Tag Archives: Bible

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.  

 


What do you want Me to do for you? I want to be healed

The blind beggar called out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, Rabbi, let me blind man.jpgrecover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.  Mark 10:48-52

Have you had weeks and months that just kind of blur together and not much big goes on, and then ‘Boom!’ big stuff happens?  Well, this last week was one of those weeks.  Let me back up.  For about the last four or five months, my left shoulder has been hurting, like bad. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even open up my car door without extreme pain kicking in.  I suppose it was a pinched nerve or a herniated disc.  For most of the last two or three weeks my arm was numb and cold when I woke up in the morning.

I began going to the chiropractor in June two to three times a week.  I knew I should have attended to it sooner, just too busy.  In early July the chiro said, “I can’t do anything more.  You’ve got to go to the doctor.  You’ve probably got to get an MRI.”  I nodded, but thought: “No way.  I’m not going to get an MRI.  I’m not going through all of that.”

Second strand of the story:  Over the last year, my husband and I have gotten to know a Christian brother better.  He’s the kind of guy that’s full of Holy Spirit energy.  He’s into dreams and interpreting them, so we like to talk about how God speaks to us.  He went on a missions trip to Haiti about a year and a half ago.  While there, whoever was leading the group told Brian to take charge of a line of locals who were there for healing. He was to pray for them to be healed.  Brian was thrown into just doing it, and God met him.  By the end of the day, almost all of the people were healed that he had prayed for.

He came back home thinking, “If God could work through me in Haiti, why can’t he work through me here to pray for people and see them healed?”  So he began to pray for people to be healed and things began to happen.  Brian began a small group Bible study in our area.  He has been inviting us to join us, but it hasn’t been until the last month or so that we have begun to go.

Another guy has been at the small group who also has the gift of healing, Barry.  And I sit there with a shoulder that hurts so much I can’t open my car door…I’ve been reading through the Gospels and ‘faith’ seems to be the thing that just keeps jumping out over and over.  So after the chiropractor said, “Yup, your shoulder is messed up,” I guess I knew it was time to actually apply faith and open my mouth.

So I did.  At the end of the small group, when it was time to pray, Brian asked if anyone needed any prayer.  Someone else said something first.  And then  I finally said, “My shoulder has been really bad lately.  I need prayer for it.”  So Brian said, “Okay, let’s pray for it.”  He prayed for God to heal it, then asked me to move it around.  “Nothing.”  He prayed for it again.  Still nothing.  Then another gal said, “Stand up.”  Then she had me raise my right arm.    She said, “I can feel and see the knot.  It’s huge.”

He prayed again.  Then he said, “Move it around.”  The loudest snap and crack sounded and the gal standing to my right yelled, “The knot is moving!  It’s gone!”  I moved my arm, and the knot and pinching and pain was gone.  That was five days ago.  It’s still gone.

There’s more to the story.  My husband struggles with anxiety a lot.  Like my shoulder pain, it has become more and more distinct and debilitating.  He has resisted going to the small group because he’s anxious about having to go to work the next day.  My reply is that we all have to go to work the next day, but that doesn’t change anything.  He wasn’t going to go this week because of it.

There were guest missionaries there from Albania.  They had become Christians through Barry.  As Brian was praying for me, the missionary wife was singing quietly over the whole while.  I thought it was pretty, but didn’t make much of it.  Wayne left as soon as prayer was over.  We drove separately so he could do that, our compromise.  When I got home, he said:  “I wished everyone would have stopped talking when that lady sang.  It was like a wave of peace washed over me.  I wanted her to sing over me for my anxiety.”

I asked why he didn’t stay then, but his anxiety had gotten the best of him.  But he called Barry’s the next day, in an act of faith, and asked if he could come and have them pray for his anxiety.  This was even bigger than my shoulder!  This anxiety has gripped him all of his life.

So Wayne went, and Barry and his wife and the missionaries prayed over him.  The wife sang.  Another miracle happened this week.  When Wayne left, it was like a load was taken off of him.  Peace that he hasn’t known swept over him.

I am not saying that this is a once and for all deal, because fear keeps knocking.  As we processed that freedom, we talked about how Jesus is the way and the truth–Satan is a liar.  Jesus is all about faith–Satan is all about fear.  James 4:7 says to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  I say he must flee from us when we take authority in Jesus’ name.  I rebuke you fear and anxiety in Jesus’ name.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


What in the world is going on?

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.  And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.  Thus, Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.  Acts 4:32-37

binoculars-1209011__340.jpgYou don’t have to watch the current events on the news long to realize that we are on the brink of something.  If you dig deeper, you will see people predicting that our financial bubble is soon to burst.  In fact, this time it won’t be a downturn in just the United States, but a global meltdown.  I have heard the ‘Chicken Littles’ come and go, but now there are so many of them from so many directions that it is getting hard to ignore.  Read Ron Edwards’ blog to get his stats about many current related topics: Living Eternal Now

This is a quote about world-drought from Hackett Financial Advisors,

“Things are happening that haven’t happened in a long time,” said Hackett. “It’s just the beginning.  We have data that goes back to the 1600s and 1800s from ice core samples, tree rings, and from actually written testimony of the kind of problems that they had,” said Hackett.  “We are not doomist and gloomist, that’s not our modus operandi,” he said. “But the world we are heading into is a world of food scarcity and local famines.  “It’s not going to be pleasant. It’s going to be a very difficult time. We’re going to have to come up with new ways of growing food in this more difficult environment.”

And then there is the political climate of hate, coming from both sides.  It is like a pressure cooker that is soon to pop the lid off.  I am old enough to remember pre-Watergate years when things were not divisive and there could be a sense of unity regardless of who had the majority in the House.

All of this is to say what echoes in the back of many peoples’ minds, including my own: “Are we headed into the End Times?”  This is a very real question.  Like, what would you do if there was a global financial collapse and money wasn’t any good anymore?  Further, all of your savings that you banked on for retirement and security suddenly vanished?  Or, what if drought really began to take over and food resources become so scarce that grocery stores didn’t have shelves of food anymore?  And hyper inflation took over, driving prices through the roof?

My husband and I have made some new friends recently that are real life ‘Dooms Day Preppers.’  This other couple are not Christians, so they aren’t operating from the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit.  We have to remind ourselves of the promises of Scripture, like in Matthew 6:31-32 where it says, Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

We have had many good opportunities to share about Jesus with them.  I believe that they are in our lives for a specific reason.  They are challenging us to get ready for a coming physical crisis by storing up food and supplies.  We are wanting to communicate what it means to store up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust does not corrupt and where thieves do not steal.  My prayer is that one day soon they will join the family.

As my husband and I look at what is going on currently, we can’t blow off our prepper friends.  Their take is that if the economy collapses and our money is no good, then stored up food and dry goods are worth more than a whole bunch of paper bills.  They foresee that the drought will cause issues with the non drought areas because people will migrate here and take over our resources.  They are also convinced that an EMP is a credible threat (electro magnetic pulse that would wipe out all computers and electronic devices).  We know that nothing that will happen that doesn’t come in and out of God’s hands.

However, that doesn’t negate Acts 4 and the kind of community that we may have to become.  My view of the End Times is a PreWrath Framework.  That means that I don’t believe that believers will be raptured up before any specific tribulation will come.  I take Scripture at face value, which means that in Matthew 24 for instance, when Jesus gave a  timeline, He was telling us something.  That timeline includes wars, famines and earthquakes, tribulation and false prophets, lawlessness increasing, and the love of many growing cold.  That’s just the beginning of the birth pangs.

But then there is the specific chronology of events starting in vs. 15: The Abomination of Desolation (in the Temple in Jerusalem), THEN the Great Tribulation (Satan’s wrath cf Rev. 6:12), and then the return of Christ in the clouds, along with the gathering of His elect from the four winds.

I have written a novel that puts a story line to this framework, The Gathering.  The link is there.  It is on Lulu.com, just in case you want a little summer reading.  My conclusion is that we must live in a community of believers much like the Acts believers did.  In order to do that, we must have things to share–hard goods.  My admonishment is this: you might want to ask yourself the same question: What in the world is going on?  And then do something.  Pray and ask God to tell you what you need to prepare.  It might be radical.

What we are doing is kind of radical.  We aren’t spending our money on a summer vacation.  It’s going into canning and other resources that will we will use in the future if the cost of things spiral out of control.  We have an eye on how this can be used to share with others.

 

 


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…

 

 

 


The Great Exchange

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God…but they became futile in their thinking…Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for stuff (me)…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  Romans 1:21-25

I used to think this was the progression that idol worshipers in places like Papua New Guinea followed–some remote island.  But not me.  I’m not an idol worshiper!  I don’t have carved images in my backyard or on my mantel.  And I’m not like the pagans in my community who go golfing on Sunday mornings while I’m up early for prayer meeting, Sunday school and church.  They have idols, but not me.

Think again.  I’ve been slowly working through Brad Bigney’s  book, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols with a great group of women.  We’re just in the second chapter, so the best is yet to come in this archaeological dig of the heart.  I’m just in the first layer of unearthing my own heart.  I’m seeing that, though I might cloak my idols in a different veneer, they are there.

Anything I exchange for the one true God is an idol.  I can exchange the glory of God for stuff, materialistic things that I can hold on to.  And I can exchange the truth of God for any lie that I cling to that I think is easier to hold on to than to really believe what He has promised.  That’s my great exchange.

idol-7Back in Exodus when the Israelites were waiting for Moses to come back down from the mountain they had Aaron make a golden calf.  That seemed so silly to me.  They had just seen God part the Red Sea and drown the Egyptian army and all.  Now they have to wait 40 days and it’s too long?  But God has given us front row seats to His glory too and when He’s not on our timetable we go running off to something or someone else all too easily.  We turn to something we can control because we lose the faith or patience or the toughness that it takes to wait it out just a little longer until God delivers.

I remember working at an all girls’ camp and being over a dozen counselors and about 50 teenage girls.  The tricky part was that there was a boys camp across the lake and around the bend.  So my sleep was disrupted regularly by trying to catch the occasional interlopers.  The one that sticks in my mind was a twenty something counselor that was busted hooking up with a guy counselor at chapel point, (of all places) to have sex.  Her justification was, “in case she never gets a chance again.”  Really?  So like the golden calf crowd.

We get jumpy and stay in the drivers seat and exchange the truth of God for a lie.  The lie might be that trusting in money is better than trusting in God.  Isn’t it funny that we have “In God we trust” on our money (when we really trust in money)?  A friend from college stopped in about ten years after and I asked him how he was doing spiritually.  He was an engineer in a glass company and was doing quite well.  He was shockingly honest and said that he wasn’t doing well spiritually.  He said he had the same attitude he used to have when he smoked pot, but now it was money that he was smoking.  I looked at him funny, and he said that he was embedded in materialism.  No one at church bothered him about it. He said it wasn’t like when he smoked pot, but it was the same rebellion.  The good news was when I saw him about five years later and asked him if he was still smoking money, he said he wasn’t.  I could tell he was much healthier spiritually.

 God isn’t always on our timetable so we get take matters into our own hands, just like the golden calf crowd and we turn to something we can control, says Bigney–even though idols serve us so poorly, and hurt us and cost us.  But we think they’re more predictable than God is, and they keep us in the driver’s seat.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that “We walk by faith, not by sight,” but I think at core we wrestle with that most of the time.  The first thing Martha said to Jesus in John 11 was “You’re late,” when she had sent word to him that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus didn’t come right away and now he was dead.  Don’t we tell God He’s late a lot?    Jesus told Martha it was for the glory of God that He waited.  In chapter 2 of his book, Bigney says that “God is good, but He’s not safe. He will mess with your life–not just to be messing with it, but to conform you to the image of Christ.”

Jesus came late to mess with Martha and Mary because He had something so much bigger up His sleeve than just healing their brother.  He wanted to prove that He was the resurrection and the life and to give them a sneak preview of a huge coming attraction–His own resurrection.  And they got front row seats.  Wow.  Follow Jesus and that’s what He’ll do with you.  Put your life on the line and He’ll take your clean little life and turn it into a big, messy one.  Is it safe?  NO.  But like Mr. Beaver told Susan in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course He isn’t safe.  But He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Still in chapter 2, Bigney quotes Richard Keyes, from “The Idol Factory,” in No One but God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age.  Keyes says that, paraphrased, we make idols because we don’t want to face God himself and His holiness.  So rather than to deal with His lordship, we orient ourselves towards ‘creations,’ and kind of make up our own rules.

In other words, we have the evidence of God within ourselves and in the world, but it’s too demanding to play life by God’s rules.  So then we make up our own religion that looks kind of like God’s, but we’re the ones in control.  It’s too difficult to really draw near to God, because if you’re entertaining unconfessed sin, or flat out rebelling, you can’t be in the same zip code with God.  His holiness will consume you.  You’ll go nuts.

Keyes goes on to say, “Since we were made to relate to God, but do not want to face Him, we forever inflate things in this world to religious proportions to fill the vacuum left by God’s exclusion.”  That’s why we have elevated sports to such an over the top status, even in Christian families.  Bigney words it so well: “As Christians–lovers of Jesus Christ–we have a higher calling.”

As soon as we drift away from Christ and the centrality of the gospel, we start erecting substitutes for God.  That’s why our culture is so desperate to make heroes and celebrities our everything and everybody–because of our innate yearning for God and the freedom of His gospel, both of which we as a people have rejected.  And we try to fill the void with hero and celebrity worship.

The antidote?  Shine a light on your heart, but quickly turn it to Jesus.  Read the Gospels, delight in grace and what Jesus has done.  Don’t drift.  In Sunday School we decided to ask ourselves the question about what we needed to fast from that might have a foothold where it ought not have.  Bigney’s question in identifying idols is “Am I willing to sin to get it?”

Where have I exchanged God’s best for a lie, a cheap substitute?  Where have I caved to something that is easier than to walk by faith and have chosen instead to walk by sight?

We’re going on an archaeological dig straight into our hearts.  I’ll tell you what I find.


Let’s go Fishing

fishing with a net

Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’  And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at Your word I will let down the nets.’  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking…They were all astonished at the catch of fish they had taken…’Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’  Luke 5:1-11

This caught my attention today.  It was our fishing opener last weekend.  Our lake country is flooded with trucks pulling boats.  So I can picture it.  The guys had been fishing all night.  No luck.  I’ve had those days of fishing.  I’m a fair weather fisher.  My husband always says, “A bad day of fishing is better than a day at work,” but I still gauge my day of fishing on how many fish we come home with.  I’m with Peter, “We toiled all night and took nothing!”

The disciples still aren’t sure of who this Jesus was.  “But at Your word we’ll give it another try.”  And, boom!  There are so many fish both boats start to sink.  My thought would be, “I’m sticking with this guy, he knows where the fish are.”  But then Jesus says, From now on you’ll be catching men.

Catching men?  They were still in awe about the huge catch of fish that just wasn’t there.  And now this guy tosses in that they will be catching men?  Jesus must have hooked them, because verse 11 tells us, And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.  

Jesus knew where the fish were.  He could take them to depths or catches that they couldn’t humanly do.  Stick with Him and this could be the norm.  Peter caught the bigness of the moment.  He sunk to his knees and cried, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  He knew that not just anyone could fill empty nets.  Just wait Peter, I am going to fill those nets with people.

I am left with two thoughts spinning around in my head to mull over:

  1. Only Jesus can take me to the depths of life.  If I listen to Him, He’ll tell me where to cast my net and I’ll catch fish where there weren’t fish before.  Fish=people.  Fish are temporal, people are eternal.  I can fish all night on my own, but it’s not until He speaks and puts prompts on my heart to tell me who to go to and where that I am effective.  That’s the gist of the abiding life described in John 15:5, Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  Take me out into the deep God!  I need you to lead me.  Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go” is nothing compared to the places Peter went, and we go, led out by the Spirit.  Where do you want me to drop my nets today?
  2. From now on we’ll be catching people.  That word ‘catching’ is zogreo in the Greek.  Try to use that word in a sentence today at work to impress people (just kidding).  It means to entrap or catch alive.  It can mean to make a prisoner of war, like Satan does when used in 2 Timothy 2:26, that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.  Or it can mean to set people free from the trap they have been in.  In other words, “From now on you will be catching people out of Satan’s trap, setting them free for God’s kingdom.”  Some of those people that I know that are caught in traps are Christians. They aren’t free to do God’s will because they are stuck and aren’t running free.  They have what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 calls a stronghold (or two or three) in their life and it needs to be brought down.  Others are nonChristians and they don’t know Jesus yet and need to call on His name first and foremost to get free.  Who do you want me to help get out of a trap today?

Now, let’s go fishing!


How to please God

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8

The prophet Micah was asking about how to please God in Micah 6.  He asked if he should come before God with thousands of animals for burnt offerings or ten thousands of rivers of oil to burn incense as a fragrant offering.   In today’s terms we might ask if Micah 6-8we should go to church three times a week, become a missionary, or give all of your money to a good cause.

No, the answer is still the same.   God gives a picture of His true heart for how we should live in a way that pleases Him.  We should pursue justice, to love kindness and to be humble.  God’s answer to Israel and to us is today’s verse:  pursue justice, love kindness and be humble before God and others.

We find a similar response in Isaiah 58.  In that chapter, God told the people of Israel that even though they sought Him daily and even fasted to be religious, it didn’t amount to much.  God told them if they really wanted to please Him they should end wickedness, oppression, and injustice, to feed the hungry and take in the homeless.

The justice that we are to pursue isn’t just for ourselves; it is for those who have no voice.  It might be for those who don’t have the financial resources to get a good lawyer, or for children and the unborn.   God wants us to see others that are not as well off as we are and find ways to help them.

We are not to get confused and to think that ‘social justice’ is the Gospel, as some movements do.   But if I live a grace and truth filled, joyful and Jesus centered life–that should make me different. It should make me incredibly generous, and quick to embrace the messy people who have more needs than I can meet. I should be looking for ways to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

My eyes should always be looking outward, not in at my own safe little heterogeneous group or navel gazing at myself. One of my capstone verses is John 10:16 where Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice.”

Micah 6:8 mentions both justice and kindness. Synonyms for kindness are: gentleness, affection, warmth, concern and care.   This is a fruit of the Spirit, so as I am walking in the Spirit, kindness should be front and center. That slogan about practicing ‘random acts of kindness’ is kind of funny. Really, we should be practicing ‘intentional and well thought out acts of kindness on a regular basis.’ But that doesn’t make for a good t-shirt slogan.

Finally, God wants us to be humble.  It is easier to think about the opposite trait, which is pride.  James 4:6 tells us, “God oppose the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  And in Philippians 2:3 Paul writes, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  As Tim Keller said in The Art of Self Forgetfulness, “It’s not that you think less of yourself, it’s that you think of yourself less.” That’s what God is looking for. The thing about humility is that when you achieve it, no one will notice!

If you want to know how to please God, here it is: stand up for someone who can’t speak for him or herself, do an intentional and well thought out act of kindness daily, and make sure you don’t get the credit for it.

 


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.

boast 44 8

 

*Images from shutter stock and steemit.com