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Step By Step

But at last he came to a part where it was more level and the valley opened out. And there, on the other side of the river, quite close to him, in the middle of a little plain between two hills, he saw what must be the White Witch’s House.  -C. S. Lewis The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe

Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.  -2 Samuel 11:2

For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice, And I saw among the naive, And discerned among the youths A young man lacking sense, Passing through the street near her corner; And he takes the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, In the middle of the night and in the darkness.  -Proverbs 7:6-9

And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. -Luke 15:13

Sometimes the journey can seem like progress, going up as it were, for a while. It’s just steps. Sometimes they are few and sometimes many, but they can be steps… not up, but away.

Edmund’s steps were uphill, climbing to the castle. Urged on by appetite, he was enchanted by the taste of turkish delight and the promise of his own importance. Only the witch new how to appeal to the evil within him.

David’s steps were few and easy, as he was enticed by the desires of his eyes and the lust of his own sexual desire. Sometimes it only takes a few steps, or one wrong turn, to invite disaster.

The steps of “the young” man were “lacking sense”, they were careless and carefree, and he wandered into a snare. It might have been different had his steps been purposeful. If you don’t know where you are going, you are sure to get there.

The prodigal’s steps were rebellious and manyBlinded by his own desire for independence from his father, he took a road that led to the pigsty. Independence is immaturity, maturity is interdependence.

The Christian adventure is always that -an adventure! We walk by faith, nevertheless it should always be a careful walk. There are many signs that say “come this way” each appealing to some weakness of the flesh. They promise adventure, comfort, or riches, but they may be steps away rather than steps up.

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. -Ephesians 5:15-17 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Meditation, Real Life

 

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Who is the radical after all?

I read a commentary recently regarding ISIS, the recent attacks in Paris, and San Bernardino, CA. The author drew a moral equivalent between what he referred to as radical Muslims and radical Christians, referencing the KKK and abortion clinic bombers as radical Christians along side the likes of the jihadists. Though he condemned acts of violence from both parties, I think he, like many, misunderstand and misapply the terms they use in respect to religion.

There are many labels being thrown around these days, creating much confusion about who is, and who is not, a radical as well as who is, and who is not, a moderate when it comes to the practice of these particular religious ideologies, and the confusion is not helpful as we try to combat the hate and violence that we are seeing with frightening frequency and intensity.

What does the term radical mean? Well, it can mean quite a variety of things depending upon the subject matter and the presupposition of the user of the term. One could say, for instance, that Jesus was a radical in terms of bringing a teaching that seemed contrary to the socio-religious climate of His day, yet I imagine that we would never categorize His commands to “love God” or “love your neighbor”1 as radical thoughts. Radical can mean extreme, fanatical, even militant, in a negative sense, or thorough, rigorous, and complete, in a positive sense.

While many scholars have sought to understand Muslim practice by deciphering the Qur’an, I think an examination of the actions of Mohammed and the origins of Islam, might be a better place to begin, just as an examination of Jesus’ life and early church practice helps to understand authentic christianity. In the study of these, we will find what is, and is not, truly radical in the positive sense of the word.

While it is true that Mohammed was a peaceful man in his early (Meccan period) years, preaching a peaceful message of tolerance, even advocating for orphans and widows, that cannot be said of his latter years. After moving to Medina in 622, the peaceful “prophet” became a warmongering murderer, inciting violence wherever he and his (now political) followers went.2 When we examine the historical record, we find that his most ardent followers, have in turn, created terror throughout the civilized world.3 These are not then radical in the negative sense of the word, but authentic Muslims -so radical, in the best sense of the word.

By contrast, when one examines the teachings and practice of Jesus and the first century Apostles, you find the highest teaching on love,4 morality,5 and sacrifice 6 that the world has ever know. The message of the gospel of Jesus is certainly an aggressive one, but it is one where love and reason are the methods of recruitment, rather than Mohammedan tactic of terror and coercion. You simply will not find, in the historical record, anything but the message of love, inspired by Jesus’ early followers. So, radical Christians, are individuals who strictly follow the examples and doctrines of Jesus and the Apostles, -they are radical lovers.

Some of the confusion is exacerbated by a misunderstanding of what it actually means to be a Christian. Many people in America self-identify as Christians, yet would not hold to many of the teachings of Jesus or the early church. For example, Jesus taught that to actually be a follower of His, one needed to be reborn spiritually,7 not simply claim His name.8  There are a great number of cultural Christians -individuals who identify as Christians, even attend church services, yet do not hold to many of the beliefs that Jesus taught. They may not be Christians at all, even though that is how they identify themselves.

The same is true with Islam. With an estimated 1.6 billion adherents,10 many of them are cultural muslims, who may practice some tenants of the faith, but live vastly different lives, and have much more secular views than the author of their tradition. These moderates are in fact, the Muslims that ISIS and it’s so-called radical counterparts have no problem killing as infidels. As one former Muslim, Brother Rachid, has testified in a statement directed at President Obama,”they consider them infidels and not Muslims.”11

Our secular society values impotent religion over what it considers fanatical religion. I believe that is a major contributing factor to what has become a confusion of terms. Many would like Christians to simply be nice people and be quiet about their faith, that is the politically correct and acceptable form of religious expression, and so they would like the same for practitioners of Islam. This is the false hope of President Obama, and many of the talking heads, but it is just that –a false hope. Neither authentic religious expression will be killed off. One will continue to kill, conquer, and subjugate, the other will, love, help, and give –until Messiah returns.

 

Footnotes:

1. Matthew 22:36-40
2. “The Historical Muhammad:
The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly” / David Wood, 4truth.net
3. “Jihad vs Crusades” / Bill Warner. PhD.
4.John 13:34; John 15:9 / Jesus Christ ; 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 5:8 / Paul the Apostle ; 1 Peter 4:8 / Peter the Apostle ; 1 John 4:7-15 / John the Apostle …the author could perhaps cite an endless amount of New Testament references.
5. Matthew 5
6. John 10:17;John 15:13; Romans 12
7. John 3:1-21
8. Matthew 7:21-23
9. Matthew 10:6;
10. Pew Research Center, April 2015
11. “A Message To President Obama From A Former Muslim”@6:12 / Brother Rachid

 

 

 

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The Rainbow

rainbowbridge4

I wanted to write something here about the rainbow. I logged into my WordPress account to write, only to be confronted yet again by a rainbow:

Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 1.26.54 PM

Even WordPress is on board with the rainbow theme. I went to the Chase ATM the other day and was greeted by a rainbow and the reminder that “it’s PRIDE month. I saw on WA State Governor Jay Inslee’s Instagram that they had hoisted the rainbow flag up alongside the state and national flags. It was interesting that the picture was taken at an angle that elevated the PRIDE flag above the others.

Interesting camera angle.

Interesting camera angle.

State Ferrys are flying the rainbow flags; (I was careful on the spelling there) Seattle painted 11 crosswalks with rainbow colors; even christian authors are using rainbow themes in their discussions of homosexual issues.

It all makes me wonder if anyone remembers where that rainbow came from and what it means?
In the words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The rainbow is a symbol or sign from God, and it is a reminder of things past. It is a reminder of the deluge.
Before the flood the sin on the earth was terrible.

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.  –Genesis 6:5-8 (NASB)

God caused a worldwide flood that destroyed every man, woman, child, & animal, except those who were preserved by Him in the ark of Noah. For the first time in history there was rain, as the firmament above and depths below erupted with water.
God wiped away the wickedness of humanity and preserved Noah, a man of faith. When it was all over, God made a promise, that never again would He cause a worldwide flood to wipe out humanity. The bible tells us that God set a bow in the cloud as a reminder of this promise.

I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”  –Genesis 9:11-17 (NASB)

Like all symbols, the rainbow means something: God, although a Righteous Judge, is also full of mercy.
There is another symbol that God has given for us to consider, it’s the cross. The cross is where the justice of a Righteous God was satisfied for sin. It’s also a place where the grace and mercy of God was demonstrated for all of humanity. God, gave His Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for sin. The rainbow and the cross should remind us of the same things. God is righteous, and He has and will judge sin. But He has also provided escape by faith using a the ark, the cross, -symbols of His lovingkindness and salvation.

It would be nice to leave it there, however there is more to the rainbow. Matthew Henry has this to say:
“As the old world was ruined, to be a monument of justice, so this world remains to this day a monument of mercy. But sin, that drowned the old world, will burn this.” -Matthew Henry
Even as the prediluvian world was reviling in their sin prior to judgment, so the antediluvian world will be culminating in the same apostasies. Jesus spoke of the day in which the world could expect His return:

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.  –Matthew 24:37-39 (NASB)

Men and women are celebrating under a symbol that they do not understand. They are reviling in sin against God and nature. Although God has extended mercy and grace through Jesus,… like the ark, if people refuse to get on board (by faith in Jesus) -only judgement remains. Future judgement is a certain as it was in the past, and that judgement is not through water, but fire.

 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water,  through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  –2 Peter 3:3-9 (NASB)

I pray for our nation, our leaders, our world,… that many would come to repentance and put faith in Jesus, the only hope of salvation.

 
 

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Christian Myths: Who Is And Who Is Not A Christian

One of the common misconceptions regarding the identity of “who is a Christian” is the belief that being Christian is about what you do.
Many people believe that select good works outweigh bad behavior, and that God is looking for those good works to consider one worthy for heaven, or His favor.

It’s true that the bible is full of instructions about behavior. There are hundreds of rules in Old Testament law relating to Israel specifically and many more in the New Testament, relating to Christian behavior. However, none of these prescribed behaviors was intended to bring an individual into a right relationship with God. Rather, they were given as a model of behavior for those already in a right relationship with God.

Here is what Jesus said about the subject, and mind you, He spoke this to one of the nations top religious leaders… someone we might consider a very “good” man:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” -John 3:3
This was part of a conversation with Nicodemus, it would be good to read the entire conversation in John 3 to get an idea of all that Jesus said. Repeatedly in the conversation Jesus pointed to this concept of having a spiritual transformation from within, which He referred to as being “born again.” He actually made it clear that short of that, one could not “see the kingdom of God” nor could they “enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

Since Jesus is the Christ, the source of our Christian faith, it is important to understand what He Himself said on the matter of who is and is not Christian. He went on, in John chapter 3, to direct Nicodemus to the one thing he needed to do, to unlock, as it were, this idea of rebirth:
“…so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” –John 3:15-16*
The Apostle Paul confirmed this teaching, explaining that salvation is by faith in Jesus: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  -Romans 5:1*

To be a Christian, one must believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ, relying on Him and Him alone for salvation. Good works are just that, good works, but they cannot cause you to be born again.
Billy Graham has a great video out that clarifies some of these points. You can watch it online here: https://myhopewithbillygraham.org/program/heaven/

* all scripture is NASB and emphasis is mine

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in Doctrine, Evangelism

 

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2014 Retrospective

I watched the movie “Live, Die, Repeat” recently, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It’s kind a like a military, sci-fi version of “Groundhogs Day” but with a lot fewer laughs and a lot more action.
It got me thinking… in light of the New Year, about all the events of the last year. Many great things happened in 2014, but there were also some missteps along the way. Probably a lot like you, I said things I wished I hadn’t, and held back things I should’ve said. I was blessed to be involved in many good works, yet I’m nagged by the good things I failed to do. I’m not living with regret, I trust the Lord and his ability to make good out of even the worst of circumstances. Nevertheless, it’s important for all of us to learn from our mistakes, and to apply those lessons as we grow and move forward in our lives.

I would suggest the following retrospective questions as you consider the new year…

1. What things did I say, that didn’t need to be said?

2. Where was I dishonest, either lying, or withholding accuracy in my statements?

3. What things that I engage in that were a waste of time and energy?

4. What things did I fail to do, that would’ve been a blessing to others?

5. In what ways did my life honor the Lord, and in what ways did I dishonor Him or his name?

6. Could it be said that I loved too much, or too little?

7. Does my checkbook register accurately reflect what I believe about the Kingdom of God and His work on earth?

8. If my coworkers, or neighbors, were tasked with writing a summary of what they see in me, what would that look like?

9. Did I spend too much time in 2014 praying?

10. Do I plan on applying new lessons in 2015, or simply repeating the same old patterns?

May God bless you with His own richness in the coming year. May you know His grace, love, and peace.
– Jim

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2015 in Meditation, Real Life

 

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Future Unsatisfiable Lust…

There is only one longing of the heart of man that will be satisfied in the future: that of the Christian’s longing for Jesus and the revelation of His righteous kingdom. For the sinner, who rejects Jesus and the offer of salvation, there will remain the lust of the flesh, possibly intensifying, yet without the physical ability to satisfy that same longing. Gone will be the myth of the “party in hell”, replaced by the eternal reality apart from the goodness of God.

“…Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION” -2 Corinthians 6:2

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Meditation

 

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We Need Each Other

We Need Each Other

“let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” -Hebrews 10:24,25

Notice the language in this passage: us; one another; our; assembling together… without question God wants the church to be united.

Jesus prayed that we would “be one” (John 17:22) and when the church is assembled, united in the purpose of receiving instruction, worship, and service, -that prayer is fulfilled.

Notice the word “stimulate” – that’s the Greek word paroxusmos and can mean sharpen or provoke.
This is what happens when we stick together, we sharpen each other’s faith and walk. The wisdom of the proverbs puts it this way: “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17

So what happens when members of the body of Christ decide to withdraw or not participate or assemble together?

History provides a great lesson in this regard… when the children of Israel entered the promised land, there were two and a half tribes that did not want to go in to the land with the rest of the nation. They found land east of the Jordan that they felt was “better for them.”
Although God wanted the nation to dwell and participate together, these tribes were allowed to settle apart from the rest of the nation.
Over time those tribes faded out of the record of the nation. They produced no great heroes or prophets, and are gone from the annuls of history.

Staying together is not always easy, and there are legitimate reasons to part company with a particular group, but “not gathering together” is both unbiblical and unwise.

When individuals withdraw from the church, both the individual as well as the church suffer loss. Sometimes that loss can be significant.

Paul gave us the image of the body in terms of our human body, with limbs and parts that all work together as a whole (1 Corinthians 12). He says: “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” – 1 Cor 12:18
This is God’s work!

Imagine if your eye decided it no longer wanted to be a part of your body. What if it could separate itself from you.. just pop out and run away!
It would quickly wither and die, and the rest of the body would suffer.
Just as the body needs the individual parts, the individual needs the body.

Christian, don’t listen to the voices that claim that there are deficiencies in the corporate church gathering and that withdrawing is the answer. There will always be problems in every church and every family, because we are all broken sinners. Remember that this is God’s plan, method, and expression in this current age.

We need each other, and it could be, that we need your ideas, gifting, and input to make us all better!

 
 

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