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Drain Pipes and Unleavened Bread (Sabbath Meditations)

I finally tackled a project that had been on my "to do" list for quite some time … finishing our master bathroom. We added on to our home years ago. Having run out of energy and funds, this final addition sat, mothballed, gradually becoming the dumping ground for seldom used treasures.

Well, thanks to a block of free time, a spurt of energy and a little prodding encouragement from my wife, I enthusiastically dove in, intent on crashing through this project in record time. I mean, after all, I remodeled an entire house a few years ago, how much trouble could a little bathroom be?

A great deal, as it turns out. It's not that I didn't go into this with a plan, it's just that, in my impatience to get started, I didn't take the time to make sure my plans and my actual house would co-operate. I had a serious case of "irrational exuberance."

My first task was to frame up a couple of walls. No big deal, right? Except, after laying down the base plate and a couple of studs, I realized that the configuration of the floor trusses were going to require me to relocate some major plumbing connections, right beneath the wall I was framing. To get at them, I would need to tear up the floor. You guessed it. My newly erected wall came down. So, wall down and 3x5 foot square opening cut in the floor, I began to fit pieces of drain pipe together. I was mid way through this endeavor when it hit me; the pipe I planned to route through the wall, to my sink, and up through the roof were too large for the size of the studs. So, you guessed it, apart came the drain pipe. Thankfully I hadn't glued anything yet. It was just a dry test run.

In the end, the only work I actually accomplished that day was two hours spent in the plumbing department of our local hardware store, staring at various sizes and configurations of drain pipe fittings. Oh well, there's always another day.

Sometimes our struggle against sin can seem a little like that, can't it? We launch into this project of becoming like our Elder Brother with great zeal, building walls and piecing together the plumbing of our character, and just when we think we're ready to move on to the next phase, we realize that the work we've done wasn't as thorough as we thought. The same weaknesses we believed we had once and for all overcome resurface, forcing us to go back and tackle them once again. It can be discouraging, to say the least.

Paul expressed the discouragement we all experience with overcoming perhaps better than anyone:

Romans 7:14-25, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin … For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice … I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

Reading this, after my struggles with our bathroom, I can almost envision Paul exclaiming while tearing down a wall he had just erected with a sledge hammer, "O … crash, bang … wretched … pound, crack … man that I … crush, grunt … am!"

Maybe the purpose of all this overcoming we are supposed to do in this life is to lead us to the same conclusion. No matter how hard we struggle against our sinful nature; no matter how much effort and zeal we expend; we can never fully eradicate it from our lives. We will always be, in a sense, tearing down, rebuilding, tearing down again. Bottom line: We are wretched.

But Paul didn't leave us, to quote a line from one of my favorite movies, in the "pit of despair" spiritually. He goes on to answer his own question, and what an encouraging answer it is.

Romans 7:25, "I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."

Isn't that really the lesson of the Days of Unleavened Bread that are soon approaching? While Passover brings us into remembrance of the death of our Savior, and our entering into a covenant relationship with Him, Unleavened Bread reminds us of our continual need for His life living in us and through us.

In preparation for those days, we attempt to remove all of the leaven, the biblical symbol for sin, from our lives. Anyone who has undertaken this process seriously has discovered that it's pretty much impossible to get all of the leaven out. Somehow, no matter how determined our effort, a slice of bread or a packet of yeast gets overlooked. We just can't eradicate all of the sin from our lives. But really, isn't that the point of the exercise?

If the Days of Unleavened Bread were only about getting the leaven out, it would be quite the discouraging observance. We would all be left exclaiming with Paul, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?"

Thankfully, we aren't left there. In fact, it isn't even the main focus. God gives us these days, not to discourage, but to encourage us. The days of self-examination and recognition of our wretched sinful nature are quickly followed by a powerful reminder of His righteousness and power living within us through His Son. For seven days, we are commanded to take in of unleavened bread. We take in, symbolically, of Jesus Christ, the Unleavened Bread of sincerity and truth. His life in us, His sacrifice, continually covering our sinful, weak, backsliding nature, making possible our continued access to and relationship with the Father. It's an awesome reminder that it is He who works in us both to do and to will of His good pleasure.

I've got quite a bit more work left to do on our master bathroom. But I know that, regardless of how many stops and starts lie ahead, regardless of how many hours I will spend tearing down and rebuilding walls and walking the aisles of the local hardware store, the outcome isn't in doubt. With a little determination and continued prodding encouragement from my wife, it will eventually get finished.

My effort to become like my Elder Brother … now that's a different story. I'll keep working at it, but thankfully my effort isn't responsible for the outcome. He's a much better Master Builder than I am.

If These Are The Last Days, What Should We Do? (Morning Companion)

Recently I came across a statement by Bible expositor Warren Wiersbe. Says Wiersbe, “It is unfortunate when people run from one prophetic conference to another, filling their notebooks, marking their Bibles, drawing their charts, and not living their lives to the glory of God.”

Prophetic interpretation is a dangerous business because no one really knows what the future holds. Understanding prophecy is a challenge in its own right because locking into a specific misinterpretation risks a quick loss of credibility. As Wiersbe also says, “The purpose of prophetic truth is not speculation but motivation.” Or, as we might put it, prophecy is not meant to be a crystal ball parlor game. Prophecies are meant to motivate change in our lives.

Let’s assume for a second that certain prophecy pundits are right and that the end really is nigh. What would Jesus have us do? And what would he not have us do? Luke 12 addresses both those questions.

First he tells us what not to do: Don’t worry about what you’ll eat or what you’ll wear (verse 22). Don’t worry about what you’ll drink (verse 29). God knows that we need these things, so don’t worry and don’t be fearful (verse 29 & 32). Otherwise you are no better than unbelievers (verse 30). Having extra stores on hand might be prudent, but in the end your provision will come from God. “Being ready” means having our treasure in the right place (verse 34). It means treating others properly (verses 35 – 47), even to the point of giving away from generosity of heart what we stored up for ourselves (verse 33).

It’s about motivation and not speculation – motivation to live a life worthy of your calling. A further study of scriptures that provide instruction for the last days reveals an interesting pattern, one we often don’t hear from teachers of prophecy. Here is a sample:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness? (2 Peter 3:11)
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (I Thessalonians 5:11)
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10-24-25)

The point seems to be that God is more interested in our relationships, and when times get rough, those relationships will mean more to us than what we could possibly understand when times are good. We need to learn to get each others’ backs, as it were. In fact, in Jesus’s baccalaureate address just before his death (John 13–16), he repeatedly tells his disciples to love each other and serve each other, and then he prays for unity among them (Chapter 17).

So if you are concerned that these might be the last days, do the things you should be doing anyway. Heal broken relationships. Live a life of service and giving. Comfort each other. Edify and encourage each other. Store houses have wings. Only character endures.

Murderous Profit (New Church Lady)
I was reading Proverbs recently and this segment just floors me.

Proverbs 1:10-18 [CSB] My son, if sinners entice you, don't be persuaded. If they say, Come with us! Let's set an ambush and kill someone. Let's attack some innocent person just for fun! Let's swallow them alive, like Sheol, whole, like those who go down to the Pit. We'll find all kinds of valuable property and fill our houses with plunder. Throw in your lot with us, and we'll all share the loot -- My son, don't travel that road with them or set foot on their path, because their feet run toward evil and they hurry to shed blood. It is useless to spread a net where any bird can see it, but they set an ambush to kill themselves; they attack their own lives.  

Was it really that frequent of an occurrence that Solomon had to be worried that his son might just run into a group of people who were like, “hey, let’s go kill somebody for fun and profit?” Not for revenge. Not for religious or national supremacy – just for the “fun” of it. That would be pretty shocking even in this day and age!

But things take a turn at Verse 19, where it says, “Such are the paths of all who make profit dishonestly; it takes the lives of those who receive it.” While I doubt a band of sinners will ever entice me to murder for money and sport, the temptation to profit dishonestly is pretty common in the world around us. 

If we aren’t careful, as bosses or as employees, we can find ourselves earning a dishonest profit. 

Proverbs 11:1 [ESV] A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight. Abomination?That’s a pretty strong word.

When an employer cuts corners on safety, or a manufacturer uses dangerous “fillers” in his product, or a company hires illegal aliens at lower than minimum wage, that company is making a dishonest profit. When an employee surfs the Web on company time, searching for a new job or watching cute kittens on Youtube, they are earning a dishonest profit. Lying on your taxes by misrepresenting your income or expenses is making a dishonest profit. I’m sure you can think of many other examples.

Ephesians 6:5-9 [CSB] Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ. Don't work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God's will from your heart. Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to people, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

This scripture asks us to act as if the Lord is the boss, whether you are the employer or the employee, because He is our ultimate master and He will not favor the boss or the employee when it comes to judgement. He expects this high standard of every one of us, regardless of our earthly jobs. It seems that God really cares about how we act as employers and employees – as citizens of this world. However, ironically, it is precisely because we are NOT citizens of this world that the Father imposes this high standard on us believers. 

Philippians 1:27 [CSB] Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ… [Emphasis mine]

John 18:36 [ESV] Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.

God takes honesty and integrity seriously – at work just as much as at home or at church. To connect an “unjust measure” to people who would murder for profit and sport seems over the top to human minds. But we have to admit that for many of us more people – more non-believers – are going to see how we act on the job than will ever know how we act at home. The workplace is where most of us come into contact with the greatest number of opportunities to be different from the world around us – more honest, more caring, more respectful, more hard-working, etc. than just your average citizen of the world.

God is looking for His children to stand out in the world. The Bible teaches us that we can and should do that at the place that takes up so many of our waking hours – our jobs and business. Let’s not be tempted to think we cannot preach the gospel with our “mundane” lives. We can do that every day just by being committed to using integrity in the workplace to show we are good citizens of heaven.

Passover— A Time to Party! (Sabbath Meditations)

Passover: a time to examine; a time to look in the mirror and confront our sinfulness; a time to commemorate the death of our Savior whose blood was shed for us; a time to party! Huh!? Really?

Well, okay, maybe party is too strong a word (it was a ploy to get your attention … did it work?), so let me tone it down a little. Try this: Passover, a time to rejoice with exceeding joy!

But wait ... aren’t we told in 1 Corinthians 11: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”?

It doesn’t sound like there’s much there to rejoice about. Examining is hard work and, well, the thought that we might be at risk of taking the bread and wine, the symbols of the New Covenant in His blood, in an unworthy manner certainly is nothing to take lightly. This is serious business!

And while that is indeed true, if you look below the surface, the very essence of this and other scriptures like it, are, in fact, calling us to rejoice on that night. Why?

What is Passover commemorating anyway? Remembering the death of Jesus on the cross, His broken body and shed blood? Yes, of course. That’s a solemn memory to be sure. But, as we read here, His suffering is not where we are to stop. In fact, it's not even our primary focus. We are told to discern His Body … discern the meaning, the purpose behind the suffering, behind the sacrifice.

Ephesians 2:11-13 makes it clear where remembering His sacrifice, correctly discerning His body, leads us: “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
That’s huge, isn’t it?! His death made possible our life, our rebirth as children of God. It re-opened of a direct relationship between God and man, a relationship that had been cut off since the garden. With the offering of that relationship through His bruised and beaten body and His shed blood, man, once again, has access to the throne of God, to His mercy seat. And when we come to the Passover, truly discerning these things, that line of thinking inspires a whole different set of emotions.
Do you recall what David did when the Ark of the Covenant was carried into the City of David? He danced in the streets as it was being brought into the city, didn’t he? He was, in a very real, literal sense, having his own little party. In fact, his antics made for such a sight that his wife, shocked and embarrassed by what she felt was an undignified display, ridiculed him openly. I’m sure she was not alone in her disgust. There were probably others there among the crowd who thought his behavior inappropriate for such a solemn occasion. After all, this was the presence of God coming back among them. People had died just for touching it. That’s pretty serious stuff! And to have the gall to dance around in your underwear before it?! In whose book is that acceptable?! There were probably a few who wondered why God didn't strike him down right then and there!

What did David get that his critics, including his wife, did not?

Of all God’s servants, it could be argued that David was among the most humble. He was a man, it seems, constantly given to self-examination. He says in Psalm 26:2 “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me. Try my mind and my heart …” He knew that he, and the children of Israel, were altogether unworthy of that relationship. So when God showed His favor by blessing his people so richly, and symbolically allowing His presence, through the symbol of the Ark, a type of His throne, His mercy seat, to be brought back among them, David was so overwhelmed with joy for the occasion that he couldn’t help but jump and dance for joy. He couldn’t help but celebrate.

Isn’t that really what the meaning of the Passover is for us? Isn’t that where God really wants our focus to be?

Our human nature tends to pull us toward a focus on ourselves. After all, the god of this world is always broadcasting. The message he broadcasts is either one of pride and self-dependence or, conversely, of despondency and depression.

It’s easy for us as Christians living in this world to let these attitudes seep into our hearts. We either fall into an “I’m okay, you’re okay mentality”, or we get stuck in the mud and dirt of our weaknesses, our failures, our sin, letting them imprison and define us. We lose our focus on who He is and who we are in Him. That’s where our enemy wants us to be. He wants us to remain in denial or defeat and forget the joy that has been set before us.

One of my favorite passages, Hebrews 12:2, instructs us to look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
“… for the joy that was set before Him endured …” As terrible as that night was for Jesus, what kept Him focused, what gave Him strength to endure, was the tremendous joy that would be realized by the fulfillment of the Father’s purpose for Him. Mankind would be freed from bondage.

A focus on our sin and weakness definitely does have a place in this season. We examine ourselves yearly, prior to the Passover, and hopefully throughout the year, to re-establish the fact in our hearts that we are unworthy, that even at our best state, we fall immeasurably short of His standard. Of ourselves there is no reason that God would ever enter into a relationship with us. We need His sacrifice to cover us. We are dependent on His mercy.

But then, having remembered our dependence on Him, we approach the reaffirming of our Covenant with Him, the taking in of the bread and wine, much as David approached the returning of the Ark to Israel, or with the focus that Jesus had on the glorious outcome of those terrible events that night. We rejoice in the fact that God, in His mercy, has given us access to Him through the blood of His Son. We, who were far off are made near by the blood of Jesus. It’s an awesome, joyful thing! We are commemorating, yes, celebrating that God once again dwells among His people.

No, not as did the Corinthian church, whom Paul rebuked for the manner in which they approached the Passover. They used the night as an excuse to satisfy their appetites. They were joyful all right, but it was all about them, it wasn’t about what He had done for them. They were not discerning the Lord’s body, and, as a result, eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. Their error wasn’t in the rejoicing, it was in the focus.

The truth is, if you and I are sitting at Passover, holding the bread and the wine, still trying to solemnly determine whether we are worthy to take it, we have missed the point. While a period of time spent in recognition of sin and the examination of sin has an important role in this season, its role is in the period of time leading up to that night, not the night itself. God doesn’t want us to be focused on ourselves. The purpose of recognizing our sin is that we might be all the more joyful for who we are in Him. Passover is given to us to point our attention to Him. It’s about the new nature He has given us. Our focus that night is to be on Him, not on ourselves.

If we have a heart full of thankfulness for the relationship our Lord has made possible for His people, like David, we might just be tempted to break out in a little dance, perhaps not for real, but definitely in our hearts. I, for one, can’t think of any greater reason to party … er … rejoice with exceeding joy, can you?

Who Are We? (Children of God)

How would you answer if someone asked, “Who are you?” How do you define yourself? When we were young, we might have answered that we were someone’s child. “I’m the son of Mr. Jones.” When we grew to maturity, we were able to define ourselves by our profession. “I’m the plumber.” But, how do we define ourselves as Christians? Who Are We?

We are the people of God. We are followers of Jesus Christ. We are the true saints – just like the true Christians of the first century. We are the family of God. We are the called out ones. We are the New Covenant people of God. We are the Children of God. We are the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. We are lively stones. We are a holy priesthood. We are the Body of Christ. We are the household of God. We are the temple of the living God. The Bible provides many designations.

You are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)

You are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16) We are the spiritual temple to whom Jesus Christ will soon return.

Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Jesus Christ said, "I will build My Church." (Matthew 16:18) He started His Church with the disciples and those believers who received His Spirit on Pentecost Day. Jesus did not construct a cathedral, basilica, mosque, or any other kind of physical structure – but he began bringing together His saints – the Church brethren. God had prophesied through the prophet Ezekiel:

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary [holy place] in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Ezekiel 37:26-27)

Who are we? We are the people of God – the temple of the living God.

The Time of Day (New Horizons)

We don’t give much thought to it — the ‘day’. It’s there, always with us day and night, 24 hours, seven in a week, 365 of them in a year.

Then there’s the not so precise definition. His day will come. Doomsday. In my day. Call it a day. This fuzziness of meaning we take in our stride. And when we turn to the Scriptures the fuzziness continues.

Jesus said, ‘Are there not twelve hours in a day?’ Then we find that Adam, were he to sin, would die ‘in the day you eat of [the forbidden fruit]’ (ch.2:17). Yet he lived a further nine centuries plus. The Day of the LORD spans more than twenty-four hours.

Then there is the account of creation by Moses: ‘These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day [Heb. yom] that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens’ (Genesis 2:4). But there is an anomaly here, for he had just recorded that it took six days for Creation (ch.1). ‘Day’ clearly is not limited to twenty-four hours!

We note that in Genesis 1 that God ended each ‘day’ with the observation ‘the evening and the morning were the’. Closure. But when God addresses the seventh day, when He Himself rested, there is no closure. His work of creation was complete, but the seventh ‘day’ continues. As wrote the author of Hebrews: ‘...he [Christians] that is entered into his [continuing] rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his’ (ch.4:10).

There’s much symbolism in the Scriptures and we might consider the days of creation as symbolic. Look at it this way. God set in motion the processes for a physical creation in which to carry out His plan. By His awesome power He shaped the invisible ‘dark energy’ with which He had created ‘space’ into planets and stars and galaxies: ’…the universe was created by God's word, so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen’ (Hebrews 11:3). Having sited Earth in its perfect location in space God, using natural law, proceeded over perhaps billions of years to prepare it for human occupation.

There followed a series of divine interventions in six stages each of countless aeons during which earth’s eco-systems matured. The creation of mankind was the pinnacle, and there has since been no special creation. Each was symbolized as a ‘day’. Then, when all was completed, ‘God rested from all His works’.

God then divided time into seven-day units—a unique system that had no connection with the planetary movements, as do the month and the year. Each ‘day’ represented a symbolic commemoration of a particular phase of creation. The seventh was a memorial of the whole of creation: ‘ six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day’ (Exodus 20:11). The seven day week proclaims the LORD as our sole Creator.

It is noteworthy that each phase of creation continues in our day. Space continues to expand generating new dark matter. Earth continues to rearrange its physical features through volcanic and seismic activity. Vegetation continues, from its created genetics, to generate variation. And the purpose of the whole creation, mankind, is still a ‘work in progress’ as God the Father selects from among us — and trains — those individuals who will reign with Him in His approaching earthly Kingdom and throughout eternity. God initiated the processes, each after its kind, and they continue to unfold in accord with in-built law.

This interpretation of early Genesis may be alien to many of my readers, but is worth considering in light of the vast research findings of geologists and cosmologists. They are faced with hard facts which they report — but (the scientific approach) they are not unwilling to change tack when the facts warrant it. Properly understood, natural science and the Bible are in perfect harmony.

If This Cup Can Pass (New Church Lady)

The most moving prayer in the Bible, in my opinion, is this one, spoken by Jesus on the night He was betrayed:

Luke 22:41-42 [NIV] He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

We know that God, our loving Father, did not remove that cup and allowed His only begotten Son to suffer and die. Instead, the Father looked on as He was beaten and mocked, crucified and ridiculed, gasped for breath and forgave His persecutors. 

God said, “No,” to our Messiah so that He could fulfill the role for which He was born into human form. We understand why the Father said, “No” in this situation. 

However, I wonder what it was like for God, as the Father, to witness the consequences of going through with the plan as it had been ironed out at the foundation of the world – to say the inevitable and unavoidable “no” at that time – in the face of His only begotten Son sweating  “like great drops of blood.” I don’t imagine Him regretting His decision at all, but I do wonder what it was like for Him. 

I wonder what it was like for the angels in heaven. Jesus said He could have called down ten thousand angels. Did they have their swords in hand, ready to bolt to earth? Were they thinking, “Forget mankind! They don’t deserve the Messiah!”

We know a little bit about what it was like for the disciples -- terrifying! They slept through the opportunity to join our Savior in His prayer vigil, and when they woke up, they woke up to trouble coming at them with swords and spears. I’m sure there was little time to think – only time to react and most of them reacted by running away as fast as they could.

I have spoken my own, “if you are willing, take this cup from me” prayers in my life, because there have been times in my life when I thought “I just cannot go through this!” Or “please don’t make me do this!” I’ve prayed similar prayers about others as well – asking God to take away their disease, emotional pain or other trial. God said, “No.” People suffered. I had to face making the tough choices I didn’t want to make. I had to live through what seemed unendurable and endure it. I have seen family and friends have to do the same. 

How about you? 

Make no mistake, God answers prayer. He says, “Yes.” He says, “Wait.” He says, “No.” In most cases, we will never know in this life why He answered our requests as He did. 

And even though none of us can make the case that we do not deserve death and often cannot even make that case that it is unfair to go through whatever trial we are going through, or that we don’t deserve to go through it, I wonder what it is like for God when He says “no” to us. 

In the next life, when we stand in the bema and receive the judgment and the reward for our lives, will we then have the opportunity to say “why?” and hear the reasoning? Will God say, “Look here at the patience you built that time I said, wait? Will He say, “See how your faith was strengthened in that trial you thought you couldn’t endure.” “See the love for Me that you gained, the wisdom that you received, the understanding that was revealed when we walked this trial together.” Or will we even care by the time we get to that point?  

Our church announcement bulletin has folks still suffering from cancer. Loving Father, if this cup could pass…

A friend is facing surgery. Another is facing a family trial. Another is struggling with addiction. Father, if this cup could pass…

For Christ Jesus, although He asked for removal of the suffering He was about to face, there just was no other way. He was the only One who was the Perfect Lamb of God – the only One who ever could be. God sent Him here in the perfect timing and on the Kingdom schedule. Together, they lived out the plan just as they had designed it together. 

For us mere mortals, I believe it is possible in any given circumstance that God might just have multiple options and opportunities to bring us along in the faith. In other words, it wouldn’t necessarily be the only way for us to grow. 

Therefore, I don’t plan to stop asking God to pass the cup along if there is any other way, whenever I face a tough situation or see others facing one or read of difficulty and disaster in the world. I believe the Father is moved by our suffering and is moved by our sincere petitions for ourselves, our friends, for strangers and for those who would be our foes. I believe that we can change His mind. 

Ultimately, praise God, all suffering will pass. This life, the world’s governments and religions and twisted values will pass away and be no more. 

Revelation 21:4 [NKJV] And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

This is the hope of all mankind. It is the result of God the Father saying, “No” to His only begotten Son, when our Messiah said, “If this cup can pass.”

In that day, the “cup of suffering” that each and every human being has endured will be removed. Without that “No” from God to Jesus, this world would have no hope. Now we have hope – hope in this life and hope for eternity to come. 

I try to keep in mind, when God is clearly saying, “no” to me, that it is precisely that “no” to Jesus that allows me to be here, standing before the throne of God in prayer, communing with Him as with a friend. I am grateful for that “no” that Jesus was willing to endure to save me. 

Revelation 22:17 [NKJV] And the Spirit and the bride say, Come! And let him who hears say, Come! And let him who thirsts come. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

God speed the day when this cup will pass. In the meantime, may the Father answer all your prayers with a “Yes” – unless the best answer is “No” or “Wait.”

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write to me at

Playing Whack a Mole! (The Word and The Way)

In Caddyshack, a corny comedy from the 1980s, the groundskeeper, played by Bill Murray, goes through a series of increasing ridiculous scenarios to try to get rid of a gopher who is doing minor damage to the golf course. The crescendo of this insanity is Murray’s character actually blowing up the golf course, and the gopher gets away. Now for the scripture and the tie-in:

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5 NASB)

For the past four or five years, our movement has been playing “whack a mole” with ludicrous doctrines. Every year some new strange doctrine comes up and then those who would normally be talking about sound doctrine go to war trying to tamp down the strange doctrine. This scenario has come to such a climax that we’ve seen multiple strange doctrines come up just in 2017. It’s a gigantic game of “whack-a-mole” and guess what? The movement is a smoldering mess. In the name of YouTube hits or website traffic, we have gone full sensationalist. Those who propose the “next new thing” are lusting after attention in the form of web traffic. Those who just can’t take the bad teaching any more are fighting an endless battle, because we feel, if someone doesn’t fight back, then the madness will win out. But, again, this has left our golf course in ruins. It’s to a point where we are literally damaging the sheep. In one of a few anecdotal incidents, I recently had a conversation with a believer in the north-east who refused to go to Sukkot because of the crazy teachings circulating in the movement. She simply can’t take it any more and regards the holy assembly as being profane.

So what do we do? Clearly the “whack-a-mole” track isn’t working out. All it is doing is elevating false teachers and creating division. I say we ignore it. Instead of scouring the internet looking for some new thing to slam, why not go nuts and read our bibles? Or perhaps perform an in-depth study on a section of the bible using actually credible resources? Why not take a month and read Josephus, the Antiquities of the Jews, and really understand the context of first century Judea. Why not just return to our first loves, actual truth, and meditate on the WORD like we are supposed to do. Sukkot 2017 in Wewoka wasn’t burdened down with esoteric and strange doctrines and, guess what? It was kind of nice and relaxing. So let’s start filling in those craters and replanting some grass. That’s what I’m going to do.

Who is my mother? (Think Red Ink Ministries)
Mark 3:33, “And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
Let’s look at the first time the incorruptible seed of God conceived life. The story of the birth of Christ is not given to us to make a celebration or a day of giving gifts. It is given as a glimpse of the marvelous work of God as He joins us, in this life. It is a picture of the birth that is to occur in all of us.
Emmanuel - meaning ‘God with US!’
When the angel appeared and made his salutation to Mary, his greeting contained a declaration of favor: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” The awareness of being favored, accorded to those who are visited by the Holy Spirit, is nearly absent today.
Somewhere among the dialogue of ‘whosoever will’ and indiscriminate ‘Jesus Loves You’ bumper stickers, we have laid aside the glorious doctrine of election and adulterated the sovereignty of our God.
We have come to expect our God to promptly answer when we call, but when the Creator of the universe visits you, it is a wonderful day, and you are highly favored, “...for thou hast found favour with God.” (Luke 1) “[We] were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)
‘Christmas’ Has Hidden the Story of the New Birth
Then the angel explained to Mary what was about to happen: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
We see here that the “holy thing” is Christ. After questioning the impossibility of such a proposal and being assured that it would be as God said, Mary submitted to the will of God and surrendered herself totally to Him. “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:38)
In this story we can begin to see a parallel to the experience we call being born again. We see the overshadowing or visitation, the expectation of an impossibility, the questioning within, and finally the submission to the higher One. When we reach this point of submission we have the seed of God implanted in us.
This seed has within it the DNA structure of a new you in Christ. As Mary was to carry Christ within her for the next nine months and then give birth, it is our responsibility to care for and nurture that seed to birth and finally, maturity.
Paul spoke of this mystery. “To whom God would make known ... this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you.” (Colossians 1:27) In Ephesians 4:15, Paul spoke also of our growing up into Christ, “But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”
As you submit to God in this process of the new birth, He places His seed within you. The new birth is not an instantaneous one that takes place the second you pray a ‘sinner’s prayer’ as is commonly taught today. First, there is a visitation, a yielding, and then a pregnancy, which you are expected to nurture and care for, till it comes to the time of birth. If you do not cherish the new Seed of Christ, you could miscarry and lose this “holy thing” within.
The doctrine of instantaneous ‘new birth on demand’ is faulty and misleading. There are scores of people still struggling with sin and trying to reconcile their present wretched lives with their past experience of being ‘born again’. When, in reality, their visitation only planted a seed that they must bring to the birth by responsible and caring behavior.
Remember that the Scripture says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” (John 1:12) We have been given the “power to become” just as a woman impregnated has been given the potential to bring forth life.
The care and nurture necessary to bring about this new birth successfully is to be guided by Christ, to be a disciple, and carrying one’s own ‘cross’ - to do the will of the Father. In fact, being a disciple is living under the discipline that creates the proper environment for the new birth. No one can successfully bring new life into an environment hostile to the nature of the life conceived in them. You cannot force the lips of Christ in us, to tell lies, nor force His hands to strike, His mouth to curse or His heart to worship idols and yet expect this holy Seed to thrive.
You must first learn to obey His Commandments and do His will to successfully bring about a live birth of the Seed within. Luke 14:27, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” You must DO the will of God to care for, and not miscarry, the seed within. After you have been ‘mother’ to this holy life within you, it is then that you are born into the family of Christ, and have become brothers and sisters of His.
Second, after prenatal development, comes the birth, and ‘mothering’ of this new ‘Christ in you’ and is a matter of feeding, protecting and maturing. As Peter says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) Being born again consists of the Spirit and Life of Christ being born in you. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” (John 3:7) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23)
On this particular day when Jesus was teaching and ministering to His followers, His mother Mary and His brothers were standing outside the place and were calling to Him. For what cause He was ignoring them, is unknown. Whether it was for this lesson alone or for other reasons, we don’t know. The crowd told him that His mother and brothers were outside and wanted to see Him, and Jesus asked a profound thing. “Who is my mother?”
As you consider the holy child that you are carrying and birthing as raising the seed of God, ‘Christ in you’, you may now see new depth to the question of Christ, “Who is my Mother?”
This is a question you need not answer, as the answer is given quickly afterward: ‘And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples said, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God my Father the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother”.’
Do your utmost, dear friends, to achieve this worthy life, ‘Christ in you’.