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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Words.

"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.

Friday, March 31, 2017

What is the church? Truthful.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 41?

"Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I dreamed a dream, but there is none to interpret it. Now, I have heard concerning you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Then Joseph answered Pharaoh saying, “It is not in my power; God will answer concerning the well-being of Pharaoh.”"

"And the plan was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this in whom is the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all of this known to you there is no one as discerning and wise as you."

Through revelation and dependence and faithfulness, the church should be a source of wisdom and truth to the whole world, an active participant and means of grace.  Whether they choose to avail themselves of it or not, our lips should always bear the fruit of the Truth to them.  We fill ourselves up with the sword of the Spirit which is the revealed Word of God, the mystery hidden until the proper time, 

"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, both joints and marrow, and able to judge the reflections and thoughts of the heart. "  Hebrews 4

It is often said we should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted but that invites us to judge both the recipient and the Word of God and decide for ourselves which is necessary.  If we are telling the truth to them, God will determine which it is to their heart.  

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ, and who reveals the fragrance of the knowledge of him through us in every place. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to those on the one hand an odor from death to death, and to those on the other hand a fragrance from life to life. And who is qualified for these things?" 2 Corinthians 2 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What is the church? Dependent on Grace...actively.

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

"But remember me when it goes well with you, and please may you show kindness with respect to me, and mention me to Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house. For I was surely kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me in this pit.”"

The church, though chosen and blessed by God are not forbidden nor discouraged from using all available means before them to improve their situation.  The world is ours after all.  So when presented with a chance to gain Pharaoh's ear, Joe doesn't sit mum and think, "well, the Lord will provide."  The manna shows up miraculously every day, yes, but we still were required to go out and gather it.  With our hands.  And mix it and knead it and bake it to make bread.

In the same way, God provided the opportunity with the cupbearer and Joe avails himself of it.  And the cupbearer would actually turn out to be the means of grace to Joe... in God's timing...

"And it happened that after two full years Pharaoh dreamed...Then the chief of the cupbearers spoke with Pharaoh, saying, “I remember my sins today."

The church are those who can work with the cupbearer who forgets us and his three days with us in the pit but eventually remembers his sins before the king of Egypt, because we believe and trust in the one who dwelt with us, bore the cup of wrath for our sins though He had done nothing deserving of the pit, spent three days in the pit and then was restored to his place as King of Kings beside God's throne where he forgets our sins but never his great love for us so that in His timing, He can set us on the throne next to him!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What is the church? Dependent on revelation.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 40?

"When Joseph came to them in the morning he looked at them, and behold, they were troubled. And he asked the court officials of Pharaoh that were with him in the custody of his master’s house, “Why are your faces sad today?” And they said to him, “We each dreamed a dream, but there is no one to interpret it.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God?"

Here we see a slew of the characteristics of the church in play.  Joe's responsibility, even in jail.  Joe's compassion for his neighbors, fellow prisoners, foreigners, pagans.  His knowledge, right knowledge of God, not bumpersticker faith.  But fully convinced of the sovereignty of Yahweh, the All knowing, All powerful.  And last but not least, Joe's simple faith and trust in God's power, not his own.  

The church does not lean on its own wisdom and understanding and power.

Centuries later another prisoner and exile in a foreign land (church as alien) would have an opportunity to not just interpret dreams but know the dream outright without being told it!  And not just for servants of the king, but the king himself!  He does not lean on his own power either...

"Then Daniel went to his home, and he made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions, along with the remainder of the wise men of Babylon, would not be killed.
Then in a vision of the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel; then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
Daniel said:
“Let his name, the name of God, be blessed throughout the ages,
    for the wisdom and the power are his.
And he changes the times and the seasons,
    and he deposes kings and he sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to wise men
    and knowledge to men who know understanding.
He reveals the deep and the hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.
To you, O God of my ancestors,
    I give thanks and I give praises,
for the wisdom and the power you gave to me,
    and now you have made known to me
what we have asked from you,
    for you have made known to us the matter of the king.”  Daniel 2

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What is the church? Stars in a dark world.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in in Joseph as we see him amidst the Egyptians?

"And his master observed that Yahweh was with him, and everything that was in his hand to do Yahweh made successful."

"And the chief of the prison put all the prisoners that were in the prison into the hand of Joseph. And everything that was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief of the prison did not worry about anything in his hand, since Yahweh was with him. And whatever he did Yahweh made it successful."

We've talked about the church being witnesses.  We've talked about the church being aliens.  We've talked about Yahweh being with His church.  So this might feel a bit redundant though i'm hoping for nuanced.  

What gives our witness power, what opens the door for more specific witness, what makes us seem alien to them, is our obedience to the Law of Love that Yahweh has laid down for us in Christ Jesus.  Love God with all you have, all you are, all you hope for and love each other as Christ loved the church and laid his life down for her.  Then, love your neighbors, those whose need God blesses you to be able to fill, serve your neighbors with respect and love as if serving Christ Himself, for you are.  For we can be aliens by just acting weird and no one will care to know the God who gave themselves up for them.  We can be servants without love and no one will trust us.  We can be at peace with our neighbors but never know them.  We can be lights under a basket.  We can be salt without saltiness.  And the world will not know that God has come to dwell with them.

"For the one at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure, is God. Do all things without grumbling and disputing, in order that you may become blameless and innocent, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine as stars in the world, holding fast to the word of life..."  Philippians 2

The church is a light which shines on Christ.  

Monday, March 27, 2017

What is the church? Not alone.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 39?

"Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, a court official of Pharaoh, commander of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. And Yahweh was with Joseph..."

"And he was there in prison. And Yahweh was with Joseph..."

Whether the spoiled son of a rich nomadic chief living as an alien on land promised to him or the slave of an officer of a foreign power or a prisoner unjustly incarcerated, the church is defined and known by the company it keeps.  

Yahweh is with His church.

"And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying, “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.”"  Matthew 28 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What is the church? Faithful servants.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 39? 

"Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, a court official of Pharaoh, commander of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. And Yahweh was with Joseph, and he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. And his master observed that Yahweh was with him, and everything that was in his hand to do Yahweh made successful. And Joseph found favor in his eyes and he served him. Then he appointed him over his house and all that he owned he put into his hand. And it happened that from the time he appointed him over his house and over all that he had, Yahweh blessed the house of the Egyptian on account of Joseph. And the blessing of Yahweh was upon all that he had in the house and in the field. And he left all that he had in the hand of Joseph, and he did not worry about anything except the food that he ate."

"And Joseph’s master took him and put him into prison, the place that the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in prison. And Yahweh was with Joseph, and showed loyal love to him, and gave him favor in the eyes of the chief of the prison. And the chief of the prison put all the prisoners that were in the prison into the hand of Joseph. And everything that was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief of the prison did not worry about anything in his hand, since Yahweh was with him. And whatever he did Yahweh made it successful."

Wherever the church is, whether God blessed it with the choice of careers and mission fields in which to serve or whether God is testing her with less than ideal circumstances and even suffering, one thing should mark those who know Yahweh and are known and loved by Him:

The church should endeavor to be the most loyal, the most beneficial, the most honest, the most worthy servant we can be there for as long as we are there.  Employers, employees, co-workers and customers should all be able to stand on the last day and praise God for how we treated them. 

"
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ, not while being watched, as people pleasers, but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart, serving with goodwill as to the Lord and not to people, because you know that each one of you, whatever good he should do, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And masters, do the same things to them, giving up threats, knowing that both their Lord and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with him."  Ephesians 6
  
For the church should not motivated by money, the praise of men, worldly ambition or laziness.  The church are those chosen to serve in the same love they have been served.

"So when he had washed their feet and taken his outer clothing and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, for I am. If then I—your Lord and Teacher—wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that just as I have done for you, you also do. Truly, truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, you are blessed if you do them."  John 13 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What is the church? Known by its limping.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 32?

"And Jacob remained alone, and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the dawn. And when he saw that he could not prevail against him, he struck his hip socket, so that Jacob’s hip socket was sprained as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Then he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” And he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked and said, “Please tell me your name.” And he said, “Why do you ask this—for my name?” And he blessed him there. Then Jacob called the name of the place Peniel which means “I have seen God face to face and my life was spared.” Then the sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, and he was limping because of his hip."

Despite the appearance of a few generations of enlightened christians, the church is not white, clean and neat.  It is not shiny, happy people who have got it all together.  Got it all figured out.  It is not "good" people.  

It is people who wrestle with God.  It is people whom God has interrupted, disciplined, blessed and disputed with and instead of walking away, instead of avoiding, instead of running from or ignoring, these chosen people have struggled to understand and have had the faith not to give up.  They are people who have been led to a hard place, a wilderness place, a place of darkness and death and dying and asked the question, "Why God?  Why?"  And not always gotten satisfactory answers.  Leastways, not right away, if at all.  And God not only allows this, He most often welcomes it.  

"Cease to do evil! Learn to do good!
    Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed!
    Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!
“Come now, and let us argue,” says Yahweh.
    “Even though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white like snow;
    even though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and you are obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land.
But if you refuse and you rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword." Isaiah 1


How can God be so tolerant?  How can he be so patient?  Because the church is His children whom He dearly loves.  The church are those children who want to know why, Daddy, why?

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."