Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Musings of the self amused

A bit out of the usual routine, I wrote Christmas cards and read a book tonight. This in contrast to my usual routine of amusing myself with games on the laptop. So I am taking a step back, looking at my life, and I begin to realize that life is not all about me. This is hardly new, but perhaps I see another perspective. When men become self-absorbed, they forget the plan for their lives. Life lived totally consumed on ones own good is a gray, miserable, existence. Soon comes the grave, but selfishness has already killed.

Jesus says to the Churches: "Strengthen that which remains". There is always hope. We can live, as someone said, 40 days without food, three without water and three minutes without air. But we cannot live a second without hope.

Lord, I am weak, but surely there remains something of a man who can live beyond the boredom and death of daily routine. Fix my gaze on someone else, may I be aware of life around me. Let my love for you drive me to share with others. May my love for them cause me to forget about myself. Amen.

Friday, October 9, 2009

my prayer

I thank you, O God, for all that I have
It is you, O Lord, the giver of life
From the pit of despair my cry goes to thee
Free me, my God, from all this strife

The wisdom and tradition of men falls short
All religion seems a cruel hoax
But my God, I am no better
My dead wood the fire stokes

What good is an appliance that is not plugged in?
Can it make coffee, tea or toast?
My God, apart from you I am nothing
Only in your power might I ever boast

May my focus this day be on Thee alone
May the vanity of this world fade away
May thy face be ever in my focus
May thy Word be life to me alway.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wineskins

And to masons, and hewers of stone, and to buy timber and hewed stone to repair the breaches of the house of the LORD, and for all that was laid out for the house to repair it. {was…: Heb. went forth} 13 Howbeit there were not made for the house of the LORD bowls of silver, snuffers, basons, trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of the LORD: 14 But they gave that to the workmen, and repaired therewith the house of the LORD. 15 Moreover they reckoned not with the men, into whose hand they delivered the money to be bestowed on workmen: for they dealt faithfully.

II Kings 12:12-15

Perhaps it has been many lifetimes ago since the church was not run by the foolishness of soulish men. I have not seen a church arise that is pnuematically powered. My father never saw one, nor his father before him. So how will we build something with no model to turn back to? Well, certainly don't turn to the "priest class". Verses six and seven of chapter twelve make it clear they are only interested in what benefits them. Zeal for the house of the LORD hardly consumes them. Jehoash finally gave the resources to the men actually doing the work. These proved so faithful that there was no need for a reckoning of the funds delivered.

1. Don't trust those who have been leaders under the old model. They are only concerned with what benefits them.
2. Set aside resources for building the Church, but don't pull the rug on the old model. Live and let live.
3. Deliver the resources to men who are of proven character, who will not waste them.

Well, what resources do we need to build a church, the 21'st century house of God? Instead of brick and morter, we use living stones.

4 ¶ Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; 5 and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame."

Men love glitz and glitter and show, but we will use hearts dedicated to the LORD. Our fellowship will not be committed to buildings or programs, but towards building up one another in the most holy faith.

"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost," (Jude 1:20 AV)

What is Father's expectation? Let Him do it. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gone fishin'

What’s the use, I go a fishin’
Now that He’s gone, I have no other mission
All night have I toiled under the sky
With nary a fish, nothing to fry

My friend, have you any fish?
No sir, nothing to cook in my dish
Try casting your net on the other side
And in my strength abide

So many fish my net nearly breaks
Whoever He is, He knows what it takes
Wait, have I not seen this before?
Can it be, could this be the LORD?

Forget this boat and the silly fish
Being with Jesus is all I wish
He greats me and invites me to eat
What He has prepared is surely a treat

Now that he has met me at the point of my need
I take the fish I caught to plant a seed
Others will eat what I have caught
The net is full and the night is ne’r for naught

(c) Dean Schmucker, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Call on the Name

“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Ro 10:12-13 AV)

I have often wondered just what this means, to call on the Name of the LORD. Here Paul is saying that there is no difference between Jew and Greek. If you are religious, or not religious, the only way you can be saved is by calling on the Name of the LORD. Paul says the gospel is an offense to the religous man, and foolishness to the non religious soul. The religious man must repent of his pride, renounce the religion of man, where he is still very much in control, and fall on Jesus. Perhaps those not steeped in religion have an easier road to the cross. Once the existence of a Holy God is presented to them, they would have no suppositions to righteousness like the religous crowd does.

Doesn't it all come down to humility? Religion is the paragon of pride, assuming that someone one can do something for God. Of course, this is preposterous! How could the created ever do anything for the Creator? What does our God require of us but to fear Him and walk humbly before Him? He does not desire servants, but friends. He invites us to intimacy with Him. If we humble ourselves, admit we are nothing, and never will be anything, and call on His name, we shall be saved.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Word Revealed

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’"” (Mt 4:1-4 NKJV)

"You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (Joh 5:39-40 NKJV)

How does God speak to man? He has given us His Word. But here is a mystery: The religious leaders of Jesus' day probably knew their Bible far better than most Christians today. Yet Jesus is standing right next to them, and they don't know who He is. Why? God is Spirit, and those who would know God must seek Him in Spirit and in Truth. Our mind can capture an image, a snapshot if you will, of who God was to the saints at a specific time by reading the Word. Yet if we would know who God IS, right now, for our time, and our specific situation, we must consume the word:

"Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.” (Jer 15:16 AV

By way of testimony, I suppose I might have read the Book of Romans many times in my walk with God. But when I was in a hard spot, pressed up against the reality of my need, I picked up a commentary on Romans entitled, "The Normal Christian Life". Suddenly, the entire message of the gospel had changed for me. It was as if I had never read Romans at all. Out of the desperation of my situation, God had reached my heart through the ministry of His Spirit. Now I could see what had been hidden right in front of my eyes. As Paul tells Timothy, scripture is God's breath. The word for breath is the same as the word for Spirit in the Greek. If we read the Word with our minds, we can get a sense of who God is, but until our reading is mixed with faith, in the spirit, we will not meet God. The difference for me was desparation: I knew I would not be able to go on, so God met me, unveiling His Word, which became alive. Those who hunger and thirst for God shall be filled. The self-righteous know the words on a page, but not the God they purport to represent. Lord, I pray that we be not satisfied just knowing about you. May we press on to know you, and not let you go until we do. May our time in your Word be fruitful as we freely acknowledge that apart from a revelation, we can not possibly understand what we are reading. Amen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Revelation

“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some [say] John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed [this] to you, but My Father who is in heaven. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."” (Mt 16:13-23 NKJV)


Men certainly had their opinions about Jesus. Some were convinced John the Baptist had risen from the dead, others thought Jesus was a great prophet, perhaps Elijah. They were correct in a sense, but mostly wrong. Anyone can have an opinion, but to get it right, one must have REVELATION about Jesus. Peter said, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "You are the annointed one, the Son of the Living God". Yes, Peter, this is right. And you know what else? You did NOT think of this, but you were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Based on this confession wrought in revelation, Jesus builds His Church.

Nothing has changed. Men still have opinions about Jesus. They are all partly wrong. None of them threaten the devil's territory. If we are to be transformed, it will be by the daily Word proceeding from the mouth of God. We consider the testimony of the old saints. Isaiah might well have thought himself a decent chap. But then he is given admission to the Throne of God, and he is undone. He knows that no one sees the LORD and lives. Yet when the angel took the coal, and touched his lips, Isaiah was ready to go back to the people to boldly proclaim what he had seen. "Here am I, send me!".

The LORD has shown me that Revelation is the key to transformation. The Spirit led me to a UCC congregation in town, and the preacher said, "What you believe about Jesus will affect how you live today, and where you live in the future". True enough, but based on WHAT is our belief? Some preacher told you? You studied the life of Christ and came to a conclusion? Not good enough. Not even close. Only Holy Spirit revelation builds the church, the gates of Hell never prevailing.

Revelation about Jesus is given as a gift. One does not decide to get a revelation. One does not suudy until it comes. True revelation is by the Holy Spirit, not "flesh and blood". One can, though, ask.

“that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what [is] the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:16-19 NKJV)




Sunday, July 12, 2009

Emmaus Road

Emmaus Road
“ But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.” (Lu 24:21 AV)

Hello, brothers, the “promised redemption” is walking and talking with you right now. You later admit that your “heart burned within you” when He spoke, but you did not recognize Him until He broke bread with you. Then you remembered, “This is my body, broken for you”. And as soon as you realized who He was, He was gone. So indeed you are redeemed, even if not in the way you had expected.

This is the mystery of the Kingdom. The brothers had all been raised hearing each of the scriptures Jesus read to them that day, yet they were still not looking for the resurrection. Why not? Because the Word may be read with the mind, and you can get a picture of what it says, unless you read with the regenerated Spirit, you will not get it.
Father, I pray that when I read Thy Word I might be fully energized in spirit, and might receive revelation, by which I live day by day. Amen.

NY Times Bottom Ten Books

A collection of short mysteries – by Cliff Hanger
Effective Lawn Vector Control – by Dan D. Lyon
Ride the big waves – by Sue Nami
Fashions of the sixties – by Tai Dye; illustrated by Belle Bottoms.
Twenty miles to the outhouse – by Will E. Makit, illustrated by Betty Don’t
How to prepare raw fish – by Sue Shee
Eat Your Vegetables! – By Brock O. Lee
Lover’s leap – By Phil Lander
I was OJ’s lead Defense Lawyer – By Scott FreeThe world’s best tropical resorts – By Sandy Beach

Whose Work is it?

John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

The sufficiency of Christ

I was in the jury pool the other day. As we were waiting to be summoned into the court room, I had the privilege of speaking at length with a brother in the Lord. Our conversation soon turned from the law of man to the law of God. My brother expounded on how, though it is surely hard to do so, God does expect us to worship Him by living the high standard of morality and ethics found in Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. However, he observed that most Christians are lazy, and too easily justify themselves with “we are no longer under the law, but under grace” Romans 6:14.

I listened to what he had to say, for indeed I do agree that most of us in the body of Christ do not even attempt to worship Christ as Lord with our feet. With our lips, yes, we honor Him, but when it comes to costly acts, I believe most of the Church is asleep. Alas, I must admit that this described me far too well. In the Greek, the word for “worship” is proskuneo, which means to bow the knee, to submit to the will of one greater than oneself. Now the common understanding of worship in today’s church is emotional praise, and this is a good thing, but Biblically speaking, it is not, per se, worship. No, we worship God simply by doing His will. So, in this, my brother and I were in accord. However, though indeed God’s will needs to be done, (come thy Kingdom, be done thy will on earth as it is in Heaven) I can most assuredly say that IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE DONE BY US!

Yet, hold on. Didn’t I just argue that we worship God with our feet? How can I say, on the one hand that we do need to do His will, yet on the other hand God’s will does not need to be done by us? Strange as it may seem, there is no contradiction, at least not in the Heavenly system of accounting!

We must first of all start with an understanding of the message of the book of Romans. The first three chapters begin with an indictment of all humanity. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (3:23). However, God made a way for the penalty of our sin to be paid, through the blood of Christ. This much is I have always understood. But it does not stop there. No, for not only has Christ died, those who are in Christ have died along with Him! “ Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (6:3). This is why we were baptized after we confessed Jesus as Savior, for we have died with him, and were buried along with him in our baptism. Of course, the gospel doesn’t end here, either. For indeed, that Christ is raised is the foundation of our faith, for when He was raised, we too were raised up with Him TO A NEW LIFE! The apostle Paul writes to the Galatians, “ I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (2:20-21) And to the Corinthians he writes “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Thus, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.

This is more than just semantics, my friends. This is reality, “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). That is, though we are expected to do God’s will, we can not do it. Indeed, the ego, that which is self, was nailed to the cross, because we in ourselves could never please God. If we could, then we could claim the glory for having done so. But just as Jesus glorified His Father through working the works of the Father, so now we glorify Jesus when he works His works in and through us. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure” Phi 2:13. So the will of God can be found working in me, but not by me. I am but a broken vessel, ready for the Master’s use.

All is Christ, Christ is all. Pride must be crushed. Who am I to suppose that I would do the will of God? No, for all that ever needed to be done was done at Calvary, and when Jesus said, “it is finished”, it was finished, then, now and for all time. Nothing more needs to be added. So we plead, not that we should do the will of God, but that Christ in us should already have done it! We enter into that which is already finished, our inheritance having been guaranteed.

I shared this picture with the brother at the jury pool. Suppose you were to find out that there was a five million dollar judgement against you, that unless you paid it, you would go to jail. However, you also have ten million dollars in the bank, having inherited that princely sum from a rich uncle. Knowing this, would we try to pay this judgement off by working hard the rest of our lives? Were we to work 20 lifetimes, we would never pay it off. Who among us wouldn’t just draw on that inheritance to pay off that judgement? Of course that would be the only logical course. If we already have the resources at our fingertips, though indeed not our own resources, we would be fools to try to pay it on our own.

So it is with the will of God. Yes, we are to do His will, to keep His commandments, but never, ever according to the mortal man, that which comes from us. Tolstoy, having read the beatitudes, decided he would try to live according to that high moral standard. He went crazy in the attempt. Where he erred was not the correct understanding that Jesus expects us to live according to the sermon on the mount, but in assuming that we would do so by our own human effort. That was never God’s intent. We can only do His will when we get out of the way and let Jesus do the Father’s will through us. And when He does, guess who gets the glory? Hint: it’s not us! We yield and Jesus works the works of God through us. Ultimately, God gets the glory for working out His will on earth. What a radical concept!

Practically, of course, the works of men and the works of God will look the same to the world. If I went to the poor in India and ministered to them as Mother Theresa has, I too would be glorified by the world. But there it would end. I would “already have received my reward.” (Mat 6:16) Yet if I prayed to God that His works might be found in me, and went to the poor in India and did the same thing as above, yet not I, but Christ in me, then HE would be glorified, and my reward would be found in Heaven. Though the works might look the same to man, there is an eternal difference. Thus I pray only that I might abide more and more in the Vine, from which the eternal fruit that may be found on me flows. I have entered the rest mentioned in Hebrews chapter four, for “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that to which I’ve committed to Him” (II Tim I:12) I do not, as an expression of my self, even dare attempt to please God. But Christ in me pleases Him well, and I take my confidence in Him.


Whose Work is it?

John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

The sufficiency of Christ

I was in the jury pool the other day. As we were waiting to be summoned into the court room, I had the privilege of speaking at length with a brother in the Lord. Our conversation soon turned from the law of man to the law of God. My brother expounded on how, though it is surely hard to do so, God does expect us to worship Him by living the high standard of morality and ethics found in Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. However, he observed that most Christians are lazy, and too easily justify themselves with “we are no longer under the law, but under grace” Romans 6:14.

I listened to what he had to say, for indeed I do agree that most of us in the body of Christ do not even attempt to worship Christ as Lord with our feet. With our lips, yes, we honor Him, but when it comes to costly acts, I believe most of the Church is asleep. Alas, I must admit that this described me far too well. In the Greek, the word for “worship” is proskuneo, which means to bow the knee, to submit to the will of one greater than oneself. Now the common understanding of worship in today’s church is emotional praise, and this is a good thing, but Biblically speaking, it is not, per se, worship. No, we worship God simply by doing His will. So, in this, my brother and I were in accord. However, though indeed God’s will needs to be done, (come thy Kingdom, be done thy will on earth as it is in Heaven) I can most assuredly say that IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE DONE BY US!

Yet, hold on. Didn’t I just argue that we worship God with our feet? How can I say, on the one hand that we do need to do His will, yet on the other hand God’s will does not need to be done by us? Strange as it may seem, there is no contradiction, at least not in the Heavenly system of accounting!

We must first of all start with an understanding of the message of the book of Romans. The first three chapters begin with an indictment of all humanity. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (3:23). However, God made a way for the penalty of our sin to be paid, through the blood of Christ. This much is I have always understood. But it does not stop there. No, for not only has Christ died, those who are in Christ have died along with Him! “ Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (6:3). This is why we were baptized after we confessed Jesus as Savior, for we have died with him, and were buried along with him in our baptism. Of course, the gospel doesn’t end here, either. For indeed, that Christ is raised is the foundation of our faith, for when He was raised, we too were raised up with Him TO A NEW LIFE! The apostle Paul writes to the Galatians, “ I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (2:20-21) And to the Corinthians he writes “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Thus, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.

This is more than just semantics, my friends. This is reality, “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). That is, though we are expected to do God’s will, we can not do it. Indeed, the ego, that which is self, was nailed to the cross, because we in ourselves could never please God. If we could, then we could claim the glory for having done so. But just as Jesus glorified His Father through working the works of the Father, so now we glorify Jesus when he works His works in and through us. “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure” Phi 2:13. So the will of God can be found working in me, but not by me. I am but a broken vessel, ready for the Master’s use.

All is Christ, Christ is all. Pride must be crushed. Who am I to suppose that I would do the will of God? No, for all that ever needed to be done was done at Calvary, and when Jesus said, “it is finished”, it was finished, then, now and for all time. Nothing more needs to be added. So we plead, not that we should do the will of God, but that Christ in us should already have done it! We enter into that which is already finished, our inheritance having been guaranteed.

I shared this picture with the brother at the jury pool. Suppose you were to find out that there was a five million dollar judgement against you, that unless you paid it, you would go to jail. However, you also have ten million dollars in the bank, having inherited that princely sum from a rich uncle. Knowing this, would we try to pay this judgement off by working hard the rest of our lives? Were we to work 20 lifetimes, we would never pay it off. Who among us wouldn’t just draw on that inheritance to pay off that judgement? Of course that would be the only logical course. If we already have the resources at our fingertips, though indeed not our own resources, we would be fools to try to pay it on our own.

So it is with the will of God. Yes, we are to do His will, to keep His commandments, but never, ever according to the mortal man, that which comes from us. Tolstoy, having read the beatitudes, decided he would try to live according to that high moral standard. He went crazy in the attempt. Where he erred was not the correct understanding that Jesus expects us to live according to the sermon on the mount, but in assuming that we would do so by our own human effort. That was never God’s intent. We can only do His will when we get out of the way and let Jesus do the Father’s will through us. And when He does, guess who gets the glory? Hint: it’s not us! We yield and Jesus works the works of God through us. Ultimately, God gets the glory for working out His will on earth. What a radical concept!

Practically, of course, the works of men and the works of God will look the same to the world. If I went to the poor in India and ministered to them as Mother Theresa has, I too would be glorified by the world. But there it would end. I would “already have received my reward.” (Mat 6:16) Yet if I prayed to God that His works might be found in me, and went to the poor in India and did the same thing as above, yet not I, but Christ in me, then HE would be glorified, and my reward would be found in Heaven. Though the works might look the same to man, there is an eternal difference. Thus I pray only that I might abide more and more in the Vine, from which the eternal fruit that may be found on me flows. I have entered the rest mentioned in Hebrews chapter four, for “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that to which I’ve committed to Him” (II Tim I:12) I do not, as an expression of my self, even dare attempt to please God. But Christ in me pleases Him well, and I take my confidence in Him.

Jesus is Lord of His Church

There are saints that just don't "fit in" with traditional church structures. After I left the "four wall" church, my Mom was understandably concerned. In frustration, she just asked me, "all right, then, what would YOU consider the 'perfect church'", and thus was the article below written:

The Perfect Church
1. We acknowledge that Jesus Christ is truly the head, the Chief Shepherd, the Source of all that we are. He directs our meetings, inspires our testimonies, ministers to the sick, the lonely, the destitute and He alone is glorified among us. I Pet 2:25.

2. We meet in a home (Acts 20:20), and if there are too many we start a new group. Perhaps, as the Lord would direct, we might have fellowship in a larger setting with the other groups. But that larger meeting would never be the focus of who we are, rather a catalyst for the home meeting.

3. Our human leaders are so low key that a visitor might not even guess who they are. They do not “run the show”, but serve so as to allow the Lord to have his way among us. They do not receive any glory, and should any be directed in their direction, they are quick to respond as did John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God.” That is to say, “seek Jesus, don’t seek me.” These leaders will gain nothing in the eyes of the world for having led the church. (Compare Acts 20:29-30, I Pet 5:1-4.)

4. We are accountable one to another. When one member is weak, we are all weak, and when one of us rejoices, we all rejoice. We are family. We love each other dearly. We would rather walk with our brother in his suffering than walk with the world in its joy. I Cor 12:26.

5. We have a vision for evangelism, but nothing like the world has ever seen. We are confident as we gather for teaching, for admonishing, for testimony and for prayer, that our lives will never be the same. The world will note of us, as they did the early disciples, that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). When our parents, our bosses, our friends and others who have known us, see the change that has come over us, they will naturally want to know why. And thus our home groups will never be static, but always be bombarded with those lives we touch coming to see this Jesus who we know.

6. We present a Jesus who is alive, who right now wishes to interact with His church, to be intimate with her, and to delight in fellowship with her. He stands at the door and knocks, and those who would be intimate with Him will open, and invite Him in, and eat with Him. Rev 3:20, John 14:23.

7. We each know that apart from Him who is our Life, we are nothing at all. We acknowledge that we have been put to death with Christ, we have been buried with Him in baptism, and that we have been raised up with Him to a new life. Thus we never, ever, take ourselves too seriously, but rather allow Jesus to flow freely among us, ministering as He would, doing only the work that He sees His Father in Heaven doing. His life is our life, and this is all that we desire. John 8:28.

Poor in Spirit

Jesus said, "If anyone would enter the Kingdom of God, he must humble himself, become as a child". The entry point to His Kingdom is poverty of spirit. I have written a short essay on the Beattitudes, which I post below:
¶ Blessed <3107> are the poor <4434> in spirit <4151>: for <3754> theirs <846> is <2076> (5748) the kingdom <932> of heaven <3772>.
Shalom to the helpless, the powerless, the needy, the simple minded, those who willingly acknowledge their utter dependence upon God for their very life, for only in them will the rule and reign of God be manifest.
Only those who humble themselves as a child may ever see this, which is no less than the rule and reign of God through their bodies. Paul writes that we are to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our spiritual act of worship.” The picture of a helpless man, hands open, totally dependent upon the grace of others for his very life, is a powerful syllogism for the poor man Jesus is calling blessed. Until we reach that point in our walk with Christ that we acknowledge that without Him we simply will not survive, we shall not have known the riches of being poor in spirit. Without suffering, perhaps we shall never see this blessing.
4 Blessed <3107> are they that mourn <3996> (5723): for <3754> they <846> shall be comforted <3870> (5701).
Shalom to they that are consumed with grief so heavy that they can not hide the fact they are hurting, for they shall have one to walk beside, to console and to strengthen them.
Of course, who is He who walks beside but our true paraclete, the Holy Spirit? When our hearts are heavy and we can not imagine the thought of going another inch, Jesus says that we are blessed. Why? Because we will not walk this path alone, for the Spirit comes, the great Comforter, guides us, and the knowledge of his Presence makes all the grief and sorrow well worth the price we have paid.
5 Blessed <3107> are the meek <4239>: for <3754> they <846> shall inherit <2816> (5692) the earth <1093>.
Shalom to those who are gentle in spirit, who do not insist on their own justification, but who humbly lay that aside, knowing that their God has said, “Justice is mine, I will repay,” for their rightful inheritance is the earth itself.
Now the time will come when we may be dispossessed of all our earthly treasures, but no matter. That is only the short term, but the meek look for the long haul, to a God who is always just, whose books must balance, who will set every wrong right and make every lofty place plain. In the end we win, saints! We have read the book, and the good guys come out on top. Now with the temporal eyes we might see the haughty rewarded and the righteous broken, but whatever the injustice, we worship a God who will one day make it right. The righteous willingly accept all this, rejoicing when they are stripped of every temporal reality, for they will be repaid by a just Judge, who will reward them of the very earth that was unjustly taken from them!
6 Blessed <3107> are they which <3588> do hunger <3983> (5723) and <2532> thirst <1372> (5723) after righteousness <1343>: for <3754> they <846> shall be filled <5526> (5701).
Shalom to those who ardently crave and painfully feel need of and long for integrity, virtue, purity of life and correctness of thinking, for they shall eat their fill of these things and be fully satisfied.
And whose righteousness to the blessed seek? Certainly not their own, for if they had a righteousness of their own, they should have no reason to graze upon God’s pastures. But no, these have seen that their own righteousness is dung in the sight of a Holy God, and their craving is only for the good stuff. The saints know that that which proceeds “out from” themselves, which they could do of their own strength, has only the appearance of good, but none of the everlasting fruit. They have “ceased from their labor as He has ceased from His,” instead resting in the confidence that if they set themselves aside, and allow God to work in them “His good pleasure” that they will be found pleasing in His sight.
7 Blessed <3107> are the merciful <1655>: for <3754> they <846> shall obtain mercy <1653> (5701).
Shalom to those who help the afflicted and bring help to the wretched, for they themselves will be aided the very same way.
When we work in the broken world, we encounter those who have reaped what they have sown, but the saints take no joy in this, not the smallest bit of “I told you so” comes off of their lips. Yes, maybe the drug addict deserves a wasted body, or the prostitute her venereal disease, or the homosexual his aids, but we don’t even think of justice. Indeed, we know that we are not a whit different in the eyes of God, save for his work of redemption that we have entered into. Thus are our hearts full of compassion for these people, and we eagerly do what we can to help them get back on their feet, not worrying at all about how they might use us, for out from the abundance which we have received do we in turn give back. Some might trample on us, but others will experience mercy, total undeserved favor for the first time, and our joy will be made full.
8 Blessed <3107> are the pure <2513> in heart <2588>: for <3754> they <846> shall see <3700> (5695) God <2316>.
Shalom to those who are singular in their center, who long only for Him, for they shall indeed behold Him. Indeed our brother Isaiah looked upon the Lord, then considered his fate, for he was “a man of unclean lips” but he had beheld the Ultimate Purity, true Perfection. But the angel took the coal from the altar, and made his lips pure, and his commission was forthcoming. Even so, we do not look to ourselves for purity, but, walking in the Spirit, by the Spirit, we put to death the misdeeds of the body. Thus we become in experience what we already are in Him: Pure.
9 Blessed <3107> are the peacemakers <1518>: for <3754> they <846> shall be called <2564> (5701) the children <5207> of God <2316>.
Shalom to those who spread Shalom, for they are God’s kids.
He Himself is our Peace, who has broken down the wall of division, and has made the two one. Wherever we go, He goes, and we present Him to a broken world, in need of reconciliation.
10 Blessed <3107> are they which are persecuted <1377> (5772) for <1752> righteousness' sake <1343>: for <3754> theirs <846> is <2076> (5748) the kingdom <932> of heaven <3772>.
Shalom to those rejected and despised by the world, for in them the rule and reign of Jesus Christ is supreme.
We present His offer of Peace, but have no illusions. Most will judge us as fools, and some will take so much offense that they will strike out at us. But our eyes on not on some temporal reality, but upon the City of God itself. Thus we do not strike back, or look back, or demand justice, for it is ours already in Him.
Blessed <3107> are ye <2075> (5748), when <3752> men shall revile <3679> (5661) you <5209>, and <2532> persecute <1377> (5661) you, and <2532> shall say <2036> (5632) all manner <3956> of evil <4190> <4487> against <2596> you <5216> falsely <5574> (5730), for my sake <1752> <1700>.12 Rejoice <5463> (5720), and <2532> be exceeding glad <21> (5737): for <3754> great <4183> is your <5216> reward <3408> in <1722> heaven <3772>: for <1063> so <3779> persecuted they <1377> (5656) the prophets <4396> which <3588> were before <4253> you <5216>.
Shalom to the despised, persecuted and ill thought of, spoken falsely against for the sake of Him who is in them. They shall rejoice for their reward in Heaven is among the prophets, who are their fellow sufferers and brothers.
Every valley will be exalted, and every hill will be made low. We know this for He has said it. We do not look to the world for justice, but are secure in the knowledge of our reward, based not on our works, but in our participation in His finished work on the cross.

campaign 2008

Obama has been sighted in some strange places recently, such as Rick Warren's very evangelical church. Barak Obama is himself a believer, if indeed religious conservatives would wonder how that could possibly be. He is decrying the "slash and burn" politics of Washington, all the ad hominum attacks, the mudslinging, the division that this country has experienced.

Well, I decry this, too. Does our struggle have to be to the death? Does the victory of one side of the cultural divide by definition mean loss on the other? So here's what it comes down to: Is that which unites us in America greater than what divides us? Barak Obama hopes so. I am not so sure I share his hope, though.

Inspired by Evolution, secularists have long hoped for a total removal of the Divine from our world. Inspired by the Bible, evangelicals have hoped to preserve a culture that once openly acknowledged God. Evolution is the secularists "god"; any attack on Evolution is considered an attack on their core values. They will not allow, as long as they have the power to do so, any questioning of naturalism as the basis for input in the public square. Conversely, the evangelicals will defend the Bible, and will not be moved.
So is there a middle ground? Maybe. Perhaps we could come to a consensus that Intelligent Design does suggest the likelihood of Divine involvement, and put that much safely in the public square, yet without endorsing any religion or philosophy that might be based upon such Divine work. I don't know if this would be acceptable to either side of the culture war, which is why I think it could work.

Is God impressed with us?

What does God require of man, but to walk humbly before Him? As I consider the state of the Western church, so much activity, but so little substance. I walked around the largest church on Maui last night. An impressive building, but definitely showing signs of disrepair. Now the church is not a building, nor, as some would suppose, is it the body of believers, but rather the Body of Christ living in us. He must alone be glorified among us. Nevertheless, who gets the glory now?
Jesus tells the church in Ephesus to repent of dead works. She supposed she was doing well until the report card came in. Want to impress God? First of all admit you are nothing apart from Him. Repent of dead works, those done without His life flowing through you. Then wait. A year. Two years. Ten. It doesn't matter. Delight in the affection He has for you. Be His kid. Know of His unconditional love for you. When you are connected to the Vine in this way, fruit will appear, but you will not have done it.

What is Faith?

Do I fear God? Yes. I believe I will one day give an account for everything I have ever done. So will everyone else who has ever lived.

2. How does my faith work for me? I think faith gets a bad rap. In most usages, faith is that which you believe subjectively without any objective reason. However, the Bible tells me that faith is "the evidence of things unseen, the assurance of that for which I hope". Thus faith is objective, not subjective. True, I cannot "see" the things that I believe; they are hidden from one's natural senses. Nevertheless, by revelation, I accept them. If a rich uncle had left me five million dollars, I would, in fact, be rich. However, if I never read the will, and was therefore unaware of the bequest, my riches would do me no good, and I would live no differently than I ever did. If I do read the will, it will tell me how to withdraw from the estate what is legally mine. So it is with faith. My Father in Heaven has indeed bequeathed me with riches beyond all comparison, and has left me a Book that will unlock those treasures for me. If I read it, faith "comes by hearing" and I begin to believe that which, apart from revelation, I cannot see.

Garden of Eden

What happened in the Garden of Eden? What was the fall of man?
Adam and Eve did not, until the fall, have a sense of right or wrong; this belonged to God alone.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;"but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Genesis 2:16 and 17.

Of course, Adam DID eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but he did not, that day, physically die. From this we would conclude that there was something else that died when Adam decided he wanted to know right from wrong. When he was created, Adam was one in spirit with God: His life was the life of the Creator, flowing through him.

We would wonder if Adam had no moral conscience, how then did he always do right, and not sin? It's one thing if a man can see where he is going, and is on a very dangerous path. He might well fall, but at least he has a chance. Yet Adam lived for an unspecified amount of time without sinning, even though he had no idea of right and wrong. How? Simply by keeping a relationship with his Creator. Adam was for sure "blind" to knowing good and evil, but there was another Tree in the Garden, and from that tree he freely ate of Life.

Well, along comes B. Al Zebub, AAL, esquire. He beguiles Eve with a half truth: If you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall be as god, knowing right from wrong. Presumably there would have been no temptation if Eve had known the whole truth: Yes, she would know right from wrong, but, as an independent moral being, she would NOT be able to choose the right and not choose the wrong. So she chooses to eat of the fruit, and Adam passively goes along with it. And that day, Adam's spirit, through which he had fellowship with his Creator, died.

Can he get it back? No. Dead is as dead does. Fellowship has been broken, and no manner of religion is ever going to put it back. If there will be restoration, the Creator Himself will provide it.

15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." Genesis 3:15

Amen and Amen.

Garden of Eden

What happened in the Garden of Eden? What was the fall of man?
Adam and Eve did not, until the fall, have a sense of right or wrong; this belonged to God alone.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;"but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Genesis 2:16 and 17.

Of course, Adam DID eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but he did not, that day, physically die. From this we would conclude that there was something else that died when Adam decided he wanted to know right from wrong. When he was created, Adam was one in spirit with God: His life was the life of the Creator, flowing through him.

We would wonder if Adam had no moral conscience, how then did he always do right, and not sin? It's one thing if a man can see where he is going, and is on a very dangerous path. He might well fall, but at least he has a chance. Yet Adam lived for an unspecified amount of time without sinning, even though he had no idea of right and wrong. How? Simply by keeping a relationship with his Creator. Adam was for sure "blind" to knowing good and evil, but there was another Tree in the Garden, and from that tree he freely ate of Life.

Well, along comes B. Al Zebub, AAL, esquire. He beguiles Eve with a half truth: If you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall be as god, knowing right from wrong. Presumably there would have been no temptation if Eve had known the whole truth: Yes, she would know right from wrong, but, as an independent moral being, she would NOT be able to choose the right and not choose the wrong. So she chooses to eat of the fruit, and Adam passively goes along with it. And that day, Adam's spirit, through which he had fellowship with his Creator, died.

Can he get it back? No. Dead is as dead does. Fellowship has been broken, and no manner of religion is ever going to put it back. If there will be restoration, the Creator Himself will provide it.

15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." Genesis 3:15

Amen and Amen.

Virginia Tech Rampage

The pundits are already out in force, claiming they know what caused the Korean student to go on a shooting spree, killing 32 people, and how to prevent it from happening again. "Tougher gun laws" cries one. Another calls for cameras on every corner of campus. "This is just the work of a random madman" writes another.

I would respond that this killing was neither random nor unpredictable. We have always had mentally unstable people, yet until the Columbine massacre, we never heard of anyone taking a gun to school and taking out as many of his classmates as he can. So what has changed? Certainly availability of semi-automatic weapons is a factor, no matter what the NRA says. I doubt this otherwise law abiding kid would have had the "connections" to get a Glock on the street. If it were not legal for him to have such a weapon, he might not have gone to the trouble of finding one illegally. Yet even in a perfect world where it is difficult for maniacs to obtain weapons, one would never be guaranteed the guy next door isn't plotting their demise.

There used to be a common sense of connectedness among Americans. Yes, we were all different, but we knew to whom we belonged. One might murder someone with whom he has no emotional connection, but what cold heart would shoot the friendly neighborhood postman? Rampant "me first" individualism has taken over the ethos of America, and she is just now beginning to pay the price.

The intellectual driving force behind this disconnection is evolutionary social theory. That is, as we are told we are nothing but cosmic accidents, we begin to form a society not around a common ethos, but rather the individual's pursuit of vainglory. And why not? If there is no Creator, there can be no transcendent morality, and behavior that "dehumanizes" men will soon be ubiquitous.

Ironically, two days after the Virginia massacres, the Supreme Court affirmed the partial birth abortion ban passed by Congress back in 2003. I see this as encouraging, but little more than a band-aid on our wounded soul. Yes, the conservative Christians were able to re-elect President Bush, and as a direct result, the Supreme Court was able to chip away at abortion. This decision does nothing the heal the cold-hearted individualism that has taken over America, the attitude that makes both the Virginia tragedy and Roe v. Wade possible.

Who knows? Perhaps we will yet turn our hearts away from ourselves, and return to the God our forefathers worshiped. I don't know what it will take. Even the 911 disaster was only a bump in the road down the materialist path, a path that the "religious right" have unfortunately taken the lead in America. I have no idea what will shake us off that path. Is our fate sealed?

His Temple

Where is the temple of God? The Babylonian prophets assumed that "He does not dwell among men" - but they found out He did indeed dwell in Daniel. Yet in Daniel's time, the Spirit of the Lord was normally in a temple building. The people of God were commanded to go up to Jerusalem to worship. In fact, it was because they built "high places" elsewhere in Israel that Daniel and his friends were carried away to Babylon in the first place. Y'shua changed all that. Through his life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, those who believe have been given the power to become God's children. Now the Ruach Ha Kodesh, the Holy Spirit, dwells in us. Paul tells us we are "the temple of the Holy Ghost". As this is true, we can worship there anytime, any place.

Hinds feet on high places

Much Afraid is invited by the Chief Shepherd to leave the valley of humiliation and come up to the high places. She thinks herself not worthy, but does accept his invitation. Now she does not yet have the ability to go running up and down the mountains with her Lord, for she must develop the feet of a gazelle. The only way to do this is through holding onto Sorrow and Suffering, her two companions in the journey.

Of course, her relatives in the valley are not pleased that she has chosen to accept the Shepherd's invitation to come up to the high places, so they send Pride to persuade her to come back. She listens to him until he begins to impune the character of the Shepherd, then she cries out for help, and instantly He is with her, giving pride a beating he will not soon forget.

The second visit comes from Bitterness, Resentment and Self Pity. Much Afraid has been led to a path that follows along the sea of loneliness, and away from the high places. Here is a test: Will she remember the little flower she found at the beginning of her passage into the high places, the flower named Acceptence-with-Joy? The sea of loneliness seems to go on forever. She seems no closer to the High Places than when she left the valley. All is desert around her. She feels very much alone, and does not see the high places at all. Bitterness suggests to her that the Shepherd has made a mistake, or that He is cruel, and has led her down a path of suffering for no reason. Resentment chimes in, adding that the Shepherd has not delivered on his promise to take her to the high places. And of course, Self Pity is her constant companion.

As long as Much Afraid is focusing on her current situation, and looking for immediate relief, all is lost. There is nothing in her current circumstances that answers her desires. The whole land is covered with crosses. Yet she does remember her friend, the little flower Acceptance-with-Joy. Even though nothing in her experience of suffering and sorrow can suggest it, she nevertheless does accept, with joy, the cross, for she knows her Shepherd, that He is a Man of great character, who does not lead her astray. She is not delivered FROM her outward circumstances. She is delivered THROUGH her suffering and sorrow.

And so it was with Our Lord. He is baptized in the Spirit, who declares, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" - yet even our Lord was led out into the desert to be tested. After 40 days of fasting, he began to be hungry. Just like Much Afraid, our Lord is in the middle of a desert, and he, too, is visited by Resentment, Bitterness, and Self Pity. The devil suggests to him that if He truly is the Son of God, he could command these stones to become bread, and that was undoubtedly true - but our Lord has "food to eat that ye know not of". Yes, I am hungry, but I will not use my power to provide for my own needs, for indeed a man shall not live by natural bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Natural bread provides sustanance for the body, but God's daily Word to a man is what gives him supernatural life. Like Much Afaid, our Lord accepts, with joy, the lack of the natural, for He is filled with the supernatural bread. He will not give in to bitterness, resentment or Self Pity because he can see through the current situation. So the devil leaves him "for a more opportune time", looking to the ultimate test of Gethsemene, when Calvary looms, and all of his friends will forsake him. Then He will need the utmost revelation of Glory. When it comes, He will be able to say, "Nevertheless, not my will but Thine".

Application:
I head a radio preacher the other day say something so profound I don't think I will ever forget it: If my "happiness" is found in the conditional future, all is lost. I will not find contentment, no matter what my circumstances. If my "happiness" is found in a desire to go back to the "good old days", all is lost, for they are gone, and they weren't so good as I supposed. The essential key is to embrace the present and to fully accept, with joy, the cross set before me. I don't NEED to see a change in my life before I will be happy, whether that be a new job, a wife, a new house, etc. None of those things are evil, but if my focus is on them, placing my hope for contentment in them, then I will spin around hopelessly forever. But if, by Faith, I accept my cross, and practice gratitude at all times, I will find that "all these things" will matter nothing to me, and that they will be "added unto me" - Matthew 6:33.