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Sunday, November 03, 2013

Some of God's greatest gifts...


“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age.” Matt 28

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him—this one bears much fruit, for apart from me you are not able to do anything. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and dries up, and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you bear much fruit, and prove to be my disciples.
“Just as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have spoken these things to you in order that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be made complete. This is my commandment: that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, because the slave does not know what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything that I have heard from my Father I have revealed to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and your fruit should remain, in order that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. These things I command you: that you love one another.” John 15
A simple servant friend of the Living God who now sees her savior face to face, used to like to ask people, “How’s your walk with the Lord?”  A gentle way she had of moving to brass tacks, an expression from the upholstery trade I think, which infers, “what’s holding you together?”  “Are you holding together or are you coming apart at the seams?”

I watched a church die once.  It had been sick a long time and on life support.  It was a sincere church, like Phillip and Thomas, we honestly wanted to see the Father, to be with Jesus.  We prayed for it earnestly, we longed for a greater knowledge of Him.  We longed for a greater experience of the gospel.  We knew we were sick and longed to be healed and prayed for it fervently and fought our impending doom with bitter tears.  And lost.  In the end, level heads and sincere hearts pulled the plug and monitors recorded the last desperate beats and then the long, thin, unbroken wail of flatline.  The lights were turned out and no one mourned because everyone was in the casket.

A church however is a collective organism.  A body made up of parts attached to a whole.  When the body died the parts were scattered in disarray.  They spun out into the void like asteroids of an exploded planet, searching the dark for their savior and begging a single question:

“Why?”

The answer which comes, always comes in a whisper, so soft it can often be missed for a long spell over your own wails, over the tumult of life, over the Vegas Strip of vice and distraction gauntlet the world, the devil and desire make a christian run.  The answer is always a variation of the same, simple message:

“Because I love you.”

The world asks, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Christians should ask, “Why do bad people call good things bad?”  Job asked, “Indeed, should we receive the good from God, but not receive the evil?”  The answer is of course, yes and I will tell you why:

Because it’s good.

“Therefore if you, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father from heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”  How can a good God and loving Father; how can the Father that Jesus showed us and spoke of constantly give us anything but good?  No really!  Go and find a quiet place, if you can, and stew on that!  That’s the main point here, if you get nothing else you read, consider and take to heart that!  Is God good?  Is God holy?  If you’re his then your conscience will not let you answer either of those in anything but the affirmative in which case, How Can A Good God Give You Anything But Good?

“But my life sucks!”  I get it.  I hear you.  I cry that all the time too.  So let me finish the story of the dead church.  There is a stigma that attaches itself to a dead church, like any roadkill, it has a stink.  That stink is shame.  Catholics cross themselves and Protestants whistle as they hurry past our grave.  Other churches where the asteroids land, look at you like, “wow, what did you guys do wrong?”  It is the stink of judgment.  God went all Revelations on us and removed our lampstand.  Spit us out of his mouth.  We are a hissing and a desolation.  We must be forsaken.  Even I believed it.  As a recovering legalist, it is easy for me to believe.  We were a leper colony not getting better, not getting it right, God had enough.  But is that true?  Were we forsaken?

Was Job forsaken?  This is where it gets good. 

For the sake of Zion I will not be silent,

    and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not maintain a quiet attitude,

until her righteousness goes out like the bright light,

    and her salvation burns like a torch.

And the nations shall see your righteousness,

    and all the kings your glory,

and you will be called a new name

    that the mouth of Yahweh will designate.

And you shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of Yahweh,

    and a headband of royalty in the hand of your God.

It shall no longer be said of you, “Forsaken,”

    and it shall no longer be said of your land, “Desolation!”

but you will be called “My Delight Is In Her,”

    and your land, “Married,”

for Yahweh delights in you,

    and your land shall be married.

For as a young man marries a virgin,

    so shall your sons marry you,

and as is the joy of the bridegroom over the bride,

    so shall your God rejoice over you.  (Is 62)

But Zion said, “Yahweh has forsaken me,

    and the Lord has forgotten me!”

Can a woman forget her suckling,

    refrain from having compassion on the child of her womb?

Indeed, these may forget,

    but I, I will not forget you!

Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;

    your walls are continually before me.

Your children hasten;

    your destroyers and those who laid you waste depart from you.

Lift your eyes up all around and see;

    all of them gather; they come to you.
As surely as I live,

    declares Yahweh,

surely you shall put on all of them like an ornament,

    and you shall bind them on like a bride.  (Is 49)

God cannot forsake His own!  If he could, he would have axed Adam and Eve in the Garden.  He wouldn’t have had Noah build a boat.  He wouldn’t have brought Jacob out of Egypt.  And He Himself, would not have hung on cross and be the only living person in the history of humanity to ever cry these words and have them be true, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani!”  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  The Father forsook his own Son so he would never have to forsake you who trust in that son!  The father took the first curse, death, what could be more evil, more bad than death, and gave it to the only good person who ever lived?  When his son knelt in a garden and asked for good gifts from the Father, the Father gave him death.  The Father judged him.  The Father spit him out.  He became a hissing.  The Father removed his love and his light.

And.  It.  Was.  Good!

It was the answer to his prayer!  And that dead church which had prayed to see Jesus, to truly have the life abundant that God promises through Jesus, they got their prayer too!  How?

I’ll tell ya later…

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