Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Sometimes…

Sometimes it pays to stay with the simplicity that is Christ. What was important to Jesus? People can spend all sorts of time discussing and challenging one another’s lofty ideas, while at the same time failing to grasp and to practice what’s important to Him, biblically speaking – which is where the buck stops.

One thing that comes to mind and is so often overlooked is something that has been coming into focus a great deal of late: “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” 1John 2:3.

1 John 2:4-6 clearly informs us, “Whoever says, ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God has been perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

Christianity is meant to be an “evidence based” faith, the evidence being a growth in Christ likeness – love and holiness. 1 John 4:13 – “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” This is where the “can do” comes from, not of ourselves, but of God the Holy Spirit Himself!

It’s not about the right church or the right pew. It’s not about the religious traditions or commandments of men. It’s not about the latest church trends. It’s not about the politics of the land. It’s not about your favorite televangelist. It’s not about your best life now. It’s not about miracles, gifts, signs and wonders! It’s not about what your priest or preacher said last week – unless he’s in agreement with what Jesus teaches about the evidence. And the evidence is everything, per Jesus!

Well then?

Here’s a key: “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b,2. The only way we can be sure about that is to become intimately acquainted with Holy Scripture. Read it. Pray it. Study it. Meditate on it day and night. Talk about it. See Psalm 1 and Psalm 119 for details.

It boils down to what Jesus taught, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15

That we have been talked out of this by “can’t do” preachers of every expression of Christianity is a great tragedy. Why? Because Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35. It’s how the world knows we are His own! Love like His is the fulfillment of the law! The “can’t do” preachers love to dwell on how much we love sin and how impossible it is to live as Jesus calls His disciples to live. Certainly that is true up to a point – without the Holy Spirit we cannot, for that is the natural state of fallen humanity. But with God, the Counselor and Comforter, what He asks of us is possible. So how about setting our sites on something higher, according to the way Jesus sees things?

A way must be made for this to happen. Might this be why Jesus very clearly directs His followers: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:11-13. We are to ask and keep on asking, or as the Amplified Classic Version states, “… how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!”

And “Blessed are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6. How hungry are you? How thirsty?

“If anyone says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.” 1 John 2:4-6.

It is also true that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,  and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8,9.

There’s a balance here. It’s not either or. When the Holy Spirit is bestowed, this begins the process whereby we are made more and more Christlike on a continuing basis. If this is not happening, some serious, prayerful self examination is in order. So, check into the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey Clinic and turn yourself around!

We need to abide and to grow in grace and in knowledge of the Lord. This is the way of a normal Christian life, with its ups and downs. But to think that we should abide always as “poor miserable sinners” forever, or live as we please in our sin, since grace abounds, is an eternally fatal error – not only for ourselves but possibly as well for all to whom we are a “witness.” There must, therefore, always be a continual surrendering to the Holy Spirit by way of godly sorrow for sin, confession, and repentance. And then, in receiving forgiveness, “With my lips I proclaim all the judgments of Your mouth. I rejoice in the way of Your testimonies as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.” Psalm 119:14,15.

So, KISS – Keep It Simple Saints.

And LOVE – Let Others View Emmanuel.

Posted in Christianity

Meek Does Not Mean Weak

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:22-24)

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It is said that Moses was the meekest man above all others on the face of the earth! (See Numbers 12:3) Imagine that for a moment! Here is someone who walks into the court of Pharaoh from whose condemnation he fled years before. Moses then performs miracles by the hand of God bringing about the liberation of the entire enslaved population of the Jews. He leads them out of Egypt. From there he parts the Red Sea, leading these ex-slaves in the wilderness for forty years – refining and preparing them to receive the inheritance of the Promised Land given to them by God so long ago. There in the Wilderness of Sinai he receives the covenants of God’s Law while on the mountain and sees God face to face. Not exactly the average Mr. Milk Toast, as defined by today’s ideas about the word “meek”!

So, we might ask, what’s so unique about meek, since Jesus also invites us to learn meekness of Him? Certainly we’d have to agree that the Biblical kind of meek does not mean weak! It certainly is not characterized by being a doormat. In fact it’s remarkably resilient, powerful, and no nonsense.

Meekness here, rather than referring to timidity, is the boldness which comes only from full surrender to the Spirit of the Living God and to our Heavenly Father’s will – which always has the best and highest in mind for us! Our meekness results in His strength.

Sometimes maybe we get a little confused about how this meekness thing works.

One of the best and surest ways meekness operates is through the prayer attitude of Jesus before His betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Thy will, not mine, be done!” He prays. Obviously this requires radical commitment as well as being able to see beyond the cross and our daily co-crucifixion in Jesus. Yes, we see beyond the cross and hold the vision of our resurrection and ascension – also in Him. We have to understand that the way to is the way through, and surrender the ego self to it.

Meekness has everything to do with the inner view of what we call “faith”. I think the NASB has an easy-to-comprehend definition of that in Hebrews 11:1 – “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Without a faith-view, it’s virtually impossible to practice meekness, for faith is not ever really “blind”.

Perhaps it would be good at this point to prayerfully pause for awhile to consider how God may be calling on us for this kind of meekness in our own life… How does that look? Where is my ego holding me back, with its personal agendas and opinions for its own fulfillment?

Preceding this personal working knowledge is the heart that completely desires the Father’s will, having first experienced His unconditional Love (See 1 John 4:19). We’ve  seen God’s Love for us in action. We know we can trust Him in whatever He asks of us. It means abiding in His Holy Spirit and in His Scriptural Word. Surrender in this case is built on a deep and lasting trust in Divine Wisdom through the experience of its workings.

This is also known as humility… not what I want, Lord, but what You want, nothing held back now or ever. “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way…”

There is no doubt that the journey He leads us on will have a blessed destination. We realize, know, and understand that He never leaves us or forsakes us – no matter where He takes us.

Thus is it not a fairly simple matter to surrender oneself to Him, or to practice meekness,  since we know of His wholly reliable and unconditional lovingkindness toward us?

Simple in theory, but practice is another matter, we might say. More easily said than done?

But this is the point: learning meekness is a spiritual practice. And practice makes perfect, they say… The quality, the virtue, of meekness grows as we allow God to aim His grace toward us, and through us out into life! The more surrendered to Him we become, the more we manifest His image and likeness in the world.

Very soon we will be entering another Lenten cycle. This invites us to further and more deeply consider the meekness Jesus asks us to learn of Him. He invites us to once more walk in the remembrance and realization of His full commitment to the redemptive work in the plan of salvation it was His to do.

As we follow Jesus into this very real and daily experience of fleshing out our co-crucifixion with Him, let us be “bravely meek” and stalwartly committed, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.” (Isaiah 50:7)

Kind comments and insights welcome. Blessings, dear reader.

Posted in Christianity

Bible “Study”?

Kentucky, Arizona, and several other states have passed bills in recent years allowing public schools to teach “Bible classes.” This of course will be watch dogged with secular oversight to make sure nobody actually gets a “religious” eduction.

Not sure I’d want my kid learning Holy Scripture based on the dictates of the ACLU (Anti Christian Liberties Union) in some public school by some teacher who might be an atheist anyway.

What a screwed up mess this world has become! When public schools first began, the Bible was what kids learned to read from. However –

Jesus reminds us that Scripture is not for private interpretation, but a witness pointing to Him! He even chides religious leaders for their slant on Scripture in John 5:39, 40 – “You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” (Berean Study Bible)

Maybe we should listen to the One revealed by the Bible, as to its uses.

Posted in Christianity, Spirituality, Uncategorized

Becalmed In The Deep Blue(s)

It’s being reported that numerous faithful Christians find themselves in a space where they don’t feel like they amount to much, as if they have come to the end of themselves.

That may be a good thing.

Having been through this more than once, I would offer the following, only by way of what I learned from it. For what it’s worth to you, here goes.

Sometimes, believe it or not, that sense of futility can be a normal part of the Lord doing His work in us, where the perception is more that He seems absent than present. He can be asking us to move on with Him more by sheer faith than by feelings. We may find that it’s not so much about our will, or our efforts, but being brought by the Holy Spirit to a point of surrendering that will-fullness. We may need to have our eyes opened to the fact that we’ve been striving under our own power of will and ego to “serve” the Lord.  What we thought was serving Him may actually be self effort and self reliance. Flesh effort, not led of the Holy Spirit.

This can come along with a sense of exhaustion, and even the onset of physical health issues. Been there, done that.

It can be unnerving – this sense of futility – and it may last a long time – until we can see and understand this. It is not fun. It’s kind of like sailing along, then being becalmed in the middle of the sea. However, what we may find out is that we thought we were sailing, when in truth we were rowing under our own efforts. And someone has stolen the oars!

What’s somewhat unfortunate is that the overall tone of present day (American – Western in particular) Christianity is to always be doing and doing and doing. Ministers have little to offer in the way of advice, since the prevailing thought is frequently about what we should do, to be “active” for God, rather than what He wants to do for us and or within us. Thus – when we come to the point of being becalmed, and send out a distress call, and it’s advised by a pastor or friend or spiritual advisor to just go and do some more “good works,” or get more active – that counsel may actually be counter productive to what the Lord Himself is trying to get across to us.

He may want us sitting still for His own reasons! “Hey, you, now that I have your attention….”

At that point, it might be good to consider being as Mary of Bethany, sitting at the feet of Jesus and quietly taking in what He may want to let us know, Bible in hand, in prayer. Might it be time to let Him minimize Martha and magnify Mary?

We may discover that He’s calling us up from being a servant to being His friend. Consider John 15:14-16. “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will remain—so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”

Fruit emerges due to the branch abiding in the vine. The branch does nothing of its own efforts.

Remember, His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. But I do think that at times He likes to let us in on what He’s doing every now and again… when we have a need to know.

May Christ’s peace, blessing, and understanding be bestowed upon you, dear reader.