Friday, April 23, 2021

Jesus' Suffering = Ours. How So?

We have been talking about how life in the Promised Land is fraught with battles.  Yes, the Land is ours through the blood of Jesus and our consequent forgiveness.  We "then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb. 4:16).

But Paul has an interesting way of standing with Jesus in the Promised Land:  

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:10-14)

Wow.  In order to know Jesus--to really know Him deeply, intimately and fully--Paul sees this path taking him into Jesus' sufferings.   Yes, the path is filled with the Power that raised Jesus from the dead, that is, the Spirit of God:

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Rom. 8:11)

But as we enter into the sufferings of Jesus, this is where we truly get to know Him.  

So, it's just not suffering with an eye to the resurrection; it is an eye on getting to know Jesus better in this life.  So, why suffering?  Because that is the path Jesus walked.  We shy away from this thought, because we don't want to suffer. I remember a passage from Corrie Ten Boom's autobiography, The Hiding Place.  She is talking to her father about fear and how will she face what is coming?  Her father asks her when he gives her the train ticket.  She says when she gets on the train.  So, too, says her father, that God gives us His grace when we are in the need at the moment, and not a moment before.  

In other words, sitting where you are and thinking about suffering is scary--Satan will increase your worries with all sorts of horrible imaginings about what the suffering will be... But don't let him carry you away.  When you face suffering, it is at that precise moment that God will step in, and hand you the ticket of grace, as it were.  

Think of it another way.  Remember the show, Undercover Boss?  It had a great premise:  Have the boss dress up like just another worker, and hang out with the workers.  Experience what they experience, hear their concerns and ask what they really think of the boss.  Wow.  It was quite a revelation for the boss, for he or she just didn't hear about life at the lower levels, but actually engaged with the people enough to really understand them.  The boss could go back to being a boss later on; unlike the workers, who had to remain behind.  But the boss was never the same.  How could he or she be?  The boss went from head knowledge to hopefully some real empathy, and that changes a person.

Hearing about poverty and then driving through a poor, blighted neighborhood: That changes you.

Hearing about a Third World country and going there, staying with the people you are seeking to help and understand, and not staying in a four-star hotel:  That changes you.

Being employed, and then getting fired, and having to wait with others in an unemployment line: That changes you.  

Having your teenager spiral out of control and now joining the ranks of parents of troubled teens: That changes you.  

Having your health suddenly deteriorate, and the doctors are utterly flummoxed by your symptoms: That changes you.

Why?  Because now you stand where others are standing.  You have left your rather seemingly uncomplicated life to enter one of hurt, pain, being misunderstood by others, and questioning God.  

Then the battle of not becoming bitter kicks in hard.  But the Word warns us where that battle can lead without leaning heavily on Jesus and learning to see His grace at work.  Phillips does an amazing job on this verse from Hebrews 12:15:  

Let it be your ambition to live at peace with all men and to achieve holiness “without which no man shall see the Lord”. Be careful that none of you fails to respond to the grace which God gives, for if he does there can very easily spring up in him a bitter spirit which is not only bad in itself but can also poison the lives of many others.

Beautiful.  Notice that bitterness can spring up, or other translations put it, a "root of bitterness"  can appear, as we fail to see (or do not want to see) how God, despite the pain and suffering we are going through, is still at work.  This bitterness, is, at first, unseen by others, and can be ignored by you.  When it is small, we nurse it, secretly thinking we are alone in our sufferings, no one else has gone through something like this, and even if others see our suffering, they just don't get it.  That root grows, and if you have ever battled weeds (not wimpy ones, but the weeds that have giant taproots, ugly seeds and an attitude of  "You want a piece of me?  Fine.  Take it, but I will be back!") you know what I mean.

Have you spent time with a bitter person?  Need I say more?

But if our suffering matches that of Jesus', then we are entering into knowing Him better.  Jesus was the ultimate Undercover Boss.  He left the courts of Heaven, put on the working uniform of human flesh and walked among the lowly, the poor, the misunderstood, the hurting and the dying.  He didn't hobnob with the rich, the princely or the exalted, which would have been His due.  No.  He went way down into the muck and mire of human experience.  

He returned to Heaven a changed Man.  He gets us.  He really gets us.

So, if we follow Him, we enter into that same domain He was in while here: We go among the lowly, the poor, the misunderstood, the hurting and the dying.  We go deeper into the muck and mire of human experience.  Our path is through suffering, but He gives us grace when and where and how we will need it and not a minute before.  You don't psych yourself up to face suffering; He gives you the grace the moment you get on the train:

The moment you are given the diagnosis.

The moment you are told you husband has had a heart attack and stroke.  (That was me, seven years ago.)

The moment your teenager yells, "I hate you!" (Been there.)

The moment your husband's affair is revealed to you.

The moment your wife says, "I don't love you anymore."

Now, this all presents a small problem.  Jesus suffered on this earth.  We follow Him and as we suffer, we gain a deeper knowledge of Him.  But I can hear you say, 

Jesus is God, but I am not. He had the home-court advantage.

Jesus didn't lose a son/daughter/spouse to drugs/alcohol/suicide.

Jesus wasn't raped.

Jesus didn't suffer from a chronic illness.

So, how can I get to know Jesus better when He didn't go through what I am going through?

Good question.  So, here is another way to think about this:

Do I have to go to war, undergo PTSD to minister to a vet?  

Do I have to lose a child to minister to a grieving parent?

Do I have to be divorced to gently listen to a person recently divorced?

If we predicated our ministry solely on having gone through exactly what the other person has gone through, we would minster to very few people, and we would turn away a huge number who reached out to us.  But, if we are suffering with Jesus, He gives us the deeper understanding, discernment and heart to walk with someone in moccasins so foreign to our experience. 

He knew deeply the human heart, in a way that only God can.  So, He could understand an event in the life of someone, even if He didn't personally go through it.

For example, Jesus did not contract leprosy while He was here.  But He was all too familiar with rejection and being marginalized.  

So, He could gently enter into the life of a leper, and deeply feel the hurt and rejection that leper experienced.  He knew how pain and suffering cause us to question God's benevolence, and just how pervasively sin destroyed the beauty of His Father's creation.

So, I am going to go through the Gospels with you, and search out exactly how, why and when, Jesus suffered--to unpack the idea of what "participation in His sufferings" looks like.  We will go undercover with the Boss and as we see Him confront a lot of the evil, ugliness and pain this world has to offer, my prayer is that it will give us hope and a comfort from the Lord Himself as we face our suffering. 








 




Thursday, April 15, 2021

Covid Musings

I try to post every week, but on Monday, I received my second Covid shot.  Whew.  I felt like I fell off a turnip truck, only to have it back over me.  I was down and out for one and a half days.  So, alas, my blog had to be put on hold.  

I must say that if a measured, second dose (presumably I now had antibodies ready this time) made me feel this way, I cannot even imagine how an unmeasured, first time encounter with Covid would be like.  I don't want to sound melodramatic, but I do understand why people die from this--it is utterly overwhelming--and I had a very mild encounter with it.  But I am thankful for the vaccine.  

While I was in bed, I read about small pox, the flu epidemic of 1918-19, and polio.  Morbid?  No, perspective:  I realized that our fight against such overwhelming enemies has always been fraught with fear, suspicion, accusation and division.  Sad how we humans don't really change when it comes to facing our mortality.  Death is scary, yes, but not understanding how and why it comes is even scarier.  Such uncertainty makes us turn on each other, God and those in medical and governmental authority.  Why?  Because suddenly the universe feels random. 

Civilization is one vast push back against the vicissitudes of existence.  Following the grazing herds is all fine and dandy, as long as they migrate in a discernible pattern and you can bring down enough to feed your people.  But if you can't, starvation comes a-knocking.  So, grow your own:  control the food supply.  But feast or famine are only a harvest away:  Either you bring in abundance to your barns or you weep at the pathetic crop that now spells disaster.

Harness a water supply.  Build along rivers, dig cisterns, pray for rain. Without water, life screeches to a halt and all your efforts at living become focused on surviving, if you don't die of thirst on the way.

Then, there are your enemies. You build a wall around your city, to protect your homes, gardens, markets, temples and peace of mind.  Now you don't have to wait for the fury of your enemies to come and undo all your security.  You need only to shut the gates.  You wait.  You fight back from a high vantage point and wait for your enemies to bugger off out of frustration.  They go looking for easier pastures and you settle down once again, with hearth and home safe and secure.  Dire outcomes from random attacks seems somewhat moderated. 

Life has lost its hunter-gatherer unpredictability.  Springtime, harvest, gathering in and waiting again for spring seem to secure the future.  You were here this year, your family was fed, your city withstood attack and your barns are filled.  You are secure in this ordered pattern--randomness, like the wild dogs that howl at your city gates, is kept at bay.

But invisible enemies stalk the land.  No amount of abundant harvest, potable water, vanquished foes and secure gates seem to keep these enemies out.  A cough, a sniffle, a rash, a fever, a loose stool, or utter fatigue means that randomness has just made its appearance.  The afflicted will either recover or die.  The invisible enemy will slip away.  

Until the next time.

Throughout human history, there was always a next time.

Civilization, although effective in helping one generation pass the torch to the next generation, was never able to keep such incursions away until the 19th century made significant inroads into what caused disease and what could be done to fight it.   

I grew up in the 60s.  My mother was a daughter of a prominent cardiologist.  Her stepmother was a nurse.  So, you can imagine just how clean my house was: washing hands, bathing every day, clean surfaces and the smell of Lysol were how things were done.  My mom couldn't get us to the school gym fast enough for our polio vaccine.  We were given every vaccination available.  The risk of actually getting any number of childhood diseases far outweighed any concerns my mother had about the vaccines.  

All of the childhood diseases were conquered, as it were, with a shot to the arm.  

But we were still bundled tight to keep ways chills.  We stayed home from school if we had a sniffle.  Even a mild cold brought out the nurse in my mom: Vicks Vapo-Rub, a thermometer, 7Up and saltine crackers were deployed to relieve the misery.  Bactine for cuts and this nasty red liquid antiseptic, Micurochrome, were always at the ready to stave off my mom's fear of infection.  Listerine, named after the man who conquered sepsis in the operating theater, was a godsend. 

Infection could be controlled and modern 50s medicine, with its emphasis on antiseptic procedures,  gave my mom some assurance we would not get mortally ill from a little cut.  Yes, antibiotics were available, but a positive outcome from an infection was not a given. 

One day, I stepped over the line and committed a sin so grievous that my mom went ballistic.  I never understood why until much, much later.  My neighbor's kids had dug a hole in the backyard as a makeshift swimming pool.  I loved to swim and in I went, splashing around and loving every minute.  For some reason, my brother ran home and tattled, and when I came home, wet, muddy and happy, my mom was furious.  She hosed me down out in the garage with no mercy, screaming at me the whole time.  I then had to take a bath and get really clean.  

She never said the word, "Polio."  

Many, many years later I listened to an NPR series on polio, with people talking about how every summer, the silent specter of polio haunted every swimming hole, every pool and no one knew whose life would be forever altered by its touch.

I never connected why my mom was so angry until that moment.  Yes, I had been vaccinated, but I am sure that somewhere in the back of her mind, the possibility of contracting polio still haunted my mom.

When I had my two children, they received the usual battery of vaccines:  DPT, MMR and others whose names I do not remember.  I was a little afraid, but the idea of not getting my children vaccinated never occurred to me.  I grew up in a time where doctors and scientists had put up city walls against diseases that carried children away, and I was not going back to the 19th century when a sniffle or a cough could mean death.

My daughter caught chicken pox and her infant brother did so as well.  Her cousins did so as well, and one of them had pox inside her throat and in her lady parts and was in excruciating pain.  But I didn't think any of them would die.  I had "vaccination civilization" on my side.  Then my daughter caught hand, foot and mouth disease and was so weak that she couldn't climb into bed.  I still didn't consider death an outcome.  In the 80s, we were even more modern in medical advancement than when I was a child.  I had my kids dress warmly, but I wasn't so terrified of a chill that I insisted they dress like Eskimos. Every fever was not a cause for panic.

Now, we face Covid.  My grandchildren are facing what my mother faced:  The very real possibility of a disease that could carry them off.  We had no magic vaccine when it hit. Millions have died. Masks. Isolation.  Quarantine ( a holdover from the Black Death when you had to stay locked up for 40 days) and all sorts of conflicting information have made people cynical, scared and willing to engage in recrimination:  Faith over fear.  We won't be told by the government what to do.  I think it's a hoax.  I think it's overblown.  Wait 'til after Trump is reelected--the numbers will go down.  Choose hope.  No mandatory mask-wearing: that's the first step towards dictatorship.  No one is shutting us down. We will meet. 

We humans do not react well when the walls of civilization are breached and randomness reappears in the form of an invisible menace. When we face a possible early death--ours, or the ones we love--and uncertainty about the future, we start asking questions:  Is this the beginning of the end?  Is this another epidemic of Black Death proportions, or like the flu of 1918-1919?  When will Covid go away, or will it?  Why aren't the vaccines doing their job, 100% of the time?  Will I still get sick?  Will I die? Aren't viruses only suppose to carry away the very young and the very old? (This callous attitude of Hey, this disease is scary only if you are in a particular group, reminds me of the AIDS epidemic and the hardening of the public's heart at that time).

I have faith.  

You have fear.  

Lines have been drawn in the faith community sands.  We stand staring at each other, as our hearts harden.  Our attitude of I will prevail because of my faith makes us feel superior over those who are struggling to comply with health regulations.  

We look at the "Covid Jobs" and offer all sorts of explanations like Job's friends did, while desperately trying to keep our own fear--that could be me next!--at bay.

But the rain falls on the just and the unjust.  Good people get swept away in epidemics.  Our fallen world with its invisible enemies are no respecter of persons.  Instead of uniting and trying to work together to patch up this breach in our walls with love and neighborly concern, we have made it about us.  

Me. Me. Me.

We are not unique in how we've reacted.  The Jewish people, conjunction of planets, bad air, filth, malevolent spirits and the dead not staying dead have been replaced with Big Pharma, Democrats, the media, those who hate Trump, it's a hoax or it's overblown as THE explanations for this epidemic.   

We have modernized our scapegoats, but we still have scapegoats.

We have modernized our fears, but we still have fears.

In our effort to wrest control back from the random nature of disease, we default right back to our father Adam: We blame each other.  

It has been said that truth is the first casualty in war. 

Sadly, I say that fear is the deadliest symptom in an epidemic.



 



 

Monday, April 5, 2021

He Understands. No, Really.

I have sat through many an Easter sermon.  I have watched many movies depicting Jesus' death, burial and resurrection.  Easter is one of the most amazing days to have ever happened, and Easter services are always joyous.  

Jesus is alive.

Death, where is your sting?

The graveyards are no longer permanent residences.

Loss is only temporary.  

But as I have walked with Jesus for many years now, I see Easter has many nuances, and one is especially  poignant to me.

This verse in Hebrews 4:15, which we read last week, is one of the most important verses in the Scriptures to me.  I have several versions here: 

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. (NLT)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (NIV)

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. (AMPC)

Where did Jesus gain His capacity to sympathize with us?  Surely, God is love, compassion, mercy and goodness...does that mean that He didn't understand us?  

But Psalm 103 gives us a beautiful picture of how He sees us and how He provides for us:  
 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. (
1-14) 

I highlighted the last part.  It speaks to our question:  God is as a father to us.  He made our first parent, Adam, and knows intimately what we are made of and what we are capable of, both good and evil.

But Jesus understands us in a different way, I propose.  He understands us as human beings, for He left the courts of heaven and wrapped Himself in our flesh.  The flesh imposed on Him had limitations:  hunger, thirst, loneliness, longing, fatigue, consternation, sadness and fear.  

Let me draw you an analogy.  As I sit in my office with the window open, I hear the chirping of the wee birds at the feeders that hang outside.  I enjoy their songs and their antics.  I refill the feeders regularly so they will not go hungry, and I love to see the variety of birds that show up.  I love my little friends, but I am really not one of them.  I see the bigger picture:  I place the feeders so they will be safe, to make sure that the raptors don't exploit this location for their lunch.  I use quality birdseed.  I know their lives are short, but that doesn't mean their lives must be unnecessarily hard.  I live in a high desert where water is scarce, so I also have installed a small bird bath.

I have tried to think of everything.  But I am still not a bird.  I can use my imagination and wonder what being a bird is like, and try to sympathize with their world, but I am not a bird.

But, if I were able, I would like to become one.  Then I would have a deeper understanding of what challenges they face, their fears and how it must feel to fly in fear and in joy.

Jesus became us.  His Father lovingly provides for us, remembers we are dust, and sees the bigger picture, with the concept of eternity thrown in.  But when Jesus wrapped Himself in our flesh, walked in our dirt, ate our food, slept under the stars, and grew tired, weary and sometimes had a good laugh, He really understood us in a more intimate way.  

He was tempted by this life, by His flesh.  He was tried by this life, by His flesh.  In the Greek, "temptation" and "tested" are the same word.  What at first draws us in by capturing our attention, what then makes us discontented, angry or incurs fear, causes us to either give in or find a way out, tests who we are, in our heart and in our character.  It is difficult in this flesh.  James traces the trajectory:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (1:13-15)

What then is the purpose of testing/temptation?  James shares:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (1:2-4) 

Growth.  Refinement.  A deeper commitment to God and His ways, eschewing our own, and standing with Him, confident that He who began a good work in us will complete it. Our flesh, with its sin nature, needs God's refining fires to pull out the dross and make us into the gold He wants us to be.

Jesus didn't pull an Adam:  He never ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil--the fruit that says we can do it our own way.  No, He ate the fruit from the tree of life--His Father's life.  The Life that gives life and maintains His Father's supremacy at the center of all thoughts, of all actions.  Jesus didn't rebel against His Father, His ways nor His wisdom.  

Unlike us, He didn't allow the flesh to send Him into a rebellious, self-centered response to the world's and the flesh's enticements.  In other words, He did not sin--which at its heart, is an act of rebellion.

So, even though Jesus chose time and time again to respond obediently, that doesn't mean the temptations/testings didn't hit Him hard.  Frequently.  Intensely.   Repeatedly.

So, our seminal verse in Hebrews about our High Priest is utterly essential to standing on the knowledge that He gets it. 

Really and truly gets it.

But wait a minute.  You may be saying, "How can His story be my story?  How can He understand what I have been through?"

I have taken this excerpt from my book, Stronghold Starters:  How Satan Gets Into Our Lives.  I pray it will speak to your heart and make you realize that with Jesus, tempted /tested in every way possible, you never walk alone.  I imagined Him saying:

I was accused of being many things, even in my childhood.  I was seen as an illegitimate child, a mere carpenter’s son, a man from an ignorant village, a man with no schooling, a nobody.  

Later on, I was accused of being a blasphemer, a drunk, demon-possessed, a friend of sinners, a sinner myself, a lawbreaker, inappropriate with women, a fake, a deceptive leader.   I was rejected by my hometown, misunderstood by my family, denied by one friend and betrayed by another friend.

One day, I was handed over to my enemies, of which I had many.  They mocked me, severely beat me, and tortured me with whips and fists.  I then had to carry the very thing that would kill me.  Through the streets I went, with screams, angry words and wailing accompanying every painful step I took. 

I grew terribly thirsty and slammed to the ground, carrying the weight of the world upon my shoulders.

Then came the soul-shattering, mind-numbing, excruciating bolts of lightning pain, with no mercy, no respite, and no peace.

More hateful mocking words drifted up as the gates of Hell swung wide open, and the accuser stalked me again. 

And again.  

And again.  

Then my burden grew beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Ugly, black, biting, writhing, searing sin engulfed me. 

My heart seized at the utter hopelessness of it all.

I saw your rape. 

I saw your rapist. 

I saw your abuse.

I saw your abuser. 

I saw your child die. 

Your cancer. 

Your mental anguish. 

Your suffering. 

Your suicide.  

Your murder.  

I drank deeply from the cup of your sin, your pain, your life.

Then, as if humanity’s sin had gathered into raging bitter storm clouds, burning rain poured upon me, relentless, cold and black.

I saw every victim that ever walked the face of the earth.  I saw every person who had perpetrated hatred, violence, murder and torture upon others. I saw kings, leaders, mere men worshiped as gods and ignoring my Father.  I saw those who did unspeakable things in my Father’s name.

The rain of sin kept pouring down.  

I saw the face of every person plunged into a mass grave. 

I saw the sin that lured people into bondage and death. 

Every baby’s cry pierced my ears. 

Every woman’s scream seized my heart. 

Every man’s terror burned my soul. 

Every child’s tears wounded me again.  

And again.  

And again. 

At this moment, when sin’s blinding black rain darkened every corner of creation, and washed over me in a pitiless surge, I could no longer see my Father.

All hope was gone.  I was a captive. I now felt what every human being feels without my Father:  drowning in the black rain of sin, with no hope, no light, and no comfort. 

Alone.  Lost.   Dying. 

I cried, ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?’

This very moment is why I came.  I came to experience your world without my Father.  Your sin separated you from Him and now I felt that in all of its bitter loneliness.   

I cried, ‘It is finished.’

This very moment is why I came.  I shed my own blood to pay your sin’s debt and to reunite you with my Father.  I came to bring your dead self to new life: My life.  I will live my life in you and through you.  

The tomb could not hold me.  Death could not hold me.

That Sunday, as I emerged from tomb, triumphant and whole, the enemy’s laughter stopped.

I now sit with my Father in heavenly places.  Join us. Please don’t turn away.

Please don’t return to the darkness. 

Come to the Light.  

Come to Me, for although you are burdened with a heavy load, what I give you is Light for I give you Me.

Amen. 

 









Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Jesus' Battles

We have established that life here, in the Promised Land of Christ's salvation, is not going to be a cake walk, despite what many pastors preach these days.  I find it rather incongruous that those who are the most public about following Jesus are the least likely to be living in imitation of His life.  They have huge wealthy churches, lots of toys and engage in a rather prideful parading of their wealth.  Of course, why wouldn't their congregants want to give generously to such a ministry?  

I can hear someone say... "If God has so blessed Pastor So-and-So, because of the principles he follows, then I will blessed if I do likewise!  So I will support such an in-touch-with-God kind of ministry, and while I wait for the showers of blessings (materially? You betcha!) that this pastor promises, I will live vicariously through him--enjoying his wealth as if it were my own.  You can't argue with success, can you?"

But... Why not send the money directly to any reputable charity?  If God is in the business of blessing those who give lavishly with an eye on receiving back a hundredfold from Him, then any charity will do.  Right?  Wrong.  The money's destination is always the ministry, which feeds the followers a fantasy of material blessings and a pain-free life right here, right now.  The pastor lives the life that he promises is available to all, if they give to him.  All in the name of Jesus.

Wow.  Is it any wonder the church in America is losing people?  There is a truly troubling disconnect between the life of Jesus that is preached from the pulpit of the modern church--Jesus sacrificing and going to the cross--and the life promised to His followers: a life full of health, wealth and prosperity, all delivered to us by our faith, and financed by generous giving.  

Some key verses immediately come to mind from Matthew, chapter 7, verses 13-29:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (7:13-14)

It's not easy to follow Jesus, and if it feels easy, you may be going down a road that will leave you following a person, a church or yourself.  Jesus identifies Himself as the Gate; if people hated Him, why do we think He wants us, as His followers, to have public adulation, no challenges and jet airplanes?  So, who does Jesus identify as the wide gate-builders and the broad road-builders?  The people who claim to speak in His Father's name but who do not know His Father:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (7:15-20)

Identifiable not, you notice, by the fruit they have, but by the type of person that they are.  The fruit comes from what is coded from within the plant; Jesus may be echoing the words of Genesis that trees and vegetation will produce seeds "according to their kinds."  The heart brings forth what is stored there; Jesus made that clear.  So, false teachers, whose motivation is control, profit and a cover for sin, cannot camouflage who they are for very long.  

But, I can hear someone say... "But wait!  Look at all the good they do! C'mon!  You can't argue with success!  They heal people!  They help people unlock the Laws of Prosperity that God promises us!  They walk the walk and talk the talk--I look up to them for how to live as a Christian!"

Really?  People can hide their fruit behind what they do for a long time.  But a Day will come when who they were utterly trumped what they did: 

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (7:21-23)  

I can hear someone say, "Then, how do I live this life?  How do I follow You if I shouldn't look to others to model it for me, for there are those who are modeling it poorly or contrarily to You?"  

Jesus answers us:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,  because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (7:24-29)

His words are our authority, and not, just as in Jesus' day, those who claim to be speaking on God's behalf.  Listen, learn but then search the Scriptures yourself.  Learn of Him, His faithfulness, His promises and His strength that will give you courage to face the day.  Because the rain, wind and raging waters will come.  Jesus isn't proposing that following Him is a wealthy, healthy, heaven on earth thing.  

He tells us, straight out, there will be storms.  Battles.  Challenges.  Hatred of us.  Contempt.  Utter befuddlement.  

But, while He did not promise a cake walk, He did promised we would overcome.  Why?  Because He did:

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

So, I propose we tour the Gospels to see what battles Jesus faced, and how, if we follow Him, we will too.  Why?

 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.  Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.  If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:18-25)

I will be using The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order to guide us as we go.  We will see how Jesus' life unfolds and what He faced at each stage.  You will find comfort here; there is nothing you have faced, are facing or will face that He didn't face while He was here:

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned. (Heb. 4:15, Phillips) 

I am looking forward to this.  In this time of confusion, and lots of opinion parading around as fact and spiritual wisdom, it will be refreshing to sit and His feet and read the Word together.  That's what a disciple, a talmid, does:  Every moment of our lives is lived following our Teacher, our Rabbi--listening, learning and doing as He does.  

 

 

Note to my readers:  I try to post each week; but I didn't do real well with my first round of the Covid vaccine.  I developed mild symptoms and decided to have a Covid test.  I am waiting on the results.  I can hardy wait for the second one!  Weeee!  So, I apologize for this post's delay. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Following Jesus

 If the Promised Land is one of victory, then that implies that hardship precedes the victory.  God, in instructing Joshua, tells him to be "strong and courageous."  Those are terms of engagement and striving.  God is saying, in essence:  You will face difficulty, but receive the strength that only I, the Lord, can give:

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Receive the courage that I, only the Lord, can give:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

You will succeed.  You will have victory, but it will come out of doing battle. 

A pattern emerges in Scripture of Eden, Exile, Engagement and Elevation.  Let me break these down.  The world is an unkind place.  After being here for over half a century, I have seen moments of joy, love and true fellowship with a larger helping of death, destruction and dreariness.  But that is the world and that is the pattern.

Let's look at Adam:  Placed in a beautiful garden, he chose his own way, and not God's way.  So, he was exiled out of Eden.  As an exile, he had to engage with a fallen world.  He had to separate the thorns from the fruit, and pull out the weeds that choked his crops.  His elevation came from God's promise  that despite the corrupting influence of sin, God would continue the cycle of seed-time and harvest, and God would walk with him.  Adam had to cling to that promise especially when he faced the death of his son.

Let's look at Noah:  Placed in a safe and secure ark, he could ride out the storm that poured judgement on the ground and cleansed the earth of its sin.  But the flood waters receded; he had to return to a world where human nature still had not fundamentally changed.  He still had to engage with fallen humanity.  His elevation came from knowing that God was faithful to His word: the earth again bloomed, and God walked with Noah until his days were done.

Let's look at David:  He was anointed King--a kind of Eden of status.  His heart greatly pleased God.  But he was exiled into the desert and lived a life on the run.  Saul sought his death.  God provided help along the way with Jonathan's friendship; but David still had to fight to sustain his crown.  Jonathan then dies.  David's elevation came from knowing that God never abandoned him, even in his darkest days of adultery and premeditated murder; God promised his throne would stand forever, and his Descendant, the Anointed One, would be the King of Kings.

Job:  His Eden was a large family, wealth and prosperity.  But destruction of his world drove him into the exile of woe, despair and having to explain his life from friends, who, in their fear that they'd be next, try to distance themselves from him though argumentation and accusation.  His elevation came from declaration that he knew his Redeemer lived; he saw his fortunes restored, but he would never be the same man. This world leaves its scars us.

Moses:  Saved from death, he was placed in a palace, where he was pampered and given the best of everything.  But the suffering of his people led him to murder and exile into the desert, where he lived a life utterly opposite from the opulence of his youth.  He had to engage with an arrogant king, an ungrateful people and a task so huge that it still boggles our minds: leading a nation of slaves out of bondage and into being a nation of priests, prophets and kings.  His elevation came from hearing from God in fire and smoke.  Even though he disobeyed God, He still showed him the Promised Land.  God kept His promises to His leader and to His people.  God then took his servant home.

Mary:  A young girl, living an everyday life in an everyday village is exiled by being blessed:  She would carry the Messiah.  But she faced social ruin; the Lord had to use dreams to teach her husband to believe that she was not an adulteress; she was carrying God's own Son.  She would raise her Son in a hostile world--His own infancy was punctuated by the death of little innocent baby boys.  She would stand beneath His cross, and had to draw upon all the strength and courage God could give her to endure such pain of watching her Son suffer and die.  Her elevation came when she saw her Son utterly restored on that Sunday morning.

Jesus:  He left the very court of Heaven, having been from eternity His Father's Beloved, and exiled Himself from His "Eden" to our sin-filled, corrupted and lonely planet.  He would be misunderstood, accused, betrayed and ultimately murdered for His message.  The voices that sang, "Hosanna," would soon turn to "Crucify Him!"  He would engage sin on all fronts:  He would be tempted as we are; He would drive out demons; He would heal diseases that destroyed, caused death and alienated the victim from the community; He would seek to strip away all the man-made traditions that had so horribly obscured the face of His Father and He would find Himself confronting the worst sin of all in those He tried to save: pride.  His time away from His Father--the only time ever in His eternity--was when all of the world's sin descended upon Him and He, like us all, felt forsaken. But His resurrection was His elevation and in His is ours: We too, if we have accepted Him, will rise to new life for eternity.

But what about now?  

Battles, and lots of them.  If we think we can bring heaven down to earth now, we are trying to mix clean with unclean.  Jesus brings heaven down into us--we are now citizens of the Kingdom of God.  But when His light in us meets the darkness in the world, battles will ensue.  

Let us watch the epitome of the interaction between His light and the world's dark:

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” (John 18:33-40)

So, Pilate goes on a "fact-finding" mission by interrogating Jesus.  Fair enough.  That's his job.  But Jesus immediately controls the mission by asking Pilate questions.  Jesus cuts to the core of the matter:  

Who do you think I am?  You have been keeping tabs on me, Pilate.  You have heard from the leaders.  You have spies everywhere.  So, you are not ignorant of the facts surrounding Me.  So, you need to assemble all the facts, right here, right now, and give Me your conclusion.  

But what does Pilate do?  He distances himself from any responsibility of determining who Jesus is by saying he is not a Jew; so he doesn't have any opinion.  That is rather disingenuous; he is an informed leader and does has an opinion.  He wants to absolve himself of any culpability in this matter, for he can see that Jesus has run afoul of the religious leadership and they want Pilate to exert his power to kill Jesus.  The Jewish leadership does not have the power to exact capital punishment; only Rome does.  But Pilate can't see how this Man, however deluded He may be, is deserving of death.  

Jesus boldly reminds him that His kingdom is not of this world.  God's kingdom is not an earthly kingdom writ large; God's kingdom is run by entirely a different sets of principles.  Those principles reflect God's own character:  integrity, truth, no compromise with sin and a love that desires mercy, not sacrifice.  Redemption characterizes the Kingdom of God; retaliation characterizes the kingdom on earth, that both Pilate and the Jewish religious leadership are serving.

Jesus is not a king in any worldly sense; He is not contending for Caesar's power.  His mission is to teach, live and die for this truth:  That God so loves this world that He has sent this Son, who now stands before a skeptical leader, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

Pilate's reply?  The world's reply?  

"What is truth?"

The darkness of the world seeks not truth, but a fulfillment of its own agenda. It looks for its own truth, but with a sinful nature directing the pursuit, only chaos, confusion and darkness can occur:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom. 1:18-31) 

Feeding the flesh leads to an ever-deepening darkness in the soul, a futility in thinking and a world that boasts and manifests the very worst in humanity.  

"What is truth?"

Jesus made the audacious claim (if it's not true) that He is Truth.  He embodies it, lives it and when He was on this earth, He didn't compromise it.  

Some yelled, "Hosanna" and some yelled, "Crucify Him!" to His claim.  

In our exile on this earth, should we, who are following Jesus, expect anything less?

 




Saturday, March 13, 2021

Battle After Battle After Battle...

Yup.  The Promised Land of our walk with Christ is not a leisurely stroll towards heaven.  We will face battle after battle after battle.  We cannot afford to ignore what is really going on.  And we cannot focus on just how much faith we have.  Rustling up enough faith to overcoming adversity is not the mindset here:  Knowing our enemy is within our hearts and outside of our hearts humbles us to walk with the Commander of the Lord's Army--Jesus Christ.  

Our focus needs to be on Him and His Word.  The whole Word.  A   

So, if you are led to believe that God wants only wealth, health and prosperity for you, then you will ignore the reality of life in the Promised Land to your peril.  Victory is not the same as no challenges or a smooth path with no obstacles.  Victory is knowing we will cross the finish lines, even if we are bruised, tired and overwhelmed.  Jesus is the Author and Perfector of our faith and the One who calls us heavenward, even as the battles rage. 

The inhabitants of the Land do not doubt the reality of the warfare that comes when God sends us in to bring His light and His Word.  

Evil takes notice.  Your own heart is a battleground, and Satan makes no pretense of wanting anything else but for you to fall in battle with the flesh and lose.  It's tough out there--as 2020 has so aptly illustrated.  

It's tough in here--in our heart and mind as we seek to walk with Jesus every day.

After the episode with Achan, Joshua returned to battle and stomped Ai.  Joshua learned once again that compromise with sin is not acceptable--Achan was the case in point--and he had the king of Ai impaled as a visual reminder that if Israel is to be successful, they cannot compromise at all with sin.  

In chapter 8 of Joshua, I love how the people renew their commitment of what the Lord had said was the only basis for their society:  the very words of God.  Joshua has an altar erected according to the instructions that God had given Moses about stones unhewn with iron tools.  I am speculating that pagan temples were highly crafted and shaped--the pagans took pride in their temples and their gods.  But not so with the children of Israel:  The stones came from earth, crafted by God Himself.  The focus was to be on the words inscribed there, not on the building itself:

Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses. All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel. (Josh. 8:30-33)

Everyone was there, standing in the Promised Land the sole focus was on the Lord and His Word.  Not on the altar, not on the victorious battle (although thanks were given to the Lord for the victory) and not on Joshua as the leader of the campaign.  The focus was where it should always be:  on the Lord and on His Word.

When we take matters into our own hands, and we redefine what the Word states, or downplay the Word's preeminence in building a just society, we end up with chaos and what the Book of Judges states so succinctly:  

Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (17:6b)

What is the standard if we judge according to what we view as "the right"?

People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. (Prov. 21:2)

If it feels good, do it.  You're not hurting anyone.  It's your choice. Who are they to judge?  Follow your bliss.  Get woke.
 
But, what is the result of such thinking?

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. (Prov. 14:12)

Why is this?  Because the heart we possess is so utterly deceitful:

 The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?  (Jer. 17:9)

Jesus spared us no illusions as to how we will fare if we allow our hearts to be our sole guide:  

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. (Luke 6:45)

For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. (Matt. 15:19)

So, what to do?  The Word needs to be central.  It is God's Word to us and of course it makes us angry, offended and upset.  It's not Man's Word. 

Before Joshua even entered the Promised land, God reminded him of the centrality of His Word:

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Josh. 1:7-9)

The Book of Deuteronomy is a recap of the Law given in Exodus.  The generation that heard the Word died out in the desert; the new generation, the one going into the Promised Land, heard it again before entering; then God reminded Joshua of its centrality again before they crossed the River Jordan.  Now Joshua presents the Word again, as he carves it into the altar's stones after the defeat at Ai.

How come?  Heart-check time:  

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Heb. 4:12) 

It's the standard whereby we judge our motives, actions and behaviors.  Such an introspective life,  unlike the very public and rash way we live today, will allow the Lord to work through us, because we can hear Him speaking through His Word.

Our enemies know that if we keep our focus on ourselves, our wishes and our opinions, we are more likely to be deceived.  If you remember, Rahab said the surrounding area was filled with people who had heard of the great God of Israel and His miracles; their hearts had melted in fear. 

But evil will cower only so long.  Evil finds like-minded sorts and will amass, sometimes right under our very noses:

As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel. (Josh. 9:1-2)

Or, evil will engage in deception:

But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves. (Josh. 9:3-4)

The wolves of Gideon pull out their sheep costumes and go to talk with Joshua. They look the part of tired dusty envoys, from a distant land, who are seeking a peace treaty with Israel.  Joshua asks pertinent questions, but instead of answering him, they point to their worn-out gear as proof positive that they really did travel far and are legitimate.  They are very convincing.  Their evidence, moldy bread and old wineskins, once new (so they claimed) and now old with arduous travel, seem to really impress the people, despite not really answering Joshua's questions.  They claim to be "servants" and retell all of the mighty deeds of Israel's God. Their elders instructed them to make peace with Israel; and here they are!

Sin is so legitimate, it seems.  Its logic makes sense, and we listen, nod our heads, and say, "Why not?"  So, Joshua and his leaders did what any self-respecting person would do when faced with overwhelming evidence of the rightness of something: 

So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord.  And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them. (Josh. 9:14-15) [emphasis mine]

Eventually evil shows its face and Joshua realizes that he was duped. The Israelites go and scout out the nearby cities from which they people came; but they would not attack them, because of the vow they  had made.  The people of Israel are now upset with their leaders, but the leaders must comply with the treaty.  They find a compromise:  These Gibeonites are to be water carriers and woodcutters.  

Hmm.  But they are still in the Land and have an influence on the people of Israel.  

Joshua calls the Gibeonites to account, and they play the fear card:  They knew that God had ordered the destruction of the people in the Land, so they did it out of self-preservation.  Hmmm.  

They ask Joshua to be merciful.

They ask Joshua to do whatever he thinks he should do.

Hmmm.

How often do we give in to envoys from the Land, who tell tales of wary travel and a need to have us accept them, without any judgment?  We look at our history, our own failures and that of our society, and we cringe.  Then we give in.  We give these people a lower status, in some way (to show how angry we are) but we still allow them to have influence over our lives, our beliefs and our conduct in the Land.

But what was their original motivation?  Deception.

We are being deceived right and left (pun intended) about how we should act and believe in an increasingly progressive society.  We cringe at passages in the Word, fearing that such black and white thinking is unacceptable in a world where only gray prevails.

Their arguments sound reasonable; their need for acceptance warrants consideration and the history we are ashamed of swims before our eyes, making us eager not to repeat it.

And yet. 

What does Jesus say?

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matt. 7:24-27)

Not a  house built with a few choice bricks from His Word, but completely constructed from "these words of mine."  In their fullness.  Even the uncomfortable bits.  (And boy, were Jesus' contemporaries, especially the religious leaders, because they wanted to pacify the Romans, uncomfortable with His words.  So uncomfortable, they partnered with their enemies to put Him to death.)

We may compromise out of good motives, but what are the motives of our enemies?  Deception.  

The battles will continue, whether the enemies are in full view with a battle-ready order, or are hiding under the guise of accommodation, but they will continue.

It's the nature of the Land we walk in.  

What will be our response in these ever darkening days?

The Word is a good place to start as we consult the Lord as to our response.


 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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