We have real Hope

Everyone is subject to making “knee jerk” reactions in life. The idiom refers to the reflex of a normal person when a physician taps the tendon in the knee with a little rubber hammer. The lower leg moves in response to the hammer’s impact without any conscious thought on the part of the patient. Each of us has particular ideas, training, or experiences which make our response to life almost as predictable hence ‘the knee jerk reaction.’  Now you know.

Evangelical Christians tend to have that kind of response to times of crisis and/or uncertainty. When the world gets confusing, when there are clouds of war, or when we feel threatened  – just wait – here come the books and sermons on the Second Coming of Jesus.  I am not expressing doubt about this key Bible truth!  The “Blessed Hope” of the return of Christ for His Church is a cornerstone of my theology. 

But, Christian friend, we are wrong and risk looking foolish if our knee-jerk reaction to every world crisis is a declaration that Jesus must be about to return to this earth, as He promised.  Those who do so diminish the wonder of this great doctrine and start to sound a bit like Chicken Little who thought the sky was falling!

Jesus told us that history would include cycles of war, famine, natural disasters, and plague! And, He warned about the empty words of those who claim to have ‘inside information’ about the time or date of His return. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:6-8, NIV)  “No one knows about that day or hour, (of the return of Christ) not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36, NIV)  

Instead of ‘getting ready’ when life goes haywire, our faith in His Return should cause us to live faithfully, serving always.  If you read those chapters at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, you will find some stories about faithful service and this closing line – “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:13, NIV)

We have real hope! There were some Christians in the first century Church thought they had missed out. False teachers told them that Jesus had already returned. Paul, inspired by the Spirit, tells them (and us) that fear is baseless. “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7, NIV)

Consistently, the teaching of the Bible about the “End Times” before Christ returns goes to the theme of increasing evil. We know that there will be a ‘man of lawlessness,’ John calls this person ‘the Anti-Christ.’  Spiritual rebellion has been and will always be part of this world, but in the last days of history,  this evil will escalate to unprecedented levels as a Rebel Leader attempts to take God’s place and becomes the false god of humanity.

John’s Revelation calls this deceiver ‘the beast’ and says that his evil is unimaginable, his authority coming directly from the Devil himself.  “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.” (Revelation 13:5-7, NIV)

God has given us these glimpses of the future not to make us fearful but so that we will remain anchored in the hope of Christ’s Return, that day when His long awaited Kingdom is fully revealed.  This great hope must not be trivialized by making every blip in history a reason for apocalyptic musings.  And yet, we must not set that Hope aside forgetting it because some have mis-taught the truth about Him or because there is a long delay in fulfillment.

Christ will come again!  “For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. … let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-8, NLT)

Peter’s that assure us that God is faithful to do what He says He will do!

Here is a word from the Word – “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:2-9, NLT)

Renew the Hope!
Christ will return, and when He comes, sin and evil will be defeated;
those dead resurrected, those alive transformed;
His kingdom come.

Wonderful? Absolutely! The Word of God?
Yes, and our blessed Hope.
__________________

Abide With Me
(a song of HOPE!)

I have a home eternal home
But for now I walk this broken world
You walked it first You know our pain
But You show hope can rise
Again up from the grave

Abide with me abide with me
Don’t let me fall and don’t let go
Walk with me and never leave
Ever close God abide with me

There in the night Gethsemane
Before the cross before the nails
Overwhelmed alone You prayed
You met us in our suffering
And bore our shame

Oh love that will not ever let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
You never let me go
Love that will not ever let me go

Well You never let us go

And up ahead eternity
We’ll weep no more we’ll sing for joy
Abide with me

David Crowder | Jason Ingram | Matt Maher | Matt Redman

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Paradise waits

The text read, “Please call me.”  I looked at the name and knew it would not be good news. It wasn’t. A friend who had been critically ill with COVID, for whom I had prayed for days, had stepped into eternity. When I spoke with his widow, my heart broke – for her, for the sadness that finds so many at this time.  After leading a Bible class about “The essentials of Faith,” of all subjects, I went home to a quiet house, where I sat alone. I confess to being soul weary and sad.  

Then, I thought about the promise of Paradise.  There is great comfort in His promise.  Knowing that Heaven is my home is a comfort, but that surety does not erase the sorrows that are much in evidence in the world.  Do not misunderstand my musings today. I am not complaining. I am blessed with the love of God, with dear friends, with resources that allow me to live comfortably, with really wonderful children! Yet, even with so many rich blessings, I am aware that I’m not “home” yet.

And, I yearn to know that Paradise where sin does not exist, where suffering is unknown, and where intimacy with God is unbroken. The Psalmist expresses my desire: “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, NIV)

Heaven is written into our hearts by our Creator. He made us to love and serve Him. As we mature in faith, walking in the life of the Holy Spirit, we come to intensely desire His Presence.

The late Dallas Willard, a thoughtful Christian, urges us to keep our perspective pointed to eternity.  IF we lose sight of God’s promise of Paradise, we can; and many do, become disillusioned, perhaps bitter, as we deal with the inevitable disappointments that come to all in time. He writes, “I meet many faithful Christians who, in spite of their faith, are deeply disappointed in how their lives have turned out. Sometimes it is a matter of how they experience aging, which they take to mean they no longer have a future. But often, due to circumstances or wrongful decisions and actions by others, what they had hoped to accomplish in life they did not ….

Much of the distress of these people comes from a failure to realize that their life lies before them.. the life that lies endlessly before us in the kingdom of God.” (The Divine Conspiracy)

Faith gives us ‘eyes’ that can see past the pain that comes from those things that defy our understanding. Faith gives us the ability to grasp hold of the promise of life beyond this life.  Christian, renew this hope. Your eternal life will not begin when you die! The joy of Heaven is NOT available only after our body is in the grave!  We are citizens of Heaven, now by the grace of Jesus Christ. We are alive in Him, now. We can commune with the Lord of Glory now.  Even as we live in expectation of Paradise to come, we are commissioned to establish the Eternal Kingdom of God here now, advocates for justice, messengers of reconciliation.

There is an example for us found in the life of the father of the faithful, Abraham.  Hearing God’s call, he followed the Lord, living his days here on earth on pilgrimage. If you know his story, you know he was far from perfect.  On his way ‘home’ he took some detours from the straight and narrow path, but he never lost sight of where he was going.

The Word tells us that “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent. And so did Isaac and Jacob, to whom God gave the same promise.”  Here is the summary line, the reason for his faithfulness.  “Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10, NLT)

Our concept of Paradise is skewed by half-baked ideas of human imagination that rob the promise of its power.  We adopt the nonsensical ideas that Heaven is a place of misty fog, enveloping transparent spirits floating in a ghostly realm, where angels strum their harps sitting on the edge of the clouds. Heaven is substantial place, created by the same God that thought up the refraction of sunlight by water moisture which produces the beauty of a rainbow.

The God who designed the exquisite human body, a perishable thing, who allows us to be awed by the color of a sunset, Who writes His glory in the renewal of life each Springtime, has made a Home for us that is even more wonderful. If He would make a temporary world of such splendor, I can only begin to imagine what Heaven, His eternal home looks like. John tried to describe it for us borrowing earthly descriptions of beauty, gates of pearl and streets of gold, to try to understand his visions! The best conversation, the deepest intimacy with another, the most wonderful worship, the most blissful day of rest – are just glimpses of Paradise that waits!

Christian, let’s not allow the sorrow and difficulties of life to rob us of our hope of Paradise that is prepared for us by our Father. Christ Jesus has opened the doors and will welcome us home. When sin threatens to engulf you, when all seems futile, when disappointment breaks your heart – look up and thank God that He has written Heaven into your heart. It is precisely the longing for Paradise that makes us unwilling to settle down and desire our best life now. We are headed home!

Here is a word from the Word. Lord, make it Living Truth that feeds faithfulness in us, I pray. Amen.  “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16, NIV)

______________

Home

(Spend a few minutes with this song and think about ‘home.’)

This world is not what it was meant to be
All this pain all this suffering
There’s a better place waiting for me
In heaven

Ev’ry tear will be wiped away
Ev’ry sorrow and sin erased
We’ll dance on seas of amazing grace
In heaven in heaven

I’m goin’
Home where the streets are golden
Ev’ry chain is broken
Oh I wanna go oh I wanna go
Home where ev’ry fear is gone I’m in Your open arms
Where I belong (Home)

Lay down my burdens I lay down my past
I run to Jesus no turning back
Thank God Almighty I’ll be free at last
In heaven in heaven
I’m goin’ (Home)

Blinded eyes will fin’lly see
The dead will rise on the shores of eternity
The trump will sound the angels will sing
Hallelujah hallelujah
I am goin’
Where I belong
I’m goin’ home

I’m goin’ home
I’m on my way home
I’m goin’ home

Chris Tomlin | Ed Cash | Scott Cash
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Snarling at the world?

Sam, my old Irish Setter, is a gentle dog who loves people, but if she feels that she is being cornered or pressured a deep growl rumbles from her throat and her lips curl back to reveal some vicious looking teeth! When she thinks that there is a real threat of harm coming her way she reverts to her canine nature, which is natural.  Have you been growling at others, feeling a deep sense of dis-ease?  Does it feel like life is closing in, leaving you with no way out of whatever situation is causing your discomfort?

Threats of actual physical danger are not part of my life and I am so thankful for that. I have never lived in a war zone, been caught up in violence, or had my home broken into.  Never the less, days come when it feels as if the world around me is pressing in, backing me into a corner, threatening my sense of well-being. When I focus on those things that make me afraid of the future, I become like my old dog; snarling, snapping, growling, defensive.  Does that ever happen to you? Do fatigue, uncertainty, and the unknown ever seem to push you up against a wall?

In the Gospels, where we read the account of Jesus’ life, we come to the part where He is going to Jerusalem to face the Cross.  The disciples knew something of the danger. We catch a glimpse of their fear in the words of Thomas who sighs, “Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16, NIV)  As the week went on their fears came to a crescendo at the Passover dinner where Jesus spoke at length about His impending death.

The disciples tried to sort out their confusion during the short walk through the darkness from the Upper Room to the olive grove where there was a garden called Gethsemane.  Once there – Jesus prayed and the men, exhausted by stress and fear, fell asleep. With a start they awoke to the noise of approaching men. Tension rose, but Jesus would not run.  Roman soldiers and armed temple police, accompanied by Judas, arrived.  Jesus stepped forward and asked them who they sought. They answered that they were looking for Jesus. Judas moved forward and kissed the Master in betrayal, a signal that led the soldiers to seize Him.

Peter, cornered and desperate, pulled a sword from his waistband and took a wild swing at the nearest man, who ducked, but not quickly enough to save his ear which was sliced away. Before further chaos could break out, the Man in custody showed His faith, the grace of God, and His sense of being centered in God’s will. He told Peter to put his sword away, asked the soldiers to let His disciples go, and healed Malchus’ ear. In spite of all appearances, He was not cornered at all. He knew he was living in His Father’s will. “Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11, NIV)

In that story we watch two men in the same set of circumstances with completely different responses.

One was full of faith, the other full of fear.
One was moving to the will of God, the other running from it.
One was secure in God’s hand, the other felt the chaos of his own confusion.

These days with COVID threats seeming to lurk in every corner, with economic chaos descending on many, in a time of political conflict, our spiritual walk with Jesus can be affected if we allow fear to overtake us. Why do I say if? Because we have a choice of our focus. We can conclude that we are helpless and cornered, or we can run to the Father and renew our hope in His care. Where will you live today?

Has life apparently cornered you, Christian? Do you see only overwhelming problems? Are you ready to conclude that there no way out, no way around?  Here is a passage of Scripture – powerfully true – that you can memorize and hold onto.  “Be silent, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” The Lord Almighty is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:10-11, NLT)  Be still!

Find your place in the Father’s will. Wrestle with the emotions. Jesus did! His stress was intense and we know that He wanted to avoid the Cross. He chose submission to the plan of God. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39, NIV) The way out of the corner was not the one that offered comfort but it was God’s plan to bring about His will for the world and the way that Jesus was exalted to the Father’s side.  

Today, choose to wait and watch and listen and pray. “Be still and know that I am God!” He tells us.  Here’s a word from the Word.  “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-14, NLT)

_________

Run To The Father

I’ve carried a burden for too long on my own
I wasn’t created to bear it alone
I hear Your invitation to let it all go
I see it now I’m laying it down
And I know that I need You

I run to the Father
I fall into grace
I’m done with the hiding
No reason to wait
My heart needs (found) a surgeon
My soul needs (found) a friend
So I’ll run to the Father
Again and again
And again and again

You saw my condition
Had a plan from the start
Your Son for redemption
The price for my heart
I don’t have a context
For that kind of love
I don’t understand
I can’t comprehend
All I know is I need You
Oh oh
Again and again
And again and again

My heart has been in Your sights
Long before my first breath
Running into Your arms
Is running to life from death
I feel this rush deep in my chest
Your mercy is calling out
Just as I am You pull me in
nd I know I need You now

Cody Carnes | Matt Maher | Ran Jackson
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Together? More important than we know

One of the long-term effects of this pandemic will be the impact on human relationships. While daily infection numbers and death rates capture our attention there is a secondary effect that is taking a hidden but heavy toll on people: isolation. We know that ‘social distancing’ keeps the bug from spreading to some degree, but do we know what deconstructing our social fabric, keeping families apart, avoiding going places together, and closing our schools is doing to our emotional and spiritual health? 

What we do know is that depression has risen sharply. Divorce rates are climbing, too. Yes, we are even getting physically heavier, in part, as a result, it is theorized, of eating more to compensate for loss of social connections.  Please do not read those words as a political statement.  Twin imperatives have met – keeping physically healthy and staying meaningfully connected.  Time will tell if, as a society, we have chosen the right balance between the two.

What is inarguable is the critical importance of maintaining our network of family, friends, and colleagues. The American myth of rugged individualism is just that – a myth. While we may make a legend of the ‘self-made’ person who supposedly dragged himself up by his own bootstraps, the truth is that everyone of us relies heavily on others to survive. The children who do best in life are those who grow up in healthy, functional families with a wide circle of support. Generally it is not pure intellect that allows a person to become a ‘success’ in life. The learned ability to negotiate social interactions, to build friendships, to deal with conflict without self-destruction is a key component of personal fulfillment.

“Community” is one of those words we like to toss around. Who can be against it?  But, who is actually for it? Our highly mobile society, the willingness to pull up stakes and relocate every 5 years, is evidence that we have redefined the how we understand ‘community.’  For many complex reasons, Americans tend to change jobs every 4.5 years!  The idea of working for the same employer for 40 years is a quaint notion in our time.

Two generations ago it was likely that a person would remain in the same town in which she was born, that she would know her extended family, that she would invest in building the social structure that would sustain the next generation.  Far fewer persons are willing to choose fewer ‘opportunities’ to remain in a place where they can build and sustain life-long connections with friends and family.  Living in community is absolutely essential to order, for the transmission of values, as a part of development of character.

The last 20 years have given us ‘social media.’ Many believed that these technologies would be the new, perhaps better, way to sustain connections. I am very thankful that Facebook™ allows me to stay ‘in touch’ with friends far away, with those I knew ‘in person’ long ago. However, as we are learning more each day, the blessing of virtual connections is not what we might have hoped for.

Facebook is often more ‘Fakebook.’  Reality and digital image are, in many instances, at wide variance. We are, strangely enough, much more likely to attack a person online than we ever would even think of doing face to face. The chasms of social divide are, in large degree, the result of algorithms that increasingly expose us only to people who think, act, and vote like we do, reinforcing our own opinions.  A discussion in a church foyer sounds much different than a ‘discussion’ on social media.

What does this have to do with our Christianity? Basic to the practice of faith is being ‘in the Body of Christ.’  We may split hairs about whether or not being in a church is necessary to our salvation, but the importance of being truly committed to a local community of faith it is beyond debate.  In my faith tradition we talk much about having a ‘personal relationship with Jesus.’  I believe that is true. He knows and love ME personally.  We must not forget that Jesus also calls us into His Church and to the interdependence of the shared spiritual gifts that are expressed within a local congregation.

The wisdom of God is found in this passage penned by Paul under the inspiration of the Spirit. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.

But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-27, NIV)

The healthiest and most fruitful Christians will find a local church;   get committed, work through inevitable conflicts, grow through personal disappointment, worship together, find joy, and live in the strength of community. It is a fact, though one that many are willing to dispute or ignore these days.

Here is a word from the Word. May we take time to consider what the Spirit is saying to us and discover the life that Truth brings to us.  “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. This is the new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s people, let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:19-25, NLT)

___________

The Church’s One Foundation

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord.
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy bride,
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.

Elect from every nation
Yet one o’er all the earth.
Her charter of salvation-
One Lord! One faith! One birth!
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

Samuel Sebastian Wesley
© Words: Public Domain

Let’s Dance!

The new pastor was being formally commissioned with beautifully prepared worship that included lessons on pastoral care as well as instructions to the congregation about their response to their shepherd. The most beautiful part of the service was a dance!  As a song played, a woman gracefully danced to the altar where a candle contained in a glass bowl was burning. She took the candle and danced throughout the sanctuary, passing the fire over the heads of the people, finally coming bringing that candle’s fire to rest over the head of the new pastor. Her presentation told us about the importance of receiving God’s Holy Spirit, allowing Him to move among us.  The dance left me deeply stirred, an unforgettable experience.

Occasionally I dance – alone and unseen! You would not want to witness this as you might conclude that I was in need of medical attention! The ability to move with grace is not one of God’s gifts to me, but sometimes, when a particularly joyful song is playing, I get up and move.  It is an attempt to express the emotions I am feeling but my movement is uncoordinated, more flailing than dancing, really.

The instructor at a dance class that Bev and I enrolled in a long time ago explained that dance involves training and skill, to be sure, but it also involves ‘feeling’ as much as thinking.  When I attempt to dance, be it as an expression of my joy, or with my wife back when I took those lessons, a couple of things get complicated. I become self-conscious. And, I try to break down each movement into tiny parts, becoming mechanical, rather than responding to the music.  That dance teacher explained that enjoy a dance, I’d have to give up control and come under the influence of the music as well as becoming more responsive to the movement of my partner.

Christian, walking ‘in the Spirit’ parallels learning to dance!   

The Bible says, (Galatians 5:25) “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” He invites us to a dance with Him in this life. Some of just will not let go and let Him lead. We wrestle with the music, finding the rhythm for a while, then reasserting our control. Others surrender to Him and move gracefully through life, dancing beautifully through disappointment, financial challenges, ill health, job loss, storms, traffic jams, and temptation. Yes, those who dance with the Spirit live “grace-fully.”

Simon Peter was called by Jesus to become a disciple. For three years, he mostly got it wrong. Talk about bad timing. Oh, he tried mightily but, too often, things turned out badly.

The low point was the night of Jesus’ arrest and trial. When warned of impending failure by the Lord, Peter insisted that even if the other disciples failed, “I never will!” “Ah,” Jesus said sadly, “but you will, Peter. Before the rooster announces the dawn, you will deny me three times.”    A few hours later as Jesus was being arrested, Peter pulled out his sword and made an attempt at defending his Friend, succeeding only in cutting off a man’s ear, which Jesus promptly healed, as He told Peter, “Put that thing away!” And, later that same night, in the grip of panic in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, Peter was cursing and swearing while emphatically declaring, “I tell you, I never knew him!”

Fifty days later, at Pentecost, we meet a transformed man in Acts, a man dancing with the Spirit! Peter gives leadership to the emerging group of followers of Jesus, explains the Scripture, preaches on the street, and courageously faces the enemies of the Jesus movement. With grace and beauty he moves through those early chapters of Acts, the story of the first Christians.

How does the Bible account for the difference? Acts 4:8 sums it up, saying “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, … “ The life and music of the Spirit filled him up and he began to dance gracefully under the Spirit’s influence, moving to the rhythms of Heaven. When he came to the end of himself, when he was crushed beyond hope by his failure, God came with the outpouring of His Spirit. From that day, Peter danced. Yes, he made mistakes now and again, but he was a man of grace and power, who spread the message of Jesus and life across the world!

This Monday morning, let me encourage you to relax into God’s Presence.  Don’t try so hard to make yourself  ‘keep step with the Spirit.‘ Let Him lead. Lay aside your preconceptions about what you must do, who you must be like, how you will get through this week, or whatever gets you wrapped up in yourself.  Listen to the music of the Spirit. Give yourself over to His lead. And, you’ll learn to dance!

Here is a word from the Word for this Monday morning. Hear the promise. God will speak, He will lead, perhaps through times of hardship, but always present. So, let’s celebrate His love.

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  (Will you let Him lead you in the dance of life?)  “And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.” (Isaiah 30:18-21, 29, NIV)

___________

I Want The Joy

I want the joy of the Lord to come down
I want the joy of the Lord to fall now
I want the joy of the Lord in my life
I want the joy of the Lord to lift me
I want the joy of the Lord to change me
I want the joy of the Lord in my life

It’s time I started dancing
Over all these graves
It’s time I gave You oh my Lord
The highest praise
It’s time to lift my voice
Oh and beg for this blessing to fall

Rita Springer

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Life Sucks?

A younger friend, who is a pastor, recently announced his next sermon series title – “Life Sucks.” When I read it, I laughed, amused by his summary of Ecclesiastes, that book in the Bible from which he will be taking his texts. In fact, it is a book full of cynicism. For example, Solomon writes “I hate life because everything done here under the sun is so irrational. Everything is meaningless, like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17, NLT)  Who has not felt that way at least occasionally, especially in this recent year of tumultuous politics and pandemic chaos?

I, too, have felt the pull to become cynical, perhaps even bitter.  If I spend too much time just looking at the surface of things, I am likely to sigh “What’s the use of it all? Who cares? What is accomplished that tomorrow won’t undo?”  Do you ever feel that way?   If we give that temptation any room in our thoughts we are dangerously close to spiritual apathy, giving up and giving in to the darkness that surrounds us.

The word of God presses an important principle into us. What is it? Patient endurance!  There are times when the reality is difficult, when it seems that the sun will never shine brightly again. Andy Stanley reminds us that “The daily grind of life is hard on visions. Life is now. Bills are now. Crisis is now. Vision is later. It is easy, therefore, to lose sight of the main thing, to sacrifice the best for the good. All of us run the risk of allowing secondary issues to rob us of the joy of seeing our visions come to completion. Distractions slowly kill the vision.” (Visioneering, Multnomah, 1999)

Pastor James of the first church in Jerusalem  points to the labor of the farmer to illustrate how we must meet that temptation slip into a ‘whatever, how cares’ kind of apathy.  “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8, NIV)  Be patient! Let God work.  

Charles Colson worked at the pinnacle of power in the Nixon White House and lost his way. In the Watergate scandal, he pled guilty to a felony. He lost his law license and was sent to federal prison. At the time, he was a baby Believer, a new Christian, and his faith took a beating.  When he was released, he wondered what to do, what it all meant, how his life would find any meaning. 

He waited on God, for 18 months! His memories of encounters with other forgotten, hopeless men in those awful places became the tools that God used to reshape Colson’s vision and a ministry called Prison Fellowship was born. Colson gave the rest of his life to bringing God’s hope to those most of the rest of society had written off as unworthy of care!  He wrote “So out of my prison experience, paradoxically, came a challenge which has turned out to be more fulfilling than anything I could have imagined. Freedom lies in obedience to our calling.”  (The Good Life, 2005, Tyndale Publishing)

If we seek results too soon, if we insist on a continual sense of fulfillment, we will grow frustrated.  If we make ‘success’ our measure of happiness we will be in a constant state of unrest looking for the ‘next best thing.’ Therein are the seeds of disillusionment and failure. We need the ‘long view,’ the patient endurance that characterizes the lives of those whose ultimate hope is gaining God’s commendation.

This is Friday and today, as with every Friday, I know that it is my responsibility to complete the message that I will bring to the congregation on Sunday. That ‘job’ can be viewed in two different ways. If I approach my desk to fill up pages with words ‘to say on Sunday’ because it’s ‘my job,’  joy will be lost.  My likely goal will be just to ‘get it done.’  If with the sense of my calling, remembering that I have the opportunity to help somebody whose lost, confused, or without hope to find the Way,  that vision will keep me in pursuit of God’s best, for His glory.

Never lose sight of the `why’ behind the `what.’  

Refuse to live just to survive. Ask God for quiet hope, for patient endurance, for faith to live for what might be invisible at the moment. 
King David, at the realization of a dream, sang this:
“O LORD, you brought me up from the grave;
you spared me from going down into the pit.
Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
” (Psalm 30:3-5, NIV)

Here is a word from the Word.

“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
“For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay.  And my righteous ones will live by faith.”
(Hebrews 10:35-38, NLT)

____________

Good God Almighty

I can’t count the times
I’ve called Your name some broken night
And You showed up and patched me up
Like You do every time
I get amnesia I forget that You keep coming around
Yeah ain’t no way You’ll ever let me down

Good God Almighty
I hope You’ll find me
Praising Your Name no matter what comes
‘Cause I know where I’d be
Without Your mercy
So I keep praising Your name at the top of my lungs

Tell me is He good (He’s good)
Tell me is He God (He’s God)
He is Good God Almighty

You say Your love goes on forever
That Your mercy never stops
So why would I assume
You’d be somebody that You’re not
Like sun in the morning
I know You’re gonna be there every day
So what on earth could make me be afraid

Praise Him in the morning
Praise Him in the noon time
Praise Him when the sun goes down
Love Him in the morning
Love Him in the noon time
Love Him when the sun goes down

Jesus in the morning
Jesus in the noon time
Jesus when the sun goes down
Jesus in the morning
Jesus in the noon time
Jesus when the sun goes down

Ben Glover | David Crowder | Jeff Sojka
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Bouncing off the bottom of life?

In the economy of the Roaring 20’s he was a new breed of stock investor, a true analyst. His reports caught the attention of some key financiers, valued by those investing on Wall Street and he started to build his wealth. Under the cover of his financial acumen, Bill had a secret. He loved alcohol.  It took over his life and he was broke and dying.  His doctors told him to stop drinking or die, but the addiction was so strong.

On his third trip to a hospital, Bill Wilson finally reached up and asked for help. “If there is a God, let Him show Himself now.”  God found him and Bill Wilson, along with “Dr. Bob” Smith, founded a movement that has helped millions get sober and stay that way:  Alcoholics Anonymous.

One of the cornerstones of the AA way is that a person needs to ‘bottom out’ before they will be ready to lay the foundations of a new life. It’s a paradox. Strength is born in a moment of utter desperation. Step One says “We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”   

I do not mean to suggest that we ought to give ourselves to self-destructive behaviors to try to find meaning or change. It is true that coming to the end of ourselves, through choices that destroy our illusions of mastery or because of circumstances that are simply beyond our control, provides the opportunity to discover the grace of God; a whole new way to live.

Are you bouncing off the bottom of life? 

Perhaps this last year has wrecked you emotionally.
It might be the ruins of your marriage.
It may be an addiction that has eaten away at you from the inside out.
It might be the approach of mid-life and the realization that nothing you have done seems to matter.
It may be a crushing sense of guilt or shame over wrong and/or sinful choices that lays heavily on you. 

I know it sounds like a cliché but I want to invite you to LOOK UP and ASK GOD for hope.  Not all crises produce great transformation. They can but some people refuse faith and become one of the ‘living dead,’ without hope, their lives a steep spiral into oblivion.

God loves you, dear friend, and will help you find a new life, giving you a new heart!

One of the ‘big lies’ of life is wrapped around the idea that it is ‘too late.’  The Devil will whisper that you are too guilty, too broken, too weak … to change. In one sense that is true. WE are ‘slaves to sin’ and destined for destruction except for the fact of God’s amazing grace. In Luke 15, we find Jesus’ story of renewal. 

A wayward son, who had squandered his father’s wealth and broken relationship, bottomed out. He found himself far from home, hungry.  “About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. The boy became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:14-16, NLT)  Broke, starving, alone, and ashamed- sounds desperate to me. How about you?

Jesus went on “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired men have food enough to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.”  (Luke 15:17-19, NLT)  He was still thinking that maybe he could negotiate his way out of desperation by making a deal with Dad. 

He went home and what did he discover? “So 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. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “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. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:20-24, NIV)  Really, for the first time, he began to understand the depth of his father’s love!

How I pray that you know the depth of your Father’s love today. God is not interested in ‘making a deal’ with you. He does not want you to grovel in shame. He invites you to ‘come home.’ God’s grace is scandalous, dear friend. We cannot earn it and to attempt to do so becomes a hindrance to experiencing His love in all its fullness. God does not do probation, does not ask the impossible of us. He loves us, weeps over us, and waits for us to return to His embrace.

If you’re feeling broken today, if life is out of control, if the way ahead is hidden in darkness there is HOPE. So, what can you do? Look up and ask Christ Jesus to make you alive again to the Spirit.  He promised this to His wayward people of long ago: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20, NIV)  The promise remains.

Oh yes, the road to restoration is sometimes long, often hard.  Ask any recovering alcoholic! Step One is just that, the first step.  God gives strength, hope, and renewal and asks us to walk with Him, led by His Spirit into a new life as disciples (devoted followers) of Jesus.

Here is a word from the Word. This passage finds its way into my CoffeeBreak blog often because in these words I find so much joy, such strength for life. May you find the same. 
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV)

_______________

Lord I Need You

Lord I come I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
And without You I fall apart
You’re the one that guides my heart

Lord I need You oh I need You
Ev’ry hour I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me


Where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus You’re my hope and stay
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus You’re my hope and stay

Lord I need You oh I need You
Ev’ry hour I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You

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Our New President

Since my birth these United States have been led by 12 different Presidents! – Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald J. Trump. Looking over that list I see some heroes and some … well, not so great men.  But, each was my President. 

At noon today, these United States will have a new President when Joseph Biden, Jr. is sworn into office. Some will celebrate, optimistic about days to come. Some will mourn, knowing that policies will change. Christian, whatever your political leaning, ours is a shared responsibility – to pray for those who govern. Will you?  

Our prayers are informed by two Scriptural truths.

First is this.  Government is God’s plan!  
When we pray for those who govern we join Him in His work.  In a passage that can be hard for us to accept we learn that God’s hand works in human government. “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.  So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.” (Romans 13:1-6, NLT)  

The Lord gives us freedom in this nation to choose our leaders but He is the ultimate source of authority. We honor Him when we choose wisely and when we actively seek Him on behalf of those who hold office- be it our local council or our President.  So, we pray!

Second, Christians are directed explicitly to pray for leaders.  
Paul, inspired by the Spirit, tells us to “Pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior.” (1 Timothy 2, NLT)  I’m sure you note that he does not say just to pray for those you think are good, or those with whom you agree.  Imagine the struggle of those first Christians to pray for an Emperor who claimed to be divine and who persecuted them. Makes any struggle we may have pale by comparison, doesn’t it?

As a new government takes office in Washington, we can add our part in helping to make this a just and free society by faithfully praying. I urge you to write the name of our President, your congressperson and Senator, your governor, and local representatives on your prayer list and do what God asks on with bended knees.  

Remember that we are citizen of two realms.
Heaven’s God and Christ claims our first allegiance.
And, we are loyal citizens of our nation.   
Negotiating the road between those two claims requires wisdom, humility, and the guidance of the Spirit.

The word from the Word is from Matthew’s Gospel, a moment when Jesus reminds us of our dual responsibilities.  
“Teacher, we know how honest you are. You teach about the way of God regardless of the consequences. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not?” But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Whom are you trying to fool with your trick questions? Here, show me the Roman coin used for the tax.” When they handed him the coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God.” His reply amazed them, and they went away.” (Matthew 22:16-22, NLT)

_____________________

Father in Heaven, increase my faith so that I will live in obedience to Your call!
I lift America’s leaders, particularly our new President, Joseph Biden, before You.
Grace him with virtues of Wisdom, Justice, Courage, Humility, Faith, Hope, and Love
as he takes us the weighty responsibility of national leadership.
Work deeply in his heart and mind and draw him to a new understanding of Who You are.

Spirit of God, call us, your people, to find our unique place in this world.
Help us to be Bright Lights of Hope, Fearlessly committed to living the Truth,
Selflessly giving ourselves to Serve – God and others,  
People who Pray for Your kingdom to come,
Your will to be done, on earth as it is in Heaven!
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Shaken? Afraid?

So many of us are disoriented, shaken, and afraid these days. The pandemic statistics reported to us keep on rising, along with apocalyptic opinions about what’s next. Conspiracy theories, most unfounded, sprout like dandelions on our social media accounts. Having witnessed the self-serving actions of so many of those who are supposed to be ‘leaders,’ we are no longer able to trust our government. Anyone with the temerity to raise a dissenting voice invites scorn or, in some cases, is silenced.  In my lifetime, I do not remember a more fearful time in the world or a season in which basic values appeared to shift so rapidly.  How are you coping, friend? 

If you are not dealing with the change in your world well, there is no need to condemn yourself as weak. One of the most important resources for dealing with fear is community, being together with friends, family, and church. But the fear of spreading the contagion keeps us from sitting down to dinner with extended family. The ripped and torn social fabric, our awful national disunity, does not allow for conversations that could help us find our way. We are not going to church, or when we do, we may find only bland platitudes and/or superficial relationships that cannot address our true concerns.

What then can we do to find peace?  Is our only response to adopt a brave exterior that masks our inner fears?

There is another Way!
The Proverb says “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10, NIV)  Sounds good, but what does it mean? 

In Christ, you and I are the people of the Lord. His Name is written on us. Our identity is drawn from who He has declared us to be.  Nearly every week in our worship at Faith Discovery Church, after we conclude the proclamation of the Apostle’s Creed, I say … “I am …”  I hear the response … “A Christian!”   

Today, even if yours is just a faint flicker of faith, choose to rest in Christ Jesus. He does not change, His promises are not ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’  The Truth about our salvation is not subject to vote, veto, or cancel culture!  We are secure in His grasp.  None of these things – death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (nothing) in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord because “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37, NIV)  Speak the word of faith and remember that it is Christ who saves. We cannot secure ourselves. He has written His Name on us, declaring us His own possession purchased at great price. Trust that truth.

This is the word from the Word. Note the gifts provided those who trust in the Lord.  “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:7-9, NIV)   
Power – the ability to overcome.
Love – the ability to remain relational, not isolated.
Self-discipline – the ability to rule turbulent emotions.

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10, NIV

____________

The Solid Rock

(take a few moments to worship along with Austin Stone as they sing this great hymn!)

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

His oath His covenant His blood
Support me in the ‘whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

When He shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne

Edward Mote | William Batchelder Bradbury © Words: Public Domain

A Kingdom Issue

As I begin this CoffeeBreak this morning, I know I am venturing into a place where it is likely that I will offend. A person cannot mention race in America in 2021 without quickly awakening myriad responses. Last year our country was torn apart, once again, by arguments over equal justice for all. The horrific video of a black man death under the knee of a white man on a street corner in Minneapolis sparked a national awareness and created an opportunity for politicians to use the issue to stoke the passions of voters. No one, regardless of political alliance, can realistically argue that America has yet met the challenge of racial equality successfully.

The politics aside, my concern is how Christians grapple with this challenge. Tony Evans, a black pastor from Dallas, TX, in his new book, Oneness Embraced, contends that ‘the fundamental cause of racial problems in America lies squarely with the Church’s failure to come to grips with the issue from a Biblical perspective. … The Church of Jesus Christ has, on a large scale, with some exceptions, missed our calling to… promote a Biblical understanding of the Kingdom foundation of oneness.’   Oneness, Dr Evans says, do not require us to erase our cultural uniqueness in some bland uniformity acceptable to all but rather to choose to live in spiritual UNITY.

Let me make a statement that has no wiggle room by intent. If a Christian refuses fellowship with a person or sees another human being as being of lesser worth because of race or sex, he sins. It is not merely regrettable. It cannot be passed off as ‘the way things are.’  Discrimination is an offense to God who made us one and who loves us equally.

Jesus repeatedly challenged the accepted discrimination of His day. Jews despised Samaritans and justified their attitude by using the history of Israel’s divide. But, in John 4 we read the story of how He shocked His disciples by challenging 3 social norms in one encounter!  At a well in Samaria, He engaged in a real conversation with –
1. a woman;
2. one was a social outcast because of her moral failures; and
3. a Samaritan by birth.

For Jesus the Kingdom of God was the first allegiance. In order to meet the spiritual need of a person that social norms would have kept Him from addressing, one who many would have insisted had ‘no right’ to God’s grace, Jesus took a drink from the hand of the Samaritan woman at the well and led her to know God’s love.  

His summation of the encounter is revealing. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24, NIV)  Don’t miss what He says.  God’s grace is not limited by who you are, where you come from, or what you have done. When we know this foundational Kingdom principle, we are prepared to deal with the sin of discrimination.

The Kingdom calling is solidified as the Church comes into being.  Those bodies of Christians were remarkable in their time for the refusal to observe social norms.  Rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, Gentile and Jew worshiped together, the gifts of the Spirit operating through everyone.  In the Kingdom of God, entered through the grace of Christ Jesus, they fervently believed that every person stood on level ground. Paul unmistakably states the principle – “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NIV)   

In the Church of Jesus Christ we cannot excuse, tolerate, or encourage any divisions based on social class, or racial heritage, or gender. The sin of discrimination has been acceptable for too long.  Yes, is a subtle one that hides itself behind all kinds of words, that is excused with many rationalizations. But, God’s truth is clear: In Christ there is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’   The Word says that ‘our citizenship is in Heaven.’ (Philippians 3.20)

Friend, when you pray, “Your Kingdom come,” does that include those whose skin is a different color?  Do you desire to live under God’s rule with ALL of the human race? I hope that those of us who are ‘in Christ,’ will pray earnestly to be people of the Kingdom – not Republicans, not Democrat, not black, nor white; but Christians who love God.  

Today as America notes the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. for national reconciliation and equal rights. Dr. King was a pastor in Birmingham, Alabama who lived with the evil of segregation and racism, naming it for what it was – sin. His vision of non-violent resistance spared many lives as the civil rights movement gained momentum.

Ever the preacher, Dr. King drew inspiration from the Scripture, using the picture words of the Old Testament prophets to move the nation.  We hear the voice of the Spirit when he quotes Amos, “let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24, KJV)   His most memorable speech given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 23, 1963 is as clear a vision of equality as we can find. The world he ‘saw’ by faith has yet to come fully to be, but let us, for Christ’s sake, commit ourselves to making it a reality.

I leave this word from the Word with you today. As you ponder it, let God use it to shape your heart and mind.

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6:6-8, NIV)
________

If you unfamiliar with the “Dream” speech of Dr. King take 15 minutes and listen to his words. They are powerful, challenging, and visionary.(https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm)