Category Archives: The Gospel

There is wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb!

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for all sins, He sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12,14

It has been awhile since I have posted.  It has been because life has been moving at the speed of sound.  God has been moving in and amongst things, much like He was with Elijah when he took on the prophets of Baal, Ahab and Jezebel, and then he took off and ran, depleted and alone.  And then God came to  Elijah in a cave and he heard God speak in a still, small voice.  God told him he wasn’t the only prophet left and God had him get up and go anoint Jehu to be the next king over Israel.

When I read 1 Kings 18-19, it makes my head spin for Elijah because of the great showdown at the Mt. Carmel corral and then his emotional turmoil that followed–and then for me because I can so relate.  I too have been in the midst of many such spiritual showdown’s and roller coasters lately.  I would like to cry out with Micah 7:7-8 this battle cry: But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.   Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

For the sake of brevity, maybe I’ll get to those in another post…But for now, I will get to my verse for today.  At jail ministry this last Sunday night, where God ministers to my heart just as much or more than He does to the women, I was blessed to share with three  women.  Two were Native American, one Caucasian, if that means anything.  Two of the three have been changed by the Gospel in visible ways over the last months of being in the Bible studies while being incarcerated.  Praise God for new life!

I started the study with the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It’s along the lines of continuing the same sin patterns and wondering why they end up in jail again and again.  That’s opposed to allowing Jesus to break the chains of rebellion–doing things now God’s way instead of our way–taking the narrow path and not the broad path, from Matthew 7:13-14.

No one talks about the narrow path–not on TV, not in books, not on Jimmy Fallon or Oprah, or Ellen.  I remember a time on “The View” where they censored a gal who said she lost 15 pounds on her diet and said, “Praise Jesus,” and they bleeped out Jesus.  But later in the show someone else used the name of Jesus in a profane way and they didn’t censor it out.  That’s the broad path.  Everyone is on it, and everyone talks about it.  Not the narrow path.  They shut you down.  So you have to go to jail to learn about the narrow path.  What an irony.

Then the Holy Spirit got all warmed up and fell on us.  I began to share about how much God loved them and quoted Psalm 103:8-13 about how God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, how He does not treat us as our sins deserve and He does not accuse and does not harbor His anger forever.  As high as the Heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for us and as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.

I went on to say that the enemy, Satan, wants to steal, kill and destroy; BUT God knows the plans He has for them and they are for a future and a hope and not calamity and despair.  One of the gals talked about how she keeps feeling shame and guilt for her past and she can’t get past that.

That’s when I began talking about the blood of Jesus–hence today’s verses.  This is when the power really kicked in.  We went to the verses in 1 John 1:7 and 9 and 1 John 2:1-2 about how the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to please us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 2:1-2 talks about if we sin, we have an advocate, a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one who is the propitiation, the mercy seat, the covering, for our sin.

In the English Standard Version, the language seems to be more graphic.  I like that.  Like in the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit comes upon Saul, David, Samson and Gideon, it says that He rushed upon them.  I really love that picture.  Well in Leviticus 3:1-2, I really love this picture:  If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord.  And he (the priest) shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar.

Oh God, throw Jesus’ blood against wherever it is You throw it to cover me from all unrighteousness!  We prayed on Sunday night that God would throw His blood to cover the ladies’ sins and wounds and scars and to bring healing and freedom.  It was Susan Powers from the 90’s that used to yell “Stop the insanity!”  I yell “Stop the insanity in Jesus’ name!”  All because of the blood of Jesus!  Throw His blood against the altar to cover those of us who are being sanctified.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:7

*Image from ‘The Bleeding Temple”


Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

Acts 5-20So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell.  They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…

*Image from Brittalafont.com

 


Real Change

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:3-7

I was just at jail the other night, to lead a Bible study for interested women inmates.  I always pray that God would lay on my heart what to share. I’m never quite sure who is going to be there.  I can guess that a couple of the ones from the weeks before will still be in, but when I count on it, they either get switched out, or they don’t feel like coming.  But God knows.

Change was on my heart.  Plus God’s overwhelming mercy that shows up and brings about the change in our lives that we need.  If God doesn’t show up in my life to change me, I am stuck in the same old rut. And that rut doesn’t stay the same, it finds ways to get worse.  I am no different than the women in orange that I go to meet with.

I began the jail study by asking, on a scale of 1-10, to give a number of how much they really want to change–so they would never return to jail or prison, so they would be free from addiction, and so they would be with their kids again.  Each of the six ladies said it was definitely a 10. But then I said what was their reality of change score. They each said it was more like a 2 or a 3, maybe a 4. That’s why they are “boomerangs.” I have seen them again and again over the years.

Instead of lecturing them about knocking off their stupid ways, or not really wanting it bad enough, I turned to Titus 3, which God had put on my heart.  I shared how they only way we can really change on the outside is for God to change us on the inside. We are all like the description of verse 3–foolish, disobedient, and slaves to our passions.  All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,  Romans 3:23  That’s the sin condition.  That’s why God had to send Jesus to save us.  We just can’t save ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

There is the account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9, which we read the week before.  David hunted down anyone he could show kindness to on the behalf of his friendship covenant with Jonathan.  Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s crippled son who lived in hiding because he deserved to die when his grandfather King Saul died in battle years before.  

When the king died, they wiped out all of the sons and grandsons, so there was no claim to the throne. So when now King David found him (appeared), it was Meph’s  day of reckoning.

But instead of pronouncing Meph’s death sentence, David showed the same incredible mercy God shows us: David took Meph to Jerusalem to eat at his table as his son for the rest of his life.  No longer a death sentence, but now treated like the king’s son and living in the palace.

¤ That’s exactly what God does for us.  We have all sinned, but instead of crushing us like ants, He appears in the form of Jesus and pours goodness and loving kindness out, because of God’s mercy.  Also it is because of His covenant love for us, just like David’s covenant love that he had with Jonathan. He saves us, just like Mephibosheth was saved, and gives us a seat at His table.  It’s not because of works done by us in righteousness–we don’t earn it or deserve it.

¤ The other good news–God washes us because we are dirty because of sin.  Not just people with a rap sheet, but all of us, because all have sinned.  And not just new believers, but all of us regularly. We all need washing. Jesus told Peter at the foot washing at the Last Supper that he was clean and he just needed his feet washed (John 13:10).  So the good news for believers is that we get washed with a cleansing that lasts. It is a part of our spiritual renewal and regeneration that takes place at our new birth.

Isaiah 1:18 reads, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  We get them washed away.  And then the Holy Spirit renews us.  Again, not just once when we are born again, but all of the time.  That is good news! It is this renewing that they need to change to not keep coming back to jail again and again.  It is what I need to break my sin habits and to keep becoming who it is that He wants me to be–not the fleshly me that craves self and not the things of the Spirit.         

¤ But that renewing of the Holy Spirit is also what keeps me going in my Christian life, some fifty years after my new birth.  Psalm 103:5 promises, He satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  And Isaiah 40:31: But they who with for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.                 Image result for Titus 3:3-7

The renewing work of Holy Spirit is to keep changing me to be more like Jesus and it is to keep giving me the youth and energy that I need to enjoy life and to live it to its fullest!

¤¤I read a lot that we’re supposed to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday.  Well, I did it at jail, and I’m doing it as I write this. The good news is that Jesus changes everything and He is changing me.  Without that I am toast. And without that x factor, so are those women that I spoke to in jail. He is the key to changing the heart and real change in our behavior and in our life.

 


From Alienated to Reconciled

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation–Colossians 1:19-22 NIV

The story of the Bible starting in Genesis is that man was created to be with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening. What fellowship, what perfection.  Then sin entered, disrupting that bliss. And boom! Separation, alienation, sin, finger pointing, blame, toil and pain.  Genesis 3:15 contains a promise that one day someone from Eve’s seed would come and crush Satan’s head. It’s been a long time in waiting…

The best news in all the world is that our alienation from God is ended and we are reconciled to the King and the Judge of all of the universe and of all time. God sent His Son, His only begotten Son Jesus, the One who would contain all of the fullness of Him in bodily form to come and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  In dying on the cross, shedding His blood, Jesus made peace. The result: God is no longer against us, but for us. His wrath is satisfied. How can it be?

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.  That is what gave Jesus the authority to reconcile everything to Himself when He died on the cross.  When He shed His blood on the cross, He brought peace to everything and to everyone that was totally alienated from God.

When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it alienated humanity from God, nature from God, humanity from each other, and humanity from ourselves.  That’s why we need counseling. We can’t even get along with ourselves. Romans 8:19 says that even creation is awaiting its redemption. It was thrown off by sin too.  Jesus came to bring reconciliation to all parties by shedding His blood on the cross.

Once we were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.  That’s why people can’t stand Christians, can’t stand church, and can’t stand the name of Jesus.  It is really because they are enemies of God because of their sin. They don’t know that. John 3:19-20 tells us that men (and women) love the darkness because their deeds are evil.  That causes them to hate the light.

Some people can’t stand the idea of the Biblical God, so they just make up their own God.  They imagine God to be the way they would like Him to be, which is heavy on loving and very light on judging, except for the people that they don’t like.

But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.  Reconciliation Col 1-19involves a change in the relationship between God and man.  There has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of peace and fellowship.  2 Corinthians 5:18 says that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.  And now the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  It is all because of the blood of Jesus.  

Now we are found to be holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  In a jail Bible study, a woman said, “I am nothing but an old junkie.”  I said with a fiery determination, “You are not!” She said, “That’s what I feel like.  That’s how people treat me.” She has called out to Jesus to save her. She is earnestly attempting to leave her life of drugs behind her, but still has relapses.  

I took her and the other women to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers..nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We were all washed, sanctified and justified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit of our God.  We are not old junkies, we are not just ‘sinners saved by grace,’ or anything else that would minimize this reconciled, changed and empowered position.  We are washed and clean, friends of God, ready for action!

*Picture from Google Images

 

 

 


First things first

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  Colossians 1:15-18

When I was in college there was this cult, “The Way International,” that was sweeping the campus.  This was in the late 70’s, so it was a while ago. They would prey on vulnerable students with the pick up line, “Do you want abundant life?”  Then they would invite them to a weekend retreat for $250 and brainwash them. Their main book was “Jesus Christ is NOT God.”

Two gals on my dorm floor were getting sucked in.  They hadn’t gone to the weekend retreat because they didn’t have $250, but they went to their so called Bible studies.  I kept saying, “It’s a cult. Get away.” I was like 19, so not a fully developed brain…I went with them to one of their meetings.  Of course, people from “The Way” drove and it was a snaggly route all over the city, in the dark. They went through this programmed Bible study, so to speak, and sang a couple of strange hymns, and one of the people spoke in tongues of some sort.  As soon as the meeting part was over they broke out wine and started downing it, which I thought was strange.

The other two young women and I were the only non-groupies in this apartment.  I was sitting on the floor chatting when one of the leaders asked me what I thought about the study.  I launched into a complete monologue about why Jesus had to be God, not taking a breath because I knew they would break in and this was my only chance.  The person who asked me was standing and I was sitting. He snapped his fingers and within seconds the whole group was standing encircled around me.

I kept talking, going through Colossians 1, John 1 and Hebrews 1.  Then I went through Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8 and Romans 6:23. As soon as I finished, they nodded silently not saying a word.  No one spoke a word in response. We were there for at least another half an hour and no one talked to me, only to the other two students with me.  As I look back, I’m fortunate that we got home that night! The good news is that the two young women that came with me joined my dorm Bible study and quit going there, which was my intent.

Colossians 1 proclaims the glorious truth that Jesus Christ IS God and He is the king and Lord of the universe.  After Jesus rose from the grave, He was alive on the earth for 40 days. He then ascended into Heaven.

He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high and from there He upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).  Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, Hebrews 1:3 words it that He is the exact imprint of His (God’s) nature.  

Moving on in Colossians 1 it says For by Him all things were created.   In other words, Jesus created everything.  John 1:3 tells us the same thing: All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.  So get this “Mother Nature” thing out of your vocabulary.  It is a slap in the face to Jesus every time you say it! He made everything and is behind what takes place in nature.  In Him all things hold together.

All things were created for Him.  Everything, even Satan and demons.  They were created to bring glory to Jesus.  Have you ever thought of it that way? They are under Jesus’ authority, so whether we can wrap our minds around it–they are Jesus’ pawns.  World leaders were created for Jesus, mosquitos were, everything.

Jesus is the head of the church.  If we diss the church, then we are disrespecting the head of the church, which is Jesus.  The church is the agent which God has chosen to carry His great name and to fulfill the great commission.  It is not perfect, but it has a perfect head. Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us, God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.  

foam fingerSo that in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  You wouldn’t say to your spouse, “You’re in my top five.”  Same with Jesus. Jesus must be our number one. If you put Him first, according to Matthew 6:33, everything else will fall into place.  I’ll never forget when the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl and they stuck the microphone in front of Kurt Warner asking him how he did it.  He said, “First things first. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He now has a ministry called “First things first.”

That should be all of our taglines.  

 


By Your blood You ransomed people from every tribe

For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering.  For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts.  Malachi 1:11

Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  Revelation 5:9

Back story: I live sandwiched between two Native American reservations.  When I  moved here just over 25 years ago, I cried out to God that a Gospel witness would be raised up with the Native community.  It seemed so dark.  The longer I’ve been here, the more I have seen the darkness grip the lives of families in the school system, and more closely in the lives of women I am able to personally interact with about Jesus in the County jail.

thumb_IMG_1683_1024.jpgOver 75% of the women that I have met with over the past 18 years at the jail have been Native.  So many are gripped with addictions, mainly alcohol and meth, but also heroin.  They study the Bible in jail, but once they get out, they fall so quickly back into the old party ways.  And then they are back in jail again, or prison.

Last fall the outreach committee from our church began to dream and plan to bring in a group from Minneapolis, the “Heart of the City” Band.  A woman on the committee heard the leader share their story on the radio about how the group had been going to reservations in South Dakota and God had been using them to reach the Native Americans with the good news of Jesus.

The leader, Dan Adler is a gifted song writer,  just “happens” to be from this area.  He grew up just down the road from the one reservation and learned to play the guitar in the tiny church down the road from the reservation where we have held prayer meetings in years past that God would raise up a Native church.  I called Dan, a cold call, and said: “Dan, come home.”  I explained how we have a heart to see the Natives reached just like he told of how they were reaching the ones in South Dakota.

He has written music with Native flute and drumming music and one of the ladies in the group is a Native American who God has rescued from a life of bondage to drugs and trauma from an early age.  She has a powerful testimony.

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Last weekend, our dreams came to fruition.  The multicultural “Heart of the City” band did a two hour concert on the tribal grounds amphitheater, powerfully and beautifully proclaiming the truth of the Gospel to the land that Jesus is Lord and the one true way to God.  They proclaimed healing to this land and to their hearts because of the Jesus way.  Jesus is not a white Jesus or a black Jesus, or a Native Jesus.  On earth He was from the small tribe of Judah, in Israel.  But He is for all people everywhere.

This was to a place where this has never been done!  About 150 people were there.  While not many Natives were in attendance, this was a first fruits, a leading out in worship.

In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat and all of Judah faced an attack from the Moabites and the Ammonites.  He called out to God, who told him not to be afraid or dismayed, “For the battle is not yours but God’s,” vs. 17.  All of Judah bowed in worship to the Lord and praised God in holy attire.  And when they began to sing and praise the Lord, God set an ambush against the attackers.  The two opposing forces turned on each other and they were routed.

There were so many spoils that it took three days to carry it all off.  On the fourth day they assembled in “The Valley of Berucah” which means the Valley of Blessing, for they blessed the Lord (really, the Lord blessed them).

So Jehoshaphat led the battle simply by worshipping and God did the work.  “The battle is not yours but God’s.”  The battle for the hearts and lives of the Native peoples is not ours, but it is God’s.”

The weapons we fight with are not of the flesh but have divine power to demolish strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:4  May strongholds be demolished because mighty weapons of mass destruction were dispatched last night!

May this lead the way for a harvest of souls amongst the people of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians.

This is one of their songs:“We Speak Life” Heart of the City”

Check it out!  It’s a powerful song.

 

 


I’m the One in Charge Here: Jesus

But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.  NIV  Philippians 3:20-21 

Jesus worldWe used to sing the song in music class “He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.”  I suppose today that’s not a politically correct song, so it’s on the banned list for music teachers.  Perhaps instead it would be sung, “We’ve got the whole wide world in our hands,” or something along that line.  But the good news for today is that Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand, and He is the One who brings everything under His control by His power.  He still does hold the world in His hands, and He always will.

Colossians 1:17 repeats this truth.  It is talking about Jesus: He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  Jesus holds all things together in the world.  Not Al Gore, not any man, but Jesus. Jesus is the One who keeps the sun from burning us up or from freezing us out.  He is the one to keep the disaster movies from happening. He is the fat lady who sings.

My husband and I just watched a movie, “How it Ends.”  In Acts 1:7 Jesus told the disciples, It is not for you to know times or seasons the Father has fixed by His own authority.  Don’t get sucked in.  It will end how God has fixed how it will end, not in any other way or time.  

Another verse about Jesus being in charge is Hebrews 1:3: Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.  After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  

There is no need to fear that an EMP will wipe us out, a nuclear disaster, an asteroid, or even global warming.  Jesus holds the universe under control by the word of His power. That same power will one day transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.  That’s a part of our hope in Heaven. One day we will not have the limitations of death, pain, tiredness, disabilities, and disease.

There was the beer commercial with people sitting in lawn chairs on the beach, drinking beers, with the caption: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  If you don’t know Jesus, that’s true. But if you do know Jesus, the best is yet to come. It does get WAY better than this!

 


No grumbling

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received Jesus joyful.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  Luke 19:5-7

One of the things that catches me as I read through the Gospels is the different responses to Jesus.  Typically they can be boiled down to three base emotions: mad, sad and glad.

  • Mad–In Luke 4:16-30 there is the account of Jesus going back to His hometown just after His baptism.  He picked up the scroll and read the Messianic text from Isaiah 61, and then said: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  In other words, “I’m here.”  By the end of their discourse they get so enraged that they drive him out to the brow of the hill and try to throw him down the cliff.  When we try to talk to some people today about Jesus, they get that mad too.  They might not try to push us over a cliff, but they might threaten us with a lawsuit if we ever pray in public again, ending the prayer “in Jesus’ name.”  Oh, that makes them mad.
  • Sad–In Luke 18:18-24 there is the account of the ‘Rich Young Ruler.’  He came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus told him one thing that he lacked to be really good, since that was what they young man was going for, was to sell all that he had.  Verse 23 tells us “When he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”  I have seen many people walk away from Jesus sad because they love other things more than Jesus.  It’s usually men, because it’s women that I work with primarily.  They get involved in relationships that they know aren’t pleasing to Jesus, and they pick that guy over Jesus.  They would rather have a guy by their side, even if he’s not a good guy, than to wait for God’s best.  For others, they pick sports.  A friend’s son got more involved in hockey, so she quit coming to church because hockey tournaments took them away every weekend.  They drifted away from pursuing a relationship with Jesus.
  • Glad–In Luke 19:1-10, we see that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully.  He didn’t come up with excuses why Jesus couldn’t come to his house, he gladly welcomed Him in.  And then Zacc repented, telling Jesus how he was going to repay everyone that he defrauded.  What a joy it is to see someone receive the good news of the Gospel with gladness, and to see his or her life turned around by Jesus.

But there is another emotion in the Zacchaeus account that grabbed me today.  It’s in the grumbling.pngverses that are printed above.  Luke 19:7 tells us when they saw that Jesus was going to Zacchaeus’ house they grumbled.  We don’t know who the they’s are, but I can guess.  It’s the people who have resisted Jesus all along–the establishment, the Pharisees, the religious leaders.  I’m sorry it doesn’t rhyme with mad, sad and glad.

They grumbled.  Was it the whine of the self righteous, judgy, I’m so good I don’t need Jesus religious onlookers?  They are onlookers because they will never get involved, but only stand off from a distance and criticize.  Grumbling looks like it wouldn’t be as bad as the guys in Jesus’ hometown that tried to push Him off the cliff, but let’s look at Psalm 78:17-21 to see what God thought about the grumblers in the wilderness:

Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.  They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”

God’s response: Therefore, when the Lord heard, He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob, His anger rose against Israel.

We might not look at grumbling as rebelling against God, testing God in our hearts, demanding things of Him and speaking against Him, but it is.  And it stirs up His anger, which never is a good idea.

In Matthew 23 Jesus delivered a series of woes to the Pharisees and religious leaders, telling them exactly what He thought about their self righteous ways.  He said they preached but didn’t practice it, and that they shut the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.  They wouldn’t enter themselves and they weren’t allowing others to enter either.  They were full of greed and self indulgence, appearing righteous, but inside were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

I want to have the same reaction to people that Jesus has.  And I want to grumble at the things He grumbles at, not the other way around.  The way I get Jesus’ heart is to spend time with Him, lots more of it than I spend on the influence of the world.  It’s too easy to pick up that grumbly, judgy attitude about people and think things like, “They should just get a job,” or, “Who do they think they are?”

There is no end to the wrong attitudes I can have and I can end up being just like the Pharisees.  Jesus said in Matthew 7 to take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  That pretty much knocks me out of opening a speck picking business.

The people that grumbled when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house had a heart that resisted Jesus.  I don’t want a heart that resists Jesus.  Don’t you think it’s easiest to pick out other people’s faults when you’re trying to avoid your own?  That’s one way to resist Jesus–deflecting to other people’s stuff.

So, no grumbling, speck picking, or resisting Jesus’ work in my heart.  Not today, not ever.


‘Cause I’ve got friends in low places and high places

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all making life and breath and everything.  And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him…He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.  Acts 17:24-31

I’ve been going to our County jail for some 18 years now, leading Bible studies with any interested women on Sunday nights.  I first went to meet with one Native American young lady who came in late one night and was intent on killing herself in any way she possibly could.  The jailer, a friend of mine, asked her if she had ever read the Bible.  She said, “Oh no, we’re not allowed to believe in Jesus.”

He asked if she would be willing to talk to a friend of his, and she said yes.  He got permission for me to come see her during visiting hours, and I talked through the plexiglass the first couple of visits.  That was highly ineffective and I asked if there was any way to meet face to face.  We were able to secure the room used to meet with attorneys, and from there, I was able to tell her about what she began to coin as the ‘Jesus Way.’  She soon began to invite the whole cell and I just kept coming back.

I used to think they just came to get out of their cell.  Though it is probably partially true, there is still something more that draws them.  There is a boomerang effect with many of the women.  They are back in again and again.  I like it, giving me the chance to speak truth into their lives for a longer stretch.  Once they get out, they fall so quickly back into their life of drugs and alcohol.

This Acts passage is one of my favorites to proclaim to them.  Paul spoke to the Greeks that were so polytheistic that they even had an altar to the ‘unknown god.’  Today we call our unknown god our ‘higher power.’  Our rock can give us the strength we need to get us through treatment, even though we’ve been here eight times before.  “I am here to tell you about a God you can know.  He has a name, and He knows your name…”

The truths that I get to present in jail are the ones I want to tell my nonChristian friends and coworkers.  They are ones I would put on a billboard in Hollywood or in Washington DC. If I could summarize them from Acts 17, they would look like this:

  1. God is the origin of all things and the Lord of all things.
  2. He is  unchanging (not relative).
  3. God has a name.  He has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus, the name that is above every name.
  4. Human life is sacred and important because He has created us for a purpose.  He gave us a purpose, a destiny, and He has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
  5. One day Jesus is going to return and judge the world in righteousness.

Acts 17.jpgThese are our reference points, fixed and unchanging.  You can call them ‘absolute truths.’  Just like Sir Isaac Newton named physical laws that governed the universe, these would be like the spiritual ones that govern us.  I’m sure there are more, like the ones Campus Crusades, or ‘Cru’, use.  Or others like “sin has consequences,” and “somebody has to pay the price for sin.”

What Paul proclaimed on Mars Hill says it.  He didn’t use Jesus’ name.  He referred to Him at the end when he said, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead. in verse 31.

The struggle today is over so many things.  We’ve tossed God out as our ultimate reality and our ultimate truth.  We’ve made truth relative and individual.  We have tried to teach kids self esteem and morality without a basis of a having a loving God who has created us for a purpose–someone who knows the number of hairs on our head, who gave us a plan and a destiny, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives.

Instead, we have taught a secular humanistic version of where we came from, described by Frank Peretti in The Chair: stripped down we’re really saying, “Kids, you’re an accident, with no reason for being here.  You are a meaningless conglomeration of molecules strung together purely by chance billions and billions of years ago.  All of the dust and the gas in the galaxy floated around and bumped into each other and said, ‘Let’s be organic.’  You have no reason for being here.  Your existence is pointless; the universe won’t mind when you die; you’ll just become compost…Now for self esteem class: You’re an accident, but a good accident.  You can do things–but what if you can’t?  Because people appreciate you–but what if they don’t? (This is a wonderful video series if you ever get time to watch it–do!)

The good news is that Jesus came to die on the cross for you and for me.  One day He is going to return and set the wrong right.  We will give account to Him.  Last night I got to sit with three delightful women in jail and shared the good news once again with them.  We laughed and prayed and had a great time in the Word of God.  They might be in low places now, but they get to hook up with my Friend Jesus who is in the Highest of High places…

 

 

 


A Tale of Two Destinies

Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, and in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”   Jeremiah 9:23-24

 I had this male friend in high school that was very much into money and also into girls. Both were the driving forces of his life and he let everyone know about it. He knew I was a Christian and deep down it bothered him. When he got drunk, he would take very two pathshurtful stabs at me. When he was in college he would talk about how he was going to make all kinds of money. He knew that I wanted to either be a missionary or do full time Christian work and he would dig at how worthless that was.

I maybe saw him three or four times after high school and this was the repeated theme of our talks that would turn into arguments, because he would be sadly drunk and gloating over the wrong things. The last time I saw him was at our twenty-year class reunion. He was already retired as a millionaire but was not happy, though he tried to rub his money in my face.

About ten years ago I had a dream that he had built a big structure back in our hometown and threw a big party.  He had invited 230 people to it and served exotic food and served free drinks. I refused to go. In my dream, he had rigged the building with bombs and had killed all of the people. In the next clip of my dream I went to visit him on death row and spoke to him about Heaven and Hell. It was as if I was really speaking to him.

I found out from my sister a day or two after the dream that this friend had been found dead and that he had died the same night I had the dream.   I went to the online condolences and put Jeremiah 9:23-24 with my sympathy message to his family. I don’t know if he ever turned his life’s ambition around, but my prayer is that he called out to Jesus before he died.

That is an extreme example of the message that we each need to take to heart. Some trust in riches, others trust in their strength, others in their brains or wisdom. Each of those things will only take you so far. Without Jesus, it will not take you beyond the grave.

If you do know Jesus, it is still tempting to try to trust in your own strength, money or wisdom. I Corinthians 1:27-31 flies in the face of that. Paul writes that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak to shame the strong; the low and despised to shame the highly esteemed. In other words, God is looking for a few weak people.

If we’re going to boast, boast in the Lord. Jeremiah said to boast that we know and understand the Lord, that He practices love, justice and righteousness. Paul said to boast in the cross.  In the end, the one who dies with the most toys dies. Sadly, they go to Hell if they don’t know Jesus. The one who boasts in Jesus Christ, in His cross, and in the God who practices love, justice and righteousness, will inherit eternal life.

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*Images from shutter stock and steemit.com