Category Archives: Spirituality

Handling our own…

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Recently, yet another controversy happened in the body of Christ that had to do with homosexuality. It’s a big issue, and as a general rule we are handling it poorly. This time the issue was over comments made by Dan Haseltine. Dan is the frontman of the Christian troubadours known as Jars of Clay. (Let me be clear I am not discussing their music. Its fine, I enjoy it sometimes)

Dan is in trouble with many people over a series of tweets he made. (Perhaps Mark Driscoll should lend him support.) These tweets were a stream of consciousness from Dan concerning the issue of Homosexuality, and Homosexual rights.

These tweets come across differently depending on who reads them. Some read it and think that he is supporting gay marriage. Some read it and are confused. Some read it and get offended. These are all legit immediate responses.

This is why we cannot make our decisions off of our immediate reactions. We need to be quick to listen and ask questions, but slow to speak and condemn. Yet, once again the Christian community has failed to do this. People jumped off the cliff right from the get go and wrote off the band because they think they know what is what simply by a few tweets.

Dan Himself responded to the critics on his website. Here is a summary.

  • Twitter is the wrong place to discuss this.
  • I ought to be clear with my words and not leave room for misunderstandings
  • I need to be sensitive when discussing sensitive topics
  • If you want to read the article yourself, go to Dan’s personal website. DanHaseltine.com

But to be honest, I am not even here to discuss Dan’s thoughts, or even tackle the questions concerning homosexuality. What I want to discuss is the way we handle our own.

Whether or not you like him, agree with him, etc… Dan Haseltine professes faith in Christ Jesus, the Lord who came in the flesh, was crucified for the sin of the world, buried and then resurrected to reconcile humanity back to God. Being that he is a brother, we need to respond to him as such we have certain ways we need to treat him and respond to him. So let’s look at the way the Bible tells us to deal with our brothers.

Step 1: Personal Discussion

Matthew 18:15“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

The first thing to do is to discuss the issue with your brother directly. ALONE! This means calling him out over twitter is wrong. Long before you get to twitter, you should have emailed him personally and shared your thoughts. Generally with folks like Dan, who are famous, or well known, many people will be emailing and this will cause them to publicly discuss it further. It is not your job to bring public rebuke, or public shame.

Galatians 6:1-2 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

I want to make a clear note here. Dan Haseltine has not been caught in a transgression, but rather a miscommunication. So be careful with your words. But the key in this verse is “Spirit of Gentleness” Perhaps you need to take time out and do a word-study on Gentleness. It’s important. While on the topic of gentleness, remember the words of Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Walk in forgiveness. Be quick to let things go and do not hold onto grudges. Ok, now suppose you have an issue, and you have personally spoken to him and he didn’t agree, didn’t repent, and didn’t change. Then the bible tells us to take a few brothers and go to him. Matthew 18:16

This one is harder to do with someone like Dan Haseltine, this is simply because chances are, as a general rule you do not know him. You might know all about him, but if you have never spoken to him before, you do not have a voice in his life. If you take the time to send him a private email, he may respond, but He doesn’t know you. You have no relationship, so do not assume he is required to engage you personally.

The big key to dealing with these kinds of issues is communication and Love. We need to discuss with one another to truly begin to understand where our hearts lie. Our goal shouldn’t be to shame or lose a brother. Our goal should be to restore a relationship, and while this is not always possible, it is possible far more often than we admit. The big key is our ability to value the others over our own need to be right.

We need to love our brothers and have open and honest dialogue. We need to recognize what is the heart of our brother. Sometimes we cannot find a common ground or an understanding, but often we could if we are willing to let go of our need to be right and our need to assume our understanding is truth.

It is a political spirit that tells us to value “truth” over relationship. Jesus met us while we were in sin and loved us. He never once left us alone. He never wrote us off. He chose to be connected to us no matter the cost. He was willing to die for people who hated him and stood against everything He was.

The issue is not Dan Haseltine. The issue is not even homosexuality. The issue is how do we handle our own? The world is watching and the world is supposed to, “Know we are Christ’s disciples by our Love” Perhaps We need to learn to walk in love more than we walk in correction. I challenge you, next time someone treads this line, take the moment and pause and pray. Ask God what his heart and his plan and his goal is in this situation.

The Dirty Secret of Unforgiveness

Jesus is pretty clear about his stance on forgiveness. He died on a cross to forgive the whole of the world. He even made forgiveness the pinnacle point of the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6 he tells us that We should forgive so our father will forgive us. Then he continues with the inverse. If we fail to forgive then God will not forgive us. This is a serious charge. We should really make sure we are getting this right in our own heart.

Yet we as a society, yes even Christians, are very quick to harbor unforgiveness. Here is an example I run into fairly often thanks to the wonders of social media. Michael Vick. Michael is a professional football player. 7 years ago He was charged with a serious crime, It was about a ring of dog fights. There was a serious amount of animal cruelty. In 2007 he was charged, and He plead guilty. He admitted His crime.

What happened next was interesting. Vick was sentenced to serve his sentence in Leavenworth Federal Prison. (This prison was almost chosen to replace Guantanamo Bay) So to say he did ‘Hard Time’ is not a pun, but truth. In the midst of this incarceration he was mentored by Coach Tony Dungy who is an outspoken Christian. It was during this time that Michael Vick made a confession of Faith in Jesus Christ. He publicly repented to both God and man for his crime and is very open about how terrible he was and his regret.

Following His release from prison He was allowed to return to the NFL under probationary terms which required him to continue being mentored by Coach Dungy. The Philadelphia Eagles (My Team) picked him up as a free agent. I was happy about this because I love seeinf reconciliation and restoration. I found it amusing that the Eagles chose him. (The Eagle is a biblical symbol of restoration Isaiah 40:31)

Truth be told, as a player he wasn’t a great fit for the team. I was not shedding tears this year as he was released. However in his time here, He showed strong leadership, and a serious character change. So to cut this story short, He did everything he could to move to restoration, reconciliation, and repentance.

Now by my understanding of Scripture, If he has repented to God, then God has given him unconditional forgiveness. Therefore, we as God’s ambassadors on the earth should extend the same forgiveness. However this has not been the case. We as a community have offered no forgiveness. Instead we love to bring up his past and hold it against him. We protest everything he does and everything he says. We scrutinize his life just waiting for him to make a minuscule mistake so we can be affirmed in our judgment.

It’s sickening and its the opposite of Christ. Instead of being the accusers we should be the first ones lending a hand and helping our brother grow and change. Instead we accuse, we protest, and we publicly defame. We act as though we are better because our sins aren’t public.

I assure you, you are no better than Michael Vick. I may not have done what he did, but I have just as much crimson in my life. If Vick and I stand before God together nether one of us is going to be able to stand on our own measure. But by the blood of Christ we are forgiven.

So what am I saying? Am I telling you to go out and support everything he does? No. However I am asking you to let go of His past Michael Vick has, and he has moved on into the grace of God well. By continually bringing up his sin, it doesn’t make him look bad. It makes us look bad.

We need to be the model of forgiveness and not the model of accusation. Too often we are ready with the accusing. The thing is that While Christ is the redeemer. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. It is Satan who likes to remind us of our past and tries to condemn. You are siding with Satan every time you are quick to remind the world of someone’s sin. You are siding with Satan when instead of moving toward reconciliation you cling to an offense.

Public shaming has never been an aspect of our faith. Ham was condemned for shaming his father instead of covering him. Are you like ham? Are you quick to point out the sins of others instead of covering them and helping them out of their sin? Jesus was not. When Jesus saw a mob ready to stone a woman caught in adultery, He offered forgiveness and freedom.

Be like Jesus. Offer forgiveness. Instead of being quick to shame. Let, as the bible says, “Him who has been forgiven much also love much.” Please be the image of Christ and the image of reconciliation which is the Ministry we have received from Jesus. 2nd Corinthians 5 says that it means NOT holdingthe sins of the world against them. Let go of their sins, in fact, let go of your own. Let’s be quick to repent, and quick to forgive.

I know it is hard, but it is the model that Jesus walks in and it is the model we are to walk in. We are quick to walk more in the model of Satan and instead of listening and forgiving we accusing and ignore. Be on the look out for some more character posts like this in the coming days. I feel it is a major issue in the church. Next on the agenda is addressing the comments of Dan Haseltine, and the reaction of the church.

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Dried Out and Living in the Desert

drydesertI am reading a book. It is called “Make Fear Bow” by Gary Whetstone. This book is challenging me to deal with the areas of fear I still hold in my life. It was recommended to me by a friend, and even though I am not finished with it, I already recommend it. It will challenge you to deal with fear, as well as helping identify the root causes of your fears. However, that is not exactly what this article is about. I could discuss fear, but really its a minor aside he made that prompted this writing. He briefly mentions a passage in Jeremiah which has had me stuck for about a day. Its chapter 17, verses 5-10 let me share them here.

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Jeremiah 17:5-10

The Desert Shrub

So let’s begin with the first verse. In it, God shows us three stages of falling away.

  1. Trusting in Man
  2. Trusting in Self (Arm of Flesh)
  3. Turned Heart

I believe that these three things are actually a pattern. We do number one, then when it fails we do number two. When we realize number doesn’t work, we blame God as if it was His fault that our strength failed. So finally our heart turns from Him. In reality our heart has been turning in each of the previous stages, but stage three is where we actually acknowledge it for ourselves.

What is interesting is that God tells us that following this pattern brings a curse. Its actually a cause and effect. Because you followed this pattern it leads you to its natural end. The Curse. So what is this curse? ” He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”

Now we know that you don’t physically become a shrub in th desert, this passage has prophetic implications. You see, the bible tells us that there is a river that flows from the throne of God and it a river of peace, pleasure, and gladness. (psalm 46:4, Psalm 36:8, Isaiah 66:12) When your heart trust in God, you are connected to this river. Its life giving waters overflowing within your soul. When you are connected to this river you bear fruit and grow, and live. (Ezekiel 47, Revelation 22)

However, when you are disconnected from this river you are not being fed from its waters. Instead of partaking in the life of God, you are dry and barren.  Instead of the life giving fresh water that never runs dry, you get salt water, barrenness, and desert dry living. How awful is that.

What’s worse is that the scripture says, “…and shall not see any good come.” This doesn’t mean there is no Good, but rather that you are blinded from seeing it. Because God is the source of everything Good, when you are not recognizing Him, you are unable to recognize His goodness, and His blessing.

Being disconnected from the river of God is equivalent to giving yourself over to spiritual death. You turn from God, and all of His goodness and instead are met with death, dehydration, and depravity. If this is you, I want you to take a minute and realize that God does not desire this for you. His heart for you is to prosper you, to bless you, and to give you good things. (Jeremiah 29:11) The dry and barren land you feel is a direct result of your not trusting in God and trusting in self and others.

If this is where you are, turn your heart to God. Even though all you can SEE is dry, death, broken, and barren. You need to know that God has good things for you. You need to be willing to trust God and His plans even though at the moment you cannot see them. Take a moment now to pray and ask God to forgive you for trusting in others, for trusting in yourself, and not trusting Him. Ask Him to pull you out of the barrenness and bring you back to the living waters and His blessing.

The Tree Rooted to the River

river treesNow, the second portion of the passage shows us the blessing for those who do trust in God. ” He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This is literally the exact opposite of what happens when you turn from God. You are planted with roots that go deep and reach the stream. His water continually supplies life. You are green with life and you produce fruit. Not only once in a while, but continually. You consistently bear fruit as you are planted in Him, because His living water gives you the nutrients of His Spirit to produce fruit in your life.

Further, being securely rooted in the ground and attached to the river means you do not have to fear the heat. When you have the water, the heat can’t destroy you. But if you are dry, you become tinder for fire, and the heat can burn you up and leave you with only a pile of ash.

The Human Heart

The final portion of the passage deals with the human heart. God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

The world constantly tells us cold clichés like “Follow your heart” or “Listen To Your Heart.” but this is stupid. It doesn’t take a bible scholar to tell you the heart is a liar. That is why people who follow their heart often find themselves hurt and broken. Half of the time we don’t even know our own heart. In fact its not till we are truly tested by fire that we begin to realize what is truly down in our heart. Some find nobility and character, but the majority of us find ourselves lacking.

This is the reason that time and time again the Bible encourages us to Trust in the Lord. Becuase He knows the human heart better than we do. He made it, formed it, and has the ability to truly read it. So instead of relying on man, or your own heart. Let God be your source and your supply. Let Him guide you. So I want you to think on it. To pray on it. To meditate on the scriptures we have discussed. Finally I have one last scripture to leave you with. I know you are already well familiar with it. So Read it and then live it out.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The Hero We Need…

I want to say upfront that this is not a synopsis of the movie, so I will try to hold off from major spoilers. However, Captain America: The Winter Soldier presents a world-view that is very unique and seems almost inconceivable to many. So if you read this, be warned you many see minor spoilers. You may want to have watched the movie before you read this.

So Captain America is a man with a unique take on the world. He was born an raised in the era Leading up to and during the second world war, but thanks to being frozen has found himself in the modern age. These two worlds couldn’t be more different. Or perhaps they are much more similar than we would care to believe.

During the war, everything was pretty clear. America Good, Hitler Bad. If you just knew that everything fell into place. You knew that the villains intended to kill, steal, and destroy. So you did what you had to in order to stop them. This is how it worked. But this world is not that world. So thee is this struggle with the world trying to convince Captain America to conform to the modern era. This is exemplified in a scene where Captain America is Speaking with Nick Fury after being shown the helicarriers (Flying aircraft carriers) Where Fury explains that they ships will take out threats before they happen. Captain America has a strong reaction…

“That’s not freedom. That’s fear.”

When he says this, Nick Fury get a little angry and retorts,

“We take the world as it is Captain.Not as we would like it to be. It’s about Damn time you got with that program…”

Right here we see the chief struggle of the movie. The Captain is a man of Absolutes; Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Freedom and Fear. Captain America doesn’t dance in the grey areas, and he doesn’t hide in the shadows. The fact that the world wants him to conform to secrets, shadows, and moral ambiguity doesn’t sit well with him.

This is the modern life. The world has definitely changed. There is no good and evil. There is no right and wrong. There is only life. The thing tat is right for me is wrong for you and thats OK, because we are tolerant. Its this shadow that gives Evil a place to grow. Because S.H.I.E.L.D. thrived and embraced moral ambiguity and a life in the shadows, there was no light to shine on the evil that had grown within their own ranks.

Welcome to the real world. If you are reading this, you know that I am a Christian. Chances are that you would call yourself one too. Therefore you know that we should be Captain America. The problem is that more often than we care to admit, we bow to compromise. Despite the desire to be the Super Soldier, more often we become the man who lives in the shadows. Whilst we talk like the idealist, our actions betray us. We are Nick Fury.

As the movie continues, we see something interesting. Captain America and his resolve proves to be right. In the end the compromise of S.H.I.E.L.D. leads to its downfall, and even Nick Fury himself has to admit tat the whole system is broken. This is troublesome, and difficult for Fury to accept. The people he has believed in, the thing that he spent his life fighting for was ntohing more than a broken system and a failed ideology.

Welcome to the real world. A system of moral ambiguity will always fail. If a game doesn’t have set rules it can never be won. The best you can do is to hold of defeat a little while longer. But eventually the compromise you have given in to will eventually rise up and take you out.

Welcome to the real world. No matter how hard you try to ignore it it creeps up on you. That is why in a world filled with men like Nick Fury, Captain America is the Hero we need. We need men who lack compromise. Who live in the Light and shine the light in the darkness to make all the roaches scatter.

We do not need another person comfortable with secrecy, shadows, and fear. We need FREEDOM, We need TRUTH, and we need LIGHT. Will you stand and be counted as a Captain America? Or will you fall with the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. and try to survive the failure of the world? Other heroes have claimed to be the Hero we needed, but none have actually been. Captain America, the man out of time, the man without compromise. He is the Hero we desperately need.

The raw emotion of music…

I saw a picture. It had twenty musicians on it who are all dead, and the caption was, “If you could see any one of these musicians live, who would it be.

What I found interesting was that with the exception of Beethoven all of the musicians were people from the last 50 years give or take. Most of the comments were stereotypical answers; Hendrix, Queen, Michael Jackson, etc…

music pianoHowever instantly I knew without question who I wanted to see. I wanted Beethoven. You see, with every other musician on the list we have recordings, some even video of them performing.

Beethoven is different. He never recorded his own music. All we have from him is sheet music. The recordings we listen to are someones interpretation of his work. I wonder what it sounded like the first time Beethoven sat down at a piano and played the first few notes of Fur Elise?

Can you imagine what it was like hearing it for the first time. To us it is a familiar tune. We have heard it time and time again. Its so familiar that most people can hum it without thinking.

But when we hear it played, it is always someone other than Beethoven at the piano. What would it be like to sit with Him and see his face as he struck the keys. To watch his passion as he furiously let his fingers dance across the piano. We will never know for sure, but I imagine it was magical. That is why His music is still being played all over the world today.

I however often feel this way of theologians as well. I never got to hear a sermon from the Wesley’s, or John Calvin, or Athanasius, or Paul, Peter, John, etc… I know what they believed based solely on their writings, but what would it be like to have actually been there and heard them as they preached.

I would love to see the look on people’s faces when Peter first explained the power of Pentecost. Or to watch as Jesus shared his heart to the people when He preached the sermon on the mount. In our reading, we can become so familiar with the text that we often forget its passion. Beethoven had passion and we will never see it. But we can get a glimpse of it in the recordings people have done of his work.

There is a raw emotion in music, that is amazing to capture. Yet, the raw emotion of the Christian faith is overwhelmingly beautiful. It goes beyond all our imagination. Beethoven’s passion was his blood, sweat, and tears, poured into music. For Christ, His blood, Sweat, and Tears were poured out on the ground for all the earth. This raw emotion, this passion, this is what drove every great man of the faith. It caused us to push farther and pursue longer.

passion
Sometimes, in our intellectual society I think we lose the raw nature of the emotion. I think it might serve us well to take a moment and get raw. To let the honest emotion of the cross overwhelm us again. Especially as we are coming up to the time of the year where we celebrate, and remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Passion of Christ.

Take a moment this week and let that passion, that raw emotion overwhelm you and don’t suppress the emotions you feel. If you need to weep, then let the tears flow. If you need to shout, then shout it out. If you need to fall at His feet as though you were dead, you are in good company. But please, let the raw emotion of the Passion of Christ move you.

This is a trustworthy statement…

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“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

1st Timothy 12-17

I absolutely love this passage of scripture. It is one of my all time favourites. I know people often say that, but this is true. I really think this is a portion of scripture that we all need to not only read, but memorize and get deep down inside us. This is about Humility. Paul, who was an apostle, a wise man, a strong leader, a great author, and one of the most foundational members of our faith. If there was ever a man who had a good reason to be proud it was Paul.

Think about it, if you argued doctrine with him, he could just quote himself from one of his writings. He could lay the proverbial smack down on you. Yet when he was talking to his disciple, the one who he was training to do his ministry, this is how he described himself. He says “I thank Jesus Christ… He has strengthened me… He considered me faithful… putting me into service.”

Think about that perspective. He is saying here “I thank God, He is the one who makes the ministry possible, not me.” Furthermore, he recognizes who he was, and all of the issues that he had. He called himself the chief of sinners. He didn’t think of himself as someone who was high and mighty. Someone who was better than. No, he remembered that He was someone who God brought out of sin. It was this humility that helped him to love the people that God was calling him to.

This is a common theme among many great leaders in the Bible. I love what King David said in Psalm 18:

“The God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great.”

Psalm 18:32-35

Here David, the King of Israel, the man who God called and appointed, gives all the credit to God. Look how this portion ends, “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great.” I love this, He recognizes that it is the right hand of the Lo rd upholds and Lifts Him. He recognized that even though He was a big shot in the worlds eye, It was the Hand of God that held him up and gave him that position.

After the birth of the Church, signs and wonders began to be shown through the Apostles. One great moment came in Acts three when Peter and John were up at the temple. This one day in particular, they had the opportunity to pray for a man who couldn’t walk, and God healed him.

But, when all the people were suddenly crowding Peter and John (as will happen when you start seeing the power of God released in your life.) They didn’t use it as an opportunity to pass the bucket or the business cards. They diverted the attention back to Jesus.

“Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…”

Acts 3:12-13a

That quote was from NASB which is how I usually quote, and says “Not by our own power or piety.” The NIV says, “by our own power or godliness” the KJV says “by our own power or holiness” But the Key in this verse is that it isn’t something that we did, but Jesus working through us.

As people we are often full of ourselves. We tend towards wanting to be recognized and great. This isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it can lead to bad things if the one we want to recognize us is anyone other than Jesus. If we find our significance and greatness in ourself or other people, we have missed it. Men may exalt us for a time, but only God will recognize us forever.

This is a trustworthy saying and worthy of full acceptance.

“He must increase, and I must decrease.” – John the Baptist.

Let us commit these scriptures to more than just our memory, but to our way of life. If these scriptures become the mode in which we think and live, then we will begin to see our love for others grow. Then we will see people being drawn to us because of our love. The bible never said that they will know we are Christians because of how great we are. No, rather they will know we are Christians by our Love.

Hunger and Thirst…

hungerandthirst

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 

Chances are that you are at least vaguely familiar with this verse. It is a portion of the scripture we commonly refer to as “The Beatitudes” I have been pondering this specific one recently. As you probably noted, I have a thing for scriptures about hunger and thirst. This website is subtitled, “The Sound of the Satisfied Soul” which comes from Psalm 107:9 which reads, “For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.”

So I have been trying to understand the fullness of this. I mean we have heard many different teachings about this. But, I really wanted to grasp it for myself because I knew that God was going to speak something awesome into my heart. When we think of righteousness we often have interesting thoughts. We think of Righteousness a right living, which in a way it is. However often times we think it is something we do.

But as I began to pray into this, I began to see something more. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6 Then in Romans 3:10 it says, “As it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;” Well, where was this written? This is a reference to Psalm 14:1-3

“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.  The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.”

So this dilemma has lead some to believe that when Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” That He meant that we should try to do good. That we should make it our Goal. If righteousness is something we do, then we are in trouble. Because none of us can be righteous. Its just not possible, if I had to try to be righteous, I would be failing so hard!

None of us can strive for righteousness, because no matter how “good” we do we will be so far from righteous. This dilemma has also yielded another fruit. Apathy. There are some people who become so discouraged by how unrighteous they are that they settle for a life of wickedness. It is more or less an attitude that says “I can’t, so why bother?”

This is not good. Remember THERE IS A DITCH ON BOTH SIDES OF THE NARROW ROAD. It is easy to fall in either one.

So what does Jesus really mean? What is He really saying? How does one hunger and thirst for something they can never achieve? I think the answer is so glaringly obvious that I feel like a fool for not seeing it so clearly in the past. Righteousness is not an act, or a state of being. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS JESUS. It is not a concept, but a person. When Jesus was telling us to hunger and thirst for righteousness, He was telling us to hunger and thirst for Him. The best part is that He then continues by telling us that if we hunger and thirst we will be filled.

Now this might sound like an odd interpretation. However, it really isn’t that far fetched. Jesus alludes to himself many times allegorically, and even has gone so far as to tell us we should “Eat His flesh, and drink His blood.” in John 6:56 In fact in this portion He tells us that if we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, that He abides in us and we in Him. That is awesome.

So perhaps when Jesus says that He is going to fill those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, He means that we should hunger and thirst after Him, and He will fill us with Himself. You see, this is how it should be. The only one who was every truly righteous was Jesus, and without Him none can achieve righteousness.

So, let’s hunger and thirst for Jesus. Let’s Thirst for Jesus. Let’s allow him to fully fill us. Instead of feasting on a table of Death, lets feast on the table of Life. Jesus not only sets for us the table, but He sets Himself upon it and says FEAST! Let’s feast on Jesus and Let His life fill us.

The Bible says this, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” 1st John 3:2 If we want to become like Jesus, and become like righteousness we need to see Him. When we see Him we become like Him.

Some of us work really hard ot be righteous, but it doesn’t work. The answer to righteousness is the Grace of God. Lean into Christ allow Him to conform you to His image. Allow Him to lead you. Listen for His voice, and do what He says. I know sometimes it gets overwhelming, but He is a good God, and He is for you.

Our Lord is the God of Truth, and if you simply listen and obey, He will teach you what pleases Him, and then He will wrap you in His grace to enable you to do everything He has for your life. What a Good king we serve.

Good Fruit?

goodfruit

I want to share with you a passage of scripture. Something Jesus said, and then we will discuss it. Todays passage is in Matthew 7.

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “So then, you will know them by their fruits. ” Matthew 7:15-20

In my Bible, this passage is given a subtitle. “You Will Know Them By Their Fruits.” The basic premise of this passage is that you can’t just accept someone because they claim to be good, You have to watch the fruit they produce. You can’t just accept anyone who claims to be a prophet, but you need to judge the fruit they produce, because Good trees produce good fruit. But there is something interesting here. Because while verse 20 is the end of this sub-heading, it is not the end of the passage. Jesus is still in the middle of His conversation. So lets take a look at the follow up portion.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’  Matthew 7:21-23

Interesting. So right after telling use we need to Judge fruit, he basically tells us that Prophecy, Deliverance, and Miracles aren’t the fruit. This seems crazy. These people were ministering in the name of Jesus. They cast out demons, they prophesied, and they did miracles. wouldn’t that count as good fruit?

Not according to Jesus.

Jesus began the passage by telling us that there would be many false prophets. Then He tells us to look for fruit. But if the fruit is not the prophecy, or the miracles what is? Jesus gives us a little insight to this.  He tells the false prophet in this passage, “I never knew you. depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”

This is a HUGE KEY. Jesus says that he never knew them. So perhaps this gives us insight into the good fruit. Jesus wants to know and be known. We see this exemplified in Jesus’ final moments before being betrayed. He is praying in a garden, and John records some of this for us.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:20-24

Jesus is pouring His soul out to His Father. His hopes and His dreams, and His desire. But look at what He most desires. That we would be united, with each other, with Him, and with the Father.

Jesus also speaks of a vine and its branches, and this is more of His discourse on unity. In John 15 He calls himself the TRUE VINE and then says we are His branches, and through Him we bear fruit. Bearing Good fruit is very important. Jesus talks about fruit an awful lot. But He says that good fruit is achieved by abiding in Him as the vine. Let’s take a look at this discourse.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. ” John 15:1-8

I know, this is a pretty scripture heavy day. Trust me it will be worth it. Hopefully you are seeing the importance of True Good fruit. The fruit is not your gifts, the fruit is becoming more like Jesus. Think about it, when Paul talked about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he never called them the fruit. He called them gifts.

The Fruit of the Spirit are; Love Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. These are not gifts and manifestations, but rather the Holy Spirit enabling us to live out the character of Jesus. Good fruit is being united with Jesus, and having His nature and character coming through you.

The Gifts of the spirit are important, powerful, and valid, but they are not a substitute for Christ-like character. You can be the most gifted minister in the world, but if your character is poor then you have missed the good fruit, and you ight even fall into the place where Jesus says, “Depart, I never knew you, you are a worker of lawlessness.”

As always, I welcome your comments, questions, etc… Have a great day and God bless you with more of His indwelling spirit to give you the character and nature of Jesus Himself.

The Power of the Vow [2]

thevow

So a friend private messaged me on facebook asking If I had any insights to a passage of scripture. After a bit of a back and forth, I really thought the discussion lead to some interesting thoughts. So, why not share them all with you? The passage in question was Judges 11. Let me ‘splain.  No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Jephthah is a judge in Israel and he is dealing with the leader of Ammon, and they are on the verge of war. So in preparation for war Jephthah goes before the Lord. At this point He makes a vow. “If You help me defeat Ammon, I will give you a burnt offering. I will offer up the first thing that comes out of my house.” You can verify this for yourself in Judges 11:30-31.

So He goes into battle, and the Lord gives Him the victory. When he makes it home, His daughter comes out of the house with a tambourine and a dance, celebrating His victory… (Judges 11:34)

This is a devastating moment. He gave His word to the Lord that he would give a burnt offering in exchange for the victory, but at the time It never occurred to him that it could mean sacrificing His only daughter. However, her response is even more baffling. She is saddened, but then asks if they can wait for two months before the sacrifice so that she can mourn. She was a virgin and never got the chance to have a child of Her own. Now you would think she would protest the vow and decline being offered, but instead she agrees, only asking for time to prepare herself.

THE QUESTIONS:

As I mentioned, this whole discussion began with a facebook message from a friend and here are some of the questions we discussed.

1. What does administering a burnt offering have to do with celibacy?
2. Did early Jews long to be in the genealogical line of the Messiah?
3. What exactly did Jephthah do to her to fulfill his vow to the Lord (v39) to fulfill the burnt offering?
4. Plus, this judge was listed in Hebrews 11 of having great faith. Did this one flippant vow disqualify him?

Now, these are some interesting and loaded questions. But I think they are wonderful. Instead of Just reading the story and thinking, “Wow, thats messed up.” My friend really wondered about the meaning and significance of this story. So lets take a look at these questions. I will answer them to the best of my abilities. We already discussed the first two questions, but now let us take a look at the remainder.

3. WHAT DID JEPHTHAH DO TO HER TO FULFILL HIS VOW, TO OFFER THE BURNT OFFERING?

This one is a pretty straight forward answer. Though the Bible does not describe the process of this burnt offering, we can infer from other examples of the burnt offering. Take for instance the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22. In this story, Abraham went up to the mountain with Isaac. Isaac mentions the wood and fire, and they were building an altar. So I would imagine that it is similar in this story. There was an altar upon which he offered His only child. Its not certain, but this is how I perceive the story given the rest of our Biblical understanding.

Now before I move on to the final question, I want to focus on what I believe is the central issue of this story. The power of the Vow. You see, no where in the story did God command Jephthah to make this vow. He made the vow of His own free will. Furthermore, in making the vow, He could have put a bit more thought into it.

If he had vowed to slaughter His best calf, it would have still been a vow, but he didn’t. He flippantly vowed to sacrifice the first thing that came out His door. Think about that for a moment. What is going to come out of the door to your home? Chances are it will be someone who lives there.

God honors the vow Jephthah made, and when he comes home, it is his daughter. Now he has a conundrum. Either Sacrifice his daughter or break his vow to the Lord. What a terrible day. But this is not the fault of the Lord, this is the fault of someone who should have known better not properly thinking it through.

So as you read the story, you find that Jephthah follows through on his covenant with God. However, I would like to commend his daughter. This girl doesn’t even get a name in the Bible, yet she exhibits a level of Honor before God that most of us probably don’t have. She agrees to allow herself to be the burnt offering. would you be willing to do it?

But now, lets take a look at the final question.

JEPHTHAH IS LISTED IN THE HEBREWS 11 HALL OF FAITH. WOULDN’T THIS FLIPPANT VOW DISQUALIFY HIM?

This is te beauty of the Bible for me. From Genesis to revelation we have heroes who are terrible. Moses? Murderer! David? Adulterer! Jephthah? Hasty! Samson? Womanizer! Peter? Violent! Coward! I could continue the list, but I will stop for now. The beauty of the Bible is that despite our shortcomings, God has plans and purposes and destiny for our lives.

Jephthah was honored in the Hall of Faith. Despite the flippant vow, and the sadness of having to sacrifice your only Child, He was still a hero, becuase He lead the armies of Israel to victory over their enemies. He was still used by the Lord.

This is a great parallel to the life of the Believer. We all have done terrible things that we could say should ‘disqualify’ us from being used by God. But in the same context, we have the grace of God that helps us move on from our mistakes and move into the destiny and purposes of the Lord.

FINAL THOUGHT:

In light of the story of Jephthah, there are two main lessons we need to learn.

1. Be careful with your words, vows, and promises. You have to be accountable to follow through on them.

2. Do not be discouraged because you have failed before. Learn hard into the Grace of God and let Him pick you up and put you back on the path He has for you.

The Power of the Vow

thevow

So a friend private messaged me on facebook asking If I had any insights to a passage of scripture. After a bit of a back and forth, I really thought the discussion lead to some interesting thoughts. So, why not share them all with you? The passage in question was Judges 11. Let me ‘splain.  No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Jephthah is a judge in Israel and he is dealing with the leader of Ammon, and they are on the verge of war. So in preparation for war Jephthah goes before the Lord. At this point He makes a vow. “If You help me defeat Ammon, I will give you a burnt offering. I will offer up the first thing that comes out of my house.” You can verify this for yourself in Judges 11:30-31.

So He goes into battle, and the Lord gives Him the victory. When he makes it home, His daughter comes out of the house with a tambourine and a dance, celebrating His victory… (Judges 11:34)

This is a devastating moment. He gave His word to the Lord that he would give a burnt offering in exchange for the victory, but at the time It never occurred to him that it could mean sacrificing His only daughter. However, her response is even more baffling. She is saddened, but then asks if they can wait for two months before the sacrifice so that she can mourn. She was a virgin and never got the chance to have a child of Her own. Now you would think she would protest the vow and decline being offered, but instead she agrees, only asking for time to prepare herself.

THE QUESTIONS:

As I mentioned, this whole discussion began with a facebook message from a friend and here are some of the questions we discussed.

1. What does administering a burnt offering have to do with celibacy?
2. Did early Jews long to be in the genealogical line of the Messiah?
3. What exactly did Jephthah do to her to fulfill his vow to the Lord (v39) to fulfill the burnt offering?
4. Plus, this judge was listed in Hebrews 11 of having great faith. Did this one flippant vow disqualify him?

Now, these are some interesting and loaded questions. But I think they are wonderful. Instead of Just reading the story and thinking, “Wow, thats messed up.” My friend really wondered about the meaning and significance of this story. So lets take a look at these questions. I will answer them to the best of my abilities.

1.  WHAT DOES ADMINISTERING A BURNT OFFERING HAVE TO DO WITH CELIBACY?

This one is simple. Absolutely nothing. The celibacy was not directly linked to the burnt offering or the vow itself. The issue here was that this daughter, who never gets a name mind you, was His only Child. She was a virgin. This was significant not to the burnt offering, but the the legacy and inheritance that was being Lost.

For the Jews (and this will tie in a little to question 2) the family line was significant, and the blessing was highly valued. This is why we have the story of Jacob and Esau, and the blessing from Genesis. There was a high prize, and legacy given to the Children. Because Jephthah did not have any other children, he knew that offering His daughter would cut off His family line. He knew that fulfilling His vow to God meant that he was cutting off His lineage.

Now let us move right into the second question.

2. DO JEWS LONG TO BE IN THE LINEAGE OF MESSIAH?

This is a much more difficult question to answer. I am not an expert on ancient Jewish culture. This question arose after I explained my answer in the first question. However, let me give you the same answer that I gave my friend, and you can correct me if you know better. I welcome it actually.

I believe that Jews did indeed desire to be in the lineage of the Messiah. It was promised in Genesis 3:15. God promised that the Seed of Eve, or as modern scholars like to say it the seed of the woman, would crush the head of the enemy. However, I also believe that this aspect of the lineage is less important.

There is a blessing in having children. It was the command that God gave to Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:28 is where God told them, “…Be Fruitful and multiply.” God’s design for humanity was that we would replicate ourselves. That we would have children. But, when your only child is herself childless, and you now have to offer her up to God, that makes it much harder to experience this fruitfulness.

Later this week we will focus on the crux of this story and the remaining two questions. As always comments and questions welcome.

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