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Seeking Peace Along a Hard Road

Blessed Father, we desire to break bread with You, to walk with You & enjoy Your company. Make our hearts burn within us as we meet with You, unfolding Your Word in our hearts. Help us to see, hear & gain wisdom. Prepare us for the difficulties & joys of the day, so we may rely on You & give You glory no matter what may come. We seek You out for these blessings of faith & for the sake of Your glory being shown through us.
We pray this in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 24: 13-35
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I long for these moments & experiences. As Christians, we long for the Lord’s presence, we desire to walk with Him, listen to Him & experience what these two experienced along the road to Emmaus. There is no greater joy than to be able to give our whole selves over to the will & mystery of the Lord, to be bundled up in His arms & to close out every sound but the sweetness of His voice. Swift & powerful, His tongue comforts & convicts, He cuts to the root of our sin & draws us up into the highest heaven. It is almost indescribable. But we long for these moments. We want every weekend worship gathering to be a place where we meet with Him like this, every moment spent in the Word like this, every encounter with a stranger, friend or family member like this when we share our faith with them.

But we must also be reminded of these two on the road. They were consumed, troubled & sad. They had expectations, desires for redemption & they wanted to see God’s hand move in a mighty & powerful way. And it took Jesus’ presence to bring them comfort. His Words, His presence, His laughter, teaching & prayer to open their eyes to what God had done & was continuing to do.

If we would feel His presence, then we must draw near & listen. We must hear what He says, and leave behind what fills our mind, giving it all over to Him in these moments where we need to draw near. While Jesus spoke, they were silent. They listened. They didn’t interrupt every third word, they weren’t engrossed in another activity. Their focus was undivided & therefore laser focused on everything He had to say. It was time spent just with Jesus. Unrushed, untouched, unadulterated. Just them & just Him.

If we want to feel the comforting presence of Jesus, then we need to give Him our attention. We need to listen & remove distractions. If we are broken & hurting inside, if life’s events are too much to handle & understand, then we need to trust Him with those moments & draw near to Him & Him alone.

Praise God for His Holy Spirit who can & does walk with us, even within us, through these moments of our day-to-day life. What a precious gift to know He is with us, moving, present & speaking to us. We simply need to seek Him out for peace & be still, trusting in His footsteps along the way.

Father, we bless Your holy Name! We praise the movement of Your Word in our hearts!
Teach us to listen & be still. remind us of Your presence & may we feel that sweet stillness in our spirits as we draw near to You along life’s road. Again, we pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.

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Wicked Tenants

Father, I thank You for the grace of Your Word. I praise You for being present in my life, and for revealing Yourself to me as I take these moments to draw near and listen to Your heart. I ask you to speak to me, grant me Your mercy, convict me of my sins, and work correction in my heart. Shape me and sculpt me, may I be a better reflection of Jesus because of this encounter with You today. Let me learn peace from You, be glorified because of the faith You have provided me, and use me to share these gifts and mercies with others today. May my life be used to bring You glory today. All of this I pray in the Name of Jesus and through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Luke 20:9-18
And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone’?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Let’s walk through the basics of this parable today and examine what it is God has for us to hear. We know that God is the One who plants the vineyard. It is His from its inception and it will always be His vineyard. He is the One who marked its boundaries, tilled the soil, built walls and planted the vines. In every way imaginable, this vineyard is the Vineyard of the Lord. The Owner then becomes the Master as He takes on workers/tenants.

He gives them a task to do. These are the people of God, the workers of His own choosing. The tenants, by definition, are not the owners of the vineyard. They have a relationship with the Owner, they have been assigned tasks by the Owner, but they do not have a say in how this vineyard is operated. They cannot dictate new policy or change the goals laid out by the Master. As Jesus says later, they cannot reject the cornerstone, the basic/core point of operation and direction, as laid out by God. They are employees, and while they will share in the fruit of the vineyard, every grape, every vine, every clod of dirt, every ounce of juice and every drop of rain that falls on that land belongs, ultimately, to the Owner. They have part, they have roles, but they do not have mastery over the vineyard. It belongs to Him.

“When the time came…” The Owner of the vineyard knew when His vines should bear fruit. He knows the seasons, He has an expectation of the plants and the workers. So He came in the moment when fruit should be appearing, expecting to find what should rightfully be there, and what He planted the vineyard to accomplish. He did not send to them at a time when the vineyard would be budding or blossoming. He did not relay a message to them after the first rain. He sent to them at the time of harvest, expecting what was His. These conditions were laid out to the tenants when they began to work for Him. He would have laid out these exact specifications and plans to them when they began the job. This was not a surprising moment. This was not unexpected. Vineyards produce grapes.

And since this is a very thinly veiled parable, let’s look at the harvest itself. When God talks about harvesting, pretty much everywhere else in Scripture, we know that He is talking about people. Fruitfulness in the Kingdom instantly equates to multiplication. Faithfulness equates to each and every individual doing the work that God has required from the beginning. We have been commissioned to do this work of growing, cultivating and harvesting from the relationships that God blesses us with.The Kingdom’s harvest comes from disciples making disciples.

We all have a part, we all have a responsibility and we all have a task to do within the walls of the vineyard. And while we can busy ourselves with all manner of tasks within the walls of the vineyard, all the while making ourselves feel very useful. But if we are doing anything and everything other than tending to the vines, and working toward that harvest, then we are sorely mistaken. He has laid out our role within the vineyard and we will be under a great deal of conviction and we will have many things to answer for when the Master comes expecting His harvest.

Now, for me, I know what it is to be hurt by people who are supposed to be workers in the vineyard. I know what it is to be hurt by leaders and laypeople. I’m sure we all know what it means to have people insult us, let us down or to abuse us. And these are people who are supposed to be fellow workers within the vineyard. So we are tempted, when we look at this parable and see where others have mistaken the messages of God plainly sent to them to point the sword-point of the parable toward their heart and deflect it from our own. We may remember instances where someone else did us wrong, and we feel a degree of satisfaction knowing that they will be called to the carpet for their wrongs. But this is not the parable of the unmerciful servant. This is not a parable where Jesus is calling us to look at others and to feel better about their impending judgment. If we are all workers in God’s vineyard, then this message is for us.

If we read parables or passages of Scripture and we remember how someone else needs to hear this passage, because we really want them to experience some kind of conviction, to get what’s coming to them, or to see God’s justice come down on them, then we are no better than Jonah, sitting on our hilltop and just gleefully waiting for their Nineveh to burn. If that is how we read these parables and wrongly interpret that point toward conviction, then we are not really reading the parables. These are for us, the conviction belong to us, and is not to be pointed toward anyone else. Yes, we can identify bad workmanship in the efforts of others. Yes, as Christians it is our responsibility to talk with our brothers & sisters who wrong us & then to forgive them (Mt 18) and to seek help in bringing them to correction (James 4&5) but it is also our duty to listen to the words of the Master and see what He is trying to bring about in us.

Christian, we are all workers in the Master’s vineyard. The Kingdom belongs to Him and Him alone. He will return one day, and He will expect a harvest, the work of multiplication and the growth and fruit of the vineyard.

Sometimes we think the vineyard is ours. We want to live and operate within it as if we are the ones writing the rules. So we set up our own little kingdoms within the greater vineyard and we expect things to always go in our way, in our timing, and within our expectations…and when they don’t? We kill the messenger…or at least the message.

Why do we think the vineyard is ours? what happens in our hearts and in our minds that we suddenly think ourselves to be owners rather than workers? Why do we respond with arrogance and selfish ‘ownership’ rather than with humble obedience?

This parable is for us. The Master is returning & He expects a harvest. We can either work and produce one, giving Him His due and living in obedience, or we can reject the message and face His wrath when He comes. For the Jews listening to Jesus’ parable, their time working the vineyard on their own was very quickly drawing to a close. They didn’t like what Jesus was telling them, and no one likes to hear that they’ve been doing it wrong. That is why they cried out, “Surely not!” when Jesus told them there would be new workers coming (the gentile peoples.)

Sometimes we work for a while, doing what we want instead of doing what we should. That is the message of this parable. No matter what tasks we set our hands to, the Master has an outcome in mind for us. There is a harvest expected from our handiwork, and if conviction is going to spring from this message, then we have to take it personally and listen for the correction that comes from love.

He has mercy and grace for us.

The Master gave these workers multiple chances to listen and to do what was right, but He didn’t change the guidelines or His expectations in the process. The same goes for us. God speaks correction and expectation into our lives and into our work, and we can either accept it or reject it, the choice s ours. But either way, the Master is going to come calling and seeking His harvest. We can either share in the celebration of the harvest (yes, please) or be crushed by His coming. Let’s pray the we are receptive, each one personally, to the message He sends, be mindful of our role & put our hands and hearts to work for Him. Let’s work toward multiplication and the harvest in the rhythms of His grace & giving God the glory.

Shadows & Glory

Father, thank You for bringing us signs and symbols along the way that point our hearts toward You and toward Your plan. Shadows of glory-to-come remind our hearts of Your provision in the past, present and future. Shadows of glory-to-come remind us of Your intent to see Your Name glorified and Your will done.  These shadows were not without purpose and meaning, but they are not as deep, or wide or full as the true sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. We bless His Holy Name & we bless the Holy Spirit that reveals these things to our hearts. Amen.

Hebrews 10:1-10
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

As we read through the Old & New Testaments, we find so many parallels, so many things that call forward and backward to one another. Abraham sacrificing his only son, the son he loves, as an act of trust in God and God’s provision in that moment of sacrifice with a ram is a direct call to Christ’s sacrifice, His substitutionary death. God, working through Moses, parts the waters, His people pass through from an old life into a new following and dedication to Him pointing toward baptism and new life yet to come through Christ. All these shadows, all these interconnected events throughout history point us toward God’s will and His provision throughout the course and pathway of time.

But God wasn’t content to let things rest in shadows and symbols. He would be glorified when they played out to their fullness. We see humanity keeping laws and walking in the rhythms of the law, but God speaks to us through Christ and teaches us to walk according to the rhythms of His grace. Walking in the reality of the thing, rather than just in the symbol of it, is walking in depth and mercy and love. He has provided a deeper meaning for us to lash our hearts to and find our rest.

It also comes down to intent. Obedience to God’s will matters more than our ritual obedience. Our hearts must be engaged, not just our schedules. Jesus’ sacrifice is the true sacrifice, the others were simply shadows pointing towards it. He had to be engaged, not just pointed toward in order for wholeness to come to us and for glory to go to God.

Acting within the symbol of the thing does not mean as much as actually doing the thing. Otherwise it’s just words & words without action equates to hypocrisy.

And so we come to God, thanking Him for not just giving us a symbol of salvation, but for actually providing it for us. Through Jesus Christ, we find the symbol & shadow, the ritual sacrifice, done away with and the true sacrifice taking its place. In this fact and in the faith God provides, we find our rest. May we be that shadow, then, that points someone toward the reality of the cross today. May the image of Christ at work in us draw people to the true Christ and their salvation. May they see Christ at work in our speech, our actions and our attitudes as we walk with Him daily in the rhythms of His grace. May we step aside, so they can see God & give Him the glory.

Father, thank You for bringing us signs and symbols along the way that point our hearts toward You and toward Your plan. Shadows of glory-to-come remind our hearts of Your provision in the past, present and future. Shadows of glory-to-come remind us of Your intent to see Your Name glorified and Your will done.  These shadows were not without purpose and meaning, but they are not as deep, or wide or full as the true sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ. We bless His Holy Name & we bless the Holy Spirit that reveals these things to our hearts. Amen.

Jesus’ Pre-Passion Prayer Pt3

Father, unity with others comes at a price. Unity with You comes at an even deeper price. Give us strength to sacrifice our pride, nailing it to the cross with Jesus. Give us the strength to die, to see with eyes of one looking back over their life as we draw our final breath, so that we might have eyes to see those things that would fill us with regret, and let us lay those sinful inclinations down to die so that we might live. Let us live in unity with You. Cleanse us, refine us and let us walk in Your glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen.

John 17:20-26
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

This High Priestly prayer of Jesus is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of all of Scripture. Of all the gifts that God has given us in His Word, this shines out as a gem on the crown of the Gospel message. Jesus did not have to pray this prayer out loud, but He did, and He did it for our benefit. He speaks frankly with the Father, He speaks plainly for His disciples, and He speaks plainly for us. We see the desire of His heart, and we see our deep need for Him. And where we stand unworthy, He seeks simply to redeem us from our unworthiness.

Those days when we don’t feel worthy, when we don’t feel loved, lovable or worthwhile, Jesus calls out to us and says, “Listen to this! I asked God for you. I want you to believe in Me, and be drawn into this deep, abiding relationship with Me. You are worthwhile, and God will be glorified in this.” Because while it is ultimately all about God and His glory, we also see that God is glorified, and this pleases Him, when we walk in unity with the truth, and with Him. And this is what Jesus set about to do.

This relationship will stand as testimony to the whole world of His goodness, mercy, grace and loving-kindness. Your life and mine stand as a love letter, read out loud, just like this prayer was spoken out loud. God didn’t have to do things this way, but He chose to so that more and more might see and hear and be brought to salvation through Jesus Christ. He has made it known, and He will continue to make it known, because it glorifies God and it redeems us.

The world will reject us. They do not know Christ. Romans 3 reminds us:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”


Even in the face of our sin, Jesus prayed this prayer. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is grace. This is the rhythm we walk in with Jesus as we seek unity, daily, with the Father, and the rhythm that brings joy into our lives. Let us pause, remember and seek His wisdom & glory for this day.

Father, unity with others comes at a price. Unity with You comes at an even deeper price. Give us strength to sacrifice our pride, nailing it to the cross with Jesus. Give us the strength to die, to see with eyes of one looking back over their life as we draw our final breath, so that we might have eyes to see those things that would fill us with regret, and let us lay those sinful inclinations down to die so that we might live. Let us live in unity with You. Cleanse us, refine us and let us walk in Your glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus’ Pre-Passion Prayer Pt.1

Father, with You there are places where distinctions exist for good reason & there are other places where You remove distinctions according to Your good will. When it comes to the distinction of being in the world, or being in unity with You, give us the strength & faith to be distinctly Yours & separate from the world. Let us all who are Yours walk in unity with You, with Christ as our only distinctive. Amen.

John 17:1-11
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

John 17 contains Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. It is a confession of deity & unity with the Father & a prayer of concern for unity within the people who would claim to walk in Him. This is a beautiful prayer of concern and it bears the stamp of the mission of Jesus Christ to save the lost for the glory of the Father. This is an evidence of the Trinity, and the relationship that God has with Himself, a direction toward eternity and the heart of God that exists there. There is depth and meaning and purpose in this prayer. There is mystery and wonder and praise in this prayer & I daresay that we cannot comprehend the whole of it.

So why does Jesus pray this mystery & praise out loud? Why does He speak of things that we cannot fully comprehend? Why give us this glimpse into the inner working of the heart of God? Well, whenever Jesus prays out loud, it is for our benefit. Every time.

The Lord’s Prayer? He was giving instruction on how to pray. The prayer over Lazarus at the tomb? Done totally and explicitly for our benefit (Jesus says so) so that we might see and hear what is going on. This prayer in John 17? This is a prayer of unity. And in the next section, Jesus is going to pray over all of us who would walk with Him from that time until He comes back. But before He prays about unity for us & over us, He prays to the Father and exhibits the unity that exists within the Godhead. He gives us an example of what He (God) desires to see within us (the Church) before He even prays about it. He is revealing the type of unity that exists between Himself so that we might catch a glimpse of the unity that should exist between us.

And why? Because God knew, before the church was even founded, that we would be prone to separate off into groups and cliques and teams of our own according to how we liked things, what our viewpoints were and how we would interpret scripture. And He didn’t want those distinctives to drive us apart like a wedge when His intention was that we would be united in Jesus Christ…the One who was praying unity over us to begin with.

Does ‘your’ church take communion every week? Do you worship in song with or without instruments, if yes, which ones do you use? Which are acceptable? What do you wear to church? What is the expectation? Does ‘your’ church family all look like you and live in the same racial/socio-economic bracket as you or not? What does ‘your’ church teach about baptism? The authority of Scripture? The marks of obedience and disciple-making? Do you all like pineapple on your pizza or not? We can draw lines all. day. long.

It is more important that people are brought to Christ so they might be restored to God than it is that I am seen as ‘right.’ We must trust in the truth & unity of the Gospel more than in the systems of man. As someone raised in the Restoration Movement, I have been raised with a few particular sayings:

  • We are not the only Christians, but Christians only.
  • In matters of doctrine, unity. In matters of opinion, liberty. In all things, love.
  • Where the Bible speaks, we speak. Where it is silent, we are silent.

Jesus is praying for unity. We should pray for and actively seek unity.
If this is His heart (and it is) then it should be ours as well.
Do not seek to see what divides, but seek to see what unites.
Jesus also said that the world would know that we were His disciples by the love that we have for one another. Good doctrine is essential, absolutely, all day long, yes.
But we can also be like Priscilla & Acquilla were to Apollos and teach correction in love according to the Scriptures rather than draw a line in the sand and get defensive.Let’s lift up unity in Christ, and live it, as well.

Father, with You there are places where distinctions exist for good reason & there are other places where You remove distinctions according to Your good will. When it comes to the distinction of being in the world, or being in unity with You, give us the strength & faith to be distinctly Yours & separate from the world. Let us all who are Yours walk in unity with You, with Christ as our only distinctive. Amen.

That Immeasurable Greatness

deep-space-space-6911884-1280-800
Hubble Deep Space View

Lord, grant us this grace, that as servants of Your unending love, as ambassadors of mercy in Your Name, that You would open the eyes of our hearts, that we may better see and express Your immeasurable greatness to our broken and sinful world. Grow our confidence, give us a holy boldness that defies principalities and powers and withstands the onslaught of the enemy. May he break around us (because of Your presence) as water breaks around a rock. All things, especially us, are under Your feet, O Righteous One!

Ephesians 1:15-23
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

If you live in a city, and odds say that you do, if you look up into the night sky on a clear winter’s evening, you will see a handful of stars spread out across the inky, deep blackness of space. If you’ve ever been outside of the city at night, you’ll also know that if you look up into the night sky on a clear winter’s evening, you will see a innumerable panoply of stars and galaxies, gaseous clusters, unblinking planets and a greater whole of the starry host (so far as the human eye can perceive them.)

So foreign are the real night skies to Los Angeles that in 1994, after the Northridge earthquake jostled Angelenos awake at 4:31 a.m., the observatory received many calls asking about “the strange sky they had seen after the earthquake.”

“We finally realized what we were dealing with,” Krupp said. “The quake had knocked out most of the power, and people ran outside and they saw the stars. The stars were in fact so unfamiliar; they called us wondering what happened.”

When we blind ourselves with our own false glory, it becomes difficult to see what God has already done. When we build ourselves up, a la the Tower of Babel, we give ourselves a false view of reality that keeps us from seeing what really matters and from gazing upon the Immeasurable Greatness of God. We exchange cheap, temporary light for the real thing, and we act like what we have created is some big deal. Nominal output from a 60 watt incadescent is 740 lumens. The sun produces 2.12×10^28 lumens (aka 21,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 lumens.)

But because of His grace, God has placed our planet almost 93 million miles away from this behemoth of burning gas. (Science Alert) So, if the extraterrestrial solar radiation is 1367 watts per square meter, then the direct sunlight at Earth’s surface when the Sun is at the zenith is about 1050 W/m2, but the total amount (direct and indirect from the atmosphere) hitting the ground is around 1120 W/m2. In terms of energy, sunlight at Earth’s surface is around 52 to 55 percent infrared, 42 to 43 percent visible, and 3 to 5 percent ultraviolet. At the top of the atmosphere, sunlight is about 30% more intense, having about 8% ultraviolet (UV), with most of the extra UV consisting of biologically damaging short-wave ultraviolet.

Direct sunlight has a luminous efficacy of about 93 lumens per watt of radiant flux. This is higher than the efficacy (of source) of most artificial lighting (including fluorescent), which means using sunlight for illumination heats up a room less than using most forms of artificial lighting.

Again, we will always pale in comparison, and still be impressed by what we produce. That’s the fallen nature of man. So, in His Immeasurable Greatness and love, He has allowed us to experience real light, real life through Jesus Christ, removing all cheap substitutes from our field of options, and granting us a place in His presence every day. What great grace and mercy He has on silly, sinful humanity, that He should love us so well. Read this again, and let it be your prayer today, thanking God:

“17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might,”

Generous God, Generous Love

Bless the LORD o, my soul! How excellent is His greatness!

Ephesians 4:1-14
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Bask in that for a moment will you? Listen again to what you just read. Rest in words of grace and provision, forgiveness and the mystery of the opening of the will of God to His people. Remember the sealing of the Holy Spirit that came to you when your faith came into being, and your submitted your heart to His, being baptized into His baptism for the praise of His glory.

Remember.

This is our resting place, within the generosity of God. We deserved death as the payment for our sins, for our rejection of His will and Lordship over us. We were guilty, broken and damned. There is no sadder state than the one we occupied before we met Christ, no condition more hopeless. We were sinners in the hands of a just, wrathful and holy God. Hell and desolation were our destination, separated from Him for eternity, goats, chaff & weeds all.

But through Christ Jesus we have stepped out of darkness and into His glorious light!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise God all creatures here below!
Praise God above, you heavenly host!
Praise Father, Son & Holy Ghost!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Dwell in this blessed truth today, if you are in Christ! If you are not, listen to the words of promise above, the words of hope and expectation. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart, the ears of your soul, so that you might see and hear what so many already enjoy and find their peace within. God is generous with His grace. He is generous with His love.

Praise God!

You _are_ an example.

George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends wrote, “People must be led out of captivity up to God. Be patterns, be examples that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.”

In Genesis 12, Abraham has his encounter with God that sets the course and pace of his life and radiates forward through time through the lineage of his children in faith. We have been blessed to be a blessing. Just as God called Abraham, He calls out to us. Listen:

“Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said,
“To your offspring I will give this land.”
So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
Genesis 12:1-7

We have to leave behind what is comfortable, what we know and have feelings of control over and fall in step behind Jesus. Where God directed Abraham to Canaan, Jesus guides us today to live and serve outside of what is comfortable and brings us to places where others hurt, where others struggle and where others have need. Because God, in His infinite wisdom and compassion, knows that if we take the focus off of ourselves and point our hearts toward the need of another, we will be filled in the process.

Abraham could have stayed on the family land, Terah could have remained where he knew everyone and understood how everything worked, and where he had respect. But God took them to a new place where their reputation would be built on the activity of God in their midst. Where people wouldn’t see Abram the shrewd herdsman, but they would see God’s blessing on the life of this man who just moved into the countryside, they watched his blessing increase and so Abram’s business with them brought prosperity to those around him. But God isn’t just some initiator of an economic engine. No, God worked this way through Abram so he could build positive relationships with the people in this new land, so they could see his life and his example, and with the handiwork of the Lord in their sight, they would receive a testimony about the goodness and provision of God.

Abram’s life and relocation and business and family all made up the components of the sermon of his life. When you and I look at what God is doing in our life, at all of the components that He has seen fit to incorporate in our life, then we will begin to see the story of His glory at work in us, and we will understand a little bit more of what it means to submit our lives to Him so that He can do it more and more, making an impact on the world and communities around us by His good blessing. And when we see that, we, like Abram, will want to build a point of praise into that moment, and give up even greater offerings to the Lord our God.

Whether or not we are looking to be one, we are an example to the world around us.
What would our world look like, what would our church look like, if everyone followed and was devoted as we are? We have one life to live, one Lord to serve. Find your joy in submitting to Him and bringing others to Him as worship and a sharing of blessing.

Romans 3:1-8 // Righteousness, Unrighteousness, Lies & Truth

“1 So what advantage does the Jew have? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Considerable in every way. First, they were entrusted with the spoken words of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, will their unbelief cancel God’s faithfulness? 4 Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar, as it is written:

‘That You may be justified in Your words

and triumph when You judge.’

5 But if our unrighteousness highlights God’s righteousness, what are we to say? I use a human argument: Is God unrighteous to inflict wrath? 6 Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if by my lie God’s truth is amplified to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, just as some people slanderously claim we say, ‘Let us do what is evil so that good may come? Their condemnation is deserved!'”

Romans 3:1-8

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Does my sin simply amplify God’s glory? Does my malfeasance increase His grace? Does my misbehavior prove His love?

No. My sin is still sin, even if it stands as the proving ground for His love & righteousness. The fact that He is glorified when He saves me does nothing to justify my actions when they are based in unrighteousness. God’s wrath and justice are not so backwards, nor is His righteousness so fragile as to have to fit to my actions and misunderstandings. He stands righteous above all, unchanging and unchangable. He is Righteousness. He is Justice. And without Him, I am nothing but a sinful, lost soul standing in rebellion against Him and everything He examples & desires. God is right when He judges us. He is right when He does anything. He is perfection. 

So, as Paul explores the relationship between man & God, this conversation about righteousness and how we view ourselves (inside & out) is something that must come up. We cannot examine life with God and not examine our lives as lived with Him, how we are changed and undone by Him, being remade into the likeness of Christ. 

But while we are being changed, we must confront our sin. And when we confront our sin, we cannot put blame or pressure on anyone but ourselves. We cannot suppose that in our sin, God places any kind of approval on our choices. We only walk in His favor when we walk in His righteousness. And we only walk in His righteousness when we walk clothed in Christ. Everything done outside of His will is inherently an act of rebellion. His grace covers us when we slip into these times, but it does not excuse what we have chosen to do. 

As we GoLove others in the Name of Christ, we must be mindful of our own actions as we preach the Gospel. Later in chapter 14, Paul will impress upon us not to condemn ourselves by what we approve. If we claim Christ, and walk in the righteousness of God, then we must walk as Christ, prusuing a humble life in Him, denying the impulses of the flesh. This comes as a gift, a result of His righteousness at work in us. Without Him, we are unable to fight against sin and we stand bare before the judgment of God. But when we do walk with Him, we come to understand that path that He blazed before us more and more. That path of righteousness that points toward Him & glorifies Him. That is where God is glorified in us, not in our sin, but in righteousness, His righteousness at work in us. 

Acts 20:22-38 // No Shrinking Back

[Paul speaking to the Ephesian Elders] “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, bound in my spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, 23 except that in town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. 24 But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of Gods grace.

25 And now I know that none of you will ever see my face again — everyone I went about preaching the kingdom to. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of everyone’s blood, 27 for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.

32 And now I commit you to God and to the message of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyones silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands have provided for my needs and for those who were with me. 35 In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 

36 After he said this, he knelt down and prayed with all of them. 37 There was a great deal of weeping by everyone. They embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 grieving most of all over his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.”

Acts 20:22-38

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What a tough time. What a short amount of time to say what most needed to be said to a people who have your heart. And, again, what does Paul come back to? 

Just stick with the Gospel. Remember the grace of God. Pay attention to the people He has appointed you to your care. Do not deviate. 

In essence, he was reminding them to keep the main thing the main thing. Stick with the Gospel message. Don’t swerve to the left or to the right. Don’t even side step a little. Keep your eyes, heart & mind focused like a laser on Jesus Christ & the cross. This is our core. This does not change. 

And while they had invested a lot in each other, building deep and abiding relationships, Paul knew & they knew that this was all about more than any one person. This was all about more than a man’s agenda, reputation or ego. This was all about Jesus and that had to maintain long after Paul was no longer around, and after they had passed from this life, too. At the end of the day, they wanted to be able to say, like Paul did, that they did not shrink back. They did not opt for human comfort or prideful posturing. Instead, they left it all out on the field, and they ended their race still pressing forward. No shrinking back. 

That’s what we all want, what we all know we should be striving for, but what our flesh tries with all its might to keep us from accomplishing. We have been called to GoLove others in the Name of Jesus Christ, and we need to do it with some gusto. We need to unleash the passion that the Holy Spirit of God puts inside of us and work under the power that He provides. We need to seek His wisdim daily, and ask for teh strength to act on it in holy discernment. This is our calling, and its not a lot of lolly gagging and killing time. When we see things with Kingdom eyes, with a Gospel centered vision, we come to understand that the time is now, the opportunities are abundant and we need to pray that God will send even more harvest hands into these fields to do the work alongside us. It’s not just about revival. It’s about multiplication, disciple making, church planting and the expansion of the Kingdom for the glory of God! 

This isn’t something we shrink back from. This isn’t something that we push off until later. Too many of us are distracted by too many things that have absolutely no eternal significance. Seek Him first & His Kingdom & all the other things that we really do need in life will be added to us as well. 

Everything else is chaff. Give it to the wind.

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