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Home (Thursday) Luke 23:32-43

Home –  Luke 23:32-43

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

In approaching our passage, I find myself praying, “Lord, please do not let me just read this and move on to my toast and orange juice. This content cannot remain just an idea or a historical fact to me. My hope and the hope of all men hinge upon this scene. Open my heart. Breathe into me its inspiration, its instruction, its rebuke.”

My mind, as it often does, connects with other passages of scripture or, more often than not, with an experience from scripture, which I have to look up. I am thinking of Paul, who was absent from both the Colossians and the Corinthians, yet claimed to be there with them, in spirit. Had Paul’s understanding about time and space been altered, in Christ? In asking this, I feel as innocent as a child with his imagination intact. Can I error here? Since it has been written …

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heardand which have not entered the heart of manall that God has prepared for those who love Him.

I am rejecting the idea that Paul has time-travel powers that I don’t. I am rejecting the idea that in the spirit means something like: in a particular attitude. I believe Paul was with the believers in those two cities in an actual, yet mysterious way. He knew the Body of Christ was an eternal living thing with many parts. What is time to eternity anyway? I believe Paul’s revelations had loosened the bonds of materialistic logic on his reasoning. He had grasped the spiritual nature of his being and ours. This is why, I am free to ask, “Where am I in this Crucifixion scene?”

Am I the criminal on the left or the one on the right? Am I the soldier with the hammer and pin? The one casting lots? Am I an onlooker, come for the show? Did I yell, “Crucify him?” I am recalling the teaching of scripture; men are either in Adam or in Christ. I can claim my innocence based upon my absence but, in Adam, I was possessed by every evil motive playing out at Golgotha. So, I acknowledge,

“Lord, I would like to think that, with Peter, I would have been prepared to die with you, but I know better. I am made of the same stuff as him. I denied you too. I was also the thief, in pain, insanely hurling abuse at you, “Are you not God? Will you not do something!” (In my own whitewashed way, I have done this even recently.) I was also there casting lots – hoping to gain a little something out of this Christianity thing. I was also there looking on, at a safe distance so as not be confused as one of your disciples. And, in my heart I have both mocked you and sneered at you. I, as much as any human monster, need Jesus.”

The mystery gets deeper …

I was also the thief on the cross, whose insanity was overtaken by grace, enabling him to acknowledge divine justice, to see Jesus’ righteousness and his divinity. I was there, hearing myself take ownership of my sin and, having no one else who can save me, asking;

                                   Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!

Jesus, heard my cry and not only promised to remember me in Paradise, but he folded me into himself – the redemptive Mystery of the ages. He transferred me into the kingdom of his beloved Son. He gave me the right to become his child. He grafted me into the Vine, who is Jesus, and promised me that nothing will ever, ever, ever, separate me from his love. Death (in its truest spiritual sense) has been abolished. When did he do this? He did it before time. He’s doing it now and will be doing it forevermore. Truly, “It is finished!”

How can it be that such wonderful providence has overtaken me? I have been caught up (with you) into the Middle of a blessed Mystery.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home (Wednesday) – Zephaniah 3:14-20

Home – Zephaniah 3:14-20

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

The New Covenant is a better covenant. It has been enacted on better promises. (Heb 8:6) This verse reminds me why the glory of the new exceeds that of the old. Its the promise of a new heart …

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Ezekiel 11:19

Here is how God fulfilled it…

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

Christ in us changes everything or, at least it should. We could modify our old testament promise in light of the new

The Lord your God is in youa victorious warrior. He exults within you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice within you with shouts of joy. (My paraphrase)

However, because we inflate the value our feelings, we think, “OK. Christ is in me – the Bible tells me so, but I’m not feeling it. So we try and hear his voice in the clamor of our fickle emotions and busy lives. I can testify, this road has many unnecessary ups and downs and some very un-scenic turnouts.

Perhaps we have not known his presence within simply because we were not taught that we could or we were not taught how. Perhaps the full import of having a new heart has not been realized because we have not learned to be quiet long enough to encounter him. Perhaps the place of our tryst frightens us because of its unfamiliar stillness and quiet. Yet, we are told, that is where we shall come to know him …

                                       Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Perhaps if we made peace with the quiet, we would experience the promise …

Indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord.

The Blue Book has served thousands of Christians by inviting them to slow down and discover their God who lives within them. Those who learn this discipline ultimately find it was Christ himself they longed for and that he resides within them. The process of coming to know our God is an experiential mystery, a blessed one, which awaits all persevering saints. Our simple calling is to …

Watch over our hearts with all diligence for from them flow all the issues of our lives.

May God succeed in his ambushes and may we succeed in our perserverance. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home (Tuesday) – John 13:31-14:4

Home – John 13:31-14:4

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered,“Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.

When Jesus told him he was going somewhere and that he could not go with him, Peter was thrown for a loop. He was not on track with this at all. He had been Jesus’ shadow for three years! Peter protests …

                         Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.

Jesus response:

                                                                           Really?

In the years following his denial, Peter must have looked back and said, “I sincerely believed I was the type of man who would lay his life down for Jesus. Wow, was that ever was an essential lesson for me! Following a risen but unseen Savior – walking by the Spirit, is another thing altogether.” And he no doubt mused; “Had the Spirit not taken up residence in me, if Christ were not in me, I would still be thinking absurd thoughts about myself and believing everything is supposed to happen right now.”

The Father disciplines each child he receives. Peter’s lesson is essential for us as well. None of us are the people we believe ourselves to be, at least initially. We are all driven by our false selves. (I am this or that sort of person.) And Jesus says … “Really?” We each grow up, figuring out a way to make life work with the least pain. We all learn to protect, at all costs, our fragile spirits born into a dog eat dog world. As children our spirits protect themselves as instinctively as a falling cat landing upon its feet. As teen and young adults, the soul’s habits of survival became more deliberate. As grown ups (what a misnomer), our personalities have become conditioned to see themselves in a particular way. Ergo, false delve embedded in our identities.

This is a problem when the self-made person (and we all are) are nothing like the person God created us to be. When we erect walls around our hearts to protect ourselves, we construct  barricades between ourselves and love which was (and is) to be our chief vocation …

                                                 Love one another as I have loved you.

These instinctive and deliberate acts of self-protection also create a barricade between us and reality. Our walls wreck our capacity to see and hear things without distortion. We all have specific blind-spots. We would be fated as the last to know if it were not for God’s discipline. However, since God is making all things new, we do not have to remain in the dark. That which has been lost or stolen in the way of our personhood can be restored. That is what Paul is getting at when he says …

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

We foreknown ones are invited to share the sufferings of Christ (in minuscule ways) through various trials and tests so that we might experience the full kingdom gospel – the gospel that not only saves souls from hell but transforms them along the way. When we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” we are inviting God to transform us into the image of his Son and to teach us to live as Jesus did. Jesus was not just our Savior. He is our Life! The Spirit’s mission is to see that the children ultimately resemble their Father.

If we are to press on as disciples we can anticipate God exposing our false selves. The old things have passed away, behold new things have come! Like Peter, we will discover that we were not who we thought we were. If we will preserver, we will discover that we are, in fact, something far different, far greater. In Christ we will eventually find that our old false selves were but a sad parody of the self that God is making anew. And, we will learn with Peter that things don’t often happen right now. God is big on process. It is in the the ebb and the flow, in the living and the dying of everyday life, that we come to truly know Jesus as our all in all.

A contemporary of Jesus’, a man who became known as Pliny the Elder is credited for saying, “Home is where the heart is.” Not too shabby for a pagan but Jesus is credited for saying…

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.

Our home is where Christ is and he is in us. Our hearts are Christ’s home. In truth, we are inseparably intertwined in him. Together, we foreknown ones comprise Christ’s Body on earth. We individually and collectively have become, in our new and better covenant in Christ, what the Temple was in the Old Covenant – the dwelling place of God. It was expedient that Jesus ascend to our Father so that we could become the temples of the Holy Spirit – a community of souls destined to become expressions of resurrection life, the light of the world, revealing the Way.

Blessed King, my heart extolls your beauty and your wisdom. That I am your son is my chief delight. May my vision be forever restored that I might behold you with even greater clarity. In the midst of whatever unfolds, may you continually be the chief treasure of my heart. I love you Father, Thank you so so much.

 

Home (Monday) – Revelation 21:1-7

Home – Revelation 21:1-7

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

Overcoming is a recurring theme in Revelation. Who comes to mind when you think of overcoming? How does one go about overcoming? What is it specifically we are to overcome? When I served as an elder in a local church, these questions and a hundred more, haunted me. As one entrusted with the spiritual health of others, finding the answers to these questions seemed important. I eventually discovered the limited relevance of question-askers inside the local church.

Admittedly, some questions have a dark side, masking unbelief and evading truth, questions such as; “Who is my neighbor?” or “How shall I know that these things shall be?” But there are also honest questions which come from thirsty souls. Some are on a heart-quest for reality and truth which requires them to peer beneath things. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Chuck Swindoll’s encouragement to those challenging the sacrosanct and the status quo in Insight for Today. (Use his search tool and look up; The Problem With Progress, Parts 1 & 2.) You will appreciate this if you are one inclined to turn over stones.

Our local church was shrinking along with most churches in America. Why? “Why” is a pry bar word and I suspect the absence of those anticipated harvests with their 30-60-90 fold returns may be related to our aversion to it. Jesus is the most captivating personality in the universe yet church in its traditional form is repelling people. What if leaders were to get out the pry bar and look beneath the definitions, the traditions, the doctrines and the experiences and see if Jesus somehow got left out.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.

We are now the tabernacle of God. Christ is in us. Christ is now our very life. This is the greatest mystery of all. This was the big stone the prophets were trying to pry up in the Old Testament; Christ in us – the hope of glory. Living with Christ as Lord in our hearts inevitably plays out as an intimate relationship between God and man. When Jesus eventually trumps religion, a bright light, previously unseen, will shine from the Church. In Christ, we hold this bright day in trust.

Because I have seen God pry things up in my own life, unearthing the spring, I project he could do this on a larger scale. After all, I’m made of the same stuff as my brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps I am in error but I am assuming that it his intention that the well within each of us be unearthed. I write to assist other thirsty hearts. I pray my story would encourage others to make sure Jesus is not being lost in the serious business of a religious life. I’m evidence it can happen. We will know when the well is open and running because, flowing from our innermost beings will be a river of life that washes our consciences clean of guilt and shame. This is overcoming. This life of freedom flows from …

the spring of the water of life (who is Jesus) without cost affirming our identities as His daughters and Sons.

Father, let us not fail to see it is in you and you alone that all things become new. Even if your prying exposes us where we are false, strengthen us to persevere, knowing the sorrow of discipline is but for a moment. May our hearts be liberated from any old things preventing the Spring of Life from overflowing our vessels. May our hearts see they are the created objects of your affection and that you will conclude the matters which you have begun. Make all things new Lord, especially us! Amen.

 

Home (Saturday) – 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

1 Corinthians 15:50-58                                                    

Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. deathwhere is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

I regularly preach (but not from a pulpit) that (if we are to become honest) we will eventually wrestle with God. I believe He invites us to wrestle (in a sense) by investing our mental energy studying the scriptures,  by deliberately exerting our spirit’s energy in waiting on Him and engaging our imaginations where they are rusted and immoveable. These things are unnatural and therefore uncomfortable. So the match looks exhausting. We are intimidated and tell ourselves that academics are for others called to such lofty things.

This is the malarky I was entertaining this morning. I was tempted to take this detour but it was as if the Lord were standing in the middle of the off-ramp (He knows all my feeble escape moves) saying, “No. Back to the main highway.” (I’m also becoming familiar with some of His moves.) “Yes Lord. Great idea! I was just about to suggest the same thing.”

After one of my un-pulpited unplanned sermons a friend asked,” You are just exhausting aren’t you?” I wanted to say, “Yes, but you should meet my friend Jesus.” A famous mentor of mine (from my Dead Mentor’s Society) said, “A subject has never truly gripped you until you are mentally out of breath with it. That is how I felt going into the ring this AM facing off with 1 Corinthians 15.

1 Corinthians 15 looked imposing because it addressed life-after-death while I wanted to meditate about Life-before-death. More accurately I want to talk about Life-while-living. This passage seems to suggest that you really don’t start living until the worms begin their work. I don’t believe that is at all what Paul was teaching. Corinth not only had major morality problems. They also had major theological problems. Pagan greek culture had seeped back into the community of believers there. It was distorting the sound doctrine of the Resurrection and it was causing division. With the effects of bad morality and bad doctrine there wasn’t much left to distinguish Corinthian saints from non-Christians. This was deeply troubling to Paul, their spiritual father who came to them…

…. determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2)

So he poses his question…..

Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? (1 Cor 15:12)

They were able to think this error because it was a well aimed fiery missile launched by the prince of this world working, as he does, through culture. So, specifically, what strongholds (lofty things attempting to exalt itself themselves above the knowledge of God) were Paul battling in Corinth. I have included the following thumbnail-study to answer this question….

Greek Philosophy and the Resurrection

  • To the Greek way of thinking it would have been inconceivable that a person’s earthly body would come back to life after death. When Paul met with the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:18-34), he spoke of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and most of the philosophers mocked him.
      1. The Epicurean philosophers taught simple materialism: there is no existence beyond death.
      2. The Stoic philosophers taught that at death the soul was merged with Deity, and so there was a loss of individual personality.
      3. The Platonist philosophers taught that the soul was immortal, but they denied the idea of a bodily resurrection.
    • The word translated resurrection is the Greek term anastasis, which literally means “to stand up again.” The doctrine of the resurrection has to do with the physical body, rather than with the immortality of the soul or whether there will be some kind of existence after the grave. Resurrection means that a person will “stand up again” after he dies — that he will come back to life in the body.

While Paul may have had an intercessory team calling down these principalities and binding  them, he personally planned on shutting them down (teacher that he was) with sound doctrine.

In the kingdom of God which has come in Christ and is coming in Christ, resurrection Life is not just reserved as a post-trumpet “and-the-dead-shall-rise” experience. We have been raised up already! Christ is now our Life.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:3-4)

Paul is keen that Jesus’ resurrection life be manifest in the lives of believers while still in their mortal bodies. This happens as God becomes King in each individual heart. As God becomes King in our hearts, God’s kingdom expands. As it expands our prayer is answered…

                                          Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

I believe if Paul were speaking to the American evangelical Church he would be doing battle with a spirit that says the kingdom comes only after we die. This is a demonic idea which breads passivity and hopelessness. Everywhere this doctrine persists, the army is too often in the barracks just waiting for Reveille.

An hour into my tussle with this passage I realize that I also battle the world, the flesh and the devil. This evil trinity aspires to divide our hearts and the Body of Christ with “either / or“, “black-or-white” options which appeal to earthly wisdom, demonic in nature.  Within the Mystery of Christ we frequently find truth to be  “both / and” not just “either / or”. That is once again the case today. Now, a few hours later, I conclude in hope that I am both raised from death (in my spirit) by the Spirit and I will be raised from death (in my body) by that same Spirit. The Seed of resurrection Life is planted in my heart. By God’s grace it has taken root. It has even born fruit. That Seed is none other than Christ Himself. There is no Life outside of Him. I feel sure that is why Paul determined to focus on the resurrected Life so exclusively. If we were to see fully, we would see that He is literally all we have and that He is our Radically Abundant Sufficiency – our All In All.

Father, Thank You that our toil is not in vain in You. Through the manifestation of resurrection Life within us, give this unbelieving world something fresh to wrestle with. Let them see the newness of life in your family. Transform us Lord as You have always intended; not just in that ultimate twinkling of an eye but over time as we simply walk with You in the Spirit. Permit this lost world to see the perishable putting on the imperishable, and mortality putting on immortality. Let them puzzle, “Surely their old lives have been swallowed up in victory.”  May those perishing see the steadfast and immoveable brethren abounding in the work of the Lord. May they see the liberty of the Spirit and ask, “O death, where is your victory in these people ? Where is your sting in them?” Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Home (Friday) – Revelation 21:9-27

Revelation 21:9-27

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

The New Jerusalem

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 

The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

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We know whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

OK, but what are things written about the future with God intended to accomplish? Is my spirit supposed to be responsive to the specifications of a giant cube – built of precious stones? While the materials are impressive, we hope that the interior design is more creative. After all, Jesus didn’t say, “I go to prepare a cubicle for you.” It’s OK. I am on a first name basis with the Chief Architect. He knows I am just searching and being playful in the process.

My attention is captured by the angel’s opening sentence of the passage.  “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” At this point we are expecting to see something that includes people, us in particular, the members of the Body and Bride of Christ; yet instead, we get this enormous structure . We trust this will make sense someday but in the moment, brides that are buildings do not easily compute and are an odd sort of motivation. What are you saying here Lord? What is our take away, us – the living stones you are building with?

John refers to the structure coming down out of heaven as a “her” being adorned in glory. Of her he says, “Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.” The phrase “ was like” suggests that John has borrowed from his earthly vocabulary to describe things coming from heaven for which he had no words. The word holy is like this too. What is our closest English word for holy. I believe Holy is a word that must remain reserved for God exclusively. I think if John were to have written a follow up to his best selling Revelation, he could have called it Heaven for Earthlings. In it he would no doubt define holiness as;  that which persuades one they are going to die when exposed to it. 

Reasoning further regarding the New Jerusalem; If it has no need of wiring and lights, we are no longer in a purely physical realm. This gravity defying structure (1500 miles high!) is at the very least depicting a spiritual reality. I could easily be missing this, but I see the picture John is viewing as symbolic. However; actual, symbolic , Body or building (or all of the above), we see in this Person (or place), that the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple; We see that the glory of God illumines it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be closed. Only  those whose names are written in the book of life shall; enter its walls. 

I believe I am better off to have wrestled a while with the passage. The process reinforces other truths of scripture. One is …..

But just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heardand which have not entered the heart of manall that God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

My take away is that much about God is way beyond the knowing. It is a glorious mystery about which I will know more someday. By His design I do not have exhaustive knowledge. Knowing all mysteries would remove the need for faith. Until that Day, we have sufficient knowledge in scripture, sufficient revelation by the Holy Spirit. We also have faith which God gifted us to relate to Him and HIs Kingdom until that Day when we will know as we have been known.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselorOr who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him againFor from Him and through Him and to HIm are all things.

I have included the lyrics to a song by Josh Garrels. They suggest he has obviously wrestled with the mystery of life with God and the scripture. I was very comfortable with his take away.

Josh Garrels – Farther Along

Farther along we’ll know all about it / Farther along we’ll understand why / Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine / We’ll understand this, all by and by

Tempted and tried, I wondered why / The good man died, the bad man thrives / And Jesus cries because he loves em’ both / We’re all cast-aways in need of ropes / Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope / In a house of mirrors full of smoke / Confusing illusions I’ve seen

Where did I go wrong, I sang along / To every chorus of the song / That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates / Leading mice and men down to their fates / But some will courageously escape / The seductive voice with a heart of faith / While walkin’ that line back home

So much more to life than we’ve been told / It’s full of beauty that will unfold / And shine like you struck gold my wayward son / That deadweight burden weighs a ton / Go down into the river and let it run / And wash away all the things you’ve done / Forgiveness alright

Chorus

Still I get hard pressed on every side / Between the rock and a compromise / Like the truth and pack of lies fightin’ for my soul / And I’ve got no place left go / Cause I got changed by what I’ve been shown / More glory than the world has known / Keeps me ramblin’ on

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall / I’m free to love once and for all / And even when I fall I’ll get back up / For the joy that overflows my cup / Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levee and my bluff / Let the flood wash me

And one day when the sky rolls back on us / Some rejoice and the others fuss / Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess / That the son of god is forever blessed / His is the kingdom, we’re the guests / So put your voice up to the test  Sing Lord, come soon

Chorus

 

 

Home (Wednesday) – Zephaniah 3:14-20

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

The New Testament is referred to as a new and better covenant. This verse reminds me of one of the reasons the glory of the New exceeds that of the Old. It is the newly created heart that was promised in the Old that was delivered in Christ in the New. Here is the Old Testament promise…

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Ezekiel 11:19

Here is how God fulfilled it…

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

Christ in us changes how we should think about God and ourselves. It would be fair to restate our verse in light of Galatians 2:20….

The Lord your God is in youa victorious warrior. He exults within you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice within you with shouts of joy.

I suspect because we allow our feelings to play so heavily into our spiritual lives, most of us think, “That Christ is in me is a nice thought and it appears biblically plausible, but I’m not feeling it so we move on to think about other things. Perhaps we have not known His presence within simply because we have not been taught that we could or taught how. Perhaps the full import of having a new heart has not been realized because we have not learned to be quiet long enough to encounter Him in that frightening place of stillness and quiet where we were told He would be…..

                                   Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Perhaps if we did make peace with the quiet, we would experience the promise God made to His chosen people (which now includes us).

Indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord.

The Blue Book has served thousands of Christians by inviting them to slow down and discover their God who lives within them. Those who learn this discipline ultimately discover that that which they longed for was Christ Himself and that He resides within them. The process of coming to know our God is an experiential mystery one I believe awaits all persevering saints. It is my prayer for you and myself that we will jointly press on in 2015 to know Him who lives within – the hope of glory. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home (Wednesday) – Zephaniah 3:14-20

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

The New Testament is referred to as a new and better covenant. This verse reminds me of one of the reasons the glory of the New exceeds that of the Old. It is the newly created heart that was promised in the Old that was delivered in Christ in the New. Here is the Old Testament promise…

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Ezekiel 11:19

Here is how God fulfilled it…

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20

Christ in us changes how we should think about God and ourselves. It would be fair to restate our verse in light of Galatians 2:20….

The Lord your God is in youa victorious warrior. He exults within you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice within you with shouts of joy.

I suspect because we allow our feelings to play so heavily into our spiritual lives, most of us think, “That Christ is in me is a nice thought and it appears biblically plausible, but I’m not feeling it so we move on to think about other things. Perhaps we have not known His presence within simply because we have not been taught that we could or taught how. Perhaps the full import of having a new heart has not been realized because we have not learned to be quiet long enough to encounter Him in that frightening place of stillness and quiet where we were told He would be…..

                                   Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Perhaps if we did make peace with the quiet, we would experience the promise God made to His chosen people (which now includes us).

Indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord.

The Blue Book has served thousands of Christians by inviting them to slow down and discover their God who lives within them. Those who learn this discipline ultimately discover that that which they longed for was Christ Himself and that He resides within them. The process of coming to know our God is an experiential mystery one I believe awaits all persevering saints. It is my prayer for you and myself that we will jointly press on in 2015 to know Him who lives within – the hope of glory. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home (Tuesday) – John 13:31-14:4

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered,“Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.

When Jesus told him He was going somewhere and that he could not go with Him, Peter was thrown for a loop. He was not on track with this at all. He had gone practically everywhere with Jesus for three years!

Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.

Jesus response:                                            Really?

In the coming days and years, Peter will look back and say, “I just thought I was following Jesus back in 29 AD. Following a risen but unseen Savior, walking by the Spirit is a whole new thing.” And he no doubt mused….”Had the Spirit not taken up residence in me, if Christ were not in me, I would still be thinking absurd thoughts about myself and believing things happen right in this moment.”

As the Father disciplines each of the chidden He receives, so He disciplined Peter over time. Peter was not at all the man he believed himself to be. You could say that Peter was not just driven (in a general sense) by His egotistical flesh, he was also driven (specifically) by his false selves.  As Peter’s grew up and figured out how to make things work out in life, he did as all humans have always done, he protected, at all costs, the fragile spirit that was born into a fallen world. As an infant and child it was done as instinctively as a cat landing on its feet. As an accountable teen and a young man, the soul-habits of survival became more deliberate. And as an adult the personality was habituated into who he believed himself to be.

This is a problem when the self-made person (and we all are) are nothing like God created us to be. When we erect walls around our hearts to protect ourselves we construct a barricade between us and love which was (and is) to be our chief vocation. These instinctive and deliberate acts of self-protection also create a barricade between us and truth. Having creates ourselves in our own image has wrecked our capacity to see and hear things without distortion. In other words we all have specific blind-spots of which we are usually the last to discover and to admit.

We were originally created in God’s image. In the kingdom that has come in-Christ and is also coming, God is making all things new. That which has been lost or stolen in regard to our personhood is being restored. That is what Paul is getting at when he says…..

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

The foreknown and predestined are eventually invited to share the sufferings of Christ through the trials, tests, and whatever else is required so that we might experience the full kingdom gospel, the gospel that not only saves souls for heaven but transforms them along the way. Whether our distorted vision has seen it or not, when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” this is (among other things) our invitation for God to transform us into the image of His Son and to teach us to live as Jesus did. He was not just our Savior. He was our model! The Spirit’s mission is to see that the children ultimately bear family resemblence.

So, if we press on as disciples we should anticipate that God would expose our false selves (again, we all have them). The old things have passed away, behold new things have come! Like Peter, we will discover that we were not who we thought we were. We will discover in Christ that the old was in fact a sad parody of the self that God in making anew. We will discover with Peter that things don’t often happen right now. God is big on process. It is in the the ebb and flow. the living and the dying of everyday life where we come to truly know Jesus our elder brother (and our All in All).

A contemporary of Jesus’, a man who became known as Pliny the Elder is credited for saying, “Home is where the heart is.” That is not bad for a pagan. Jesus is credited for saying…

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.

THis passage leads me to conclude; “Home is where Christ is.” Christ is in me. Therefore Rob (the old guy) declares, “My heart is Christ’s home.” Together, we foreknown and predestined ones comprise His Body on earth. We individually and collectively have become, in our new and better covenant in Christ what the Temple was in the Old Covenant – the dwelling of God. It was expedient that Jesus ascend to our Father so that we could become the temples of the Holy Spirit – a community of saints destined to become expressions of resurrection life ergo the light of the world – that shines revealing the Way.

Blessed King, my heart extolls your beauty and your wisdom. That I am your son is my chief delight. May my vision be forever restored that I might behold you with even greater clarity. In the midst of whatever unfolds, may You continually be the chief treasure of my heart. I love you Father, Thank you so so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home (Monday) – Revelation 21:1-7

Revelation 21:1-7

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

When I read the book of Revelation I run into the idea of “overcoming”. In our passage its, “He who overcomes shall inherit these things.” Is overcoming the equivalent of being “saved”?  As in, “Are you saved, brother?” I haven’t heard this question for a while now. Thank you Jesus! (I sometimes imagine though that I get that AYSB look from time to time.) I always want to sit down with this person and dig a bit deeper. However, often I have found digging deeper is not a welcome proposal to AYSB-types. In fact questions may suggest that you are a contentious person bent on wrangling over words. Questions portend of a rebellious spirit, a stiff-necked fellow who only stirs things up. This is a problem when you personably believe questions are the evidence of a truly free, honest and living spirit.

For sure there are questions that are meant to conceal unbelief, to mislead, stall or deflect such as:  “Who is my neighbor? ” or “How shall I know that these things shall be?” But there are also questions that come from thirsty souls whose heart-quest for reality and truth requires them to inquire. I pray these are the sort my heart generates. My zealous AYSB’s however have already decided to not even share a meal with such a one who would challenge the sacrosanct status quo – even when its yield is somewhat less than the 30-60-90 projections.

Bonus: To get a top-drawer bible teacher’s view on this please check out Insight for Today -Charles Swindoll. Use his search tool and look up; The Problem With Progress, Parts 1 & 2.

I do have questions and I honestly don’t know who to ask them to. That is probably one reason I write. I can allow my questions to freely surface in this safe space alone with the Trinity. Then I can search out those things that create thirst in me; all without getting “the look”.

One of the bigger topics I chew on is salvation and discipleship. I have asked myself if our traditional status quo definitions of these terms are the same as those used in the New Testament. For example; Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom. We mostly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ which invites people to accept Jesus into their hearts with the anticipated event being eternal life which commences (for real) after death. What then is the point of living? It turns out not too much. Thus, “Come quickly Lord Jesus and rapture us our of this unredeemable planet!” And by all means, “Don’t get “Left Behind!”

Could the absence of our 30-60-90 harvest be related to fundamental misconceptions we have sanctified over time, encapsulating them into our doctrines and traditions? Perhaps to Him who is making all things new in his kingdom, renewing a biblical understanding of salvation and discipleship would be in order?

My understanding is that God woos us to that place where we believe that Jesus is His Son, that He is risen from the dead and has secured abundant Life for all who repent and place their trust in Him to save them.  My renewed (I believe kingdom) understanding views salvation as a process not just an event. The process of living with Jesus as Lord in my heart is the essence of discipleship. My event-oriented AYSB would get further with me if he were to ask, “What is it like being saved by Jesus?” Then we could have a dandy conversation. With a bit of fear and trembling, at least one of us could tell of the ways of the Spirit and the Word in our hearts and how they have worked in creating so many accounts of hope within us.

If I were to give an honest account of the hope within me I would have to share that overcoming is the same thing as being saved if we consider that salvation includes the moment by moment, day by day process of working out the Life of God within us. Salvation came when Christ took up residence in our hearts.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.

Since I have come to think of the kingdom as having come in Christ and still coming with a grand flourish due at some unknown time, a large adventure has begun to unfold. And why should it not if, Christ who is the same yesterday, today and always, dwells in our hearts? Having God’s DNA in us, always working to transform us into the image of His Son should not cause us to primarily anticipate the Rapture, praying, “Come quickly Lord Jesus!” It should anticipate the expansion of God’s kingdom; praying, (in general), “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And (more specifically), “What strongholds of the opposing kingdom within me and without will we be demolishing today Lord?” 

I have to again honor the power of questions. I do not believe much of the recent transformational work in my heart could have occurred without the Spirit of Truth stirring these questions up down in my core. Since they have led to more personal freedom and joy I am inclined to ask if the thing that needs to be overcome is not those strongholds within our belief systems which limit a more full working out of our salvation.

If I were God’s enemy I would do my best to infect the ranks of his army with a notion that God saves men primarily to get them to heaven before he destroys the earth and separates the sheep from the goats. This would leave them to simply derive as much pleasure as they could out of this life and to, of course, see that other souls get saved. AYSB?

I believe the leaders who can recover and nurture the spiritual reality of Christ in us with its moment by moment implications will restore discipleship (the working out of Christ’s life) to salvation. This mobilizes and arms the troops with fresh stories and creates communities with much more to do than attend church and refine our Bible knowledge.  Living with Christ as the Lord of our hearts inevitably creates an interaction between the saint and their Father that will make the relationship we have claimed was personal actually become personal. It will be a much brighter light than the world has yet to see from the Church.

It is this bright day I believe we were created to behold and partner with God to manifest. In our joint-venture with God, we must ask questions and pray that we will be thirsty and honest enough to embrace the answers when they assault the strongholds of our sanctified, less than reproductive, religious traditions. Perhaps it is these hallowed habits and traditions we have trusted in instead of the Man, Jesus Christ that are the things which must be overcome so that we can inherit the spring of the water of life without cost and simply be His daughters and Sons.

Father, while we are still living in the era of first things, let us not fail to see that it is you that all things become new. Even if your work in our hearts exposes where we are false and we must weep, strengthen us to persevere, knowing sorrow is but for a season. May our hearts be liberated from any old thing that is in anyway preventing the Life of God from expressing itself through us. May our hearts see that they are the created objects of Your affection and that You will conclude the matters which you have begun. Make all things new Lord, especially us! Amen.