.  I have been naturally good at sports and music, and in my younger years would do much of both without much need of the courage and gifting of the Holy Spirit.  But there is a supernatural gifting that comes from God, by His Holy Spirit, that has been called your “spiritual gift.”

There are many varieties of this spiritual gifting, with lists in Ephesians 4:11-12, Romans 12:2-7 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.  They are things like teaching, giving, hospitality, wisdom and discernment, preaching, evangelism, administration and showing mercy.   When Jesus comes into your life, He gives you abilities from His Spirit so that you can serve Him and build up the church.  And He expects you to use it for His glory.

No Christian can then say, “I’m not good at anything; I have nothing to offer.”  That is a lie from Satan, or a ploy of your flesh to be a slug.  As sure as you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you surely have a gifting of some sort.  

There are two ways of looking at this gifting:

That every believer has at least one of the listed gifts.  Your task would be to discover what that gifting is.  One way of discovering this is to get out and try things.  And, just like someone who shoots baskets in his driveway was meant to take those skills and be a part of a basketball team, your gifts are meant to be fleshed out in the church.  

 When there are opportunities to serve and you do something, you may find that some things are in your wheelhouse, and others just aren’t.  And, you may do something like help out with Sunday School or take part in the worship team, and people may tell you how that really touched them.  You may feel the working of the Holy Spirit when you tell others about Jesus, and you know those words didn’t come from your own head.  A pattern will soon follow of things you are drawn to doing, and of seeing God work through that.

That the gifting of the Holy Spirit in your life is varied, depending on the need of the moment.  If I am filled by the Spirit and am walking in the Spirit, being led to do something and I do it, the Holy Spirit’s power will work through me.  There are times when God has led me to do something that is totally out of character for me, but I know I must obey and do it, and God works.  

Here is an example of this:  One time I was at a prayer meeting with several other churches in our area.  The pastor leading it urged us to think about someone we could share the love of Jesus with, and to ask God how to do that.  As soon as he said this, a mom from school came to my mind.  As we bowed to pray, I had a flash of an image of me standing at her door with two bags of groceries in my hands.  She had been having some troubles with drugs and getting caught.  It would have been more comfortable to me to have her in my jail Bible study, but to walk up to her door with groceries was not in my comfort zone.

After work the next day, I knew that this was when I should do this.  Her house was right across the street, so it was easy to know if she was home or not.  There were cars in the driveway, so this was the time.  As I stopped at the stop sign, the choice was there: if I turned right I would go home, left to the grocery store.

“Okay God, I’ll just drive to the grocery store…okay God, I’ll go in, but I don’t know what to buy for them.”  I sensed God tell me, “Just buy what you would buy.”  So I went my usual route, but got double of what I would get.  As I got to the check out, I told the clerk, “I need paper bags, and all of this has to fit in two bags.”  That’s what in my  “mini vision.”   So I fit them snugly in and set off for her house.  I prayed that God would give the words to say why I was there.  I didn’t have a script prepared.

When I got to the door with the bags in my arms, she came to the door and said, “What are you doing?”  Her living room had several people in it, so we walked into the kitchen and said, “I just wanted to let you know that God loves you.”  She gave me a hug, I talked with her and the guests for a few minutes and I left.  I am still waiting for the opportunity to tell her more about Jesus, and I have this gut feeling that one day it will come.

This was a one time working like that.  I was obeying  the leading of the Spirit, and trust that God worked through it.  If God is leading you to do something, just do it with the courage and the strength that He provides.  

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10


What time is it?  It’s always ten to two

…But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, it is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.  When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.    1 Peter 2:20-23

1 Peter was written to Christians who had been scattered because of persecution.  Throughout this book, Peter gave a lot of advice, inspired by the Holy Spirit, about how to live in the midst of tough times.  In 1 Peter 2:11 he called the believers “sojourners and exiles.”  That’s who we are.  This world is not our own.  

We probably aren’t relocated because of our faith like the first century Jesus followers, losing our homes and jobs.  But our society is getting darker, and that day could be coming.  The day I’m speaking of is what Jesus followers around the world have experienced for centuries–persecution because of our faith in Jesus.

Peter wrote that if you suffer for doing wrong, you should endure it.  But it is another thing to suffer for doing the right thing.  This could mean losing much for doing the right thing.    And it could mean a lot of other more severe things as the times grow darker and the hatred of Jesus continues to ramp up.

When I was in graduate school at a state university for counseling, in order to finish the Master’s program we all had to write an assigned ‘position paper.’  The questions were ones like, “What, in your view, is the problem of man?” and “How are we different than animals?”  My professors were clearly secular and some voiced strong sentiments against God.  I knew that I must answer the questions from the Christian perspective, and I also knew it wouldn’t go over well.

One of the professors left a message the minute she read my paper, “In no uncertain terms, get God out of it.”  Another professor, my advisor, claimed to have lost my paper.  This was before the days of computers.  I stood my ground and my paper was eventually was passed through, against the professors’ strong feelings.  I’m glad to report a good outcome, but I must be ready to take stands that don’t turn out as well.

many-and-few.jpgIn the Old Testament, when Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land to check it out, ten came back with a bad report and only two said that, with God on their side, they could take on the giants.  It was ten against two, and the ten won out.  I’m here to say that it is always ‘ten to two’ when you follow Jesus.  We are are vastly outnumbered by those go against God, versus those who look at giants and see a giant God behind them.  Matthew 7:13-14 talks about this, saying that the road to following Jesus is hard, the gate is narrow, and only a few find it.  ‘A few’ means less than what we even think when it is time to stand up and be counted.

Be ready to suffer for Jesus.  He showed us the way and He calls us to follow in His footsteps.  Jesus didn’t use deceit to avoid the cross, and when He was treated horribly, He didn’t strike back, or threaten the persecutors.  Instead, Jesus “continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.”

We must not get revenge, use the methods of the world to win, or lash out in any way.  Instead, we must continue to do good, standing in faith that God is standing with us, entrusting ourselves to God, who judges justly.  Don’t be shocked by people hating you because they hate Jesus, and don’t crumble under the push back, recanting  your faith.

ten to two

Don’t be surprised when you are standing alone and the crowd isn’t cheering for you.  It’s always ten to two.