Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that [accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.
The Lord turned my mind to a question I have seldom asked. If someone is accusing, or attacking a person should we ponder whether they are striking out against some unfulfilled part of their own heart and mind? As a preacher and Pastor I often “traveled the road” of conciliation for convenience’s sake rather than confront an issue to seek resolution. The habit of the modern churchgoer in today’s context has been to use the threat of moving on if their “needs”, demands are not met. Sadly, neither conciliation nor confrontation seems to have any bearing on the issue at hand. Often times the accuser is struggling with the same issue, or something akin to that issue and is lashing out to assuage their own sense of guilt.
The words of Paul help us here. Romans 8 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Also, we may be admonished by Moses words to the sons of Gad and Asher, Numbers 3223 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.
Perhaps our biggest problem is our blindness to our own need, and our deep seated desire to “lord it over”, that is our moral superiority, someone else.
Colossians 4:5Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. NASB
During the years of my pastoral ministry there have been a number of social crises to which Christian folks often wondered, “What should we do?” From AIDS, assisted suicide, bird flu, swine flu, BLM/Neo Nazi confrontations, 1st Amendment squabbles, 2nd Amendment arguments welfare reform and corruption, all have presented challenges to the witness of Christian folk to a dying world. As I sit here, rather breathless from recounting all of these issues with remembrances of “moments in ministry” I find that this particular verse of scripture has helped me perhaps in more ways than I can measure.
Do you have the condition that I will dub “witness fatigue”? Does anything remain of the evangelical spirit which sees every person as a creation of God loved by Him and cherished as a loved one full of potential? Did we ever get permission from anyone but the devil to give up on the world, our neighbor, our spouse, our children? Certainly, we need to rest from time to time. God has planned for even for that. It’s called the Sabbath. Try it, you’ll like it.
Acts 24: 4 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve ]the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets;15 having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.
Please note in this wonderful apology (from Greek apologia apologia), which means one’s defense of themselves or their position, Paul does his very best to draw the most reasonable points in making his case. More importantly he makes Governor Felix aware that his focus is to maintain a “blameless conscience before God”. This to me is a fascinating statement. If we take just a moment to unpack what is happening here, we see that Paul is in chains, incarcerated, and by all rights should be frightened. After all Felix hold the power of Rome in his hands, the power of life and death. He exhibits no fear. To him Felix and his authority while they are to be respected is in reality more of a backdrop to his understanding the he is always in the presence of God and that is the focus of his entire being. What Felix will or will not do take a back seat to Paul’s clear understanding of his relationship and calling to God the Father through our Lord Jesus.
When we are in the position of standing before the judgement of anyone, are we more concerned with maintain our relationship with that person, or are we more concerned with being very clear and in all Godly wisdom and compassion telling the glorious hope we have in our loving Heavenly Father?
Isaiah 40:9Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
How long will it be before the people of God, the Christians have the courage, the strength of will to overcome the spiritual inertia that has crippled the witness of Jesus our Christ for so long? How is it that we have forgotten how to “lift up our voice mightily”? Have we forgotten that we “the bearer (s) of good news”? Are we waiting for permission? Are we waiting for some sort of specific revelation intended just for us, or for our little groups?
There is an old missions song that says “We’ve a story to tell to the nations” (Henry Ernest Nichol, Public Domain) Where, I ask, is the joyous fervor which characterized the holiness movement, the missionary movement? Has it devolved into the quietly bitter sort of “manage it, throw money at it,” but never, never, celebrate out in the open our glorious faith. Sort of like Alice through the looking glass; Jam to morrow, jam yesterday, but never, never jam today.
Seems to be God has given us permission. Remember Jesus said “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14 Let’s get on up to a high hill once again!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Have you ever actually felt the “fickle finger” of ridicule for your Christian faith? Have you ever turned down the radio at a stop light when you are blasting praise music through your car’s sound system? Have you ever thought seriously about a T-shirt’s Christian message before putting it on? Have you ever simply backed away from family or office discussions that seem to constantly move toward mocking and calling into question the Christian faith?
Today, various groups seem “hell-bent” (literally) on expunging any trace of Christian faith from the public forum. Most recently a group called The Military Religious Freedom Foundation swung it’s vicious public opinion threat and anti Christian scorn to coerce the Marine Corp in to preventing Air Force veteran and Christian from speaking to reservists on the topic of Leadership lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg. This little tidbit was buried deeply in the news feeds of conservative sources and totally absent from the rest of the gaggle of mangy morons who clam to be the “free press”. (If this is a little too opinionated for you I can only say, “Get over it.”)
The fact that bothers me the most about this story is that according to the report from the Fox News website, it took only sixty four minutes before the Marine Corps caved to the demands of this lunatic group.
Psalm 126:2 Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”’
Did you ever wonder if Jesus ever smiled or laughed? As a child in the Church I had the impression that all of the Biblical characters I read and read about were dour, sour, unhappy individuals. The older folks I grew up with seemed to think that all laughter was frivolous and unnecessary. If we read the writings of Solomon the king we get this impression which has permeated the character of Christianity for too long. We fail to remember that Solomon for all his wisdom was a disillusioned and dissipated spoiled man. His thinking had been swayed by so many foreign entanglements that an unnatural bent toward bitterness came out in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. We dare not dismiss these writings for they contain much truth and are extremely useful for teaching us the necessity of choosing to restrain ourselves. The piece we unfortunately fail to put together is that without the grace and power of God through the Holy Spirit such restraint will always fall short of its desired end which is holiness.
A preacher I know once retold the story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. Matthew 15: 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began [k]to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not [l]good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; [m]but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed [n]at once. (NASB)
At first glance this story seems like an episode of exasperated acquiescence to yet another demand upon Jesus. The speaker I was listening to, however expressed an idea that has stuck with me to this day. Suppose, Jesus, seeing the opportunity to teach the disciples something about grace played out this scene with a smile on his face, and the woman in her savvy reply smiled hopefully at the Lord. Kind of puts a whole different spin on things doesn’t it?
Please do remember Paul’s statement from a prison cell. Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Joshua 14: So here I am today, eighty-five years old!11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.
This is perhaps one of my most favorite passages from the Old Testament’s recounting of the early days of the nation of Israel. Here is Caleb, a man of whom God told Jacob, because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. (ibid 14:24) Scripture tells us that Caleb was eighty five years old when he made this amazing declaration. He was not finished. He was the exemplar of holy boldness, trust in God and a willingness to reach out and take hold of God’s amazing promises.
We live in a time when any sort of regard for the elders among us is virtually non-existent. I’m sure many of the younger people around Caleb figured he was finished, waiting for death to take him. Sometimes I feel that way among the younger members of my own family. Well, I’ve got news for you. You’re not done yet. I have known many people over the last thirty years of ministry who have fought till the very moment of death to bring a testimony of the gospel of Jesus to anyone who would listen. One lady I ministered to on her deathbed was attended by someone who many would call an irascible old coot. She lived long enough to hear the old man’s testimony of the loving grace of Jesus poured out into his life which was also nearing an end. At that moment she looked at me with eyes that saw something other than the hospice room where she was staying and said, “Pastor, I think I’m finished. Do you think I can go home now?” As we three prayed together she slipped quietly into the arms of Jesus with the most beatific expression on her face that I have ever seen. She, like Caleb was strengthened by God to fulfill the plans of the Lord. (See Jeremiah 29:11)
Isaiah 35:8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way.
This scripture verse came to mind today as I rode along this morning on one of our Interstate highways. Conceived of during the Eisenhower administration as a way to rapidly move troops from one part of the country to another, the Interstate system, has made possible mass travel in a way that could not have been imagined back in the days when they were being designed. The dynamics of traveling on a limited access highway are what I am concerned with today relative to Isaiah’s prophecy.
In order to travel on the highway a person needs to be certain that this is the way they want to go. Once on the highway there is really no turning back, there is no stopping, at least for very long, and there are rules of behavior which differ from the “rules of the road” off the highway. Some will go faster, some will take risks, some will quit and do their best to escape, some will break down, some will create hazardous conditions and hurt other travelers.
How like our Christian walk. If we once start out, knowing where we are headed there really is no turning back. We behave differently on God’s highway. We are kind to one another, we are concerned for the welfare of one another lending help when needed. We are unfortunately at risk of being taken advantage of, because some will attempt to travel the highway seeking their own ends, and we are subject to persecution. However, the closer we get the clearer our destination seems. And what is that destination? It is to be at the very feet of the Lord Jesus. Sing hallelujah to the King (Maranatha)
Matthew 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
With this post I am changing the name of these messages to Finding God in the mysteries of every day. While for me this is more of a marketing and identity decision, for Simon the fisherman his name change would chart the course for the rest of his life leading to his crucifixion on the inverted cross on the Appian Way so many years later. In Koine Greek the name Peter is rendered as Petra (Petra) In the parlance of the day it would be like naming someone “Rocky” Petra is the diminutive form of the Greek word Petros (Petros) which means Rock, or bed rock, or foundational rock if you will. By his name change Peter’s life would become a representation and symbol of the testimony of Jesus the Christ as the cornerstone upon which the Church of Jesus is being built.
So, what’s in a name? It seems like today names don’t mean very much. We toss them around without regard for why someone or something is named the way they are. “Named after…”, pick your favorite relative. I’ve even seen people named after cartoon characters or cuts of meat. Perhaps we don’t take life as seriously now as people of older cultures have over the centuries. Although, nowadays I hear an awful lot of people approaching retirement talking about “legacy”.
I chose to change the name of these posts for two reasons, First I have discovered several other “bloggers” out there using the same title for their posts. (Not your problem, but mine.) Second, I think the new name speaks more to the purpose of these posts. Everyday is a glimpse into the mystery of God. “Why does he love me so”? (Graham Milton Barlin 2016) a line from a chorus which I must ask myself every day.
Finally, the stories I am writing are an attempt to show how people may seek God and be led by him in every phase of life including danger and adventure. Check them out at larrymlawrence.com