Go Deeper

We are all much deeper than the layers of our skin,

Too often we judge by the outside, only by what we see.

Judging the book by the cover, assuming how things might be.

Will you choose to go deeper to know what goes on within?

 

How can we know the struggles, buried deep inside?

How can we know the depression or the mental wars?

How can we see the heartache and battle-weary scars?

How can we know the brokenness or tears of late nights cried?

 

We are all surely broken. It started at our birth,

But God so loved He sent His Son to heal, save, and set free.

He came and willingly chose to die, in place of you and me.

We are all broken, but can you understand our worth?

 

We often forget we’re a child of God, even as we struggle on.

We often get it wrong, hoping, believing in an instant cure.

We say, “Just pray enough, believe enough, it’ll work for sure.”

Child of God, the battles continue, it’s the war that’s been won.

 

Remember, you’re His child, remember He’s your Lord.

Especially in your brokenness, you are called to stand.

You’re not called to surrender, but to the battle at hand.

When you take your last breath, then lay down my sword.

 

Praise be to God, we are not alone in the stormy night.

Life will be a struggle as we head toward our home.

Truth is we are all on the journey, we are not alone.

We have His Spirit who is constantly with us in the fight.

 

Embrace the brokenness, embrace the clashes deep within,

Listen, heed the voice of God should you choose to hear it.

There is peace in the midst brought only by the Spirit.

Life struggles are to point us to trust and lean on Him.

Forgiveness – A Fruit of the Spirit?

The Question

portrait of white pigeon

In the book of Galatians, (Gal. 5:22-23) the Apostle Paul lists out nine proofs or fruits of the Spirit. These fruit show the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer who possesses these qualities. I have wondered why forgiveness is not listed here. Can one truly have the Spirit of God present in their lives without this one trait or asset? After all, it is one of the heavy hitters in the Christian walk and is sometimes mentioned more than some of the fruit.

The Simplest Answer

The most obvious and simplest answer is the list is not an exhaustive one, and forgiveness could be added. Just because it was not listed doesn’t mean that it is not a proof or a fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit has at least three lists in the Bible. Those three lists do not contain all the gifts, and it is argued that there are more gifts than those listed. So it would be for forgiveness. For example, other concepts like mercy, justice, humbleness, etc. are not listed either. It could be argued that these are fruits of the Spirit as well. But I believe there is more to it.

In-depth Answer

 

The more complicated and comprehensive answer when looking at a particular scripture is to look at the context of the speaker. What was said before and after the scripture on the fruit of the Spirit? Also, what is said in the Bible as a whole? Paul was using an opposite comparison when he listed the fruit. Before this section, he listed the “works of the flesh” which are in opposition to the fruit. One is physically focused, and the other is spiritual. One is natural and the other is supernatural.

woman putting red apple on green shopping basket

Paul tells us to separate the fruit from the works. This is a choice and must be practiced. The Spirit is the teacher, the mentor. This choice is simple, not always easy, but simple. We have to choose the Spirit to be able to cultivate and exhibit the fruit. There is a difference between the work of the Spirit and the work of the flesh. The flesh work comes naturally. Just let yourself go. Live the lowest level, almost animalistic life. That is not only simple but easy and guess what you will get? Natural, animalistic results.

clouds countryside daylight environment

However, if you choose and walk with the Spirit, you also choose the higher road. This road is not easy. Jesus said that this road is narrow and there are very few who not only find it but travel it. The Spirit is the teacher, comforter, and mentor. The Teacher uses the Bible as His textbook and life as His laboratory. It’s is just like being in school or college. You spend time in the classroom and then you get to spend time in the practicum. If you don’t attend either of these you fail the course. Too many Christians treat the Christian life as if it is party time at college rather than time to learn and grow. Then they wonder why their life as a Christian isn’t working. They have failed the course and too often blame the teacher for their failure. Paul calls this spiritual immaturity.

Forgiveness is not a fruit

So, what has this got to do with forgiveness as a fruit of the Spirit? Forgiveness is a course in the curriculum in the School of the Spirit. I believe it is an exercise in the laboratory of life. It is an instruction given in the classroom. It is practiced in the laboratory. You have to accept the assignment and if you fail the test, you get to take it again. If you fail the course, you get held back. Thank God for I John 1:9, and thank you Spirit for your patience and mentoring, because I cannot count how many times I have failed.

Endangered Christianity

The Statement

black microphone

I have heard it said by more than one person that “Christianity is only one generation away from being extinct.” Usually, the one speaking is trying to get across to their audience the necessity to reach out and share the good news of Jesus or Christianity will be gone. It’s a combination of a fear factor and a warning. The audience, I have been one, nods in agreement as the message sinks in. We had all better get busy winning souls or there will be no one left to carry on after we are gone.

Question Everything

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

Even though it sounds good, there seems to be a lingering thought somewhere on the periphery that tugs on the brain. It asks if the statement is true. Are things that desperate? I believe the statement is one of “truthiness,” as I have heard one public speaker call it. “Truthiness” is something that sounds true and logical, but when examined further, it doesn’t pass the litmus test.

Incorrect Presumptions

To accept the statement of “endangered Christianity” at face value is to agree to several basic, incorrect presumptions:

  1. It presumes the continuance of Christianity rest solely on the shoulders of the present generation, and without the evangelistic actions of that generation, Christianity is doomed. Yes, we are commanded to reach, teach, and disciple, but we plant the seed. God waters. The thinking that it all rests exclusively with man leaves God totally out the equation, which leads to the second presumption.
  2. The statement presumes God is not capable of sustaining the Christian faith. This is not biblical. Even in the darkest of times in history, God had a remnant of believers. Case in point is when Elisha ran from Jezebel and begged God to die. He complained that he was the only one in all of the land that followed God. God responded that He had 7,000 followers who did not bow to the state-sponsored religion. God is quite capable of maintaining a following. Further, even in the darkest times yet to come as spoken of in the book of Revelation, and during the Tribulation times, God will still maintain a remnant of followers.
  3. Another presumption is one that would be shared with the devil himself: somehow God can be defeated. This thought process leaves the Christian believing they are fighting a losing battle. They wring their hands while looking to the eastern sky chanting “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” They live a life of someone who is waiting to be rescued from a sinking ship rather than manning their battle stations on a spiritual destroyer.

There is, however, a danger to going to the opposite extreme. We can smugly sit around, not doing anything, “because Jesus has won the victory, therefore I do not need to fight at all.” This too is not biblical. We are commanded to act. In many places, we are ordered to reach the world around us – proclaiming the good news.

In the book of Jude, we are told to “snatch” the perishing as one would a stick from a fire. Paul said “blessed” are the feet of those who proclaim the message of salvation. In another spot, he says faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and hearing by someone telling. Jesus gave us the Great Commission in the 28th chapter of Mathew, to go into all the world. We, as the church, are expected to be obedient to the commands and calls.

The Conclusion

Truly, it is a joint venture with God and His church to continue what Jesus started. There will always be someone who responds to the love of Christ and then will be obedient to tell others, who then respond. There is no danger of the Church going anywhere. It might get lazy. It might get beat down. It might dwindle. It might even lose power, but the Bride of Christ will continue on until He says it’s the end of the age.

Unprofitable Servant

Learning Lessons

abc books chalk chalkboard

I have it said before “If you stop learning, you’re dead.” I suppose that is true. Even if it is only little trivial things, we learn something new each day. It never ceases to amaze me how God will work with His children to teach them. This is done by the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways.

“Wow!” You might say, “Are you telling me God audible speaks to you?”

My answer is that the voice of God is more than audible. I don’t want to get onto a discussion of how God speaks in this article. I will save that for another. Here, I want to give you an example of how God was dealing with me about something he wanted to reinforce.

Pondering

analysis blackboard board bubble

I awoke Monday morning with two words on my brain –“unprofitable servant.” I have to admit; I was scratching my head as my mind focused from sleep. Was God calling me this? Was there a lesson to learn? Was he reinforcing something I had learned? I mean, I had been reading the book of James, and I didn’t remember coming across that term or concept there.

As I went about my morning routine, the words would not go away. I poured a cup of coffee. I asked the Lord what he was trying to tell me because I was clueless. No answer. Well, ok. I went out to feed our animals. After everything had been fed, and still getting no answer to my musing, I just stopped and thought about what the phrase could mean. Not that my chickens had an answer. They are worse theologians than conversationalists.

I did what any modern-day Bible scholar would do – I googled it. The scripture passage Luke 17:7-10 came up in the search engine. In this passage, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and explains when a servant should come in from the field, the master would not tell him to sit at the table and be served. Rather, the master would instruct the servant to get cleaned up and serve the master. The master will not thank the servant for doing what his duty is – this is expected service. Jesus tells the disciples to be like the servant and do their duty because it is expected. Oh, and by the way, they shouldn’t expect anything more and to call themselves “unprofitable servants.”

“Okay, Lord.” I said, “Seems a little harsh, but I am still not sure where this is going. Was I expecting more from a situation than I should have?” As with any good study of any Bible passage, I looked at the scripture before and after. Before: Jesus is talking to the disciples about extending forgiveness. After: Luke tells the story of ten lepers who Jesus healed and only one came back to thank Jesus.

I read a few commentaries on the passage to get another view. The fog began to clear as I read on. Jesus told the disciples to extend forgiveness even if the person came to ask forgiveness seven times. The disciples responded with “increase our faith.” Jesus answered that they could do miraculous things like move mountains if they had the faith of a mustard seed.

In short, Jesus was saying “Guys it has nothing to do with faith. It has everything to do with obedience. You call yourselves servants of God (Christians)? To extend forgiveness is just your basic duty. This doesn’t require some great act of faith. It is part of the job. And you shouldn’t expect some great reward for doing it. That is true of this or anything else. In fact, your attitude should be such that it is a privilege and an honor to serve God. You should be grateful for the opportunity and recognize that without God you are unprofitable.”

The term unprofitable can also be translated as unworthy. When Jesus told the disciples to extend forgiveness, they responded as this was some lofty thing that they could only accomplish by great feats and faith, that surely only they could obtain. Jesus responded with the opposite extreme in an attempt to pull them to the middle.

In a sermon on this passage in Luke, Charles Spurgeon explains the reasonable duty of all Christians. He said that we are not to be too lofty or too lowly, but to stay in the middle. We are to be available to God to be used by God, and if we say we follow God, then we are his servants. Servants do their duty because that is part of the job and the servant shouldn’t expect anything beyond that. Christians likewise are obedient because they are servants and should have the attitude of a useful servant. When you enlist in God’s army, you are a soldier in that army and are to do what is your duty. End of story.

“Okay!” my flesh whined, “I get the point of the passage, but what has that to do with me? Was I being haughty or unworthy?”

I sat quietly – waiting.

Flashback

close up photography of woman in black long sleeved top

My mind wandered back to an incident the day before – Sunday. We had not gone to church that morning. We had been out of town and told folks we would probably not be back in time. My vehicle started to malfunction so we came back on Saturday night and Sunday morning, my daughter and I took my truck to drop it off at the shop for repair.

On the way home the sky looked stormy and threatened rain. A few miles from our house, the rain came in waves of water. My daughter slowed down, partly because of the rain and partly because we approached a truck with a camper attached sitting on the side of the road. The blown out tire in the middle of the road told the story.

“Should we stop and remove that from the road?” She asked. I paused. I knew we needed to extract the dead tire remnant safely, but I also wanted to offer assistance to the truck owners without endangering my daughter.

“Uh, yes,” I said. “Pull up, and I will get the tire. You stay in the car and out of the rain.” I don’t stop to help everyone, but I felt in my spirit this was a situation where I should offer help. As far as telling my daughter to stay in the car, the truth was, I used the rain to keep my daughter away from the truck and camper until I checked it out. Yes, I am a paranoid daddy. It’s my job. It’s what I do. Moving on.

I removed the blown out tread from the road and approached the truck. Inside was an elderly couple. She saw me first from the passenger side of the vehicle and motioned to her husband that I was at the window, which he rolled down. He had been looking at his phone.

“Do you need some help?” I asked.

“Well,” he answered, “We were trying to find someone to change the flat on the camper.”

“I’ll be right back,” I said and jogged to the car. I explained the situation to my daughter, and we obtained the scissor jack from her trunk.

Long story short – the jack barely lifted the camper. I had to strain to get it to work. Then I had to man-handle several of the lug nuts to get them off. They had obviously been put on with an air tool. Then all of them wouldn’t go back on, and I had to hand the gentleman one to have put on later. I did all this while kneeling on one of my flip-flops – in the rain; all the while knuckleheaded drivers whizzed by trying to avoid us and to pass others who were slowing down to either watch or be courteous.

When I stood up, the gentleman asked me what he owed me. I told him nothing and that I was sure someone would do the same for me someday. I put the dead tire in his truck. I cleaned up the jack and accessories, placing them in the trunk. I shook his hand and wished him well. He thanked me and then was on his way.

I was feeling pretty good as I sat down in the passenger seat of the car, except my back hurt. I thought about how our pastor had once said: “It’s okay to miss church if you are out being the church.” I was pretty pleased with myself and was wondering if this moment was a gold moment in my record. You know, the Apostle Paul said that the foundation of our Christian lives is Christ, but all that is built upon it (our actions) are wood, hay, stubble or gold, silver, or precious stones. I was jockeying for a gold moment here.

In the middle of remembering this moment from the day before, the Holy Spirit interrupted my thoughts. He tapped me on my spiritual shoulder (sometimes he thumps me in the spiritual forehead).

“Excuse me,” he said. “Weren’t you just being obedient in helping the couple? In fact, when your wife said you were a Good Samaritan, that’s what you told her.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t you agree that was a gold moment? Maybe at least it gets a silver?”

“Or maybe ‘So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

“I didn’t thank you for the opportunity, did I?”

“No.”

“Then when I thought I was being spiritual, I was really wanting extra and a pat on the back, wasn’t I?”

“Yep.”

“I was really wanting someone to notice my good deed and compliment me Matthew-chapter-five-style, wasn’t I?’

“Un-huh.”

“Man. Pride goes before a fall.”

“Yes, it does.”

“Will you forgive me for the wrong attitude I had toward helping that couple?”

“Seventy times seven.”

“Thanks, Lord for the lesson, your grace, mercy, and forgiveness.”

“Your welcome.”

“Do you still love me?”

“You have to ask?”

What is “too big” for God?

The Question

pexels-photo-206448.jpeg  The question goes: “Can God create a rock too big for even Him to pick up?” Most folks usually ask this question trying to stump the religious or to get them off track of an ongoing discussion. Just like the Samaritan woman that Jesus encountered at the well. She tried to change the subject of the discussion by asking Jesus where the right place to worship was. So it is with the question at hand.

The Discussion

To properly answer questions like this I ask questions of my own. The discussions I have had in the past go something like this:

“Define ‘too big,’” I say.

“Well if God could not pick it up, then it is too big,” they answer.

“So it would have to be bigger than God Himself?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“So, how big is God?”

“I don’t know.”

“So how would you know if the rock was bigger than God if you don’t know how big God is?”

Head scratching.

“So you are asking a question that even if you saw the answer, you still would not know if the answer was correct?”

More head scratching.

“So, if God could make a rock too big for Him to pick up, why would He?”

A deer in the headlight look.

pexels-photo.jpg   “I think the focus of the question is wrong. Let’s say there is a reason why God would need or want to create this rock. Let’s say that all of humanity is doomed to an eternity away from God because they have rebelled against God. The only way for a man to be saved from this eternal separation from God is for God to create a rock too big for Him to pick up. Are you following me? Does that make sense?”

“Uh, yeah. I think so.”

“Based on what you know of God, can you kill God?”

“No.”

“It would be impossible to kill God or for Him to die, right?”

“Right.”

“Because He is God and there is no way to kill God?”

“Right.”

“Could God kill Himself?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Hmm. Did Jesus claim to be God?”

“Yes. The Son of God.”

“Ok, He is the Son of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, right?” Most people would agree at this point.

“Was Jesus killed? Did He die on the cross?”

“Yes.”

“Was He God?”

“Yes.”

“Then God was killed. He experienced death. He died.”

“I guess so.”

“So, the impossible was done?”

Blank look.

“It was. In fact, not only was the impossible done, it was done by God. He orchestrated the death of Himself. To ask the question if God could create a rock too big for Him to pick up is like asking if a virgin could have a baby or can someone be resurrected from the dead or can God die. The main question is why God would do the impossible? The answer would be because He knows it is the best way to accomplish something. God knew the only way for humanity to be saved from eternal separation from Him was for someone holy to die in man’s place, to take the penalty for his rebellion. So He became a man, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was crucified on a cross, was buried, and on the third day was resurrected again. He did these impossible things all on purpose. Why? Because He loves us and He knows it is the only way to save humanity from their fallen condition. There is one more part; each man has to believe that they are in a fallen condition and God did all this for them to save them. Each man has to ask God to save them.”

The Conclusion

Silence. I hope by now they are pondering what I am offering.

“So you tell me, can God create a rock too big for Him to pick up? Can God do the impossible or better yet, have you come to a point in your life that you have accepted what Jesus did for you so you can have this eternal life He offers?”

The Answer

Click on this link to find out what Jesus meant by “being born again.”

Civil War in Heaven and Creation of Man

♥ Civil War in Heaven and Creation of Man Audio via Podcast

Several times recently, I have had the discussion of why angels rebelled against God. To be fair, there was more to the question than just that. It was assumed that the interpretation of one-third of the angels rebelled against God, with Lucifer/ Satan leading the rebellion as the correct interpretation of scriptures in Ezekiel 28:14 and following, and Isaiah 14:12ff. This view indicates a civil war in heaven that has flowed over to earth and has come to involve all mankind.

Foundations First

Lets’ set up a few foundational beliefs and go from there. The first would be: the Bible is the Word of God and is to be believed. The second would be that Jesus is the Son of God and His word holds as much weight as God the Father. Another would be that there are varying views that are open to interpretation and some things are black and white. The varying views are usually where arguments and debates come in.

sky-space-dark-galaxy.jpg   Regardless if you hold that Lucifer was the highest archangel created, and he led this rebellion against God with the idea that he would become higher than God or not, there are some things the Bible states clearly. In the Book of Revelation, John said he saw the dragon, which he identified as Satan, sweep a third of the stars from heaven and there was war there (Revelation 12:4-9). Further, the Devil was cast from heaven. Jesus said he looked up and saw the devil fall from the sky like lightning (Luke 10:18). Some say both were using symbolism or in the future tense. Maybe.

It is pretty clear that Satan is in rebellion against God and he is not alone. It begs a question: why? And why the ages long attack on mankind? Part of the answer lies in one’s view of when the rebellion took place. Was it before mankind was created or after? Both views hold implications on why the man was created and why when he sinned, God came looking after him with redemption.

Rebellion Before Man’s Creation

michelangelo-abstract-boy-child-73805.jpeg When Satan rebelled, the devastation was cataclysmic and cosmic in scope. It affected more than the earth. It was quite possible that it happened even before the earth was formed. That is pre-Genesis 1:1. Therefore precipitating God to implement a plan to redeem all the universe. He responded by creating the earth and all that was in it for the main purpose of bringing forth a new creature called Man. This creature would have a second unusual creature called Woman. Part of the purpose of mankind is to battle Satan. Through mankind would come the Redeemer, who would sacrifice His life to redeem, not just mankind (John 3:16-18), but also all creation (Romans 8:18-22 and 2 Peter 1-3). Subsequently, man and Satan are at odds and in combat. Unfortunately, after the sin of Adam, mankind, as well as creation needed redemption.

Rebellion After Man’s Creation

The scenario: God creates man and calls him His greatest creation, partly because this new creation, born of dust was created in the image of God. He is a creator God and creates because it brings Him joy. He created the heavens and the angels, and now He creates this man. God turns to the angels and tells them to minister or serve this new creation. Can’t you see some of the angels becoming indignant? Aren’t they good enough? Suddenly, they are not God’s highest creation? He needs to create more beings to fellowship with? Rebellion ensues and war is declared against the Creator of the Universe and his new creation. The new creation falls and now has to be redeemed, so a savior must come through them. Meanwhile, Satan and his envoys are steadily trying to usurp God and despises this dust-born, pathetic, created image of God.

 My View

I tend to hold to the first view of Satan rebelling before the creation of man. I don’t think redemption was an afterthought to God. If He knows everything, then He would have known man was going to fall, you might argue. True, but even in the fall I think God had redemption at the forefront of creation and ultimately fellowship with His created beings. It was all good when God created it. Satan was bent on destroying it and man. There is a third scenario that blends both of the other in that Satan rebelled after the creation of the world, but before or after the creation of man.

A Sidebar

We don’t know how long the Serpent (Satan) had been in the Garden of Eden. I don’t think he just happened upon Eve one day and deceived her. She wasn’t that weak. I think he tempted her repeatedly over time and slowly wore her down. I think he was working on Adam too. Is this not the tactics he uses against us? He pushes and prods, looking for the chink in your armor, waiting for the right moment. I believe this is what happened in the garden. I think Satan was already working on corrupting the earth just like he had corrupted the rest of creation. He comes to kill, steal, and destroy like he always has and Jesus has come to bring us life and that more abundantly, like he always has.

Extending Grace in the Workplace

dogsIt’s An Attitude

It has been said those who extend grace are weak. Such an attitude embraces a “dog eat dog” world and mindset. You have to look out for number one you know. If you don’t who will. I beg to differ. It is easier to take the “me first and foremost” approach. It takes a much stronger person to keep themselves in control and to offer grace. It’s not natural or usually our first reaction, but it can pay huge dividends, immediately and in the future.

It Happened to Me

pexels-photo-567633.jpeg  I remember one time when I was promoted to a position two levels above where I was currently. Someone higher up the chain believed in me and spoke up for me. I didn’t know this until years after I was promoted. The set up was a little different than I was used to. I have two people I answered to. One was my direct boss, and the other was more of a functional boss. That is, one was local and managed the local business, and the other was corporate and managed the support department that I was now in.

Very early on I found out some things were happening that seemed to be wrong. It fell more into the technical side than the local side. It even appeared like the local administration was privy and allowed the practice. I found out later that this was not true. The corporate boss went around my local boss and told all the local subordinates to desist all work involved until an investigation into the matter was conducted.

I did not know the action the corporate boss was going to do and my local boss was furious. He called me into his office and asked me to close the door. We had a long discussion on how he felt I had “thrown him under the bus.” He asked me why I did not come to him so we could investigate the matter. The truth was, I didn’t know him good enough to trust him at this point. Regardless, I handled it poorly and the disappointment was warranted.

He patiently explained to me that he expected me to come to him in the future if there were any issues. Further, he expected me to be honest with him even if I thought it would make him mad. He said he forgave me for leaving him out of the loop and for the embarrassment. I could tell it hurt him deeply and that he felt betrayed. I think we have all been there. Later I found out that he was the one who had put in a good word for me to get the position. Talk about feeling like a heel.

Our relationship survived those early days, and he has been one of my strongest supporters, and I have gone out of my way to make sure he was not blindsided by anything that had to do with my department. He had every bit of authority to fire me. Maybe not right then, but at other times when I messed up (but not to that degree), he had plenty of opportunities. Instead, he offered grace, and he also gave me advice and encouragement.

What Grace Does

Here’s what a person of grace does, and I believe he did:

  1. They try to understand before being understood. Why did this happen? There are always two sides to a story.
  2. They acknowledge that there was a wrong and extend forgiveness while holding others accountable.
  3. They confront in a non-judgmental way. Grace says, “Hey, you hurt me. You want to tell me about that?”
  4. They remember times when it was extended to them.
  5. They know there will be a time in the future when they will need grace again.
  6. They seek the better outcome for all.
  7. They know that there are times when separation is needed, but they handle it with grace. There are times that the best outcome for all is to let someone go.

Being gracious is not being weak. Ponder this: would you rather work with someone who is gracious, but firm or someone who is ungracious and wishy-washy. Graciousness goes two ways though and even when others are not extending grace we should. We don’t know the story of others. You may be the only one who shows them grace, and that may be just what they need to make it through.