Pondering Truth In Christ

Jul. 10, 2019

Luke 6:36 - “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

This little statement is nestled amidst Jesus’ teaching of a “radical” idea, that of loving our enemy. Radical at least when compared to the usual thought pattern of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. He also makes it clear that this needs to go beyond some internal sentiment in the direction of doing good, giving, and expecting nothing in return. It can be in terms of mercy, money, or anything else we may grudge to give, especially when we think someone does not deserve it. Not only does He make it clear that the reward is great in heaven for this, but such attitude and behavior reveals who are the sons of the Most High, Who Himself is kind and grateful to evil men.

By not judging or condemning others, neither are we judged or condemned. Verse 38 opens up the principle of this divine mercy and generosity, as it eventually impacts the giver. The “return on investment” in terms of the Kingdom “economy” is remarkable, as it yields much in all aspects of life: “… good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” 

The eye for an eye mentality is reactive. The Law of sowing and reaping is proactive and creative. The latter - in terms of grace and generosity is the Way of Jesus Christ Himself. It features strongly in all He teaches and does, and commands His disciples to go and to do likewise. 

This is where the cross comes in as well, as we pick it up to follow Him. For He asks of us uncompromising generosity in terms of mercy, and that is a tough pill for many to swallow, as well as requiring awareness of its application as we go forth into every day of life, often in the midst of people we do not perceive of as deserving of mercy. This is where the cross gets applied to us as we choose to pick it up and follow Him. Once “nailed,” there is no turning back.

One of the “mountains” which the devil himself has put in the way of walking thus by faith is that of the prosperity preachers, who abuse this creative principle in all the wrong ways and for all the wrong reasons. They see it as a means of themselves being the recipients of the giving of anyone who can be conned into their real intent to rob, at point of the misused sword of the Word! They do not care  whether, by directing the flow of money self-ward, they do damage to many who are already fiscally compromised (often elderly and poor), who because of their false enticements to give to them, plunge themselves into further ruin - so that Reverend SoandSo can travel the world in luxury in his private jet and enjoy life in his 50 room mansion in complete self absorption.

Unfortunately the whole world can see what charlatanry this is, and consequently many do not wish to even consider what Jesus Himself teaches about the Law (or Principle) of sowing and reaping. Yet it is very much the idea with everything He taught, lived, and exemplified. Consider the blessing of the loaves and fishes - how they multiplied as He gave them! And not only that, but He commanded the disciples to participate in this miracle: “YOU give them something to eat.” So because of false teachers (the enemy who comes to rob, kill, and destroy), many are robbed of considering how the Lord wishes to bless us - He Who assures us that He came to give us life and that abundantly!

This is not only fleshed out in terms of money, food, or goods. Jesus brings it all into the context of mercy. We are commanded to extend mercy because the Father has made us new creatures in Jesus Christ. And He gives us His Holy Spirit so that we can participate in this life as new creatures, His sons and daughters who are about our Father’s business. We are in practice extensions of Him Whose kindness extends also to the ungrateful and the evil. This is what makes His love different from that of the world. And He desires to extend it through us.

This is a tough pill to swallow in a generation which has been stirred to fever pitch with division and hatred, to a great extent by the media, along with the poison of religion mixed with politics. Sadly, it’s the impression of this writer that this includes many of the alternative media as well, which claim to be coming from a Christian perspective. Yet when we compare what they promote to the teaching of Jesus, we are forced to conclude that it is more along the lines of an eye for an eye mentality, and it’s all mixed up with politics. 

Instead could we pursue repentance, and move from an eye for an eye, to an “aye for an aye” - affirming in agreement with and in obedience to the One we claim as Lord and King?

To be merciful and generous in all times and in all situations is the mindset and behavior of the King of kings and His royal entourage - the kingdom of priests who reign in and with Him according to His will. 

Yes, this brings suffering. Where He is mocked, we are mocked. At the very least that suffering comes in terms of hatred, resentment, and misunderstanding from those who prefer to live under the Old Covenant mentality of eye for eye and tooth for tooth! They would rather say, “There’s no way in hell I’m going to be merciful toward anyone that I consider unworthy.”

In hell, you say? Surely we can begin to see, as faithful followers of Jesus’ Way, that being unmerciful is indeed already hell, even while here on Earth. The very worst future would be spending eternity with myriads who never learned kindness or mercy, but will forever seek rather to be self serving and vindictive. With all that friction, is it any wonder that hell is so hot? I’m convinced this is what hell “looks like.”

But instead let’s envision the Redeemed in Jesus Christ - all treating one another as He treats us - with infinite mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. It is because this miraculous mercy was and is extended on Earth, that in Heaven we shall find and embrace with gratitude those who were turned from sin and self serving because someone extended to them mercy with its life giving power. So they too began to live in it, receive its transformative benefit, and extend it (and material things as well) to others in need.

I’ve come to despise the meme that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Spiritually speaking it is not so. That is the talk of division. Think about it. In light of what Scripture teaches, there is really only one enemy common to us all, the Serpent of old who likes to keep deceiving us into ill will toward one another. This seems cunning at first, but it is as cold and calculating as hating a cancer patient, and then saying that his disease is your friend! That is insanity. Thus the truth is that the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy!

Therefore the only hope and healing for fallen Humankind - all of us here on Planet Earth! - is to begin to understand, to put into practice, and to teach - uncompromisingly, by the power of the Holy Spirit - ALL that Jesus taught, exemplified, and commanded. Not only by word, but as living sons and daughters of God who resemble our Elder Brother Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven.

Amen.

Jul. 5, 2019

2 Timothy 1:7-9. “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”

Paul admonishes Timothy 1) to not be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus Christ, nor 2) of Paul’s imprisonment. Rather he is encouraged to share in suffering for the gospel, and to do so by the power of God. Each epoch has its own challenges and opposition to the Faith.

It is a lesson for us too. Do those who are in Christ see themselves this way, especially in the midst of current difficulty and trial? This power to endure  supernaturally comes from the Lord Himself. When God gives it and puts His anointing on us, we must exercise and develop it, according to the holy calling He has given us.

We are “saved” to participate in His holy calling because of God’s purpose and grace - provided for us in Christ Jesus. And that was put in place, according to these verses, before the ages began! 

The priesthood of believers received the commission of Christ in eternity, before the commencing of the ages, according to the passage above, for the particular mission upon which we must embark in time. Right here. Right now.

The power (dunamis / δύναμις), and the authority (exousia / ἐξουσία - sometimes also called “power”) is that of Jesus Christ Himself to Whom all authority is given in heaven and on earth. We are in His power and under His authority, going forward in His name, set apart for a holy calling, in the time and place into which we are sent.

Fear and timidity do not exist within this provision, where we find union with the Christ, being one with His Spirit - for a time such as this. Faintheartedness may try to strike a blow, but it is not of God. This is the Spirit of sonship which we have received according to Romans 8:15, in Christ Jesus, and it is characteristically of power, love, and self control. 

This means that our Christian faith is far more than a set of denominational perspectives or beliefs or practices. It is a living, breathing, dynamic life united with Christ. In essence, an “extension” of Him, as His adopted brothers and sisters, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

We really are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God ordained before that we should walk in them, in Him! 

It is important to not any longer conceive of our walk in Him as if we are “down here” and He is “up there,” but dynamically and really one in Him, in the power of His resurrection, and seated with Him in heavenly places - spanning eternity and time. This is not to “lord it over” anyone, but to serve all, as He comes to the world through His people who are His Body, set apart for His purposes, ever reaching out to the lost and wounded.

All of this has been in place since the ages began! What an amazing thought! Nothing has the power to separate us from this. Nothing! (See Romans 8:28-19.) Nothing separates those who are in Christ Jesus from the rest of the Godhead. We are called to walk by faith according to this perspective, this vision, this revelation, and NOT according to what sight or senses may tell us. 

May all the called who strive to make their election sure “get” this. We are led by the Spirit of God, growing up in Him as sons, in Jesus Christ, under the authority of the Father. Let us continually behold the Lamb of God, and nothing else!

This must be our perspective and practice as the times go from the green to the dry, in other words from relative ease to difficult times of perplexity. Much that even now comes upon us, very much issuing from the technology sector, will be of an illusory nature, either appealing or frightening to the natural senses - by way of virtual or augmented reality. Thus it is important to know who we are in Jesus Christ, and what it means to - like Him - be about our Father’s business in such a time as this - making real the holy calling.

It is imperative to walk the Narrow Way each and every day, for deception unlike anything seen before will envelop the whole earth. Illusion will make its appeal to the senses. The evil is being unleashed to test the hearts of men and especially the Church; it will be hard to decipher illusion from reality. 

It is time to put away the childish things and become men. Religion of an external kind in forms and symbols will have no power (if it ever did); so it is of the utmost urgency to enter experientially into the reality that is for us in Christ. We must learn to be led by the Holy Spirit and walk in the Spirit, as we discern the Shepherd’s Voice, for there is no way around what is at hand, but only the way through, and He must lead us! We cannot lean on our own understanding, or traditions of men, false ideologies and philosophies, and the like, or anything else that we may have considered as reliable previously. For all that is not of God will be contaminated by this great illusion. 

Let us consider His call so often repeated in Scripture, “Whoever has ears, let him hear what the Spirit says,” and surrender fully to Him - in obedience and trust, relying only on Him!”

Jun. 27, 2019

1 John 2:3-6. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

John 17:3. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

The “knowing” of God referred to here is the claim to being the intimate friend of God. It is not a theological head knowledge, but a spiritual oneness of which there is evidence (often referred to as the fruit of the Spirit). Indicators exist in the being and life of the claimant to such a relationship, if the claimant is of the Truth Himself. So, of all the passages that ought to bring us to the awareness of the state of our relationship with God, these are primary ones.

In the early days of my “born again” conversion (after years in the institutional church where I grew up) I had to come to grips with this reality: how well do I know God? 

Yet, even after this new beginning, I fell into New Age error (through the ideas of Science of Mind, even while in the Church), eventually the Holy Spirit pulled me out of that, convicting me of the error of this direction, as He drew me to go directly to the Scriptures and study them for myself - without the denominational lenses of my upbringing. The reason I took that direction was largely a need to experience spiritual reality, as well as help for serious life issues, which the church was not addressing. (The evil one does no fight fair; he comes on the prowl when we are down and hungry! Let’s alway remember that.)

As the Good Shepherd once more pulled this errant sheep out of yet another predicament, He brought me face to face with myself and called me to repentance and back to His Word. These passages from St. John turned my life around once more! That was around 2013, after a plunge into the New Age smorgasbord beginning in 1993.The whole thing began with exploring Science of Mind books while still active in an institutional Christian church. There were never any clear teachings or warnings about any of the traps out there in the world’s religions. Their Bible bailiwick was to “defend” their particular “law and grace” position, without any expansion of understanding from the pulpit concerning the implications of Godly living and repentance in the power of the Holy Spirit that should rightly come from this basic matter of Justification.

The centrality of ongoing, blossoming personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as the very essence of eternal life, with the accompanying “signs” of a new creature as evidence, living and rejoicing in manifesting the will of God in oneself is the key. It is not about promoting certain hobby horses promoted by each denomination or so called non-denomination, but Christianity is all about knowing God, which Jesus Christ Himself calls eternal life.

So instead of asking, “Brother, are you saved?” perhaps it would be better to challenge one another with, “Brother, do you know Jesus? If so, how well do you know Him, and what is the evidence of your claim?” 

It begins with the experience of a genuine rebirth by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself teaches that this is imperative. (Read and pray about John 3.) The Gospels and Epistles surely give us much to reflect upon and unpack in this regard. Somewhere along the way (maybe even more than once, as in my own case) we need to be brought to conviction and up to speed as to just “what condition our (spiritual) condition is in.”

St. Paul’s directive in 2 Corinthians 13:5 ought to be a frequent go to reminder: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?”  The KJV puts it far more strongly: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” That is a strong word meaning, per the dictionary, a rogue, rascal, scoundrel, miscreant, good-for-nothing, villain, wretch, rake, degenerate, libertine, debauchee, knave, rapscallion! Something to face up to requiring repentance via the power of God!  Ouch!

If I claim to be in Christ and He in me, where’s the proof? A good way to begin to find out is in prayer, such as David prays in Psalm 139:23,24 - “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” When we don’t know how to come to terms with our condition, or how to begin God invites us to ask! It always begins there. He will never turn us away.

It will require a willingness of us to surrender ourself fully to the answer. It’s not about an attitude of getting by with as little as possible, hoping and kidding ourself that this minimal investment will lead us by and by into the sweet by and by. It will require of us the surrender of all, with a 24-7-365 watchfulness, vigilance, prayer, honesty, and humility before God and one another. True - God never rests, but neither does our adversary, and neither must we! Let us not be as those mentioned in Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ on the very night of His arrest and betrayal, leading to His Passion, makes it all very clear as to what the expectation is, along with an amazing promise: John 14:21, 23 - “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” 

Who would not desire such fellowship?

Since these are among the final words of our Lord in His John 13-17 discourse with His closest disciples, we do well to heed them as the last will and testament of the Son of God during His final hours. In so doing let us also heed the words of the prophet, Haggai 1:5 - “Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!” Yes, NOW!!! 

Let us consider, contemplate, and correct, ever continually asking, seeking, and knocking for the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, Who will lead us into all truth, including our own, and then set us on the needed course correction.

Amen.

Jun. 11, 2019

It’s always very troubling to hear someone with letters and authority in a church telling those who look to them for guidance that we cannot know God. This idea needs to be addressed with what Scripture has to say about it. This takes some willingness to give the subject prayer and time. This is by no means an exhaustive treatment of this subject, but is only a small dive into this deep pool by this writer.

According to Scripture, we can know Him first of all through His Son, Who said, “‘If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Philip, I have been with you all this time, and still you do not know Me? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father?’” Jn 14:7-9.

John makes it clear in Jn 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is at the Father’s side, has made Him known. Christ Jesus’ prayer reveals how important this is with Jn 17:2-4, as the primary component of eternal life: “For You granted Him authority over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You have given Him. Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only TRUE God,  and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. I have glorified You on earth by accomplishing the work You gave Me to do.”

Knowing God cannot be compared to a superficial Facebook friendship through “connecting” with someone who may live halfway around the world, or even a kinship with people in one’s physical proximity, sometimes for the sake of name dropping. Knowing God means to be one with Him spiritually through His dwelling in us and we in Him by the Holy Spirit, and then it implies that we are the “extension” of Him - as His heart, hands, feet, mind, and life in this world.

If we miss this component of “being church”, we’re missing everything. Where is this understanding found today? Institutional churches for the most part have not emphasized anything like this - the idea that we are our brother’s keeper in the manner that Jesus was, as He heard the Father’s voice inwardly motivating Him, doing only what He heard from the Father, being led and directed of the Holy Spirit in other words.

Jesus taught us by word and example that whoever will deny the world-defined and-identified self and life will find his or her true life. But whoever seeks to preserve the world-defined-and-identified self and life will indeed lose it. 

Who really grapples with this understanding in many a religious institution? For the most part the basic emphasis is on saving oneself via an extremely personal subjective message of salvation consisting of “fire insurance.” Even when that message definition is justification, sanctification, theosis, mystical union, etc, it seems to boil down to a preoccupation with saving the individual self. Could such a pursuit become self centered? If so, where is that kind of “saving” to lead?

That being the case, if we are honest, in practical terms, it begs the question: Is the way we comprehend the “Gospel” really any different than the goal of Hindu or Buddhist or Yoga practitioners, to become personally better through “union” with some god or gods? We need to be honest about this, since our perception of the Gospel can become a matter of pious self-absorption!

The Way of Jesus Christ offers a different perspective than the self preservation philosophies of the world’s religions. The question is, have we missed this and become confused in the entanglements of culture? Scripture is clear as to what the love of Christ looks like, as evidenced by the Mind of Christ we are to put on. The  beloved Apostle John says, 1 Jn 3:17, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him.” (Other references. Heb 13:16; 1 Jn 4:20; Lk 3:11; Dt 15:7-11; Is 58; Pr 19:17; James 2:14-17; 2 Cor 9:6-9; 2 Cor 8:9; Pr 28:9; 1 Tim 6:17,18; Pr 28:27; Lk 6:38; Mt 25:40; Pr 11:24,25; Pr 14:31. There are more.)

Jesus is clear about what the love of God looks like, both by His supreme example of condescending to mankind and His self sacrifice - especially that of His death for us on the cross. The question is, do His people make clear by embodying Christ what the love of God looks like? And on a personal note, Do I look like that? This is where the rubber must meet the Crossroad. We may have theological imagery in our heads about being created in the image and likeness of God, but do we in practical terms bear any resemblance at all to the Christ? Or do we more resemble the world in a self serving, self saving way? Do we find that we have plenty of rationales whereby we avoid a whole hearted surrender to Him in these things?

“Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Lk 17:33. (Must read parallels / cross references - Jn 12:25; Mt 10:39 [remember that old pop phrase “finding yourself” - a governing meme of the New Age?]; Lk 9:24,25; Mt 16:25.)

Children seek to be comforted by the Father. Adult sons seek to be about the Father’s business - of being the extension of His comfort in the world - the comfort with which we have been comforted. 2 Cor 1:14. When the world sees, hears, comprehends us, do they see Jesus, and thus also the Father?

This is worth pondering to see where it will take us! This means being called out of, and willing to say yes to leaving behind, our own comfort zones, to embrace a world fallen under the dominion of darkness, to be the “icons” of our Father in Heaven, who are in Jesus Christ our Lord, presenting ourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-3), as we participate in “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father… to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27.

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.” Ps 68:5. If we claim to dwell in Him and He in us (con-temple-ing, God within His holy habitation, the temples not made with hands), can the same be said of us? Or do we simply occupy and entertain ourself with religious information and/or phenomena, ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the Truth?

These are serious matters with eternal ramifications begging much soul searching and repentance, individually and collectively, as we come into the awareness that being a Christian is not entirely about a set of beliefs, but it is about being the extension of Him in our life in this world. It may mean in that context an obscure life unseen by many and having meaning to few. Or it may be a very public one. In either case it needs to be directed by the Holy Spirit - the way Jesus lived and moved through life. At some point the rubber of religion must meet the reality of the Crossroad or it is worthless in the eyes of God.

Ask, seek, knock. Continually. See Lk 11:1-13.

Jun. 11, 2019
Food For Thought ...
 
Do you ever feel like you want to bolt for the door, climb into your vehicle, and boldly go where you've never gone before, without any plan of where to go, or when to return? How many of us - if we're honest - do not feel that way, or have not felt that way, at least from time to time?
 
Although I'm not given to the "dreamer" mentality, this urge sometimes comes up and always has as a persistent voice that has accompanied me at all times and places. However, valuing maturity and responsibility keep most of us in place as adults. So we don't bolt for the door, and really we shouldn't. It's part of growing up and adapting to a mature outlook.
 
I've heard it suggested that this door can be, as Rod Serling always said upon opening each Twilight Zone episode, unlocked with the key of imagination. That need not be dark or macabre. One can enter the adventure in other ways than physically deserting responsibilities and people, through creative pursuits such as the writing of a short story, or painting, or making music. You need not be "good" at it, as the world would judge it (or has been programmed to judge creativity by the powers that wannabe, for their own benefits and bottom line).
 
I once read (It may have been Reader's Digest???) a true account of a woman who'd come upon hard times, and was left alone. Whatever prompted her, she began to write a fictional story. The outcome was that eventually the story she wrote actually unfolded in her life with a good and happy outcome! She had no intentions of it working out that way, but it did. It's almost as if the creative act of writing was a prayer that was answered!
 
That makes you stop and wonder if the purpose of creativity isn't far more beneficial than for entertainment or decoration, that it is a blessing that can bless, not just the one who hears and sees some "creative project or product", but the one who also brings it forward, with the creative soul connecting to the Creator in Whose image and likeness we are made.
 
I think it might be good if we began to view our particular favorite art form - whatever that may be - as something far better than some means toward an ego trip to become well known or to make money, that the creativity itself may be a far more amazing phenomenon than what is actually created.
 
Imagine that.