Tag Archive | practical Christianity

Wicked Ways Or The Way Everlasting?

Psalm 139:23,24. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

There are ways and then there are ways. Then there is The Way. Some examples of the Way of Righteousness may be considered through the careful contemplation of, for example, Proverbs 12:28, Psalm 23:3, 1 Corinthians 1:30, and John 14:6. These should be explored by readers who are inwardly compelled enough to do so, and to connect the dots between them and what is shared here.

The Way of Righteousness – brought from Christ to us by the Holy Spirit – is the everlasting way of life. It is the way where there is no death, the way of our soul’s restoration. This is how it is connected to the “abundant life” which, Jesus Christ tells us, is the reason He took on human flesh and dwelt among us. This is the Way whereby He calls us from servitude to the evil one who would rob, kill, and destroy every good that our loving Heavenly Father has in mind for us.

Thus the psalmist wisely prays that God will examine him – search him, know his heart, try him, and know his thoughts. He is asking the Great Physician for an in depth spiritual examination for the detection of wicked ways. These are the hidden ways, lurking in the bushes of our interior landscape that, when undetected can lure us off the Way of Righteousness onto paths which at best are dead ends and at worst lead to eternal separation from God and to destruction. Without careful lives of “walking circumspectly” and perpetually prayerfully asking, seeking, and knocking for the Holy Spirit to ferret out these wicked ways, any disciple of Christ runs the risk of wandering off onto these paths leading to destruction.

On this Memorial Day we wonder how things have gotten to this point in this topsy turvy sin infested world, especially in our presumed “Christian” USA. We find ourselves in a world where good – according to God’s Word – is called evil by the darkness which has gained ascendency over not only the world but all too many churches. Therefore it is imperative to take a good hard look at these two little verses at the end of Psalm 139.

Many today join in the mantra “Pray for America”. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is often the go to verse for this. Certainly this is needed. However, let us remind ourselves that God’s directive includes three others in addition to prayer: to humble ourselves, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways.

Yet since the “sin within” – the wicked ways the Psalmist prays about here – is often hidden and subtle, undetectable by human sensitivity, does it not stand to reason that we will need some divine help to identify it? Only then can we confess what we could not perceive with our own senses, which the Holy Spirit reveals, so that it may be repented of, renounced, and removed by the power of the Holy Spirit? How can He show us where repentance is needed, unless we take a page out of the psalmist’s book and very honestly ask Him to show us “if there be any wicked way in me”? Psalm 19:12 – “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” There it is again!

It is puzzling, especially on these military holidays, how the majority buy into the narrative that the fallen have “died to keep us free.” Yet all the while our moral fabric is in tatters, our Constitution is largely ignored as the law of the land, and the freedoms we have taken for granted dry up and dissolve right before our very eyes! The creeping, gnawing, devouring locusts are not only at our borders, but have more than crossed them. They infest every system we supposedly rely on (such as government, education, corporations, and the like). Sadly this includes especially the churches which are supposed to be the very body of Christ on the earth, the city set on a hill! Intruder alert! Our freedoms have become an illusion, as well as the humanistic means (war and bloodshed) we have been told will “secure” them!

God has His answers, however, but are we asking for them, seeking them, knocking to be let into that place where He reveals them, as if our life depends on it? Or are we sending up the prayers of personal will worship? This goes far, far deeper than a one time “asking Jesus into your heart”, but then going your merry way, not living in fusion with the Cross nor infused with its precious work!

Where’s the outcry for the Holy Spirit to “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Might we be assuming that we have a standing with Him that we do not actually possess? Does not Scripture admonish us to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” 2 Corinthians 13:5. (Ouch!) And this examination needs to be in the light of God’s Holy Word and the relentless searchlight of the Holy Spirit! No “blessed assumptions”, things taken for granted, about ourselves! May it never be! Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!

God’s grace is not bestowed so we can take it for granted as a one shot deal. The process of destroying the works of the devil is ongoing, and it begins with His searchlight in the innermost being! If we are to walk the Way Everlasting, then the little “come hithers” – most often within our impure hearts and the gods of our belly – that draw us onto the ways of wickedness must be rooted out by divine intervention.

Thus Paul’s admonition in Galatians 5:1. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” It was on that cross that the Way Everlasting was opened to us, and we were set free from sin, death, and the power of the evil one.

Without this we can never be truly free, without prayerfully “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12. Nothing changes until the very core of the heart of man is daily surrendered to Christ and to His cross.

Dr. Martin Luther says concerning the practical outworking of our baptism (Small Catechism, under The Sacrament of Holy Baptism), “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

Let us pray to be so inspired, enlightened, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

The “Name” of Jesus Christ: In His Authority

We Stand in His Stead, As His Body, Administrating The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth!

This is actually what it means to be a Christian – to not only represent but to embody Christ through the Holy Spirit on earth. It is not a simplistic thing. It is a powerful calling, with a two fold intention 1) of destroying the works of the devil: “… The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil”. (1 John 3:8). And 2) “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12)

Let’s repeat that: Jesus came to destroy the works (power / authority of the devil and all its manifestations), and make us into sons of God. If we keep these two purposes in mind, a lot of puzzling things fall into place when we read and contemplate the Holy Scriptures.

Jesus prayed for a divinely empowered Church which would stand on Earth against the evil one and all his works “in His Name” – in His authority, in His stead. It does not come from us; it comes from Him. His “High Priestly Prayer” – His last word before His arrest and crucifixion, was a prayer for the bestowal of this on His people:

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:22-24)

The Apostle Paul reveals to us that the Father raised us up and seated us in Christ Jesus in heavenly places! We are co-participants in Him through His crucifixion, resurrection, and His ascension into Heaven. We perceive ourselves in this way with the eyes of faith – as in Him in all these events of His Passion.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

This is not just so we can go on a big power trip, or have a “God complex”, but so that we are also aware that our old sin nature is dead in Him, first of all. Out with the bad and old, in with the good and new – all “in” Jesus. In Jesus’ Passion (His death, burial, resurrection, ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit), we have access to complete victory over sin, self, Satan and his system of this world.

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”(Galatians 5:24)

We reckon it so and live in what we reckon.

In the “Great Commission” as Jesus was about to ascend, His final reminder was about His authority, and it is in this authority – in His Name – that we’re to go forth and teach all nations to observe all that He commands. Why? Because through us He is calling souls out of the dominion of darkness into His kingdom to be restored as sons of God!

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The Role of Suffering

The foregoing understanding of Jesus’ name and authority brings meaning and purpose to life’s challenges, adversities, and suffering. This is the part that many today do not wish to acknowledge: the Lord’s disciplining of those He is transforming into sons.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) “And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:17)

“For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.” Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?… (Hebrews 12:6,7)

“And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him. I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed IN us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:17-19)

God will use everything that happens in life for our good! Not just the parts that feel good. Just as gold or other precious metals cannot be purified without the refiner’s fire, so we too spiritually require a similar process spiritually. This is not popular thought in today’s “name it, frame it, and claim it” formula Christianity. To our Heavenly Father we are golden. Yet it remains that the impurities must be removed, and we must also be forged into vessels for holy purpose.

These are just a few basic thoughts on the Name of Jesus. It could be summed up thus and affirmed in this way: If Jesus says that all power (authority to reign) in heaven and on earth is given to Him, and I am in Christ Jesus as a participant in His sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension, and if I live, move, and have my being in Him, then I can speak to all things “in His Name” – on behalf of His authority over all of life.

Thus we need to remember to “Rejoice at all times. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:17)

Take these things to heart. Ponder them often. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the wisdom in these verses and to expand your understanding of them. Our Lord never refuses wisdom to anyone who asks. It does not happen overnight, however, so persevere.

People talk about “being born again”. That is only where it starts, but so many stop there due to popular shallow teaching. One can, however, look to an Old Testament type concerning this. The process can be stated simply this way: A slave could be set free from Egypt overnight, but it took 40 years to get Egypt out of the slave. For that they were sent wandering in the wilderness, to be prepared for receiving the Promised Land.

You might get free of the devil, in other words, but it takes awhile to get the devil out of you – in a manner of speaking. This inner work of “sonship reconstruction” is done by the sovereign hand of God Himself. We only pray, surrendering our will, “Come, Lord Jesus. They will be done.” And so we show up for work. His work in us by grace.

Walking With Jesus: Not A Fast Food Experience

Sometimes I think it’s important that we remind ourselves that our walk with the Lord is most often in small steps of progress, a bit of stumbling, a whole lot of getting up again with a view to walking in His Grace, and that He is always in control, full of unquenchable love, and ready to forgive and restore!

Each of our stories is therefore going to be a little bit different than the next as we relate to Jesus. We need to surrender our will to Him – what is already reckoned as so – as we were crucified, raised up, and seated with Him in heavenly places.

It’s not like a quick trip to the fast food drive through, or even necessarily instantaneous spiritual gratification – on tap and having it our way. Otherwise we run the risk of always comparing ourselves to someone else, judging ourself, or our brother or sister in Christ as either “being there” or not “being there” (as in he or she seems so complete, but I’m not).

It’s important to remember that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Yes! His workmanship. So what we need to do is “show up for work” daily, continually receiving it!

And so we affirm with Paul, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12) Now there’s a mouthful of manna to chew on, swallow, and digest!

No small order here! So with the apostle we too might want to pray, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ehesians 3:14-19)

May this be our understanding and experience through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Proverbially Speaking / Chapter 10

“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” Proverbs 10:12.

For whatever reasons I have not been able to get past Proverbs 10 for a number of days lately. Life can become rather turbulent at times, yet in the midst of the tempest once more I have been directed to learn the lessons and skills to sail through them successfully. What comes about in very practical ways is the focus the Holy Spirit directs me to in these chapters. I call it “SOJT” – spiritual on the job training.

To offer love – the kind God gives so freely to us – is to be a true channel of His Grace in meaningful ways. We are the flute. He is the melodious, sweet harmony. That means to love in deed and not just word alone (See 1 John 3:18). Love conquers all through us! This is what it means to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are not our own!

It is one thing to have a “contemplative” lifestyle wherein inner worlds of understanding are received and perceived by the mind. This is the space of God Mind contact and the imparting of His revealings as we are ready for and in need of them. 

However, it is quite another matter to discern at some point the radical importance of being a conduit of the Holy Spirit’s loving peace that passes all understanding. That inner Life of experiencing Divine Light must exteriorize in the outer world. Indeed that is its real purpose! It is no a place to hide from realities – ours or those around us!

I have been thrust into a situation wherein, at least for an indefinite time, my contemplative comfort zone has had to be relinquished to a degree. This is a point where an ever deepening spiritual knowledge is being imparted through the empathetic experience of feeling with (compassion) what others are not only going through, but actually sharing in practical ways in their burdens.

Sometimes we like to do armchair religion where we philosophize and analyze everyone’s problems and programs. Then we offer advice (often unsolicited). If this is where our religion ends, it is not God Love pouring through us. It is ego based.

Others’ “sins” and shortcomings are not, after all, cosmic and celestial level war crimes, but rather the status of prisoners of war! Instead we discover that it is at times a simple inability to do what is right for whatever the reason – lack of practical help from others, lack of knowledge, or simply belief that something is lacking. When Souls are in this space the least needed thing is to be held up to scrutiny, analysis, and criticism – without the “advisor” being willing to lift a finger toward easing burdens and cares by practical means… Eventually what one discovers is that we are indeed our brother’s keeper!

In the case of administering more “heat” (advice) than Divine Light and Love in practical helpful terms, Souls will not have even the necessary relief to even begin to learn how to better relate to life and their world and be open to the Christ Way of the redeemed life. We cannot simply turn away and say “I’ll pray for you” or “Here’s what you should do” when the Holy Spirit prompts us to get our hands dirty and be directly involved (1 John 3:17) in some way. 

Jesus did not only preach and teach, he miraculously gave what was necessary on a physical basis to the point of exhaustion on many occasions. Where do we see that happening today, consistently, especially in a “liberal” politically correct American Christian “spirituality” infiltrated and infested with the new age cults of self serving? That is little more than a deceptive trap. It’s time for the “Church” to awaken and get back to the business of being the Bride and Body of Christ, not the propaganda tool of Satan.  

The powerful Love of God must be seen in action. Jesus said that if you have seen Me you have seen the Father. If we are indeed “one with Him and the Father” John 17:21-23) when others experience us, they are experiencing the Holy Trinity through our demeanor, our language, and our caring. So – where is Jesus visible today in churches whose modus operandi is more like a worldly corporation than the very living Essence of our LORD Jesus Christ? 

The word “covereth” in the above text is an interesting one. It means to “fill up the hollows”, or a deep empty space, a place where there is not something, an emptiness. To me this resounds loudly and clearly of a serious lack. Could we say that when someone lacks something which makes it impossible to hear the living Word of Christ, that this lack is keeping them from God, experientially outside the very Presence which we would like to encourage them to seek and to worship? We overlook and cover the emptiness, the inability, and provide what is necessary on a tangible, physical level without judgment or condemnation. The Soul in need must see and experience something very different and whole in us. God is up to the task. Are we willing to be His Body in this life?

The NASB uses the word “transgressions” in place of sin. Love must be very practical in many ways in times like these, so that lives are assisted in order to see and experience the Love of Christ – the Kingdom of Heaven as a viable reality. 

What the world needs now is not more blissed out “meditators” looking to be at peace “within” themselves, escaping from being their brother’s keeper, but “en-Christed” Souls filled with the Holy Spirit’s own zeal for getting their hands dirty by lifting another out of the mud. The only way we can do that is to offer our hands and hearts when and where we are directed, without judgement. The world needs to see sons and bondservants of the living God, reclaimed by the Blood of the holy precious Lamb of God in action! It’s not enough to give advice without giving everything that God wishes to provide through us in practical terms.

The “Secret” isn’t about how to get more for your ego self. It’s about understanding how your brother is yourself in Jesus, and the realization that there are no limits to our strength and abundance in our Father’s universe, as we are prompted by the Holy Spirit. There really is no fear in Christ love!

Rough Sailing (A Visualization)

Dear reader, if you’ve been sailing through rough seas and uncharted waters in your life, this visualization is written especially for you. Many blessings upon you!

I have been adrift for days. The voyage seems endless. Yet somewhere deep inside I sense that the best is yet to come. 

However, there are days and days when I wonder why I ever signed up for this one!

I’m alone aboard my little ship nearing its port, but it is night, and there are rocky shoals ahead. I’m in the midst of a tempest and a fierce gale, requiring all the navigation and sailing skills I can muster. I realize there may even be a few new tricks I must learn here and now, since these are seas, currents, and combinations I’ve never before encountered. Even the most seasoned old salt would find himself at a disadvantage here!

I hear my ancient ship creek and groan while the winds howl like banshees. She lifts up out of the boiling brine; then she plunges back in. I’m sure I’ve breathed my last. I bob and toss ad nauseum, barely hanging on within this floating coffin. 

Will this voyage ever end? If so, how will it end? Splintered in pieces and scattered across the craggy cliffs protruding from the shore? Run aground and rent asunder on sifting sands, where glutinous, greedy gulls pick clean my broken bones and body? Years later someone finds them bleached white, protruding from the sand, amidst the sticks and splinters which are all that remain of my trusty vessel…

No, no, no!  Steady, steady, steady as she goes. That’s too far out. Pull it back now. Pull that thought back to the present right now! No mind games! Got all I can do to deal with this reality, the one I never met up with before.

Bone weary, frightened, drenched, shivering, and more exhausted than I have ever been, I search the shore for the familiar twinkle of the lighthouse, so I can at least keep my bearings and a steady course in spite of it all. Yet the sleet and thick darkness make it well nigh impossible to see much of anything further away than my hand in front of my face. I can hear nothing but the screaming winds! 

And just as I lose all hope and sense of direction, there it is – that small glimmer in the distance which signals my last and best hope! It shimmers through sheets of frozen cascading sleet pouring from the sky like waterfalls made of glass shards, stinging and biting as they invade my skin. 

Seeing this Light changes everything! My spirit rises up. I reach into the empty abyss of my insides, and somehow find courage arising there. So, This is what creative Power really looks like! I summon it like Lazarus from the grave, “Come forth!” 

Somehow I find untapped skills and strength I never knew existed, let alone that they could arise from within me, to make it through this passage! Hope ascends with courage. Spirit, courage, hope, strength, skill… They seize my awareness. And then… 

Somehow I know that I will soon be safe, dry, warm, and at peace… There can be no other options. My mission must be completed, not lost at sea!

Is it my imagination, or has the storm just now abated just a little?

At the point of sensing the greatest urgency, pathetically overwhelmed and helpless, I notice that someone is here beside me. It seems odd, but I don’t feel any fear about that or anything else anymore. I hear him reassuringly saying, “Peace, be still. I’ve got the helm from here!”

I notice a shift in the winds. The Lighthouse is not far away now. Just before I collapse into an unconscious heap of unknowing, I become aware of a pre-dawn light replacing the ominous sky. I’m now awash amidst a myriad of dazzling dizzying stars, replacing the determined deadly drenching, as wind and wave cease their raging roar.

Suddenly I’m aware of… nothing.

Then I awaken. I find myself safe in bed – dry, warm, and at peace. I extend my arms in front of me for inspection. I lift up the blankets and do a reality check inventory of my entire body, stem to stern. Everything seems to be in working order.  For all I have been through, there’s not a scratch or a bruise on me! 

The morning Sun pours its radiance through the window, and I smile as I hear the gulls not far away chanting their soothing, soaring songs overhead. I sit up to look out the window, and there at the end of the dock my seaworthy old ship is safely moored. She may need a little tender loving care, but she’s as good as ever!

I recollect the events of the past night. Who was the stranger that spoke to me and calmed the turbulence of both the inner and outer seas? I feel I’ve known him for a very long time.

He must have brought me home. I must look him up and thank him!

I feel an unusual calm, yet it seems to dance in quiet choreography with an oddly gentle anticipation, exhilaration, and enthusiasm. I sink into the pillow and curl up within the cloud of soft, warm blankets to explore these feelings. 

However, I still think I’m going to have a nap. At least for now.

I close my eyes. As I dream I see the stranger’s kind, loving eyes peering into mine. I recognize the experience. He was aboard my ship! He brought me home! 

These eyes explore my soul, but with no condemnation. They only bring peace, a complete peace, beyond all finite human comprehension or imagination. 

As those eyes pierce into my soul with the Light of unconditional Love, I know that all is well, and it always will be so. I know he will never leave me or forsake me, so I can always smile at the world. And I need not go anywhere else to find him.

Within his gaze, I understand that from now on there will always be fair winds and smooth sailing.

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39.