Posts from the ‘First Love’ Category

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…

Jesus Could have Given up

Something I heard on the radio made me think. Jesus had the power to stop the crucifixion.

When I was dragged before the kangaroo court and bombarded with racist accusations (covered in Canadian “politeness”) I had no power to stop the process which ended my career in ministry.

Jesus, however, had the power to stop the unjust process which led to Mount Calvary.

Jesus loved so much that the pain, torture, lies, bigotry, religious zeal, humiliation and conspiracy became nothing in comparison to what the willing sacrifice for completely unworthy humans would achieve – the rescue and salvation of the murderers!

Jesus had the power to give up on us. God, however, set aside power in favour of love, deep compassionate kindness.

I have been thinking on this, how the people who name Jesus on their lips exercise power over others, making decisions that harm them, using religious regulations and procedures which are devoid of Scripture. After all, for organized religion the Bible is incomplete and religion has to add to make it “complete”, which really means the justification to use power instead of love. Godly love is not good enough when acting religiously.

The Bible is set aside for any reason, especially when the Bible says: “an expert in Moses’ Teachings, tested Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in Moses’ Teachings?”
Jesus answered him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ All of Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets depend on these two commandments”
(Matthew 22:35-40 God’s Word©).

Jesus also stated: “I’m giving you a new commandment: Love each other in the same way that I have loved you. Everyone will know that you are my disciples because of your love for each other” (John 13:34-35 God’s Word©).

Your religion does not prove your faith in God. Court procedures do not show obedience to Jesus. Degrading believers, even if you do it calmly (perhaps even with a smile), is not evidence of submission to Paraclete.

Empathy, love, deep compassionate kindness, passion for true justice even when it is inconvenient is the identifying mark of a disciple of Jesus.

And when you meet those who do not, or will not, act according to the command of Jesus, then, as Jesus did, love them, even when they have no love.

“But I tell you this: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 God’s Word©).

What Did I Do to Deserve This?

When something bad happens to us we ask, “Why?”. We also ask, “What did I do that God is punishing me? What did I do to deserve this?”

Let’s face this lie right off the top. Bad things happening do not mean God is punishing us, as though God is a mean and abusive parent. There are many reasons why bad things happen, some of which are: our own stupidity (driving fast on an icy road); overeating (heart attack); people do evil things (incest); a government may serve the few only (famine); the earth is active (volcanoes and tornadoes); etc.

Courtesy of ChristArt.com

I am often drawn to the military metaphor. I am a front-line soldier and may be cold, wet and miserable. Now the General is not picking on me, punishing me for some reason. The General is fighting a war, and that means sometimes the soldiers will be in great discomfort, even die, for the campaign to move forward to success over the enemy.

The suffering anyone of faith may experience may be for the benefit of someone else, or merely part of the overall strategy to overcome the world!

I will give a very short version of an example from my own life. A group of religious people, whom I had served, turned against me and committed great evil against me. That evil, however, rescued a number of people who used to be a part of that group leading them to escape the whirlwind into darkness and find a rich, new spiritual life. Deeper than that, the religious congregation sinned against Jesus Who withdrew from them (they had lost their First Love, Revelation 2:4) and so what I went through was trivial compared to two other things: the risk they entered in turning against God; the sadness God felt that the group scheduled to lead a local revival had so utterly failed the Saviour.

It’s about ME!

It is arrogance to think that my suffering or persecution is about me. I am not the General. The big picture is outside the scope of my vision.

Faith trusts Creator has a plan, is working the plan, and will succeed.

I pledge loyalty to my Sovereign Saviour – my choice, my life, for the love of God that extends to the whole world and not just to me!

Everyone Will Know

Many (most?) Christians express confidence in their loyalty to how they worship God, the congregation they belong to or the denomination they subscribe to or their self-righteous declaration of freedom from all gatherings of believers. Read more…