Posts Tagged ‘kingdom’

This is a second post started on October 30, 2013.  It was a time of processing the trial that God had already brought us through and preparing for what was ahead.  i have no direct memory of what brought me to Psalm 118 but remember well the joining of Blessing, Sacrifice and Thanks in my heart and soul.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Psalm 118:26-29

As I was reading today I found this passage of Scripture interesting in its fusion of concepts:  Blessing, Sacrifice and Thanks.  We are always excited about blessing.  We see ourselves as coming from our Lord God and appreciate the blessings that come from Him as well as those that come by way of His people.  Likewise we are often prepared to lavish our thanks on Him in prayer and song.  However when it comes to the centerpiece of this Scripture we tend to balk a little, or a lot.  In a culture of individual value the concept of personal sacrifice in service of our God has been watered down almost to the point of non-existence.

How we hesitate (or refuse) to bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.  This act was in preparation for sacrifice.  It may be that the picture that David is painting is of a temple court crowded with animals to be sacrificed.  Binding them to the horns of the altar committed them to God as they waited to be placed on the altar.  The Hebrew word for cords here is indicative of a celebratory garland as opposed to utilitarian rope.  Sacrifice is in celebration of the blessing and the thankfulness that arise from our faith in a good and loving Father.  How often we bind our sacrifices to the altar with the dingy and weak cords of reluctance.

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

We need to wrap our sacrifice in the garland of joy and love.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of Worship.”  Romans 12:1

Jesus has led us to the path of real sacrifice.  It is absolute.  It is sacrifice of being.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking  the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Philippians 2:6-8

Once we come to this place sacrifice becomes culture because we recognize that it is all His to begin with and that the true nature of sacrifice is abundance freed from circumstance.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

I do not believe that this is talking about a quid pro quo relationship with God.  He is not a God of “this for that”.  We do not sacrifice for reward, this would be meaningless, and probably not qualify as sacrifice at all.  Instead we demonstrate our capacity to receive blessing by embracing the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ.

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Change is a part of the Christian walk.  Some change is sudden and some change comes slowly.  Last Friday our whole world changed but our hearts did not.  As The Lewis House website is no more I wanted to post this here.  The Lewis House is gone, a sudden death, and our lives have been turned upside down since this was recorded but our heart of ministry continues unchanged, building the Kingdom of God one relationship at a time…

 

 

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I have been looking over my posts over the past couple of years and a couple of them stand out so I thought that I would throw them out there again. This post has become so much more meaningful over the past year as Allana and I have walked through the storm of Leukemia and a bone marrow transplant.  It also connects nicely with my series on perseverance because at its core persevering as a Christian IS walking in the miraculous.  When we truly “remain under” Christ Jesus as the covering for our lives the miraculous is bound to show its face.  “Open the eyes of my heart Lord” the popular song refrains.  Open my eyes to see Your miraculous hand in and around my life everyday!

 

Walking in the Miraculous

“So then does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  Galatians 3:5

Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of this new life that God has called me to at The Lewis House is one that I should have had in my Christian life regardless of my profession.  It is one that I am still learning to embrace because (unlike my beautiful wife) I am a bit too logical in my make up and a big part of me want to live on the basis of logical observation instead of spiritual expectation.  God is teaching me to walk in the miraculous.

When we truly hear the Gospel with faith there should be an expectation of the miraculous.  It is part of the package.  This is not a mystical toy store or the ability to bend God’s power to our will for our happiness.  It is simply expecting God to act in my life and then walking out my faith and getting to watch Him moving and working in an around me.  The cool thing is that the miraculous looks a little different every time.  I think that one of the mistake that we often make is when something miraculous happens in our lives we run around expecting that very same thing to happen over and over or even just one more time.  This may be in part to our desire to control the miraculous.  Humanity has always had an inherent fear of the things that we cannot control.  Better to have a god who responds to our requests exactly the same way all of the time, speaking into our lives in the ways that we want Him too (as opposed to in ways that sanctify us, ever conforming us closer and closer to the mind of Christ).

The author of Hebrews reveals the purpose of the miraculous.  “…how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?  After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”  Hebrews 2:3-4  It confirms to us our salvation.  This approximates Paul’s statement in Galatians that we already looked.

The other amazing thing is that God will not be put in a box.  Sometimes we mistake the fact that he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow for the fact that we will be able to manipulate and predict his actions in our lives.  This error is revealed in Isaiah, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways, My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways And my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9  Does this mean that we just drift along being pushed here and there by a capricious God?  Not at all!  We cry out our needs, concerns, suffering and desires to God and the open our spiritual eyes wide and watch Him work.  It will be amazing, and often in ways that we least expect.

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Detour Ahead!  How I have dreaded that sign. Fortunately with today’s smartphone and GPS technology it does not carry the same fear factor that it did when I was younger.  In fact today with a little bit of effort we are able to avoid detours altogether and if we do get stuck in one with a few simple screen touches we no longer have to rely on the often sparsely placed detour signs and can map out our new path to our destination.  However we have not managed a technology that will predict and map out alternative routes to our goals when we hit those life detours that take us away from path of life that we have planned.

1de·tour

noun \ˈdē-ˌtu̇r also di-ˈtu̇r\

: the act of going or traveling to a place along a way that is different from the usual or planned way

: a road, highway, etc., that you travel on when the usual way of traveling cannot be used

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/detour

I have been struggling with this topic for some time now.  I originally thought I would be talk about heavenly detours.  How God diverts our path for his purpose and we just have to kind of ride along.  That is certainly how I felt about this latest chapter in my life.  As I looked at the scene pictured about today (Wednesday October 2, 2013), I realized how different my life was just 9 months ago.  January 2nd Nisa Faith had just joined our family after a 10 year Odyssey of losses, tears and suffering.  Allana was feeling a little ill but we were certain a quick trip to the OB, some antibiotics and we would be good to go.  Ready to run that path that seemed to be so obviously stretched out ahead of us, a Spring and Summer of ministry at The Lewis House, working with Compelled, CityLight and our other partners to spread the Love of God.  What a difference 3 days can make.  3 short days and I would be on perhaps the greatest detour of my life, or would I.  God has been really battering me on this subject, because I truly have felt like this was exactly that, a detour.  When in reality it is right on course but instead of my course, or Allana’s course or TLH’s course, it IS GOD’s course.  When we view these events in our lives as detours, we detract from God’s omniscient role as master planner of everything.  I want to step lightly here because I am not writing doctrine on God’s sovereignty nor am I suggesting that God gave this horrible disorder to Allana, or anyone else.  I think that perhaps my concept of our situation whether thought out or not was of God looking down and saying, ” Oh shoot!  Allana has Leukemia, well I guess I can use that for My Glory ’til we can get things back on course.”  There we go, just a heavenly detour and I am so tempted to detour here into writing the very doctrinal statement that I said was not my intent.  Thank God for the delete button.  However what I have found is that God does not take detours.  Allana and I are not on some end around that will eventually get us back on the path that God has for us.  We are on the path that he has carefully laid out for us.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

No detours for God’s consecrated, God’s appointed, God’s anointed.  There is a point in every Born Again Believer’s life that he or she makes a choice to change direction.  However this is not a detour because not only the route changes, the destination changes.  The Believer is no longer on a pathway to eternal separation from God, to hell, but has turned to a path leading to the mind of Christ.  There is an intentional, continual seeking of God’s presence.  It harks more the etymological root of the word than our current usage.

French détour, from Old French destor, from destorner to divert, from des- de- + torner to turn —

First Known Use: 1738
To turn from, this is the very heart of repentance and salvation.  There is one major difference when we submit ourselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ there is not just a temporary course change.  There is a change of destination, and I don’t just mean heaven.  Every man has in his mind a course and destination.  What the destination will be is determined by our core values.  Some pursue riches.  Some pursue power.  Some pursue pure evil.  Some pursue the greatest good.  Honestly some pursue nothing at all, seeking to have no destination at all but simply seeing life as riding out each circumstance to the best of their ability only to find that this is in itself pursuing a course to a destination.  When one comes into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ all of  that changes.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28  Suddenly we are on a new course.  It is not one of our own creation but one that God set into motion before the world was created.  This is the confusion.  We conceive of where God has us headed and when things don’t turn out we see it as a detour.  This brings frustration just the same way that an unexpected detour on the road unsettles us.  However when we give God the glory he is do, this evaporates.  “In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.” Psalms 16:9  It is the assumption that God has it all under control that allows to continually apply His word to our situation. “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.”   Psalm 119:59.  It is in this place that God affirms us even in the midst of the storm.

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fear

I did not sleep well last night.  I find that as we approach the time of returning home and as the visits to the hospital and to our doctors become fewer and far between, there is not a sense of relief but a sense of fear.  Throw into the mix the new healthcare laws going into effect in a matter of days and not really knowing how that will impact Allana’s ongoing care and I find myself doing just a little bit of internal churning.  Friday enhanced for me the precariousness of her situation.  This is not to say that this sense of fear came on suddenly, it has been building.  It just kind of peaked last night and early this morning.  But as I finally gave in to the hopelessness of getting back to sleep, again…I heard buzz of an incoming email and this is what I found:

Sep 29, 2013

Facing Your Fears

By Charles F. Stanley

http://www.intouch.org/you/article-archive/content?topic=facing_your_fears_article

I wanted to smile and cry at the same time.   At that point the content of the devotional didn’t really matter.  God was just reminding me the He knows where I am at every minute of every day.  I am a little disappointed in myself that after all of His miraculous interventions in my life I am so easily sidetracked but it is great to KNOW that I have the God who is ready to coddle me when my human weaknesses show through.  I did of course read the piece and the first major point highlighted what had really happened.

“The first and best move you can make to build up your faith is to get your eyes off your problem and off yourself and onto Jesus. He is the Source of all your supply. He is utterly reliable and possesses all knowledge and all authority. Speak aloud the words of Hebrews 13:6 until they sink deep within your spirit: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

People may criticize, reject, ridicule and persecute, but they can’t take away your salvation, your relationship with Jesus Christ, your eternal home in heaven, or the joy, contentment, and inner strength the Lord imparts to you.”

It is part of the incredible human disconnect that is at the heart of our faith.  For the Children of God successfully facing fear means not looking at the problem, or problems that bring the fear, it means looking right into the face of Jesus.  It is from this place that Paul tells the Philippians that he has learned to be content no matter what his circumstances are because no matter what is going on around him or what is happening to him, the face of Christ never changes.  I would encourage you to go and read the rest of Stanley’s devotional for today but here are the basic points

Second, ask the Lord to give you the help you need.

Third, encourage yourself by memorizing the Word of God and quoting it as often as you need a fear-buster of inner strength.

And, finally, ask others to pray for you.

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This is  a study that I first wrote before Nisa’s birth and before the present trial that God has placed in our path.  More than ever the depth of God’s love for His people as illustrated by Hosea’s call and response to that call inspires my heart and lets me rest in the knowledge of His Grace.

“When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry ; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.”  So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.”  Hosea 1:2-3

Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”  Hosea 3:1

Hosea is first and foremost a love story.  It is a live action representation of the redemptive love story called The Bible.  When I first read this amazing story I glossed over these two passages.  I did not really conceive of what God was asking of Hosea.

It is in chapter three that the reality of Hosea’s call becomes clear. Suddenly all of the technical sniping about the legal ramifications and the arguments over interpretation seem shallow.  Hosea was called by God to create in life a wonderful picture of His love for us, the love that culminated on a cross outside of Jerusalem and was fulfilled by an empty tomb!  It is a love that is sacrificial, one that accepts rejection and seeks redemption.  It is love that forgives offense and pursues atonement but it is a love that recognizes the requirements of holiness and demands a response.  It is a love that understands that in the absence of that response destruction comes.

“Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.  You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, You have eaten the fruit of lies.  Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors”  Hosea 10:12-13

In this case I like the NIV’s translation of CHECED (rendered kindness by the NAS), “unfailing love”.  I think this considers well the overall theme of Hosea.

“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love…”

This foreshadows Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Matthew 22 when asked what the greatest commandment was.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind soul…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”


The formula is simple: Righteous living = Love.  God called Hosea to graphically demonstrate this love, the love of Righteousness.  He also calls us to love the un-lovable and shows us that this can be done without sacrificing righteousness.  Hosea never accepted and/or condoned her sin but he went and loved her, went and redeemed her where she was at.  In just the same way Christ came to our sorry estate and loved us, redeemed us.  Now he waits for our response.  Just as Hosea required a response from Gomer,

Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days.  You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.”  Hosea 3:3

Here the story of Hosea ends and the application to Israel begins.

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them.  For the ways of the Lord are right, And the righteousness will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.”  Hosea 14:9

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Since Allana was diagnosed with Leukemia this place has been a mad house.  People ask the question and I find myself saying over and over, I have had to redefine what is a good day and what is a bad day.  The new normal for Allana, myself and our family is a bad day by the old standards, every day.  As I sit here thinking about this redefining process and my relationship to God it became clear to me that my relationship with God is the catalyst and the key to it.  This is what God does for us.  This is how he grows and draws us close.  A burning bush redefined life for Moses.  Suddenly a good day was risking his life standing before Pharaoh, or before his very own irate people.  I cannot help but wonder if Moses did not wish for the good old days of tending sheep in the hills of Midian.  Joseph had his days redefined in Egypt several times.  An angel by a wine press redefined a good day for Gideon.  Job, well Job is Job and he is perhaps the poster child for the redefining process.  Jesus redefined a good day for the disciples, over and over and over.  Then He redefined it for the universe by dying on Calvary.  I can almost hear God in his best Jerry Maguire impression on that day speaking to His People:  You know our little venture, well it had a big day, a really big day.  Now I complete you!.  Each of these has a real element of BAD to them.  It is important to realize that God does not want us to suffer, but He USES it and yes ALLOWS it because it serves His purposes in achieving Romans 8:28 which outlines the end result of the redefining process.  The good thing about this process is that it has a core.  It is a core that is made of rock hard incorruptible absolute truth.  It is a core that is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and immutable.  What happens is that in all this redefinition we actually come to a single truth.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

Circumstances change but a good day is when we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.  I cannot say that today was a good day, but We believe and we are learning  God give us grace and power to make tomorrow a good day, no matter what the circumstances are.

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