Sunday, August 09, 2020

Rise

 God is so rich in mercy and he loves us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sin, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you are saved.  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and sealed us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.

Ephesians 2:4-6, 7-10

Over and over I read about the generosity of God and the sacrifice of Jesus to deliver these riches to us. These origins of the faith, I cannot forget:  my peace from His torture, my healing from His wounds.  Heavenly realms are spoken in the present tense.  It’s now.   

“He raised me up” is the song by Josh Groban:

            He raised me so I can stand on mountains…

            He raised me up to walk on stormy seas….

What low place might we feel right now?  How might we “sit” ourselves in the heavenly realms with Christ?  Take 2 minutes and breathe that truth.  

So God can point to us in the future as the example of his incredible wealth of his grace and kindness, to show what is available for those united with Christ.

A life of meaning comes from the design of God.  We are to be the example to a lost world of his incredible grace and kindness.  To allow His gift to us to flow out is a gift, an honor, a burden.  The world doesn’t always seem to welcome it, but we an do no other thing.  Consider how we can show grace and kindness in all the places we are.


Monday, July 20, 2020

Truth

Jesus told them:  "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but wiall have the light of life."  The Pharisees complained, "You are bearing witness about yourself;  your testimony is not true."  Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don't know these things...
                                                                      John 8:12-14

Jesus comes as a witness, about himself and about God.  His truth comes from the Father:

"I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me."  (verse18

Jesus' truth comes through the Father and has its beginnings and endings in the Father.  In fact, Jesus claims to be the very evidence of the Father.  If you know Jesus (and the truth he tells) then you know the Father and His truth.

With competing priorities and half-truths (i.e. lies) continually around us, we need foundational truth.  This includes half-truths about our very identities.  Thus, truth becomes significant in our thoughts about our value and worth and thus our identity.  

As "Word of God," Jesus expresses God's foundational truth.  This can be seen in his teaching, his life, his death and resurrection.  This Word include what is accepted as Scripture formally and what is revealed by Jesus Holy Spirit, which he promised.  I must live by this pentultimate truth.

Thank you, Lord, for Jesus, your written Word and the continued conversations.  I need you, Father, every moment!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Identity

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on (get comfortable, button up, wear well) a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

As companions, bear with one another (stand together) and, even if a complaint, forgive each other.  In the same fashion as the Lord has forgiven you, you must forgive each other.

Above all this, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Colossians 3:12-14

Paul wants us to know who we are and whose we are, chosen with purpose by God.  Purposefully chosen and called to a purpose that can demonstrate His character to the world.  We are to get comfortable with the traits of His chosen people.  Wear them well, display them elegantly.  The Greek word is one of getting a robe put on correctly and getting comfortable in its layers.  The metaphor is perfect.

How might I get comfortable with compassion - letting my heart go out to others?  How might I be practiced in demonstrating kindness to all which whom I come in contact?  The robe I wear is not one of my own doing - making or earning - so being humble in this sacred role as chosen one, I must embrace. I must practice;  I must become "at home" in this role.  Whatever else I must take off or lay aside so that my own ego and personality might not keep me from gentleness or patience, I must!

My identity has changed.  I am no longer the rebellious one.  No longer the rogue warrior.  Now my identity originates from God's definitions and joins with His other chosen ones, because our level of interaction is further proof of this identity, which is not an individual one, but a communal one.  How I stand with my fellow appointees, especially in the application of love with each other, reveals the truth about me, the truth about the origins of my identity and my commitment to living out this role, which I gather from God and His truth about me.

Anything which tries to draw me away from these truths is suspect.  Anything which distracts me from my purpose is disposed of.  And actually, Paul gives us a way to identify the ways which will keep us focused as he continues:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...be thankful...let the word of Christ dwell with you, teaching and admonishing one another...and whatever you do, whether word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God....(verses 15-17)

Gratitude is the lead and follower in this chosen life!  What an honor!  What an opportunity!   What a high calling that should give us pause and power, to the glory of the one and only Son of God!




Saturday, June 27, 2020

In a Pandemic

It's Saturday.  The day following the Crucifixion.  All hope has been wrenched away.  Terror reigns over what is left.  

We know what the disciples did not:  Resurrection is coming.  It's the last thing on their minds.  They are shaken.  They are hiding.

After our own peace is gone, when some terror invades our day and we are in the space of unknowns, the space of affliction, are we holed up somewhere like the disciples were?  Like them, are we stunned into paralysis?

But resurrection is coming!  When Jesus appears, there is disbelief and shock and there is glory!  Suddenly, so much is revealed:  the truths Jesus spoke about now seem real to the disciples. Eternity looks different.  Not only is He alive, but the disciples are enlivened.  They and the world will never be the same.

This is our Saturday.  Instead of cowering in fear, what if we looked for the glory of God?  Could a new reality emerge that would give us a new way to live?  Understandably, we cannot foresee on this, our Saturday, what may be brought to life later, but let's take this Saturday to grieve, heal and anticipate.  Especially, to look for that which would give glory to God!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Our Faith...

Our faith is in 
God the Maker
     Seen in creation
     Revealed in Scripture
     Experienced within,

Jesus His Son
     Known through his life
     Revealed in Scripture
     Experienced within,

The Holy Spirit
     Known in history
     Revealed in Scripture
     Experienced within.

For the Word of God in scripture
     within us
     among us
     reveals a living and active God.

Spirit of the living God,
Fall fresh on me.
Bless me.
Bless those in the world.
Bless us through this day.
Let us be part of the revealed and experienced love of God.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Busted!

John 8:2-11


Early in the morning, Jesus came again to the temple.  All the people came to him and he sat down and taught them...

Here is Jesus asserting himself as teacher and many gave him an audience.  He is in the middle of several  teaching opportunities and confrontations with the religious leaders during the time of the Festival of Shelters, a time of celebration and gratitude by the Jewish nation.  He had hesitated to go at first, because he knew he was a marked man, but in his own time he went.  And in his own time, he took his seat and began teaching.  In the middle of the feast. In full view of the crowds and the religious elite.

After a couple of days of this, the religious leaders vacillated between awe and feeling threatened, so they plotted a public entrapment:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and placing her in the midst of the crowd, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery..."

While they sought to condemn her, their real intention was to trick Jesus into some heresy or blasphemy by which they could have some charge to bring against him (vs 6).  As Jesus has been demonstrating his power and authority to set the standard in his teaching, the religious authorities recognized the power he held and wanted to subvert it, if possible.

I love how he was clever enough to not be tricked by their obvious question:  "Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.  What do you say?"

Jesus turns it into a judgment on the Pharisees and scribes:  turning the condemnation they tried to exert onto the woman, instead, onto themselves.  Jesus calls out the real perpetrators of the crime in this case:  male, religious, a patriarchal and misogynist culture.  He knows that the woman  is a victim of gender placement in the minority culture of womanhood.  He has compassion for her.

"Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 

There it is!  Busted!  The condemned cannot condemn others.  Jesus didn't judge them, he let them judge themselves.  He let them own their truth about their own positional righteousness (or lack thereof).  

One by one, they slipped away.  How many of them might have actually used this sex slave, as all prostitutes are?  How many of them realized the eyes that were on them from the crowd, who had also bore the religious elite's high-minded judgments? 

Remember the marginalized and how their victim status might be perpetuated by your own actions.  Be careful how you judge others:  it could be the standard by which you are judged.  It's time we all came clean and told the truth about ourselves, at least to ourselves.

  


Thursday, May 28, 2020

Get muddy!


5-year-old Jude had a hard day.  He'd managed to be in 3 timeouts by 2:00pm.  The usual pleasures offered him, he turned away with disdain:  no blow-up pool could substitute for the new pool at his house; the park was mundane and not worth the walk (even though I offered to drive us).  He had hoped for the company (distraction) of the neighbor kids, but they were gone for the day.

He decided the sprinkler felt good.  The bubble maker was a good choice:  he could have the bubbles all to himself.  Then, he was reminded of the place behind the garage where he could get dirtiest and engage his imagination unfettered:  the sand path lined with stones.

With a "digger" in hand and some sand toys, he could devise cities, individual lives of sea creatures or totems to an underground army.  So, he dug, buried stones, piled stones.  He and his grandfather, who leisurely accompanied Jude, discussed whatever possibilities existed in the day. I half-listened from a bench nearby.

Suddenly, I pay attention to a question Jude asks:  "Is gravity everywhere?"
"Yes," I answer.
"Well, not here," he says.  I look up to see him lightly skip-dancing down the path.

He found his happy place.

He was wet and sandy. Holes were dug in the path.  Rocks were half-buried in the path.  Muddy handprints on the garage.  It might be not be pretty, but it was beautiful.

He had found his happy place.

Where might we find our happy place in a day of discontent?  Do we need the discourse of our Father?  To dig deep into the usual well-kept parts of our lives?  Make a mess? Get dirty?  Find your happy place.  Be sure to get a good hosing afterwards.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Welcome!

"Look, you scoffers! Be shocked to death!
For in your days I am doing a work,
a work you will never believe, 
even if someone tells you plainly!" (from Habakkuk)

Paul and Barnabas prepared to leave the synagogue, but the people wanted to hear more and urged them to return the following Sabbath. As the people dispersed after the meeting, many Jews and converts to Judaism follow Paul and Barnabas.  Paul and Barnabas continued teaching them privately and urged them to remain steadfast in the grace of God.  The next Sabbath, it seemed the whole city had gathered to hear the message of the Lord.  But some of the Jewish leaders were jealous when they saw these huge crowds.  They argued with Paul and Barnabas about their teaching.

Paul and Barnabas responded with great confidence:  It was only right that we should bring God's message to you Jewish people first.  But now, since you are rejecting our message and, by doing so, identifying yourselves as unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to outsiders (Gentiles).  Remember the Lord's words:

I have appointed you a light to the nations beyond Israel,
so you can bring redemption to every corner of the earth...."

Acts 13: 41-52

Paul asserts that the good news is for all.  Jesus came to complete the work of the Jewish nation: salvation for all.  They failed; He prevailed.

I am sometimes like the Jews, presuming the message is personal, when it is also universal. This causes me to question myself.

Do I take for granted that the salvation message is for me and mine, for getting the universality of God's intention?  Do I look on certain groups as outside the circle of "privilege" of being a member of God's household?  Do I keep others out with my exclusivity?  Let it not be so!  

Help me to provide comfort where ever it is needed!  Let my life be an example of Christ's offer to come into the family!

Welcome!

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Abound



2 Peter 1:3-8


God’s divine power gives us everything we need…
What!?!?  How did I miss this?  Everything?  I need?  I need to understand the fullness of the fact that God is working toward my good and knows what I need most.


to reflect God’s true nature and to experience the holy life, a godly life
Ain't  that a caution!  I have been trying to do it all along by following rules, doing all the religious things, but God’s power connects me to life in him, the kind of life I have been trying to achieve all along.  


we have received all of this by knowing him, who has called to us by his glory and virtue…
I love this.  I love him.  That is to be my pursuit: knowing him.  When I see him and see his glory and virtue, I am drawn into the relationship circle of God, Father and Spirit and enveloped into his true nature. (Jesus says this in John 17)


and this is a great and precious promise that enables you to share in his divine nature…
Divine nature.  That holy and righteous life that, with exposure, becomes who I am.  Becomes my nature, too.  I think of it like having a mentor or coach.  The more I go to practice, the more I get in on the planning and practice, I become part of the team.  In this case, part of a team which overcomes sin, overcomes corruption.


so make every effort to respond to God’s promises
So, I grasp the promises.  I make the promises part of my mantra, my purpose, my being.  I bring myself as close to these promises as possible.  It’s like winning the lottery:  I have to go to the store and claim the promises.  And with fervor:  with haste and with due diligence.  

Then Peter gives very specific instructions about the steps for claiming this victory:
…To achieve this, you will need to add virtue to your faith and then knowledge to your virtue.  Then add discipline and to discipline add endurance.  To endurance add godliness, and to godliness add affection for your brothers and sisters in faith.  Finally add love.

If you possess these traits (in your nature) and multiply them, you will never be ineffective or unproductive in your relationship with Jesus Christ… 

The NIV says, The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of, your relationship with Jesus Christ.

You will ABOUND in your relationship with Jesus.  It will be full and plentiful.  You will relish and grow these traits because they are the vehicles towards a full relationship with the God of the universe.  You will be rich in the resources of the relationship with Jesus for a holy, godly life.
I never thought I lacked perseverance, but these markers of progress really give me a measure of life in Christ.  As I keep my emotions balanced through these disciplines, I remember God and his intent for me.  In the end…in the end…these become evidence of my life with Jesus to the end.

Anonymous


Holy One,
there is something I wanted to tell you,
but there have been errands to run,
bills to pay,
arrangements to make,
meetings to attend,
friends to entertain,
washing to do...
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
and mostly I forget what I'm about,
or why.
O God,
don't forget me, please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Eternal One,
there is something I wanted to tell you,
but my mind races with worrying and watching,
with weighing and planning,
with rutted slights and pothole grievances,
with leaky dreams I keep trying to plug up;
and my attention is preoccupied
with loneliness,
with doubt,
and with things I covet;
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
and how to say it honestly
or how to do much of anything.
O God,
don't forget me please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Almighty One,
there is something I wanted to tell you
but I stumble along the edge of a nameless rage,
haunted by a hundred floating fears and...
I forget the real question is that I wanted to ask,
and I forget to listen anyway
because you seem unreal and far away,
and I forget what it is I have forgotten.
O God,
don't forget me please,
for the sake of Jesus Christ.

O Father in heaven,
perhaps you've already heard what I wanted to tell you.
What I wanted to ask is
forgive me,
heal me,
increase my courage, please.
Renew in me a little of love and faith,
and a sense of confidence,
and a vision of what it might mean
to live as though you were real,
and I mattered,
and everyone was sister and brother.
What I wanted to ask in my blundering way is
don't give up on me,
don't become too sad about me,
but laugh with me
and try again with me,
and I will with you, too.
What I wanted to ask is
for peace enough to want and work for more,
for joy enough to share,
and for awareness that is keen enough
to sense your presence,
here,
now,
there,
then,
always. 

Amen


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Enlightened

The crowds increased around Jesus, looking for a sign.  Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation.  It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah...The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here."  
Luke 11:29-32



Jesus often drew a crowd.  The people could see that Jesus held power, and maybe some even saw the good or could see God in what He did, but they wanted to use that power for their own definition of "good."  The crowd's interest was often less about relationship with him and more about getting what they wanted.  Those crowds wanted their own "sign," their own evidence for truth.  They often wanted a miracle that would satisfy them. 


 Jesus warned that any sign they received would not be what they expected.  How many times have you asked for something from God and didn't quite get what you wanted?  Maybe you found it lacking because it didn't fulfill your definition of "good."  



I have found that we like to dictate our requests to God to include the answer, as if he didn't know what we needed.  The truth is that we are the ones who don't always know what we need.  We go for relief, plenty or comfort, but what if "good" does not include ease?  What if God knows our requests are often limited to the present, the immediate? Imagine:  what if He knew better!    I think God is often saying to us, "Wait." "No." or "Better than this."



Jesus makes it clear that the "better" is repentance because that is what brings us the most of what we need - God himself.  Thus, He says the only "sign" would be one that compelled repentance, like what happened to the Ninevites.  Our sights are set low; we don't see the truth of what we need them most, so he adds,

"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.  Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When you eyes are healthy, your whole body is also full of light.  But when they are unhealthy, you body is also full of darkness.

See to it then, that the light within you is not darkness.  Then, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you."

Could the crowds see it?  Could their "eyes" allow for light or would they stay darkened to the truth of what they needed most?  And us, can we be enlightened about our need for repentance, and thus to be righteous, or darkened to sin and its consequences in our lives?  When we go to request something from God, do approach with our own pretentions or do we desire God?  

Repentance is our greatest chance to finally be as we were intended:  holy and present to God.



Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Witness Protection

So it comes down to this:  since you have been raised with Jesus, the liberating King, set your mind on heaven above.  The Anointed Jesus is there, seated at God’s right hand.  Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone.  You new life is now hidden, enmeshed with Jesus who is in God.  On that day when Jesus, who is our very life, is revealed, you will be revealed with Him in glory! 
Colossians 3:1-4

Anyone who is looking for the ways to follow Christ need not look any farther than Colossians 3.  Other places in the New Testament can help us see the divinity of Christ, the development of theology and evidence of the kingdom of heaven.  But here in the third chapter of Colossians is the key strategy for following Jesus in companionship with others.  Paul gives us directives and the source for living out those directives.

Paul is clear that my old life is gone and my new life is now hidden and enmeshed in Jesus.  Sounds like I am in a witness protection program, with Christ as the director, to the point that I have a new identity and new manner of living.  This make-over should make me completely separated from and unrecognizable to my previous life of sin (verses 5-10).  I no longer inhabit any previous spaces, nor engage in any former behaviors and be so far removed from that previous life that I am no longer identified by it.

The entire escapade of new life begins with an identity change:  You have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you.  (Colossians 3:9b-10 )  The make-over begins and is continual and puts my new design in direct correspondence to the image of Jesus.  I will now look like him and look like nothing of my former self.

Then, Paul makes it clear that I need to walk away from my former life.  Do I yet visit the neighborhood to keep my connections?  Do I hide somewhere in my being some part of my former life?  Or am I willing to chuck that whole past so as to be completely renewed?  Paul goes on to tell what that new person looks like:

Since you are all set apart by God, make holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life:  compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  (Col 3:12) These internal qualities, reflecting my new identity, then should translate into new set of relationship behavior:  Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, just as the Lord pardoned you.  And above all things, put on love!  Love is the perfect tie to bind these together.  It generates peace.  And be thankful. (Col 3:16)

Paul goes on to list several worship/wisdom efforts:  teach, counsel and instruct one another.  Sing songs and psalms inspired by the Spirit.  Be thankful.  And no matter what you do, it will be all for Jesus.  Belief is not enough for Paul:  it must produce right living.

I like to say it this way.  Belief is more than a good idea.  Lots of people think Jesus had some good ideas.  Belief is depending on his life and ideas as models.  Belief is valuing and trusting the Lord of the Universe, as he displayed himself in the life of Jesus, as the source for the life I should be living.  I need to get out of the ‘hood and walk in the palace, where I belong.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Pompous Piety



Don’t let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  They are just a shadow of the things to come.  The reality of life is found in Christ, not these rites. 
Don’t let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you.  Such a person…is puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.  They have lost connection with the head (who is Christ) from the whole body... All these regulations have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:16-23

We know the world has nothing to offer us in righteousness and spirituality.  To the Colossians, Paul makes it clear that religious ritual is no better.  It is a vague representation of what can be in a person’s life.  While the community of believers is important, too much of a structural façade removes us from relationship with Jesus, the Christ, and each other.  Learning and engaging with the advancing kingdom, all under the rule of Christ, usually requires we look outside of rules and into relationship with a needy world.   False worship is concocted by people, but we are called to only worship Christ and serve his purposes.

God doesn’t require fancy, complicated and fabricated religious practices.  His plan is simple:  focus on knowing Jesus and advancing His Kingdom His way.  No other is needed.  No other system of religiosity satisfies.  All the rules, the rites, the requirements do nothing to bring a life to bear into life in the Kingdom.  

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life.  Finding ways to engage the truths Jesus purports requires more than just showing up, more than passive acquiescence to another’s design for worship and a life well-lived.  Determine to be in hot pursuit of the living Christ.  Following Jesus wholeheartedly will clarify life and the choices you may face. All else will fall away. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Kingdom


To the church at Philadelphia: 

I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door, which no one can shut.  I have done this despite your limited strength, yet you obeyed my word and have not denied my name…Because you have obeyed my instructions to endure and be patient, I will protect you from the time of trial which will come upon the whole earth and put everyone in it to the test.  I will soon return.  Hold tight to what you have so that no one can take away your victor’s wreath.  Anyone who conquers through faithfulness, I will plant as a pillar in the temple of God and that person will never have to leave the presence of God. Revelation 8, 10-12


This passage is addressed to a faithful body of believers and I want it to be true for me!  Faithfulness will conquer!  This faithfulness involves being true to Jesus and His Kingdom, where my citizenship is housed.  It is my belonging place. When all else crumbles, when the façade falls around me, I will be standing on the surety of God-in-me and the evidence of His Kingdom.  

During my time on earth so far, the presence of Jesus’ Kingdom seems so clear and as I have entered into his realm (his way and his path), it’s amazing in what He has allowed me to participate.  I didn’t always see it so clearly when I was younger and the world’s siren call still held some (false) truth, but now I see that my allegiance can only be to one Kingdom.  Even the kingdom I built for myself, my small realm where I thought my will ruled, has now been subjected to the rule of the living Lord.  His rule is so much better and better for me!

I am grateful for this citizenship which will carry me into eternity.  No other passport exists for that trip other than that of the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always!  I will say it again!  Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Don't be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philipians 4:4-7

The Lord is ever present with us !  That is our joy!  He loves the sound of our voices.  He holds the truth, the best for us.  Rejoice!

I think of the anxiety our life holds:  some things in our control, most not.  We currently have a pandemic encircling the globe.  Differing solutions.  Contentious debates.  A time when we might support each other, the disease requires we separate.  Not only is daily life disrupted, but political processes are in question.  National leadership worries us.

Yet God!    If I wallow in my misery and worries, I miss seeing his activity.  I miss seeing him.  Paul tells us to call out. He says to find that sacred place where our pleas can be pure.  Prayer and petition.  My tears need not be.  I need not be afraid! God is present.  He is able.

Dear Lord, watch over my heart and mind!  Lift my understanding.  In fact, lift me to you!  It is there I can have a wider view.  Maybe I can see things as you see them. Amen!

Peace comes from having a different perspective, God's perspective, knowing that God is in control and that he has a plan.  A plan that is limitless, dependable and for our good.  Rejoice!


Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Eternal Life Now

God designed people to be a receptacle of the divine, a place where the life of God flows.  Jesus came to demonstrate that humanity could house divinity.  Thus, he became a doorway for people to access a life that has the qualities of eternity.  

Jesus' presence on earth makes it possible for all of us to receive the Holy Spirit as assuredly present (humanity houses divinity). (John 14)  To ordinary human beings, he makes it his mission to offer freedom and wholeness (Luke 4:18).  He brings light and life.  (John 8).  It seems no simple matter to make it possible for human beings to receive glory, yet Jesus does (John 17).  

This is no ordinary life.  It is how any of us can live "right side up," as Dallas Willard says, and head in the right direction.  This is good news.  This is the best news.  Heaven's evidence begins in me now.  For this I am grateful.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Hold on!

While I have not yet arrived, nor have I become perfect, still I am charging on to gain anything the Anointed One, Jesus Christ, has in store for me - and nothing will get in my way because He has grabbed me and won't let me go.  Brothers and sisters, I know I am not complete but there's one thing I am doing:  leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission.  I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts:  to cross the line, to win the prize and to hear God's call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:12-14

My favorite line is "He has grabbed me and won't let go."  In the NIV, the translation reads "I hold on to that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me."  Under the power of His attachment to me, I attach to Him:  I hold on!  This creates a sense of the tandem effort (Christ's being the greater), that Paul is depending on to advance to his ultimate goal:  heaven.


I have to leave all behind, drop my baggage, in the pursuit of the resurrected life.  Too often, we hold on to other things not helpful in the faith walk, which keep us from grabbing hold of the hand that Jesus Christ offers to us.  


As a former rock climber, the climb represents a good analogy.  Whether I use a hand up from a fellow climber or use the rope system to pull myself up, I depend on the placement and strength of my buddy or the ropes.  They don't give way.  They guide.  To engage the climb and the help offered, I cannot look back; my hands and feet have to be clear of all encumbrances not useful for the climb. My eyes have to be engaged on the system offered to me.


I see that Jesus, as he offers the hand, requires a total commitment from me.  Leave the past behind.  Embrace the present - the present moment and present gift of a life with Christ.  And to keep my eyes on the path I am on, both present and future.  I see it now:  it is the gift of the presence of Kingdom of Heaven now.  That is my focus.  It is my hope and surety.


Jesus was intent to offer this new life and his hand that is to lead us into new life.  He was intent upon its presentation.  The present tense nature of the language shows that this "attained" life is offered now; the only delay would be us.  God intends to give us access for life today, as much as the future.

For now, let's hold on to what we have been shown.  (The Voice)
Let us live up to what we have already attained. (NIV)
Philippians 3:16


Friday, February 21, 2020

Hypocrisy

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, then, what you have received and heard; hold it fast and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief and you will not know at what time I will come to you.  The one who is victorious will be dressed in white.  I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
Revelation 3:2,3, 5

It seems that the church in Sardis has lost sight of the ultimate goal of God.  They got sidetracked and have unfinished business with God.  It's interesting that we are not talking about overtly "bad" sins that we think about - cheating, killing, gossiping that John is writing about - but rather "unfinished business" that has fallen short of God's plans.  Coming up short, lacking victory is about to kill whatever progress they once made.

How much do I get sidetracked?  How much have I separated from The Way, The Truth and The Life that God intended for me.  What keeps me from Jesus?  Too much electronics?  Too much self-focus?  Too much enmeshment in this world?

I think about that first wave of Spirit-led life that I held in times of renewal:  truths I need to go back to; trust I need to regain.  To come "awake" to those, to grow conscious again of the guidance they hold in my life is crucial, John says, to be victorious and to be ready for the returning Christ.

This may mean the final return of Christ, but have my distractions and other-reliance caused me to miss Christ's presence and possibilities today?  The world's call to evil and to sin will cause me to miss the mark of his presence guiding me along The Way.  When he comes along, I may have missed the chance to be led or comforted.  I may have missed the path altogether.

I want to be recognizeable and seen (dressed in white) on the day present or final at the coming of the Lord!  I want to put aside distractions and diversions which would cause me to miss Him! I need to finish the business that the Lord has begun in me!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Terror or Treachery

O how terrible for those who confuse good with evil, right with wrong, light with dark, sweet with bitter!  O how terrible for those who think they're so wise, who consider themselves so clever! 
Isaiah 5:20 

I have been an alcohol and drug counselor and prevention specialist for 30 years and if I have to listen to this statement one more time....

"I don't regret my (bad) history (whether abuse, bad circumstances or poor choices), it's made me strong."

This is a lie.  Those things - whether terror or treachery - have not made you stronger, but rather made you weaker.  Look at your trajectory:
  •   Have you been able to persevere?
  •   Have you been able to do the right thing?
  •   Have you had success by any definition?
  •   Have you been able to maintain healthy relationships?
  •  Have you been able to set goals and follow through to completion?
  •   Have you kept yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy?
I would contend NOT!  Otherwise, we would not be in relationship right now with me as your coach or counselor.  Not only have you not done the right thing, you are so blinded that you cannot discern right from wrong, distinguish right from wrong and, in fact, you call the wrong "right."  Totally blinded.  Let alone have any ability - strength or direction - to do what is right, even if you could see it.

How terrible for those "heroes" who can outdrink anyone, those "champions" who take pride in their mixed drinks; those judges who set the guilt free in exchange for "a little something," all the while denying the innocent what they deserve!  It is no wonder that the LORD burns with anger at His people.  
Isaiah 5:22, 23, 25.








Prodigal

Luke 15:11-32  The story of the Prodigal Sons. 

Both sons used the Father.  Both attached their allegiance to their father only based on the plenty and privilege they could receive.  Only when one went without that plenty and privilege, did he want to return.  Only when stripped of every ounce of dignity did he realize that his father had the most for him.  Upon reflection, the wayward son realized the father's generosity even to the hired hand.  Generosity changed him.

Why couldn't the other brother, enmeshed in the father's care, see it?  Why did the father's generosity not change him?  The brother enmeshed in his father's generosity was just as separated from desire to be with the father, it seems.

Which of the brothers actually loved their father?  

Is it only after life fails us that we can see our need for God?  If our choices always give us what we need and we never come into crisis, will we miss our opportunity to come into the party, the presence of God?  

I wonder what the home-bound prodigal son was most angry about?  Was it that this party and reinstatement of the wayward son would divide more of his part of the estate?  Was it that he missed the heart of generosity of his father all along?  

This story raises so many questions for believers.  Do we realize God's generosity includes all and have we somehow short-changed ourselves in receiving it?  Can we accept and love the late-comers?  Will we welcome them in or will we want them to earn it somehow?  Is that what we think: that we are earning the Heavenly Father's love by our devotion and service?

Realize this, we serve and respond to what is offered to us as the Father's children and heirs. He is not holding anything back.  We never earned it nor deserved it.  He invites us all in.  Note that in this parable, the father goes out to both brothers. 

How has God been inviting you into the celebration?  Don't deny yourself! 

Monday, February 03, 2020

Light

...find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  Everything exposed by the light becomes visible and everything that is illuminated will serve as a light.  This is why it is said: "Wakeup, sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you."


Be careful then how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Do not be foolish, but understand the Lord's will:
  •  be filled with the Holy Spirit
  • speak to one another with (the assurance and edification of ) psalms, hymns and music from the Spirit
  • Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord
  • giving thanks to God for Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:10-20

What a call for dealing with the darkness in the world!  

I am to shine light into the darkness, onto evil.  The actions which cause a revealing, a revelation about evil revolve around truth, which evil is always trying to subvert in order to maintain the lie.  Truth can be revealed simply and in love.  

Like the original disciples, I can also challenge the demons by casting their lies into the fire, returning them to the source from which they come.  I am challenged to  call the distant and disengaged into repentance, which can bring them close to the truth about God, who loves them most of all, and much more than any demon, who only wants to use them.

This will take the divine power of God: to pull down strongholds and to cast down high-sounding philosophies, which keep people from knowing God.  Before I can do these things for others, I will let my own thoughts be captivated and obedient to Jesus Christ and his message, his good news!

Lord, you know where the demon lives.  Cast him out.  Give me truth to tell, hope to heal, and power to live! 

Fear is a liar!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1srs1YoTVzs



Saturday, January 25, 2020

#29




Our machinations and deliberations contrived to

keep us from the truth, from You.

We didn’t know the way, although we tried

to find our way to You.

What should have been clear

became smeared

with our own contrivances, motives

such that we couldn’t find yours.



Your way was so simple,

but we made it hard.

It was given us,

but we gave into making it our way

instead of yours.



The truth was always distorted

when it was once so plain.



If belief as a child is enough

than all this over-thinking and over-doing is tough

on a child’s heart.



Give me mine back.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Rise

Do you remember how you used to live?  Dead to life, buried by sin, wandering the course of the world's changing and perverse path.  The prince of the power of the air owned you, just as he controls all living in disobedience, as we all once did...such that we could all be called children of wrath.
BUT GOD, with the unfathomable richness of His love and mercy focused on us, united us with Jesus Christ and infused our lifeless souls with life - even though we were buried under mountains of sin - and saved us by grace.  He RAISED US UP with Him and seated us in the heavenly realms with Jesus the Messiah, the liberating King.  He did this so that for all eternity we will stand as a living testimony to the incredible riches of His grace and kindness that He freely gives to us by uniting us with Jesus, the Messiah, the one anointed for this purpose. 
For it is by God's grace that you have been saved, through faith.  It is God's gift, His offer to us that we didn't earn nor can ever earn by our own works.  In this new state, we are the product of His hand, created in the anointed one, Jesus, so as to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.
Ephesians 2:1-10  (selections)

We were once buried in sin.  I remember those days, feeling suffocated and held down by the choices I made and the world system which held me underneath it.  The world's lies and false promises held me captive.  But now, Jesus calls me out and places me in "heavenly realms," which allows me the gifts of heaven - love for God and others, power to live a righteous life, new vision and purpose - for today.

Over and over I read about the generosity of God and the sacrifice of Jesus which enabled the delivery of these riches.  These origins of the faith - grace and sacrifice - I cannot forget.  My peace comes from His torture, my healing from His wounds.  A life of meaning comes from the design of God.  That is to be my testimony:  a presentation of the possibilities of life with God.

Does my testimony speak loudly enough for people to see God? Does anyone say, "I want what you have?" Do they really understand the price that was paid to make it so for all of us?  Or the cost of obedience to bear His mark?  

I do not understand why God let us choose our own (destructive) design, but I am grateful to follow His plan and path out from under the mountainous weight of sin.  I am trying to grasp the scope of my new view from a heavenly perspective, and this I know - the world looks different now.  It no longer entices and I have compassion for the continued lostness of those also buried under the lies and system of the prince of the power of the air.  

I am emboldened to let my life be a testimony, a call to truth, of the great desire of God to have his people back.  My life and actions can now be a message of God's generosity, kindness, grace and mercy - the truest of riches.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJxrX42WcjQ







Monday, January 13, 2020

Grasp

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God's people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you.  I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.  

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called -- his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.  I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him.
Ephesians 1:15-19b

There are so many rich words in this set of verses that seem to raise the level of our involvement with God to new heights:  spiritual wisdom, insight, flooded with light, confident hope, and, ultimately, the availability of God's power for us.  

That wisdom, which comes from God, is no ordinary wisdom by the world's standard.  It is broad and full of the knowledge of God's spiritual wisdom in a variety of matters, whether that is the accumulated wisdom of living with God, or learning or skill, or discernment of life and spiritual connectedness.  This wisdom provides the knowledge and practical application of God's intent for people.  Paul goes so far as to add revelation (here interpreted as "insight") to that expression of wisdom where timely truth can appear about the path we are on with others.

The intent of the gain of wisdom and insight serves the purpose of having the precise and correct knowledge of things ethical and divine.  When people can say, "I know it was God" or, my favorite, "I know that I know that I know," there is a peace and hope.  The translator of the New Living Translation, used here, calls it a "confident" hope because hope's definition has a positive, confident and joyful expectation of salvation, both present and future, based on the relationship with God.  It is not just knowledge, but the knowledge of God which brings hope.

As I consider the not-yet-fulfilled parts of my life, whether in relationships, my own maturity and growth, or heaven ultimately, it would be easy to be discouraged when I look at situations which don't always seem to change, but fully knowing God (and, His character,  His plan, His possibilities) changes my disappointment and discouragement into hope.  I must remember that God wants more for me than I want for myself.  In the seat of my emotions, in my heart, will shine the light of the future of what God intends.  When I am looking to Him,  the evidence is revealed and becomes clear and my "enlightenment" might actually shine light on the evidence right in front of me.  If I am looking for terror or delight, I will be sure to find it.

How does this happen? That incredible/surpassing greatness of God must be grasped.   The hyperbole (Gk: hyperballo) of the mass and weight, largeness and spaciousness, intensity, and splendid nature (Gk: megathos) of God's power which moves toward us and is for us must be grasped.  If we could grasp it, we might be stunned and knocked to our knees by it.  Would we dare understand it?  Why do we short-change ourselves on knowing this truly all-powerful and great God?

God, through Jesus Christ, wants believers to see the far-reaching effects of who He is and whose we are.  He wants us to believe it.  He wants us to look for it and connect to it.  He wants to secure our place in heaven and grant us His power and presence for today!  We can live the hyperbolic expectations of living as children of the King of heaven and earth!

Listen to the end of Paul's message:  This is THE SAME power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavens.  Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or ANYTHING ELSE - and not just in this world but in the world to come. Ephesians 1:19b-20.

Live by no other power. Be thankful for your involvement in the loving and generous character of our God!