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NEVERTHELESS

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When an act of faith becomes one with the will of God it brings forth the glory of God.”  (Tim Bagwell)

A precious friend of mine recently received a “bad report” concerning a life-threatening diagnosis.  My first response was sadness, disappointment, discouragement and quite honestly, a feeling of hopelessness.  A faithless word that means, “to lose the expectation of a thing.”  But then God reminded me of another word; one that was much more worthy of his glory.  Nevertheless!  A faith-filled word that means, “In spite of that.”  Granted, hopeless is a big word.  It is a word that makes you feel like a grasshopper under the foot of a giant.  But “nevertheless” is a bigger word.  Nevertheless is a God word.  It is a word that takes everything into consideration and still hopes and believes in spite of whatever the everything might be.  Peter used it, Elijah used it, Joshua used it, and Jesus used it; just to name a few.  Each one of them used it in the same context of facing the impossible of a situation, and in the face of it saying: “Nevertheless!”  Scripture is filled with people who, against all odds, dared to hope and believe in the nevertheless of God, and in doing so experienced the glory of God.

Some people look at giants through the eyes of fear and see themselves as grasshoppers.  Others look at giants through the eyes of faith and see the giants as the ones who are the grasshoppers.  The only difference between these two types of people is one word:  Nevertheless!  Scripture records that before Elijah went to be with the Lord, he asked Elisha what he could do for him before he was taken from him, and Elisha replied, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.”  Elijah said to him, “You have asked a difficult thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise not.”  And by refusing to take his eyes off Elijah, Elisha received a double portion of the anointing of God.  Jesus, in similar fashion said to us, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to my Father.”  Peter had toiled all day in his own efforts to catch fish and caught nothing, but at Jesus’ command to “let down your nets on the other side,” said, “Nevertheless, at your word Lord” and experienced the overflowing provision of God.  The Israelite people saw themselves as grasshoppers before the giants who lived in the land that God had promised to give them, saying, “It is a land that devours those living in it” and “we were as grasshoppers in our own sight.”  But Joshua and Caleb saw the giants as the ones who were the grasshoppers and said, “Nevertheless do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up” and they experienced the deliverance of God’s hand.  I am reminded of Paul’s words in Corinthians 15:54 – “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  Death has been swallowed up by God’s grace. It no longer has the power to devour us.  The devourer has been devoured.  Jesus, wanting to show the “all things are possible” of God, waited to go to his friend Lazarus, not just to the point of improbability, but to the point of impossibility.  He said to the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus is dead.  Nevertheless, let us go unto him” and the disciples experienced the resurrecting glory of God.  Afterward, Jesus said to his disciples, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  He still tells us the same today.  Scripture says he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”  For their sake, that they might believe, he waited until after Lazarus died to reveal his glory.  God is not controlled by time.  Time never says to him, “It’s too late, there’s not much time left, time is growing short, time’s up.”  Time is God’s servant and he uses it to serve his purpose.  Time exists in him and unfolds in life to serve him.

Every “nevertheless” spoken in God’s word resulted in seeing “the glory of God” and his will being done.  I think it no coincidence that Elisha’s nevertheless evidenced the anointing of God given to us in Jesus.  Joshua’s nevertheless evidenced the deliverance of God given to us in Jesus.  Peter’s nevertheless evidenced the provision of God given to us in Jesus. And Jesus’ nevertheless evidenced that “escape from death” belonged to him and was in him.  Each nevertheless spoken in faith, showed the willingness of God’s heart toward us in Jesus.  The word “nevertheless” isn’t a retreating word in the face of improbability or impossibility.  Those who spoke it by faith saw past the probabilities of what was seen and “in spite of that” dared to believe in the possibilities of what was not. God’s word is full of instruction to us and encouragement of us in what to do in the face of the impossible things we will encounter in this life.  What God wants us to do, what God tells us to do concerning them, really comes down to two words:  “Ask and believe.”  Jesus promises us in his word, “You may ask me for anything in my name,” and then  assures us, “All things are possible to those who can believe.”  I wonder though, would he  say to us today what he did to his disciples, “How foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe.”

Mark 2:1-2 records the story of a paralytic whose need moved a group of his friends to action and they brought him to Jesus.  Scripture says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  He did this to show that the same God who had the power and the compassion to forgive our sins, also had the power and the compassion to heal our bodies.  He is both, “the Lord who forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases.”  I can’t help but consider that the paralytic might never have heard those words spoken by Jesus, and would never have received forgiveness or healing, had his friends not cared enough about him to press through every obstacle that stood in the way of their bringing him to Jesus.  They saw the crowd of people standing in their way and instead of turning back and saying, “It’s impossible,” said, “Nevertheless, we’re pressing through.”  They pressed on until they were able to “break through” to Jesus, literally breaking through the roof to lower him down to Jesus.  That’s the kind of friend I want to be and I think we all want to have.  I don’t want to use the excuse that it might not be God’s will to keep me from stepping out in faith and believing God’s word, while at the same time submitting all that I ask to his sovereign will.   I want friends who, at the risk of being ridiculed,  humiliated, laughed at and scorned, consider my life to be worth the cost and say, “nevertheless.”  People are going to ridicule those who have faith in God to do the impossible.  Jesus experienced the ridicule of men who did not believe in the impossible of God when he went in to heal Jairus’ daughter.  Scripture records that men came to Jairus and said, “Your daughter is dead, why bother the teacher anymore?”  But Jesus, “ignoring what they said,” told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Those who dare to believe in the nevertheless of God must be willing to ignore what other people say.    When they came to the home of Jairus, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly and he asked them, “Why all this commotion and wailing?  The child is not dead but asleep” but “they laughed at him.”  And then, Jesus did what seems to be an unusual thing to me, given that all the miracles he performed were done in front of large groups of people, he “put them all out” except for the mother and father and the disciples who were with him.  I believe Jesus put them all out because of their unbelief.  The Scriptures record that when Jesus went to his own hometown they did not receive him and because of their unbelief he “could not do many miracles there except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them” and, “he was amazed at their lack of faith.”  Unbelief can hinder the miracles of God being performed.  Sometimes we might have to put people away from us that are negative and unable to believe in the nevertheless of God.

The greatest kindness we can show a friend is to press through all obstacles that are keeping them from coming into contact with Jesus in their time of need.  We must press through our own obstacles of discouragement, doubt, fear, hesitancy, complacency, pride, hopelessness, and especially what might be the biggest obstacle of all; our questioning of if a thing is God’s will.  We can’t let our questioning of if a thing is God’s will keep us from believing in his willingness.  God will make his sovereign will known when he is ready, but we must continue to press through anything that stands between our friend and Jesus until he does.  Given the choice, and we are, I would rather do something in faith, than do nothing at all in doubt.  Mary told the men at the wedding feast, “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.”  If she was standing right in front of us today, I have a feeling she would tell us the same thing.  We can rest assured that whatever he tells us in his word is truth and if he tells us to do it, we should do it!   So, instead of questioning whether or not a thing might be God’s sovereign will, I am going to just leave his sovereign will to him and continue doing what his word tells me to do, until he makes that call.  I am going to replace the word “hopeless” with the word “nevertheless.”  I like that word much better.  I think God does, too.  Nevertheless, on my friend’s behalf, I am going to keep on asking, hoping and believing on behalf of my friend.  That is my part, that is what he tells me I am to do, the rest is all up to him.  He has given us the privilege to ask in his name, but we must remember that His word is given us in conjunction with his will.  Coincidentally, there are two contrasting references to grasshoppers in Scripture.  In Numbers 13:33, the Israelites see themselves as grasshoppers when compared to the giants in the land, but Isaiah 40:22 declares, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers” when compared to him.  I think I’m going to go with the last one.

All throughout the Gospels, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth.”  It’s as if he was saying to us, “If I say it, you can count on it.”  These are Jesus’s very own words.  Because the One who spoke them is Truth, they can be nothing but truth.  Jude 20 instructs, “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.”  In light of that I offer the following scriptures, keeping in mind that we don’t control or manipulate God’s word to serve our will, we merely hope, believe, and submit in it to serve his.

Matthew 18:19 – “Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

John 14:12 – “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Matthew 17:20 – “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

John 16:13 – “In that day you will no longer ask me anything.  I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.  Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.  Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.  In that day you will ask in my name.  I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

I John 5:13 – “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything (according to his will,) he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”

NEVERTHELESS
The hour is late Lord, the time is short
. . . . Nevertheless
The need is great Lord, the hope is small
. . . . Nevertheless
The outcome is grim Lord, the chances slim
. . . . Nevertheless
The odds are against Lord and not in favor
. . . . Nevertheless
The bad report Lord will not waiver
. . . . Nevertheless
I am frightened Lord of all these giants in the land
. . . . Nevertheless
On your word Lord, I will stand
For no hour is too late, no need too great
No time too short, no hope too small
No outcome too grim, no chance too slim
No bad report that will not waiver
No odds can stand against Your favor
No hour says to you “too late”
No giant before you stands too great
For giants are only grasshoppers
Sent to prove the test
Of the faithfulness of Nevertheless
And the greatest Nevertheless of all
Be that before which death doth fall

(May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you”. )

 

 

 

 

Laundry Day

Proverbs 14:34 – Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

people-2590562_1920LAUNDRY DAY

I’m doing laundry today
While children cry, asking, “Why?”
“Did they take my mommy away?”
I’m just a mother like any other
Doing laundry today
Can’t even imagine how it feels
To live in a nightmare that is real
To those on the outside looking in
This world is sometimes not a friend
If I were God I’d wipe it away and start all over again ….
but I’m not him
Me, I’m just a mother like any other
Doing laundry today
As life goes on and no one rights the wrongs
As mothers cry and politicians lie
As tears fall down on fallow ground
As children are torn from their mother’s arms
Yet said to be safe and kept from harm
But at the end of each long day
Innocence sleeps in a gilded cage
Reminders of another time
Much like this one comes to mind
When mother and child were torn apart
By pious men with calloused hearts
When the innocent suffered for the sins of men
And mercy offered an empty hand
And the heartache of their cries of fear
Only fell upon deaf ears
And the only wrong the children knew
Were they weren’t born to me or you

I’m doing laundry today

What else can I do?
I don’t have the power to change this hour
And I can’t make it go away
So I’m stuck here crying my tears
And doing laundry today
Can’t change this world and its collision course
I have to leave that to a higher force
If I could I’d wash it all away
Just put it in the laundry I’m doing today
But we’re living in a broken world
Walking on shards of sin
And there is only one way at the end of the day
To put it back together again
Pick up the piece you’re standing on
And put it back where it belongs
Put back the love your hatred has broken
Put back kind words you left unspoken
Put back division of race and gender
Put back hard hearts with ones that are tender
Put back forgiveness of past wrongs
And leave them there where they belong
Put back compassion for your fellow man
Reach out and lend a helping hand
Put back hope for this world’s despair
Put back God and put back prayer
Put back the pieces of broken love
Bind them with mercy from above
And wash this world with God’s love

Don’t  know if anyone cares what I have to say
I’m just a mother doing her laundry today
But it’s been my experience over time
When fighting the stains of dirt and grime
You have to do the laundry today
If you want to wash the dirt away

 

 

 

 

GNAT-PICK’N, NIT-PICKING

“They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.”  (Romans 10:2)

camel-4320_1920(Matthew 23:24 – “You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”).

A gnat is a pesky little thing.  Anyone who’s ever found themselves swatting at one can relate to just how quickly a small thing can become a big distraction.  Jesus once rebuked the teachers of the law and the Pharisees for their obsession with gnats.  He basically accused them of gnat-pick’n, nit-picking.  The definition of nit-picking is, “fussing over trifling matters.”  According to the law, a gnat was an unclean insect and the Pharisees even went so far as to strain their water, picking out the gnats, to avoid accidentally swallowing one.  I’d say that fits the definition of nit-picking pretty well.  As amusing as this might seem however, we might want to hold off on our snickering because there’s still plenty of gnat-straining going on in some churches today.  The Pharisees had classified over 600 laws in addition to God’s laws.  Some churches have accumulated quite a number of them today as well.  There are numerous religions and denominations today and virtually all of them come with their own gnat strainers!

In Matthew 23:25-29, Jesus addressed gnat-straining.  He rebuked the Pharisees for nit-picking the little things, the insignificant things, yet failing to address what he considered “the weightier matters of the law.”   Their traditions and man-made rules had become as important to them as God’s law itself.  They were meticulous about observing ceremonial routines but were lacking when it came to inner purity.  They cared more about looking holy than being holy.  Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy.  I have a feeling he would rebuke us today for ours as well.   Jesus called the Pharisees, “Blind guides,” who, “strained out a gnat but swallowed a camel.”  A camel is a hard thing to swallow!  So is our own hypocrisy.  A camel is a very large animal.  You would have to be blind to miss it, yet we can be so distracted by those pesky little gnats that we do.  We can be just as guilty of concentrating on following ceremonial church rules, while being disobedient in our behavior, as the Pharisees were.  Jesus called this, “washing the outside of the cup, while leaving the inside unclean.”  The Pharisees were extremely diligent about keeping up the outside condition of the temple for others to see,  but failed to see the condition of their own hearts.  Jesus compared them to, “whitewashed tombs that looked beautiful on the outside, but on the inside were full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”  That’s pretty harsh, but Jesus didn’t mince words when he rebuked.  A tomb cannot contain life.  No matter how whitewashed it is on the outside, it will always contain death on the inside.  We would be wise to consider the church we join ourselves to.  It’s better to remain outside a whitewashed tomb and alive, than to be inside one and dead!

Another camel Jesus accused the Pharisees of swallowing had to do with their tithing.  They faithfully tithed their tenth in everything, “mint, dill and cummin,” yet Jesus rebuked them for having “neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.”   He said to them, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  The things we neglect to do is just as important to Jesus as doing the things we ought to do.  Although they religiously tithed their ten percent, they didn’t bother to help those right in front of them who were in need.  That’s a camel we all need to make sure we’re not swallowing!  They were proud of their religious observances and works, but Jesus accused them of doing everything “for men to see.”  They “loved the place of honor and the most important seats in the synagogues,” yet Jesus encouraged “taking the lowest seat,” rather than seeking a place of prestige.  He said when giving, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  (Matt. 23:3).  My interpretation:  Don’t give with one hand, and wave about it with the other.   Nothing is a stench in God’s nostrils so much as religious pride.  The proverb, “Let another man’s lips praise you and not your own,” is a good rule of thumb when the temptation of exaltation comes along.  And if other men do praise you, make sure they’re not using you as a tool of coercion by which to manipulate others.  Proverbs 16:1 cautions, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”  Not everyone’s motives are as sincere as they might appear to be.   Jesus instructs, “When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matt.23:2).   They traded the reward of heaven for the praise of man.  It was not a good trade on their part.  It won’t be on ours either.

You can know if you’re straining out a gnat if you’re more concerned with outward rules and regulations than you are with inner renewal.  In speaking of the Jewish people of his day, Paul said,  “They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Romans 10:2).  They were sincere in wanting to honor God in their ceremonial observances and customs, but they lacked a true understanding of God’s grace.  Their faith was work-based.  Paul addressed work-based righteousness in the church, saying, “Are you so foolish?  After beginning in the Spirit are you now trying to obtain your goal by human effort?”  (Gal. 3:3).  He rebuked them for turning back to following rules and regulations in order to be acceptable in God’s sight, saying, “But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”  Enslaved.  That’s exactly what man-made rules do.  They, “tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders” to carry.  Paul puts an end to all this gnat-pick’n, nit-picking nonsense in affirming, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.”  (Romans 10:4).  Being in right-standing with a denomination’s rules is not the same thing as being in right-standing with God, and being in right-standing with a denomination is of little consequence if you’re not standing by His grace.  Strain all the gnats you want, make all the rules you desire, righteousness  (right-standing with God) cannot be obtained through the keeping of the law or following man-made rules.  Period.  End of discussion.  The NIV Life Application Study Bible commentary does a good job of putting gnat-pick’n, nit-picking in perspective, I think.  It suggests, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty, in everything else, love.”  Some things in the church are essential, some are not.  We need to distinguish between the two according to God’s word, while making sure love is the foundation of all we do.  We have to stop being obsessed with straining those pesky little gnats, before we choke ourselves to death swallowing those camels!

GNATS & CAMELS

I once had a pesky gnat fly right into my face
and so I made it my aim to put him in his place
For he could not just fly around doing whatever he wanted to do
flying in my face was breaking all the rules
And so I started swatting at him every time he would come around
until at last my persistence finally wore him down
Having no fight left in him to bother me anymore
filled with pride deep inside I showed him to the door
I was so excited over this battle I had won
and to know that all other gnats to my rule must now succumb
Sure it was a small little thing but it was to me a big aggravation
to which I felt deserving of my utmost concentration
So it was with great surprise to see that camel looming there
and know that to avoid swallowing him I didn’t have a prayer
For with my mouth still wide open from fussing at that bothersome gnat
I ran right into that camel and he took advantage of that
It was a hard thing to swallow but I learned a lesson that day
Be careful you don’t swallow a camel
trying to shoo a gnat away!

(“Blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”  (Matthew 23:24)

 

 

 

 

 

WHY, WHY, WHY DELILAH?

Worldliness:  Unthinkingly adopting the perspectives, values, and attitudes of our culture without bringing them under the judgment of God’s word.  (New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words.)

“Satan does not come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of tempting us to change our point of view.”  Oswald Chambers                                                                            

Most everyone is familiar with the expression, “You’re not from around these parts, are you?”  We usually apply it to someone whose behavior seems a little peculiar to us and is noticeably different from our own.  My husband and I once hosted a student who was from Sweden.  While her behavior wasn’t extremely different from our own, there were a few differences that betrayed she wasn’t from around these parts.   That’s just how it is when you’re in a place but not of that place.  You’re going to be different, and it’s going to show.  I noticed, however, that the longer she stayed here, the more she began to fit in.  By the time she left, she felt right at home here.  1Peter 2:11 refers to Christians as, “aliens and strangers in the world,” even going so far as to call us, “peculiar people.”  We’re not from around these parts, and it should show.

It usually doesn’t take long for us to realize that a person is from another country.  We see it in how they look, we hear it in how they speak, we observe it by what they do.  Their ways are not our ways, their customs are not our customs.  In speaking of the reaction to a believer’s behavior, by those who are in the world, we are told,  “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.”  (1Peter 4:4).  You’re going to catch some flack for being a Christian in this world.  In John 14:23, Jesus said of those who believed in him, “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”  I think we tend to forget that we’re not from around these parts anymore. In IICorinthians  5:20, Paul tells us, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”  We are now citizens of the kingdom of God, and our purpose here is to be “ambassadors for Christ.”  The definition of an ambassador is, “a representative or agent of another charged with a special mission.”  Ambassadors live in a country, but they are not of that country.  Paul then goes on to inform us as to what our mission here is, saying, “We implore you on God’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.”  That’s our mission here; imploring others to be reconciled to God through the receiving of his grace.  If we’re living like we’re from God’s kingdom the world should find us a bit peculiar.  If it doesn’t, it could be an indication that we’re beginning to fit right in.  Unfortunately, that happens when we stay in a place long enough.  We begin to slack up a little on the ways and customs of our country and take on some of the ways of another.  In doing so, we can lose sight of who we are.

Samson could tell us a thing or two about “losing sight” of who you are.  Samson was a Nazarite and a Nazarite took a vow at birth to be separate from the world for God’s purposes alone.  There were noticeable differences that separated Nazarites from others.  One of the more familiar differences was not shaving their heads.  This was done as an outward sign of their commitment of separation unto the Lord.   In Christ we are called to be spiritual Nazarites, wholly separated unto God.  While we aren’t required to never cut our hair, we are called to show forth noticeable differences in our conduct that  evidence our commitment to the Lord.  Much like Samson, however, we too face the danger of falling prey to Delilah while living in this world.  The name “Delilah” means, “slack off, ease up, lose intensity.”  The Hebrew definition is “temptress.”  She is the spirit of enticement.  She tempts people to go against the convictions of their hearts by looking for weakness in character.  Samson’s weakness was his attraction to Philistine women,  even going so far as to marry one.  The Philistines ruled over Israel at that time, and God was against them.  Their ways were not God’s ways and Israel was to remain separate from them in conduct, much like we are called to do in the world today.

What ultimately brought Samson’s downfall, and will ours as well, was when the temptation of his flesh began to mean more to him than having the Spirit of God upon his life.  Samson’s downfall began when he slacked off, eased up, and lost intensity of heart toward honoring the anointing of God upon his life.  Once that happened, Satan didn’t have to tempt him to sin, he only needed to change his point of view about sin.  Samson was easily deceived because he wanted  to believe Delilah’s lies.  Once we give ourselves over to what our flesh desires, it’s easy for Satan to deceive us into changing our point of view toward it.  James 1:13 cautions us, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  The NKJV Nelson Study Bible defines full-grown as “bringing a goal to completion.”  Rather than having the character of God, we begin to take on the character of sin.  When Samson’s sin  became complete in him, it began to define his character.  When we give in to sin and begin to take on the ways of the world, it will ours too.

Samson thought he could have forbidden pleasure and still keep his anointing, but he was wrong.  The more he yielded to his flesh, the closer he came to losing his anointing. Sin finally became full-grown in him and he awoke one day in the lap of Delilah to find that his anointing was gone.  Samson’s downfall didn’t actually happen overnight, it was a gradual thing.  Although he returned to Delilah time and time again, God continued to show him mercy and give him strength, so he assumed the anointing of God would not leave him.  It might take a while, but the more we give in to the spirit of Delilah, the closer we come to sin becoming full-grown in us, and to losing our anointing.  The cutting of Samson’s hair wasn’t what made him weak; losing the anointing of God did.  Samson’s strength wasn’t in his hair,  it was in his separation.  When his hair was cut, it signified that he had not remained separate unto the Lord, and it was noticeable.   As a result, the anointing of God upon him was lost.   When Christians begin to take on the ways of the world, it’s like walking around with a shaved head.  It’s noticeable!  And it will cause us to lose the anointing of God upon us.   Just as Sampson’s strength was in his separation from the world, so too is ours, and our enemy uses the same spirit of Delilah against us.  He tempts us to ease up, slack off, and lose intensity for the ways of God, because he wants us to lose our anointing.  He tempts our separation from the world, with the pleasures of the world, because he knows that “friendship with the world is enmity with God.” (James 4:4).  He tempts us from being separated unto God, in order to separate us from God.

Samson didn’t realize the anointing of God was no longer on him until it was too late.  He didn’t realize his choice to continue in sin would eventually lead to losing the anointing of God upon his life.  God is long-suffering with us when we sin, just as he was with Samson.  But, the more we continue to sin, choosing the temptations of our flesh over the anointing of God upon our lives, the closer we come to losing the anointing of God upon us.  When we fall asleep in the lap of Delilah, when we slack off, ease up, and lose intensity of heart for the ways of God, it will end up costing us dearly.   Samson not only lost his strength, he lost his sight.  His enemy, the Philistines, gouged out his eyes.  God didn’t take his sight, the enemy did, but Samson made it possible for him to.  When we give ourselves over to the spirit of Delilah, it won’t be long before our enemy robs us of our spiritual sight, also.  When Samson lost his sight, he was put into bondage, led around by his enemy, and used by them to serve their purpose.  When we lose sight of who we are and where we are from, our enemy does the same to us.  Only when Samson confessed his sin and repented of it, asking God to enable him to prevail against his enemy, did God grant him victory over his enemy again.  Judges 16:22 says, “But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.”   I love the hope that is in that one line!  His hair began to grow again, meaning the anointing of God began to return upon him.  When we confess and repent of our sins, God will always cause us to prevail over our enemy, but like Samson, we might suffer in our flesh from the consequences of our choices before that happens.  Samson suffered physically, emotionally and spiritually as a result of giving himself over to the  spirit of Delilah.  If he could speak to us today, I think he would warn us, “Be on guard against the spirit of Delilah.  Don’t slack up, don’t ease up, don’t lose intensity of heart toward the anointing of God upon your life.  If you lay your head in the lap of the world, you might lay down full of pleasure, but you will wake up full of regret.”

In Matthew 25:32, Jesus spoke of another type of separation.  This separation would be done by him at his coming.  He said, “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  John 2:5 distinguishes between those who are in Christ and those who are not, saying, “This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”  God will separate those who are his from those who are not, and how we walk in this world will indicate  which one we are.  We are called to give evidence of where we are from.  If we are from his kingdom, God instructs us to “come out from among them and be separate, touch no unclean thing.”  (IICorinthians 6:17).   We can either separate ourselves now, or wait for him to do it later.  The choice is up to us, but in the end the final separation will be up to him.  So, “Why, why, why Delilah?”  Because it’s who she is, and she’s very, very good at it.

 

LAP OF DELILAH
In the lap of Delilah many now do sleep
She has shorn them of their power
and their strength she has made weak
Awaken my Beloved! Of her embrace you must shake free
For she will blind you of your sight and bring you to your knees
Hear me my Beloved and do not be deceived
For I have called you out of this world to be separate unto Me
No, I will not share you with this world and its ways
So you must choose to follow me and my word  you must obey
I have given you great strength, Delilah’s temptations to withstand
And if you will choose to resist her you will find you can
So heed the error of Samson and my words do not forget
“Though you lay down in pleasure, you will wake up in regret”
You do not belong to this world, I have called you to be my own
And I am coming back again to take my children home
But I cannot take you with me if you are holding onto sin
So you must separate yourselves now that I not do it then
But if you will rise up from the lap of Delilah
and your faithfulness to me show
I will restore your strength and cause your hair to grow

(Judges 16:22 – But the hair on his head began to grow after it had been shaved.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love You More

(John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten 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.)

cross-2713354_1920The first and greatest commandment God instructed Moses to give the people of Israel was, “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.”  (Deuteronomy 11:1).  In Matthew 22:36-38, when Jesus’s disciples asked him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law,” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest command.”  Loving God with all our heart, soul and mind was the first and greatest commandment of the law, and it was to be evidenced by keeping his commands.  If you tie the two together, the first and greatest command spoken by both Moses and Jesus would read, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and commands always.”  We seem to have forgotten the word “always” in that command.   I don’t think God would have said always if he hadn’t meant always.  Jesus, himself, tied the two commands of love and obedience together, stressing, “If you love me, you will obey what I command you.”  “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me,” and “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching.  He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:15).  We have pitted love and law against one another today, as if one could stand without the other.  Kevin DeYoung, author of The Hole In Our Holiness, writes, “To hate the law, is to hate God himself, who ordained the law to reflect his nature.  If you tell people law doesn’t matter, then neither does love, which is the summary of the law.”  If love does away with the law, it does away with the first and greatest commandment of God in the law, as well as the second, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love is a command of the law.  In Matthew 5:17, Jesus tells us, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, he simply wrote it in another place; the heart, the soul and the mind.  Hebrews 10:16 tells us,  “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Loving others rests upon us loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, because if we don’t love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we can’t love others.  It is our love for him that compels us to obey his teachings, and loving others is a part of his teaching.  When Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my teachings” he was saying, “You will obey my commands out of your love for me.”  Love, genuine love, comes from want to, not have to.  “God’s commands show us what God is like, what he prizes, what he detests what it means to be holy as God is holy.  To hate the law is to hate God himself, who ordained the law to reflect his nature.” (DeYoung).  Jesus was, “the word made flesh.”    His life was to be a reflection of God’s nature to us.   He never broke the law of God, he never did away with it, he reflected it.

We seem to have it a little one-sided today, I think.  We focus a whole lot more on God’s love for us than we do on our love for God.  There’s no doubt God loves us more than we could ever love him.  We only love him because he first loved us, but I think maybe we need to realize it wasn’t meant to be quite so one-sided as it has become today.  Jesus said, “If you love me.”  The proof of love is often preceded by an “if,” because love is in what you do, not in what you say.  It is shown in both commitment and conduct; what you do and what you don’t do.  Jesus was basically saying, “If you love me, you will put me first in both commitment and conduct.  Your focus won’t be on just my love for you, but on your love for me.”  When my daughter was a little girl, we used to play a game called, “Look Into My Love Eyes.”  The one who held the other’s gaze the longest was the winner, and she was always the winner.  She was relentless!  She simply refused to look away.  She won because her focus wasn’t on my love for her, it was on her love for me.  She won every time.  She loved me more.  That’s still the way she loves people today; relentless, focusing her love on others, refusing to look away, loving people more, even to her own hurt sometimes.  That’s how God loves us.

I was watching a television show the other night and one of the actors in the show said to another, “I love you,” to which the the other replied, “I love you more.”  That’s what real love is, loving more.  When Jesus said, “If you love me,” he was saying, “If you love me more than ______, and we have to fill in that blank.  We can fill that blank in with any number of things, but things ultimately come down to self.  We have to fill in that blank every time we love self more than we love obeying his commands.  We have to fill it in every time we put self before someone else.   We tend to forget that Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me.”  Like it or not, Jesus expects us to prove our love for him, just as he did for us.  He made it simple; those who love him, will evidence it by obeying him, those who don’t, won’t.  Love is evidenced through obedience.   A. W. Tozer rightly observed the problem in saying it is not that man will not forsake his sins, but that he will not forsake himself.    What follows the “if” always proves the love.  Love not written upon the heart, will never be able to say, “I love you more,” because love not written on the heart will always love self more.  And according to Jesus, anything less than more is simply not enough.  God knew this.  God never asks us to do more than what he is first willing to do himself.  He knew that if he wanted us to love him more, he had to first love us more.

My mom is 91 years old, and whenever one of her loved ones tells her they love her, she almost always says, “I love you too, but God loves you more.”  She must have said it hundreds of times, and I must admit to never really considering the full truth of it.  She could have just said, “I love you more,” but she chose to point me to God’s love for me instead, because she wanted me to know that ultimately he loves us more than anyone will ever love us.  She couldn’t have given me a better comparison of the enormity of God’s love for me, because nobody in my life will ever love me like she does.  Love is a sacrifice of self for someone you love more, and she did it all her life for her family.  Because God is love, he knew he would have to make that sacrifice for his children, too.  It’s as if he said, “If I love them, ______, and he filled in that blank with Jesus.  Isaiah 52:13-14 tells us, “He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at him, his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.”  Jesus’ visage and form was “marred beyond human likeness.”  I think Jesus was so disfigured upon that cross that people would look away from him.   They wouldn’t be able to look upon his face or hold his gaze.  And so he won; he loved us more!   When Jesus gave himself to be a sacrifice for our sins, to show us God’s love for us, he was saying, “I love you more.”  And it was more than enough.

I Love You More

When my daughter was a little girl
there was a game we used to play
called “Look Into My Love Eyes”
and try not to look away
As I looked into her sweet little face
I tried so hard to hold her gaze
But she was relentless and refused to look away
Her love was so intense I could see it in her eyes
I had to look away for fear that I would cry
She still wins that game today just like she did before
With a love so intense it says, “I love you more!”
That’s the kind of love we all need to show
because that’s the kind of love we all want to know
That’s the kind of love God has for you and me
And he hung it on a cross for all the world to see
Saying, “Look into my love eyes and hold my gaze if you can”
Knowing all the while that we would never win
Knowing less than more would never be enough to set us free
He gave the more of all his love when he died for you and me
There upon the cross with every stripe that Jesus bore
He said, “Look into my love eyes”
“And see I love you more.”

 

What if Nothing is Wrong is Wrong?

(Ecclesiastes 12:12 – “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”)
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In summing up his lifelong quest for knowledge and understanding, Solomon’s final conclusion was, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”  I think my son figured that one out in college!  Solomon was the wisest man to have ever lived.  Scripture says, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand of the seashore.”  (1 Kings 4:29).  That’s a whole lot of wisdom!  But even though Solomon might have known something about everything, he still didn’t know everything about all things.  Only God can make that boast, although there are some people out there today who seem to think they can as well.  After a lifetime of pursuing knowledge and understanding, weary from much study, Solomon, the wisest man in the world, leaves us with these final words of wisdom, “Here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing whether good or evil.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:11).  Doesn’t take a PhD to understand that one.  After much study, contemplation, and questioning of the accuracy of God’s word, many scholars today have reached the conclusion that nothing is wrong concerning certain issues that are said to be wrong in God’s word.   In a world that is desperately trying to convince itself that nothing is wrong anymore, maybe the question  we should be asking ourselves is; what if nothing is wrong, is wrong?

Not much has changed since Solomon’s day in relation to the making of many books.  There is no end to the making of them today as well.  We are bombarded with endless opinions and philosophies being written about life and how we should live it, but there still remains only one authority.  My sister and I once tried to get our dad to read a book that we felt would give him more insight into the Bible.  He looked at us and said, “If this book says what the Bible says, don’t you just need to read the Bible?”  Wisdom shut the mouths of fools that day.  Everything we need to know is in God’s word.  All other sources of insight into truth are derived from it, and any insight not derived from it is probably not  truth.  It really is that simple.  No amount of human knowledge or philosophical reasoning will ever surpass the wisdom of God’s written word.  Period.  I concede that there are many books out there that do aid in giving greater insight and understanding of scripture and I am in no way dismissing their value.  My concern is that the interpretation or explanation given by man of the scriptures, are being elevated above the authority of scripture itself.   Unfortunately, that is what we are seeing in the “making of many books” today.  In Corinthians 3:18, Paul warns, “Do not deceive yourselves.  If any of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a fool so that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this age is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”  Man, with all his education, intellect and philosophical contemplations, will never out-smart or out-think God.  Paul, himself, was a gifted philosopher, yet he warned against any philosophy of life based only on human ideas and experiences.  In Colossians 1:8, he warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  Paul, much like Solomon, after considering all that he had accomplished in life, considered it all to be “rubbish” when compared with knowing Christ.  He writes, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”  (Philippians 3:7).

Solomon further warned, “The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails – driven in by one Shepherd.  Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:11).  Solomon, with all his wisdom, knew better than to add or take away anything from the wisdom of God’s word.  Wisdom will sometimes goad you.  A goad was a sharp metal tip attached to a handle that was used to keep oxen or cattle moving.  The NIV Life Application Study Bible commentary says, “Like a goad, a wise word or important truth might be unpleasant when first applied, but it will keep us moving in God’s direction.”  The embedded truth of God’s word, driven into our hearts by Jesus, our Shepherd, will keep us moving in God’s direction.  Solomon was not the only one to warn of taking away or adding to God’s word.  Moses in Deuteronomy warned, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it but keep the commands of the Lord our God that I give you.”  In Revelation 22:18, John further cautions, “I warn everyone who hears the prophecy of this book:  If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.  And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  Jesus, himself, said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”  Last time I looked, heaven and earth had not yet disappeared.  II Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All scripture is God-breathed.”  That means the smallest letter to the least stroke of a pen is inspired by God.  To presume to make changes in God’s word is to assume a position of authority over God, himself.  To be sure, of making many books there is no end, so we had better be sure the ones we choose to write and to read line up with the infallible truth of God’s word.

When people lose the ability to distinguish between what is true from what they wish was true, they lose their ability to tell the difference between truth and lies and become victims of their own self-deception.  And when people exalt their intellect above God’s wisdom, they become victims of their own puffed up knowledge and deluded pride.  In Colossians 2:18, Paul, in speaking of this type of person, says, “Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.”  Paul attributes the fundamental reason for this puffed up knowledge as being an “unspiritual mind” due to being disconnected from the Head.  He writes, “He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”  The NIV Study Bible makes the observation that “the fundamental problem with the false teachers was that they were not connected to Christ, the Head of the body of believers.  If they had been joined to him, they could not have taught false doctrine or lived immorally.”  It further advises, “Anyone who teaches about God without being connected to him by faith should not be trusted.”  Not everyone who teaches about God, knows the God about whom they teach.  You can’t teach about God by just studying about God.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18, God has something to say to the philosophers and scholars of our day who would have the audacity to take away or add to his word.  “For it is written: “‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.  Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”‘

Although we are living in a constantly changing world, God’s word remains unchanged.  It’s truth will not change to accommodate what we wish was true.  Because it is God’s word, it can only speak what is true.  I may not have a PhD, but I know you must start at the beginning of a matter before you can reach the conclusion of it.  As Solomon concluded, in the end it all goes back to the beginning.  “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”  For all you scholars and philosophers and wise men out there who think you’ve got it all figured out, you might want to consider the words of the wisest man to have ever lived and go back to the beginning.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  (Proverbs 111:10).  No amount of human knowledge and reasoning will ever surpass or change the wisdom of God’s word.  Take it from Solomon, in the end you will only weary yourself trying.

PHILOSOPHY & WISDOM

Philosophy and wisdom set out one day
Into the world to run and play
Wisdom said, “Just follow me and pay attention to my lead”
To which Philosophy replied, “I think I’ll let reason be my guide”
So Wisdom humbly stepped aside
They played together throughout the day
Each one going his own way
Everything seemed to be just grand
With Philosophy and Wisdom joined hand-in-hand
But soon it all came to a tragic end
For calamity lay just around the bend
They came upon a busy street
Where truth and reasoning were destined to meet
Philosophy carefully studied the situation
Deep in thought and contemplation
While Wisdom stopped to consider the loss
That crossing at the wrong time would cost
Wisdom once again made the plea, “Please take my hand and follow me”
But Philosophy stubbornly refused
To be led by Wisdom’s rules
Thinking his reasoning to be true
He thought, “Surely the traffic will stop for you”
And after much thought and pontification
Stepped into the street without hesitation
But Wisdom could have told him had he only asked
“Those cars are going much too fast!”
And Wisdom would have gladly shown him the way
To safely get across the street that day
If only he’d consented to do it Wisdom’s way
Philosophy and Wisdom set out to play
But only Wisdom made it home that day

(Proverbs 1:20-26 – “Wisdom calls aloud in the street …. At the head of the noisy streets she cries out.  But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed to my outstretched hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you.”)

 

 

Rehab

“I don’t wanna go to rehab, I said, ‘no, no, no.'”  (Amy Winehouse)                                                 

(Rehabilitation:  To restore to a former condition or status.  To bring or restore to a condition of health).  (Hebrews 12:12 – Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”)

knee-2768834_1920

Anyone who has ever experienced rehab following a surgery or an illness would probably find themselves agreeing with the words of Amy Winehouse’s song, “They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said ‘no, no, no.”  Rehabilitation, albeit a necessary process for healing, can be a painful and uncomfortable one.  When I was in my late twenties, I had knee surgery to remove a piece of bone that had broken off in my knee, caused by a bone disease I was born with.  The surgery went great, but it subsequently left me with a hole in my knee where that bone used to be.  Following the surgery, I was given a set of crutches to help me get on my feet again, and then immediately scheduled to begin rehabilitation therapy.  I had two choices.  I could walk around on crutches the rest of my life and not get any stronger, or I could go to rehab and strengthen my weak knee.  My doctor advised me if I didn’t strengthen the muscles around that hole in my knee, I might end up walking with a slight limp.  Hebrews 12:12 gives us the same advice.  “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  Make level paths for your feet, so the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

When that bone broke off in my knee, it crippled me.  I couldn’t bend my knee, so I couldn’t walk like I was supposed to walk.   Like me with my knee, we were also born with a disease and crippled by it, only our disease caused us to have a hole in our holiness.  The  disease in us needed to be repaired also, and just like me, we needed a top-notch surgeon to do it.  Fortunately for us, God sent us one.  Making me whole again was the goal of my surgeon.  He didn’t operate on me just to leave me a cripple.  God didn’t save us by his grace just to leave us one either.  Randy Alcorn, Founder and Director of Eternal Perspectives is quoted as saying, “Grace is too amazing to save us from sin’s guilt only to leave us under its cruel tyranny.”  We need rehabilitation after receiving God’s grace if we are to “walk as Christ walked,” which is the goal of God’s grace. (1 John 2:6).  It won’t be easy, but it beats walking through life with a limp.  Following my surgery, it was just easier some days to use the crutches and rely on them to bear me up, than to subject myself to the rigors of rehab.  Only when I submitted myself to the prescribed rehabilitation did I begin to grow stronger and overcome the weakness of that hole in my knee.  If I had just received the surgery, without the rehabilitation afterwards, I would have been healed of what caused my injury, but unable to progress in my healing.  I would have constantly been relying on my crutch to enable me to stand in my healing, but unable to move on and walk in it.  After redeeming us, God immediately entrusts us to the rehabilitation of the Holy Spirit to restore us back to health again.  God never intended for us to use his grace as a crutch to enable us to simply lean on.  We were meant to move forward in his grace and to “work out” our salvation.  Not work for it, because we’ve already received it, but to work out what we have received, as in work-out.  Pardon the pun, but God intended for us to do some resistance training!

In Philippians 1:6 we are given the assurance that, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  We have been given the Holy Spirit as our rehabilitation therapist, and he will continue to carry his work on to completion in us.  Just like my rehabilitation therapist, he won’t stop working with us until we reach his desired level of healing for us.  Philippians 2:12 further instructs us to, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  A good therapist will give you both the motivation and the training to get stronger.  The Holy Spirit, as our therapist, does the same, but we must submit ourselves to him in obedience and commit ourselves to do the work he instructs us to do.  While I was in therapy, I tended to favor the areas of my knee that were weakest, but my therapist wouldn’t let me get away with that.  In fact, those were the very areas he concentrated more heavily upon.  There were some bad habits I needed to stop doing, and some good ones I needed to develop.  We have areas of weakness in our lives that we tend to favor also, but the Holy Spirit won’t let us get away with that either.  Like my therapist, he knows the only way for us to overcome them is to stop favoring them, and concentrate our efforts upon correcting them.  The desired end of grace is to repair that hole in our holiness, but it’s going to take rehabilitation to get us there.  To refuse to go to rehab is to refuse the purpose of the surgery.  The surgery cannot fully benefit us if the desired end is not met.  Leaning on the crutch of God’s grace won’t enable us to walk in it.  Leaning on a crutch was not the desired end of my surgeon for me and it is not the desired end of God’s grace for us either.

The Apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “So run, that ye may obtain.”  Obviously, God’s grace, like my surgery, desires for us to move forward afterward that we may “obtain” the fulness of its benefits.  We are encouraged to run in progressive holiness, not simply stand still in positional holiness.  Paul then goes on to inform us of his own spiritual exercise regime, saying, “But I keep my body, and bring it into subjection – I buffet my body – discipline it – and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit.”  In other words, Paul did some resistance training.  The grace of God is the surgery.  Learning to walk in God’s grace is the rehabilitation of the Holy Spirit after surgery.  The two go together.  You cannot fully benefit from one without the other.  In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul encourages us to, “Exercise yourselves rather unto godliness.”  After being told by my surgeon that my knee might give me some problems in the future, I became somewhat of an exercise fanatic.  I am totally convinced that I owe the strength of my knee today to years of diligent exercise.  Today, my knee is almost completely restored to its original state of health.  I still have that hole in my knee, and from time to time it reminds me that it is there, but I can only imagine the condition my knee might be in today, had I not gone to rehab and continued strengthening it.  That hole in our holiness is always going to be there, and it might give us some problems in the future, but “exercising ourselves unto godliness” is a sure way of strengthening ourselves against it.

Much like my doctor when diagnosing the condition of my knee, Kevin DeYoung, author of “The Hole in Our Holiness,” makes the observation that, “there is a hole between our love for God and our love for godliness” and he attributes our  “not really caring that it is there,” as being the reason why we remain crippled by it.  I agree.  By ignoring our condition, we become accustomed to it and we begin to accommodate it.  As we become more and more accustomed to it, we hardly notice the limp is there anymore, and when we do notice it, we just reach for the crutch.  We find it much easier just to lean on the crutch of God’s grace after the surgery.  We want what Christ has saved us from more than what he has saved us to.  We want the surgery, without the rehab because as Kevin says,  “Almost everything is easier than growing in holiness,” because, “Holiness is just plain hard work and we’re often lazy,” and “We like our sin and dying to them is painful.”   In other words, we don’t like rehab.  Ephesians 5:15 cautions,”Look carefully then how you walk!”  That’s sound advice.  When we examine our walk, would we say we’re walking like Jesus, or are we walking with a limp?  Are we favoring our weaknesses and just giving in to them, or are we making the effort to grow stronger and overcome them?  Are we just content to lean on the crutch of God’s grace, or are we “pressing on toward the goal,” to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us?  (Philippians 3:12,14).  Just like me after my surgery, we really only have two choices.  We can strengthen the hole in our holiness by going to rehab and “exercising ourselves unto godliness,” or we can live the rest of our lives with a limp.  But if we are going to progress in the healing our heavenly surgeon provided for us and desired for us to have, we gotta go to rehab.  In the end, we’ll be glad we did!  I think if Amy could talk to us today, she would tell us, “If they try to make you go to rehab, don’t say no, no, no, just go, go, go.”  Thanks for the tunes Amy!

REHAB
(Lyrics by Amy Winehouse)
“They tried to make me go to rehab
but I said, ‘no, no, no.’
Yes I been black
but when I come back,  you’ll know, know, know
I ain’t got the time
and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
he’s tried to make me go to rehab
I won’t go, go, go
I don’t ever wanna drink again
I just, ooh, I just need a friend
I’m not gonna spend ten weeks
Have everyone think I’m on the mend
It’s not just my pride
It’s just ’til these tears have dried
I ain’t got the time and if my daddy thinks I’m fine
He’s tried to make me go to rehab
but I won’t go, go, go

 

 

 

Follow The Leader

(Romans 6:15 – What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  By no means!”  

get-out-of-jail-free-card

Forest Gump says, “life is like a box of chocolates,” but I tend to think it’s more like a game of Monopoly.  We set out to play the game, thinking winning is determined by how much stuff we accumulate and how much money we have at the end of the game.  We all draw our cards from a seemingly random deck.  We all get to choose which character we want to be and determine for ourselves how we want to play the game.  And the one thing that everybody wants to have in the game, and nobody wants to give up, is that coveted Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card.   Because if you have the Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card, you never fear landing on that, “Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail” space.  The grace of the Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card takes away all fear of going to jail, causing us not to worry so much about landing on that “Go To Jail, Go Directly To Jail” space anymore.  I can’t help but relate this to something I’ve noticed going on today in the real game of life.   It seems to me like “Not under law, but under grace,” has become somewhat of a Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card for us as well.  People seem to be more comfortable with holding on to sin in their lives than letting it go, confidently relying on that Get-Out-of-Jail, Free card to allow them to do so and bail them out.  But just because you get out of jail for free, doesn’t mean the game is over.  You still have to play the game, and there are still rules to follow.  If we don’t follow them, the outcome of the game for us might not turn out as well as we hoped.

Without any sincere repentance or contrition of heart toward any specific sin in our lives, we want to huddle ourselves together under the, “we’re all sinners, saved by grace” blanket, and snuggle comfortably and companionably there.  Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, writes, “A person will easily say, “Oh yes, I know I am a sinner,” but when he comes into the presence of God he cannot get away with such a broad and indefinite statement.  There is never any vague sense of sin, but a focusing on the concentration of sin in some specific area  of life.”  Sin is like sickness.  Sickness is sickness, but there are different types of sickness and some are worse and more threatening to life than others.  I’m not encouraging comparing sins here, I’m simply saying there are different gradations among sins.  Kevin DeYoung, author of The Hole in Our Holiness points out, “there are two confusions about sanctification that need to be cleared up.  The first is the mistaken notion that every sin is the same in God’s eyes.  We’re all born sinners,”  but “there is a difference between sin and gross sin.  The Bible teaches that some sins are worse than others.  Sacrificing your children to Molech was probably worse than losing your patience with them.”  The problem with blanket grace mentality is that, “when every sin is seen as the same, we are less likely to fight any sins at all.  It removes the impetus for striving against our personal sin.”  (DeYoung).  It causes indifference of heart toward a specific sin being committed, and where there is no concentration upon a specific sin, there is no confessing or forsaking of that specific sin.   And forsaking of sin “through” God’s grace, not embracing of sin “by” God’s grace, is what we’re called to do.  If we never acknowledge a specific sin we are committing, God’s cleansing grace cannot purge that sin from within us.   We can be set free from the penalty of sin, and still be a slave to sinful behavior.  We are all under the blanket of God’s grace for the atonement of sin through Jesus sacrifice, but there may still be specific sin in us that needs to be purged from us, and must be acknowledged by us.

After receiving a revelation of the holiness of God, Isaiah was able to see his sinfulness and cried out in despair, “Woe to me!” “I am a man of unclean lips.”   (Isaiah 6:1-6).  Once God revealed His holiness to Isaiah, and he acknowledged his sin unto the Lord, God sent a seraph to touch his lips with a “live coal,” saying “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away; your sin purged.”  God concentrated Isaiah’s heart upon a specific sin  because the sin could not be purged until it was concentrated upon.  Oswald Chambers writes, “The cleansing fire had to be applied where the sin had been concentrated.”  It still does today.   We, like Isaiah, must have a revelation of the holiness of God before we can see our sinfulness.  Only then will God be able to reveal our sin  and purge it from us.  One of the definitions of purge is: “The process of removing.”  The Holy Spirit within us gives us the revelation of the holiness of God.  No place for comfort will be found for sin in the one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.  He is constantly in the process of revealing and removing sin in our lives.  It is only through the convicting, concentrating power of the Holy Spirit, that we can even acknowledge our sin and allow God to begin the process of removing it from within us.   Acknowledging sin in our lives is necessary to move forward in God’s purpose for our lives.  “The painful cleansing process  was necessary before Isaiah could fulfill the task to which God was calling him.” (NIV Commentary, Nelson Study Bible).   Isaiah was being called to speak for God, therefore the words of his lips had to be pure.  So too with us.  We are called to represent the nature of Christ to the world, therefore our conduct must be pure.  If we are being led by the Holy Spirit, we can be sure He will concentrate his convicting power on anything in us that is not pure.  But once he does, we, like Isaiah, must acknowledge it, confess it, and repent of it.   If we hold on to it, we become its slave and it our master.  In Psalm 86:11, David cried out unto the Lord, “Give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.”   I think David was speaking of more than a divided heart toward sin here.  I think David realized that it runs much deeper than that.  I think he realized that if he had a divided heart toward sin, he had a divided heart toward God.  Isn’t that what unrepentant sin really comes down to?   A divided heart between ourselves and the reverence of a holy God?  Psalm 51:17 assures us, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  God will never despise a truly broken and repentant heart toward any sin, but I think he does despise an indifferent, insincere one.  One indifferent to the cost of his grace that provided that coveted Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card for us.  One that is insincere and seeks merely to use his grace to enable them to continue in sin.

There is a difference between messing up and just giving yourself over to your mess, missing the mark, while not attempting very hard to hit it, all the while knowing you have that Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card to pull out of your back pocket that reads, “Not under law, but under grace.”  We quickly whip that card out of our pocket, totally forgetting the caveat written on the back of it, that says, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.” (1 Peter 2:16).  To me, that’s kind of the same thing as saying, “Live by grace, but do not use God’s grace as a convenient Get-Out-Of-Jail, Free card for your sin.”  The key word here being “use.”  As in the definition: “Act of being used; taking advantage of.”    We abuse God’s grace when we misuse God’s grace.  We can all relate to being used or being taken advantage of by someone to serve their purpose, and nobody likes it.   I don’t think God much does either.

In John 21:22, Peter asked Jesus about his plans for a fellow disciple’s life, to which Jesus answered, “What is that to you?  You must follow me.”  We live in a world that tends to compare itself to others in rationalizing the sin in our own lives.  In Matthew 15:14, Jesus warned, “If the blind follow the blind, both will fall into the ditch.”  Not everyone clearly sees God’s truth and are following it, and that goes for ministers as well.  We need to be very careful who we are following today.  The commentary in the NIV Life Application Study Bible  cautions, “The health of a body of believers is far more important than playing favorites with someone who is not meeting the standards set forth in God’s word.”  That’s good advice.  II Peter 2:12 warns, “There will be false teachers among you.  They will secretly introduce destructive heresies” – “many will follow their shameful ways and it will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”    We are under grace to deliver us and enable us from the power of sin ruling over us, but we are not to abuse God’s grace by deliberately attempting to use it as a means to enable us to continue in sin.   If we truly love Christ, his grace will mean more to us than a simple get-out-of-jail free card.  We need to stop trying to justify what we need to rectify.  We might get away with trying to use people, but we will not get away with trying to use God.  “Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-10).   We have to get out from under blanket grace, and wrap God’s grace around the specific sin the Holy Spirit concentrates our hearts upon.   And when we mess up, and we will, don’t justify, just rectify.  As for who to follow, I think Jesus made that perfectly clear.  “You must follow me.”

FOLLOW THE LEADER
There’s a little game called Follow the Leader that I used to play
In which all the children would follow whatever the leader would say
Wherever the leader would go we had to follow along
But sometimes I would change direction, and set off on my own
I didn’t like just following the leader, it seemed somehow to be wrong
To trust someone to chart a course for me, where I might not belong
Sometimes I didn’t want to go where the leader was leading me
I wanted to decide for myself where I wanted to be
Nothing much has changed since I played that childhood game
I’m still a bit of a rebel and that I will remain
But as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned I wasn’t wrong
To question where I was being led, rather than just blindly following along
The rebel in me then has served me well today
Because I’m still not willing to follow someone, who’s going the wrong way
I might end up on my own sometimes, but with that I am okay
Because I’m following a leader now who won’t lead me astray
He’s the only one who knows the rules of how the game of life is played
And he’s the only one by which the road to heaven for me is paved
He’s the only reigning champion of life’s game of Monopoly
And he’s the only hope I’ll ever have to get-out-of-jail for free!
There are many leaders in the world today
But there is only one who is himself The Way
So if you, like me, hesitate to play along
Just following a leader who might be leading you wrong
Stand your ground, look around, open your eyes and see
When it comes to following a leader
Jesus said,”You must follow Me.”

 

 

 

 

 

FAILURE TO THRIVE

John 1:1 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

IMG_0002There is a tree in my yard that is completely alive but for one dead branch attached to it. Day after day I look at that tree and can’t help but notice that dead branch.  It stands out like a sore thumb, or a sore foot (which will make sense to you a little further on).  Something cut off the flow of life from that tree to that one branch and now it can produce nothing.  It’s good for nothing but to be, “cut off and thrown into the fire.”  When looking at that tree, I can’t help but remember Jesus’ teaching about the true vine and its branches in the above scripture.  In John 1:6,  Jesus goes on to say, “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”  In this teaching, Jesus is making a distinction between two types of believers.  One that remains in him, as evidenced by   his life flowing through it, and one that has not remained in him, as evidenced by his life not flowing through it.  A branch can’t bear fruit on its own.  It must remain in the vine.  Apart from his life, we can produce nothing of life.  Both these branches start out “in him.”  Their only difference is that one evidences his life in them and the other does not.  Good fruit is the evidence of life.  Like it or not, Jesus says dead branches, who bear no evidence of his life in them, are cut off, tossed aside, and thrown into the fire, just like the one on my tree is going to be.  But every branch that remains in him, whose life shows evidence of its union with him, he prunes, in order that it might bear more fruit.  He is a master gardener, and he will not neglect the tiniest of buds upon the branch.  But he also will not tolerate anything that threatens to harm the growth of the vine.

In my short stint in the Hartwell Garden Club, if I learned anything, it was that sometimes it is necessary to cut off a branch that is dead or diseased.  This must be done, because, if left alone, it can infect the health of the whole tree.  In Matthew 3:7-10, John warned the Pharisees and Sadducees to, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”  John was speaking of the fruit of a changed heart that resulted in changed behavior.  When we truly repent of sin in our lives, our lives will bear the fruit of doing so, they will be “in keeping with repentance.”  Paul, in Titus 1:16 says, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.”  That’s kind of like that dead branch in my tree claiming to be living, just because it’s still attached to the tree.  In Matthew 7:16,  in speaking of false prophets, Jesus warned,  “Watch out for false prophets.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  If a tree has bad roots, it’s usually because  its roots are not in good soil.  The soil we are planted in will determine the depth of our roots and the quality of our fruit.   That’s why Jesus warned us to watch out who we take root in and follow.  Good fruit is the character of Christ that is produced in us by the Holy Spirit, when we follow the sound doctrine of his Word.   Bad fruit is the absence of the character of Christ being produced in us, when we don’t follow the sound doctrine of his Word.  Titus 2:1 cautions, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”  Sound doctrine helps develop the character of Christ in us.  It is good soil.  Anyone who distorts sound doctrine, and influences others to do so, in order to serve their own choices and lifestyle, are bad soil.  If we take root in them, we are going to bear bad fruit through our union with them.  In Matthew 12:33, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad.”  People who are bad trees, especially those in ministry, can make other trees bad also.  They hold the responsibility before Jesus of making a tree bad or making it good, by what they say and do.  Unsound doctrine and ungodly behavior makes a bad tree.  The fruit of a bad tree can be harmful to those who ingest it.  That’s why it must be cut down.  We can start out in the good soil of Christ, but end up in the bad soil of error, when we don’t remain in sound doctrine.

This is where my sore foot ties in.  I Corinthians 12:26,27 tells us, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many members; and though all its members are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a member of it.”  As such, we are told that, “its parts should have equal concern for each other,” because “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”  I can relate to this in my natural body right now.  For quite some time now I have been suffering with a hurt foot and it is affecting my whole body.  I have pampered it, I have tolerated it, I have sympathized with it, I have accommodated it, I have tried to ignore it, hoping it would get better on its own, but all to no avail.  I did seek help for it, but I haven’t yet been willing to do what I have been told I must do to fix it, because fixing it involves cutting it, and I don’t want to be cut!  Most people don’t.  We don’t want to do anything that might cause our “flesh” to suffer.  As a result, I have become somewhat accustomed to just living with it as it is.  The problem with my doing this, however, is that my foot will never be healed, and, over time, it will only get worse, not better.  Ignoring it, having sympathy for it, tolerating it, accommodating it, accepting it as it is, and just learning to live with it, will not heal it.  Just telling myself it will be okay will not make it okay.  By doing these things, I’m not doing my foot any favor.  I must be willing to do what I have been told I must do to fix it.  My failure to address the problem with my foot not only further damages my foot, but comes at the expense of my whole body.  Any type of exercise for my body that involves the foot is out of the question.  By my tolerance of the sickness in this one part of my body, I have jeopardized the health of my whole body.  This is not showing “equal concern” for my whole body.  When there is sickness in the body, addressing it is crucial in avoiding the cutting stage.  If I had addressed my foot issue earlier, I might not be at the cutting stage right now.  The longer we leave a sickness unaddressed in a member of our body, the more harm we risk doing to that member and to our body as a whole.  “So it is with Christ.”

This is a picture of what we do in the body of Christ when we fail to address sin in Christ’s body, choosing to pamper it, accommodate it, tolerate it, ignore it, and just grow accustomed to it.  Much like me with my foot, we think ourselves to be acting in compassion for the hurt member, when we are only contributing to its further harm.  Healing cannot begin until sickness is addressed.  Just telling ourselves it’s okay will not make it okay.  Over time it will only get worse, and eventually, as I learned in garden club, infect the health of the whole body.  We, as members of Christ’s body, are responsible for doing everything in our power to promote the health of each member of his body, and we are to do so in love, not judgment or condemnation.  We would never point at a member of our natural body and scorn or shame it for being sick, yet we often do so in the body of Christ.  When a part of our natural body gets sick, our whole body works together to nurture it and care for it and restore it to health.  We do everything in our power to restore health to our natural body, but sometimes our efforts aren’t enough, and restoring health requires cutting something out or cutting something off.  When that is necessary, it is not done or determined by us, but by someone else.  Someone makes that determination for us, and they make it for the good of our whole body.  Jesus said, “My Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.”  God determines when and whether a branch needs to be cut back or cut off, not us, and it is always a last resort, not a first.  1Peter 3:9 assures us, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

When a child stops growing, it is called  “Failure to Thrive.”  This term is associated with abnormal growth and development.  It means that person is no longer growing as they should be.  When a member of Christ’s body stops ingesting truth, it’s growth and development becomes abnormal.  We need to start feeding and caring for the members of Christ’s body that are failing to thrive due to the lack of truth, instead of just ignoring them and hoping they will somehow get better on their own.  “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and cares for it, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.”  (Ephesians 5:29).  We have confused what is love and what is hate in the church today.  Speaking the truth has now become hate and not speaking the truth has now become love, when, in reality, it is just the opposite.  Not speaking the truth is hate and speaking the truth is love.  Many are taking root in the bad soil of incorrect doctrine, and it is making bad trees, who are, in turn,  producing bad fruit.  If we are to nurture and care for the members of Christ’s body, we must begin, “speaking the truth in love,” so that, “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ.”  (Ephesians 4:15).  Thrive, grow, and bear good fruit.  That’s what it’s all about.  A dead branch can’t thrive, it can’t grow, and it can’t bear good fruit.

ONE
Let’s join together, hand-in-hand
To spread God’s love across this land
You be you and I’ll be me
Let’s show this world his liberty
I raise my hands, you bow your knee
We are all branches of just one tree
I can dance, you can sing
Together let us praise his name
Your hair’s short, I like mine long
Yet to one body we both belong
I don’t like ties, you don’t like jeans
I praise him loud, you’re more serene
Members of his body we are called to be
When I help you, I help me
If one member suffers, all suffer the same
When you hurt, I feel your pain
I’m not like you, you’re not like me
He’s given us our personality
And if you love me and I love you
He’ll make us one instead of two
I’m not the foot, you’re not the hand
But together we can hold and stand

(Ephesians 5:29 – After all, no one ever hated his own body.)

 

 

 

WASTED POTENTIAL

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“The comprehension of what we have becomes the limitation of what we experience.”  Jason Henderson – (Potential: The possibility of what could be.)

I recently watched a television show in which a young woman being interviewed for a job was asked the question, “What do you fear most?”  To which she answered, “Wasted potential.”  That really struck a chord in my spirit at the time.  I just tucked it away, forgetting about it, but it seems God wasn’t finished with it yet.  Months later I began reading a book by Jason Henderson called “Not I, But Christ,” which I highly recommend.  In his book, he writes, “The comprehension of what we have becomes the limitation of what we experience.”  Wise words!   Mull on that for a while.  In speaking of the incredible gift we have been given in Christ, he presents an analogy to illustrate the wasted potential of not fully comprehending the value of the gift we have been given.  I am going to modify his analogy a bit and share with you my own personal experience of it.

Almost a year ago, my husband gave me the gift of a brand, spanking-new, state-of-the-art MacBook Air.  In pink!  Through it I now have virtually unlimited resources that I can benefit from in life.  The problem is, I have not fully comprehended the value of the gift that has been given to me.  I only use it for a few select things and in doing this, I am wasting the full potential of the gift that has been given to me.  The provision within the computer is there, and will always be there for me to benefit from, but I must first desire to have it in order to benefit from it.  If I want to experience and benefit from all that is in it, I must first desire to know it, intimately.  I need to know everything I can possibly know about my computer.  I have been given a wealth of potential through this device and all I have to do is take the time to search it out, so that it can be made known to me.  Similarly, in speaking of the Holy Spirit that God would send to dwell within us, Jesus said, “The Spirit will take what is mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:15).  We have been given an incredible gift!  Like me and my computer, all we have to do is receive the gift, but the more we comprehend the enormity of what we have been given in this gift, the more we will be able to experience the fullness of the gift.  In speaking of Christ, scripture tells us, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (II Corin. 4:7).  All the knowledge I might gain comes from my computer, not from me, just as all we know and have spiritually originates from the all surpassing power of God in us.  But if we never seek to know the fullness of the gift we have been given, we will never realize the value of the gift we have been given.  The comprehension of what we have been given will become the limitation of what we experience.  Jesus instructed us to ask, to seek, and to knock, in order to know God. (Matthew 7:7).  We have to put a little effort into fully realizing the incredible gift we have been given, but the reward far outweighs the work.  The better understanding I have of how my computer works, the more I realize its value to me.  In Ephesians 3:16, Paul’s prayer is that, “Christ  may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Could you imagine your head being filled to the measure of all the fullness of your computer?  Neither could I!  Yet far greater than our heads being filled to the measure of the fullness of all that is in our computers, is our hearts being filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Wrap your head around that one, if you can!  Our greatest fear should be the wasted potential of the measure of all the fullness of Christ in us, through the gift of God to us.  He has given us all the fullness of himself, and yet we, much like me with my computer, settle for less.  Like the cartoon above, we can live to our full potential, or we can potentially live beneath it.  And if we, in our complacency, which is another word for lazy, are willing to settle for less, less is what we will have.

Jesus asked Philip, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?”  (John 14:9).    If my computer could talk, I think it would probably say the same thing.  Oswald Chambers writes, “We receive His blessings and know His Word, but do we really know him?”  Good question.  Has Jesus been with us so long, and yet we have not known him?  Scripture tells us that we are the body of Christ, yet could it rightly be said of us, “He came unto that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  Do we actually comprehend that spiritually, we are the body of Christ, “baptized by one Spirit into one body,” that Jesus is, “the head of the church, which is his body,” and that, “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”   (I Corin. 12:13-27).  Do we not know the head of our own body?  Because we fail to comprehend this spiritual reality, we still look to our natural head to guide us, rather than our spiritual head.  Until we see ourselves as the new spiritual man in Christ, rather than the old, natural Adamic man, we won’t see ourselves as members of Christ’s body and he as our head.   As a consequence, we are somewhat of a two-headed oddity!  But there can only be one head!   Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be if the members of your natural body attempted to dictate to the head what they wanted to be or do?  As ridiculous as this would be in the natural body,  it is equally as ridiculous in Christ’s.  We attempt to live our lives apart from the guidance of our head and to be and do what we want to be and do.  Rather than having the mind of Christ, we have minds of our own, but when there are multiple minds operating in one body, the result can only be confusion, division, and continual disappointment. (Henderson).  Just as I can only do through my computer what it allows me to do, and must follow what it instructs me to do in order to fully receive from it, we can only do through Christ, our head, what he allows and instructs us to do, in order to fully receive from him.  My attempts to access the resources of my computer apart from following its instructions to me of what it will and will not allow me  to do, always ends in confusion and continual disappointment for me.  Attempting to follow our own will apart from the instruction and guidance of Christ, who is the head of our body, will only do the same.  We have been given the fullness of Christ and all that is in Him.  We are a new creation, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” and called to, “put on the new self,” and  “be made new in the attitude of your minds.”  (Ephesians 4:23-24).   Just like our natural body operates by the guidance of our head and apart from it we can do nothing, Jesus also tells us, as members of his body, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)  Just like me with my computer, we can have as much or as little of the fullness of the unsearchable riches of Christ as we desire, but to settle for less than all that is available to us in him is to waste the possibility of what could be.

THE BODY
When I awoke this morning something strange was going on
And I could tell right away that there was something wrong
For usually my head always leads the way
But this was not the case on this most unusual day
All my members were arguing and creating quite a fuss
Some were telling others, “You’re not as important as us!”
Others didn’t like what they were supposed to be
My eyes wanted to hear and my ears wanted to see
My voice wanted to dance and my feet wanted to sing
But my derriere was content to just sit and do nothing
My hands wanted to walk but that simply would not do
For then there would have been no way for me to tie my shoes
My tongue wanted to smell and my nose wanted to taste
So while they were arguing my breakfast went to waste!
My mouth wanted to listen and my ears wanted to speak
My fat wanted to be strong and my muscles wanted to be weak
My more comely parts began to boast and criticize
Causing them to swell to almost twice their size!
There was such a turmoil going on inside
That I had to close my ears so I could close my eyes!
“Oh what am I to do?” Asked I of my head
“My body won’t behave today and go where it is led!”
“Seems to me you have no choice,” humbly he replied
“Just leave them all alone until they realize
For they will soon find out after all is done and said
That though the body is many members there can only be one head”
Well fortunately for me things weren’t all that bad
For it turns out this was all just a silly dream I had
But then the Lord spoke to me ever so quietly
“For you this was a dream my child, but for me it’s reality!”

(I Corinthians 12:18,19 – But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.  And if they were all one member, where would the body be?)

 

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