A Disciple’s Proclamation

“I am finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, frivolous living, selfish giving, and dwarfed goals. I lean on Christ’s presence. I love with patience, live by prayer, and labor with the power of God’s grace. My face is set. My gait is fast, my goal is heaven. My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and spoken up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus” 

— Sister Ann Shields

 

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Calibrating Your Heart to His

Calibration is necessary.

“May the patience and encouragement that come from God allow you to live in harmony with each other the way Christ Jesus wants.”

Romans 15:5

“Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person.”

Philippians 2:2

The science and method of calibration provides us with a way to bring two, or more things into harmony.  It is done frequently on diverse things as scientific instruments, avionics, or music.  Without ‘this quest for harmony’ readings and things degrade into a thing of futile confusion.

A piano is tuned, and the worship leader then tunes into that piano.    The worship team is blending simultaneous sounds of different pitch or quality, making chords. This takes practice, and a gift. This principle is enhanced when we think of several gears that mesh and turn together.  There is a certain congruity, or a symmetry that makes it successful.

We need a “calibration of our spirits” with God’s Holy Spirit.  We tune in to Him.  His word is a little bit like a “tech manual”, showing us, and helping us.  He helps us adjust so that we are harmoniously flowing with Him and with others.

Have you ever met a believer not in harmony?  I bet you have. They may have a belief that is out-of-balance.  It may be health, or sickness.  That is quite common today.  Finances are also an issue, or politics.  I lived in San Francisco in the ’80s.  There was a small church down in Pacifica who would drive up to ‘worship on the street’ with us.  They were incredible!  They had a sensitivity and anointing that other groups didn’t have.  They loved Jesus very much, and it showed.

Within six months they disbanded, and went their own ways.  I was told that their meetings were essentially ‘gutted out’.  They became fanatical about the’anti-abortion’ message to such an extreme they didn’t even have a church service anymore.  It was now nothing more than a political rally, and they were not even reading the Word.  They were no longer calibrated to the Spirit or the Church.  They were no longer aligned to the truth.

I have to be regularly adjusted into a harmony with the promises of God.  I need my gauges to be consistent with the Word.  Not to be ‘heavy’ on certain things. I realize that my illness causes me to be very inconsistent.  I suppose I am God’s ‘ping-pong ball.’  I wish I was different, but the promises given are that He intends to change me.  I bet He can do this remarkable thing.

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Disproportionate Suffering

John Newton, 1725-1807

Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’ The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.” 

— John Newton

All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an inordinate amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. All we can do is shake our heads and admire their faith in God’s grace.

Ministering to these sufferers can be a challenge. What can we say to these who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in pain?

Perhaps a simple word of encouragement is the most effective. In the midst of my difficulties I had a dear brother who faithfully quoted Philippians 1:6 to me:

 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

It was a welcome thing he did. I didn’t mind it all, as a matter of fact I grew to like it. My faith began to mix with the Word and I began to believe it. It’s now my favorite verse in the Bible.

He refused to preach (or counsel) at me. He had the maturity to see what God was doing and to make himself available to God on my behalf. Perhaps that patience he showed should be the method of choice?

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

Romans 5:3

A key word in this verse is “rejoice.” It is a good reminder that the pain we feel is not the end. These trials have a limited duration (although it seems far away). There is coming a day when we navigate through these issues and come out on the other side.

Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing. We must be patient and humble in this matter.

A “word” spoken out-of-place can cause more conflict for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap saying not a word.

 

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Loving Others (Like Jesus Loved Us)

 

““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.””

– John 13:34-35

What is “love” like?  How do we consistently understand love when we fall short of it all the time?

We understand love by coming to know Jesus.  He not only explains it, but He also exhibits it–He puts it out in the public eye for all to see.  His explanation of what love is will mean a cruel death in order to save us.  When Jesus dies, I am saved.  My salvation has absolutely nothing to do with me– and everything to do with Him, and all that He has done.

Jesus helps us to see others.  He makes a definitive statement, that we are to love others.  We are to use what He has done for me, as an example.  What Jesus did is the pattern, the prototype.  We are to be the photostat or mimeograph.  As believers we are to be captured and drawn into this approach.

We are to find someone, and then, in some sense, ‘die’ for them. That is the way God’s love is.

That very strong word, must in verse 34 cannot escape our attention.  It implies a deep and a very definite commitment to doing that is beyond us.  We ‘must’ connect and receive all that moves through our life.  We love the unlovely, and this is irrational. God says that people are worth crucifixion. We’re the criminals, and the judge has sentenced us. And then He Himself has decided to pay our penalty. This is ‘agape’ love.

We must love accurately. We should love the way He loves us.  We cannot do anything less. 

But the love of Jesus is tracking each wanderer.  He is working to connect with every person on this planet.  No one escapes His view, or His love.  Everyone who belongs to Him, is required to know this.  Our Lord is definitely not going to move if there are still “seekers” still out there.  He leaves no one behind.

Loving others will require a significant broadening of the way we see things.  We purposefully lift up Jesus because He lifted us.  We exalt Him because we have discovered we are so pitiful.  We must be convinced, that His way, is the way of the cross.

We must love more accurately —the same way He loves us.  We cannot do anything less.  For many of us, love is just a concept–a way of feeling ‘warm and fuzzy’ inside.  But it is far more than feeling nice thoughts. It is all about “the extra mile” and we honestly can’t make that trip if we haven’t been willing to die ourselves.

 

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Being Obscure Just Like Jesus

I am processing something right now. I suppose its implications have the potential of turning everything ‘upside down’ for me at least. Some scientists have postulated that our planet is due for a complete magnetic switchover. This is when north becomes south, and vice versa. My issues at this moment are not quite that cosmic, but nevertheless my own world is being ‘rocked.’

There are seven billion people now alive on this planet. They wouldn’t know me from any other person. Sometimes I wonder if many of my issues come from not seeing this, and putting far too much emphasis on my own self-esteem. It seems it is an intoxication of success. We become self-deluded. We think it’s about our effort, our giftedness, what we do with the opportunities God gives us. We desire to attain and ascend. Finding an eminence among our peers (or trying anyway). Pride drives us, even among believers.

3 “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

Jesus was not driven like we seem to be. We truly think we need to be assertive, (at least the Christian version of it.)  Jesus’ message and teaching were all about emptying Himself of being God, and becoming a servant of servants. And this is the salient factor we so blithely fail to consider. Jesus wore a foot-washers towel, not a tiara. 

6 “Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

Can we avoid doing this? Does our discipleship include emptying ourself of self daily? Can I find a peace and fulfillment by becoming an unknown (except to God?)

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart, It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”   

Andrew Murray

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(All verses are from Philippians 2, NLT.)

 

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Plunging the Depths of Grace

“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Luke 7:36-39, ESV

A woman of the city, that explains so much.  She comes with a lot of baggage; she has seen all the world at its worst.  Her life has been hard, she has made poor decisions. Enough to pull her into the presence of Jesus.

She may be a stripper, an addict, a porn star. It doesn’t matter, she is a sinner, and scripture does not elaborate beyond this.  All we know is she is ‘a woman of the city,” and that she is referred to as “a sinner.” The sin has made her a desperate person. She steps forward, and does not care about what the crowds are saying about her. She has heard it all before. She comes with her flawed and inadequate heart, to anoint him with an ointment that is somewhat susceptible because of her past.

She pushes forward, pressing past the inner ring of disciples who are ‘protecting’ Jesus.  She takes what she has, and pours it on Jesus’ feet.  It is a concentrate of a perfume that is intense, and very much a declaration of what her heart is wants to do. The scent of this ointment undoubtedly very strong, and lingers, being a concentrate. It probably comforted Jesus while he was being nailed to the cross. He would remember what she had done to him. Her love would comfort him as he was dying.

Jesus acknowledges her decision to bless him in this unique way.  She pushes to him with a single mindedness that we can only marvel at.  She falls at his feet, and Jesus allows himself to be touched by a women that has such a difficult and dark past.  I truly believe He takes everyone whoever comes to him. He passes no judgement on her, and people who are like her— like me.

He has no issues, and accepts all who the Father brings to him.

This sinful woman has shown the way for sinners like us to connect.  Her action establishes for us a precedent— a sure way to advance into his presence.  We start by admitting that we are in a very desperate state.  Her example focuses everyone to all  what is truly important, and we dare not slip past her example. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We know that this is true.

We must come, as she has come, in faith that only He can forgive us.  We should come with a radically intense intention to be with him.  There must be a real decision (on our part) to follow after him.  When we actually fall at his feet, we will find ourselves to be completely forgiven.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Luke 7:47-48

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Dying is Part of Living

Photo by Diane Loft

Photo by Diane Loft

“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”

Romans 6:6, NLT

“There are two things which the Church needs: more death and more life— more death in order to live; more life in order to die.”

C.A. Fox

The need of this moment is critical. Many believers have never came to this point of ‘knowing.’ Maturity comes when one realizes that crucifixion has dealt with the old man. We died when He died, we were there when He died, we were part of that event. Romans 6 is all about a believers ‘co-crucifixion’ with Jesus Christ. Calvary was far more than a religious event— it was where our sin was terminated. It was more than just a penalty carried— it was where our old nature put to death.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

Sin has no power to sway a dead man. A man who is dead doesn’t respond to a girl in a leopard skin bikini. (It doesn’t matter if she is insanely gorgeous.) He no longer can be tempted to sin. Why?  Because he is dead. This is not an issue of semantics, it is not poetic interpretation of a metaphor. It rings true in heaven.

Sin should no longer remain in power of a believer’s life. We believe that our sins have been dealt with on the cross, that Jesus took our sins from us, bearing them as a ‘sacrificial lamb.’ But the same is true to say, “My sinful nature was also crucified with him.”

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”

John 12:24

The principle is from farming. A kernel of wheat will bring an abundance. But it must be buried first. The dead seed miraculously sprouts. At the moment of death it suddenly receives a new life. The dead seed grows into a bountiful harvest. This is the New Testament principle of dying to self. A few things:

  • we are not sinless— we must deal daily with the sinful part of us,
  • this must be taken by faith, much like anything else from God,
  • discipline aids our quest for holiness, 1 Tim. 4:8
  • fulfills the sacrament of water baptism, it’s a daily reckoning, Rom. 6:4,
  • temptations can be really strong, but He enables us,
  • this is a God honoring way to live.

Crucifixion should always be taken by faith in God’s Word and it will lead to resurrection. Crucifixion weakness is necessary for resurrection power. Jesus shares his life with us— his power is given to his people. He shares all that he is so we might become like him.

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”

Romans 6:12-13

I’m convinced that as people with issues: physical and mental, we are given a gracious teacher in the person of the Holy Spirit. He will never condemn our feeble efforts to be holy. Be encouraged: God makes the weakest of us strong.

 

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