Sunday, December 30, 2012
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Satan attacked the first people with lies. What God commanded them was not true. God's word was not trustworthy. God is not trustworthy.
Of course, the first people acted on these lies, and the world's DNA was infected by what the Bible calls "sin." There is now in man a tendency to move away from God. The God-man relationship is broken. The man-man relationship is broken. Man's relationship with himself is broken. His tendency is to choose directions, actions and attitudes that damages himself.
The cure is to choose to go away from, counter to this tendecy. THe first step is to declare the truth, because the devil's first step was to lie.
Satan will lie to us, just as he lied to the first people. It is the lie in our thoughts that will move us to make wrong decisions. Remembering and declaring truth will cancel the wrong thoughts.
Satan's lies will not always be obvious. It can be difficult to recognize the lie amid all the claims of "pleasure", "peace" and "profit." It can be difficult to recognize the lie among all the attempts to obscure it -- "old fashioned", "narrow-minded" and "judgmental." (Especially when the family of God underlines and highlights the lies with their own practices.) These are only a few of his lies to persudae us to follow his other lies. And if he succeeds in getting us to believe one of his lies, we will hear it again and again.
We need to live by the truth. To live by the truth, we need to know the truth. So, it is important to be engaged with God in the scriptures. It is important to obey God in making disciples. It is important to persist. Even if we succeed obeying God only once in a million times, God will take any step of obedience, of faith, and treat it like "bread and fish." (A reference to the story about Jesus feeding at least 5000 people with one person's lunch.)
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
SInce, we are all parts of the whole, we will all advance together, and we will all retreat together. When a church planting movement sweeps across a tribal groupin India, churches popping up in unprecedented rates, salvations so fast it takes your breath away, we are all part of that. We can all rejoice. We can all pray for a continuing, a growing and a spreading.
But we do not seem to take this connectedness seriously, especially in the west, especially in America. In those places, the church has uncovered the opposite, but in some ways, an equally wonderful truth. Which is -- there is an unlimited potential in the individual. Especially if he walks in love and the Holy Spirit.
Metaphors break down eventually. It can be seen most clearly in the stories of individuals for whom the truth og God has become most real: Jesus, Paul, Hudson Taylor, Charles finney, Charles Wesley, to name a few. These men took two extra steps to obey God, and God's Spirit moved in a tidal wave across the landscape.
But such individuals are rare. So God put us into teams, with steps of obedience creating a synergy. Teams are almost more powerful than the afore mentioned spiritual giants. Egos need humility, which can result from mutual submission. Unity must be maintained. The simple mixing of people into a powerful team is a miracle in the current age of "me first", "you're worth it" and "do your own thing."
But to go one step further, the growth of the Body requires the health of the whole Body. People charge on to achieve personal growth. But we are losing something if we do not go together. To grow more completely in the things of God, we need to go together, in order to grow together. We probably cannot go with 50 people. But we do need a team that provides all the necessary things for life and growth.
We are designed by God for health, growth and reproduction. We have discussed the necessary ingredients for these things. Here is another -- one another.
Paul encourages us to use all the tools at our disposal, because Satan has developed strategies against us. The purpose of Satan's strategies is to take glory from God and to make our lives miserable. People were designed to live in joy and peace; if Satan can get us to live without joy and without peace, he has succeeded. MIsery per se is not really necessary. He has moved us away from our design; he has stolen glory from God.
MAny people reguard Sata's plots as actual attempts by Satan to harm us, our family, our friends, or our property. I certainly do not mean to say that if Satan can do any of these things, he will not. What I am saying is that for far too many of us, he does not need to. All he needs to do is whisper about some problem, some worry, some concern, and our minds filter it through a non-God grid. And we roll it around in our brains. It is not prayed over. It is not considered in the light of what scripture says. It is certainly not regarded in a way the brings purification of our hearts and minds -- as scripture promises that any trial will.nor is it regarded in the light of God's mission.
Rarely are any of these things done. And when we fail to shine God's light on circumstances, Satan wins.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Friday, December 21, 2012
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Saturday, December 08, 2012
However, I found myself asking the question, "Why is joy important?" We saw when we began this exercise, that joy is part of the picture of man living in holiness. Joy is a natural result of man living in relationship with God and a natural result of a life of obedience. Joy was a daily component of Jesus' life, because he lived closest to God and was the most obedient person whoever lived.
We tentatively defined joy as an attitude of positive enthusiasm or passion toward life.
I recently finished a book called "Born to Run." The basic premise of the book is that human beings were designed for long distance running. (We are also designed to seek out greater efficiency. That's why people seek ways to avoid running.) The author presented information from science and anthropology to illustrate the theme. Interwoven with the rational "proofs" were stories from primitive tribes famous for running, and stories from the world of ultra-marathons, that is, races of 50 to 100 miles.
At one point, one of the characters realizes the spiritual aspect of running. Successful, excellent running is based on joyfully embracing it. Joy motivates its pursuit. Joy motivates continuing with or without outside reward.
Motivation is pivotal in any endeavor. Without improvement or any other reward, it is only an internal heart motivation that urges a person to continue a difficult course of action.
And pursuing holiness in a corrupt world can never achieve any real success. There can be improvement, even significant improvement, but never real mastery. Joy becomes an important motivation towards pursuing holiness, as well as an indicator of success - as it is a "natural" result of living in agreement with God. Joy can be part of creating an upward spiral by motivating greater obedience.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
There does seem to be two primary bases for joy. One is our relationship with God. Two is acting in agreement with our God-designed natures.
Relationship, as we tend to use the word and concept today, is defined rather simply. It involves talking and hanging out. Relationships go far beyond that. It involves actions for and against, offense and forgiveness, judgment, restoration, comfort, presence,and yes communication of all sorts: teaching, explaining, joking, consoling, reproving, warning, etc.
One of the reasons God gives commands is so we know how to live. Obedience to these commands does not follow some arbitrary group of rules. The command follow a design. They either make life more efficient, effective and full, or they enhance our relationships with God and people. That's why the Bible speaks so much about obedience.
And mission is another part of design. It is also part of relationship. Working as a team to achieve an over-arching goal builds relationships. It builds a common mind-set. And in the case of people teaming up with God, it develops God's mind-set in people.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
While I was driving to work, I began to consider my latest batch of Bible passages about joy. This batch is from a list of proverbs in the Bible. This thinking led to a chain of thoughts.
1. The proverbs associated with joy seem to be taken up with living out God’s design for man. In other words, joy comes when a person has thoughts, attitudes, words and actions that agree with the life God intended man to live. The basic name the Bible gives to this pattern of living is “holiness.” When people live in a holy manner, they have joy and people around them have joy. Family life works better. Cities work better. Individuals work better.
2. Of course, I am reminded about the current reality. One does not have to listen to the news too long to realize that people are not living in a holy pattern, in a way that God would prefer we do not live. And if people are not living in a holy way, they are not experiencing too much joy.
3. So, what can be done to turn the situation around? We are designed to live a life of joy. We are not living in joy because we do not live in agreement with our design. We could move toward holy living. But people cannot live in holiness. History teaches that time and again.
4. One way that holiness has been “imposed” on people is when they are overwhelmed with the presence of God. (Imposed is an incorrect word. Imposed denotes coercion. And people cannot be coerced to welcome the presence of God. Unless one says that they imposed God’s presence on themselves.) This type of implanting of holiness has been referred to in history as a “revival.” God makes himself know in a community, and people’s hearts, attitudes and life change. America has undergone several revivals. China has undergone some too. Individuals change; and good sweeps across society.
I guess the only sure way for good to sweep away evil is for the world to undergo revival.
Monday, November 26, 2012
The writer says at one point, "Give me back my joy." It is obvious from the rest of the poem that he is depressed and miserable from these reflections. So, what was it that disrupted his joy? It seems as though he knew his connection to God had gotten polluted.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Awareness of God's presence is a common theme. Realizing his nearness and how he is active on behalf of people bring joy. Seeing, hearing and walking with God are obviously different than relating with people. We connect with God by focusing our hearts.
Another means of knowing and understanding god comes from read and meditating on the Scripture. But knowing is not enough. People are designed to live in agreement with Scripture, Obedience brings joy. Joy because people are flowing with their design.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Certain, important events happened in the history of Israel. These events, their results and God's part in them told the people much about God's nature, his relationship with people, and his plans. So, he instituted yearly celebrations to remind people consistently of the event, what God did and why their relationship with God and their lifestyle was important.
But, as the bad kings began to introduce things that were counter to knowing and following God, the people began to observe the celebrations less and less. They were not reminded of God's among them nor the relationship they should have with him. Which increased the downward spiral away from God.
When a new king, who tried to follow God, began to rule, he cleaned up a lot of areas that had gone bad. He tried to re-establish a lot of things that had been forgotten, like the celebrations.
He sent messengers throughout Israel inviting people to come to one of the celebrations. Since, God's instruction was to gather together in Jerusalem and it was a pretty serious thing to travel in those days, many people chose not to go. But many did.
Because of logistical issues, they had to postpone the celebration one month. (Imagine celebrating Christmas at the end of January.) The celebration was supposed to last one week, but it made such an impression on people that they continued for another week.
And the people went home overjoyed!
Did the joy come from a two-week long party? Or from reconnecting with the god of the universe?
I would like to say that I have been to parties where everyone seemed to have a good time, but joy was not the overall mindset. Joy seems to come from somewhere else besides good times.
Friday, November 09, 2012
- They sought him, his presence and his help when it first began.
- They acted according to what they told him.
- They remembered him in worship on the battlefield.
- And when they arrived home, they immediately went to the temple and worshiped there again.
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
- The Christian community should remember that it also is a member of the Kingdom of God. And that its first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God. And their King was not surprised or dismayed by the results of this election. He was perfectly prepared and perfectly in control.
- The Christian community should remember that its instructions in relation to the government are to pray for it. What should be inserted at this point is a long, eloquent discussion of prayer: its power, its effect and its desirability. I will not do so at this point, but I will remind the Christian community that as its first allegiance is to the Kingdom of God, prayer should be aimed at God’s presence and kingdom being manifested in the country. That should be the aim of our prayer. That should be the aim of our actions and attitudes. And maybe your political vision does not put people in a position to bring that.
- The Christian community should remember when God’s kingdom flourished. When did God’s kingdom grow the fastest, the most? Most people would say that first century after Christ. Who was in control at that point? The Roman empire. (WARNING! Sarcastic comment coming.) And of course, the Roman empire was first and foremost concerned about individual liberty and the rights of minorities. The Romans put thousands, if not millions, of Christians to death in cruel ways. The intention was the eradication of the Christian movement. But under this oppressive government the Kingdom of God boomed! At the time of the communist revolution in China, the Christian missionaries were thrown out, and the Chinese leaders were imprisoned and executed. The purpose was the eradication of Christian influence, as well as other religions. The result was the least educated, least gifted and the least anointed were left. The movement should have died. Instead, it hexi-deci-tuple-ized.
UPDATE: In 1949, it is estimated that there was 500,000 protestant Christians out of a population of 450 million. (One tenth of a percent.) Estimates are now 40 million to 130 million in a population of 1.35 billion. (3% to 9.6%, respectively.)
Friday, November 02, 2012
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
And David shared his vision with the people. They people got excited. They gave to the project.
And the people were joyful. They were joyful because they agreed with the project, they were able to help with the project and they realized they had a heart to help with the project. They gave willingly, generously and wholeheartedly.
Joy was the result of being united in working to complete a valuable and worthwhile mission.
Monday, October 29, 2012
(Although, God is everywhere and near everyone who calls on him, Israel had gotten used to the tent and the box being the focal point of the connection with God. It was a mental construct they had gotten attached to, and may have moved toward a fuller communion with God, if history had been different. However, many may have met with God unconstrained by religious rules.)
As part of the celebration, David wrote a song and formed a band to sing it. In the song, David describes the trees exulting in joy, because God will judge the earth!
Judgement and joy are not usually associated together. We usually associate fear or dread with judgment. We would only be joyful in judgment if we expected the forces of judgment to be like the cavalry. The cavalry is a symbol in american movies of rescue, restoration and victory. And that's how Israel viewed judgment. There was a lot wrong with the world. Evil was rampant. People were oppressed. manipulated, taken advantage of, abused, and just not treated very nicely. But God was coming. He was going to set everything right. Bad people were not going to hurt anyone anymore. Good people were going to be recognized. All the flaws, inequalities and problems in the world were going to be set right.
Punishment is part of the equation in judgment. those waiting earnestly for God's coming rejoice because they are confident of their relationship with God. Their focus is the good coming into the world because of God's judgment.
NOTE: Part of the joy in the judgment of sin is the realization that the presence of God will not be limited. The mission of Satan and his demonic army is to diminish God's glory and to make people miserable. People experience joy when they fulfill their design ... including fellowship with God. With the removal of evil, people can experience God's presence with greater intensity, more continuously and more purely.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
One of these was at harvest time. Israel was supposed to give a portion of what was produced to God. As they gathered together, collecting the offerings, they were supposed to realize the huge work of provision God has blessed the nation with. The realization should produce joy.
Again, the heart is focused on God ... and a particular part of his nature. God is amazingly generous. He provides for each of his children's needs ... and often for their wants.
It is tempting for us to focus on the stuff itself. Joy will not last that way, because the stuff will not last. We need to look beyond the stuff to the giver.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Monday, October 08, 2012
Friday, September 28, 2012
That's why Scripture says gifts are not enough. Without one ingredient, any gift, all gifts are vain, fruitless, death giving and glory robbing.
Love needs to power all gifts. Love needs to power how we express our gifts, look at others' gifts and receive grace/gifting from other people.
Love will outlive all gifts, all "spiritual manifestations", all theories and all ministries. What will last of individual lives is how much love did they give.
If love powers spiritual gifts, a spiritual gift is God's special of expressing love through each person.