Bible, Culture

Standing

4/12/2020

The question isn’t should I hold a church service in the parking lot. The question is, “Can I preach the gospel?” Presently, I still can. Going forward, I ever shall…regardless of consequences.

While I lean in the direction of Ron Paul’s perspective on what’s presently going on in my country and around the world, the truth is I cannot be certain.* Why? Simply this: the left and right in both DC and state governments, along with academia and think-tanks, have stripped the public’s ability to distinguish between fiction and truth, propaganda and news, duplicity and honesty, dishonor and honor. Our world is flooded with words and images gushing from institutions once considered trustworthy. Who can really know with certainty whether or not their vomit is true when flip-flopping, social agenda relativism is practiced on both sides? Read some C.S. Lewis, or even George Orwell for that matter, (no, not their stories, their essays) and you will see that the hideous strength of propaganda is the art of making lies seem like truth and truth seem like lies. Does that remind you of someone? It should if you believe in evil.

So, what can we do? We can look to that which has been confirmed before the word-mongers seized the airwaves and popular press. We sang about it in Sunday School, we can still sing about it in our comings and goings…”I stand alone on the word of God, the B I B L E.” Right now, you may not be trusting it, but you should. Both its reliability and veracity are chart toppers of the highest order.

My decisions today and tomorrow cannot be small. They cannot be held captive to the “tyranny of the urgent.” They must be faithful to the “truth of the important.” Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” When he went to the cross, he was a man of his words. His disciples, when in the face of extreme danger and when commanded not to preach in his name, were also men of his word when they said, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Today, across the globe, folks will celebrate this Jesus and memorialize his resurrection. They will do so under many diverse conditions. Some freely. Some through bondage. Some in a new kind of DMZ…standing while culture around them sways back and forth betwixt freedom and bondage. If you and I stand with eyes fixed beyond earthly things to things eternal, then, like Paul the Apostle, we can say, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them” (1 Corinthians 16-19).

So stand…because “God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son that whoever would believe in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

*Ron Paul. End the Shutdown: It’s Time for Resurrection! https://bit.ly/2UZUL7h

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Adversity, Bible, identity

No Longer Conform

A key feature of therapy today is helping folks advance beyond their poor coping skills by processing memories. Looking at the past can help them understand why they behave in certain ways in the present.

Christ followers have had this privilege since the resurrection. We know it as “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The Bible refers to the memories (habits, proclivities, tendencies, inclinations, predilections) of a believer’s past as “flesh.” Sometimes these patterns are of our own choosing and making. Sometimes they are the patterns developed because of the choices, examples, teaching, and actions of others upon us. Either way, they no longer mark “who we are” or “what we do.” They are but the hauntings of an identity we’ve let go. Our identity is now in Jesus…to be like him…both as a shield of compassion for others and a servant of character for Christ. In another passage we read:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3,4

Dredging up the past can be ugly and painful. Who wants to think about the parts of our past that hurt? Yet, it may be necessary to “observe” them for what they are…relics, shells, ghosts. They only have power if we choose to allow them room to lounge around our active thinking, or to lurk within hidden chambers of our minds, just waiting for another opportunity to act like they belong. They don’t. The above passage continues…

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

And the more we build our present on what’s really true about us (God’s truth) and dispense with those fleshy memories–those ugly lies–the more we attain a future in which looking backward will be from the victor’s podium rather than the victim’s perch. Then we might find ourselves calling from on high…

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable. I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. Psalm 178:1-4

Yes! We will tell others our story…our testimony. We’ll let them know that in that darkness their was a Savior.

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Adversity, Bible

Big Tom

This coming Saturday my nephews, our family, our friends, and I celebrate the life of my Brother Tom. Our loss on March 26th was heavens gain. A few days before he left, I was reminded of something I learned from him…

“As I sit here at Tom’s bedside watching him sleep comfortably, I’m reminded of a family reunion on our Mom’s side. All the aunts and uncles were there except Aunt Peggie (we were all reunited with her many many years later). The gathering was held at Grandma Alpha’s and her latest husband Emory. They had a small farm somewhere in the outback of Idaho. Among the many incredible memories is one of both love and pain. While it never needed any help remaining seered in my memory, our Uncle Chuck kept it alive for everyone else as he would regale us with it absolutely everytime we had the pleasure of visiting either by phone or in person.

All the dad’s and boys were camped out one night in a big tent (in fact, I think it was actually an old white parachute, however I’m reaching the downward years of memory so I’m more than willing to be corrected on this little tid-bit of the story). Of course, there were all the usual suspects in that testosterone fueled environment…boys, teen males, and men on vacation. So there’s no need telling what it sounded and looked like…mayhem was afoot should suffice as a descriptive picture.

However, the hour finally approached when the dads finally obeyed the hollers from the moms in the house, “Paul, Chuck, Ed, John, get those boys settled down. It’s time for some sleep!” It took awhile, but sure enough the grunts, shouts, belches, woops, yee-haws, and laughs began to subside. I, on the other hand, was in rare form. Big Brother, Tom, joined Dad and the uncles in giving me increasing demands to pipe down. Nothing doing.

Through out the years Uncle Chuck held us all spellbound over and over with his telling of the tall tale that grew a little taller with each telling. It always concluded with Chuck’s final line and his acting out the scene…

“Then Tom reached the end of his rope and said, ‘Rick, if I told you once, I told you a thousand times…wham!!!!'”…as he acted out Tom’s blood producing punch to my nose.

Now as fond memories go this should rate rather low on the Human Fondness Scale, but oh nay nay. It’s one of my greatest childhood memories. Here’s why…it has come to represent for me the balanced dance of two unlikely partners…pain and love. Tom meant well. He loved me. Still does. I knew it then. I know it even better now. He knew I was well on my way to Dad’s end game. Much more shenanigans on my part were bound to arouse the flames of the old sarge. It was time for me to invite sleep into my disposition. Sure, there would be some crying as Tom carried me into the house to assist Mom in cleaning up my bloody nose, but there would also be some sweet brotherly reconciliation as he brought me back to the overnight camp out. Pain and love…like the Lord offers…the same Lord we read of in the Bible: “Who the Lord loves he also disciplines.” Hebrews 12:6

And now, now my brother’s love continues to instruct through the pain. He sleeps and I admire him all the more as I reflect upon his life time of overwhelming patience and compassion. He has offered them to everyone he has ever known…and I love him for it no matter the agony I feel now nor the grief which is to come.

Sleep well, Tom. Please wake up again. I have more to learn.”

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Bible

The Real Time Apologetic of the Holy Spirit

psalm 119 105

Dear Christ Follower,

When would you like for the Holy Spirit to whisper these words to your heart, “Hey, that’s not who you are. ‘For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, Abba! Father! The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are the children of God'” (Romans 8:15,16)

A. When you hear yourself saying, “How could anyone ever love me?”

B. When you hear yourself saying, “Man, just who do you think you are to think you can tell me anything?”

C. When you hear yourself saying, “Just this one time, then never again. I mean it. Tomorrow, I’m done with this…I’m never gonna do it again.”

D. When you feel yourself slipping back into that defense mechanism you learned during your neglected childhood.

E. When you find yourself thinking, “Arrrgh, I just don’t get it. Why did I yell at her again?!”

F. When you keep asking yourself, “Why am I so stupid?”

G. When someone asks, “What is wrong with you, seriously, you can’t be that __________ (fill in the blank)?”

H. When you and another find yourselves shouting, “Oh yeah? Well, what about…?”

I. When you find yourself worried about how you’ll ever get out of the mess you feel you’re in.

J. All of the above and so many, many more.

Would you be surprised if I told you the Holy Spirit will often whisper, even shout, God’s written word to your heart of hearts? Would you be surprised if I told you it is in fact the Holy Spirit’s primary means for leading you? Would you be surprised to know you can expect this routinely? Hmmm?

Spend some time in John 14:1-27. Be amazed. Be blessed. Then, if you’d like, share your thoughts or questions. Let’s talk.

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Bible

Abide

abide in the lord preposition jpeg

At church we’re learning more and more how abiding in the word of God is closely tied to actually abiding in him. This reality literally fills the pages of the Bible. For example, most folks get John 15 in which we learn about abiding in Christ, however an equally large group of folks have missed the context of John 14 through which we learn much about abiding in the word. Go on ahead. Read it a bunch of times. Look at it carefully. Be amazed. Then, for a bonus, travel on over to the following link to get a glimpse of John 15 through the great service of Ligonier Ministries:

What Does It Mean To Abide In Christ

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