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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Do you hear what i hear?

For this one the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he sends out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. And they will never follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what it was that he was saying to them.  John 10

And Yahweh said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and, indeed, they are a stiff-necked people.  Ex 32

But Yahweh has not given to you a heart to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, even to this day.  Deut 29

And he said, “Go and say to this people,
‘Keep on listening and do not comprehend!
    And keep on looking and do not understand!’
Make the heart of this people insensitive,
    and make its ears unresponsive,
    and shut its eyes
so that it may not look with its eyes
    and listen with its ears
    and comprehend with its mind
    and turn back, and it may be healed for him.”
Isa 6

‘Hear this please, O foolish and senseless people,
    who have eyes but do not see,
    who have ears but do not hear.’
Do you not revere me?” declares Yahweh,
    “Do you not tremble before me?  Jer 5

And the word of Yahweh came to me, saying, “Son of man, you are dwelling in the midst of the house of rebellion who has eyes to see and they do not see; they have ears to hear, and they do not hear, for they are a house of rebellion.   Ezek 2

But they refused to listen, and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from listening. They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law and the words that Yahweh of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets;  Zech 7

And Jesus said,]] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind!” Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard these things and said to him, “We are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.  John 9

Today, if you hear his voice, give glory and honor and thanks because you do not know what a miracle of grace that alone is!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On Rocks and Scorpions and Snakes

“What portion is there for us in David?  We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.”  

Quick, whose quote is that?  Who said it?  Have you?  When you have asked God for a piece of bread and he has given to you a stone?  A snake for a fish?  When you asked him for an egg, did he give you a scorpion?  No?  Never happened?  

i know people who asked God for a baby and they got a stillborn and miscarriages.  There are people who have asked God to save their addicted child and they got an overdose.  There are those who ask for reconciliation and renewal and get divorce.  There are those who ask for years and years for healing and are told, my grace is sufficient for you.  People whose lives seemed fine until they gave it to Christ.  Families torn apart.  And that’s not to even mention those whose suffering is unto death because we don’t go to those parts of the world.  We stay here, where it’s safe.  Where it’s normal.  Where it’s sane.  Where our money and our culture can keep at bay most of the evil and suffering that the rest of the world thinks of as normal.  A world of paid sick days and all night groceries and medicines for sniffles and delivery on Sunday by Amazon and on demand television and tinder and alcohol and legalized marijuana and pets we don’t keep to eat and the right to keep and bear arms against anyone who would try and take any of those God-given rights away from us and cry out whenever these things do come to our shores like an unwanted intruder.

The Pope wants to change the words of the Lord’s prayer.  He doesn’t like the part where it says, “Lead us not into temptation.”  He says a loving father doesn’t do that.  He wants it to read, “Do not let us fall into temptation.”  i reckon he would cite James 1, “No one who is being tempted should say, “I am being tempted by God,” for God is without temptation by evil, and he himself tempts no one.”  Sounds pretty straight forward.  But then a lot of things do when you cut and paste them out of their context.  Context here to mean “the whole Bible.”  

From the very beginning, God placed two perfect people in a perfect garden and still he put in the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.  He didn’t need to do that.  He could have left it out.  He knew the Serpent was in the garden.  He was not somewhere else when Eve had her conversation with the snake.  He wasn’t sleeping.  Even the immediate context of the quote in James is, “Blessed is the person who endures TESTING…” Even the next line of the Lord’s prayer is “but deliver us FROM evil.

God does not tempt, no.  But He does test.  He tests to show you what is in your heart: idols, pride, selfishness, disobedience, even when i want to do good, i do not.  He tests to show you what you truly believe about Him.  Is He good even in this?  Will you accept good from His hand and not evil?  When you with Habakkuk ask God how long will we cry for help and you will not listen?  How long will we cry out to you, “Violence!” and you will not save?  And God answers, You think you know violence?  You ain’t seen the half of it!  Can you still say, “Not my will but yours be done?  Is He still God?  Is he allowed to do what He wants?  When He wants?  How He wants?  And when He does, is He still good?

For i would be doing you a great disservice if i left you here.  Because God tests to show you what is in your heart AND what is in HIS!  And what is in His is His Glory and your good.  God is good!  God does bless!  God does love you!  More than life itself!  And that is the point!  Fat, dumb and happy doesn’t seek God.  Doesn’t long for him!  Doesn’t ache for him!  It gets those two things reversed: we thing God is good when he works for our glory.

Sometimes when you ask for bread, God will give you rocks.  But to show you that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God!

Sometimes when you ask for a fish, the Father will give you a scorpion.  But fear not!  For Behold, He has given you the authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy and nothing will ever harm you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are inscribed in heaven!

And there it is?  Where is your inheritance?  Where is your treasure?  If it’s here, you will only see the rocks, the scorpions and the snake.  If it’s Jesus, then your treasure is untouchable and unable to be measured!  Is He truly worth everything you must endure here?  Do you honestly and heart-deep believe that He is leading you to something so much better?  Do you really believe that this life is just the set up for Eternity?  That every loss and lack and trial and test are only shaping your inheritance, your consolation, your place that Christ is preparing for you even as we speak and making you hate even the garment stained by our sin?  The cross you pick up every day is only making you love your Jesus more?  Is He Yours?  Do you trust him?

On the third day, the son of David answered the Israelites who had asked for a lightening of their burden harshly, “I will make your yoke heavy, and I myself will add to it.  My father disciplined you with whips, but I will do so with scorpions.”  And the Israelites answered the king saying, “What portion is there for us in David?  We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.”  And it turned out to be true.  They did not endure, they did not trust Yahweh their God.  They saw a snake and they ran and trusted in their own strength, their own king.  They went their own way and were scattered ultimately by the Assyrians to not be a people any longer.

Jesus is the better Son of David.  The Son of Eve who on the third day crushed the head of the serpent.  Who has thrown him down and says his time is short.  Do you believe him.  Will you wait for him to come and lead you where He says He will?  A time of testing is coming, not just on you personally but on the church and the whole earth, of that you can be sure, He promised it would but that on the other side, good awaited.  Our inheritance awaits.  He awaits.  But will He find faith when He comes?

(for those who do such things, you could do worse to meditate on Deut 8.)

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Plow some ground

Parallels.  Associations.  This post will begin where it ends.  Asking the question, what is the work involved in seeking Yahweh now?  When we read the Bible (we do read the Bible, right?) do we just walk over it, picking what we want out of it when we feel the need or do we put our necks into the traces and pull and dig the plow deeper, break it, sweat over it, grunt and groan with the Master trying to understand it?  

i don't know which one i do.  Probably depends on the day and my tiredness.  But here is a passage i read this morning and the raw excerpt from my journal on it.  If it edifies, use it; if not, leave it alone.  Nothing to see here.  Move along, move along....

"Ephraim was a trained heifer,
    that loved to thresh grain,
and I myself spared
    the fairness of her neck;
I will make Ephraim break the ground,
    Judah will plow,
    Jacob must till for himself.
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
    reap loyal love.
Break up for yourself fallow ground;
    it is time to seek Yahweh
so he will come and rain
    righteousness upon you.
You have plowed wickedness,
    you have reaped injustice,
you have eaten the fruit of lies,
    because you have trusted in your strength,
    in the multitude of your warriors."  Hosea 10

Threshing grain for a cow is easy work.  You merely walk around on it.  And if you’re not muzzled, you can even eat when you want to.  Pick from what you are threshing.  A joy to work.  Easy work.  Work,  yes, but rewarding and peaceful.  Not so plowing.  The ground is hard and full of rocks and there is nothing to eat.  The yoke is hard upon the neck and your straining which the whip and the goad keep you at, is back breaking and exhausting.  You go to the stall spent, sweating and heaving and aching and there is no immediate reward which would matter to an ox.  

Adam worked for his meals in the garden.  He chose and picked them.  But it grew on its own.  It was there to be had.  The work was pleasant.  The reward instant.  The joy present.  He was cast out and the ground was cursed and no more would it yield for him.  No more would he dig with his hand and plant with his foot.  No more would the birds leave his scattered seed upon the surface.  No more would the weeds keep their place and obey their boundaries.  No more would the mist come in the morning faithful and gentle and kind and refresh the land.  Now the rains came when they willed and they were hard and the mud was as much impediment as useful.  Work is work now.  And there is little joy in it.  

The passage draws a parallel from working the ground to working the heart.  Is it harder to believe now?  Is it harder not to sin now?  Is it harder to obey?  Is it more work to serve Yahweh than it was before?  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


"I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now. But when he—the Spirit of truth—comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak from himself, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will proclaim to you the things to come. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and will proclaim it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he takes from what is mine and will proclaim it to you."  John 16

Context can be everything.  If your wife gave you a grocery list of items to get on your way home from work.  You would read it only as a list of things to get.  A duty.  Perhaps even a despised one.  Maybe you hate the grocery store.  Maybe you're tired and just want to go home.  Maybe you don't really like the vegetable-to-red-meat ratio of the list.  Maybe you don't mind but even so, it's just a list.  You probably crumple it up and throw it away when you're done with it.

But what if she died that day?  What if that note became the last thing you ever got from her?  Would you fish it out of the trash?  Would you pore over it in the days to come just to see her handwriting?  Would you savor every loop?  The way she misspelled 'brocolli'?  Did she put a little heart on it?  Write, 'thanks!' at the bottom?  

A love letter from your spouse is a precious thing.  When you are with your spouse every day you may take it for granted.  Put it in a drawer intending to do something with it later.  Pin it up in the cubicle where it becomes background to your day in the life but not vital to it.  Wallpaper.  But to a soldier far from home who hasn't seen their loved ones in months, it is life!  It is carried about in the breast pocket.  Pulled out at every opportunity.  Pored over for every detail, read and re-read.  An agonizing reminder of the world where they belong.  A reminder of something better somewhere.  A reminder that someone loves them.  Cares what happens to them.  It becomes their reason for living!  For surviving.  For being something the writer of the love letter can be proud of.

The Bible is a lot of things.  Poetry.  Story.  Wisdom literature.  Prophecy.  Commandments and guidebook.  But in one very real sense, it is a love letter to us.  It is God inviting us to know Him.  To know what He's done for us.  To let him remind us of who we are to Him.  How we feel about Him, about ourselves and our situation, colors how we read it.  It can be just words on a page... a grocery list.... wallpaper.

Or it can be life.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Promises, promises

God takes covenant pretty seriously.

Nebuchadnezzar had come and conquered Judah.  He had dragged off the best and the brightest to Babylon as prizes and hostages and as a way of pacifying the land and keeping it subject.  He had allowed the nation of Judah to remain, even allowed a branch of David to remain upon the throne in Zedekiah.  As the conquered, the surrendered, as terms, they would have had to swear fealty to King Nebby.  They entered into covenant with him.  They may have even had a ceremony where some animals were torn in two and Zedekiah, as the vassal king, would have walked between them while swearing his oath to obey and pay tribute to Babylon or be cut to pieces as these creatures have been.  Cutting a covenant it's called.  Very visceral, very visual, very memorable process, i'm thinking.

And here's the thing.  God heard and witnessed it.  Zed may have even invoked Yahweh's name as part of the ritual.  To him it was in vain, for as we see, he neither knows nor fears God but God held him accountable all the same.

God had whistled for Nebby.  He had brought the Assyrians and then the Babylonians in to punish and discipline his people.  God.  Yahweh.  Not some angry god of the old testament who has nothing to do with the hippie god of the new one.  God is consistent, God is one.  Jesus as God would have done this.  He had long warned them he would, beginning with Moses.  The children of God disobeyed and disregarded the covenant of Sinai where God married himself to his people.  And now, because of their disobedience and spiritual adultery, he had forced them into covenant with a pagan king.

And he expected them to honor that covenant.

They don't.  Despite more dire and very specific warnings from Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and others, Zed looks for a way out of God's justice, God's holy arrangement designed for their good and humbling.  He looks to Egypt.  He looks to another pagan regional superpower.  He allies himself with one devil over another.

The effects are devastating.  Total annihilation.  The sacking and burning of Jerusalem.  Zed's last sight on earth is of his sons, his seed, murdered before his eyes so he will know his line is cut off from the earth, his wives given to others as slaves.  Then his eyes are torn out.

So don't break your word... to anyone.... ever.

But as good advice as that is, that's not the point of the story really and you don't have the power to do it in yourself.  Which IS the point!  Because the Bible isn't a series of moral lessons to make you your better self now.  It's the story of God pursuing his wayward bride.  Ezekiel 17 which tells this story in parable form, doesn't end with the devastation of our sin upon our own heads, but with God showing how He's going to magnanimously and extravagantly keep His side of the Covenant we broke!

Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

the walking wounded

i've heard it said that the Word and those who speak it should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  Truth and Grace. 

i think i've pretty well established which one i'm better at. 

Sadly, it's also pretty well established that there are folks who will use the Word as a weapon for their own purposes.  Twist its meaning to fit their agendas.  Justify themselves with indulgent edits.  Often the Word gets blamed for this.  As if God should have been more careful with the words He chose.  Or put some kind of disclaimer on the Holy Scriptures.  (There is one, and we'll get to that.)  Often the church, Christ's very Bride gets blamed en masse for the corruption of some who claim membership in her.  Make no mistake, all are sinners so there is no perfect church nor perfect church goer but taken as a whole, the Church is Christ's Body and therefore good.  To speak ill of her is to speak ill of her husband who loves her. 

That said, Christ warned us wolves would sneak in from the Synagogue of Satan to corrupt her from within if they could as they always have.  They lure away those whose faith and knowledge are incomplete.  They are thieves who steal for power, for material gain or just for the hell of it.  Read the Word and you will see the over arching story of the Son of Man wooing and wanting His wayward wife.  From Serpent in the Garden to the Scarlet Dragon in final act, Satan hates God so he hates His Bride too.  He cannot touch God, so he attacks mercilessly and with cunning the one God loves.  He has been a liar and murderer from the beginning and we are the prey.

Many have been hurt in this war.  Many have real wounds.  i acknowledge this.  Do you, afflicted beloved, acknowledge that none of this happened without the express knowledge and approval and even ordination of your loving Husband God? 
"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
    I have tried you in the furnace of affliction." (Is 48)
That's just one verse.  If i were to post all the ones that state this, express or implied, i would pretty much have to repost the Bible here.  Don't take my word for it, just do a quick search for "affliction", take The Word for it.  Affliction is not random.  It, like all of creation, serves a purpose, His.  To refine, to burn away what is not good, to turn us back to our source of Life and away from the Death we were choosing instead.  

To bring us home, to bring us to our senses, to bring us back to our loving husband and Father.

But that's not the way we use it anymore.  We use it now to justify our therapeutic self-indulgence.  We weave our hurts and our wounds into a stifling comforter from under which we hide from the outside world, from the monsters, from the scariness, from our responsibility, from the Light.  We muffle the words we don't want to hear.  We think ourselves warm and safe and untouchable and all we are is smothered.  We have buried the Talent of God for we have found him a hard man who reaps where he does not sow and gathering where he did not scatter seed.  'i have been hurt so i am only protecting myself.'  We justify silencing those who speak truth, we slap sentimental bumperstickers all over the hard parts of the Word so we don't have to use or hear words like "obey" and "listen" and "sin" and "confess" and "commandment."  God loves me, this i know, for the Bible tells me so and God is love so he doesn't want me to do anything hard or scary or where i might possibly get hurt.  He cannot possibly ask me to forgive because of what happened to me.  He cannot ask me to obey because of what i've been through.  i know i shouldn't do this but you don't know where i've been.  i need this!

We are justified.  Righteous.  Not even God can ask us to do anything anymore because we have been afflicted!  We are the Comfortable IN our Affliction.

That's enough for today.  Please pray and listen and let's just see where that takes us for a while.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Beloved (because Seamus seems to confuse some folk :)

[i read the Bible through every year and have since 2010.  That's not a brag, it's a confession.  Because even though i do that and therefore have read Jeremiah 11 at least seven times in the last seven years, Saturday was the first time this line struck me and it struck me as new.  As if i was reading it for the very first time.  That happens to me a lot.  God reveals to you what He wants to reveal when He wants to reveal it.  That's just one of the reasons we keep coming back to the well each and every day as often as we can.  i'm told the line by itself out of context is dangerous and possibly harmful.  i'll deal with that thought another day.  For now though, i've included the raw response i had to it in my journal.  No spit, no polish, just what came out of me when i read it.  Hope its helpful.  At least more helpful than any of Seamus' musings.]

“What rights has my beloved in my house
    when she has done many wicked things?”

There is so much here, Yahweh God.  First, that she is your beloved.  Second that she is unfaithful.  That you wish to bring her into your house or she is in it already doing her wickedness.  Father, we are your bride and yes, we have done, are doing and will do many wicked things and we have no rights in your house much less to be in your house at all.  None.  Yet!  But!  You are the Bridegroom!  You have come for your bride anyway!  You made her clean!  You washed away her iniquity!  You have rescued us, saved us, bought us out of our slavery!  Off the slave block!  You took us home.  You restored us to our children.  You make us part of yourself again.  You join yourself to us!  You are amazing! 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Seamus rides again

"So what's necessary for an authoritarian regime to gain and hold power?"  Seamus asked.
"Historically speaking?" i shrugged.  "Abolish free press and take all the guns.  After that, abolish free elections... umm, i dunno, religion?  Guess they should hold sway over that too."
"Aye, that's the kinda thing we usually worry aboot, right?  First two amendments.  Framers musta worried aboot it too.  That's why this is so brilliant!"
"Um... what is?"
"This regime."
"This... You think...?"
"Oh don't get me wrong, I dinna know who's in charge.  The fat man doesn't seem swift enough for my thenkin' but he's certainly got the ego fer it, ferdamshuir.  But you gotta admire what they've doon."
"You think they've abolished the free press and taken all the guns?"
"Fook no!  And tha's the beauty of it!  They dinna have to!  They gotta lil' help, okay, a lotta help.  First off, the innernet," he held up a pretzel stick, i guess that was his visual representation of the internet, "Tis flooded with news sources nough.  (To this day, i don't know how to spell how he pronounces words like how, now, flew, spew!)   Ever' twit wit'a twitta is a goddumm journalist nough."  He smashed his pretzel all over the bar.  He flicked the pieces this way and that.  "Alt facts, fake facts, their facts, yer facts, dunna know how anyone tells wha's goddumm goin' on anymuir!  Then ye got these lefties," he picked up the largest piece left, "whoo'r so keen to take'm down, so goddum anxious to get a shot inna 'im, they go  and go off half cocked.  They goddumm shoot their loads into their own goddumm foot anna ye git the whole world laughin' at'm, all you gotta do is let the rope out anna watch'm hang themselves," he ate the lefties.  Dusted off his hands, "So there ye are, no need to abolish free press, just flood the market fer the easily swayed to pick ther favorite and ignore the rest and discredit them all to the point where no thinkin' man troosts'm and it amoonts to the same theng."
"Okay, i can see that.  But what about the guns?  How are they going to take over and not deal with armed revolt?"
"What armed revolt?"
"Americans are never gonna let them take our guns, we have more now than ever!"
"Aye, ye do, but again, why would they come for thum?"
"To.. stop an armed revolt?"
"Wha armed revolt?"  He smirked at me.  i hate when he smirks at me. 
"There's not going to be an armed revolt..."
"There's no gonna be no armed revolt, lad, and that's the best part, cuz all his rhetoric is aimed at winnin' o'er one group anna one group only...
"The ones with the guns." 
"Ye catch on late, but ye do catch on. When the revolt comes lad, his owen will police all the rest.  All 'is life, he's made a large livin' onna gettin' others to do his dirty work for 'im and he ain't changed his tune a bit.  'N why should 'e?  Its workin'."

Friday, April 21, 2017

The heartbeat.

As a protestant who grew up in denominations marked by the space they put between themselves and their Catholic forebears, i have never had a great trust of liturgy.  Liturgy becomes rote.  Rote is faith in the freezer.  Hard.  Inflexible.  Cold.  Dead.

As i seeped and simmered, i came to equate rote with religion.  i learned no matter who we are, no matter what we believe about God, we all have faith in something.  We all have a religion.  We are all worshiping something or someone.  We cannot help it.  It's how we're made.

Like a good protestant, i came to understand and say (with no small amount of smugness) it's not religion, it's relationship.  Faith is not in what i do, rote, it's in what HE's done.  i cherished my freedom from all forms of rigidity, i celebrated in a casual style of worship service.  Not quite hippie love-in or quaker meeting, we weren't deconstructionalists or anarchists, we were more libertarian, i guess.

A few more years in the crockpot however and i've come to understand that even as we all must worship, even as we all have faith in something, we all have liturgy.  No, maybe we don't follow a dictum laid down in edicts from Rome, and maybe we don't have a board at the front of the sanctuary telling us what number hymns we will sing in what order and a bulletin that we don't even really need to look at anymore because we know the order of worship by heart, can recite it in unison (a term here meaning that dead, flat, monotone we all speak in during a service as if we were reading the fine print on a legal document instead of the Living Word) but we all follow patterns.  We all have systems.  We all make plans.

We were made for Rhythm.

Even someone like me, as painfully Northern Occidental and genetically, environmentally rhythmically-impaired as i am, have and live and was made for rhythms.  i wake up at a certain time, i eat at certain times, i work at designated times.  Lives, like songs, have frameworks.  Sometimes the beat is fast, driving, energetic.  Other days have a more languid tempo, relaxed, slow, contemplative.  Some days are speed metal, some days are dirges, others yet are reggae, polkas, waltzes, dubstep, hip-hop, country, ballads, blues and even jazz but each day, each year, each life, has a rhythm.  As if there is some outrageously hip angel of God in dark glasses, a pipe hanging from his lips, a soft hat cocked on his bobbing head and the mother of all upright basses in his long, steady fingers, tap, tap, tapping out the sound that was the first sound we became conscious of in the womb.  Life has rhythm.

And so does faith.  God built us for rhythms.  Seasons.  Tempos.  Beats.  Spiritual disciplines, creeds, liturgies are training.  Like soldiers, warriors, drilling certain steps into ourselves until our bodies can react correctly in times of stress and fear and chaos without prompting or conscious thought.  Like sages, we are so deep in Scripture we have the Word for every season, situation and praise.  So our days are not idle, our minds not bored, our worship not empty, our prayers not prattle, our hearts not tempted by desires unfit for our natures as Priests and Kings and Sons of the Living God.  For in our hearts and heads we hear the drums and basses and cymbals and guitars pounding out the steady rhythm to which the kingdom of the God of All Rhythms marches and dances.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What is the church? Resurrected!

What is the church according to this Day?

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, live in him, firmly rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding with thankfulness. Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ, because in him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you are filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority, in whom also you were circumcised with a circumcision not made by hands, by the removal of the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which also you were raised together with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And although you were dead in the trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having destroyed the certificate of indebtedness in ordinances against us, which was hostile to us, and removed it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. When he had disarmed the rulers and the authorities, he made a display of them in public, triumphing over them by it."

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What is the church in the time between? Working, watching and waiting...

What is the church in the time between?

"“A little while and you will see me no more, and again a little while and you will see me. So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he is saying to us, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going away to the Father’?” So they kept on saying, “What is this that he is saying, ‘A little while’? We do not understand what he is speaking about!”
Jesus knew that they were wanting to ask him, and he said to them, “Are you deliberating with one another about this—that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will change to joy. A woman, when she gives birth, experiences pain because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the affliction, on account of the joy that a human being has been born into the world. So you also are experiencing sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you."  John 16

You must be prepared for action and your lamps burning. And you, be like people who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that when he comes back and knocks, they can open the door for him immediately. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he returns! Truly I say to you that he will dress himself for service and have them recline at the table and will come by and serve them. Even if he should come back in the second or in the third watch of the night and find them like this, blessed are they! But understand this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not think he will come.”
And Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us, or also for everyone?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful wise manager whom the master will put in charge over his servants to give them their food allowance at the right time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find so doing when he comes back. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions."  Luke 12

Friday, April 14, 2017

What is the church according to the Truth?

What is the church according to the Truth and the Creator of all things who conquered sin and death by his faithfulness?

“This is what the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation, says: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! Thus, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth! Because you are saying, “I am rich, and have become rich, and I have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and pitiable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire, in order that you may become rich, and white clothing, in order that you may be clothed and the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and eye salve to smear on your eyes, in order that you may see. As many as I love, I reprove and discipline. Be zealous, therefore, and repent! Behold, I stand at the door and knock! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, indeed I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also have conquered and have sat down with my Father on his throne. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What is the church according to the one who has the Key of David?

What is the church according to the one, the only, holy gatekeeper?

“This is what the holy one, the true one, the one who has the key of David, the one who opens and no one can shut, and who shuts and no one can open, says: ‘I know your works (behold, I have put before you an opened door that no one is able to shut) that you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and did not deny my name. Behold, I am causing those of the synagogue of Satan, the ones who call themselves Jews and are not, but are lying—behold, I will make them come and kneel down before your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of my patient endurance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come upon the whole inhabited world, to put to the test those who live on the earth. I am coming quickly! Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may take away your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never go outside again, and I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God, and my new name. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

"On that day I will call to my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah,
    and I will clothe him with your tunic,
and I will bind your sash firmly about him,
    and I will put your authority into his hand,
and he shall be like a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
    and to the house of Judah.
And I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder,
    and he shall open and no one will be able to shut;
    and he shall shut and no one will be able to open.
And I will drive him in like a peg into a secure place,
    and he will become like a throne of glory to the house of his father.
And they will hang all of the heaviness of his father’s house on him,
    the offspring and the offshoot,
all of the small vessels,
    from the bowls to the jars."  Isaiah 22

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened....Enter through the narrow gate, because broad is the gate and spacious is the road that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it, because narrow is the gate and constricted is the road that leads to life, and there are few who find it!"  Matt 7

"Then Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All those who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep do not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and will go out and will find pasture."  John 10

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What is the church according to the Boss?

What is the church according to the one who owns it?

“This is what the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, and you are dead. Be on the alert and strengthen the remaining things that are about to die, for I have not found your works completed before my God. Therefore remember how you have received and heard, and observe it, and repent. If therefore you are not on the alert, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come against you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothing, and they will walk with me in white, because they are worthy. The one who conquers in this way will be dressed in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, and I will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

How many of our churches are so in name only?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What is the church according to the one with the fiery eyes and bronze feet?

What is the church according to the one who sees all, knows all, and judges in complete, inexorable justice and righteousness?

“This is what the Son of God says, the one who has his eyes like a fiery flame and his feet like fine bronze: ‘I know your works, and your love, and faith, and service, and patient endurance—and your last works are greater than the first. But I have against you that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, the one who calls herself a prophetess, and teaches and deceives my slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. And I have given her time in order to repent, and she did not want to repent from her sexual immorality. Behold, I am throwing her into a sickbed and those who committed adultery with her into great affliction, unless they repent from her deeds. And I will kill her children with deadly disease, and all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, to the rest who are in Thyatira, all those who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they say, I do not put upon you any other burden. Nevertheless, hold fast to what you have until I come. And the one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, I will give him authority over the nations, and “he will shepherd them with an iron rod; he will break them in pieces like jars made of clay,” as I also have received from my Father, and I will give him the morning star. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

The church is not without false teachers.  The tree shall be known by its fruit.  Which is why we all have a duty to know God's Word, so we may accurately discern what is right teaching from what is wrong. 

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
You are from God, little children, and have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world and the world listens to them. We are from God. The one who knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit." 1 John 4

Monday, April 10, 2017

What is the church according to the one with the double edged sword coming out of his mouth?

What is the church according to the one whose Word is the power of both creation and destruction, able to pierce beyond the division of soul and spirit, joint and marrow and able to judge the reflections and thoughts of the heart?

“This is what the one who has the sharp double-edged sword says: ‘I know where you live, where the throne of Satan is. And you hold fast to my name and did not deny your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you: that you have there those who hold fast to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat food sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. So likewise you also have those who hold fast to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent! But if you do not, I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war with them with the sword from my mouth. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give to him some of the hidden manna, and I will give to him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

i guess a word here about Balaam and Nicolaitans is called for.  Most of us probably read this and assume it's not talking about us, not about our church.  But Balaam's sin was to draw the Israelites from Yahweh, the true God, their covenant Husband.  God sees all idolatry as adultery.  Anything that causes our hearts to pursue things other than him, to take our eyes off of His beauty and put our desires onto the things of this world, His good gifts rather than the good gifter, is idolatry and adultery and the worst kind of heresy.   Money, beauty, health, sex, children and family, career, a righteousness based on our education and works and right thinking rather than the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ, anything.  It sounds violent, because it is, but we need the Sword from his mouth, His Word, to show us what' in our hearts and divide us from it.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

What is the church according to the first and the last, who was dead and came to life?

What is the church according to the Creator and the Ender of all things, the Reason, the All in All of Everything, the End All-Be All, the one who died yet rose again from the dead?

“This is what the first and the last says, who was dead and came to life: ‘I know your affliction and poverty (but you are rich), and the slander of those who call themselves Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and you will experience affliction ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will never be harmed by the second death.’

"We ought to give thanks to God always concerning you, brothers, just as it is fitting, because your faith is flourishing and the love of each one of you all toward one another is increasing so that we ourselves boast in you in the churches of God about your patient endurance and faith in all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring, a proof of the righteous judgment of God, so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, on behalf of which also you are suffering, since it is righteous in the sight of God to pay back those who are afflicting you with affliction, and to you who are being afflicted, rest with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels, with burning flame giving punishment to those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, who will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, whenever he should come to be glorified on that day by his saints and to be marveled at by all who believe, because our testimony was believed among you, for which purpose we also pray always for you, that you may be considered worthy of the calling of our God, and he might fulfill every desire for goodness and work of faith with power, in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 1

Saturday, April 08, 2017

What is the church according to the one who holds the seven stars and walks among the seven golden lampstands?

What is the church according to the one who hold its spirit and message in his hand and walks among it?

“This is what the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand says, the one who walks in the midst of the seven gold lampstands: ‘I know your works, and your labor and patient endurance, and that you are not able to tolerate evil, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you found them to be false. And you have patient endurance, and have endured many things because of my name, and have not become weary. But I have this against you: that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the works you did at first. But if you do not, I am coming to you, and I will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. But you do have this: that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, things which I also hate. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will grant to him to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.’

Revelations 2

Friday, April 07, 2017

What is the church? Received.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to before a risen Savior?

"And I turned to see the voice which was speaking with me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching to the feet and girded around his chest with a golden belt, and his head and hair were white like wool, white as snow, and his eyes were like a fiery flame, and his feet were like fine bronze when it has been fired in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters, and he had in his right hand seven stars, and a sharp double-edged sword coming out of his mouth, and his face was like the sun shining in its strength.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead person, and he placed his right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid!"

It is in the West, in this day and age, very easy to succumb to the idea that we are just one religion of many.  That we christians are just following some cultural heritage passed down to us from our father and our father's fathers before us.  That our beliefs and our customs are no different than the beliefs and customs which mark other cultures and are no better or no worse, just separate.  And that would be true, is true for every other culture and religion.

But for Jesus.  If this man really lived and this man is who he said he is then it is INEVITABLE that each of us will one day stand before him just as John did in the passage above.  That is truth.  That is the church's truth.  What will you do then?  The church is not those who will fall at his feet.

"I am Yahweh, and there is none besides me;
    besides me there is no god.
        I gird you though you do not know me,
so that they may know from the rising of the sun
    and from the west that there is none besides me;
        I am Yahweh and there is none besides me...
 I have sworn by myself;
    a word that shall not return has gone forth from my mouth in righteousness:
‘Every knee shall kneel down to me;
    every tongue shall swear.’
‘Only in Yahweh,’ one shall say to me, ‘are righteousness and strength.’
    He shall come to him, and all those who were angry with him shall be ashamed." Isaiah 45

No, all will fall before Him just as all would melt before the Sun, it's just physics.  And here is one greater than the Sun.  

The church are those to whom He will compassionately give His mighty right hand and say, "Do not be afraid." 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

What is the church? Sharers.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in John the Revelator? 

"I, John, your brother and co-sharer in the affliction and kingdom and steadfastness in Jesus..."

In our, "Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" series, the church are those who share.  Whether you have an unpleasant task and then another comes and does it with you.  Or maybe you have a crushing debt and another comes and helps pay some of it.  Or maybe you are stricken with grief and another comes and sits silently in grief with you.  Or maybe one comes and serves you in your time of need.  Or maybe one picks you up when you have stumbled and puts your pack on their back for a while so you may take a few more steps or maybe they email you when you feel alone and forgotten and tell you they have prayed for you.  Or maybe there is good to be done but there is too much and one comes and joins you in the work.  Or maybe there is praise to be sung and you cannot sing harmony and melody alone.  The point is, the church is many acting as one.  You cannot share the gifts you have been given by yourself.  You cannot share the work you have been given without co-workers.  You cannot be in a family alone.  You could not even have been alone.  It two just to make you.  You may grow a little alone, but you will grow faster and fuller in tandem.  You may bear a little adversity by yourself, but you can bear terrible burdens with more hands upon the weight.  It is God who gives you strength and most often, it is His delight to give it in the form of your brothers and sisters of the kingdom.   

"Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, complete my joy, so that you are in agreement, having the same love, united in spirit, having one purpose. Do nothing according to selfish ambition or according to empty conceit, but in humility considering one another better than yourselves, each of you not looking out for your own interests, but also each of you for the interests of others." Philippians 2

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

What is the church? Kingdom come.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Revelations 1?

"To the one who loves us and released us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen."

As He said to His church in the first covenant, which pointed to Jesus as the second covenant, 
" ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and I brought you to me. And now if you will carefully listen to my voice and keep my covenant, you will be a treasured possession for me out of all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, but you, you will belong to me as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’"  Exodus 19

God is nothing if not consistent.  He never changes.  There is no God of the Old Testament and another God of the New Testament.  He is the same from everlasting to everlasting.  And so are we His church.  A kingdom of priests.  A kingdom which testifies to Him by our every word and deed.  A kingdom which mitigates the relationship between Him and the earth at large.  

This is not license for individualism.  There are no lone wolves in the flock of Christ the good shepherd.  It is an invitation to bear each other's burdens, to hear each other's confessions, to lead each other back to the altar, the cross, the sacrifice, our Savior Jesus Christ, our great high priest.  To bring each other into the very presence of God the Father.  To wash each other's feet in the Word.  To love one another as He has loved us.  To celebrate and rejoice in what He has done, is doing and will do, together!  

Until that blessed day when all the world and heavens are again a single temple filled with His worship and Spirit once again, we are the visible kingdom come. 

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

What is the church? Slaves.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Revelations 1?

"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his slaves the things which must take place in a short time, and communicated it by sending it through his angel to his slave John, who testified about the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, all that he saw."

The church are the slaves of God.  Bought and paid for with the blood of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.   It's a loaded word, full of baggage in our culture but it's true none the less.  As Hosea bought back his own wife, Gomer, so Christ has bought us when we were far from him.  When we were enemies to him.  When indeed, we were as good as dead, slaves of the world, our own flesh and sin, and the devil himself, prisoners and chattel under a cruel master who was killing us, Christ came and took our place, bought us at the expense of his own life and we went free!  And our freedom is to serve in love a new master, a new husband who gives us his own inheritance and feeds us from his hand.  Our obedience isn't forced.  Our goodness and good deeds and generosity aren't to earn anything.  We've already been given everything!  We obey in thankfulness.  We forgive as we've been forgiven.  We share what we have in abundance.  The chains we wear now are the weightless chains of love to a Master who has already showed His love for us.  Thanks be to God!

Monday, April 03, 2017

What is the church? Awaited to be fĂȘted.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 45 still?

"Come down to me and do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen so that you will be near me, you and your children and your grandchildren, and your flocks and your herds and all that you have. And I will provide for you there..."

i know people who don't get the Old Testament.  They don't like it.  They think it portrays an angry God, so unlike Jesus.  But Jesus is all through out it!  It is the Old, the First, Testament, Testimony!   We are to read it looking ahead, because God was giving hints and shadows and foretastes of all to come in it.  Joe sat down on a throne and from there, through all his sufferings, he had come to a place of humility and love for those who had wronged him.  And when given the opportunity, he saved them!  He loved them!  He brought them to himself, where He was enthroned, and ate with them and fed them and cared for them all the days of his life!  

Not unlike some other guy i know.

"...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the originator and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Hebrews 12

"And on this mountain Yahweh of hosts will make for all peoples a rich feast,
    a feast of aged wines, fat filled with marrow, filtered aged wine.
And on this mountain he will destroy the face of the shroud,
    the shroud over all peoples,
    and the woven covering over all nations.
He will destroy death forever,
    and the Lord Yahweh will wipe off the tears from all faces,
    and he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth,
for Yahweh has spoken.
And one will say, on that day,
“Look! This is our God! We have waited for him and he saved us!
    This is Yahweh; we waited for him!
Let us be glad,
    and let us rejoice in his salvation.”  Isaiah 25

The unlike Joe's brothers who had no idea what was coming, we have not one, but two Testaments set before us, the church therefore are those who endure the sufferings and afflictions and shame of their little crosses here for the joy set before them THERE!

Sunday, April 02, 2017

What is the church? Delivered by one we thought dead.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 45?

 " Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” And his brothers were unable to answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.”  Genesis 45

"And he said to them, “Why are you frightened? And for what reason do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that I am I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet."  Luke 24

"And he said, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. So now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves that you sold me here, for God sent me as deliverance before you."  Gen 45

"And he said to them, “O foolish and slow in heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Luke 24
"Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” John 20

The church are those who thought they had killed their brother and find instead that he has rose from the dead to be their deliverance!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

What is the church? Disciplined.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Judah?

"But Judah drew near to him and said, ...  "For your servant is pledged as surety for the boy by my father, saying, If I do not bring him to you, then I shall be culpable to my father forever. So then, please let your servant remain in place of the boy as a slave to my lord, and let the boy go up with his brothers. For how can I go up to my father if the boy is not with me? I do not want to see the misery which will find my father."

This is Judah now.  Laying down his life for the son of Jacob the other ten are probably most envious of.  The son Jacob spoils now.  The favored child.  The baby of the family and the son of his old age and favorite wife.  But this is not the Judah who about fourteen years before said of the then favored son, "“What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but our hand shall not be against him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.”  This is a changed man.  A man who has been through deep waters with God, who has thought and meditated on his guilt for years.  Who has lost children of his own.  Who has had his self-righteousness shaken and shattered.  Who has seen his father for who he is and loved him as he is, instead of nurturing his self-pity and now would not see the man devastated by the loss of Benjamin.

This is a man whom God has chosen and loved as he is but not left as he was.

"Do not despise the discipline of Yahweh, my child.
    Do not be weary of his reproof
because whomever Yahweh will love, he will rebuke,
    as a father delights in his son."  Proverbs 3

"And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brothers."  Romans 8

The church are brothers, chosen by God, forgiven for our sins and saved by our Father's favorite Son and through trials and discipline, made more and more like our most favored brother, Jesus Christ.