Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dealing with Judases in life

Many times, as I am reminded of the Judases of life that I have met, I use the opportunity to review my actions and interactions with others to make sure that I am not a Judas in the relationships with others. Beginning here has the cleansing effect of inspecting for logs, before getting down to splinters. Nothing wrong with looking for splinters, just remember that as you look, so God will look as well. Removing the logs in our own eyes, has the benefit of restoring vision that is CAPABLE of looking for splinters. The oft quoted phrase; "Judge not" is too often distanced from its absolutely necessary companion; "lest you be judged". Judgment is a good thing. I'd rather Christ judges my actions now, than to store up a huge list for some point in eternity where nothing can be reconciled. At this point a quick pause to reiterate that this is not about "achieving salvation" or accumulating enough good to outweigh the bad, but rather knowing that as an individual I WILL be held accountable for what I say, do, think and act on at the Judgment seat of Christ. Therefore, it benefits my life now to be under the constant scrutiny of God's Word, His Holy Spirit and His divine judge-ship daily! To quote the psalmist, " how shall a young man cleanse his ways? By giving heed to the Word of God". All that said, it is now time to address the initial question regarding the Judas folks we encounter in life.
For a "Judas" to be capable of his or her calling...some basics have to be in place. First, we must have a relationship with the Judas. This relationship must be one with vulnerability and personal investment. For the Judas's part, there has to be something to steal. They have to see a benefit in going along with the relationship. For Jesus and Judas, this was long as there was a common purse and he (Judas) had control of it, there was something to steal. As long as Jesus was healing and performing miracles, there was also something to steal...fame and the "intimate" position that Judas held as one of the twelve. As soon as the perceived value of these two was diminished, not to say anything about the many other intrinsic benefits of being Christ's disciple, Judas was looking for a way out and another shot at gain. So also the modern Judases of life must find something that they can get to satisfy their lust. Whether it be personal gain, free help with all their troubles or an actual possession to steal, there must be something that keeps the Judas positioned in a relationship that really doesn't matter other than the convenience or the gain possible.  Shut the door on either and the Judas will do what Judases all over the world do....betray!
The Judas's next trait will soon be evident; they are masters at leaving and moving on to the next without sorrow or looking back. You, on the other hand, will be waiting, praying for reconciliation and restoration, wondering how years and years of "friendship" could just end, while they will be merrily on their way to the next new target and way to achieve their lust's fulfillment. Looking back, most of this is visible, unless you are the Judas's first betrayal. Most often there will be betrayal of a former spouse, employer or close friend at an early age, but throughout the life of the Judas, this same trait will be appallingly apparent. Multiple marriages and divorces, family feuds carried into adulthood and beyond, betrayed confidences left unsettled for years and decades; these all are very clear indicators that are too often seen in retrospect.
So what can you do about the Judas? How can you prevent him or her from destroying your ability to trust, to love without barricades or to accept new relationships? Can it be done? In Jesus' case, Judas was well known from the beginning, but also an integral component in prophecies fulfillment. I think Jesus well knew what Judas would do; only Judas was unaware that his natural lust was an eternal rut in the road to Jesus' sacrifice. What he would do, even in stealing from the common purse, was just proof that he would do what he did for 30 pieces of silver years later. I believe the way to deal with Judases is clear in the Word of God; its just that we (collective use) don't let the Word of God have the authority and position in the church that it MUST have. God deals with accountability in relationships; we just want to get along. God deals with accountability in church leadership; we just want the leaders that make us feel good and entertain us. God deals with transparency in relationship; we prefer our facades. God deals with the continual, free working of His Holy Spirit to identify wrong and danger in our lives and churches; we'd prefer to quench Him than to deal with the fires ignited of conviction and correction. God deals with His Word's ability to cut to the heart of the matter; we'd just like a close shave, not too much off the top! In clear terms, our rejection of God's Word as THE authoritative standard for conduct and action of the believer has placed us in jeopardy with the Judases of life. We've invited them in, because we tell all that there will be no accountability here....just love, when in fact, without accountability there is NO love!! The unconditional part of God's love deals with who He loves...the sinner, and how His love pays for our sin; all our sin regardless of "how bad" it may be. It is not unconditional in that, we can do whatever we want when we want and God's love will be permissive. Remember what God said, "those He loves, He disciplines". Period!
One of the "Judases" that I've experienced did much damage. But in looking back, it was my failure to apply God's Word, in every area of the relationship, that allowed the damage to be done. Missing the big clues; three failed marriages, unresolved family issues from rebellion, the constant taking, never giving and much else, were the clues that God's Word would have cut to the heart of the matter and identified as a problem, long before it became the problem it did. And His Word would have always allowed the restoration that now is out of reach, because the Judas has just done what he's always done...moved on to the next usable relationship. The problem was mine; I didn't let God's Word be true. But you better believe that I've learned the lesson; understanding the discipline that my Father has allowed me to experience to get my heart in alignment with His every subject, not just the fun ones!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bushel Basket Mentality....

 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Each year about this time, the local Pharisaical cult raises its many horned head and its high priestess begins pronouncing incantations against any who would venture out of their houses on the wrong day, such as today, October 31. "Today" is also lumped in with many other days that they believe any, who are part of the church, must surrender to the enemy (Satan) such as December 25th and Easter. In their opinion, because the world observes these dates with some sort of enthusiasm, it means that Christians must run and hide to show their own "righteousness". The only acceptable days to celebrate anything, in their overly inflated view, are the dates of the Jewish festivals which are celebrated worldwide by the....unbelieving Jewish people, including the secular, the atheist and the Kaballaist (demonic Jewish mysticism)...wait, now how does that work out??? Are not they (above mentioned groups) unbelievers, which makes them part of the world? 
Unfortunately, their own wisdom and reasoning fails them...and rightly so, because it is based on their own righteousness; by self determination of how they must worship and complete disregard for the entirety of the Word of God. Now, in all fairness, I must admit that they do utilize a fair amount of verses, gleaned here and there, as the "proof" of their stance. Now that said, contextually and in accordance with the complete story of God's redemption...they are flat out wrong!! Cut and paste religiosity, when combined with Internet theology makes for students poorly handling the Word of God. Not,as we are called to be, to.."Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Jesus didn't give us an alternative; we are to the the Light of the world! Reflecting Him! Not burying ourselves under a basket, but rather elevated on a lampstand for all to see. Shining our light (Christ) before all men....and then the darkness loses!! Then Satan can be seen for what he is...a liar, a thief and  the accuser of the Brethren!!
Sadly, this group of broken individuals, who have each refused the redemption and forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ, continues down this path of "pleasing God" in their own way. Trying desperately to manufacture "righteousness" and showing their dedication by isolating themselves from the body of Jesus, His church. They have become gods unto themselves, serving the god of their own belly (their lust and passion) rather than accept the completed work of Jesus Christ... Brothers and sisters, this should not be so!
The psalmist said it so well in Psalm 118..."this is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it"; Not surrender to the enemy what Christ has won by His precious blood and sacrifice!
We choose, on days like these, to turn up to full luminosity, the Light of Jesus Christ shining through us as a church. We will, by His power, pierce this present darkness because we ARE children of the Light! We "are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light;" We WILL show forth the praises of Jesus!!

Now some may perceive this short dialogue as unnecessarily harsh and not very loving...but I must disagree. Jesus had very little good to say to those who stood behind their Pharisee robes condemning all those around themselves and He pointed out that the problem was that their external religious robes didn't match their internal utterly defiled hearts and yet, these He spoke to were the ones with the great heart for Torah...the letters to the churches make clear that apostates are not to be trifled with, but rather exposed and shown for what their deception is. And amazingly, herein is love. To allow some to continue in their sin and apostasy is to place others in jeopardy of eternal loss. 

It is high time for the church of Jesus Christ to be SALT and LIGHT, every day in every way!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Just Incredibly Blessed...

Contemplating the potential of today....I realize that I have been, and am, tremendously blessed. Alive, well and enjoyer of a great family and great opportunities. Not all easy, mind you, but all doable and workable by the Grace of God. As we assembled yet a few more pieces of the current project, I looked around and saw that indeed God is good, all the time. Even in the darkest struggles, even in the most painful lessons of life, He is good. His mercy, new every morning, greets me and offers His peace, His joy and His love and I've done nothing to deserve it, but He has so graciously offered and bestowed it upon me. In the lives of my children, I see struggles that often reflect my own life choices; some painful, some pleasant, but I also see that the overriding choice I made to accept my Savior's gift of Salvation is present. Though they must, for themselves, surrender and allow His process to work in them, even yet now we still are observers and influencers,  while they learn and experience life. 
Deadlines of this world loom ahead, the seasons come and go but I am moved to thankfulness to see, hear and feel the hand of my God in all things. I can do nothing without Him, nor would I ever want to! In years past, it seemed that life had come down to nothing more than the immediate struggles and trials that surrounded us. But in these days, I have come to understand and know God's process deeply and have found His work to be perfect in everything. The trials of the moment are but, as the Scripture writer penned, but for a moment, a light affliction when placed in view of the cross and what Jesus suffered for me. Realizing that interrupting someone else's trial to make my life more simple is foolishness has  brought a new understanding of much of God's Word to me. I thought that the end of my trials would be sooner and without as much pain, if those other folks involved could just get straightened out quicker. But over time I have realized that His work in them, though involving us, is still exactly that...His work in THEM. His work in me is His work in ME. Though the paths may be tangled together by geographic location, or former associations, God is on His timetable and working His purpose in each of our lives personally and independently, even when He may be using one or the other of us as a tool in the other's process. The realization that I don't have to wait for God to fix the other people, so that I can be healed and rooted deeper and grow was a revelation of the first order...God's order! And in this I find tremendous blessing...I'm not dependent on the others for God's work in me to be accomplished. I MUST be dependent on God alone! And so I shall...
Also realized the considerable blessing that comes in trusting in Christ alone for His many are caught in a web of their own design and manufacture. I see so much more, with understanding, what God's Word had to say about those whose god is their bellies. Always thought that this only could mean those who were gluttons or slobs...but I see how this is actually at the heart of most people's self worshiped  self promoted idols and idolatry. Even those who place themselves back under the law are responding to their own "bellies". It shows up in their passionate pursuit of the food components of the law, in spite of ignoring much of what else was contained in the 613 or so commandments of the law of Moses. They will strain the proverbial gnat but choke down the camel to become the strict vegetarians or vegans that they believe the law requires, but will eliminate all fellowship and accountability to the Body of Jesus Christ, His church in their daily lives. They'll clean their cupboard bare and refrain from the "leaven" in order to accomplish some feasts, but breed a huge crop of contempt for any others who might actually be so heathen as to consume popcorn, or a hot dog or similiar food during these times. It's not Christ they are living out, it is the lust of their own bellies; something to allow them to feel superior over their fellow man, to be "chosen". And this inspires in me an immediate response; not to squabble with them over these issues, but to turn in praise to the God who created this world, Who has loved me with so deep a love and is loving me with the same, that I have no other choice or desire than to worship Him with all that I am and all that I will be. Jesus, You are so much more than anything I could ever do to impress You and You are deserving of more than I could ever dream may the thoughts of my mind and the meditations of my heart be always of You and may the gratitude for what You have done, never be replaced by a cheap imitation of my own desire!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

True to Form

I had a great opportunity to attend a local crusade recently; local in setting, but national in origin. A midst 600 or so attendees, I noticed several who were familiar. Some because of their former attendance at our local church, others because of their relationships with others in our local town. For the most part, greetings exchanged with these were warm and open, but there was one group within the formerly described set that I neither had opportunity to speak to, nor am I certain that I would have taken opportunity to do so even if it presented itself. And the reason will be clear momentarily....
This particular family showed up one day with another family who had moved into our town and begun to attend our church. At the end of the service, the first they had ever attended, they announced they were moving to our town and promptly began looking for a place to stay. Someone from the church had a house for rent and within hours, a lease was in place and the moving began. Over the next few weeks, this family began inserting themselves into every relationship, family and activity of the church...and town. Soon they began announcing how they had been led to bring in foster children to their home. This was soon followed with new announcements of more children coming in, then how they were quitting their jobs to "focus" on these new kids. Disturbingly, soon after the father figure in the house, began to miss most church services and activities, because he needed to stay up all night with the kids and play video games to keep them happy. Then additional kids in town would flock to this house and join in the revelry. Then more, and more and more....
Things began to fall apart soon after that, police arrived to investigate windows shot out of the local school by several of the "hang-er-outers" of this family. Fights with other kids ensued and general mayhem began to be the theme of the day. Parents who did not allow their kids to hang out were belittled or mocked and every commitment made in the beginning was soon dropped as routine as putting garbage in a trash can. 
One day there was a "new" sudden announcement that they would be moving to a far east state and within weeks they were on their way, dropping off a few of the foster kids on the way...too much trouble to take them along. The church was left with bounced checks from the offering received from them, the landlords left with unpaid bills and a huge mess, but all in all, most were happy to see that they had moved on.  Over the next months, news would trickle in through some still connected via social media or other method about how wonderful the new business was they started, how they had been interviewed in the local paper proclaiming how God led them around to each new venture, etc.  And just as suddenly, they reappeared on the west coast, down the hill and back into the town. Calls to some of the folks they knew from church, calls to other kids who used to hang out and guess invitations, new groups of kids hanging out playing....yes, you guessed it, video games all night long. Several of the kids invited, when denied permission by their parents were lambasted and berated as fun stoppers and worse.
Now what is the common thread? What is the evidence that must be weighed? For these claim a relationship with Christ, but all fruit, all that has been produced to date is in direct opposition to God's Word. The principles of honoring parents, obedience and respect are thrown away; being faithful in your vows, discarded. 
As if a further indication, at the crusade, when the music stopped and the preaching began....yep, you guessed it again, they got up and left. Its all about the entertainment, not the substance. All about fun and games, not reality of life and death....death to self, life IN Christ. And they continue on to the next group of unsuspecting youth, to the next batch of sheep to eat and prey upon...reminds me of what Peter cautions in 2 Peter 2:  For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
Am I judging? You bet, with the discernment of God's Word and the understanding that the same measure that I judge with will also stand in my own examination, but that I do not fear but rather welcome, for that is the examination of the Holy Spirit daily in my life without which I would have no proof of my own relationship with Christ!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Wrong Remedy

A local social group, that meets under the banner of Religious Organization (per the IRS guidelines) touts its origin as being there for, "for people who really haven't felt at place in a church. Sometimes we feel out of place because church is something you did (or were dragged to) as a kid, sometimes we've just gotten bored, sometimes it's because we opened our heart to people and were hurt because of it. " And so, they decided to start a para-church ministry that meets in a church? Wouldn't that kinda be like church? They have music and preaching and other church stuff...led by wonderful people who have rejected the authority and clear instruction of God's Word, caused great divisions in the places they've come from and now they are....leading? How in the world does this happen? It happens because it is exactly that, IN THE WORLD. It is a "come close to Jesus so you feel better" ministry, by people that have rejected the very Lordship of Jesus Christ. The fruit of their lives is scattered all over the mountain, yet they have achieved this status of "being" the ones who now lead, the way they want; doing what they want, when they want to. The success of this supposed remedy is based on their ability to gather other similar souls and place them under the all accepting banner of "love". However this delusion, manifested in the complete disregard of spiritual accountability, works best at just forwarding its recipients faster to hell, than if left to their own ways. This is because of the assumed cloak of "religiousness" they quickly and proudly wear, while demonstrating the balance of Galatians 5:19's works of the flesh. They really think they are achieving harmony with God, or as they themselves say, "where they can "belong to believe"-that is, where they can be nurtured and discipled into faith in the one true God and in Jesus Christ whom He has sent". Sounds good until you consider that NO ONE can be nurtured and discipled INTO faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is because the Father has drawn them, not because fleshly humans have convinced them into this state of mind. The faith that saves is in Jesus Christ; it comes by the conviction of the Holy Spirit of our sin and our need for a Savior. It is IMPOSSIBLE to disciple a lost human in God's Word because according to God's Word it is not their nature and they cannot understand it, period! Someone who has responded to conviction of the Holy Spirit, believes (whether understanding much of God's revealed Word or not) and confesses their belief, can at that time begin to understand God's Word because it IS their nature. A new nature, not the old recycled nature in another attempt to pacify guilt with some sort of spiritual leanings.
If the root is holy, so is the tree....said Jesus! And yet week after week, this band of merry accepters just whitewashes any behavior as long as you fit into their semblance of "love". I find the Love of Christ to be very different...He left no one to continue in their sin who truly followed Him. He had the harshest words and condemnation for the "religious", who for the sake of followers would cross the earth just to make the one twice the son of Hell that they already were. This is a pattern that these in this group's not whether you are truly is just whether or not you choose to fit into their group and play along. If you choose otherwise, then you are just one of those "judging" types that doesn't love.
But doesn't true love, agape love, put every possible obstacle in the way of Hell by requiring the greatest sacrifice ever made? Not to allow man to continue in the flesh, but to be changed into the very children of God!! Now that is love!
A friend that loves...will wound and those wounds will be faithful to produce a right response in me. They will be the call for pause that makes me reflect on the validity of my actions before God, not self and they will stand in the way of the remnant of the flesh that desires to cast itself headlong over the cliff of sin and lust. Oh, for a faithful friend!

Recent update: In the evolution of this group, much has changed over the last months. There is a core of people rising up who are solid and sincere in their relationship with Christ and the direction has turned from one of "church runaways"and "easy believe-ism-ers" to a viable Bible based ministry. (still shallowish, but moving much deeper into what Christ demands of those who are His) Some have left that were part of the above described folks, a few remain...but by the Grace of God, they may be rooted out and exposed for what they are or even better, they might accept correction and grow in God's grace, mercy and far the better route. Stay tuned, God is still working and the fruit of His labors is always good!! My opinion of the one under whose direction this ministry works has radically perception was skewed and wrong; his heart is right and in that particular arena, it is exciting to see what may be the future!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Global, Local or Individual Body...?

What is the Body of Christ, His church, to look like in this world? Is it our very separated, disjointed, dis-functional spattering of churches...pick your own variety, shape or size? Or should it be seamless, flowing over the world without regard to geography, culture or preconceived notion? Earliest writings about the churches, by the authors of the New Testament books, dealing with the church from the day of Pentecost on revealed a similar struggle and similar issues that we face today. This is very consistent with anything we humans have a part in....complete inconsistency! Over and over and over and...well, you get the point. The history of Israel, as a nation and tribes, reveals similar circumstances and dilemmas as the church as a nation of believers and of a single DNA (Christ's) demonstrates today. Are we right in our separations, or are we just hardheaded like Israel was (and is)? 
It would seem, from an altogether too simple point of view (mine), that much of our problem stems from our understanding and subsequent belief of how we think we relate to the church and the Body of Christ in our own thinking. If we are globalists, considering the Body of Christ to be any who are regenerated and saved by His grace, baptized in profession of that change in our hearts, then we view the rest of the world's believers as just geographically separated brothers and sisters. On the other hand, many hold to a local Body view, thinking they alone have the place in the community, country or location to be the Body of Christ, His Church. Some go further and believe that they alone are the Body, free from all encumbrances and responsibilities to the body and refusing any admonition to fellowship as an affront to their own authority as "the" church. Paul was pretty clear...well, actually the Holy Spirit was REALLY clear when He had Paul pen the book of 1 Corinthians regarding the Body of Christ. It is really straight forward...individually, as believers in Christ, we are connected limb to limb, tendon to tendon together....NO geographical separation noted! Period! But of course that is not enough for some; in fact the command to not separate themselves is largely ignored in view of the "I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, I don't need you all....I will find my own suitable place to fellowship or start my own" mindset. Usually though, this is quite discernible as error (err...sin) in that it is typically combined with additional areas of their life where they refuse to deal with sin, or don't want to have any authority over them in any area of life. They'll hang around while the "weather" is good, but at the first signs of clouds, they are off and running to their next place of hangout or they will entirely abandon any fellowship or relationships with other believers, except for a select few who will blindly follow these to wherever they are headed...which in most cases, may be Hell, because if you look deep enough, there will be no fruit in these lives, just silk flowers and plastic apples hung to look good enough for general observation. This is always accompanied with rabid quoting of Matthew 7:1, Judge not....(leaving out the context and heart of the teaching by Jesus that actually calls for judging and calls for WHERE judging must begin...) and subsequent separation. 
How can this change? Courage and Holy Spirit intervention! What if every pastor called each  former pastor to find out about the "new folks" who show up? Or if the elders of a church visited other elders at other geographic locations at regular intervals? What if the discipline and structure of the church, outlined in Timothy and Titus, was practiced by all who call themselves His children? Shortly the church hoppers would be found out and silenced; the ones with their own agenda, who move from church to church to build their following, would be revealed as the false sheep or shepherds they are. The lazy, the fat and the brutal shepherds will be revealed as well, by their clear failure to produce fruit and sheep, not goats. But of course, you say, that can only happen in a perfect world, right??? But wait a minute, don't we serve a Perfect God? Seems like that may be the problem right there....who are we serving? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Much "Just Like the World" is too much....?

This whole idea of how much is too much has always wandered through the deep recesses of my mind. How close can you get without getting burned? How much can you do without crossing the line? How far is too far? These types of questions and the many variations have been asked by lots of folks who call themselves "Christians" and personally, I think the question itself may be a red flag that needs to be paid attention to, rather than the subject of the question explored or answered. If we are "Christians" (Christ followers), why in the world would we be asking how close to the enemy can we get, or how much of the enemies favorite temptations (or those of our own lust) can we play with and still be "okay"?
The heart of the matter....oops, said it already...YES, the HEART IS the Matter! Consider Jesus' statement about defilement in the Gospels...paraphrased roughly: its not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, but that which comes out from the heart. Ouch...wait, you say..."that stuff just slipped out and you know, we are not perfect after and by the way, who made you the judge?" Ah, more indications of a heart condition, perhaps even a critical heart condition. 
Consider a little scenario with me; a young person who grew up in church, professed their belief in Christ and claimed His salvation decided to follow the example of their parents in rebellion and left with them. The young person was old enough to make their own decision and stand on their own two feet, but chose to follow the apostate group off into the wild blue yonderish part of another town and church group. The wonderfully welcoming pastor and his family, in that new town and church, swung wide open their arms to embrace this family. Choosing to ignore the issues of church discipline presented to him (the pastor), for the sake of having new folks to help and grow his church, he readily assimilated this family and the young person into all aspects of life and ministry. Ignoring all Scripture and God's template for the New Testament Bible believing church, they instead also formed deep family relationships with this family and young person. The young person moved away but maintained contact through social media and visits. Over time the young person's actions (complete abandonment of christian fellowship while out of town), attitude (immersing themselves into the world and the vices thereof) and language (profusely effluent in the manner of James 3) turned worse and worse. But because a relationship had been formed, in spite of the warnings and caution, the new church and its pastor only chose to see what they wanted. The young person was "godly" when visiting and communicating at church or family events, but worldly, JUST LIKE THE WORLD, all the rest of the time. And this brings the question, "how much is too much". 
Well, Scripturally, its not looking too good for our example. God requires a heart surrendered to Him....not just loaned at special occasions. He wants a disciple in the Body of Christ, not a tumor growing on the surface. 
Too much is the first step, the first thought, the first touch and whatever else may pull us from complete devotion to the Jesus. It is not a matter of how far can I stray, rather it is HOW CLOSE CAN I GET TO JESUS? Everyday, all day and for ever. The closer we remain, by His power and direction, the further from the pull and staining of the world we will be. Only THEN, will we be in the world, but not OF the world!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

North to Alaska...the Rush is on?

Recently there has been announcements in our little town of an exodus towards the great state of Alaska. No, it is not gold or even land that drives this movement of citizens; rather it is the "freedom" of running to a new place to escape the source of old problems. The "victory" is attained by geographical mobilization, not the power of Christ. But it sure sounds like God must have been mailing out invitations to this new Jerusalem, if you were to take the words of the proclaimers to heart. However, a quick look says there is something deeper going on here. What is visible, once you move beyond the clatter and commotion, it that all parties involved are running, walking or flying away from unresolved issues and failed opportunities in search of an easy Shangri La. The latest batch spent the last year demonstrating their perfection of the leaving technique; rapidly moving from one opportunity to the next without ever fulfilling their self proclaimed commitments or obligations. 
The common denominator in all these groups is found in their past, not as a condemnation of their present, but as a tool to understand what is motivating and driving the future. Observation and investigation of the last several years has identified a unique grouping of folks. These folks are generally possessors of a lengthy past; most including some form of substance addiction, many having a past including incarceration and all now touting Christ as the next best thing in their life, in between occasional trips back down the road of addiction. These moments of weakness are clarified as "relapses"; a nice clean sounding term for what otherwise we might understand to be known as "falling off the wagon", "screwing up", "going dirty" or any other of a number of similar expressions. But great weight is given to the commonality of the past, in that those who do not have a similar experience are not to be trusted, except as a possible source of gifts, income or assistance. It truly exists as a form of caste system, with the accompanying barriers of movement between. It is okay to receive stuff from a non-member, but any scrutiny from one not a "card carrying member" is immediately condemned as judging or getting into someone else's business. In fact, the obtaining of goods, services or money from another group (caste) is considered almost a badge worthy event; a sort of proof of membership. The more you can talk people out of, make impassioned pleas for and never be held accountable for, the better member you are. 
Churches are natural drawing points for this caste, as they provide an opportunity to collect all the target goods, services and monies that this caste desires and have a good time while doing so. Of course, churches are moving targets because eventually they come to understand that it is the same old song and dance, just another snake oil salesman doing the jig. Not that the opportunity will sound fishy; oh, contrare, it will seem like exactly what churches SHOULD be doing; helping the poor, feeding the needy and caring for each other. The problem arises when it becomes evident that this is a way of life for this caste; this is how they CHOOSE to live. It is NOT a case of growing up (spiritually), but eternal child care they desire and hold onto adamantly. 
Proof, just as the Word of God says, is in the fruit produced. Extruded, shiny, handpainted plastic fruit; well made up, even occasionally looking as if it could satisfy...but never able to do so. The pattern will repeat itself unendingly; jumping into to a "new" deal with all three feet (they always promise more that will ever be delivered, hence the extra foot), a short spurt of enthusiastic action but just as quick this will quickly wind down to disillusionment, disagreement and then, departure; The three "D's" of this caste's system of action and another identifier of this particular group. 
At times it is tempting to think that they might actually be on the road to real recovery and real life in Christ, but discernment is the better part of valor here. God's Word is always clear about our lives in Christ. Great opportunity and power is always under the restraint of responsibility and Christ's leadership. It is His way or no way....too many will keep trying their way and the highway unfortunately....but such is the rush north now!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Never Ending Ending....

For many of us, life has been a series of endings, followed by a series of beginnings. From one to the next we move without much ado, always moving forward in some sort of progression. Life is marked by these moments; from nursing at our mother's breast to eating ground up green goop (which is actually rumored to be green peas before mostly masticated artificially before consumption) to chowing down on a fine steak with our own teeth, to chewing without success on a fine steak with manufactured teeth, to finally just dreaming of the steak while eating the green goop again. This journey of endings and beginnings follows throughout many other areas of our lives, but for some folks it seems that their life gets stuck in one of the beginnings and never track through to its ending, until it of course reaches a final ending....of life! Such was the lesson observed this last weekend; a final end to a never ending cycle of starts, but never finishes. A life, tragically lost in its youth, but seemingly destined to end there from the last beginning. 
Alongside this observation comes the additional details that this specific "never ending ending" relates not to the physical aspects of life, but rather the spiritual growth of one who has come to know Jesus as Savior. The ending in specific focus is that of the leaving the world behind and starting forward in Christ; as a new creation. What is it that is so deeply rooted in the soul of one, who in desperation comes to Christ, but in exasperation never moves beyond a repetitive motion of starting, failing, starting, failing....? In this particular example, the action of Christ upon the heart of this one was producing a change, but there was still an open door to the temptations of the world that led this one to his ultimate end; as far as earthly endings go, that is! I think that at some moment, in those last moments, the booze quit lying as the blood flowed and said, "yep, you're dying"; to late to change the outcome, but early enough for the realization that what Christ had already paid for was squandered in the lie of that which sought the fall of the pursuer. A life ended, so much earthly terms, but it is in God's hands as far as the Heavenly matter is concerned. The lesson will not be lost though....rather emphasized and repeated for anyone who will hear. There are no shortcuts with Jesus! The cheap remedy posed by others, who themselves run from allowing sin to be confronted in their lives, proved to be as damaging to the one as the booze which ultimately provided the "courage" for the last moments before death would come. The "godly" ones, posing as the do all  to end all for the ones who feel intimidated by the black and white presentation of God's Word, run themselves from the conviction of the Holy Spirit, because they confuse it with the condemnation of the world, rather than the intended loving correction of the Father. Who has demonstrated over and over again, that He will, because of His love, correct His children....not let them run a muck as the world does and applauds. The time frame of the lure of the cheap remedy till the acceptance of the lie that leads to death? Less than one month! The world itself would love to have that kind of success, but this unfortunately comes most successfully at the hands and feet of the religious...."peddling" the Word of God as an appetizer to an already full plate of the world. May this never be in the Body of Christ! The never ending cycle of endings will end and we will all stand (or kneel) before our Maker and either give account of our actions...or if the transaction with Jesus has never been made according to His requirements, head directly to hell. Harsh? Yep, but so is deception....especially when it ends a life!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Caves and still, small voices...

Loving the musings of Elijah today! Thinking back to a moment he found himself in a cave. His state of mine was not good, his strength was depleted, his future unsure and the moment oppressive. God shows up and asks Elijah, "what are you doing here?"...a few wimpy sentences of whining and then God says go outside. God says, "stand before ME"....a explosive wind, a tumultuous earthquake and a consuming fire pass before his face.  But Elijah, for all his fear and trepidation makes just one observation; God was not in it, any of it! And then here comes a still, small voice. But before leaving this view, it is important that Elijah DIDN'T go out until after all that passed, even though God said very specifically, "Go out and stand before me"....why didn't Elijah go out? Of course, we can see why he may not have WANTED to go out...wind, earthquake and flames AND every single event of his life to that moment, including the mindset that although he had served God, everyone was hating him and trying to kill him. The explosive wind of change and betrayals, the earthquakes of falling hopes and failing confidences and the fires of scorched relationships. These were as much a part of his life, just like the cloak he wore. Everything he faced and failed at; everything he tried and God succeeded all comes together in this moment. And then that still, small voice. A voice from the heart of God, clearly speaking the affirmation of life and mission; but also speaking the end of his time in ministry. For one thing, that God will proclaim is that Elisha has been chosen to succeed Elijah's ministry. 
So is life at some junctures; just as in Elijah's is easy enough to come to the place of despair and uncertainty, in spite of tremendous victory while serving Jesus. It is even possible in those times of victory to find a disconnect happening in the closeness of relationship with Jesus, just because of the involvement of us in God's miracles. When "us" gets tempted to think it has been working at it too hard, doing too much and God hasn't been doing His part, it is an indicator 100% of the time that self has gotten ahead of the Savior! And then tiredness enters in, weariness is the word for the day, week, month, year...and we plod on to some cave of refuge, where even the Word of God is resisted in moving on. Until, that is, God gets our full and undivided attention. Which may come in the wind, earthquake or fires, but come it will and work it will do! Then and only then, when God has our attention, can we get back to the job at hand. And we will wonder if we will be "retired" or recharged to the ministry at hand. In Elijah's case, little remained to be done outside of raising up Elisha to the ministry and then catching a chariot out of there. For us? Only God knows, but this I will affirm; it is far better to hear God before He has to get our attention. To seek out His refreshing, without waiting for His correction; to be still and know that He is God!! 
Such was this last weekend...through the grace of God and the obedience of others who listened when God, through His Holy Spirit spoke. A full three days of refreshing, encouragement, some correction, but mostly an opportunity to hear God before He had to run out the full show (wind, earthquake, fire). In retrospect, some of the show was visible before now, but not the point of impending doom and abandonment, which I am glad to say, is not part of what God has for His children. Thank You, Father! I am LISTENING!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Backups and Overflows of Life....

Nothing tests the resolve perhaps as much as an overflowing, plugged up, stinky toilet. Except, maybe 5 overflowing, plugged up, stinky toilets....and knowing that you can't do anything but wade into the fray to overcome the disaster. Even tools fail at some point and then you realize that where you are standing is not clean, what you are wearing is now not clean and your hands will never be quite the same again. In moments like these, perspective is in order...I remind myself that somewhere in the world, someone is drinking water that is dirtier than the stuff I am wading through. Someone else will die because of disease from water that is more polluted than that I am reaching into. I do have a shower, disinfectant, chemical cleaners, a nice fingernail brush and so get the idea. The crisis passes, the moment subsides (along with the fluid level in the drain line) and the future begins to look brighter. Of course, there is concern for how to resolve the future situations that may bring a repeat of today, but those are easily handled when not sloshing water out of a plugged bowl of suspect contents.
So is life! In the moments of great crisis, everything takes on a crappy color and much is viewed as contaminated, worthless and headed for the drain. Nothing seems to work, effort is rewarded by further dirtiness in almost every aspect of life. But even in those moments, there are great lessons to be learned; there is great potential for improvement, both personal and in the bigger picture and there is great opportunity to rise above the situation and find the confidence that God is still in control; He has never left; He is not unaware of what we face. It didn't take long after preaching about "in whatsoever state I am to be content", from Philippians 4:10-14, to be covered in the filth of a plugged sewer, overflowing bowls and no seeming way to handle the effluent that wouldn't stop. But in those moments, realizing that this is just life; this is to be expected, it was easy enough to push through and finish the job at hand. In the end, the level went down, the fixtures cleared and the future hold promise of no more problems. My shower was working, the water was hot and the soap plentiful. A few dedicated moments with the brush and even the fingernails were no longer suspect. Tomorrow holds a new plan and hopefully we'll never visit this adventure again on a Sunday afternoon. This was an E ticket ride I can pass on!! So finding myself in the Pauline state of abasement....well, actually it was a bit of abounding too, in a literal term of "overflowing", I found the same solution that he teaches the Philippian church about; God is God, still and always. He's never not in control, and all is well within His capabilities...question is: "will I trust Him". And I say, yes I will, for I have no other options; His Will is my will, His way is the way I want to be headed. I cannot see solutions for many of the other problems that have arisen and continue to multiply or morph almost daily...but I know Who I will trust that it will be worked out to His glory and that is my Savior and Lord Jesus!! Not sure the parallel of this story will adequately answer how the "stuff" of life is handled; in the case of the referenced event, it is much just drains away an decomposes out of sight. Not so lucky with the other "stuff" in town....but who knows, maybe someday it too will be done and gone. Till then, one word of caution and advice; it doesn't do any good to add paper to a plugged fixture. You will only guarantee a more solidly plugged fixture, not a properly functioning device. So is life, adding cover paper to the dirty messes, just creates a huge stack of stuck, dirty messes! Happy Plunging!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Incredible Peace among Turbulent Storms

Having the occasion, and using it well, to walk under the shade of the tall trees, next to the mirror glass waters of the ponds, I was reminded that in spite the incredible stillness and beauty of the immediate surroundings, a storm still rages outside the gate. Yet the choice to remain inside the comforting peace I have remains mine. I can carry that peace outside the gate, and into the storm or I can choose to "forget" what I have just been blessed with and focus on nothing but the storms that wait. I have no answers for the storms of this life, other than Jesus and He allows me to chose what I will take with me. Will I focus on the blustery wind of other's hate and indifference or will I keep the calm that He has given me in full measure? Will I allow the minute glance of a former acquaintance drive me towards despair with memories of all that used to be and what will probably never again be?  These are the choices I must make, and make well, for they hold the secret of success or depression; of victory or impending defeat of spirit. 
I glanced down along the edge of the pond and took in the sight of a beautiful rainbow trout, hovering in the crystal clear water, waiting for his next meal. He has spent his fall, winter and now the beginning of spring with the same focus; to find the next meal, to stay safe and to live his life. He probably knows nothing of the stock market or the economic failures of the day. He doesn't know who is hating who or who is pretending; especially as he has never faced a fishing lure in his lifetime. His knowledge or lack of knowledge doesn't change the intensity of the winter storms he faced, or the amount of snow, or the temperature of the water; he just knows he is hungry and must eat. So it should be in our lives. God has given everything we need, and will ever need in His will and in His time. It is up to us to CHOSE to keep our eyes on Him, to feast at His table, to meditate on His Word and to keep His will as ours. So does this example attempt to reduce our intellect to that of a fish? Not at all, but don't forget that Jesus used the illustration of a sparrow to remind the disciples that if His Father could (& does) care for the sparrow, how much more will He care for us. The issues of worry require feeding...choose this day which you will feed: the worry or the wealth of a Father who loves you and the future of what is True, Noble, Just, Pure, Lovely, of Good Report, with Virtue and is Praiseworthy!! Meditate on that, child of the King!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fatherless: An Epidemic....Courageous: A Prescription for Now!

Watching a movie last night, well at ease and content, when suddenly clarity glared into the room and focused its beam on me. The movie, Courageous, previously watched, did not prompt this introspection (or perhaps interrogation of spirit) when viewed a year ago. But last night, it moved mountains to bring me to a place of crystal clear understanding. Watching the lives of the men in the story intertwined and coalesce, through trials and tribulations and testing of their resolve prompted a question in my mind that struggled for the breath to live. Not only to live, but to burst forth in demand to be fed and answered. The question: what did the lack of father's do to these men, their families and their futures, as viewed in the relationships of their faith and their personal relationship with Christ? In each case, the possible lack of fatherly direction, or failure to accept the required roles of a father (per God's standards) led to crisis. Individual and group crisis. The resolve to accept the standard and "fatherly" direction, either from spiritual mentors and/or God's Word (or a combination of both) was the ONLY thing that kept the core together. A commitment beyond mere words or passing occasional get-togethers, was necessary, essential even to produce the result of committed spiritual men and families fellowshipping together as God intended. The failure of commitment and resolve to the standards or to the fatherly input of the others, led to the path of certain failure and devastation to the person's own life and also that of his family's future. Failing to accept the doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness of God through the Word, the structure God ordained for the church and brothers in Christ placed the "fatherless" (influence or experience) in grave danger. On the other hand, accepting the same from the brothers, brought great support and success in the end. 
This was a particularly personal revelation for myself, as I considered the last year or two. In the experience of watching a church split, a town be torn apart and many "relationships" destroyed I could never put a common denominator upon the situation other than the works of the flesh being made evident. Until last night. Each of the primary four involved, two couples, were all "fatherless". Some literally, but all experientially. Some experienced abandonment in their lives at a young and impressionable age, some experienced fathers who were never involved in their lives and one had a father die at a young age (both his and the father's). The result: none of them ever learned what it is like to be under a father. Coming to Christ for them was an experience of merging with a peer (in their mind), albeit a really good peer. Submitting to the Father's doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness was only done to the point that they could understand what benefit they would derive from it. To be submitted to a "fatherly" figure, such as Timothy was to his "spiritual" father Paul was unheard of, not understandable and soundly rejected. Discipleship was limited to just walking along the same road as long as there remained agreement between the two. As soon as their was unrest or disagreement, the fatherless will move away to a "safe" place, usually the place that they had found safe in their fatherless-ness before. Truly experiencing the Father, both in blessing and in discipline, is full and unconditional submission to the Father. Until that happens, it will NEVER happen with others, be they pastors, mentors or peers. They will only be tolerated as long as they don't pose a threat to the established path of survival the "fatherless" has proven to themselves to be "safe". Only a great work of God can convince the orphan to accept the Father, otherwise they will only view the one in this place as a source for obtaining something from, never as one called by God to "father" in the manner of Paul, Barnabas or many other examples from the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ. 
Adoption comes with Fatherhood; you won't get one without the Other!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sadness in its Ebb and Flow...

Gentle at times, pounding with tumult at others; like the ocean at the shore, so is the constancy of sadness on my soul these days. The only joy within is that from Jesus and my family, for all the rest, like the surf, surge and pound to make their impression only to retreat and return again. This sadness leaves evidence of its arrival and departure like the foam left behind the waves as they retreat from the sands of the shore; clinging desperately to smother, if it were possible the very ground they rest upon. So is the smothering of sadness, becoming more and more like a blanket, wet and heavy, pressing down to impart its weight to all of the one it covers. In this damp heaviness, only the Love of God imparts a beam of gladness. Only His mercy reminds me that the day is still His, victory is never to be conceded and Life is not here, but in Him alone. So I reach, I push back and I fight the crashing waves; dispersing their impact by offering only the armor of God's presence and word. Nothing this world offers can dispel the sadness; it can only divert the attention of the one impacted till they realize that they've been smothered slowly, inch by inch, all the time they were distracted. 
Day by day, wave after seems never to relent, never to give up. So many are determined to see the end, eagerly awaiting the fall and failure of this one. Those who have remained, have only remained like vultures perched nearby to see what might be consumed when all is lost. Their smiles are merely the curved beaks waiting to tear apart any fleshy tidbits that are broken away or left in the final crash. It only took acknowledgement of what was coming along all the time, this end, to prompt this fluttering wings to flap in eager anticipation of what lied ahead. In this there may be great relief, to have seen and recognize what lied ahead before the end arrived and to make proper arraignments for the departure that looms. No greater sorrow can be absorbed, no impact made by sadness for the shore is now prepared for what indeed will come. The sweet refrain of an old song rings in the back of my mind and in my heart on days like these...
Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim; in the light of His glory and grace.

Friday, March 9, 2012

That Deja Vu Experience

Oh yes, I know that everyone has probably experienced it one time or another. Science probably has many explanations for why we get that "feeling" we've been down this road before as we experience something that in our immediate memory we think we are doing for the first time. Much of what we've experienced of late resurrected many feelings of Deja Vu, but not that we had been there or done that before, but rather that the circumstances were the same, just different faces. Seeing someone walk down almost the exact path that someone else before has taken, in spite of warnings, wise council and a fairly extensive exposure to God's Word dredges us the same feelings as when we watched the first group go down the same road. The immediate tendency, because of this "deja vu" is to place the blame upon self for what they are doing, as if we could have, should have and have failed in the process of derailing them. But what I find after viewing the situations from almost every angle possible, is that they were determined to go that way; made their own decision to go that way and frankly, they resent any opposition to their chosen path. In fact, to point out the potential disaster that looms ahead is akin to a "personal attack" on their very being, and is a quick way to become the focus of their anger, envy, bitterness and future rage regardless of the reality of the error of their way, as defined by God.  I find that what was assumed, in example, that they actually assimilated the Word of God into their hearts, was a faulty assumption. Further study oft reveals that not only did the Word of God set into their hearts, but it may never have been heard in the first place. To illustrate this observation, I turn to a recent email by a former attendee (please note; did NOT say listener) who wrote about goings on in town in response to a current and still listener, who finds it challenging to watch the antics of those who parade their christianity under cover of their interpretation of the law. To dissect his statements without posting the entire speech, just a few segments will be extracted that give clear enough understanding of the subject at hand without fragmenting the context of said remark. First comes one of those statements that makes you crazy...pretty sure what was intended was "fighting a losing battle", what was written was "your (as written; you're intended) arguing a lost debt". Not really sure how that works...a lost debt? How can you lose a debt; or perhaps more importantly, how do you argue a lost debt? Not really sure. Then comes this statement, "people will always put there (sp?) feelings before Gods thats just how people r (are)". Now certainly this will happen often, but always? I think not. The first surrender REQUIRES that I put God's feelings (soft term, but lets consider it "heart" for the sake of argument) ahead of my feelings (again: heart). There is no conversion without it, there is no salvation unless it happens that way. My feelings first began in a garden and sin was born...thank God that He ended the power this sin held ALSO in a garden, and salvation meant something to me. But let's give him (the writer of said post) the benefit of the doubt. Certainly he meant most folks and not always, but was just typing on a really small keyboard :-)
So on to the next, which brings very little help to the benefit of the doubt we're trying to give. He says, "getting along is so hard because people care only what they think and then try to label it as God's divinity". Now this is heading in the right direction at first, but then makes a horrid miss-turn at the end. Yes, people do care only what they think....OUTSIDE THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST; Philippians 2:5-11 regarding the mind of Christ; and yes, people do try to label it as....and here is where he runs off the road....God's divinity??? Let's assume for the sake of rational conversation that what he meant to say is "God's Divine Will or Purpose". Now that makes sense, but NOWHERE is the Divinity of God at option here. We are certainly lost in our efforts if at any time we think that we can tie the very deity of God to our desires. But continuing to give the benefit of the doubt, let's proceed a bit further. The final comment in view is this; "God ain't childs play". Now wasn't it Jesus who set a small (infant) child in front of Him, lifted it up into His arms and stated that such is the Kingdom of Heaven? That no one could enter but they who had child like faith? Granted, God's purpose is to grow us up in the faith; from milk of the Word to meat, as Paul put it. But I find most of the attitude problems come when we THINK ourselves more mature than God is willing to agree with. We figure that we have it all figured out. Who is, who isn't and why they aren't. But in the end, I find the ONLY thing I have that matters is JESUS, period. Nothing I've ever accomplished will stand, nothing I've ever thought, taught or preached will stand of its own volition, just Jesus. And that is where I will then choose to stand!! Period!  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Night Without; A Look Within....

Well, what will be the end of this?
Last night was the first night of a fairly large change, which was largely NOT understood by many of the ones who would have participated, but mostly understood by the ones responsible for letting it happen.
For the ones who would just participate, it meant the end of a free meal, games and just a wee bit of torture listening to the lesson for...oh, say 10 minutes or so. For the ones who were responsible, much more was at stake. Preparing the ingredients, seeking out the truth to be revealed, coordinating the logistics and timing and also making sure that there was no opportunity given for Satan to have his way. This included the time within the structured event, but also all that happens before, during and after the mere one hour and 45 minutes of "official" time. Underlying all of this is the God given mandate to "go tell", but also the instruction provided by Him to do all things peaceably and in order and to His glory. Hence the need to stop the event to allow the last three to proceed. Not understanding the end of what God desires to see in this specific place and time, requires that His Word be the foundation of all that is done. Doing for the sake of doing, or the self satisfaction of knowing that I've carried on in spite of all else around me is shaky ground compared to the obedience of waiting and knowing He is God. The time to wait and listen has begun. I fully trust in His ability to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day; to quote a favorite song's lyrics. How this will be viewed is beyond me, and frankly not my concern. That is part of the issue; worrying about how things are being viewed and "keeping the stiff upper lip" has led to more difficulties than needed to be encountered during this particular learning session. And oh, what a session it has been! This is a classroom without walls, reaching into every nook and cranny of life; presenting over and over and over again the lesson till it is not only understood but verified by proper actions (or perhaps in this case, proper non action). 
May each who have been a part of this venture, now ended, find that God is not only still on the Throne, but He is also firmly in control of all that is happening and there must NEVER be a doubt that He will bring all things into submission to His Will and His Word. 
I will miss the time, the fun but not all. I won't miss the weekly reminder that very little of what God's Word says is being absorbed or applied to life by the listeners (or the attendees, who sometimes  never listen). I won't miss the attitudes of apathy, complacency or just outright rebellion that were often displayed by those attending. I won't miss the opportunity for despair that sometimes crept in, while watching things go sideways from the intended course. I won't miss the confusion and hard feelings generated by and experienced in many who helped or tried to help. God gave the opportunity, it was fully His to take back. If we were not faithful servants and this was taken away....please forgive me, God. But I truly believe that this was not the case. What was done before is not a mandate for what must be done later. The future of what God desires to see happen will rest with Him, until He chooses to reveal it otherwise. In the meantime, if others rise up and "save the day" with a wonderful "ministry", that must rest also within God's choice and will be judged by His same standard as all that has been done before will be as well! So let it be!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunset or Dawn.....Perspective or Predestination

Daily I wonder; is this the end of all that has been, or is this the beginning of something new? Time will tell and in the meantime, patience will have to be my staple diet. What at one moment seems to be clear, oft fades into a measure of obscurity as whether this is the conclusion or the opening of a new opportunity. On one hand, it is very clear that much has ended; relationships, opportunities that involved or grew out of those relationships and time to input into people's lives with the Word of God. What was planted must now stand alone in the power of God's Word alone, with only the watering and fertilizing of the Holy Spirit or other's whom may now have opportunities that we no longer will. And in this there is a clear understanding that this has always been the way. Someone planted, someone else watered, but ultimately and perfectly only God will bring an increase. So perhaps these "endings" are merely so by perspective and not at all by the measure of what God's predetermined result will be or has been. What may appear to be a trial today, may actually serve not only that purpose but it may also be the determined path of what God is intending to accomplish also.  Even though at times it is difficult to hang on during this swerves of direction, it is still possible for unless God has suddenly decided to "cast" us out, we are right where He desires. His glory will erupt, not from our efforts but from His plan, which INCLUDES our efforts. Obedience is hard from the perspective of knowing exactly what we are being obedient in; not the issues and guidelines of Scripture, but those relationships and crossroads that seem to not be on the map of God's written direction. For instance, love (God's Love) is mandatory for believers (not an option), encouragement and fellowship; but in the same vein Scripture is definitive about how relationships are to be handled when their is rebellion, division or like situations. The clear direction is "have nothing to do with such a person, not even eat with them", couched by "but treat him as a brother, not enemy (paraphrased loosely). Okay, kind of limits a fellow to prayer for one and an open heart to restore the relationship according to God's direction; but not much else! And yet, in our "let's just get along culture" this is the very source of hypocrisy, envy, bitterness among the church according to James: " Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? So no wonder that we find ourselves in this place; uncorrected, undisciplined misapplied Love creates every single earthly based wisdom fueled problem in the church body today. An undisciplined body can hardly be called the body of Christ, for every single step He took was disciplined to the exact footstep and heart attitude that the Father predetermined (predestined) for Him. Any wavering to His own emotion-driven desires (in us we would call this lust) would have revealed that He could not have been who He claimed He was...AND MOST CERTAINLY IS!! So in His example we see the pattern for us...we need the correction of God in HIS LOVE more than we need the companionship of fellow church goers; because, and without fail, His correction, discipline and instruction will produce it's perfect result in us and then we will have  true fellowship with the Body of Christ and Him. The greatest dilemma remains in HOW to implement this pattern and  direction for the church as mere undershepherds. And therein lies the need for patience every day. A sunset here may be the dawn elsewhere or it may just be the beginning of something new here too.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Mere Mistake or Another Meal for the Vultures...?

Recently was able to be front and center as a small accident has turned into a mostly minor tragedy; a few young fellows jostling while carrying plates of food suddenly became a trail of salsa, chips and stroganoff down the back of a young lady's sweatshirt in a gathering of youth. Quick apologies were made by the young men and they hastened, with some prompting, to gather paper towels and remove the bulk of the mess from the back of the hoodie. Unfortunately, the instantaneous reaction of the young lady quickly moved this from a mere accident or careless mistake and turned into a full blown incident. Many other options were available; such as laughing about it, showing grace or even just giving forgiveness in accepting the apologies of the young men. Quickly even the offered restoration of the clothing article by myself was refused and the young lady quickly and adamantly left the building. One brave young man who was involved followed her out the door to continue offering an apology was quickly turned back by a furious yelling that erupted from the young lady, who was beginning to look much less lady-like and more like others who mimic this same behavior that she also associates with. Well, when all was said and done on that evening, she was gone, the fellows quite chastised and the future uncertain for them as they all are on the same bus. Fast forward another few days in another gathering of sorts and a few of these sames folks were in close proximity, including myself and the young lady. I brought back up the issue and again offered my services to get the garment back into proper shape. By the set of the jaw; wrong question...actually wrong subject, should have let that one die!! Another few days and the young lady doesn't show up for the usual event and gathering, but instead finds refuge and commiseration with the dividers of the church. Perched on their fences, looking for the weak, injured or otherwise bent of emotion folks, they swooped down and claimed their prize. No godly instruction or wisdom on the value and God required help to show her the mature way to deal with problems and accidents, just an arm around the shoulder and a "oh, poor dear...those mean nasty folks, you just stay here and we'll keep you safe". Funny how the very same attitude the folks had themselves is the basis of their instruction for others. As when Jesus spoke the 8 woes to the pharisees, He said they'd go to no end to make a disciple and when complete they would make him (the disciple) twice as much a son of hell as they were...ouch! Like the turkey vultures of our county, perching high upon a lookout seeking what they can devour. Eating all to their own benefit, with no consideration to the fate of others. Twice as much a son of hell....don't know that I completely understand the fullness of that, but I do know that it can't be good. Bad've begun the next generation of your own little vulture clan.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ah, the Beauty of Fresh Falling Snow

What a sight! Within minutes of beginning the very landscape is transformed and the eyesores of the land around us suddenly looks pristine and clean. Such is the "miracle" of snow. The piles of things that needed to be sorted and scrapped are now covered in a clean, white blanket of pure snow. The ugly burn piles, smoldering amongst the ashes and black scarred ground, have been silenced, contained and covered leaving very little trace of what lie there before other than the small depression of the first few inches of snow that absorbed the residual heat and cooled the coals. So it is with most folks in the church today; the solution to the scars of wrong and the disease of sin, is just to cover it up. Meanwhile beneath this blanket of "love", the original wound festers and will soon enough erupt into full blown disaster soon. Just as the snow will melt away in the changing of the seasons and leave all that was before, most likely in worse shape than it was before. So much for the idea of covering up! Far better I think, the investment of clearing before the snow hits; putting away what should be put away, discarding what should be discarded and burying what is dead. Then when the season changes, all will be ready for progress, not just more work doing what was necessary months before. As much as I appreciate the wonderful beauty of the snow and the resultant "rest" it brings with it, I also realize that soon the season will change and the work is still all there, and probably more. Let's deal with today's problems today and leave the progress of tomorrow to tomorrow. Planning for the progress of tomorrow with covered items of today, will necessitate much more energy setting aside the planned progress and bringing all up to snuff to get started again. The covering that Jesus spoke of, in that "love covers a multitude of sins", refers not to a simple band aid of covering, but the love He paid for with His life that allows forgiveness and full restoration by dealing with the source of the sin, the effect of the sin and the consequences of the sin. Then the covering will not just hide the expanding infection from view, but rather remove any potential growth and allow for proper healing. Oh, if only we were so bold to allow Him to work this way, rather than just wish for the snowy covering of "love", as we define it!
For now, as far as the snow goes, I'll enjoy each moment with a cup of hot cocoa and the time to share with the family...but also with the reminder of what lies beneath the blanket of beauty and the reality that it too must be dealt with soon.

Friday, February 24, 2012

a Forrest Gump Philosophy....

Now we've all heard the famous line from Forrest, "life is like a box of chocolates" and whether we agree with him or not, we'd probably still love to get a box of chocolates (for real). However that may be,  in recent years I've observed another parallelism of life in this same vein. The thought is this, People are like a Carton of eggs. If you don't look first, you'll get home and find some are already cracked and glued into the carton..couldn't do anything with them even if you tried; they go with the carton in the can. Others, passing the first test of visibility look good, fit right in with the rest of the eggs and seem like perfect candidates for whatever recipe requiring eggs may lie ahead. But then, upon immersion into a bucket of water turns out they are excessively gassy and beginning to rot. Without even cracking the exterior, these need discarding. Then there are those who pass both the visual inspection, the immersion test and are poised at the edge of the bowl for use in the recipe of life. One whack and low and behold they are hard boiled and completely unsuitable for anything but a salt shaker and immediate consumption. They won't blend with the other ingredients, although they do love topping salads or being the centerpiece of the h'orderves as DEVILED eggs (possessed perhaps). They are only happy when in front or on top! And then there are the, "oh, my goodness what is that" eggs. Here something else is at work; a rooster to be exact and the egg is accompanied by its own alien appearing partially developed chick. What might have been, is now not and never will be...unless you like balut (another whole dilemma in life). They get discarded too. Then there are the good eggs; passing all the tests...even though as directed by mom, we crack them one at a time into the bowl to double check (required after having your own chickens and learning the hard way that not every egg will be what you expect). These eggs are fully usable in the recipe, blending with the other ingredients to produce a finished product. Lending their nutrients, protein and yes, a little cholesterol to the mix, but becoming part of the whole with awesome results.  These are the down to earth, salt of the earth kind of folks. Takes a while to find, but worth every effort to find when you sit down to enjoy the final product produced by the Master Chef.
Oh yes, there is one more kind of egg; this is not a nice picture and once you've met one of these you are probably scarred for life. This egg appears fine, but upon touching it to perform any of the said activities (above) or explodes. It dispenses the most rotten, foul smelling liquid and gaseous substance most of us will ever be cursed with. Chemically, enough of some of the released substances would kill you in a higher concentration. Add to that the agony of cleanup and the reality that for the next few weeks you'll smell or think of nothing else (or longer in some extreme cases). May your path never cross one of these!! If you do, you will understand those of whom Jesus spoke and called whited sepulchers.  Outside white and shiny, inside dead...REALLY dead stuff. Outside a pretense of righteousness, inside pure, unrestrained evil waiting to explode. Laid right alongside the rest, but able to bring others to their same state if they can get close enough. Yes, Forrest had it right. In everything God created, there is a story and a picture of life. It's just up to us to look and learn to understand. Happy egging!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Roots and Other Attachments Not so Easily Removed

Cut down several trees the other day...One was a gnarly oak of multiple limbs, broken tops and hazardous widow-makers; the other a previously topped and limbed, 30" +/- Ponderosa Pine tree. Both of these trees had a similar issue, despite their varied appearance and clear differences. The issue at hand was that both posed a clear and present danger to the buildings they were near, the people who were around them and the power lines they were over. Add to that the not as dangerous loss of phone service due to dropping branches from the normal life cycle of an oak tree and the fact that the Ponderosa was already dead and soon to start tossing branches in the coming storms. Both of these trees also had another similarity and also a stark marked difference NOT apparent to someone above ground. The similarity is that both trees were rooted in the same soil; the difference is that one tree was dead and detached from the source of life in the soil, the other still growing and with a long potential life ahead BECAUSE of its roots and their successful attachment. However for the purpose of eliminating a hazard, both had to go. A unique result may yet be experienced with the oak tree that was alive and well rooted...even though cut off, it may send up new growth from the stump of the tree. Though all it had accomplished in the past 25+ years was removed and cut up for someone else's comfort, but under the ground the roots are still successfully connected and new growth will appear. In fact, unless I grind the roots up, in another 25 years this hazard will be back. The Ponderosa, for all its height (over 100' tall) and its grandeur and volume (over 30" in diameter), is dead...will be dead and there will never be growth back. That is because the root is dead. Same soil, different result....why? Because the Pine did not have the armor to defend itself from attack and the root connection was insufficient to provide defenses against an enemy smaller than a dime. As good as the root was in producing a voluminous tree, it was not capable in standing against the enemy. A facade built with soaring heights and impressive branches standing high above the poor confused looking, beat up oak tree has fallen prey to a pest which attacked in the armorless areas and inflicted damage that lead to permanent and irreversible death.  The poor oak, though now on the ground in the attack of my chainsaw, is preserved with its DNA intact by the very root connection that helped whatever growth was evident to that point of removal. It will be back, like a bad dream or indigestion, returning to reclaim the lowly place it occupied. 
Such is life in Christ. Though sometimes the growth seems broken in areas, or confused, when the root is solid in Him...we will be back. Even if the enemy takes a chainsaw to the growth at hand...we will be back. Even if the pest attacks, the DNA of the oak is impervious to the little pest that did so much damage to the Pine. The Pine, for sake of this example, rooted in the same soil of God's Word and the fellowship of the church appeared to be growing well. Too well, perhaps...beginning to tower over all it stood among. But unarmored against attack, it fell prey to the incessant repetitive attack of a little pest of envy, dissension or jealousy and the root connection proved to be inferior. It was not the DNA of the King preserved in the Person of Jesus Christ, lived out in the believer, but rather the DNA of an imposter carried out ultimately in the death and separation of the one from the good soil of God's Word and Grace.  Perhaps even deeper, the chainsaw may well have been the work of God, putting the lives to the test. To one: correction and change allowing new growth to spring forth and be manicured into the desired result. Removing dead wood from the broken branches of life, but allowing the root to reproduce a new, vigorous tree in the pattern of its Maker. To the other: judgment and removal altogether. No future, no hope, just a collection of memories and a few days worth of heat produced in burning. Now that is as far as the example goes, because the chainsaw wielder was me in the physical example, but in the life reality it is only God that has the saw and the judgment power. We may mold and form the growth of the tree in a role of pastor, mentor, discipler or elder, but only as God directs according to His master plan!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Just Another Sleight of Hand...

So a mere 15 days ago it appeared that there may have been some hope of resolution in the drama that has occupied the last 525 days. But this turns out to be a mere mirage by the arch enemy himself played out in the hands of the unknowing at best, or the collaborators at worst. It seemed, 15 days ago,  that the walls of obstacle and division may have been crumbling slightly at the edges, just at the time when we were becoming used to the view of these and in some ways accepting of the reality that they would remain as they appeared. Now that mirage has been clarified, the image sharpens into clear focus and what was in play was just another attempt to divide further. The form of division comes with a price and the party involved was apparently just soothing their own conscience prior to moving forward in the lasted attempt to undermine the ministries in place. It is kind of like the classic move of throwing up the hands while declaring, "Okay, I give up" and then swinging with the hidden sap when the other's guard is dropped. As classic as that feint and attack maneuver is, it unfortunately still works against the trusting victim who is looking for an end to the hostilities. The role of vulture or hyena was well played and effective however, capturing the wounded, while the protector's eyes were adverted by the feigned attempt at reconciliation. They merely needed an opportunity, provided by the short absence of my family and the two week cancellation of the youth group. In the face of this "need" for a place for these poor youth who had been "abandoned", they found opportunity to move ahead their agenda of division and conquering. Without regard to the spiritual problem that they began with, or the continued denial of the validity and application of God's Word, they plod on...methodically striving to keep the appearance of "love" while committing the most treacherous and vile undermining and assassination of all that stand in their way. Like the proverbial foolish dog who bites the hand that feeds it, they have moved to the place of not only biting the hand, but also of developing an appetite for only hands, rather than the food the hand used to provide. And so, standing back and gazing at the still standing, reinforced wall of division and strife, perhaps still the only option available is to just accept the walls and continue work on the building the trenches of battle that seems destined to continue. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Walls Falling Down....Just When We Got Used to the View!

Okay, sometimes you just have to wonder... Its been one year, four months and twenty three days since the beginning of what seemed certainly to be an end. That is 510 days of gut wrenching, mind wracking, revolving movie playing over and over again kind of days. Not the kind of days when you wake up and say, "Hey, isn't this wonderful...what shall I think about today" kind of days, but the kind of days where you are already awake thinking about what you've already been awake thinking about for the last, er....509 days. And into this arena, just as  I might have been getting used to the idea of how things are is how things are going to stay, God up and sends a glimmer of hope that THIS may not be the future after all. In fact, perhaps He even waits until I formally note to the other party that this is how it is and that is that, (which I pretty much did in a note thanking that party) and then He begins to open up a future that was, well pretty much impossible on human terms.
Let me put into a word picture, drawing upon a Biblical event; the fall of Jericho. Pretend with me for a moment that God had NOT (even though we all know He Did) told Joshua about how long they were to keep up the circuitous route around Jericho. Somewhere along the line they might have begun to think that the walls of Jericho were just part of the scenery and not an obstacle soon to be removed. Faith was evident in that they still had to walk, whether is was 7 days or 510 days, but the perspective tends to change with the added time. You know God can, but you begin to doubt He will and then slowly get used to the idea that this is how it will be. Of course in the said example, it only took 7 days to see the fulfillment of a plan already laid out with a final goal in site. In the 510 day example of my own, there is no such stated final goal visible as the situation deals with humans and human relations in a world where the track record of the same is not so good. In fact, we are told to love, pray for, bless and not curse, etc but never told that this will always produce a good result other than developing the character in us that Christ desires to see. 
It has been a total of 398 days since the real separation began, although the days between the commencing of the 510 and the 398 were not really congenial days, in retrospect. For that matter nothing is guaranteed in this current sliver of hope visible, but what is visible is the vision that God can and MAY CHOOSE to do something grand! My heart is ready for that. I've tried and tried, to get "used to the view" of how it is and accept that it will remain the same or worse for the future in terms of relationship with these ones, but never with success. I've gone back and forth and forth and back trying to play out a reasonable scenario that restores and repairs the damages done, without success. I've tried ignoring, discarding, avoiding and for whatever reason, God just keeps putting them back in view and in my mind. We've considered really abrupt changes to life and radical changes in our work to remove us from their view....hasn't worked either. So however God chooses, whether opening this sliver of hope into fullness or closing it completely, the moment has served a purpose. I am reminded of the Words of God Himself in Isaiah 55:6-11: 

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.

Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

And the Words He spoke to Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

So, God having the seen the hearts of the matter can make something beautiful out of something very, very broken. This I affirm and believe...the problem that I often have, as a human, is that what I see and what I try to get used to in the view of life, is often the very thing that God is trying to bring down. The walls I see are perhaps not walls, but opportunities. That is up to HIM!!