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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trust and Death

Much of what I have shared in the past six posts is my processing of what I encountered during the last trip.  In response to some of the passages in the Sermon on the Mount some in the group stated that in their culture it was not possible to follow what Christ commanded.  They would face imprisonment, physical harm, and possibly death if they were to obey.
Trust and Death
In thinking, praying through this, and looking at what the Word of God reveals, it seems that the Lord does things in ways that are at best counter intuitive and frankly opposite of what we as humans would chose to do them.

If we are at war we would gather the strongest force we could to wage that war.  Not so with the Lord.  He chooses to engage the enemy in ways that do not entirely make sense to us.  Look at:

Matthew 10:24 – 39
Philippians 1:12 – 26
Matthew 24:4 – 14
Revelation 4 – 5; 6:1 – 11
Psalm 2

One of the key passages in that mix is Matthew 10:28.  I have already mentioned 1 Corinthians 15:26.  Look now at 1 Corinthians 15:50 – 58.

The fear of rejection, persecution, imprisonment, and possible execution for one’s faith are some of the main weapons of the enemy.  Death of course is his ultimate weapon.

With the resurrection, Christ destroyed that weapon.  As believers, followers of Christ we are told not to fear death.  It has no power over us.  That is the focus of 1 Corinthians 15:50 – 58 is it not?  We are to trust in the sovereignty of God, the certainty of our resurrected life in the Kingdom validated by the resurrection of our Lord.

On that foundation we are to stand fast in the face of rejection, persecution, imprisonment, and execution.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Validation of Trust

The last five days I have not written here.  There are several reasons for that.  Primary, is that I am still processing what I have been sharing about doubt.  This is not something that I have completely sorted out either in my understanding of the text or in application to my life.  I am very much a work in progress in this, as, I suppose, you are.
Validation of Trust
That said, there have been some events and Scripture (not in order of importance) that have validated some of the things I have been processing in the past few days.

Recently my wife and I went to a small group meeting at a church we have been visiting.  I shared earlier that in the country from which I recently returned, the people said that they were unable to apply the Scripture because the culture oppressed Christianity.  I heard essentially the same objection in so many words at that recent small group meeting.  It validates my sense that regardless of where we live, what pressures our culture brings to bear on our faith, we will be likely to use that cultural reality to justify our disobedience.

As a counterpoint to that look at these passages:
  • 1 Corinthians 15:12 – 28
  • Romans 6:2 – 11
It is the case that, if we have chosen to follow Christ, we have been transferred into His kingdom, Colossians 1:13.  That reality means that we are citizens of the kingdom which we are commanded to seek first, Matthew 6:33; Philippians 3:20.  God’s is sovereign.  He is in control.  We can rest and trust in the certainty of His rule (More on that in Psalm 37).

What validates that certainty?  Not a coronation.  Not the installation of a leader.  Not an election result.  Not the swearing of an oath of office.

A resurrection.

That event has radical implications for us a believers.  We will examine some of those implications
tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Doubt vs Trust

In the context of the passages we have examined the opposite of doubt is trust.  If you review Matthew 5:1 – 7:29, it seems that Jesus is doing at least two things.
Doubt vs Trust
First He is raising the bar.  He is defining the expectations of the Law, the expectations of His Father, radically differently than the religious leaders had been teaching them.  He moves from action to attitude, thought.  Looking lustfully at a woman is adultery, not acting on the thought, the thought is a problem.

This part of His purpose culminates in Matthew 5:48.  The standard is hopelessly high.  We are to live out the perfection of God.  It is impossible.

The next purpose is that we have to surrender any notion that we are sufficient to do much of anything, and rather than try to make life work, we are to trust God.

So faced with the crushing, relentless attacks of the enemy.  Faced with all of the vagaries of trying to navigate life well, the charge is not to seek our own purposes.  No, we are to fully engage in seeking the fulfillment of the first part of the prayer Christ outlines, in Matthew 6:9 – 13a, we are to first, seek His kingdom.

We are to trust God for the rest.

Trust or doubt.

What does God have to do to validate that we can trust Him?

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Source of Doubt? Part 2

The Source of Doubt?  Part 2This is a continuation of yesterday’s post.  We established yesterday that the arenas in which we live, the various cultures, or live situations are one of the things that pulls us toward doubt.  The other we mentioned but did not develop is our adversary.

Satan is committed to our destruction, 1 Peter 5:8.  He is a ruthless, evil, persistent enemy.  He has declared war on all believers.  Look at Revelation 12:7 – 13:10.  This enemy is by nature a liar and a murderer, John 8:44.  He is continually at work to separate us from the Word of God, Mark 4:3 – 25.

He will settle for doubt.

So in the face of this what are we to do?  How are we to deal with this onslaught of means that are designed to move us from faith to doubt?

Thoughts?  I will begin to construct a possible solution tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Source of Doubt?

For the past couple of days we have been looking at the reality of doubt and a possible cure.  Where does it come from?  What is its source?  Let me suggest it is our arena and adversary.
The Source of Doubt?
Our arena is the world in which we live.  This world is under the dominion of our adversary, on whom we will expand in a bit.  John tells us in 1 John 2:15 – 16, that all, not some, all that is in the world is not from the Father, but is from the world.  Yet, we are pulled toward the world.  Our arena, our cultures, regardless of where we live, push us relentlessly toward the world.  We are told in every culture, every arena that if we do not have the latest stuff, be it clothes, cell phones, car, or home we are somehow diminished.

I just returned from a trip overseas, in an arena that would not be considered one of the richer arenas in the world.  In fact outside of the cities, the arena presents as deep poverty.  Yet everywhere I went there were billboards and advertisements telling me I needed a new home, a new cell phone, and a new car.

I went through Paris and Atlanta on both legs this time.  It seems like they build the airports around malls.  I could not get to my gates without being asked if I wanted to try the latest fragrance, buy my wife a diamond, or myself a suit, or a tie, I literally had to walk through shops to get to the gates.

This kind of input is constant.  Apparently in all arenas, cultures.  The persistent, not so subtle message is that we need things to be fulfilled.

That pull creates the worry and doubt about which Jesus talks in Matthew 6:25 – 34.

But that is not the only source…

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Cure for Doubt?

Yesterday we looked at the men who had been with Jesus for 3+ years.  When they saw Him after the resurrection, some doubted.  We doubt.  What is the remedy for that doubt?
The Cure for Doubt?
Then days later these same men, some of whom doubted.  Led a movement in Jerusalem and thousands responded.  Those same men who were hiding in a room after their leader’s execution stood in public accusing not only the government but the people who were listening of rebellion against God.  The result?  Thousands came to believe in Christ.

What was the difference?

Their experience with Christ was empowered and activated by the Holy Spirit.  That was the source of their power.  He was the difference in their lives.

As believers we have a choice.  That choice is something that we have to make on a daily basis.  Paul refers to that choice in Romans 12:1 – 2.  Daily we have to choose to be a living sacrifice.  We have to choose to move from doubt to trust in Christ and reliance on the Holy Spirit to navigate this journey which we began when we trusted Christ.

But there is more…

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Reality of Doubt

I recently returned from a project in a country that is hostile to Christianity.  It was a couple of weeks working with believers who are in underground churches.  In 10 days of meetings we covered a lot of ground.  Some of it was hard.

The Reality of DoubtSome of it the people living in the land did not want to accept.  It was just too hard in their eyes.  In light of the realities in which they live, they just could not see how it could work.

Doubt.

Doubt is OK.

We are not the first to trust in Christ who have had to deal with this.  Look at Matthew 28:18 – 20.  You know this passage, it is the Great Commission.  But notice the verses just prior, 28:16 – 17.  These men had been with Jesus for 3 years.  They had seen his miracles.  They watched Him walk on water, calm the storm on the sea, they were with Him when He fed thousands of people with essentially nothing.  They had seen demons fall to His feet and obey His commands.  They watched as Lazarus walked out of a tomb taking off his grave clothes after four days of death.  Some of them were present when He was transformed into His glory.

They saw all of this.

Look at how they responded when they saw His resurrected body…  Some doubted.

Those who had been with Him for three years – doubted.  So is it any wonder that we who have not seen all of those miracles, have not seen the resurrected Lord – doubt?  Probably not.

What is the solution, what is it that removes our doubt.  Stay tuned…

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Obey First

On this trip, yesterday was a struggle.  The group I was leading did not seem to be engaging as they had during the first part of the week.  Part of that, I know, was a check on my heart.  I won’t get into that here, now.
Obey First

My reaction was to spend some extended time thinking and praying through what I was going to do today.  This morning I got up, early for here, and spent time praying and working through the day.  I was in Jeremiah 32.  The Lord used that time to set up the rest of the day.

Jeremiah is in jail.  He is there because he told Zedekiah that Nebuchadnezzar was going to overtake Jerusalem and take Judah into captivity…  Zedekiah, did not like the message, so exercising cognitive consistency, he threw the messenger in jail.  Zedekiah was suffering a bit of denial since the siege ramps were already built and the city was surrounded.

In this context, the Lord gives Jeremiah a really weird command.  Buy some land.  Now if I am Jeremiah, cooling my heels in Zedekiah’s jail, with Nebuchadnezzar’s siege ramps built, and the city about to be sacked, my response to the Lord would probably be on the order of, “Say what?”

Not Jeremiah.  He buys the land.

Then, after he obeys, he goes to the Lord and shares the situation siege ramps and all, asking, in so many words, “Why?”

The Lord then shares with Jeremiah what He is doing and what He is going to do.  We have several of the passages in the Lord’s answer cross stitched on pillows or on greeting cards in our Christian bookstores.  That is interesting in light of the context.

This challenges me at a significant level.  Jeremiah did not flinch at the strangeness of God’s request.  He just obeyed.  It was after his obedience that he asked why.  I get that reversed.  Pretty much all of the time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Standing Strong

I am in a country that is hostile to Christianity.  That is, it is illegal to speak to others about the claims of Christ on their life.  I am working with a pastor here and members of the house churches he leads.  We are looking together at making disciples and leadership in the Body of Christ.
Standing Strong
Much of what we are doing involves the people who are here spending extended time in the Word looking at these topics.  We then spend time processing what they have found and discussing how to apply what they have found in the Word to their current situation.

Last week as I was preparing for the time here, I was reading in Joshua 1.  As you know, that is where Joshua is taking over leadership of the nation of Israel from Moses.  I was struck by the fourfold repetition of a phrase.

Many of us have Joshua 1:8 memorized.  But notice the repetition in verses 6, 7, 9, and 18.  Some form of the phrase, “be strong and courageous,” shows up in each of those passages.  Note that there are two instances of the phrase before Joshua 1:8 and two after.

The command in Joshua 1:8 is for the new leader of the nation to hold the Word of God closely and to be careful to obey that Word.  That charge is first in Joshua 1:7 and is repeated in Joshua 1:16, by the people in response to Joshua.  It is instructive that in the context that he is exhorted four times to be strong and courageous.  The implication seems to be that to hold close to the Word and to obey it will require strength and courage.

That is the case in my experience.  To follow the Word puts one in conflict with the world, one’s culture, and in some cases others in the Body of Christ.  If we are to believe Mark 4: 1 – 20 and the synoptic parallels (Matthew 13:1 – 2; Luke 8:4 – 15), the enemy will do all that he can to both obscure and pull us away from the Word of God.

It takes strength, courage, and perseverance for us to hold fast to the Word and obey.  A cursory reading of Joshua, bears out the need for this reminder and challenge.  If we are honest with ourselves we will admit that it takes strength and courage to be careful to obey the Lord in our daily lives…

In the Body today, this seems to be a timely reminder.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Majesty on Display

I wrote this two weeks ago but when I tried to publish it I did not have a signal.  So here it is now.  I just finished another post which I will publish tomorrow.  I am traveling and this location's internet is spotty at best.  So... we'll see.

I am in the backseat of my car on Interstate 80 headed for Pinedale, WY.  My idea of rest is to put 50 pounds on my back and walk about 45 miles in the wilderness at or above timberline.
Majesty on Display
I get overwhelmed by what God has done.  The level of detail, the incredible beauty, and if no one walks in there it is only for His pleasure.  Romans 1:19 – 20 reminds us as well as Psalm 19:1 – 6 that what we see in the wilderness, for that matter, everywhere in the world is the work of God’s hand.  We can learn much about Him.

One quick observation.  One of the places we will visit this week is the Titcomb basin, Google it, there are persistent snow fields in the basin, acres of them.  On the other side of the pass at the north in sits the highest mountain in Wyoming, Gannet, surrounded by the seven largest glaciers in the continental USA.  The snow fields and the glaciers were formed from snowflakes; none of which were duplicates.  Think about that.  If it were me, I would have used at least a few duplicates, more efficient.  But, no.  God used a bunch of uniquely made snowflakes about of which He informed Job He has storehouses where He keeps them for later use.

Personally, I cannot comprehend the level of detail in which God engages.  There is more than snow.  Each rock, each plant, is intentionally placed.  Based on Colossians 1:17 He holds it all together, all the time.

That is not just true of the Wind River Range.  It is true of all of His creation.

We should thank Him.