A Fundamental Change

Microsoft Sans Serif – (I got a free haircut yesterday and got rid of half my hair. It’s a big difference that I’m still not used to. It’s surprised everybody. )

2 Timothy 2:11-13, “11Here is a trustworthy saying:
   If we died with him,
      we will also live with him;
 12if we endure,
      we will also reign with him.
   If we disown him,
      he will also disown us;
 13if we are faithless,
      he will remain faithful,
      for he cannot disown himself.”

Our salvation hinges on our belief of Jesus’ ressurection. I wanted to look at it another way:

Jesus has often illustrated Biblical truths with parables. In one such story, a man sowed good seed into his field, but in the night an enemy put weed seeds among them. As the crops grew, it became evident that weeds had been mixed in with the wheat. The man’s servant asked if they should pull them up, but the man said no because he didn’t want any good seeds to be uprooted. So he decided to wait until it was harvest time, then he would have the wheat and the weed seperated. The weeds would then be gathered together and burned and the wheat would be gathered together and stored in the barn.

Jesus then explained the parable. The son of man sowed the sons of God, but his enemy, the devil, sowed his sons among them. At the end of the age, the harvesters – angels, will weed out evil-doers and the things that cause sin and put them into the furnace.

It’s not the sort of thing most people who aren’t saved look forward to. We were born with the seed of sin in our nature. As we grew up, that seed grew into the weed that bore rotten fruit. When we accept God’s salvation, there is a complete change. The seed of sin dies with Jesus. He is ressurected and replaces the weed with the wheat. No longer are we sons of the devil, but now we are sons of God.

Now we must grow up as wheat, surrounded by weeds that easily choke out and inhibit our progress. We can endure and produce fruit. Or we could fail, turn or backs on God, and produce rotten fruit. In which case, God won’t give up on us, but He won’t be pleased with us either.

Elsewhere in the Bible, it says that such people will make it to heaven only just escaping the flames, perhaps singed and smelling of smoke. It’s good news really because I have the feeling that many people from this generation have been burnt by the church. So are you? A weed, bound for the fire? Failing wheat, salvagable but burnt? Successful wheat, bearing the fruit of righteousness?

On The Road Again

Maiandra GD – Sometimes I wonder who are the people just mentioned only once in the Bible. Those with the small roles. I wonder why they are significant in the grand picture of it all. Perhaps it is them we can learn from most. The vast majority of us will never have the oppurtunity to stand out. When YouTube made it possible for everybody to get their fifteen seconds of fame, it made it impossible for that fame to mean anything or to be used in a way that changes things.
The vast majority of us have only a scene in the movie and one line to say. I think the reason we can learn the most from these people is because we’re most like them. We’re not Paul’s, former religous enforcers now working on the side we once persecuted. We’re not Timothy’s, excluded sons living among a people. We’re not like most of the Biblical figures we’ve met over the years.
We’re more like Cleopas. He was among Jesus’ lesser known followers. You know, not the dozen disciples chosen by Him, but one of more than seventy followers that chose to go with Jesus. We don’t know how long he’s been following Jesus, or anything else for that matter. We just know he’s had a horrendous week.

The dozen disciples chosen by Him have locked themselves inside, fearful of what people outside might do to them. There’s talk that some of them want to go back to fishing, after all, they all have families. Cleopas and an unnamed disciple are walking to a nearby town called Emmaus. It seems that Cleopas has been in the shadow of big names all his life. After all, his own name means “son of a renowned (famous) father.” Then, he’s been following Jesus for some time, and there’s no bigger name than that right now.
And yet, these two disciples meet a stranger who seems to not know. He seems to not know that a week ago all Jerusalem welcomed Jesus on a donkey. He seems to not know that Jesus drove out money changers from the temple. He seems to not know that this Passover Week, Jesus was brought before all the city. He seems to not know that the people chose the release of a murderer named Barrabas over Jesus. he seems to not know that Jesus had been paraded in the streets before he was crucified. And so Cleopas and this unnamed disciple tell this stranger everything, including that the women have just today reported that the tomb was empty, this was corroborated by one of Jesus dozen disciples.
The stranger may not know the news, but he has a knowledge of scripture and he lays it all out, how Jesus had to be the Messiah, how he had to suffer, be beaten, and killed in a travesty of justice, and how he had to be raised again to save people from their sins. He could do this because he was not only a man, but because he was the Son of God and he was God, the Son. Only when they broke bread that evening did Cleopas and that unnamed disciple really see who they were with – Jesus himself!

This was the sort of good news that couldn’t wait, even though it was late, at once they got up and went back to the disciples in Jerusalem. Even though they aren’t mentioned, they must have still been in the room when Jesus appeared to the disciples there, to the dozen. Interesting order isn’t it? First to the women, then to the disciples that chose to follow, and lastly to the disciples who were called.

So what can we learn from this anonymous son of a famous father? That our hope in Christ is very real. You see, when that day began the women were going to the tomb to prepare the body of Jesus. The disciples, all of them, believed that he was dead. Dead as in not comming back. The disciples were eager to move on and forget this chapter of their lives. They stood nothing to gain having followed a now dead teacher or standing by him any further. The women found the first evidence, an empty tomb and folded burial clothes. Cleopas and this unnamed disciple found the second evidence, a road trip and shared meal with Him where He taught them the scripture they needed to hear, and the third evidence was when Jesus appeared before the disciples. Now that the disciples are convinced that he’s back, we can be, too.

Luke 24:13-49

You Can’t be God’s Accuaintance

MS Sans Serif – God Almighty, Lord, Soverign One, King of kings, these names lput Him high about us and yet He is a personal God. Names and titles like Shepherd, Father, and Son that suggest there is a close relationship that He wants to bring us into.

Jesus himself said, “Whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. He also said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Not brother as in a title, but blood-relative, kinfolk brother. Believing in God means being apart of His family in the truest sense. He’s the best father and brother you could hope to have.

In John 10, Jesus tells us that he is the gate for the sheep and the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. I’m nesus’ time, shepherds lived among their sheep for months at a time. They would search for lost sheep, protect the herd from predators, and comfort the timid animals when they were frightened. In the same way, Jesus is our shepherd.

Christianity is about our personal relationship with Father God through His Son, the Good Shepherd. The religion aspect of it is looking after widows and orphans in their distress. I’ve seen it on t.v. and elsewhere a time or two that God is some benevolent old guy who watches us from above or he’s mean.

I hope I’ve dispelled that, but to those who don’t believe in Him a warning. The God of the Old Testament hasn’t changed, we’ll see Him again when Revelation comes to pass and things are going to be very difficult for those that are not on His side. In reality He is a concerned father, loving brother, and careful shepherd who cares about what is best for you even if it doesn’t seem pleasant. He is anxious to give you the things you need and some gifts beside, but he wants you to ask for them. He is involved in your life in ways you can’t understand and may never learn. I wonder, do you know this personal God? Does He know you?

Good Heavens!

Lucida Sans – I would have some fourty acres, perhaps with a running stream. I would have some hills, trails, and poison ivy-less woods. There would be no shortage of flowers, fruits, and vegetables to grow, but there would always be time to ride my horses down the trail and through the woods. My dog would keep me company and I would have a cat wandering around. The only problim is that this sort of heaven could never be. It nullifies the reality of heaven that God lives there. My heaven makes it sound as if I give my life to Him, He will give me what I want in heaven and let me be.

Heaven is unimaginable to us now, but the Bible does give us a glimpse of what we’re in for. The place to be is new Jerusalem. It’s where God lives. it’s the source of everything. Israel’s borders will be rewritten and outsiders who settle there will be treated as Israelites and recieve an inheritance there. People would live in peace and even the animals would get along. Fishing would take place where the river meets the sea. Just outside the city will be a common pastureland where homes will be built and workers will farm.

Sounds more interesting than harp playing on a cloud, doesn’t it? I’m looking forward to great feasts and celebrations in the city. There is more to this faith than being a good person. It’s about whether you identify yourself with God like you would your favorite team. Do you know Him inside and out? Do you wear His name? Would you follow him throughout the season of your life?

Good people who refuse God’s offer of salvation will find themselves on the same boat as bad people who rejected God’s offer of salvation. We were told the rules and the price. We can’t expect to get the prize for breaking the rules or not paying the price or a reward for rejecting them.

It goes like this: we are born on the losing team. Unless we switch sides by accepting Jesus offer of transfer, we will go to the place where people who are bad, hate God, and reject His offer of salvation go, that is, hell. When we accept the transfer and live by the rules (love God and love people), we will go to the place where both good and former  bad guys go, the place where people love God, accept God, and live with Him go, that is, heaven. Any heaven without God is the furthest thing from.

See what happens

Latha – There are two kinds of volunteers, those who need the time to make their applications look better and those who genuinely love helping out their cause. One is selfish and the other is selfless. Serving others became our economy when we couldn’t make things like we used to. Hotels, restaurant, entertainment, and such shows us that many of us make our money by serving. Lately volunteers are in demand. I’ve heard tell of various government bills that expect everybody to volunteer. (In which case, I wouldn’t call it volunteering if there is no choice, but I have yet to see if anything comes of it.)

Christians have a service economy of their own. One Roman leader expressed frustration that the Christians were undermining their efforts at charity by taking care of all the widows and orphans and not only their own! Let’s look at how some early Christians served:
1.) Barnabas sold a field and brought the money to the apostles. It was distributed as anyone had need. (Acts 4:32-37)
2.) Stephen, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas distributed food to the Grecian and Hebraic Jewish widows every day. (Acts 6:1-7)
3.) Tabitha was always doing good and helping out the poor. (Acts 9:36-43)
4.) Corneilus gave generously to those in need and prayed regularly. (Acts 10:1 – 11:18)

I’m just saying that if we distribute our resources (as individuals and a collective), give out food daily, gave generously to those in need, prayed regularly, and were always known for doing good, we would advance the gospel greatly. (You know you could say alot if you begin your sentences with “I’m just saying …”, for example, “I’m just saying that the world would be a much nicer place if there was a whole lot more giving and a whole lot less taking.) Dare I say that we might frustrates other’s efforts at charity as we take care of all and not only our own? I dare! We would also make it difficult for people to find a reason to hate Christianity based on the actions of its followers.

This is what every Bible-believing Christian ought to be up to. Not because these acts of service will save us or get us a better standing in heaven, because they won’t. The early church understood that full well, yet they were always up to giving and helping. But because it is the way of heaven and this is our practice time. Besides, a whole lot of people need help of every minute of every day. Doing these things prove that our faith is alive and kicking. If anything, now is the time when we need our faith to be kicking.

I Can’t Serve God Because I’m Not Wired That Way

Goudy Stout – Our Divinely Natural Attributes was written long ago to tell us how tall we would be, what color of hair we would have, and what sort of person we would be. Then, as we grew, life tempered our experiences to define us as a more complete individual. However, we are left at odds. There are times when the timid must rely on their courage, the angry must seek out peace, and the shy must delight in the strength of company. Yet, it is against their very natures to do so. Attitude plays a key factor. In the same way that weather is to a climate, an attitude is to one’s temperament. It too, can change and you just may get something you don’t expect.

Sometimes we surrender to a bad temperament and a worse attitude. The good news is that when we give our old lives, old temperaments and old attitudes to Christ, it dies and we have new ones to replace them. So there is no excuse for not serving God. Who we are is no hinderance. Our new self is very much like Christ and it endeavors to become all the more like Christ.

You have to put off the old man each morning and put on the new man. It’s not always easy to look through the new man’s eyes when the remnant of the old man’s is so easy, comfortable and familiar. Yet again, we are at odds. The spirit of the new man against the flesh of the old man. The new man is willing but the old man is weak.

If God wants to get something amazing done, He’ll find a way to do it. The only thing that can stop him working through you is yourself. Has he laid a matter on your heart that you’ve found every excuse not to see to? Something you know you ought to do but can’t get yourself to do it? The old man is winning. Sure, God will get that something done through somebody else if He has to, but you would have lost out on the blessing that would have been yours as a result. You would have lost out on touching other’s lives. You would have lost out on increasing your faith and so much more.

Our Changing Words

Goudy Old Style – Right. That which is lawful and does not harm. It is good and respects the value of all people. Wrong. That which is not lawful and does harm. It is bad and does not respect the value of people.

Words don’t always have the same meaning. They change connotations, pronounciations, definitions, and spelling depending on the collective’s use of the world. That is why we have to be taught words like “wasailing”, not use words like “gay” (as in happy), and clarify words like “xerox” (the process, not the machine.) Even so, “bad” and “wicked” can mean “cool”, and we all know how “good” it is to be “cool”. So it is possible that “right” and “wrong” might get mixed-up one day soon.

Have you ever read anything really old? An original Old English naritive? The King James Bible? Any of the founding documents for America? There are words there we don’t always know. Sometimes we can find their intended meanings. Other times we must guess or seek out experts. Our guesses can be wrong and our experts can change their opinions.

Even if our words change God’s never do. What he said was right is still right, what he said was wrong is still wrong to this day. It still stands, even after a few thousand years. he has promised that not a stroke of the law would dissapear, and it hasn’t. of the tends ouf thousands of copies of Bible texts dating back a few hundred years, there is less than one percent of differences. None of them affect the major doctrines, of Christ’s divinity, death, ressurection or the teachings he taught us. Even more remarkable is that Isaiah of the Old Testament was discovered to be the oldest copy found yet and it matched today’s version nearly perfectly, despite more than a thousand years had passed between the time they were written. God has done this. Will he not, all the more, keep His promise to return to us?

What about the other books, not neccessarily found in the Bible? The scholars who have translated our texts went through an arduous process outlined in the preface of most Bibles. Some books vouched for one another and others sharply contrasted with established teachings. If it is not clear which is the right one, then we should take the matter to the Holy Spirit. He is not like us that He should forget what He has inspired. He will teach us what is right and true. Do not hastily give into itching ears, not every book has been excluded unjustly. Somewhere, somebody has to be wrong, and it’s not God.

Family Examples

Gill Sans MT – (I made my dad a cake yesterday, it was a yellow cake with home-made vanilla buttercream icing. Since I’m a fan of chocolate, I found it surprisingly good. I think we have the makings of a new tradition. Anyway, it’s a good occasion for a cake as any because between April and October we have no birthdays to celebrate.)

The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
 13″Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

 17″When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
      “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21″The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

 22″But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

 25″Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27’Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

 28″The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 31″ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”

I was thinking awhile ago how it has been said that unless God gives you His love, you will find it difficult to love rightly. I mean, we’re after the emotions caused by love, by romance, and such that to see the love forged by time between an elderly couple is a bit of a mystery. In the same way I think, it’s difficult to be a father without the example of God the Father. Statistically, the number of children growing up without fathers has quadrupled in recent years. From five million not so long ago to twenty million. Things can be tough for kids who don’t have an example from their father, whether good or bad.

God the Father. God the Son. God the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ relationship to His father was clearly seen in the Bible. So in the same way that God the Father is an example to fathers, God the Son is an example to sons. Jesus never did anything to dishonor his father. He never spoke badly of Him. He did whatever his father told him to. Whatever God asked Jesus to do, it was within his range of capabilities to do. God never spoke harsly to his Son or criticized him.

The thing of it is that God had send Jesus to save us, and he had to allow the travesty justice, the thorough beating, and him to die on the cross to save us. Through that and the ressurection, we were provided with an oppurtunity to make us God’s sons and daughters. Jesus said that anybody who does the will of His Father is His mother and sister and brother. Not father, that was reserved for Joseph, an earthly stand-in and for God, the heavenly father. So now His father is our father. The lost is now found.

Who has Believed

Georgia – John 12:37-50, “37Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
   “Lord, who has believed our message
      and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
 39For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
 40″He has blinded their eyes
      and deadened their hearts,
   so they can neither see with their eyes,
      nor understand with their hearts,
      nor turn—and I would heal them.” 41Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

 42Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

 44Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

 47″As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.””

This passage is sometimes called the trajedy of unbelief. I can understand how some of us could be unbelieving, the greatest story every told happened over two thousand years ago. The miracles of Jesus’ ministry are unparalleled. The events around his birth are amazing. The odds of his entire life matching ancient prophecies, well, the only way for that to happen is for Him to have been the one prophesied. But to have watched Jesus perform those miracles and listened to his teachings and still not believe? That would have to fulfil a prophecy or two of its own. And it did. Even today people fulful that prophecy. If this was something easy to believe, than disbelief wouldn’t be trajedy it is. It’s probably the hardest thing to believe there is, then and now.

Leaders are a special sort of people. Good ones are supposed to be the first to arrive and the last to leave. They are supposed to have everybody’s interests ahead of their own. When a leader is not afraid to say “I believe”, he or she can inspire other believers to say “I believe.” On the other hand, when one is too fearful, too dependant on their status, or too self-absorbed, they can seriously compromise their natural ability to lead. They no longer ask what would be best for others, their primary concern is how best to promote their own interests, usually their career.

Sometimes we point out the differences between the Father and the Son so much, that we forget that the Son was not independent from the Father. More than once Jesus had to set the disciples straight: “I do what the father tells me to, I say what the father tells me to. I can do nothing without the father.” The Son was so dependant on the Father for everything. I hope that we can put some of our independence to rest and just rely on God and see where that gets us. It’s easy for us American Christians to throw a block party, get together some programs, and maybe even pull some people in, but had we relied on God from square one, He could have done something miraculous so you have to say, “That’s what God did, nobody else but God could do that.”

A Matching Pair

Garamond – (I could say I have had poison ivy worse in the past, but it is agonizing at the moment. My arms and a leg are covered with the condition. Now an eye of mine is slightly swollen. I guess it could be worse, but I don’t see how.)

2 Timothy 3:1-9, “1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
 6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.”

My pastor has been elaborating on this verse for some time. He pointed out that the last days will be so terribe because the behaviour of people in the church will match that of people outside of it. Even now the church has much in common with the world. Some of our leaders are corrupted. Many of our families are broken. Some of our finances are questionable. Many of our futures are at risk.

Perhaps our biggest crime lies in our treatment of the Holy Spirit. Is failing to honor Him as bad as outright disbelief? It’s no wonder we could be charged with having a form of godliness, but denying its power. Godliness, Christlikeness, are talked about, but not Holy Spiritlikeness. Some of the people that are in the news are people of the cloth who took money from their congregations or betrayed a decent standard of behavior. They seemed like holy people, but they didn’t care about holiness. Being set apart for God’s use didn’t stop them from comitting crimes against Him or us. Even worse, some refuse to seek forgiveness and continue on living an unholy lie. With such things God is not pleased.

In the same way that not everybody who seems holy actually is holy, not everybody who claims to worship God actually worships God. Not every god out there is actually God Himself. In fact, the vast majority of them are not. The glory that is due God, he will have it. When he does, we will all plainly see how that powerless form of godliness has led countless souls into destruction.

So church, acknowledge the Holy Spirit, give Him the same treatment as you would the Father or the Son. Don’t settle for seeming holy and different, be holy and different. Actively teach people to combat these tendencies in the church that match us to the world.