Government Shutdown?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Isaiah 9: 2,6,7a NIV

 

Well Water

Looking Down the Well. A well in the grounds of Wilmington Priory, estimated to be about 160 feet deep. Used under Creative Commons License.

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I like camping in the middle of nobody-will-know-if-I’m-completely-nekid nowhere. And no matter how good the water in the creek or pond or spring looks you can learn a hard lesson if you don’t filter it or boil it before you drink it. Just take my word for it.

But some of the stuff we drink into our lives daily just won’t come clean no matter what we do. And so many of us would rather wander in a desert trying to find the water hole that will make us even dryer.

Looking Down the Well. A well in the grounds of Wilmington Priory, estimated to be about 160 feet deep. Used under Creative Commons License.

Looking Down the Well.
A well in the grounds of Wilmington Priory, estimated to be about 160 feet deep.
Used under Creative Commons License.

Those who drink this water will get thirsty again, but those who drink the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring which will provide them with life-giving water and give them eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14 GNB)

What wells have you looked into today and strained to see the bottom?

 

Secret Places

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
(Psalms 91:1-2 NKJV)

Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence From the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion From the strife of tongues.
(Psalms 31:19-20 NKJV)

But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
(Matthew 6:3-6 NKJV)

But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
(Matthew 6:17-18 NKJV)

Yesterday I found That Place.

We moved over a year ago and I’ve neglected to search for some place to get alone and get with God at length. Being a classic introvert I crave solitude quite a bit but even in solitude there’s computers and TeeVee and dog and parent to take care of and laundry and gardening and Bonsai and vacuuming the floor and winterizing and buying propane and planning and and and and AND the things just press in and demand attention. I need a Secret Place. Yesterday I think I found it. A nice spot hidden in some trees with a picnic table and a spot to build a fire and roast hotdogs on October 26 (I’ll explain later about that date); a place to bring me and my Bible and journal and maybe a book or five that I’ve yet to finish. And a place to be quiet, alone, and secret.

Being intentional to get alone with God is never easy. We enter that place to seek Him and get to know Him, but we run the risk of having Him point out the things we don’t want to change. He reaches into our hearts and touches our idols and intentions and if we’re not careful we recoil and argue with Him. Just as Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem” on his last journey, knowing what would come, we have to be intentional about finding and entering the secret place in spite of knowing what will become of our self.

But that is the point isn’t it, becoming less?

 

 

 

Christian Weapons: Go And Sin No More, Part One

This may turn into a saga. And up front, I want your feedback and I want lots of it. This is a difficult post emotionally, theologically, eschatologically. I can only relate my own opinions and impressions. The Holy Spirit speaks to us uniquely as a body of individuals and as individuals trying to fit into His body a little better. There are concrete boundaries and concepts we all agree on, but individual tidbits touch us all individually. End of prologue.

This started a long time ago in a …. nevermind that cliche, and it recently started stirring in my mind after a hyper-minister posted to a friend’s thread something very legalistic and quoted Jesus where he said, “Go and sin no more.” Let’s go there.

And standing up and seeing no one but the woman, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
(John 8:10-11 EMTV)

This woman had just been caught in adultery, dragged out of her house (or her “friend’s” house) and to the Temple for trial and she was about to be killed by stoning. There were plenty of witnesses and everyone knew what she was. A trial was cursory. If you want to back up and read the whole story, please do. I need to move on ahead.

“Go, and from now on do not sin.”

I wish I had ten bucks for every time I’ve heard that particular Axe fall. Have you ever watched someone’s face- someone who is struggling with ongoing failures and sin- and they have a friend shoot that arrow straight into the heart? You see hope and Life drain out of their eyes. “Who of you, if your son asks you for a fish would give him a snake?” Don’t get me wrong, if someone is deliberately living what they know to be wrong, point it out and offer them some help at correcting it. But don’t shoot them. And keep in mind, you and I have probably done far worse.

Speaking of fish, every fish needs a tail. Let’s back up a bit and go look at a nice tail. For that, we need a chunk of scripture.

John 5:2-14 ISV Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It has five colonnades, (3) and under these a large number of sick people were lying—blind, lame, or paralyzed—waiting for the movement of the water. (4) At certain times an angel of the Lord would go down into the pool and stir up the water, and whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. (5) One particular man was there who had been ill for 38 years. (6) When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (7) The sick man answered him, “Sir, I don’t have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I’m trying to get there, someone else steps down ahead of me.” (8) Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” (9) The man immediately became well, and he picked up his mat and started walking. Now that day was a Sabbath. (10) So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat. (11) But he answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” (12) They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?” (13) But the one who had been healed did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away from the crowd in that place. (14) Later on, Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “See, you have become well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

There it is again. Don’t sin anymore. But notice the reason why, “or something worse may happen to you.” We’ll come back to this in a moment.

MOOC-can-of-wormsCan of worms: In these two pieces of scripture can I honestly derive a command to me personally to not ever sin again or Jesus is going to make my car’s engine stall in the middle of nowhere when it’s -17F outside? Do I seriously think if you pick up a quarter from the church parking lot and put it in your pocket to spend at the car wash instead of taking it to the police like you’re supposed to then God is going to give away the PIN number to your debit card so some creep in China can drain your bank account? I’ve heard those types of inferences many times, and from devout Biblethumptarians. No, I don’t take them very seriously. Yes, God uses all circumstances to His glory, but I honestly don’t believe that God’s finished work includes his sitting with his window on the world and passing out sin citations and deciding what the fine will be.

But I’ve lived that way.

What do I think? I think we need to take Jesus literally here. Don’t sin. Sin bad. Sin leads to pain every time. Stop sinning or you may really get hurt, again. Do not go take fifty bucks cash and go “party” with anyone because you could catch all sorts of stuff. If you go to that party and leave with an extra going away present for later, who decided to give it to you, you or God? You walked in there on your own and asked for it. Be sure you tell the doctor it was your fault when he writes the prescription.

Does God wreck marriages over pornography? Does Jesus kill smokers and drinkers? Does God infect people with HIV for revenge? No. We make those choices. God is the one who arranged for forgiveness, redemption, restoration, and healing of the soul. He uses those things, but he is not the cause. And why does he let things like that happen? You’re made in his image, why not go ask a mirror the same question. Seriously, go ask the mirror why it lets bad things happen. I’ll let you think a while on that one.

If you were perfectly Holy, would you let you make your own mistakes and then be there to help you through it and out of it, or would you drop a piano on you for one little thing? And what if you’ve accepted the work of redemption done by Christ? if you’re already forgiven, WHY would God need to drop a safe on you?

Let’s stop there for now and call this Part One. I’ll go make sure the piano and safe are tied up well, just in case. I have to go catch the worms that got out.

God Given Talent

Figs

Some scripture baffles me. I can read it a thousand times and hear a dozen sermons on a particular passage and my questions are never answered. Early this morning there was an ah-HA!  moment and one particular verse that had eluded me for most of my life became inexplicably clear. And to share it, I need you to come with me on a journey inside my head.

Danger. Keep all arms and legs inside the car at all times. Make sure the harness is down and fully locked. No Smoking. No eating or drinking in the auditorium.  Keep your seat-back upright. In the event we have to ditch, you’re on your own. Bring a sack lunch and some water because we may go long. Cue Rod Serling, here we go. Ne ne ne ne Ne ne ne ne Ne ne ne ne Ne ne ne ne :::twirly pinwheel thing spins::: … you have just crossed over into….

The Kingdom of Heaven.

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. (15) “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. (16) “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. (17) “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. (18) “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. (19) “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. (20) “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ (21) “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ (22) “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ (23) “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ (24) “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. (25) ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ (26) “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. (27) ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. (28) ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ (29) “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. (30) “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 25:14-30 NASB)

Screeching halt! Back up. Beep beep beep beep beep beep. Read vv. 24-30 again for me to save space here and let’s pick at my brain. I never understood something here. If the master got his Talent back, the servant didn’t steal it, spend it on wanton nights of debauchery and food and drugs and cars, he protected the Talent in fact because it’s wasn’t his, WHY is he called wicked and worthless and cast into outer darkness? I’ve never heard an answer that satisfied the “WHY, God???” in me in that passage but He uncovered my eyes a while ago. This is for me personally, so you may have a different take on it and that’s fine. I’d love to hear from you about your thoughts. But here’s mine, in the order it came to me. Please pardon my pronouns. I am NOT talking to you, I’m role-playing. 😉

1. Fear. “I was afraid.” v.25. φοβέω, phobeō, G5399. Yep, the guy had a phobia. A fear that overrode good sense. A fear that has no real reason except to be afraid. According to Thayer’s definition it could have also meant to reverence or venerate, but in this context the guy was shaking in his sandals.

2. Excuses. “I knew you were a hard man and expected results from all that you do.” I strongly suspect that if this servant had even tried to gamble and win one ounce of profit and lost it all it would have been fine by his master’s thinking.

3. The servant knew better. “You ought to have put it in the bank and earned one cent of interest.” v.15 says the Master knew the servant had the ability.

4. “You knew what to do, you know I expect results, you could have done the easiest thing and kicked back and relaxed, but you were more concerned about you.”

YES! There we have an answer to the question I’ve had for ages. “Thou shalt not have any other gods…” Do you see why this servant is called “wicked”? He was only interested in protecting his own skin. He placed his desires above the desires of his master. He made himself to be god. Instead of at least trying, he did nothing but hide what the master had given him. He was fruitless.

The fruitless part I understood but there was always a hitch in my Spirit about that passage and there always seemed to be more to it than my mind could answer. Today, take a quick inventory of the gifts God has given to each of us. Which ones are we hiding behind the ones we’re using? What are we afraid of? if God is for us, who can be against us? And who do we think we are to not use them? God? Oh, please.

Now, out of my head! It’s going to take ages to clean up after y’all.

Pulpit Terrorism

“If you don’t repent of your sins, you’re going to Hell!!!”Hell

Translation: You can work hard enough to stop your sinning so you can be good enough to get into Heaven (only you can’t so give up now).

I’ve heard it too many times. As a child nobody ever showed me a gorgeous redeemer or a beautiful savior or sat with me to give me all the little details of Jesus that my soul craved. If there’s one thing I remember from church as a teen it’s that God can’t love me because of the thoughts in my head and He hates people like me. It didn’t matter what Christ came to do, I was detestable and was worse than human wreckage- at least wreckage can be sifted through and the bits used for something else; I was totally without hope. And it shaped much of my emotions. Add abuse at home and at school to the point of having major stress issues for decades, and what you get is someone ripe for plucking by a magnificent Christ.

Transparency: Dear preachers who taught me a hateful God and a powerless Jesus, I still resent what you did. You can’t understand the depth of my revulsion of the hate you preached. You served a powerless god and a cross barren of blood and a grave with my name still on it. I’m still very angry with every one of you. But your error has been redeemed by someone far more noble and righteous than any god you preached. I think you did your best, don’t get me wrong. But please ask yourself before your every sermon, “could my words reveal a hate-filled Jesus?”

ENOUGH of me. A while ago I saw a tweet from a major megachurch pastor that made my head spin in 5 directions at once. There was no hope in it. There was only condemnation. There was no grace, no mercy.

“Basic message of Jesus: “I’m God. You’re in sin. Repent to me or you will go to hell.”” [The person who posted it isn’t important but I’ll cite the source if you really want it.]

Let me ask you, the more you learn about hell does it make Jesus any more important? Any more needed? Does God’s mercy need you to apply contrast against the deep dark of where death goes to live? Is the Holy Spirit so powerless to speak into people’s hearts that only the threat of eternal damnation can push people toward Jesus? Many people seeking Jesus already know they’re screwed up, or at least something major is going on and they need help, that’s why they’re listening to you in the first place. They probably already know there’s a hell and they may be living in a very real one at the moment. Show them to Jesus. Don’t show them the gates of Hell trying to scare the Hell out of them. And if people are already indifferent do you think teaching about damnation leads them anywhere else? It’s called Saving Grace. There’s no such thing as saving terrorism.

About God’s grace,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18 NIV)

So who saves? Why is someone condemned?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 NIV)

So who Reconciles? What is God’s message? Where is the count of sin?

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Romans 8:34, 35 NIV)

Who is it that stands in the pulpit and preaches condemnation?

Jesus said, “If I am lifed up from the earth I will draw all men to myself”. If Jesus is the one doing the drawing and the wooing why is there so much Hell and Death being preached? Jesus said, “all that the Father has given me will come to me” so why do we act like God and Jesus are in such desperate need to have a Gospel of mercy and grace and reconciliation amplified and punctuated by the stench of hellfire, threats of eternal torture, and being victimized by demons for eternity?

You CANNOT magnify God by preaching Hell!
PREACH CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED!

Grace: The absolute most glorious and undeserved and unending favor of a creator God who knows every detail of our lives down to the vibrations of the Strings that He created to form every sub-atomic particle of your entire being.  Grace is being a Father and knowing your kids will mess up but you always make a way for them to be made right with you even if it costs you everything. Grace is an all-powerful Love that loves the hand made so much that he will pay every penalty for sin himself just to be reunited.

How could anyone be in awe of God when looking into a chasm filled with death threats?

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us,  even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!— and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;  it is not from works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2: 4-9 NET)

Can I tell you a secret? You can’t make God love you. If you doubt He does, just ask Him to show you.

Wednesday Worship

What if we could wake up and tell the whole day that God is the victor, go out rejoicing that every need is met and every hurt healed? What if we believed that for real? What if we really thought God is great? What would the day be like? Who would we hug? Who would we bless in Jesus’ name? And to whom would we bring the Good News?

If you’ve spent time around me you know there are songs I just can’t sing. How could my lungs and mouth cope with the wanton and wild praise of a living heart, a grateful soul, and a Spirit ready to leap into Father’s arms? No way.

The group is StikYard and I really like their sound.