The Will of God for Your Life – Part 3

June 23, 2017

If you haven’t read parts 1 and 2, you might want to scroll down and read those first.

I did not intend on writing a Part 3, but I feel I left some ground uncovered, or not covered sufficiently.

Let me start this by saying some things that I hold to be true.  You may agree, or disagree, as everyone has their own opinion and interpretation.  I try to line up my view and understanding using the following general guidelines:

  1. Is it scriptural?  Of course, we can find scriptures in the Bible that can support almost any view you want to take, but when I say “is it scriptural”, I mean does it fit the whole Bible rightly divided, not just some verses taken out of context?
  2. Are there examples, involving real people, in the Bible?  Jesus did this, as he quoted Isaiah, and referred to Jonah, David, Elijah, and others as examples by name.
  3. Can I line it up with examples of real people from my own life experience?  In other words, can I reconcile what I think I know with what I have seen and experienced with things in my own life, or the lives of people I’ve known?
  4. Will it play in Peoria?  By this, I mean it is perfectly natural to speak of prosperity and abundance in a country as rich as the United States, but will the same message achieve desired results in places in the world where poverty, famine, and disease are a part of every household and family?

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I want to express a few things about God’s Will in our life, that I personally believe, or hold to be true:

  1. God has a Will and Purpose for every life.
  2. This does not mean that every life will fulfill God’s Will or purpose.
  3. God has made provision for every will in each life to be fulfilled.  In other words, God did not give you a purpose you cannot achieve.
  4. Nothing happens without God’s knowledge or consent.  Note, this does not mean God approves of every action, but that no action can occur without God’s permission.  This is a very fine point, and causes more than its share of head scratching.  Take an example – Paul is piling brush on a fire and a viper comes out the sticks and bites him on the arm.  In fact, the scripture says it was hanging on his arm, which indicates that the fangs of the snake were embedded in his skin.  But, it is not time for Paul to die, or even be sick.  He shakes the snake off in the fire and keeps going.  God did not plant the snake.  Nor did He set it up so Paul could get bit.  But, He allowed it to happen, and diverted the outcome so that God would receive the glory.  Was it pleasant?  I doubt it.  Although, Paul did not suffer the effects of being bit by a poisonous snake, he was still bitten, and that is not the best of things.  But, was it worth it?  Well, many of the people of that island came to the Lord because of these events, so, yes, it was worth it.  Now, there is a strong difference between God allowing bad things to happen, and God initiating bad things.  God does not initiate bad things, but he can take things that were meant for bad, and turn them into something good.
  5. It is not my job to get God’s help with my plans for my life.  Rather, it is my job to align my plans with His plans for my life.  Whether I understand it or not, His plans for my life are better than my plans for my life.
  6. There may be suffering involved.  However, it is never suffering with no purpose.
  7. My primary purpose is finish the race set before me.  If I can do that, then all will be well, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

The Will of God for Your Life – Part 2

June 22, 2017

If you haven’t read Part 1 you might want to scroll down and read it first, as this is the second installment on this topic.

As previously mentioned, it is not very difficult to determine God’s Will for our life when everything is going well.  But, when things start falling apart – family, friends, finances, jobs, health, etc… then it becomes a bit more difficult to see how any of this could be part of God’s plan for our life.  I include myself in this analysis, as I’m not immune to things that can go wrong.

Obviously, things can go wrong for a number of reasons including:

  1. Wrong choices
  2. Other people making decisions that affect your life
  3. Natural causes – famine, war, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, epidemics
  4. And, lest we forget, we live in a world marred by original sin

But, even though there are many sources, we still get puzzled why these things should come our way.  After all, aren’t we children of the King?  Surely, the King would not want His children to suffer.

But, let me point out a ‘fly in the ointment’ to that kind of simplified thinking.  It doesn’t take into account that some things we label as ‘bad’, because they are unpleasant or painful, are not necessarily bad things.  Let me direct you to think about just a few.

One, my wife has given birth to our 4 children.  This was not a pleasant or pain free experience.  There were lots of anxious moments, uncomfortable moments, even stressful moments during labor and the preceding 9 months.  But, she would not say those were ‘bad’ times, for the result was the birth of her children.

Second, during my 7 years in the military I received a lot of shots.  Some were vaccines, some were flu shots, and some were for, well, I don’t know what they were for.  I did not like them then, and I don’t like them now, but there are times when a shot is a welcome thing, even though it is painful.  I remember a doctor visit when I had a kidney stone, and as soon as the doctor saw what pain I was in ordered a shot immediately to help relieve the extreme pain.  Did I say, “No, I don’t like shots, and I don’t want to be stuck with a needle.”  I think not.  So, on the surface shots are a ‘bad’ thing.  But, below the surface, it mostly is a good thing.

So, what do these examples have to do with life and the things we endure that we label as ‘bad’.  Simply this – we are probably not in the best position to determine what is ‘good’ or what is ‘bad’, as most of our logic is based on whether we are suffering or whether we are glad or happy.  As illustrated above, those are not always good indicators of whether something is good or bad.  Now for a Bible example.

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is full of information.  Most scholars believe this is not really a parable story, but an actual occurrence, as parables do not usually involve a person’s name.  But, regardless, Jesus recounted this incident to help us understand that what happens in the short-run, is not always an indicator of what will happen in the long-run.  Lazarus, apparently, never received anything good in life.  His finances were poor (he was a beggar).  His health was poor (he was full of sores and he had to be laid at the rich man’s gate, indicating he might have been crippled).  He was mostly hungry and ill-fed (desiring to eat the crumbs from the rich man’s table).  In short, he had nothing in life that we would call good or enjoyable.  On the other hand, Jesus said the rich man fared sumptuously every day of his life.  This idea ‘fared sumptuously’ gives us the indication that he lacked nothing, and had everything a man could possible want in this life.  But, of course, the parable doesn’t stop at what happened to these two men in this life, but allows us to look behind the curtain of death.  Lazarus is comforted, and the rich man is tormented.  For how long?  For eternity.  Now, which man ended up in a better state?  Obviously, even if a man lived to be a hundred years old, that would be nothing compared to eternity.

So, that may account for some of the confusion we experience when we try to understand why some things come into our life, that we label as ‘bad’, but only because we cannot see the full picture.

One additional item that needs to be mentioned.  If you are praying, believing Christian, you have been marked by an enemy.  This enemy is able to bring a certain degree of difficulty to your life, but he is limited.  However, it would be foolish to think that he cannot bring some degree of difficulty or cast obstacles in our way.  The Book of Job makes it clear that he hates those who serve God.  The Book of Acts also makes it clear the difficulty he brought to the early church.  But, he is limited.  He cannot do to you anything that God does not already know about.  And he cannot do anything to you that God has not already made a plan for.  But, that said, do not be fooled by those who say the enemy cannot cause you some difficulty.  If he caused difficulty for Christ, which it is clear he did, then don’t think you are going to be immune.  Fortunately, God has made provision for this, too.

Once again, I’ve exhausted my time and space, and there is so much more to discuss, but let me see if I can bring this to a close.  My closing thoughts are best summed up in the words of Christ Himself, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”  The summation of this thought is simply this, God is not going to spare you from the tribulation, but He is going to see you through to the other side.  Not only is He going to see you through to the other side, but you will come out victorious, and worthy of greater conquests and challenges.  And, you will be an inspiration to others who are enduring afflictions and tribulations of their own.

 

The Will of God for Your Life

June 21, 2017

Much has been written about this topic, and I won’t try to rehash it here.  Sometimes it is not described as God’s Will, but instead it might be called Purpose Driven, or similar, but it means pretty much the same thing.

This is actually a pretty complicated topic, and I can only throw out a few things to think about in this short space.  This topic has caused a lot of conversation, studies, books, movies, conferences, blogs, commentaries, and rightly so, for it is central to a Christian believer’s life experience.

It is clear from scripture that God does have a purpose, or will, for every life.  If we believe that God is no respecter of persons, and we believe that we can see God’s purpose and will for those written up in His Word, then it stands to reason He has a purpose and will for our lives, too.

Now, let’s be honest.  It’s pretty easy to accept God’s Will and purpose when everything is going well and smooth, but it’s a different story when things are not going so well.  When friends and family turn on us, when we are under financial pressure and duress, when our health begins to fail, and when the enemy attacks us non-stop from morning to dusk.  During those times it is difficult to see God’s Will or purpose working in our life.  The train has left the rails, and we are left wondering what is going on.  That’s what I want to talk about in this posting.

First of all, I’m no expert in this subject.  Nor do I profess to have mastered this topic.  Nor do I pretend that I’m above these things that come into my life.  They affect me just as much as anyone else, and there are times when I wonder what is going on, and why has God left me in this condition.  But, all that said, I think there are some clues given in the scripture that might help us to understand or at least endure such happenings when they come our way.

Probably the biggest misunderstanding Christians have when it comes to understanding God’s Will for their lives, is knowing what is ‘good’, and what is ‘bad’.  I’m not talking about our efforts, or righteousness versus sin.  I’m talking about the things that come our way.  We tend to classify them as either good or bad.  There may be some things that fall into the middle, but for the most part we have little difficulty determining if those things are mostly good, or mostly bad.

Our ‘ruler’ we usually use when determining if something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is how it affects us, or makes us feel.  If it makes me feel sad, it goes into the bad bucket.  If it makes me feel happy, then it goes into the good bucket.  If it helps me – good.  If it hurts me – bad.  If it is easy – good.  If it is hard – bad.  If I can smile about it – good.  But, if it makes me frown – bad.

There’s only one thing wrong with this approach – the ‘ruler’ you are using to measure things in your life is fatally flawed, and many times incorrect.  It gives you wrong readings, which lead to wrong conclusions, which in turn lead to wrong ideas about God’s Will or purpose for your life.  In short, we get confused, but we get confused because the ruler we are using to measure our experiences is flawed and based on short-term feelings or results.

Fortunately, for you and me, there are plenty of scripture references and examples that show this to be true.

Now before we get into the ‘meat’ of this topic, let me remind you of something.  To understand God’s Will and purpose for your life is not a beginner topic.  This is a topic for mature and growing Christians.  While some would argue this stance, let me explain.  When I was learning to ride a bike, I had training wheels on.  The training wheels kept he bike upright while I was learning to ride and keep my balance.  They prevented me from falling and hurting myself while I was learning.  So it is with Christian babes.  God puts training wheels on them to prevent them from hurting themselves.  He puts extra protection around them to ensure they have an opportunity to grow and mature.  When a person grows in maturity with Christ the training wheels are removed, just like they were removed from my bike.  When the training wheels went off my bike, I could go faster, make better turns, and have more freedom.  But, there was a downside, too.  I was exposed to more risk, more danger, and potentially more pain, especially if I wrecked myself.  So, it sounds like I should keep the training wheels on, right?  Of course not.  The same holds true for the Christian.  When God sees our growing maturity the training wheels come off.  We can go faster, have more confidence, have more freedom, but as with the bike there are more opportunities where we might encounter more challenges as a result of the training wheels being removed.

Because I have taken so much time and space in setting this topic up, I will complete it in the next post.  So, stayed tuned, as we will get into the real subject in the next posting…

Where in the World is Carmen Timothy?

June 21, 2017

In the late 1980’s into the early 1990’s the term, “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” was known everywhere.  It started as a set of educational video games, designed to help children learn topics such as geography through playing games.  It eventually morphed into TV series, board games, books, comics, and music albums.  So, the title is catchy, which is why I used it, with slight modification.

This posting is a bit different.  We are going to try and find Timothy in some passages in the book of Acts.  One of the interesting things about the historical scriptures (The Book of Acts is primarily a recording of certain historical events in the early Christian church), is that we assume all the characters are named.  So, we know for example, that it was Paul and Silas who were beaten and thrown into jail, not Paul and Barnabas.  But, what we take for granted, is that Paul and Silas were the only ones thrown in jail, because they are the only ones named.  But, a careful reading reveals there may have been others, they just are not named.

In order to unravel this mystery, we need to go back a ways, and then move forward a ways, and then from the views presented there piece together a possible conclusion.  In other words, this is a scriptural detective story, in which we try to understand the historical record presented in Acts better.

Probably the first question to answer is to try and find out who was traveling with Paul.  Well, we know Silas was there because of his frequent mention by name.  We can also gain some clues about the presence of Luke, the physician.  He is the accepted writer of the Book of Acts, and was an eye-witness to many of the accounts given there.  In the 16th chapter we can see in verse 8 – “And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.” that the evangelistic team arrived in Troas.  Who is in this team?  We cannot know for certain from just the Bible scriptures (there are other texts and documents from the time that give further clues), but it appears that the ‘they’ in this verse refers to Paul, Silas, and Timothy.  What?  Timothy?  Yes, Timothy, because back in verses 1 – 3 of this same chapter Paul intends to take Timothy with them.  Is Luke with them at this time?  We think not, but it appears he may have joined them in Troas.  For, after Paul’s night vision we see in verse 10 this phrase – “…immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia…”.  The ‘they’ has now been replaced with ‘we’, signifying that Luke, the author, was with them as they left Troas.  So, now the evangelistic team consists of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke.  There were possibly others, also, who may have been with them, but we have little scriptural evidence for this.

So, let’s move foward…

In verse 12 the team lands in Phillipi, where, through a set of events lands Paul and Silas before the magistrates, beaten, and finally, thrown into jail.  Where is Timothy?  Well, we have two strong possibilities:

  1. Timothy is actually beaten and thrown into jail, too, but is not named.
  2. Timothy was not a primary target, since Paul and Silas where older, outspoken, and clearly the leaders of the group.

Evidence supports #2, but there is still the possibility of #1.  It is useful to remember that when this was written it was common to only name the significant leaders, or elders, in any given group or gathering.  In fact, it got worse, women were hardly ever named at all.  When numbering the people who were fed by Jesus, you will notice they only counted the men, and the women and children were not counted at all.  Even with that in account we could probably assume that Timothy was not with Paul and Silas in the jail, but we cannot completely dismiss the possibility, even if it is remote.

We know that Timothy was still part of the group, because as we read further we seem him listed in Acts 17:14.  So, although only Paul and Silas are mentioned frequently by name it is good to remember the party had other members, who are not always mentioned by name.

Is any of this important?  Well, yes, and no.  No, it is not significant by itself, and may give us very little more knowledge than we had before.  But, yes, it is important, if it can stimulate you to read more for yourself, and to study the scriptures to find and uncover hidden truths in God’s Word.

We are at the end of this post, but there are other mysteries in the Book of Acts we might cover in future postings.  For example, were you aware of the fact that when Peter is delivered from certain death and arrives at the house where the disciples were praying, that Paul and Barnabas were there also?  Hmmmmm… maybe for a future post…

The Lifetime of a Prayer

June 18, 2017

When one prays how long is the lifetime of that prayer?  In other words, when are the effects or results of a prayer finished or completed?  Or, when does a prayer become ineffective?

This is actually an interesting question, although, I know many people may have not given it any thought before now.  I’ve actually thought about it a good bit.

I would suppose that many people think a prayer is only of effect while the one who is praying is engaged in praying, but even a simple analysis proves this is not correct.

When Cornelius was talking to the angel the angel said this, “And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

Obviously, the angel was not talking about the prayers that Cornelius was doing just now, but was referring to the alms and prayers that Cornelius had previously prayed and alms that had previously been given.  In other words, the historical record of Cornelius’s alms giving and prayers had come up before God as a memorial.

There are other references to where the results of a prayer were realized many weeks, months, even years afterward.

So, we can conclude that prayers have a long lifetime, maybe longer than we even think.  Do you know that while Jesus was completing His earthly ministry He prayed for you?  This can be found in John 17:20 – “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

This is a complicated verse.  Jesus is praying for his disciples, but He also extends the prayer to those who ‘will believe’ in the future.  They are not believers now, but will be believers in the future.  In other words, Jesus prayed for future believers, even before they are saved, or even born.

So, how far does Jesus prayer extend?  Just to His disciples, and their lifetime?  I think not.  Rather, this is an example of a prayer that is still working today, and will continue to work tomorrow, and into the future.

In Revelation 5:8 we read this – “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.”  Are these only the prayers of the saints at that moment in time?  No, I think not.  They are the prayers of saints from all times.  If this is true then prayers that were uttered hundreds, even thousands of years ago, are still in effect and still producing results.  Does this surprise you?  It shouldn’t for even the scriptures give clues to this, such as found in Revelation 14:13 – “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

The key to this verse is to understand what these ‘works’ mean.  Could it be their books, their writings, their witness, their labor in ministry?  Yes, those things, but don’t forget the prayers.  For their prayers will yield results long after they are gone.  Although, they pass from this existence, and rest from their labor, their prayers continue to work and to accomplish God’s will.

So, going back to the title, just how long is the lifetime of a prayer?  Probably longer than we might think, as it will continue to produce results in the plan of God.  This should give us pause to think about how we pray, and that our prayers have no limits with regards to time.  Of course, we all want our prayers answered right now, but we should remember some prayers may be answered in the future, and in fact, may be answered after we have left this life.  Does that make them any less important?  No, as the prayers of my mother, father, and step-father still work in my life, even though they are no longer here.  In fact, the prayers of my great ancestors are still working in my life, too.

Something to think about…

Distractions

June 14, 2017

Because I have a hint of A.D.D. (some say more than a hint) I’m easily distracted.  This distraction, while it seems trivial to some, is really a painful lifelong challenge that causes every effort to be many times more difficult than it should be.  While I believe I have clinical A.D.D. I wonder if there aren’t many good church-going saints who don’t have a touch of spiritual A.D.D.

We are concerned with who is drinking, who is smoking, who is abusing drugs, prescription and non-prescription, who is cursing, who is good, who is bad, and on and on.  While these are not trivial topics, they seem to be an unwelcome distraction from the really important things.  And, as we’ve already stated, distractions make our primary tasks many times harder.

Jesus even addressed this very topic in Luke chapter 11:

“But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

It appears the Pharisees had forgotten the main point.  In other words, they had allowed themselves to get distracted.  They tithed all manner of things in order to please God, and somehow in the process forgot what God really required.  Jesus makes it clear there is nothing wrong with their tithing, but they have forgotten some things about God that are important like judgment and love.  Tithing, out of our love for God, is a great thing, but tithing simply to show others how ‘good’ we are is not.

When someone comes into our midst, who doesn’t look like we do, doesn’t act like we act, doesn’t believe like we believe – do we condemn them or love them?  Do we judge them or listen to them?  Do we shun them or embrace them?  Do we avoid them or draw them to ourselves?  This is a definite challenge.

But, we like drama.  The “grapevine” is full of drama.  “Did you hear about so-and-so?  I can’t believe the pastor doesn’t do something about it.”

“Have you heard the latest about Bro Divine?  Yes, it’s bad.”

It takes a lifetime to garner praise and respect, but only a few moments for any bad word to spread to hundreds or even thousands.  In many cases the ‘bad word’ is not even true, or filled with distortions of the facts.

The sooner we can realize we are all in the boat together, and there are no big “I’s” or little “U’s” the better.  Life is full of challenges and upsets, victories and defeats, good times and bad.  There are no exemptions, no free passes.  While wealth and position can smooth some of these things out, no one is completely immune.  When a loved one passes it doesn’t seem to matter if you are rich or poor, famous or unknown, it hurts the same.

We are told that when you get to the end of your rope, just tie a knot in the end and hang on.  Sometimes it does feel that way.  But, let me add something to that saying.  When you get to the end of your rope and you’ve tied a knot in order to hang on, reach out and grab someone else who has lost their grip and save them, too.  You can not only save yourself, but you can gain enough strength to help one more make it over the finish line.

Why Didn’t He Do it Differently?

May 29, 2017

In order for this posting to make any sense you are going to have to do some role playing with me.  I’m going to ask you to put yourself in the place of Jesus and think about what you would do if you were in His place.

You have just completed your earthly ministry, having endured the cross, and are now resurrected and want to visit those you’ve left behind.  You have taught many, healed many, and have 11 disciples that have stayed with you through thick and thin.  But, there are many who are in opposition to your new church and to those you have left behind.

What would you do?

Well, let me get the ball started with some things that I might want to do, if I were Jesus:

  1. I think I might want to make a point to those who mocked me, pulled my beard, spit on me, and treated me shamefully.  Yes, I would probably want to visit them and give them a spin or two.  Maybe not kill them, but just to show them how wrong they were about me.
  2. I would make a grand appearance to my disciples.  When I say ‘grand’ I’m talking brightness, and heavenly glory, so much that they fall to their faces in awe and wonder.  Mainly, so that I can show them that I have received all power from my Father, and they can trust me as they move forward.
  3. Finally, I would probably remove those who are in opposition to my new church, and those that might cause my disciples trouble or hurt.

Those are some things I might do, were I Jesus in the days following the crucifixion.  But, as we know, He didn’t do any of that.  In one instance he merely invited them to have fish and bread beside a beach campfire.  That doesn’t sound very dramatic to me.  In another instance he walked beside two disciples as they were talking, and had a conversation with them.  Doesn’t sound very dramatic, either, considering this is the Son of God.

As you are thinking about that, think about this – what would you tell them?

Would you tell them about the future, and how things are going to be different?  There will be automobiles and planes, and man will visit the moon, and etc, etc, etc…  As far as we know He didn’t get into that, either.

So, why is this important, and worth talking and thinking about?  It is important as it illustrates a couple of points:

  1. God doesn’t act and do as we might do.  He acts righteously and in all ways does and says exactly what needs to be done and said for the moment.
  2. God doesn’t need to put on a show, or demonstrate His power and glory.  If He did that then much of what we believe would be based on our fleshly instinct, and not on our faith.  In brief, God wants us to be impressed in Him because of our faith, and not because of what we see or experience.
  3. I think it also illustrates that although God has all power, He deals with us right where we are, and in a way we can understand.  If He came at us through a blinding light or loud noise all the time, we would find ourselves operating from fear and awe rather than reason and faith.  God doesn’t want a bunch of ‘awed’ followers.  He wants individuals who express their faith in Him in their daily living.

All that said, it is certainly true that God is awesome.  But, He is awesome to me because of who He is, and my faith in who He is, and not because he has struck me down.  I recognize His greatness and His power, but most of all I recognize His love and forgiveness even above His other attributes.  The fact that He has His hand on the universe and things therein is certainly a benefit, but that is not why I love Him.  I don’t love God because He is great and powerful.  I love God because He first loved me.  When I was unable to help myself He died for me and made a way for me to be reconciled to Himself.

 

You Don’t Have to be an Expert

May 29, 2017

These days there are lots of seminars, courses, study guides, books, teachers, evangelists, who can help expand your knowledge and understanding of the Word of God.  These are mostly good and instructive.  But, you don’t have to be an expert or a theologian to live in favor with God.

In fact, if I could put it so bluntly and not offend anyone – sometimes our learning can lead us to flawed conclusions and dubious results.  I’m constantly amazed by the different doctrines expressed by those I have come in contact with.

While it is good to have a deep understanding of the Word of God, and can digest the meat that is there, the fundamentals are so simple a child can understand them.

It is not useful or edifying to argue about most doctrinal differences.  Most people are so set in their thinking you will not convince them your thoughts are correct, nor will they probably convince you their thoughts or ideas are correct, either.

After being in the ministry 41 years I’ve now reverted back to simple basics.  While I still study the Word of God, it is not with the intent of proving any particular doctrine or view.  No, my purpose is to help me be the person God wants me to be, and to fulfill His purpose for my life.  I find this occupies me fulltime to the extent I have little time to try and correct or convince anyone I have a ‘fuller revelation’ of the Word.

What I have found is one does not need to be an expert to please God.  Learning is good and desirable, and there many good books and study guides to help us.  However, the primary purpose of such learning is to first help us in our own walk with God.

Ok, and now for my own revelation, which is not really a revelation, but a restatement of what is already in the scriptures.  No matter how learned you are, or how deep your spiritual relationship with God is, no one knows it all, and you probably know less than you think you know.

The smartest people I know tend to be very modest about their knowledge, and are quite open about how little they really do know, or how much there is left to learn.  In other words, at some point in gaining knowledge and wisdom you should come to acknowledge there is so much more to learn.

That said, there is no shortage of folks who want to advise you on how you should live, and how your relationship with God should work.  It amazes me sometimes, just how many ‘experts’ there are.  And while I have been a pastor, CE Director, teacher, writer, and minister for 40+ years I have to admit I’m far from being an expert, and secondly, I still have much to learn.

I’ve reverted to basic themes:

  1. Love God
  2. Love your neighbor
  3. Support the fatherless and widows
  4. Be forgiving, of others and yourself
  5. Try to avoid offending anyone
  6. Defend the helpless
  7. If possible, try to be at peace with all people
  8. Pray for those in authority

To name a few.  So basic, that even a child should understand many of these things.

So, my friends – instead of growing to be an expert, I have instead reverted back to some of the basics that I first learned from my Mother and Father.  While this reversion may be a disappointment to some, I am really only concerned with how I might please my heavenly Father.

I wish I could impart to you some deep spiritual truths, but my best effort is to simply encourage you that – You Don’t Have to be an Expert to please God.

Flesh and Blood

May 23, 2017

This posting has me challenged on several levels:

  1. It is not a small or simple concept
  2. There are as many different opinions on this topic as there are human beings in the world
  3. It is doubtful I can treat this topic with the care it requires and deserves in such a small space.

Much of what we will discuss here is from John chapter 6.  A short summary of this chapter looks something like this:

  1. Jesus teaches and feeds the multitude
  2. He crosses the sea, and the crowds follow Him
  3. He warns them not to get caught up in eating just earthly food, but to eat of the heavenly food.
  4. Jesus and the Jews discuss the ‘bread from heaven’.
  5. Jesus tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life.
  6. Most of His followers leave at this saying

Of course, this passage is tied together with the communion (Lord’s Supper) that would take place the night before Jesus is crucified.  We understand that the cracker and grape juice (or wine) is symbolic of Jesus’ body and blood.

What is not so simple is to have a fuller understanding of what is meant when Jesus says, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  Of course, He is not referring to cannibalism.  This is symbolic.  But, is it just symbolic of the Lord’s Supper, or is there something more?

The key is to understand what is meant by the ‘flesh’ and by the ‘blood’.

According to related scriptures (some in this chapter, and some elsewhere) he also refers to His body as the bread which came down from heaven.  In fact, that is the image given by Paul as he describes the proper procedure for communion given in 1 Corinthians 11.  Here Paul describes the bread of communion as directly relating to Christ’s broken body.  But, what is the bread?  While some might argue, I contend that the ‘bread’ is the Word of God.  John 1:14 tells us that Word was made flesh.  So, the idea of eating the flesh of Christ is one of eating the Word.

In the discourse between Jesus and the Jews in John 6 we can see that Christ clearly says that by eating the bread which came down from heaven (The Word made flesh) it gives life to them.  Those who eat the ‘Word’ gain life from it.  In this life, we gain life from eating, but in the life to come it takes a different kind of food.  You must eat of the bread that God gives.  This is spiritual food, for the spiritual man.

So, is there a different between reading the Word of God, and eating it?  I suggest that there is.  Reading is a passive experience, while eating is an active experience.  If I pass by a bakery, I gain pleasure from smelling the fresh bread being baked there.  However, that pleasure is not sufficient for me to live on.  Only by eating the bread can I have the fuller experience that gives life.  There is a difference between reading the Word of God, and devouring the Word of God.  When we ‘eat’ the Word of God it becomes part of us.  The life it imparts creates life in us.  This life springs up into eternal life.  This is why Jesus stressed that whoever eats the bread that came down from heaven will never die.

And now for the blood.  This is too rich a subject to address in a few words, but let me simply state what Jesus said of the blood – it is the New Testament.  This is the new covenant between God and man.  This is the relationship God has made with man through the blood of His Son.  In short, this is the salvation that was purchased by the sacrifice that was made on Calvary.

So, when we eat his flesh (eat the Word), and drink His blood (receive remission and forgiveness of sin), we receive eternal life, and have passed from judgment to a state of righteousness.  This is not based on how good we are, or what we have done, or what we think we have earned.  This is a gift of God, made available to whosoever will.

The Rainbow Colored Bar – Revisited

May 13, 2017

I’ve talked about this before, but it bears a repeat.  About 25 years ago I had a dream from God.  During my lifetime I’ve had maybe 3 or 4 such dreams.

In this dream I was standing before God the Father.  Nothing was visible to me except a long, maybe 10 feet, multi-colored bar.  It had shades of color bands up and down the bar, much like a rainbow.  I didn’t need to be told what this was.  This was my life.

In this portion of the dream there were many things that were perfectly clear, and without question or doubt.  I will try to list as many as I remember:

  1. This multi-colored bar represented my life, and it was over.  It showed the good times, the bad times, my successes, and my failures.  There was a thin black band between 1/4 and 1/3 of the distance from the beginning of the bar that represented when I got saved.
  2. I could not make out the individual acts of my life, but there was little doubt there was nothing missing, and little doubt the bar belonged to me, and me alone.
  3. I could not make out the image of the Father, but I knew He was there, and we were examining this bar together.
  4. As I looked at the bar it became clear that it simply did not add up.  That is, it was not good enough.  It was not a matter of adding up the good things and hoping they outweighed the bad.  No, it was clear that it simply was not good enough.
  5. As I looked at the bar a certain feeling of helplessness and despair began to descend on me.  It felt heavy.  There wasn’t anything I could do to change the situation.

Those things were the details of this portion of the dream.  Then something unexpected happened.  The Father turned to His right and said, “What do you think?”

That’s when I saw Jesus.  I didn’t know He was there before this moment, but now He was talking to the Father, and said, “I have forgiven him of all of his sins.”

The Father then said, “That’s good enough for me.”

The feeling of dread and despair lifted, and I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and joy.  While it was clear the bar did not add up, it didn’t matter, I had been forgiven and the Father had been satisfied with the answer from the Son.  I didn’t have to worry.

At that time the dream lifted, and I was fully awake.  I could feel the presence of God.

This dream has changed my view of salvation slightly.  Before the dream I had somewhat lived according to my own judgment as to how well I was doing.  After all, I paid my tithes, I attended church, I read my Bible, I prayed.  But, after the dream I had the realization that although these things are good, they simply are not enough.  They don’t add up to salvation.  There’s only one thing that will make the difference – have you been forgiven by the Son.  If so, then there is no need to worry about being ‘good enough’.  Someone else has already paid the price for you to go free, and everything will be fine.