Fresh Oil

Can I tell you something? And I’m talking to followers of Jesus now. If tomorrow we were to wake up and find all racism gone, all prejudice erased, world-wide peace and harmony, every conspiracy theory solved, and “justice” meted out on a global scale; it would not be enough to satisfy our hearts. We are His, and He alone can fill us.

My dear brothers and sisters, what we need today is not to be found in anything birthed by the flesh. No , it is a fresh revelation of the wonder of the Son of the living God. Once again we need to go to that secret place where only those who worship him in Spirit in truth may go and gaze anew upon the beauty of the glory of Jesus. He is the radiance of the unseen God and the exact imprint of his substance, all that we need in this age or in any age to come.

It is the love of God in Christ, eclipsing all other loves that alone can soothe the storm in our hearts. There is nothing that this world has to offer that can bring the peace and joy that he alone extends to us in his Spirit. Once more we need to cry out to God that the eyes of our hearts may be opened that we may see the One through whom all that is or ever will be was brought into being. There is nothing: no system or authority or dominion or powers seen or unseen over which he is not God. And this God almighty has called us to himself!

May we turn away from lesser things that vie for our attention and affection and return again to our First Love. Forsaking all others, let us hold fast to that which we have first believed, knowing that he is faithful to give us all things. We are heirs of everything, joint heirs with Jesus, recipients of every spiritual blessing God has to bestow. And he shouts with a lion’s roar, “Come away with me my beloved!!”

The name of the Lord is a strong tower. Let us run again to that name and do the things we did when we first believed, and find him again in all of his majesty. Faithful One, Holy One, First Born and Ruler of all creation. It is he who anoints our heads with fresh oil and binds our hearts together as the love of God is poured out in us by his Spirit. We return again to the fountain of living water, and shall thirst no more.

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Untangled

The last thing any of us like to see is pile of jewelry all tangled up together into one big glob with all the pieces practically indistinguishable from each other. We look at all the knots and twists and turns, and we’re ready to give up before we’ve ever started. What was beautiful has somehow morphed into an absolute disaster, one nerve away from a trip to the garbage can.  HEEEEEELLLP!! Usually, someone with a lot of patience and some time can salvage the jewelry fiasco. But what about our lives?

I remember a time when I looked at my life, and I seriously doubted that it could ever be “untangled.” I had made such a mess of things. Potential and promise had been destroyed. The years of pain and addiction had wound around me, extended into the lives of my family and friends, and insinuated its chains into every facet of my world. One giant knot of hurt. I hated the sound of my own voice and doubted that God could or even would  help. Hopelessness.

I began to cry out to the Lord, desperate pleas to a God I thought I knew:

 God please, just get me right and then kill me before I can screw it up again! I don’t care what it takes; put me in prison, give me cancer, please just somehow get through to me! Jesus, I want to know you, not what they told me you were like, but YOU!!

He heard my cry. And with great love and patience and care and mercy he began the process of untangling all the knots- healing, restoration, and reconciliation. He saved me, and he’s still saving me today. Salvation! God, taking our death and giving us his life, untangling it all in Jesus. HOPE.

You have not gone too far.

When The Sun & Moon Speak

Yesterday, as we all watched the Eclipse together from different places across the country, as we all stared with wonder at the moment of Totality, something really wonderful happened. Magically (or so it may have seemed), all hostilities ceased, protests abruptly came to a halt, and we didn’t care about the color of the person’s skin who stood or sat next to us. As one were simply amazed. Watching some of the news coverage after the event, people said that they had cried not really knowing why and that they had felt a peace and oneness with everyone and everything. All eyes were fixed on the heavens, and somehow we knew there was MORE and that we  wanted to be a part of it.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.
 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.

[God] has planted eternity in the human heart…      

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature…

You and I were created in the image of God. No matter the color of your skin or if you are male or female, you were made in his likeness; you were made for Him. And though sin has brought death and separation, perverting our understanding of God and ourselves; we KNOW. We may not understand how we know or entirely what it even is that we know, but the truth is that when we behold the glory of God in his creation our hearts know that we were created for something more. And what we experienced yesterday as we watched the eclipse together was creation itself, the sun and the moon crying out, “God is here, and he wants you!”

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

[God] has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature…

Know it or not, yesterday, we all watched the same “podcast.” In our hearts, we all heard the same message: “Come to Me, let me love you and show you who you really are.”

 

The Path Towards Totality

Today’s solar eclipse is but the beginning of a series of upcoming celestial events that have some saying it’s the end of the world, the beginning of the tribulation, or an indication that the “rapture” is about to happen. Could be, I don’t know. But what I do know is that we are most definitely on the path towards totality-Jesus is going to totally dominate.

Regardless of how men claim total and absolute power, the day is drawing near when Christ shall appear and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. Although the rulers of this world set themselves and take counsel together saying, “We will not submit to God nor allow him to rule over us.” The Father has promised the Son, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession.” And he shall rule them in totality!

We live our lives like there is no tomorrow, thinking only of how we can please ourselves. We have become so deluded that we deny even the simplest of truths. But the time is drawning near when the totality of God’s revelation of Jesus Christ shall be made known from one end of creation to the other. And on that day, when the total and absolute glory of God is revealed there will be truth and justice. Not the redefined powerless notions that we have made them to be, but the righteousness of God in totality.

While today is still called today, may we give to Jesus all that we are even as he has given us himself. Humbled, torn apart, and poured out upon the cross on a day in which the sun was also darkened, and God assumed the brokenness of his creation in totality.

#275

We all like the Psalms, the way David and others so poetically describe God and their relationship with him. But it’s another thing altogether to experience those truths, to own them, and know them. I guess that’s the way it is with the Bible as a whole. I mean really, you can know a lot about it and still know nothing at all. True biblical knowledge, true Theology is relational, and anything short of that is just empty religious gnosis.

I think that we as American Christians are entering a time in which, like never before, we are going to have to experience the reality of the biblical story in our own context or we may fail to survive. The trials, conflicts, and economic uncertainty that lie ahead will require more than an ability to quote scripture and recite biblical promises.  We must know that YES, “Your steadfast love O Lord is better than life.” Our hearts will only experience true peace when, “The Lord is with me, whom shall I fear?” is reality. We need to know that the faithful caring intimacy of God is indeed more valuable than having a fat bank account and a retirement package. And believe it or not, many of the trials we are experiencing right now are the very tools with which the Holy Spirit is making real the things we only think we know.

The reality is that in the Christian life, usually, it is in the midst of conflict that we learn and maturation occurs. The battles we are encountering today are preparing us for the wars still to come. As we walk with God, relational experience makes objective truth subjective reality.  Biblical truth becomes our own as we walk with God and comprehend his love in our own experience. It’s how we come to “know that we know.”

“…even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire. This proving of your faith is planned to bring you praise and honour and glory in the day when Jesus Christ reveals himself. And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls.”

 

Jesus, Social Media and Me

I’m up front with everyone, it’s understood that I use social media to accomplish a specific agenda: sharing Jesus by every available means. But this morning I felt the Spirit calling me out, challenging me as to the authenticity of my claim. Is sharing the love of God really my motivation?

It’s easy to deceive ourselves (at least it is for me) about a great many things. I can convince myself that what I’m doing is for God when the reality is that I’m really trying to fulfill a need for acceptance- receiving an “attaboy” from men instead of God. On Twitter I see the popular, hip preachers who daily provide their followers with cool tweets, and there’s a part of me that wants to be a part of the club. While I can’t pretend to judge the motives of these guys, I most certainly am required to judge my own. And lately, they’ve been mixed at best.

I believe that social media is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we can potentially touch more people than we would ever physically be able to encounter. But on the other hand, it can feed the narcissistic, megalomaniac tendencies we all have to some degree. We can share  the Gospel with the click of a mouse, but we can also become addicted to “likes,” “retweets,” and “mentions.” Or maybe it’s just me-I know how sick and twisted I can be.

I’ve been thinking of some things the Apostle Paul said to the church in Corinth about “ministers and ministries.”

 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

We find ourselves in the day of hash-tag theology and clever quips. Social-media enables us to feed our innate need for validation, and would be prophets and teachers clamor about seeking to impress with fancy talk and highfilutin prose. In times such as these, I find myself falling increasingly more in love with the One who, while being the embodiment of all truth and wisdom, used mustard seeds, nets, lost coins and farmers to explain heaven’s grandest mysteries.Yeah, I’m going to continue to use social media to share Jesus. But I’m also going to pay more heed to Paul’s words, praying that I will be conscious of the REALITY the verses cited above reveal. If I may be so presumptuous as to tell you what I think the bottom line is concerning Jesus and social media, it is this: folks don’t need us to be cool and clever, they need us to speak the truth in love.

 

Don’t Freak Out

Something that’s on my mind a lot these days is the tendency we as Christians have of freaking out when the “world” behaves like the “world.” Why does it come as a surprise that those who don’t know Jesus reject the Truth, call right wrong and wrong right? I think we should remember that those who aren’t intimate with Jesus walk in darkness- it’s really as simple as that. We also need to keep in mind that there are those who know the truth, have been exposed to the Light, and have chosen darkness of their own free will. They are a god unto themselves, defining and redefining truth as they see fit. It can be frustrating for anyone when logic and any consistent standard of critical thinking have been abandoned, but we as the Body of Christ have to resist the temptation to freak out.

We as lovers of Jesus have not been asked (by God) to win “the argument.” We have not been asked to convince the world that we are right and they are wrong. No, we have been called to love those who are in darkness, to offer Jesus, and live our lives in such a way that wherever we go it can be said, “The Kingdom of God has come near.” But today  Christians are freaking out, and it honestly seems like many of us actually want to see people go to hell. (As if that would somehow validate us, and we can say, “I told you so!”) Have we forgotten that once we too walked in darkness and were by nature hostile towards God? Answer me this: was it some freaked out, mad at the world Christian that brought you to the Truth? Or was it the love, grace and mercy of God offered through the lives of those who had themselves encountered and been changed by Jesus?

Yes, as this age draws to an end we as Christians will find ourselves diametrically opposed to much of what goes on around us, and we are supposed to speak the truth. I’m not at all saying that we are to turn a blind eye to sin, adopt some kind of escapist mentality, or ignore the brokenness that surrounds us. And folks do need to know that God has indeed “fixed a day on which he will, through Jesus, judge the secrets of men’s hearts.” But we need to remember that Jesus really is the Truth. There really is freedom and healing in him. He really is the Light of life, and by his Spirit we can share Reality with those around us. Don’t freak out, reach out!

Don’t Be Surprised

Although Jesus was not confrontational merely for the sake of confrontation, his teaching nevertheless caused much consternation among his listeners. His mere presence stirred up strong emotion. He said at one point, “I provoke hatred because I show the world how evil its deeds really are.” The  Good Shepherd had appeared, but they said, “He is leading people astray.” To the One who cast out devils they said, “You have a demon!” Speaking of the Son of God who taught the very words of the Father, the religious leaders said, “Only foolish people who are already damned listen to this imposter.” And Jesus tells us, “If they did these things to me don’t be surprised if they do them to you.”

Jesus was (and is) reality. And when reality “shows up” mere concepts of reality are exposed for the facades they actually are.  The presence of Truth provokes, divides, loves, heals and brings liberty- all at the same time. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day said, “We know God!” Jesus’ presence exposed the reality of their situation. ” You don’t really know him.” he said. “If you did, you would recognize me .” The Truth exposed their hypocrisy, and they hated him for it. “Don’t be surprised if they do the same to you.”

We are living in a day in whlucysurpriseich authentic Christianity will put you at odds with the mainstream. Really, it always has. We in America have had it so easy for so long, and I believe we are beginning to see that the jig is up. From now on, truly following Jesus is going to cost us. We will experience increasing rejection, estrangement from “church” friends and perhaps even physical persecution in the days to come. Jesus told us that it would be this way. “Don’t be surprised if they do the same to you.”

I’ll leave you with this:

After their release the apostles went back to their friends and reported to them what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it they raised their voices to God in united prayer and said, ‘Lord, you are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ’. For truly against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together to do whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, by stretching out your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ When they had prayed their meeting-place was shaken; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God fearlessly.”

To Tell The Truth

We’ve reached the final chapter in John’s  first epistle. I’ve been a good boy, keeping my mouth shut and offering no commentary as promised. It has been my prayer through our little excursion that you will see that it is possible to actually KNOW that you have eternal life.

So without further ado, 1 John 5:

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

“This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
disillusioned
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

” If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

“We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

” We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus
Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

Testing. Loving. Knowing.

I don’t know about you, but in reading the book of 1 John, I’m seeing some things that really challenge me! (I hope you are as well.) Maybe after reading the book as a whole it would be a good idea to go back and explore it a little more in depth. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve got a few questions! Anyhow, let me go through my check-list before we start…

Presuppositions: Check.
Mouth Shut: Check.
Here we go.

1 John 4- “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to telvistruthhem. We are from God. Whoever 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 error.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and
his love is perfected in us.

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”