the victory through our Lord

Sometimes I get discouraged by what I see as the moral and spiritual decline of America and the world. Sometimes I get discouraged by the lack of spiritual growth being made by the flock around me, no matter how hard I and others push and struggle to lead. Judges20 gives us hope that the struggle is part of the Lord's plan, and continued obedience should be my focus.

In Judges20, Israel is told to fight against one of their own (the tribe of Benjamin) because of the Benjamites' (Benjaminites? I like Benjamites better.) protection of their tribesmen, despite great wickedness having been committed by them. Two days the armies of Israel are routed by the Benjamites -- 22,000 slain the first day, and another 18,000 the second day. Before both days, the Lord had instructed them to go and fight. Imagine how they must have felt getting routed. Did we misunderstand His command? Maybe He's not on our side? Does He WANT us to get routed? It wasn't until the third day that He commands them to go up and fight AND that He would finally give them into the hands of the Israelites. And the overconfidence of the Benjamites after two days of victories plays into their defeat.

The victory is always in the hands of God. And even when in obedience we fight for Him and lose, we are doing what we are called to do. And sometimes losing for two days is part of that grand plan. Don't quit.


through waterless places seeking rest

"What Happens After I Die?"
* Realities of Life
- God made me to love me {Jer31:3, John3:16}
- Life all about God; until we understand that, can't understand life
- I was made to love Him {Eccl3:11, 2Cor4:16}
- You will spend more time on other side of life
* Six Stages of Man's Eternity
- Saved will experience it differently from unsaved
- Physical termination {Gen2:17, Heb9:27}
- Judgment of faith {John3:17-18, 8:24}
- Spirit relocation {2Cor5:8}
- Physical resurrection (glorification) {John5:28-29, 1Cor15}
- Judgment of works (not Great White Throne Judgment) {2Cor5:9-10, Rom14:10-13, Rev20:4-13}
- Personal compensation {Matt16:27, 1Cor3:8-15}
* Why does Hell exist?
- Because sin & evil exist {Matt25:41}
- Because God is holy & just {Gen18:25, Ps96:13}
* What is Hell like?
- Place of eternal fire/punshiment {Matt25:41}
- Place of eternal torment {Luke16:23-28, Mark9:43, Matt8:12, Rev14:10-11}
- Eternal separation
* How do I settle my eternal destiny?
- 1John5:11-13, Col1:21-22, John3:16
- Admit I need a Savior to get to Heaven {Rom3:23}
- Believe Jesus died for me {Acts16:31}
- Call on Jesus by faith {Rom10:13}
* How should I respond?
- Recognize my responsibility {Ezek33:8}
- Write down names of those in my life who need Christ
- Make commitment to pray diligently for them {Rom10:1, Luke18:1}
- Find a way to serve them in love of Christ {Matt5:14a,16}
- Invite them to join you at Easter service


see Him or know Him, but you know Him

Now THIS is a must-read piece. It is a brilliant meditation on the difficulty of accepting the walk of faith, and the quite understandable urge to end that walk. I've written before that walking well, walking worthy is difficult and time-consuming and all-consuming, and so I completely agree with iMonk's sentiments that it is reasonable for some to think all of this isn't worth it -- except for the fact that who Jesus is makes all those arguments moot. Because as I had pondered even earlier, the difference in knowing Jesus and knowing Jesus -- well, you've got to experience that difference yourself, and you'll know.


by man's design and skill

Unfortunately, I will have to break my policy of linking to bad sites by asking you to check out this interview. I had mentioned a while back how beautiful I thought the conversion of the first Korn bandmember was. And here we go with round two. The light of life in the darkest of places.

We bang our heads against walls, wondering why so-and-so isn't a Christian yet. We get frustrated when we've been praying for salvation for someone for years and haven't seen any fruit. We wonder if there's something more we can say, some new argument we can learn. We wonder if maybe we can offer them some ministry, and do some good deed.

No, no, and no. Faith has always been and will always be God-initiated and God-controlled. And if we have issues with that, the issue isn't with His existence; the issue is with our acceptance of His will. I try to stay away from labeling myself a Calvinist, but the more I learn about having a God-centric view, the more I wonder.

Nope. Still not convinced about election, sorry.


and the meaning of this statement was

Back in college at a Bible study, learned that placing emphasis on different words in Scripture often highlighted various nuances of particular verses. Used that knowledge the last time before the flock in examining the first line of Ps23. Mulling over a verse for the upcoming big day, and listened to myself change the stress on the last three words of Rom5:8 and found the one I'm going with. But the three different choices you have are: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners . . ."

". . . Christ DIED for us." This is the natural emphasis, and the one I'd always assumed was most popular. The verse makes the point that the love of God is directly reflected by His death. It stresses that love drove His action, and that He was even willing to experience death, He loved us so much.

". . . Christ died for US." In the story I'm sharing before this verse, it reinforces the point that we weren't worth dying for. We are wretched creatures enslaved by sin, not worth the death of the Holy One of God. It stresses that love drove His action, and that He was willing to lay down His life for us when we were still His enemies.

". . . Christ died FOR us." This is the one I'm leaning toward, and the one whose emphasis is probably skipped over. But it reminds us of one of the fundamental concepts of Christianity -- the propitiation of our sins by the Lamb of God. The whole of the OT rules and regulations, the sacrifice system laid out by God, Calvary's Cross -- the whole point of that was to satisfy God's holiness. It stresses that love drove His action, and that He bore our wrath.

I'm also content with seeing which one of these flies out of mouth on the big day. I trust that He who placed the thoughts in my head probably knows which works best for His message.


and did not deny, but confessed

A brother in the flock is facing his demons this week. All of us face various personal sins, and while we might confess some of the smaller, less offensive ones (in man's eyes, not in God's eyes), few have the strength to admit their weaknesses before others. Doing so publicly, making oneself vulnerable so that one can be effectively lifted up before the Lord? That takes a courage that is supernatural. What a reflection that is to the saving power of God. If arrogance is publicly declaring one's strengths, then the opposite of that is humility. And what I saw today even in weakness is Christlike strength, and the mark of a heart about to be made beautiful.

its one side and three branches

"Three Dimensional Salvation" {Rom8:29}
* Intro
- Nature of Universe is triune (gas/liquid/solid, height/width/depth, past/present/future, etc)
- Nature of God is triune {Matt28:19-20}
- Any wonder that a triune God who made a triune universe would make a triune salvation?
* Salvation
- Three dimensions: justification, sanctification, glorification
- We need salvation from: penalty of sin {Rom3:23, Rom6:23}; power of sin {Gen6:5}; presence of sin {1Cor15:33}
* Salvation from penalty of sin -- Justification
- Justification "makes us sinless in the eyes of God"
- We are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone {Eph2:8-9, John1:12, John3:16}
- Happens on instant of belief; born again
- CANNOT be lost {John10:27-29}
* Salvation from power of sin -- Sanctification
- Sanctification "gives us the power to not sin" {Rom8:8-9a}
- Happens from new birth to death {Phil2:12-13}
- By grace through faith {Col3:1-3, Ex17}
- Power to overcome sin is the life of Christ in us {Rom5:9-10, Gal2:20, John15:5}
- How work? Intake of His Word, prayer, fellowship, witness
- CAN be lost -- always a struggle between flesh & spirit {Rom7:15,19-20,24-25} -- but no effect on other dimensions of salvation
* Salvation from presence of sin -- Glorification
- Glorification "places us in His presence where there is no sin" {Rev21:1-2,27}
- Happens either at death or His second coming {1Thess4:13-17, 1Cor15:50-57}
- CANNOT be lost {Eph1:13-14}
* Application
- Get saved (justified)
- Continue being saved (sanctified)
- Look forward to your eternal home (glorified)


put aside to be kept

Prepping for the big day and had some interesting feedback from my pastor on one sentence in the draft. I take the position that the mercy of God is shown when He looks at our ugly sinfulness and stays His hand. The feedback I received was that while that statement is mostly true, isn't it also fact that what the Lord sees when He looks at us is Christ's righteousness rather than our own? In fact, I had said as much during my last time before the flock.

And I certainly see that point. Word says our sin is separated as far as east is from west. The word used to describe the blottedness of our sin is fairly clear in its level of complete obscurity. Not sinners, but sinners saved by grace.

On the other hand, mercy cannot exist if He doesn't see the actual need for mercy. How else does He hand out consequences for disobedience if He doesn't see the disobedience? Throughout the Word we see examples of believers sinning and the Lord turning away from them because of their sinfulness.

I think there are many believers who would like to entertain the fantasy that all of their ugliness cannot be seen from above. But that Christ-colored look happens before the throne, when God takes that look at us to determine our eternal outcome. At that point, surely only Christ's righteousness can count for anything.

But on that day-to-day look? I think there are those of us who completely understand how ugly we are before Him, how dark the soul that sins. That is no self-esteem issue -- just reality. But in that perspective, how great is that God who stays His hand, who still dies for that darkness? How patient that Lord who turns His back on us as consequence, yes, but who also looks back over His shoulder, watching for our return out the window, running to us with that robe when He sees our prodigality heading home?


even as I have loved you

So, been a long few weeks...

Have been feeling in a rut for a few months, kind of paddling away in a river that seemed too still to ripple. And I distinctly remember asking the Lord to teach me something about Himself that I didn't know; or if I did know it, that I failed to truly grasp it. And not so stunningly, He decided some trial was the best way to guide me to knowledge.

Concurrent to these events, I have been working on a Good Friday meditation that for the life of me I couldn't feel His Spirit's quill. So again no wonder that while striving through fire, I could feel that nib draft serif upon serif. And the knowledge gleaned from both experiences was one I shall attempt to hold on to through still river, or raging flood.

I believe that He never loved us more than the day He loved us on Calvary. I still hold to that. But I was also taught that every second of every minute of every day He loves me wholly, deeply, and with the fullness of His being. That there is no day when that isn't so. That no trial is too large where that truth cannot emerge victoriously. That nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Nothing.


have stood by Me in My trials

"Worshiping God in the Hard Times"
* Babylonian Captivity
- Most people of conquered nations become slaves
- How would you react if you were an Israelite taken captive by Babylonians? Mad at God? Could you worship?
- Ps137 written in this context -- v4 How can we sing?
* Before Babylonian Captivity
- Wicked trampling righteous in Israel; corruption everywhere
- Habakkuk prayed for God to right wrongs
- Answer to prayer? Promised Babylonian captivity
- Hab's response? Hab3:17-18 -- worship
* A worshipful attitude might not change situation, but will change hearts, which changes everything
- We always have choice during trial to either pull away from God or propel selves toward God
* Recognize God & His grace are source of all we do
- Jesus can redeem failures
- No place in Scripture does God promise not to give us more than we can bear; He routinely gives us more than we can bear so we rely on Him
* Recognize difficulties are normal part of life
- Fanny Crosby
* Understand true Biblical joy
- Rejoice verb form of joy
- Jam1:2 -- pure joy when facing trial
- Joy not same as happiness
- Joy a gift from God {Rom14:17}
- "Nothing can take away your joy without your permission"
* Keep your eyes on the goal
- 1Cor15:19; Phil3:20; Col3:20