Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fearing God and Trusting Christ in an Age of Terror

"As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:3-15 ESV)

These photos are from a 'Religion of Peace' Deomonstration that happened in London. They were left out of American newspapers but are being sent over over to the States from people overseas.

I felt the pull in my Spirit leading me to write on a text about trusting God that is in the book of Isaiah. I had not gotten a chance to finish this writing last night and recieved the pictures above today from a friend right before the rest of this writing was to be finished. I decided to put up these pictures because it is fitting to see the horror of evil that is active in the world and to realize that Christ said that the state of this world as it is today will get worse. What is even more astounding is that even after the world comes to the place of extreme chaos with famines, earthquakes, wars and rumors of war, "all these are but the beginning of the birth pains"(Matthew 24:8). It is very disturbing to think about all of this and then realize that even still it will get worse. Even the earth itself has been groaning and heaving like a woman in birth and will feel the sin and wrath that has been brought onto it. So much so that even "the stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light" (Isaiah 13:8 NIV).

Throughout history there have been many dark periods brought onto the earth as a judgement against sin. In the Bible a prophet named Isaiah underwent one of these times. While God has dealt with sin in Christ for The Body and nothing that befalls us as His child is a judgement from Him, there will be a time that the Most Patient One will have fulfilled the time given for repentance and will begin to pour out His anger upon all of creation and everyone alive at that time will have to under go it. The words God gives to Isaiah regarding the judgement about to come are words that are easily forgotten but serve as a reminder of what type of people we should be in an Age of Terror.

"The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said:
"Do not call conspiracy
everything that these people call conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.

The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread,

and he will be a sanctuary;
but for both houses of Israel he will be
a stone that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
a trap and a snare.

Many of them will stumble;
they will fall and be broken,
they will be snared and captured."

Bind up the testimony
and seal up the law among my disciples.

I will wait for the LORD,
who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him.

(Isaiah 8:11-17 NIV)

This text follows up shortly after a somewhat disturbing encounter between Isaiah and God. Isaiah almost is no more because He sees God. God cleanses him and allows him to live. God then asks Isaiah to go be His representative and Isaiah gladly agrees. God commissions Isaiah to speak to this people and then tells him that He (God) has closed their eyes and ears so that they cannot recieve any of the Words of God. God nows goes on in this passage giving the warning to Isaiah that he is not to be like the rest of the people. He is not to fear what they fear or dread what they dread.

It is easy to turn on the news or read the paper and hear about the state of the world we are living in and become stricken with fear. It is easy to feel like God has some understanding of how desperate our world is and how we fear things in this life that man can do, but God calls us to fear no man. Who we should fear is God.

"The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread" (Isaiah 8:13 NIV)

Fearing God is not something that is easily understood by non-Jewish Christians. It is easy to think of the God of the Old Testament as different from the God we see in Christ. One is a God of wrath, the other a God of love. But it is still the same God; God has both wrath and love and is merciful but is also just. Jesus even teaches us to have the same attitude about Who we are to fear.

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28 NIV)

In Christ there is NO condemnation that can be brought upon us. As believers, the only weapon Satan has is the power to threaten us with unconfessed sin. He has nothing that he can damn us with. Satan can even kill us but He cannot do anything to seperate us from God. In Christ we even have peace not only with God but also with other believers though the blood of the Lamb. But this same peace that unites us as believers also divides us from the world.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'" (Matt. 10:34-36 NIV)

People will stumble over Christ even after they have experienced His goodness due to the hardness of their hearts.

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (John 3:19-20 NIV)

"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

In today's world, the state of Christianity has been so influenced by Enlightenment thinking that we don't really know or talk about that people who are not Christians HATE God.

"The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.

All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one." (Psalm 14:2-3 NIV)

"The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." (Romans 8:3 NIV)

One of the clearest examples of how badly man hates God when left to himself is in Christ and the Cross. Jesus is "the exact representation of God's being" and Man hated Jesus so much, that while He was on this earth as a human, they killed Him. Man in his natural state would kill God if they could get their hands on Him; they did and it is not hard to fathom that we would do it again.

It is not that they just hate God, they will hate all people who believe in Him also.

"A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!" (Matthew 10:24,25 NIV)

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." ( 2 Timothy 3:12,13 NIV)

The Bible is clear as to the nature of what is coming in and to the world and what will happen to the followers of Christ on this earth. America may not always protect the Christian faith; America may not even be here. We cannot hope and trust that something as feeble as man or government to provide for us security. We have no security in anything but Christ. God's desire is not that we should avoid pain and all have democratic and religious freedoms but that no matter what happens to us, He will be known to the world through us to show that He is the most glorious thing ever! The most glorious thing ever no matter what befalls us in this life is Christ and the Cross and He will go to any length so that we and the world know that He is more valuable than anything. It is not only for His glory but also for our joy. We will never know what true joy is until we can consider all things as garbage compared to Christ.

Tragedy will behalf us both individually and corporately as the Body in this world but let us say with Isaiah:

"I will wait for the LORD,
who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him." (Isaiah 8:17 NIV)

One day the horror of sin will be over; we will no longer be subjected to the pain and suffering that are in the world and His patience will soon be no more with evil. The devastation that is to come in this time God has left for the fulfillment of His purpose will be terrible but we are not to fear it. God has loved us so much that even before we loved Him He died for us and saved us and will sustain ALL of His children through all that will come into their path on this earth. He has not left us alone and will come again.

"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

(Rev. 12:12-17, 20 NIV)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pictures, Stars and Dreams

I have had Jennifer on my mind for quite some time and finally woke up this morning (for the first time in a few weeks) with no nostalgia for the past. I was listening to the radio online and this song came on. It reminded me of exactly what her and I talked about with her just wanting "to be friends" when she decided to leave. I guess I have never turned the lights off yet.

I told you I'd leave a light on
In case you ever wanted to come back home
You smiled and said you appreciate the gesture
I took your every word to heart
'Cause I can't stand us being apart
And just to show how much I really miss ya

Every light in the house is on
The backyard's bright as the crack of dawn
Thr front walk looks like runway lights
It's kinda like noon in the dead of night
Every light in the house is on
Just in case you ever do get tired of being gone
Every light in the house is on

If I should ever start forgetting
I'll turn the lights off one by one
So you can see that I agree it's over
But until then I want you to know
If you look south, you'll see a glow
That's me waiting at home each night to hold ya

Every light in the house is on
The backyard's bright as the crack of dawn
Thr front walk looks like runway lights
It's kinda like noon in the dead of night
Every light in the house is on
Just in case you ever do get tired of being gone
Every light in the house is on

-Trace Adkins "Every Light in the House"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Surely God is in this place and I did not know it

"Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it."" (Genesis 28:16 ESV)

Life is unpredictable. It usually does not turn out the way we think it should nor does it usually go how we expect it to go. It is often easy to be plagued with feelings of regret and a case of the "what if's" or "if only". There is this wonderful place in Genesis where this one brother named Jacob tricks his Dad into giving him his older brother's birthright. Back in those times, oaths had tremendous power. So much so it was believed that if you gave an oath blessing or cursing something, the oath somehow had some kind of power and binding over what was swore over. Needless to say, this was a pretty serious offense against his brother and although their Dad feels terrible about what happened, he cannot go against his oath. Jacob's brother threatens to kill him and somewhere shortly after all of that Jacob hits the road and flees for his life. In Jacob's flight he suddenly gets tired. It is an interesting story.

10Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." 16Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." 17And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Genesis 28 ESV)

Here Jacob is asleep somewhere random on the side of the road and the LORD reveals Himself to Jacob in a dream. Jacob had spent his life hating his brother and does him wrongly and is on the run and out of nowhere in this seemingly "random" place God shows up out of nowhere and tells Jacob that He has a plan for him.

It is kind of how God does in the life of His children. We are out in the world "apart" from God's plan for us and He comes in a mighty way and opens our eyes to see Him. All of the stuff in our past is deserving of God's wrath but even all that God could use to condemn us for has led us to the place where God has revealed Himself to us. God has sovereignty guided us to the place where we would receive Him. All of the "what if's" or "if only's" we have are worthless in light of what He has planned for His children.

I cannot deny how God had purposed the past to bring me to where I am today but I still struggle with how all of the stuff going on right now fits into that. It is kind of like being aware of God's presence but not knowing how present He is in the situation. We get into situations and wonder where God is while the whole time God is leading us to a place to surprise us and bless us.

I do not know why all of the things that happen in the world happen. But as Christians, God comes to us and reminds us in a big way of who and where He is. Sometimes we immediately know His presence and exclaim "Surely God is in this place and I did not know it!"

Other times we don't always know it. We expect God to show up like He did to Moses but walk around depressed like Elijah. We give up and go hide in a cave. And yet the LORD still comes to us.

"And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
10 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

14 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."

15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him." (1 Kings 19)

Sometimes when all of the world is coming at us, we need to get still before the LORD and have eyes to see God in the small things that He tries to speak to us in.

God wants to speak to us in the quiet place of our hearts and tell us that He is here. Not only that, but He wants to give us rest. Oh how I pray that we may have hearts to receive that with.

1"Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.[a] 3Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
"So I declared on oath in my anger,
'They shall never enter my rest.' "[b] And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. 4For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work."[c] 5And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest."
6It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. 7Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
"Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts."[d]
8For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God." (Hebrews 4 NIV)

I pray that you hear the voice of God speak to you in whatever is going on in your life and that you can exclaim: "Surely God is here and I did not know it!" Let us press on to know the LORD whether this time for us be hard or easy that we may be in the presence of God and enjoy Him forever more. Make that day Today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


My heart is deep with pain tonight. I have a friend who has some stuff going on right now that has not been known until tonight. I am broken that this person is doing what they are doing and even more broken that I was lied to and that they are unrepentant of it. What do you do when your worst suspicions about someone are confirmed? I go to the Lord. I really have no where else to go. There is this place in John where Jesus has a hard teaching and many of His follower leave. Jesus asks the 12 if they also want to leave and Simon Peter says: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68 NIV). Where else can we go?

Psalm 55 (New International Version)

11Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were raising himself against me,
I could hide from him.

13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,

14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave, [b]
for evil finds lodging among them.

16 But I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.

17 Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.

18 He ransoms me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.

19 God, who is enthroned forever,
will hear them and afflict them—
men who never change their ways
and have no fear of God.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.

21 His speech is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.

23 But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of corruption;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.

Although I am hurting and grieving, or maybe because I am hurting and grieving, I will cling even more tightly to the Lord. Please pray for wisdom and an open heart for me in dealing with this situation. Pray also that God will grant this person repentance and restore them.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Torah de Bible

The first five books of the Bible have been on my mind lately. I felt the need to post this for all of us to remember not only what God has commanded us, but His faithfulness in Christ.

Deuteronomy 6 (NIV)
1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the LORD's sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the LORD said.

20 In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?" 21 tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the LORD sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."

"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." (Deut. 7:9 NIV)

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Kindness and Severity of God

"Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness."(Romans 11:22 ESV)

"Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6,7 ESV)

I have been thinking a lot about the contrast between "the kindness and severity of God". God is Love and does not willingly (literally: from His heart) "afflict the sons of men" but He is also just and does not let the wicked go free. It is truly only when we can know the fullness of God in all of His character when we can appreciate the fullness of who He is and to really know what His mercy and grace are like. God even desribes this in His declaration of who He is to Moses. Moses asks God for His name earlier in the book and He is told it. When Moses was asking God for His name, he was asking for how he was to distinguish this God from the other "gods" but that wasn't primarily his objective. In Hebrew culture names meant something about the person or their history. Mose was not only asking what do I call You but what are you like? Later on in Exodus Moses pleads with God to show him something more. He knows God's name, but He wants something more. Moses asks to see God but God denies him the request but promises to shield him and let His goodness pass by. As God is passing by He declares more fully who He is. He says:

"Yahweh, Yahweh, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6,7 ESV)

This declaration of who God is is very reflective of what we as humans have come to know about God and His nature: God constantly desiring to have a people of His own but is also constantly having to pour down judgement because of disobedience. In the book of Job, Job has a lament where he is talking about how God should rightly bring judgement on people who do evil. He comes to a place in the passage where he has a realization that he is no better or different than anyone else and that he too has no way to stand against a Holy and Just God. No one is any better off than anyone else in that they are free to do what they please to their fellow men. ALL men will have to give an account for what they have done.

Job 31 (NIV)

2For what is man's lot from God above,
his heritage from the Almighty on high?

3 Is it not ruin for the wicked,
disaster for those who do wrong?

4 Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?

5 "If I have walked in falsehood
or my foot has hurried after deceit-

6 let God weigh me in honest scales
and he will know that I am blameless-

7 if my steps have turned from the path,
if my heart has been led by my eyes,
or if my hands have been defiled,

8 then may others eat what I have sown,
and may my crops be uprooted.

9 "If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door,

10 then may my wife grind another man's grain,
and may other men sleep with her.

11 For that would have been shameful,
a sin to be judged.

12 It is a fire that burns to Destruction;
it would have uprooted my harvest.

13 "If I have denied justice to my menservants and maidservants
when they had a grievance against me,

14 what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account?

15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?

The Law that God gave to Moses brought condemnation to all men on the earth. God does expect us to act justly but through the Law we will all come up short. Yet even in our shortcomings, the Name of God is still proclaimed: "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6,7 ESV).

Listen to what Jeremiah proclaims about God and who He is.

Lamentations 3 (NIV)
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.

21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."

25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the LORD has laid it on him.

29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.

30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.

32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.

33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.

For though the Law, even having a glory of its own, brought condemnation to all men into the world and casted us far away from the Lord, "men are not cast off by the Lord forever" and "though he brings grief, he will show compassion". He has done this is such a marvelous way.

"For the law made nothing perfect, and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath,but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
"The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
'You are a priest forever.' "
Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant." (Hebrews 7:19-22 NIV)

Only because of Christ can we come boldly and securely forever into the presence of the Father. Not only did Jesus free us from the condemnation of the Law, He also gave us life that has freed us from the power of sin and empowers us to live to Him.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4 NIV)

Oh how I pray that we may come to know and appreciate the depth of God's love for us in ALL of who He is! Sometimes the best prayers come from God's Word itself and I hope that anyone reading this will consider praying this prayer on a regular basis.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 4:13-21 NIV)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

God is at work at work (Not a mistype).

I was blog reading today and read an amazing story that really made my week.

As many of you know, the church plant I am a part of just opened a coffee shop called Confluence. The whole intention of the shop is to give back to the community. All profits go back into reaching out to people and blessing them. The manager of the shop (who is also an elder) wrote on his blog today about how one small act done in a Christ-like manner throught the power of the Holy Spirit can have an impact that grows and grows. God has moved in so many ways in such a short time since the shop has opened. The site for the shop is if you guys want to check it out.

It kind of reminds me of how 12 ordinary men filled with the Holy Spirit changed the entire course of this world from here and onto eternity. The post is titled "if mcdonalds can do it…". Please read (but only if you want to be blessed). Thanks to all of you who have been helping the vision of The River and of the heart of God in the many ways you have. Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I See Things Upside Down

This writing is not for the faint of heart and is a very difficult writing to wrestle with. I pray that you read this only when you have a clear mind and an open heart. It may very easily anger you, as it even does myself, but I pray that the truth of this burns into your heart in a deep, flesh-tearing but soul healing way.

"But it is not as though the word of God has failed." (Romans 9:6 ESV)

This verse has been on my mind for a while lately and is probably one of the most beautiful and strange sayings in the Bible. It is comforting to know that the Word of God cannot fail, but it may seem strange in the way that it is worked out. Picture yourself in the audience of the early church in Rome that received this letter. There were a lot of Jew and Gentile issues involving the Law in the minds of that church already and Paul's writing to this church was written in a way that laid out the plan of God for the world in a way that explained how all of the issues that the church was struggling with fit into that plan. Paul begins the letter and goes through the first 8 chapters talking about three basic things: the righteousness and faithfulness of God and believers being justified by faith in Christ. There is this climax going on in the book that leads to some very obvious questions to its first readers. What about God's promise to the Jews? Doesn't what happened to the Jews in God's plan call this whole letter into question?

And through the Holy Spirit, Paul reaches into this problem and makes it even more evident by reminding them of what God promised to Israel. And he even writes that it still applies to them. He says he is grieved immensely by something and then states the promises of God that were given to Israel and that those promises still stand and even mentions that the Christ was from them. He mentions it in kind of a bittersweet way and everyone who was hearing this the first time it was read was hung on the edge of their seat. And Paul states the craziest thing.

"But it is not as though the word of God has failed." (Romans 9:6 ESV)

And the shock fills the room.

And the shock...


the room.

What would you do if you were in the first crowd who heard that? How would you feel?

Maybe more importantly is asking: What do we do when something like this happens in our lives?

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever prayed for something and got the answer to your prayer in ways totally different than you could ever imagine?

Paul does go on to explain how all of what he said is true as it applied to the situation but it blew the people's minds. Although the passage seems pretty clear in what it is saying, a lot of people will argue over what exactly the passage is saying but regardless of what the passage is saying is still does not change the shock of what the answer is. The people's minds were blown away.

I cannot count the anger and hurt I have had over what the Lord has brought into my life. If God would not have been the one sustaining me at that time, I would have walked away forever. I have been totally shocked at how God has chosen to work in my life and in the world. In fact, I still am. I know, at least on a small, small level, that God is working in all things for His purpose and my good but how He does it baffles me. There is still so much in my heart and mind that I cannot explain or reconcile or see anyway possible that this could have anything to do with the plan of redemption. "Aren't I so small and insignificant that this pain that has come into my life could go away or never have happened and God still accomplish His plan?" And the answer is


God has this amazing plan put together and is somehow purposing all of these things to display the glory of His grace. But we miss it; I miss it. I still do. I do not think the way that God thinks. I do not see what He sees.

A huge question that has bothered all humans throughout history is why evil is in the world. Why would God even allow a creature to come into existence that would rebel? God knew that Satan would rebel. It did not take Him by surprise. We may say that Satan had free will (which he did) but it does not change the fact that God knew that it would happen.

This leads us to a larger question. Why would God allow a being to come into existence that would even give a possibility of all the evil that has befell heaven and earth because of it?

Because God had a plan. Even before Satan was created, God had a plan that the most desirable thing in the universe would be most fully displayed. The display of His grace and mercy that is found in the most awesome thing to ever exist: God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ given to us by the Holy Spirit. The fullest display of the whole of who God is. There is no other way we would ever know what we as Christians appreciate the most in the whole universe.

This is a very scary thing to think about. It makes me angry, it makes me want to cry out at how God-centered this view is and scream about how unfair that it is. I feel the very depth of my humanity die in this experience.

But in this deep journey of God that He is showing me little by little, this road that has been Calvary to me, is slowly raising me from the dead in my flesh to unite myself more fully in the most glorious thing in the universe: the character of God shown in Jesus Christ. It was all purposed for that reason. And while I tread against God's plan constantly in my outer man and try to talk about it as much as I can so that anyone, maybe even myself, can grasp this more fully and most fully display the One thing that will be the Only thing that will ever truly satisfy me or anyone else, I pray that we would gain the vision of what God is doing and grasp onto Him because we have nothing else to grab onto. Nothing else but God will satisfy. Nothing else but God will satisfy.

Pay attention to the wording of these verses.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Cor. 4:16-18 NIV)

What is "preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison?"


It seems so strange that this is the plan that God would have and how He would set up the universe. God NEVER delights in evil or suffering though. His delight is only in that it is how we most fully see His grace and the fullness of who He is.

"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men." (Lamentations 3:32-33 NIV)

God brings grief, but He does not willingly do it. Willingly translates literally as "from His heart". God does not "from His heart" afflict anyone. God does not rejoice in my suffering or anyone else's. But it is not pointless that it happens; it is purposed.

One day we will see that. Not today, but one day we will see it. And while I fight against this with all that I can, one day we will see that He is all wise in all that He has done and all good in all His ways.

Even in saying all that has been said and going as deeply as we have, let us not go too far into probing beyond what is written and was given for us to understand but let us rejoice in all of what Scripture teaches us as it all is there to point us to Jesus Christ. In speaking of the Old Testament Paul says:

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4 NIV)

Christ is the hope this verse is speaking of.

All of this we have spoken of is so backwards to the human mind. Even as I write this, there is a part of me that does not understand this at all. But it is the purpose of God and exactly what Scripture teaches. 1 Cornithians lays this out pretty clearly. You may have read it before but the magnitude of it has not hit you until now.

"18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."[c]
20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1 NIV)

Father I pray that we may gain a much larger vision of You. I pray that you would break away our hostility to You being God and King. It was the sin of our first parents to become like You and much of what I believe and know as Christianity disguises itself but still teaches the same thing. May we realize how helpless we are to escape from You and the wrath You have against anyone who exalts themselves above You. May we know that fear and then see Jesus and realize what You have done to spare us from the deserved wrath that comes from the sin that You purposed but we in and of ourselves willingly did without it being forced for us to do. May we learn to see you in the severity of your power and cling more tightly to the kindness and the only hope we have in Christ. May we see how costly Christ was for You and the power and immeasurable spiritual blessings we have received because of Him. May we learn that from You and through You and to You are all things and cherish it. Break away the sin that has warped our minds that we may find true joy in being free from ourselves to make much of You. Thank you for the Covenant put forth in Christ that does ALL that is necessary to uphold Your Church. In the Powerful Name of Jesus that alone is Worthy, Amen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Adoption: The Plan From Before "The Beginning"

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9,10 NIV)

From before the beginning of time, God had a plan of redemption in His mind. Part of that plan was to adopt a people that would see Him in all of His fullness and praise Him for the glory of His grace forever and ever. The plan of the Cross came before the world was ever created so that the power of the glory of His grace shown most fully in the Cross would be enjoyed by believers through the act of spiritual adoption would be the focal point from all of human history. There is a road that sutbly but surely leads to this true.

Revelation 13:8 lays out this plan quite sutbly but is monumental in understand the purposes o God.

"All who dwell on the earth will worship Him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." (NASB)

God had a plan that even "from the foundation of the world" there was a book "of the Lamb who has been slain".

2 Timothy 1:8-10 refines this even more.

"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."

God called us "not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace" and it even says that "this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time."

Even in heaven, the Cross will be the center of our worship.

6Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits[a] of God sent out into all the earth. 7He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song:
"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.

10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth." (Rev. 5 NIV)

The book of Ephesians lays out the spiritual identity of believers and the first thing it mentions after the introduction is adoption. This passage is the meat of this plan God has always had in His mind.

"3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
11In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory." (Eph. 1 NIV)

The fact that God had planned to adopt us totally apart from any scheme of man raises all kinds of questions in the mind of anyone who has ever wrestled with this. Questions such as: Wasn't it Adam's fault that sin came into the world and because of that we needed Christ? If God planned to come and die for our sins doesn't that make Him partly responsible for sin? Did God bring evil into the world?

The list of questions about how this works and the implications surrounding it are endless and there is even a section in Romans where Paul addresses a statement/problem people would probably come forth with regarding issues surrounding this. While some of the questions surrounding the purpose of God planning to adopt a people do lead us into a deeper understanding of who God is, nearly all the questions surrounding it lead us deeper into mystery.

We cannot fully understand the ways of God for if we could, then we would be God.

"My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore." (Psalm 130)

While we do not fully grasp how God has moved to bring about adoption, the Bible teaches that He has. Not only has He planned that the Cross and adoption take place, He has in some way done all of this without sinning or being the Author of evil. It is my prayer and prayer of Paul that you may cherish and value who Christ is and praise Him for His glorious grace that you have found in Christ through the act of adoption. May you know God more with each moment that passes and in knowing Him, may we realize how much we don't know and begin to be filled with awe for how marvelous and mysterious the God we know is. We will be marveling at Him with all of creation forever for the most horrific event in history, the Cross.

15"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Eph. 1 NIV)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Alpha and The Omega: The Last Word

"The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them." (Exodus 2:23-25)

I have wanted so badly to write something for the past two days but didn't really feel like I knew what to say. I have kind of been in a lull both physically and emotionally and have been reminded through many intimate conversations with friends how fragile we are as humans. My heart has been broken over the past two days over the state of the world we live in. Not so much about "the system" or even "the Church"/institutionalized religion, but over the people themselves. Even though I still struggle in the flesh from time to time about the tragedies and sorrows of life and despite that even in all of that I know deep down that God has a plan and that it is all working together somehow, I still long for the restoration of my life and the world. I very rarely think about the joy of the resurrection and what will come after it. This is not at all unusual for most people growing up in this day and age, and a lot of what is heard about the Gospel relates mostly only to this life. What does seem strange to me are the words from 1 Cor. 15:17-19:

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."

No Resurrection means



All day Saturday I felt worse than I have ever felt in a long time but physically and definitely emotionally. I struggle with depression and when my physical health gets crazy, my mind gets more off kilter than a lot of peoples does. I was trying to sleep off my sick feeling that night after I got home from Confluence and could not sleep. My mind was burdened with thoughts of things in my life that didn't turn out "how they should have" and with some friends rather difficult situations that, although I know that there is real hope for them, I just wanted to cry with them and tell them I am sorry for what they are going through and that I am there for them.(I know I can't "fix" it but sometimes I think I wish I could.) Sometime in the late Saturday night/early Sunday morning hours of this, I turned to a book I NEVER read on my own (it actually scares me): Revelation. I have read it before but never knew how beautiful these words are until last night (the text is at the bottom of this post).

So while all of us on this earth are inwardly aching and groaning because of what sin has brought into the world, it is not the last word. I cannot explain how God will use all of the bad things that have taken place on this earth, but I do know that He is wise and good and promises to not only never leave us or forsake us, but is actually using ALL things for our good and His glory in a plan that will lead us into exceeding joy. Now, we see in part and know in part, but He has promised to return and restore all things and His Word is enough to hold us together until He does.

Rev. 21 & 22 (NIV)

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

6He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

9One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." 10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia[a]in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits[b] thick,[c] by man's measurement, which the angel was using. 18The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.[d] 21The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

22I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. 6The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place."
Jesus Is Coming
7"Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book."
8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"

10Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."

12"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you[a] this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Living Leviticus Through the Eyes of The New Covenant

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name." (Heb. 13:15 NIV)

I have always heard a lot about the book of Leviticus but mostly always from a negative or humorous point of view. But in 2 Timothy 3:16,17 says that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." And I am all onto that, until I get to something like Leviticus and start reading the parts that mention things that if all of your friends (including the Christian ones) weren't stoned to death, they would be considered unclean. But somehow, even all of that has value for us too. I can't say that I understand how all of Leviticus applies to our lives, but that it does. There is an interesting story that a lot of people miss the point about in this book.

Leviticus 10:1-3 (ESV)

The Death of Nadab and Abihu

"Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD has said, 'Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.'" And Aaron held his peace."

One thing that is clearly seen over and over in the first five books of the Bible is that God is holy. As shown by the text above, He is so holy that by even being in His presence without doing the proper procedures will be enough to kill and consume our bodies and souls. A lot of people use this text to justify that there are proper procedures for worship and that when we do anything that has not specifically been commanded to be done in corporate worship, we are in a very grave situation. (The idea of only doing what is expressly commanded in worship is called the regulative principle). While there definitely are ways that God desires to be worshipped both heart-wise and in how we do it, there is a huge point that this text is saying that we need to not miss.

"It is certainly true that Nadab and Abihu were guilty of breaking the regulative principle of worship in that they did not do what God had commanded them to do in a formal sense. They offered strange fire before the Lord. But materially, there was something deeper going on in their offering of strange fire that led to their destruction. Nadab and Abihu were to offer incense upon fire that was taken from the altar of burnt offerings. The incense was to represent the prayers of the people as those prayers rose before the Lord. The reason why the incense had to be offered upon fire taken from the altar of burnt offerings was that the sacrifice offered there was the offering for sin. Nothing was to enter God’s presence for which blood had not been spilled. Even the prayers of the people came up out of the atoning blood sacrifice, and were in fact to be prayers of thankfulness for that blood. In offering strange fire, Nadab and Abihu despised the blood sacrifice. In effect, they came into the presence of the Lord without Christ. They did not know themselves in deep need of the sacrificial blood on their behalf, and they dared come in their own righteousness before God as they brought the prayers of the people." (Corey Griess, PRT Journal, April 08)

Before the full reality of Christ came, the world was stuck in a system that only brought more condemnation. God moved in the physical realm in a mighty way that He does not often do anymore and even through all of that, He could not get the people to be faithful to Him because the people didn't yet fully have what was needed for being near to God: Christ. Nadab and Abihu came into God's presence without Christ and got only the wrath because of it. The people of God's failings happen over and over and over again because they did not go to God through Christ. Without Christ, we all are without hope and can not come near to God without being consumed. But as Christians, we:

"have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear."

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire"." (Hebrews 12 NIV)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pure Joy found in Bittersweet Providence

James 1 (NIV)

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
9The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

The River Church had an awesome time of practical preaching on Sunday and Joey challenged everyone to read the book of James. I was thinking over this passage in James and had a lot of thoughts working through my heart and mind. With studying Ruth and Romans 9 very extensively, the providence of God has been heavily on my mind. It is something that is so, so good but sometimes very bittersweet as well. I remember the first time I took communion with real wine. The cup is a reminder of the most sovereignly guided event in history: the cross. When the Holy Spirit opens our eyes, we see both what our sin has done to us and and has done to the heart of God. On the flipside of that, we also see what God has done to sin and what God is doing with our hearts. The cup is bitter and reminding us of what our sin has done; but at the same time sweet, showing us that only through the Cross, we are finally able to see the most glorious aspects of God: His mercy and grace (See Eph. 1). I was reading several blogs from some friends from The River and thought of the words from this song. I do not remember actually having heard this song in person before, but I found it in a hymn book and read about the author's life. William Cowper had many trials and tragedies in His life that could have drove Him away from God. But God, in His mercy and wisdom, had used all of these things to drive Cowper deep into the heart of God and through it he saw the glory (or weight) of who God is. From a man who could have easily cursed God because of what had happened to Him, comes the song God Moves in Mysterious Ways.

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

David Wells Quote

Many of you may not know who David Wells is, but he is an excellent writer and seminary professor for Gordon Conwell. This is a quote from his book The Courage to be Protestant. He is bit of a headsy writer and can even get a little deep for me, but he has some powerful words that ring true about people trying to self-produce what only God can do.

"Self-made faith does not have in itself the power to remake human nature. So much evangelical church practice, so much of its preaching, so much of what people have come to think of as being evangelical, is actually self-oriented, not God-centered. It is about what we do, about what we get, not about what God has done or about what he gives in Christ. It is about getting what we want as religious consumers, not about receiving what God has given us in Christ's death in our place and in his written Word."

"Our lives, though, are nourished not by spiritual experiences we can seek, but by God applying to us the truth of his Word. If it is true that all our experimenting with "doing church," all our marketing, all our cultural adaptation, has produced nothing but the sickly results Barna keeps reporting, then it should be no surprise that people are going off looking for some other kind of spirituality that will be more authentic."

1 Corinthians 3 (NIV)

7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mixed Emotions

Today has a lot of mixed emotions in it. I have loved this summer but realize that it is coming to an end and a new page is about to be turned. I am both happy and sad about that. I have a friend that I am hurting deeply over right now but am glad that I am allowing myself to feel it and go through it instead of stuffing it and having it come back up later on in the relationship. There are so many things that can toss us to and fro from each other as believers. Ephesians 4:11-32 talks about this and how the living Word of God will unify us.

11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. 17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26"In your anger do not sin"[d]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

When the reality of who God is invades us, we see people as God intends for us to see them and see situations from a bigger reality than just the immediate present. When we have the eyes of God, we see the truth and know the beauty of His wisdom in His dealings with man. It is sooo good to know that "God can never become disullisioned with us because He had no illusions about us to start with" (Graham Cooke). And:

"6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. " (Romans 5, NIV)

I am so thankful that God did what I could not do. While part of me aches and part of me is enjoying the day, God is still so good. I stand before Him weak and needy through and through but so secure on His grace.

Awake My Soul
By Sandra McCracken

The image of God invisible, the first born of all life
Before and within, he holds it all in
One name, one faith, one Christ
No one is good enough, to save himself
Awake my soul tonight, to boast nothing else

I trust no other source or name, nowhere else can I hide T
his grace gives me fear, and this grace draws me near
And all that it asks it provides

No seam in this garment, all my rags to hide
No less than your love, for Jesus is mine
When I stand on the edges of Jordan
With the saints and the angels beside
When my body is healed, and the glory revealed
Still I can boast only Christ

Sunday, August 3, 2008

So...whose are you?

I have not written anything for public viewing in such a long time. I am doing an exegetical/theological study of Romans 9 but have not finished writing and researching for the work yet. I have been very skeptical of making a blog apart from my myspace, as to my ability to maintain it and not forget that I have it!

Life is crazy. I was in a relationship with a girl (we were planning on marriage after graduation) that ended a little over a year ago, which has been a very rough road to go through and to this day hits me hard when I think of her most of the time. Many/Most of the plans I have made in regards to the future have not worked out how I thought I wanted them to be in many, many aspects. And...I graduate from college in December and still don't know "what I want to do with the rest of my life". On many levels, what all has happened in the past 2 or 3 years may sound tragic, typical, or me just being a whiney, college aged person (which is probably

I was talking to someone today and the typical question of getting to know someone came up: who are you? Well...they didn't ask it like that. They asked: "What do you do?", which hit me kind of oddly, considering that it is a very normal question. I immediately thought, "I was moving chairs and now I am sitting. Why are you asking me that?" And suddenly it dawned on me that they were wanting to know what I did, as in "how do you primarily identify yourself in relationship to your primary role or occupation?" And quite "naturally", I responded by telling them about my summer job and that I am a student. We engaged in some more small talk but I couldn't seem to leave that moment out of my mind. I remember wanting to tell the person that, yes, I do science research and go to school but that doesn't really have anything to do with who i am. It is a part of my life, but I don't identify myself as those things or roles.

I remember talking to Bill a while back and telling him about how I didn't know "what I want to do with the rest of my life" and he laughed. I don't remember exactly what we talked about but I do remember coming away with the realization that roles will always be changing and while what we do does reflect a part of us, it is not who we are.

Maybe an even better question than asking who someone is or what they do, we should ask Whose they are. Ask them who occupies their heart and where and what they live their life out of, rather than asking them how the outward expression of that may look.

It would be strange, but I am thinking of telling the next person that asks what I do or want to do with the rest of my life is that "I do a lot of things. Primarily, I want to serve other people and do it with excellence, but other than that, I don't know. Right now I am reflecting God's glory at WFU and will soon do it at FTCC. Right now I am just just growing into God's grace and am going through this amazing journey all due to God's own grace and purpose. It has had it's ups and downs, but I am glad to be a part of it. I really don't know what is next, but I am excited to see what is next".

And then...the person gets freaked out and runs away (just kidding).

We need to start thinking about whose we are before we decide where or what we will be doing. Let it all flow out of the overflow.

This blog is consecrated for the purpose of reflecting the journey God has put me on and the insights He is giving to me through the Holy Spirit. I will end this post with a prayer and a quote that has meant a lot to me.

Father, I pray that you use this blog to both minister to me and to other people through this experience. May it touch and heal all who read and write on this blog in the deep places in their heart. I lift this space to you for you to glorify yourself as things from your Word and the experiences from my life are posted. May you grant wisdom to this writer and may all people who see this blog see You in all of your fullness. Amen.

"Now -- here is my secret:I tell it to you with an openness of heart I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God - that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me to be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond able to love." - Douglas Coupland

Be the River!