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Archive for June, 2008

The Apostle Paul often returned to his tent-making trade during his ministry. You’ll find the accounts in Acts 18:1-3, Acts 20:33-35.

For those of us in ministry, it’s good to remember that tent-making is not a detour, but actually part of the ministry road God has called us to. He hasn’t changed directions; His path is sure. It’s all part of His good work in and through us.

It’s with joy and trust in the Lord then that I wander back to my tent-making trade (community development) for the next few months. I’ll need to take a short break from blogging, but will be making periodic posts.

I pray you find refreshment in reading older posts and listening to the MP3 files. May God richly bless you!

Deb

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There’s nothing more reassuring to me than knowing God is sovereign. He’s God, I’m not. Seems so obvious, doesn’t it?

It’s a good thing to remind ourselves that God is God and we are His children. Sometimes I forget that simple fact. Sometimes I think it’s all up to me…all up to me to carry the load, all up to me to figure life out, all up to me to _______. It’s exhausting.

You know, some of us grew up carrying an enormous sense of responsibility. I know I did. From the time I was four to sixteen years old, my parents had over 13 legal separations. They finally followed through with their threats when I was 20 and got a divorce. My childhood, as well as my brothers, was an environment of escalation and de-escalation. There was the rising tide of intense conflict, then release. Well, sort of release, at least there was temporary escape.

It’s a long story, but during those years, I learned to assume responsibility for things I had no responsibility for. I especially assumed responsibility for my parent’s happiness. I tried to comfort them and make them contented in their marriage. I naturally put myself in the role of figuring out their marital conflict. For obvious reasons, that’s a big problem for an eight year old. Shoot, that’s a big problem for anyone to carry around!

There are many of you who grew up in a similar situation. There are many who have adopted the motto, “It’s all up to me.” Even if we know on an intellectual level that isn’t true, we are hard-wired to go there. It’s a stronghold, a well-established pattern of thinking that hinders us from seeing God as He really is, and seeing ourselves as something we aren’t.

How do we make the break from these strongholds? Well, one thing is for sure, it’s not up to us.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is a good place to begin. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying (casting or pulling down) speculations (ways of thinking, forms of logic) and every lofty thing (vain imaginations) raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”

There’s always a Biblical context to consider and in this case, Paul is encouraging the Corinthian believers to not be swayed by those who want to discredit him because his approach is too meek when present or too bold in his letters (2 Corinthians 10:1-2). In other words, there were those who made a big deal about his appearance and approach. They were hung up on his flesh and consequently, disregarded the Word of God. Paul redirects them by reminding them that the real battle has NOTHING to do with our flesh and everything to do with the spiritual realm. Namely, the unseen battle that is raging around us.

Part of the unseen battle takes place in the human mind. The patterns of thought: speculations, logic, reasoning, and every lofty, vain imagination that is set against a true knowledge of God. Any thought that raises itself up against God is a fortress.

“Fortresses” is an interesting word in the Greek. It’s ochuroma. It has the idea of a castle, a stronghold, or anything on which one relies as if to fortify or defend oneself. Again, it is a fortress (logic, wrong ideas, concepts, imaginations) that fortifies itself against a true knowledge of God.

When I was a little squirt, logic formed in my mind that said, “It’s all up to me!” Over the years, it developed into a pattern of thought, a well-established fortress that has often prevented me from standing on the firm foundation of who God is. The thought raises itself up against God by suggesting “I” am responsible. It’s pure HOGWASH, but it’s a pattern of thought nonetheless (though an often unconscious one).

Okay, here’s one of the most important aspects of this passage, “…for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” 2 Corinthians 10:4. What do the words “divinely powerful” mean? Theos! It means the Godhead, the only true God. It is the Mighty Power of God that destroys the fortress.

The second most important truth in this passage is the word WE. It’s written to a body of believers, not to an individual. “We, by the power and might of God, are destroying speculations…” “We, by the power and might of God, are taking every thought captive.” This is not a one-man/woman job. It doesn’t happen through introspection and navel lint picking. It doesn’t happen through years of self-analysis, it happens by the strength and might of Almighty God in the context of the Body of Christ.

Here’s the thought I want to leave with you… There is indeed the sense in which we, individually, must refute (deny) the lies of the enemy and any stronghold, and do so by the Power of God. But please look closely at what Paul is saying in this passage, “We are taking captive…” It’s not up to me. It’s not up to you to do it alone. We are doing it together, and we are doing it under the power and authority of God. We are doing it in prayer and we are doing it steadfastly, but we are doing it IN Christ and Christ is doing it IN us.

It is Christ in you Who works and wills and brings about your obedience. The final objective is our obedience, because that is where we experience our liberty in Him. To have our life and our thoughts line up with the true knowledge of God is pure delight, not a burden. It’s ALL about Him, it’s all up to Him…He has it all covered! That’s the truth.

Today’s recording, Divine Multitasking, are my musings from last night. I hope you find encouragement in the recording.

Your hand fits perfectly in His hand. Your hand belongs in His. His hand is MUCH bigger than yours. He will never let go of your hand!

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Well, there are lots of answers to that question. I would love to read your own.

The most significant reason Christians become legalistic is that we either don’t know or have forgotten the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the thrust of the message behind Galatians. While those in the Church of Galatia heard the Gospel and began to walk in Christ, they did not hold fast to their faith. They quickly abandoned the Gospel for “another gospel”, one that was presented by Judaizers. In so doing, they became legalistic. They attempted to live a holy, religious life in their own effort. They clung to traditions and the old Jewish laws.

If you haven’t read Galatians lately, take a look at the boldness and passion behind Paul’s words. This isn’t a lightweight confrontation. In fact, in our non-offensive western style, we might consider Paul’s approach to be out of line. He even rebukes Peter in front of the congregation. Yikes. If he did that today, there would be legal action taken against him!

Why is Paul so alarmed and emphatic? Because the Gospel message was being corrupted and distorted. The Judaizers were using it for their own personal gain and satisfaction, and in doing so, they led others astray. They were causing others to desert the Lord. In fact, in Galatians 1:8-9, Paul says those who distort the Gospel are to be accursed. Accursed? Yes, it means something is doomed to destruction. Cursed, rejected, set aside for God to deal with. Gulp.

It’s a serious thing to teach legalism. It’s a serious thing to teach license. It’s a serious thing to distort and proclaim a different kind of Gospel than the one Christ taught, and what Paul proclaimed.

What is the Gospel? I am a sinner, full of every destructive tendency known to man. By nature, I am a child of wrath, separated from God. When I repent of my sin—acknowledging my spiritual bankruptcy to please God through human effort—and I accept Jesus Christ as the one and only true God, I am then granted forgiveness and salvation. I’m saved, not just from eternal judgment, but something radical takes place in my life: I am a new creation. New desires. New motives. New SOURCE. Christ now lives in me. And as a result, I live in daily surrender to His authority. Christ indwells me and I live for His glory, desiring only to yield to His perfect will…as a bondservant. I am no longer my own, free to do as I choose, instead, my ambition is to walk in faithful obedience to God.

That in brief (and in part) is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All those who distort the Gospel should be gravely concerned… It’s an awesome responsibility to teach the Word. May we never take it lightly, and may we never distort it.

In Christ alone,
Deb

[The Gospel is not the most popular message in postmodern churches today. In fact, you might find a more watered down presentation of the Gospel, or even a different, distorted gospel. May the whole Church, the Body of Christ, return to God’s pure word. God have mercy on us if we don’t.]

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External conformity is so tempting, isn’t it? The “do and do not” lists of any religion is passionately pursued, and of course, passionately resisted. Those who conform the best are the more highly esteemed within the religious order… You know, the ones who get the browny points.

I was always the more rebellious type. I grew up with “Christians don’t drink or smoke!” As a teenager I remember having an overwhelming urge to violate that religious standard. I did so, many times.

What was so repulsive to the legalists of Jesus day was His lack of conformity to “their interpretation” of the Jewish Law. Jesus, who fulfilled the Law in every way, completely disrupted the theology of the orthodox Jews. They couldn’t get over it!

Jesus kept pointing to the heart of man–man’s sin nature; the Jews kept pointing to the externals. He spoke of transforming life through the Spirit. He spoke of surrender and dependence, not self-effort and external conformity.

As we study the Word of God, we see that the Law was a tutor, sent by God, to teach us that real life doesn’t come through religious conformity. The Law doesn’t give life, it points us to Real Life, by making us aware of our great need. Real Life comes through the Spirit of the Living Lord. Any molding, shaping, conforming to the Word of God happens inside out by the Holy Spirit, not outside in through human effort. Oh…

So, why do Christians sometimes become legalistic?

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Outlining Galatians

In preparation for this weekend’s retreat (Traveling Light: Leaving Excess Baggage Behind), I’ve been outlining the book of Galatians. I spent the greater portion of yesterday doing so and will finish the last two chapters today.

When I first began outlining I was a bit overwhelmed by all the diverse messages. Paul packs so much in his letters and it seems one could form an outline from each sentence. Of course, behind the sentence structure and compound thoughts is the mighty work of the Holy Spirit–breathing into Paul exactly what He wants him to write. It’s amazing to read God’s word from that perspective.

The longer I study and meditate on the book of Galatians, the more I see Paul’s passionate heart as a concerned spiritual father. But where did his concern originate? Is it just a scolding letter written to believers who abandoned the Gospel in order to follow a bunch of legalists? Who’s behind Paul’s passion? Jesus. Yes, there is a provoking sting to his words, but “listening” closely you “hear” the caring rebuke and clear instruction of the risen Savior.

Of course, the Holy Spirit would send a compelling word to the church of Galatia, He loves them. He might as well be saying, “Wake up foolish saints and remember your identity in Me! I’ve clothed you with My righteousness so there is no need to dink around with your own pathetic version of righteousness. Give it up and move on with Me.”

I would do well to heed the same.

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Someone once said that the reference to “the Hound of Heaven” is found in Psalm 23:6, where it says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” I think that’s true. The Hebrew word for follow is radaph, and it has the meaning of being pursued, chased after, or to aim to secure. Wow, I love that thought! God chases after us to show us His goodness and mercy.

There is another aspect of the Hound of Heaven that is not nearly so pleasant, and definitely more challenging, but nonetheless a pure demonstration of His goodness and mercy. It’s His discipline and chastening. Hebrews 12:6 says, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son who He receives.”

In the middle of His discipline it hardly seems like He is chasing after us with goodness and mercy. It feels more like harsh punishment than love, doesn’t it? During those times of great testing we often feel like God has abandoned us.

He doesn’t coddle us. He doesn’t tolerate our fleshly activity rather He goes to the very underbelly of our nature and purifies us. As hard as it is, that’s the best part of knowing Him. Every time we are disciplined we can be assured of our son-ship and daughter-ship. His discipline proves He loves us!

To listen to the Hound of Heaven click here. You can also find the link under Listen To to the right of this page.

Glory to the King!

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The more we walk in humble obedience before God, the more intense the battle. At times the battle is vicious, the assaults unnerving, and the trouble taunting. We tire. We are tempted to retreat. Our confidence wanes. No, there are times our confidence takes a nose dive into despair…

Lest we forget, we are in a holy war against the forces of evil. Satan strikes to render us ineffective and powerless. He wants only to neutralize and counteract the life-changing power of Jesus Christ in the believer. Every assault and every temptation of the enemy has that single purpose: knock out the saint!

No, Satan and his demons of darkness are not our primary concern, but we are most definitely faced with spiritual warfare on a daily basis. As Paul says in Ephesians 6:11, we are to “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”

Have you ever noticed that word schemes? It’s the Greek word methodeia. It means cunning arts, deceit, craft, or trickery. Yes, the enemy uses “methods” to deceive and trip up the believer. That’s a sure thing we need to know. To ignore it is foolishness. We’ve known too many effective ministers of the Gospel who have been caught in the snare of the enemy.

If you haven’t read Ephesians 6 lately, please do so. It’s Paul’s battle cry to the believer.

Remember your armor, but most importantly remember whose armor it is. It is the Holy Armor of the Living Lord! It is the “full armor OF GOD” that we are putting on. We are to sink into the armor of faith, into His word, to remember the hope of our salvation, and to stand in our identity in Christ. Remember we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ!

Reading between the lines you might guess that I have been in the middle of a spiritual attack. Indeed, we all have! From one saint to another I am encouraging you to STAND FIRM! Don’t shrink from your victory in Christ.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share in the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exaltation” 1 Peter 4:12-13.

Glory to God in the Highest!

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