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God cares for all His children.

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2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

     A few days ago I  had a discussion about other faiths and people who are not Christians with some friends.  The point was made that God cares for all people.  We are all God’s children in the broad sense that we are all created in His image.  Some were surprised thinking that God only cares for Christians.  The Bible says otherwise   God’s rescue plan (John 3:16)  for lost and  broken people is available to every human being.
   

The reluctant prophet of the Old Testament, Jonah got his eyes opened to God’s love for all mankind when God spared the Ninevites by sending Jonah to preach repentance to them; “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, One who relents from doing harm.” (Jonah 4:2) And what did God reply? “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 4:11)  Jonah wanted the Ninevites dead but God had other plans!

     None of us are physically born into His grace no matter how pious our parents were or are.  All come dirty and must be born again.  Jesus said; “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'” (John 3:7,8)

     None of us live our lives in a pure and righteous way that pleases God on our own strength and merit; “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24)

     No one is so good that they don’t need to be saved although some may think they are. And no one is so bad that they can’t be saved through faith in Jesus although some may think otherwise.  I love Jesus’ parable of the tax collector and the pharisee; “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
   

We live in a small world and it’s getting smaller all the time.  There are many people in our neighbourhoods that are not like us.  There are many people living among us that don’t believe as we do.  There are even many people in our land who are hostile to our beliefs and way of life.  How should we deal with them?  Jesus tells us; “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

     How can a man like me do that?  All too often, I struggle with being loving and kind to those closest to me  when my temper is short or my pride is wounded.  It is too much for me on my own. Thankfully God provides; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

     Come Lord Jesus!

The age of Grace is ageless and forever.

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Hebrews 13:8,9 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, . . . “

     How far back does Jesus go?  And how great is His domain?  Who was He sent for and who does He save?  These are big questions with big answers that span both Old and New Testament.  If anything these questions point to a unifying theme in God’s Word and plan for humanity.

     Genesis  tells us; “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1;1) The Gospel of John affirms; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)
   
 God’s Word tells us Jesus was before all creation; “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16,17)   Jesus is greater than gravity!

     Jesus has been fighting for humanity since before time; “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ. . . ” (Revelation 12:7-10)  Jesus was there in the thick of battle:  “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 10:18)  

     Jesus has been fighting for mankind since before the promised land; “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, ‘Are You for us or for our adversaries?’ So He said, .’No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’” (Joshua 5:13,14)   How do we know this ‘Man’ was Jesus?

      Matthew Henry identifies this Commander of the army of the Lord as none other than Jesus; “There appeared to him one as a man to be noticed. This Man was the Son of God, the eternal Word. Joshua gave him Divine honours: he received them, which a created angel would not have done, and he is called Jehovah, chap. 6:2. To Abraham he appeared as a traveller; to Joshua as a man of war. Christ will be to his people what their faith needs.”   Jesus doesn’t join history or fit into man-made schemes.  He makes history by meeting the needs of God’s people!

   Abraham was a man of faith as was Joshua as were many in a long line of saints walking with the Lord, redeemed and justified by the faith they had (Hebrews 11).  Through it all they caught sight of the grace of  Jesus in the distance and sometimes right up close; “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

     Through history, through times and circumstances changing from Eden to the flood to the Patriarchs and then in  Egypt, out of Egypt, to the promised land, through judges, kings, prophets, Jesus in Person, the days of the early church till now and on to tomorrow –  God’s redemptive plan always turns on  grace, faith and Jesus.

     We can choose to see with eyes that divide and separate out by peoples and histories – and fail to see Jesus spanning it all.  Or we can see one humanity, one history and His Grace from the beginning to the end; “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith — just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify  the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Galatians 3:5-9)  Jesus never took anyone’s side but His Father’s and championed salvation for all and through it all.

   As long as there are people there will be prisoners, brokenness and bondage.  Everything changes yet nothing changes because Jesus was and is and will be.  Jesus spoke through all time to all saints and He speaks now.  His grace hasn’t changed because He never changes; “. . . from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'”

     The whole witness of God’s Word through the entire Holy Bible is Jesus.  His’ mission since the beginning was to set us free: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed . . . ” (Luke 4:18)

     Come Lord Jesus!

When history becomes ‘folk wisdom’

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Years ago a columnist quoted Abraham Lincoln as saying; ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’  I was shocked that this columnist didn’t acknowledge the source of this statement which is found in Matthew 12:25.  I couldn’t believe it was possible that the columnist didn’t know where this famous quote originated.  I thought perhaps this was just another case of ‘Bible snubbing’ by pseudo intellectuals.  But perhaps this person just didn’t care about the history and origin of the saying.

I ‘googled’ the phrase ‘a house divided’ and up came Wikipedia’s entry; “The House Divided Speech was an address given by Abraham Lincoln (who would later become President of the United States) on June 16, 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, upon accepting the Illinois Republican Party‘s nomination as that state’s United States senator.”  It was only in the very bottom of the entry that the Bible was mentioned.  The columnist may not have read that far.

I wondered how many people would read this columnist’s article and not having read the New Testament would now come to believe that ‘Honest Abe’ was the originator of the phrase ‘a house divided cannot stand’.  Today, everybody is in a hurry and it takes too much time to get to the bottom of every detail – even the important ones.  Flattening out history by not delving back into it takes wisdom and makes it ‘folk wisdom’.  Folk wisdom is stuff everybody knows about the past but isn’t really as powerful in explaining what’s going on as ‘contemporary’ research.

And yesterday,  I read in the Globe and Mail;

Allegations of harassment and sexual aggression by members of two of Canada’s most esteemed institutions may be shocking to some, but they are part of a pattern that is showing up ever more frequently in our news feeds.

Given the exploits of such a variety of famous people, it’s no wonder there’s a pervasive folk psychology around how power affects people. We often hear how power corrupts, or how power causes people to behave in ways that are damaging to others and to powerful people themselves.

For many of us, the news stories of the past couple of weeks are unsurprising, and the folk psychology surrounding them seems to make intuitive sense. But is there any truth to it? What exactly does psychological research say about how power affects behaviour?

(Power may not corrupt, but it sure does facilitate by SUKHVINDER OBHI, The Globe and Mail, Nov. 12 2014)

Notice how history is compressed and flattened out.  Phrases like ‘news feeds’, ‘exploits of famous people’ (as if politicians and radio show hosts are now famous people), ‘news stories of the past couple of weeks’ and ‘the folk psychology surrounding them’ all give the impression that the abuse of power is something that has just recently cropped up and any insights about the nature of why powerful people abuse others can only be found in ‘psychological research’.

Why not go back and consider where this idea of power corrupting came from and the history around it.  The saying; “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is attributed to John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton. Wikipedia states; “He is famous for his remark, ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.'”  He was talking about ‘great historical figures’ not mundane politicians or radio talk show hosts.  His was offended by the double standard by which we tend to exempt those who hold high and powerful offices from abuse of power.  His point that people who hold great power must be held ‘powerfully’ accountable for their actions.   Dalberg-Acton wrote;

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means. You would hang a man of no position like Ravaillac; but if what one hears is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III. ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greatest names coupled with the greatest crimes; you would spare those criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice, still more, still higher for the sake of historical science.

(Letter to Archbishop Mandell Creighton, Apr. 5, 1887)

Dalberg-Acton spoke to not only what power brings out in the people who wield it but also how those around powerful people facilitate and enable abuse of power through a subtle double standard. Contemporary psychological research simply ‘re-discovers’ what was already well known.  Cause and effect are collapsed and transposed across both sides of the ‘equation; only the abuser (who is profaned)  is to blame and the abused is the victim only (whose status is sacred).  Sadly, in this day of psychology and celebrity the ‘best’ conclusion that shallow analysis offers up is;

Not all people with power harass others. So while power is part of the story, it’s not the whole story – a person’s pre-existing psychological traits also matter. With this in mind, the folk-psychology notion that power corrupts is almost accurate, but not quite.

So does power corrupt? In short, it depends.

Where will we go with that?

Today, we confuse celebrity with fame and social status with power.  Those who have celebrity and social status as well as those who don’t, all agree – if you’re well known, voted in or viewed as successful – you have and deserve power.  This kind of adolescent shallow social contract is prevalent and sets the conditions for abuse.  When instances of abuse surface we are all outraged.  Those abused are devastated and the abusers are often surprised that others think they have done wrong.  The abusers as well as the abused feel betrayed.

George Santayana said; “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Which will work just fine today because of our short attention spans and love of shallow celebrity. Everyday will be a new day just full of discovery that puts ‘old fogey’ folk wisdom to shame!  Everything will just get better and better because we are getting smarter and smarter!

My wife often points out that people can get so smart they’re stupid!

She’s right.

 

Going back is easier and harder than you think!

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Hebrews 10:26-34 “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

     This is a section of scripture that scares me.  If I, as a confessed Christian, ‘willfully sin’ and go against what Jesus commands and teaches then that’s it for me.  The only thing I can expect is certain and fearful judgment.  Is this the ‘straight and narrow road that few take’?  Or is it more the case that many start on it and then slide off it because they ‘willfully’ give in to one or more of the  many temptations the world puts in our way? This is hard!

      This is so hard I have trouble reconciling this scripture with Jesus’ words; “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)  Am  I missing something?

     The Forerunner Commentary says; “The first thing to note in Hebrews 10:26-27 is the word ‘sin.’ Paul is not speaking of sin in general but the specific sin of apostasy from the faith that was once known and professed. The apostasy he has in mind is not so much an act but a state brought on by many individual attitudes and sins, reproducing the original, carnal antagonism a person has toward God before conversion.”  This scripture isn’t talking about a slip or even several slips. This scripture is taking about repeated wayward decisions and actions without any repentance that rebuild the hard hearted wall against Jesus that we had prior to coming to Him.  We have to work at ‘willfully sinning’.

     The Forerunner Commentary continues; “The sinner is deliberately, even eagerly, determined to abandon Christ, to turn away from God and His way, having completely become an enemy once again. He sins with barely a second thought, if with any thought at all. He sins automatically, as there is none of God’s Spirit left to constrain him. His conscience is totally defiled; he has forsaken God.”  Note God hasn’t forsaken this sinner; it’s the other way around!   The ‘narrow road’ is narrow but you can get back on it and continue along it; “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

     Who is in danger of ‘willful sinning’?  “All who have made a profession of faith in Christ but are now neglecting their salvation.” (Forerunner Commentary)  If we count the ‘blood of the covenant’ a common thing then we develop a casual attitude towards sin and  salvation!  And that’s a short step to not caring about anybody’s salvation.including our own.  Hardening your heart, holding grudges and allowing bitterness to take hold in your life are all ways of neglecting your salvation.  Willful sinning doesn’t take outright disobedience just  a ‘habitual neglect’ that comes from taking God for granted.

     There is outright apostasy and then there is a creeping quiet kind of apostasy that culminates in no less a repudiation of God and His Gospel than the more outspoken kind.  Both bring the Gospel into disrepute.  Those who follow false prophets as well as those who live for their own flesh are examples that the Bible speaks of; “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned. . . ” (2 Peter 2:2) And; “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18,19)

     A casual attitude towards salvation seems to arise out of an inner casual attitude towards our own sin and its sidekick self-righteous pride.  Jesus doesn’t think we are too good to be saved but we might.  There is no sin so great that Jesus can’t reach us but for many of us its the smaller sins we stumble over  without even noticing them.     Paul Van Buren, a pastor, observes; “. . . we have grown too casual with the acceptance of our sin. I think we are too comfortable with it and forget the pain that it causes our Father. I think we forget what it is to repent, how devastating sin is to our soul and because of it we make very little effort to avoid it. If we understood how passionate God was in his hatred toward sin, we would not be so casual about it.”

     Jesus described this kind of casual attitude towards Him when He explained the attitude of the sinful woman who was forgiven to His uncaring host; “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)

     Lets keep Jesus up close and personal in our lives.  Hang on to Him!

     Come Lord Jesus!
   

   

‘Culture’ is not ‘people’

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There are some aspects of culture that shouldn’t be discarded in a rush to blame, judge and punish.  Cultural values like due process, fairness and the presumption of innocence are far to valuable to jettison just because someone is accused of doing a very bad thing.   Morally – following up one wrong with another never corrects an injustice.  As a society we have to be careful not to give in to our culturally deep wired behaviour of shunning the ‘bad one’.  Too much is lost and very little if anything is gained from it!

We must hang on to the best of our culture, and examine the parts of our social mindset that contribute to toxic behaviour.

What is the relationship between ‘culture’ and  ‘people’ who live in it?  Margaret Wente seems to equate ‘general culture’ with ‘half the population’ (male).   She states;

“To blame the general culture is to blame half the population, and that is a tremendous slur against men. The truth is that some men have been pigs, and some men always will be. These men should be outed, shamed and ostracized. Which is exactly what was done to Mr. Ghomeshi this week.”  (MARGARET WENTE, The distorted reality of ‘Big Ears Teddy’, The Globe and Mail Published Saturday, Nov. 01 2014)

She assures us that not all men are pigs just some.   And those men that are pigs should be ‘outed shamed and ostracized’.

Her claims bring up a lot of questions. How is it determined if a particular man is a ‘pig’?  Are females biologically incapable of being ‘pigs’?  Does the part of ‘general’ culture that is ‘blameworthy’ just infect half the population (men)?  Is there a better  ‘culture’ that some have and others don’t?   What is the proper response by society when it has been proven that a person’s behaviour is like a pig’s?  What does ‘outed, shamed and ostracized’ look like as a socially sanctioned ‘punishment’?

Contrary to Margaret Wente, culture does affect behaviour because culture affects our brain’s development.  David Vognar writing for the Huffington Post quotes neuroscientist  Merlin Donald  on this point:

However, symbolizing cultures own a direct path into our brains and affect the way major parts of the executive brain become wired up during development. This is the key idea behind the notion of deep enculturation… This process entails setting up the very complex hierarchies of cognitive demons (automatic programs) that ultimately establish the possibility of new forms of thought. Culture effectively wires up functional subsystems in the brain that would not otherwise exist.

How Important Is Culture in Shaping Our Behavior?   David Vognar, 08/01/2012)

Culture affects the behaviour of all people – male and female.  If you have a brain you are affected by culture.  When highly negative and morally repugnant behaviours occur in society it seems only prudent to examine any cultural influences that may be contributing to the behaviour rather than jumping immediately to ‘outing, shaming and ostracizing’ individuals.  We may as a society be able to prevent or mitigate negative behaviour by seriously examining our social environment for any toxic cultural influences that may be affecting the brains of both genders.

Cultural traits are powerful agents in transmitting behaviour:

Cultural traits have long been used in anthropology as units of transmission that ostensibly reflect behavioural characteristics of the individuals or groups exhibiting the traits. After they are transmitted, cultural traits serve as units of replication in that they can be modified as part of an individual’s cultural repertoire through processes such as recombination, loss or partial alteration within an individual’s mind. Cultural traits are analogous to genes in that organisms replicate them, but they are also replicators in their own right.

(Cultural traits as units of analysis, by Michael J. O’Brien, R. Lee Lyman, Alex Mesoudi, and Todd L. VanPool)

When someone does a very bad thing or is accused of doing a very bad thing,  it is important to hold to our cultural values of  fair treatment, due process and the presumption of innocence before rushing to ‘out’ the individual from the human race because of  gender.  There is also a great deal of value in reflecting on how our cultural and social environment may have contributed to the event.  Such an approach will contribute to the  prevention of  future instances of abuse.  It works a lot better than the hasty punishment of individuals who have had allegations directed at them.

The path of least resistance – ‘a bad bad man did this’ is always available and sadly too often used to placate and cover up deeper systemic problems.

Just saying . . .

A new covenant – just us and God

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Hebrews 8:10,11 ” For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.”

     This covenant that God speaks of is the New Covenant on Jesus Christ.  It’s our new deal!  Are we the ‘house of Israel’?  Barnes’ Notes  tells us; “This is the arrangement, or the dispensation which shall succeed the old one. ‘With the house of Israel.’ With the true Israel; that is, with all those whom he will regard and treat as his friends.”   Can we be God’s friends?  Jesus tells us; “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14,15)

     Some may wonder where the actual state of Israel fits in to all this. I don’t. Scripture tells us that we are all together in Jesus; “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28,29)  God is describing the ‘geography’ of the heart and spirit rather than this world’s geopolitical boundaries.
 
     Indeed, within our hearts this redrawing of the map of allegiance is gradual, culminating in a complete take over. The Forerunner Commentary points out; “The ultimate fulfillment of this process will culminate when we are completely composed of spirit, and God’s law will be our first nature, not just second nature. But, while we are in an embryonic stage, the process has already begun in us, incrementally, as God gradually displaces our carnality and sin, replacing it with His Holy Spirit, leading to right behavior and godliness.”
 

    The Bible speaks of this conversion; “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)  We cooperate with God’s Holy Spirit in the transformation by letting go and being open to His rule over our lives; “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:10-12)

     As God perfects us, our intimacy with Him will increase to the point where our will  conforms to His; “Conversion, then, is a life-long process in which we move from a reactive approach to lawkeeping—motivated by rewards and punishments—to a proactive approach—motivated by a deeply placed inner desire to yield and comply to the law’s principles, knowing intrinsically from experience that they work for the good and harmony of all.” (Forerunner Commentary)

     This is entirely God’s Holy work in us; “. . . for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)  No seminary, no religious priest, no school can possibly impart this sacredness into us.  No brick and mortar church full of fancy clergy  can do this work of Holiness in us.  Jesus and only Jesus is able to take a dead  man and make him live again.  This confounds the worldly church today as it did in His days among us; “The Jews then said to Him, ‘What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” (John 2:18-20)

     We are His Church.  God raised up Jesus and us with Him; ‘”We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)  The blood of Jesus planted the only church that counts and He planted it in my heart and your heart and in the heart of all his true friends throughout the world.  And it truly only took Him three days to accomplish this eternal miracle!

     Two thousand years later, I walk every day in that church He planted; “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)  And so do you because in Him our hearts are united and bound with His love.

    The apostle Paul calls us to it; “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:1-5)

     Jesus is above all, in all and with His true church. He will abide no counterfeits; “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.” (Hebrews 8:1,2)

     Come Lord Jesus!

You don’t understand . . .

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Hebrews 2:18 “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

     Many who are addicted say to those who are trying to help them recover; “You don’t understand!  You never drank or drugged.  You never got hooked!  How can you help me because you don’t understand what I’m going through!”  In a way, they’re right and in another way they’re wrong.  Doctor’s don’t have to have a particular disease to treat it in their patients.   

     No one can completely understand another person’s life including the person themselves if they are in the grip of addiction.  No one except Jesus;  “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  Jesus was never a drug addict yet He saves and sets free drug addicts.  Jesus came to this world to live among us and be one of us.  Jesus understands; “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) 

     Sometimes saying to another person that ‘they don’t understand’ is just another way of telling them ‘I don’t want your help’.   Addiction, trauma, illness and misfortune can create a kind of ‘self-absorbed’ outlook in a person where every one and every thing is measured against their predicament.  Jesus did ask the man at the pool of Bethesda if he wanted to get well; “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” (John 5:6)  The obstacle to healing may well be in the attitude and not a lack of opportunity.  The cure is rarely what we want it to be. 

    The best thing any person can do to help another struggling with addiction, disease or trauma is to point them to Jesus. Don’t do this with ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’.   Do this with your ears by listening.  Do this with your person by being present in another’s struggles.  Do this with your heart by loving those who are wrapped up in their troubles.  Restrain your ego.  When you want to speak – listen.  When you want to say something – ask a question.  When you want to make a point – make it with Scripture.  The Word comforts.  The Word confronts.  The Word heals.  The Word does the work.

    God’s Word exposes a person’s problems; “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrew 4:12)  God’s Word lets a person know that nothing goes unnoticed –  there is justice; “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

     Sometimes people can get so wrapped up in their troubles that all they can see is themselves.  You won’t help them by demanding that they look at you.  They are confused and perplexed.  And aren’t you?  Can anyone truly know the depth and scope of another person’s pain and suffering?  One sees his own pain and problems.  Another sees their own health and solutions.  Only Jesus has been there; “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.”  (Isaiah 63:9)

     God sent Jesus to save all of us.  If we really believe that then we won’t preach ourselves or our own solutions.   We’ll get out of the way and throw the only lifeline that saves.  We’ll point to Jesus; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed . . . ” (Luke 4:18)

     Come Lord Jesus!

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