The Big Lie

Jesus will always love all His human creation, however, we cannot stop here because Jesus will always hate sin. 

Satiated by their finished meal, the open fires casted a slight shadow over them as they and His disciples continued to listen intently. Preoccupied with the many things they had heard that day and evening were cause for consideration.

One of the things that caught their attention was Jesus telling them He would be ashamed of them if they were ashamed of Him and His words. Oh the deep, painful, and overwhelming sorrow they felt at these words.

Many of us probably associate ashamed with shame. Let’s stop right here.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:1.

If you believe in Jesus there is no longer shame or condemnation on your shoulders.

In our verse today (Mark 8:38) Jesus is teaching that being ashamed is two-fold. It applies to those who haven’t accepted Jesus and have misplaced their trust and confidence in the big lie—someone or thing other than Jesus.

It also means Jesus will be ashamed of those who erroneously think, wrongly identify or align themselves with anyone or thing other than Him. I understand this is hard to hear for many especially because Jesus ushered in the new covenant of love.

Jesus will always love all His human creation, however, we cannot stop here because Jesus will always hate sin. 

It is because of love Jesus gives the warning in our verse today. The adulterous and sinful generation began the moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit and it continues to this day.

How you share this truth matters. It holds much weight. Yes, there is an urgency and we want others to know Jesus loves them. We also want them to know they don’t have to believe the big lie. 

I encourage you to think about all the practical ways you can share Jesus. Smiling at strangers, picking up those items that fall off the shelf at grocery stores that others pass by, paying for the order of the car behind you in a drive-thru. These small steps help build our confidence and trust in Jesus and prepare us to move onto the bigger assignments He has for us.

How will you share Jesus today?

Shalom!

 

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Divine Perspective or World View?

Suddenly they stopped in their journey, the dust from their sandals swirling around their feet. The daytime heat was becoming stifling and they were uncomfortable.

Their discomfort was more than physical. His words were messing with their current world view. If He was Messiah He was there to bring victory, to make all things political fall in their favor. They were, after all, descendants of God’s chosen people…an entire nation.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31.

One of the twelve [the one that had just called Him the Messiah] pulls Him aside for a brief chat and admonishes Him, the Messiah, for His teaching.

In our first verse today Jesus is teaching His disciples that their world view is just that—worldly and based on human things. He rattles their world by telling them they are not thinking in a divine manner. He wants them to focus on the things of God, the Creator and owner of all things (Bible.com).

 

What does focusing on divine things look like in your life, in my life? Deeper still, what does being a follower of Jesus really mean?

Changing our focus to divine things. Yes, there is a lot of muck in the world today and we ought to be aware of what is going on around us. Our focus, however, is to be on God. What does He want us to do?

Take the Coronavirus. Are we to be fearful? No, but we are to be wise and take appropriate precautions. How can we further focus on the divine in this situation? We can pray, especially asking God in His mercy to end the virus and heal those who are sick in Jesus Name. Deeper still we can pray for the salvation of those who are sick which hopefully leads us to pray for all those who don’t yet know Jesus around the world—praying for Israel.

Let’s ask God to shape our world view with divine things. One that becomes less about us and more about Him.

Shalom!

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The Ancient of Days

There He sits regal in all His robes, presiding over His courtroom. Sitting high above the gallery. There is kindness and love in His eys as He gazes my way. Can it be? Yes.

The Ancient of Days.

Suddenly and with out warning, His eyes blaze like a furnace. He slams down His gavel and looks directly at the accuser and proclaims, “She is NOT guilty!” The accuser, surprised and taken aback, shrinks and shrivels before my eyes. Handcuffed he is taken away to rot apart from the light and love of God that he once enjoyed.

How often do you, do I remind ourselves that as believers in Jesus we are not guilty of the accusations of Satan? Because of Jesus death on the Cross and our faith in Him we are free! The chains of bondage that held or continue to hold many have been broken. Right now, see in your mind, the breaking of these chains and proclaim, “Because of Jesus I am free!” The enemy has no victory over you. Quite the contrary, YOU, through the power of Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus have ultimate and final victory over him

In today’s verse is the word justified. It is the Greek word dikaioó. It means made right by God’s grace each time we receive (obey) faith (Bible.com).

Justification goes much deeper than faith alone. It is what we do for God on earth by His grace each time we receive faith to move and obey. Justification is ongoing and requires an action by you and by me.

As you continue to stay tethered to Jesus may you remember the power of Holy Spirit in you to receive greater and greater faith and his courage and boldness to do the good deeds He has called you to.

Live free!

Shalom!

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Fatih and Actions Working Together

The crowd, somewhat calmed, but still heightened by James teaching, cautiously listens even as James calls them foolish. Accusing them of being empty of moral content and pretentious. By the power of Holy Spirit he continues to press them harder but they remain incredulous demanding evidence that faith without deeds is useless. Collectively they wonder, “Who is this man turning upside down our thought process, the very core of what we grew up learning? Who does he think he is? Isn’t he simply the brother, and half at that, of the man named Jesus who claimed to be The Messiah? And, he has the audacity to liken what Father Abraham did [offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice] as a deed because of his faith in God?”

James was on fire in his teaching, actually throughout the entire book of James, he is succinct and to the point not parsing words (oh, that the Bride would be more James-like holding herself accountable by drawing herself back to the truth of God’s word in love and grace rather than falling into the trap of societal correctness, when it is our job as believers to hold each other accountable and draw each other back to the truth of God’s word and allow the Holy Spirit to convict and recognizing we are not judging each other but loving each other, but I digress).

How often do you, do I require evidence from God about anything?

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

James 2:21-22

Abraham didn’t need any evidence for what God was asking him to do. He allowed his faith to help him be obedient together with his action resulting in his faith made complete.

Do you often think about your faith connected to the deeds God asks of you as growing your faith? How gracious God is when He asks us to fill a need at the same time He is growing our faith! Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said we would do greater things than these (John 14:12-14). Collectively, spurred on by our ever increasing faith and by the power of Holy Spirit we can and ought to do the deeds or good work God calls us to do.

So, how do we apply this to our life? I will always lead you back to time spent with God. It is only through reading and studying His word and prayer that we begin to hear His voice guiding us in the direction He wants us to go and His will for our life.

Let’s aspire to take on the characteristics of James and Abraham believing that faith and deeds is an abundant way of living.

Shalom!

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Faith, Deeds, Life

The man standing at the back of the gathering in the square shouted, “That is preposterous!” Another jumped to his feet, robes gently billowing in the late afternoon breeze, and demanded, “What is the meaning of this?” As I watched the crowd was becoming restless and I could sense a small uprising mounting. I could taste the dust in my mouth as the people milling around kicked it up in disbelief wondering, is James telling us faith is the catalyst for good deeds?

They were taught to take care of the widows and orphans, give to the poor and be a good samaritan. That every good deed they produced was of their own accord and had absolutely nothing to do with faith. Faith was something in Yahweh.

Faith is not passive and genuine faith is the reality that we align our life too through Jesus and the power of Holy Spirit.

As your faith grows so will the deeds God wants you to be involved in. Faith and deeds go hand in hand. Our responsibility is to remain open to all acts of deeds He places before us asking Holy Spirit to help us be courageous, bold and obedient.

Further, our responsibility is to move when God instructs us to. To fill the needs He places before us. Whether these needs are financial, emotional, physical or spiritual. Healing, great healing, comes from our faith which leads to deeds that God works through to offer healing to others.

May our good deeds be known by our growing faith in Jesus. May our faith be genuine and always active as we continue to seek Him and His righteousness.

Shalom!

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Anxiousness

I stepped on without a care in the world. Grabbed ahold of the black rubber rail and looked up to carry on the conversation I was having with my daughter. Suddenly it hit me. I started to shake, my grip on the rail grew tighter, I couldn’t see the top nor did I want to because that meant looking up while traveling up the 213 vertical feet of one on the tallest escalators in the Western Hemisphere. I looked down and my daughter instantly knew I was struggling and there wasn’t anything we could do about it. So I prayed. That was the longest two minutes and forty seconds of my life!

Daily the average ridership on the DC Metro system is 626,000 [The Washinton Post 1/15/20]. Every time I am in DC I am amazed by the people walking up and down the escalators throughout the metro tunnels. Standing behind those walking down there appears to be a certain sway to their descent like they are walking on a small pillow of air. Likewise watching others walk up on the opposite escalator they appear slightly bent forward like they’re carrying a small burden. I suppose one becomes acclimated to the escalators and there are elevators but I challenge myself whenever I am there to use the escalators. However, anticipating riding them always causes a certain amount of anxiousness and a WHOLE lot of prayer!

In our verse for today Paul encourages us to not be anxious about anything but focus on God bringing our concerns to Him. Many times and for many of us this is easier said than done. There are times anxiety happens in situations like anticipating riding a very tall escalator and other times it can be because of an imbalance in our system. Before we move on my encouragement is to seek God and His wisdom about what you ought to do to feel healthy and live the full life He came to give each of us.

And that’s just it…seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Including God in your every day, every minute, every choice and He will lead you in His direction which is perfect and best for you.

When we choose to live in this fashion Paul goes on to encourage us…

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7.

Practicing more peace for my heart and mind along with you!

Shalom!

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Belonging

We need encouragement in our lives on a daily basis. We need someone to build us up and help us see our value and worth before the Lord. The devil and the world’s systems grind us down and wear us out. We need others in the body of Christ to remind us that we are God’s unique and irreplaceable creations, called to unique and irreplaceable places of ministry. We need to be reminded of God’s love for us and of our importance to the church.

Charles Stanley

When our children were younger and I would drop them off at school before they got out of the car I would say to them, “Remember who you are and Who you belong to.

As a believer in Christ your identity is in Jesus[.]. I know, I know, the world and the enemy clamor for our attention and we begin to look here, we look there, we look anywhere except up. It is vitally important that you and I stay connected to Jesus on a consistent basis practicing all the spiritual disciplines [I recently read there are at least twelve] throughout the day or by Holy Spirit’s leading. He is the only One who can help us keep our focus on Him.

Whatever your today and all your tomorrows hold I bless you with the knowledge and truth that Holy Spirit lives in you as a believer in Jesus and is available to you for whatever you need.

Shalom!

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Katapetasma

The earth shook, rocks were split and miraculously, before their eyes, those that had fallen asleep believing in Jesus were raised FROM the dead! Even more miraculously and after the resurrection of Jesus they left the tombs where their bodies had lain and entered the holy city appearing to many people. Can you EVEN imagine this?! If I were the relative or close friend of someone who had died and rose again and didn’t believe in Jesus that definitely would have sealed the deal for me. Alas, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. Holy Spirit gives to each of us the faith to believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The decision to receive this gift is always up to us.

Prior to the earthquake and the rocks splitting the single most important thing that happened in this event was the katapetasma [veil] which hung in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This veil separated the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God lived, from the outer part of the temple in Jerusalem.

Prior to Jesus death and resurrection the veil was significant because only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies as an intermediary for Israel and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The moment Jesus breathed His last breath the katapetasma was torn and some believe this event symbolizes the departure of God’s presence from the temple. This event also ushered in direct access to God by all those who believe in His Son Jesus.

In our verse today Paul is talking about the hardened minds of the Israelites to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it isn’t only the nation of Israel that had hardened minds against Jesus even today there are many who believe if they do good, if they don’t lie, steal or cheat they are in good standing with God. Sadly, their minds are still covered by a veil that continues to keep them hardened toward God.

My prayer is that God will remove the katapetasma over all Israel so she will see Jesus the Messiah she has been looking for.

That He will remove the veil from all who are yet to believe revealing His beauty.

That He would simply cause the Bride to stop picking up and covering her mind with another veil. Jesus died once[.].

That we would see the beauty of the glory of the Lord reflected in us and grasp ahold of the freedom in and through Jesus in our life that spills onto the lives of others simply because Holy Spirit lives in us.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3:17.

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Body Image (3): Greatest Body, Wounded Parts

“Helper” carries my crutches for me and needs a rest.

My friend, Russ Lucier, who blogs over @Rejoicing Bones writes about his journey of recovery after a motorcycle accident in 2017. This article first appeared on his site. I encourage you to be encouraged by Russ and visit his site. Lord Bless!

This is the third and final installment of the Body Image series.  I write this for the wounded who find it difficult to push forward.  Not just for them, but for those who know someone who is wounded and finding it difficult to move forward.  We can feel so compelled to serve Christ, which we should, but sometimes limitations fall on us and that becomes a troublesome thing.   

Let’s look at this in relation to the Body, the Body of Christ, the Church.  I will try to keep things simple by getting to a main point made by 18th century theologian and revivalist John Wesley: “we are closely connected together in Christ and consequently ought to be helpful to each other.”  That was his comment on Romans 12:5.   

Paul writes a similar message to the Corinthians and says to each person that their “unique manifestation of the Spirit” is given for the common good.  (1 Corinthians 12:7).  He describes different ways people are gifted and then likens them to body parts in order to diffuse strife that has built up from jealousy over gifts.  Paul makes it clear that each one receives different gifts, each for a particular, unique and important purpose.  For the sake of unity, he writes, “…so that there should be no division among the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”  He goes on to say that if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.   

I remember standing on my legs and trying to walk 2 meters between parallel bars while trying to recover from my motorcycle accident.  My right leg, though broken much more badly than my left, was stronger because it had a “Taylor Spatial Frame” on it.  It held my leg together like a strong exoskeleton.  It was the leg that made full weight-bearing possible and allowed me to stand.  It took up weight for my left leg, which had no intact ligaments to speak of and a dislocated knee cap.  I look around the church and see people who, despite having issues of their own, prop up those who are even weaker.  God, bless those people.   

I have video footage of my first steps.  My arms were recruited to pull the rest of the body into a standing position.  They had to work very hard to do so.  Then, to walk those mere two meters, my arms carried virtually all of my weight, as my legs were wasted away.  Arms are not made for walking.  Their muscle mass is much smaller than the legs’ and designed to do other things.  After a few labored steps, all of my energy was drained and I trembled under the strain.  I look around the church and I see people who have to do work designed for someone else because that someone else is unable to.  God bless those people.   

Over the last two years of using a wheelchair and crutches to propel my body, my shoulder has become weary from overuse.  I try to strengthen my upper back muscles, which helps, but make no mistake: it’s life span will suffer.  The shoulder, the hero, has been sacrificing itself for a lengthy period of time for the benefit of the rest of the body.  How else could the rest of the body be as useful if it could not get around?  I look around the church and see people bearing one another’s burdens at cost to themselves.  God bless those people. 

My legs serve to illustrate what has happened to me in the church.  Because of the injuries to them, the acquired disability, the resulting mental health struggles and other complicated knock-on effects, I feel I have been taken out of commission.  For years I served in the armed forces, supervising as many as 63 people.  The most rewarding aspect of my role was the pastoral care involved.  The second most rewarding role I found myself in was teaching.  After retirement, I eventually found my way to education in a pastoral care role.  But since the accident, I have not successfully returned to work for a substantial period of time so now there seems to be a great void from not exercising the gifts I feel I have.   

To make this more of a concern, I have recently stepped down from a leadership role in a fledgling ministry because further life-changing operations await.  Staying in the role would have caused the mission to suffer because it won’t get my undivided attention or full strength.  I am broken-hearted over this.  The feeling of uselessness and failure comes in waves, even though I know these feelings are not legitimate.  

So what do we make of these seasons when our wounds (be they, physical, mental, emotional or even spiritual) take us out of action?  Any suggestions or principles I propose here can feel like hard-to-swallow medicine.  Here’s what I’m thinking.  I hope they are helpful to you: 

  • God is sovereign.  He doesn’t need our service.  That sounds harsh, but it’s true.  He has everything he needs to live happily forever.  He desires our hearts.  David says something like that in Psalm 51:16-17.  See, our gifts and services (done in joy, by the way) are for the greater good of the church and the church is to glorify God through the Great Commission.  If something that is beyond our control inhibits us, having an understanding of this principle can take the pressure off!

  • God is sovereign.  He does everything for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).  That includes anything that’s going on and whatever our wounds are.  Just remember too, that, according to the next verse, the aim is to be conformed to the image of his Son.  That’s a glorious thing.  Incidentally, that will include having a body, mind and soul that doesn’t get wounded at all!   

  • God is sovereign.  (Have I said that yet)?  He is very economical and orchestrates many things together for the good of many people at the same time.  That includes those who get to support you and do the work you would have done under different circumstances.  Though it may be extra challenging for them, they will also grow and become more conformed to the image of Christ.   

So take heart my friends, my brothers, my sisters.  Do what you can and don’t give up.  Pray.  The rest of the body needs it.   

Seeking Wisdom in the Right Place

May we not miss Wisdom and thereby injure ourselves. Rather let us love Wisdom finding favor with the Lord and living the abundant life Christ has given us as our inheritance here on earth.

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Shalom!