Posts from the ‘First Love’ Category

Be Content

During our morning devotions today this came into my mind:

I am not spiritually weak because of this pandemic, and I am not obsessed with gathering in person with others who name Jesus as Saviour to get back to “normal”. God has not left me during this time, nor left me without an abundant supply of spiritual food. Indeed, I have never felt alone nor unattached to the people of faith in my life. A strong binding has kept my spiritual comrades close to my heart, in my mind’s eye and in thoughts and prayers.

And then this thought entered the process, one which has both intrigued me and encouraged me for 17 years:

In the Ojibwe language there is no word for “good-bye”! Whether someone is physically present or not, the connection remains intact over time and distance because being face-to-face does not determine the depth of affection and attachment to the people in our life.

The Words of God in the Bible are even more lively and penetrating (Hebrews 4:12) than ever before as I am given a clearer vision of the heavenly realm and reign of Christ on earth.

“So, brothers and sisters, I love you and miss you. You are my joy and my crown. Therefore, dear friends, keep your relationship with the Lord firm!…Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful!…The Lord is near. Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable…I’ve learned to be content in whatever situation I’m in. I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:1-13 God’s Word Translation©, selected).

We do not need others in order to live with Christ, but we need The Spirit free in us to live with others!

Under an Evil Spell

I was in dialogue with a person about a present-day issue. I referred to one of the places in the Bible where this issue is addressed. The response was, “But what limitation do you put on it?”

In my mind I answered, “None!”

This person is one of the too many who have abandoned Scripture and live loyally to the interpretation their religious group places on the Bible. They were inviting me to accept their dogma, which totally negates what God says in The Holy Word. I could not join their heresy.

Several times recently Galatians 3:1-5** has been thrown into my view. It breaks my heart to think that there are so many people who have been “bewitched” into thinking their ideology, their efforts, their self-appointed heroism and their actions which are affirmed only by like-minded individuals (even though rejected by spiritual Christians) constitute righteousness. Alas, it is merely self-righteousness, the spiritual condition of the 1st century Pharisees who opposed Jesus.

Since the modern-day Galatians who are “under an evil spell” (and those at early Ephesus according to Revelation, also) have lost their first love they are called to “repent” (Revelation 2:1-7). If they do not repent Jesus will “come to [them] quickly and remove [their] lampstand from its place”. My call on them to repent has been met with a closed mind, so far, but I keep praying. They do not realize that their “everlasting life” (John 3:16) is at stake!

** “You stupid people of Galatia! Who put you under an evil spell? Wasn’t Christ Jesus’ crucifixion clearly described to you? I want to learn only one thing from you. Did you receive the Spirit by your own efforts to follow the laws in the Scriptures or by believing what you heard? Are you that stupid? Did you begin in a spiritual way only to end up doing things in a human way? Did you suffer so much for nothing? [I doubt] that it was for nothing! Does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you through your own efforts or through believing what you heard?

Temple Sacrifices

There is a practice among Christians that shows contempt for the teaching of God. It is widespread, insidious and undermines the most basic operation of the Realm of God on earth.

It is about holy space. Some denominations even have a ritual, using “holy elements” like water and oil, to sanctify land/soil before building an edifice to house a congregation of believers on it. When the building is completed it is referred to as “The House of God”.

This term comes from the Old Testament where King David gathers materials to construct, and King Solomon completes, The House of God in Jerusalem – The Temple. This was to become a permanent place to house the altar of sacrifices, replacing the Tent of Meeting which the Hebrews built in the wilderness during the Exodus.

Joshua 22 makes it abundantly clear how serious this was to be observed, namely having only one site for the offering of sacrifices – in Jerusalem. There would have been a civil war if the altar built on the east side of the Jordan River had, as was presumed wrongly by the Ten Tribes, been intended to compete with the one and only Holy Place where God dwells.

Jesus changed this, symbolized at the crucifixion, by the tearing of the curtain which separated the Holiest Place from the rest of the Temple.

Paul makes it abundantly clear that there is to be no holy place called “House of God” for the Church: “Don’t you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 God’s Word Translation©).

And what happened in The Temple? Sacrifices! Our role as “temples” Paul makes abundantly clear in Romans 12:1, “Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you.” (God’s Word Translation©)

On Your Knees

Again today I heard a preacher talk about how hard it is during this pandemic. With the Stay at Home Order, people are becoming impatient, staring at the four walls.

Then we listened to our own Pastor who asked when was the last time anyone was so awestruck by God that they fell on their face in humility and fear and adoration.

God wants to bring the Church to its knees in humble obedience, but instead Christians are standing tall and shaking their fists at government, police, bylaw officers, even bishops and other leaders who encourage we live out care for our community and help to stop the spread of the virus that is killing people. And, yes, at God for not magically taking all this away because we told the Almighty Creator to do so – pronto!

I cannot be the only one who sees God at work in mighty ways, and making it possible for believers to grow (and to name only a tiny few examples:

  1. I am making a worship video every week, and that was not even on my radar before all this happened;
  2. tiny congregations streaming onto the internet and people around the world being touched;
  3. in our own congregational online worship we had a couple from another city lead one of the songs, unheard of when things were “normal”.

I do not want a return to “normal”! I want us to have learned about getting out into the world, of sharing in ways that most Christians hadn’t even considered.

This pandemic didn’t happen “accidentally”. The western Church, especially, has become lukewarm, at best. Where is our obsession with Good News, servant heart, humble community and practice of the deep, God-like love shown by Jesus?

To those who are praying that the “suffering” stop now, learn from it, let The Spirit teach us wondrous things, let us once again become beacons of light in a world deep in the shadows of despair.

“We also brag when we are suffering. We know that suffering creates endurance, endurance creates character, and character creates confidence. We’re not ashamed to have this confidence, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 God’s Word Translation©).

Sure, there are things I would like to do, like visit with family, but why should my selfish desire be the focus of my waking hours. Enough self-centred self-pity, demand to be in control human thinking.

I choose to delight in knowing God is at work, that I can protect people around me by following public health orders, that I have more time to pray for others than ever before, that I can encourage others.

As a family we are in deep grief, and that is just the time to show my love for others. I will not act like a devil in brazen disregard for others and with a lust for personal satisfaction above all social responsibilities.

I will never bring glory to God, show the love of Jesus or live by the wise counsel of The Spirit if all I want is what I want.

God inspires faith. I will trust God.
God gives hope. I will live in hope.
God is love. I will love others more than myself.
“And the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Living for Jesus

Repeatedly I am confronted by people who claim to be disciples of Jesus, but all they want to talk about is their right to gather in a building and do their thing. Religion buildings do not come from God. The early Church did not build. The Roman Emperor Constantine (and his wife, and his Mother especially) started that in AD332. Buildings follow the pattern of his throne room, not heaven. The early Church believed what Jesus said, “Go and preach…teaching…” Paul made it clear that our bodies “are the temple of God”, not bricks and mortar. The cross, the centre of Christian living, has been displaced with religious rituals. Jesus died. Where is the life of sacrifice modelled by the Saviour? Jesus said, “Take up your cross every day…”, but in North America Christians take up their protest and placards and selfish interpretations of what is really important. When the early disciples said, “We must obey God rather than human regulations” it was because they were told to stop evangelizing, not gathering for religious worship! How does self-centred demands for personal traditions of worship teach God’s love or preach Good News that we can be forgiven and have eternal life?! Paul preached in the market place, beside the river (in Philippi), in prison (!!). Is it the poor and homeless and patients in ER with infections who are demanding their rights? No, it is those who live a life of privilege instead of the cross!! Do you want to be known as people who have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13), then start witnessing to the love and kindness of God, not whining about government rules that are designed to save lives. People of faith should not need a secular government to tell them to care more about others’ safety than personal dogma.

Just Two Things

Human beings are rebellious. Whatever God’s instructions may be, they pervert them, and have reams of justifications for it.

The thing that drives humans up the wall is the utter simplicity of God’s grace and our obedience in it.

Humans make the simple voice of God into doctrine. Whether it is the Five-fold ministry, speaking tongues, Church authority, we make doctrine and to embellish the word of God and argue about how it applies, instead of simple obedience.

Praying during worship in Tanzania

For instance, Colossians 4 describes the life of discipleship as two things: pray + witness. There is no division of ministry, no miraculous overlay and no hierarchy of ecclesiastical authority. Just two things define mission and ministry: pray and witness. No doctrine or systematic theology, no conferences to teach a perception of Jesus, just two things.

“2 Keep praying. Pay attention when you offer prayers of thanksgiving. 3 At the same time also pray for us. Pray that God will give us an opportunity to speak the word so that we may tell the mystery about Christ. It is because of this mystery that I am a prisoner. 4 Pray that I may make this mystery as clear as possible. This is what I have to do. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward those who are outside the Christian faith. Make the most of your opportunities. 6 Everything you say should be kind and well thought out so that you know how to answer everyone.” (God’s Word ©)

Why were humans driven from the Garden of Eden? Because they thought, “the tree had fruit that was good to eat, nice to look at, and desirable for making someone wise” (Genesis 3:6 God’s Word ©). The very face-to-face life with God was not enough; they wanted to be wise, and as a result turned into arrogant, egotistical brain fumblers.

The apostles had these instructions: “We told them that they should not eat food sacrificed to false gods, bloody meat, or the meat of strangled animals. They also should not commit sexual sins” (Acts 21:26 God’s Word ©). In other words, avoid cultural norms for compromised living, and keep sex for love-making!

Do you know how many thousands of words denominations have as regulations to be a proper church member? And have all these doctrines and all this polity made the present-day Church a more powerful witness in the world than in the first generation of the Church? No!

Remember this verse that almost all Christians memorize: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV). There is no instruction from God to follow, obey or serve doctrine and denominational peculiarities.

God first. Everything germinates from that.

It Is Better

There are times recently when it tempts me greatly to withdraw from society and live in seclusion. Read more…

PANDEMIC PARADOX

“Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other” (John 13:35 God’s Word ©). Read more…

Five-fold Okay

There are people who live oblivious to the sins of the flesh and our constant need for the Saviour in our lives. Read more…

Horrible Help

In the world today it seems like more and more Christians are turning to political leaders as heroes. A politician claims to have a certain belief that coincides with the theology of a certain person or group, and that public figure is given full support. Read more…