Tag Archives: Jesus

Feeling Weak? Go to the Source of Your Strength

The source (beginning) of the Nile River is just a few minutes from where we stay here outside Jinja.

I'm standing at Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, just a few miles north of the Nile's source, Lake Victoria.

Mark standing at Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, just a few miles north of the Nile’s source, Lake Victoria.

The Nile is a powerful river that flows more than 1,600 miles north from Uganda through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.  The river is deep, wide and long.

Anna Poindexter, a single young lady from Colorado mentioned at our home church gathering this afternoon how she was standing by the mighty Nile when the Spirit brought to her mind how God’s love is like the Nile – deep, wide, and long with a continuous, unending source.  She asked, “Where does that water come from?”

She’s right.  Paul writes to the Ephesians in 1:7-8 In (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence..”

Grace in and of itself is…well…gracious.  But notice the words, “riches” and “abound.”  When I think of riches I think back to my childhood when I read comic books, especially the unlimited supply of wealth like Scrooge McDuck (Donald Duck’s uncle) had in the rooms in his house and swimming pool.

The idea of riches comes from my childhood days when I read comic books.

The idea of riches comes from my childhood days when I read comic books. Used legally from Free ClipArt.

Remember those pictures?  The coins and money were literally piled in his pool like water and filled his rooms.  God is so rich and He wants to share His wealth!  His riches are not just shared with us, they abound – plenteous and copious amounts!

As I mentioned in the previous blog (below), Jesus is our source of strength.  So many times I want to err back to trusting in my obedience instead of trusting and resting in Jesus Christ, the very source of our strength.

The Nile water just keeps flowing continually – I saw it again today.  The source of our strength, like the Nile, is the riches of God’s grace, love and mercy found in His Son Jesus Christ!  How awesome is that?  It’s so awesome it gives a dead person LIFE that springs up eternally!

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To Trust Obedience is to Fail, Bro.

The way to be eternally secure is to cleave to, trust, rely on and have faith in (believe in) Jesus Christ!  The way to be eternally insecure is to cleave to, trust in, rely on and have faith in anything else, even one’s obedience to God’s perfect law.  The latter will fail a person.  The first will secure a person.  His name, Jesus, means God is salvation.

When I trust in my obedience to God’s law I fail to see my own terrible lack and deficiency, my own disobedience.  I fail (come short of, be deficient in, cease to be furnished with, be cut off from the supply) in life by focusing on the idolatrous illusion of my own obedience to the detriment of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  When I trust in my obedience to God’s law I am blinded to the miserable, pitiful decay, lack and deficiency of my own need – the very reason Jesus died.  Therefore when I trust in my obedience to God’s law and commandments, my obedience is idolatrously exalted and the Source, the very Source of Life is relegated to an inferior position.

To believe in (be habitually, routinely committed to) Jesus Christ is to trust (assured resting of the mind in the veracity, integrity, justice or other sound principle of another person; confidence; reliance) in Jesus Christ (i.e. God) for my salvation. One path to failure in salvation is to trust and believe my obedience to God’s perfect commands or commandments will save me.  My obedience will fail me because I am human.  The source of life is not obedience.  The source of my eternal life is none other than Jesus Christ, who judicially declares me justified, sanctified and to be glorified.

To be saved then starts with a simple belief in Jesus Christ (John 1:12) which over time will grow to a confident assurance (strong belief) and absolute resolved single-minded purpose and determination in Jesus Christ first and foremost, above everything else and to then obey out of thanksgiving for what God has done.  As we grow we learn to not just to obey because of His gifts or His blessings, but in all assaults and barrages of lies and deceit from the enemies, in all of physical life’s circumstances we grow in Him through good times, as well as terrible suffering.

To God be the glory – He is the source of our salvation!

Update (3-21-14):

John 11:5 (Amplified Bible) “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus [They were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem.]”

When I read this verse this morning, it occured to me, I don’t view Jesus in the same way as Martha, Mary (her sister) and Lazarus did.  That’s tragic.  Why is that?

As I thought and prayed about that, it occurred to me that I still struggle in my view of God.  I still see Him too often as a Being who is watching my every move to catch when I disobey so He can correct it.  Do we really think thoughts like mine were the thoughts of Martha, Mary & Lazarus toward Jesus?

It’s their relationship with Jesus that better proclaims the beauty of the Gospel – God coming into His creation to build a relationship with fallen sinners, even an intimate friendship.  Friends and even marriage partners don’t worry about obedience, it’s more about respect for one another.  They don’t fret about obedience because obedience is not the focus of the relationship.  It’s deeper than obedience, love and gratitude toward the other person are the focus.  The focus of obedience is on the self.

Now certainly disciplines, “ought to’s,” and even at times “commands” are part of love.  But aren’t commands and obedience more of a framework, rather than a way of life?  Doesn’t the question from Jesus, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments?” a question targeted more toward those who are immature or are children than a mature friend?

Obedience certainly is clearly addressed in the New Testament, but it seems to me (and I need more time to process this and would appreciate feedback here), that obedience issues in the New Testament relate more often to non-believers and to immature believers who need warning about going astray, using grace as a license, and taking God far too casually, etc.

Think of it:  “a friend of Jesus – one who is free.”  It’s a relationship concept that I trust we all desire to have with Jesus, instead of a slave relationship (which involves oppression, not freedom).  That friend relationship is not to mature to a trust in obedience, but should mature into a strong relationship of trust in Jesus, the One who died for us.  He’s the object of our desire, right?  Or is the object obedience?  I think Jesus is the object.  For “a slave (a person oppressed to obey and keep commandments, who points to his obedience as to whether he is worthy enough) does not abide in the house forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).  Free to be a child, a maturing believer, a dear friend and eventually an intimate spouse of the King – in His very house relating to and with Him.

Suffering & Pain

Lyrics to three of four songs about suffering are below.  The best of the four songs in my opinion is Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane.  I have included a YouTube link with subtitles and brief thoughts about suffering.  Excellent video.  I hope these lyrics and video may bring a bit of purpose and/or meaning to suffering:

“I Will Not Be Moved” by Natalie Grant

“Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

“You Were There” by Avalon

and “Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane with a special message from John Piper.  The link to that video is here – it’s a comforting, hopeful message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY

If one or more of these songs mean something to you, please consider purchasing at Amazon or another provider.  The cost is about the same as a cup of coffee and the impact you receive should be greater than a 3-hour jolt from caffeine.  Much love.

I Will Not Be Moved by Natalie Grant

I have been the wayward child
I have acted out
I have questioned Sovereignty
And had my share of doubt
And though sometimes my prayers feel like
They’re bouncing off the sky
The hand I hold won’t let me go
And is the reason why…

[Chorus:]
I will stumble
I will fall down
But I will not be moved
I will make mistakes
I will face heartache
But I will not be moved
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
I will not be moved

Bitterness has plagued my heart
Many times before
My life has been like broken glass
And I have kept the score
Of all my shattered dreams and though it seemed
That I was far too gone
My brokenness helped me to see
It’s grace I’m standing on

[Chorus]

And the chaos in my life
Has been a badge I’ve worn
Though I have been torn
I will not be moved

Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day

To everyone who’s lost someone they love Long before it was their time You feel like the days you had were not enough When you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains Keepin’ you back from your life You believe that there’s nothing And there is no one who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that’s struggling just to hang on Have lost all of their faith in love And they’ve done all they can to make it right again Still it’s not enough

For the ones who can’t break the addictions and chains You try to give up but you come back again Just remember that you’re not alone In your shame and your suffering

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus

When you’re lonely And it feels like the whole world is falling on you You just reach out You just cry out to Jesus

Cry to Jesus

To the widow who suffers from being alone Wipin’ the tears from her eyes For the children around the world without a home Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

You Were There     by Avalon

I wonder how it must have felt
When David stood to face Goliath on a hill
I imagine that he shook with all his might
Until You took his hand, and held on tight

‘Cause You were there, You were there
In the midst of danger’s snare
You were there, You were there always
You were there when the hardest fight
Seemed so out of reach
Oh, You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So there he stood upon that hill
Abraham with knife in hand was poised to kill
But God in all his sovereignty had bigger plans
And just in time, You brought a lamb

‘Cause You were there,
You were there
In the midst of the unclear
You were there, you were there always
You were there when obedience
Seemed to not make sense
You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So haven’t I learned that my ways
Aren’t as high as Yours are
And You alone keep the universe
From crumbling into dust
You are God and though we would
Not have understood You
There You were

Hanging blameless on a cross
You would rather die than leave us in the dark
Every moment, every planned coincidence
Just all makes sense
With Your last breath

You were there, You were there
During history’s darkest hour
You were there, You were there always
You were the Victor and the King
You were the power in David’s swing
You were the calm in Abraham
You are the God who understands
You are the strength when we have none
You are the living, Holy one
You were, You are and You will always be
the Risen Lamb of God

You were, You are and You will always be
The Risen Lamb of God

Is There Any Purpose or Meaning to Suffering?

Before starting this blog, please note that this blog will probably offer little or no sufficient answers to a person who is currently suffering. Having experienced my own oppression, discouragement and suffering, rarely did people attempting to provide answers seem to help. Yet I think it important in times of lucidness to find meaning in suffering since people have difficulty doing so.  Even some agnostics or atheists have used suffering to question God’s existence. In reality and truth, suffering reveals glimpses of a God who has a purpose and a God who cares.

Did you realize or consider that pain and suffering are clearly acceptable at times, and at other times pain and suffering are not? Why the difference? Philip SufferingYancey in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts? quotes philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “It is not so much the suffering as the senselessness of it that is unendurable.”

Yancey then notes the different views of suffering and pain by using a couple examples, NFL football player Merlin Olsen who continued playing football on a bum knee through pain and fluid retention. His persistence and willingness to endure pain and suffering is remarkable. As the fluid buildup got so thick, medical personnel had to almost drive the needle in with a hammer. Olsen was quoted as saying, “Damn it, get the needle in there, and get that stuff out.” His words are a stark glimpse into Olsen’s willingness to endure pain in order to fulfill his desire to play football.

Yancey then contrasts birthing a child with passing a kidney stone – a similar level of pain. A woman experiences the excruciating pain of child birth because there is meaning and purpose, and then may desire to have more children. Yet, there is no desire to have additional kidney stones.

The difference is in purpose and meaning. This is no small issue.

The senselessness of Nazi Germany is often referenced by some as evidence that given the brutality and scope of the suffering, God must not exist. Some ask, “Where was God during that terrible tragedy?” Yet Yancey notes that some Jews (Frankl, Bettelheim, Wiesel) and others found meaning and fared better overall than those who did not find meaning amongst the suffering.

When pain has a positive result or outcome, we might possibly accept it better, but more importantly it gives us meaning. There’s purpose. There’s hope! To lose hope causes a person to want to quit; to despair. Despair is a painful emotion in itself. So, as humans we try to cope. In order to avoid despair, tragedy, hurts, problems, etc., one alternative is to indulge in the present, “the now” with its pleasures and entertainment. Like pain medication or drugs, indulging in the present only temporarily relieves pain and numbs the senses. But like the drug user who desires an escape, while imbibing in the drug, the drug user cares not that the high is only temporary. All that matters to the user is the “here and now.” More importantly the high postpones / defers the critical need to address underlying problems and issues the druggie has.Drugs

I believe America (and the world at large) is utilizing the drugs of pleasure, entertainment, sports, materialism and other riches to avoid the realities of and purpose of life. Rich America is not the only place. This numbing happens here in the slums of Africa, too. Sex, alcohol, drugs, pleasure, entertainment, money, material items, etc. are all desired in order to avoid and/or escape the reality of severe underlying problems – the day-to-day issues of lack of good health, lack of proper food, lack of happiness; and the larger issues which result from a broken relationship with our Creator, such as lack of answers, lack of peace and contentment, along with ultimately despair and lack of hope.

Ironically and amazingly it seems one of the challenges in an increasingly wealthy society is that meaning and purpose fade as life becomes easier, more pleasurable and materialistically driven.

Knowing this, God has provided wise counsel for those who are relatively well and are not suffering very much. Rather than stay busy with life and work, He counsels His people to care for those who are suffering: outcasts, orphans, the sick, fatherless, prisoners and the poor. Spend time with a disabled child or in a slum in Africa – be quiet, that is “shut up” talking, visit and listen, perhaps for weeks. Attend funerals, not parties. Does God work through those who suffer? Does God speak quietly and provide answers through those who suffer? I believe He does slowly, and I see Him working.

What about those folks who suffer to the point that there is no satisfactory answer, purpose or fulfillment. For example, the issue of totally disabled children (IQ’s of 30-40) or senile adults (with Alzheimer’s) who lie in bed day in and day out. Yancey asks the question, what could possibly be meaningful to these people who suffer? Yancey provides an example of an East German doctor who cared for severely mentally disabled children. For years the doctor could not answer that question, until a survey of new trainees mentioned the fulfillment and rewards the trainees experienced of helping others. The children (and their disability) gave the trainees meaning, purpose, fulfillment, compassion, appreciation for life, a different perspective, more tolerance, patience, less complaining, a renewed looked at their own problems, an appreciation for what love can do for people. It gave purpose while the child received necessary care and love.

NOTE: One should not, in my opinion, surmise from the above example that God allows or creates mentally disabled children or causes / allows adults to develop Alzheimer’s for the sole purpose of other people’s own learning and advancement alone. This kind of logic seems myopic and can be quite cruel and calloused. Rather, these terrible conditions exist in a fallen world. It is the responsibility of the world’s inhabitants to respond in care and love, and a result could very well be an insight to life’s broader questions.

Love in a society is paramount.  It should be elevated to the highest standard.  Yet our society is promoting selfishness and self-absorption, similar to drug addicts.  In February 1995 Mother Teresa stated at the National Prayer Breakfast the following reality:  “By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

What messages are we sending our young people – to commit violence and murder in order to live happy lives?

Finally, Yancey also briefly references the existentialist, Sartre’s play, No Exit Drug Paraphenaliaabout three people (two men and a woman), who after death are locked into a room together for eternity. One of the three characters in the play, Garcin, concludes, “Hell is other people.” At the end of the play (after much analysis, attempted sexual acts and attempted murder) the play closes ironically like an addicted drug user – rather than freely escaping the room of hell (which they could have done), the three characters at the close of the curtain agree, “let’s continue on.”

I ask, “For what real and lasting purpose should the three in the play continue on? Other than for purely selfish reasons?” And isn’t that the point? True hell is selfishness. Watch the lives of a drug user who will do anything to get him/herself a temporary high.

Lack of meaning. Lack of purpose. People are not hell, unless the world is all about me. People are not hell until they refuse to satisfy my needs and my pleasures. At that point people start irritating the hell which resides in each of us.

Then again, maybe people are hell, broken in pieces. And God’s purpose might just be to rescue us from ourselves by entering hell in the person of Jesus Christ and saving those who trust, believe and rely on Him. As He saves us, He whispers simple answers to life: “I am your hope, your Outcastfulfillment, your purpose.  As I have rescued you in your sin as a pleasure- seeking drug addict, follow in My steps and focus on those hell-filled sinners, especially the broken and humble of society. In that path of life you will catch a glimpse of who I (God) am while discovering love, mercy, satisfaction, meaning, fulfillment and purpose in life.”

Missions Is More Than Giving Up McDonald’s

Daniel

Daniel – an elder at Acacia Community Church; a man with a servant’s heart.

Sobering news came this week when an elder (Daniel) in our church here in Jinja and a church leader and speaker (Andrew) were traveling north in Uganda.  Police arrested and beat them.  Andrew and Daniel spoke briefly at church today.  Andrew still has a limp.  He sat during worship songs today and will be seeing a doctor about possible spine damage tomorrow morning.  Both men are married and love Jesus.

These two Christians were arrested by police or military for being thieves, beaten badly, their money and belongings (including their shoes) stolen, and thrown into jail.  One of our Ugandan brothers described the jail cell as a “closet a person would not want to spend one minute in” where other inmates were standing and urine was on the floor.

Our pastor, Terry Nester, reminded the Jinja congregation, many of us missionaries, that sometimes we joke about suffering in Uganda by missing out on McDonald’s or other conveniences and material things.  But when something like this happens with its pain, suffering and tears, it is a sobering reminder that men are evil, the powers of darkness are real, and we don’t play with Barbie dolls on the battlefield.

When Daniel and Andrew were in jail, they shared with fellow inmates that they were not thieves, but preachers of the Gospel.  Ironically Andrew was to start a new sermon series in our church’s early service (a church in Luganda language) on the book of Philippians, which has the theme of joy during suffering (Paul was a prisoner when he wrote the letter).

Please pray for Daniel and Andrew – that they and their families would heal from this physically and mentally abusive situation; for their tormenters that they would come to know Christ; and for good to come from this, even that Jesus is glorified.

On a bit lighter note, this past week Equip Uganda sponsored a training conference for Ugandan pastors about HIV, called HIV Hope.  The one-week conference was held on the outskirts of Kampala at Enid’s place (Enid is an Equip Uganda national missionary worker) and about twenty pastors attended.

Before the event even started Equip leadership received communication that two separate individuals (Ugandans) communicated two separate dreams about the good God would be doing at this conference.  Being from the west, we’re cautious about dreams, but we’re so happy to report the event was a GREAT success and we apparently received a prophetic word before hand.

Jeremy Boone related to me that by the end of the week the pastors were such a strong, unified team.  Someone had communicated to him at the end of the conference that they were not looking forward to the conference, but during the week very much enjoyed it!  The mood was very upbeat and hopeful!  A letter of sincere thanks was written to Duane, the conference speaker.  I hope to share some more information in the future, maybe even pictures.  We praise God for what He did through Duane, Enid and Enid’s family, Jeremy, Luke and the others.  If you prayed, thank you so very much!  Praise God.

Missions (whether overseas or across the street) should always get us past the frivolous like missing McDonald’s and to the real – whether suffering at the hands and batons of abusers or whether understanding the realities of life like HIV disease and placing our hope in a Savior who loves us and taught us how to suffer and still trust God.

Crazy Obsessed With Jesus Christ

One of my biggest challenges as a person who thinks critically about things and ponders things is the love of Christ coming from the heart.  It’s crazy.  Did you know the word crazy is defined as, “characterized by weakness or feebleness, decrepit, broken, falling to decay, shaky; unsafe” (Webster’s 1913 dictionary – I love that dictionary because Webster used the Bible to define terms and saw his writing of the dictionary as a ministry)? Crazy!  Isn’t that you and I?  That’s us!!!

Love is a challenge to me because it doesn’t come naturally.  Selfishness comes naturally.  As Jesus has revealed more of Himself to me and more of His desires I think I understand love more, but it still fails to make logical sense.  For example, why would a holy and righteous God (who has absolutely nothing to do with sin) become sin so that I can have a deep, intimate relationship with a  holy, righteous God?  He imputes righteousness.  Love poured out to weak, feeble, decrepit, broken people is absolutely illogical, especially when it’s love from the true source of love, the very essence of love – Jesus Christ.  The power and strength of the universe loves the weak!  Simply illogical.

However, there’s something in me that connects when I see crazy stuff people do who love Jesus.  It’s like they’re obsessed with Him.red rose on wood floow - black and white

Here are some behaviors people have when they are obsessed with Jesus (borrowed from Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love):

  •  “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying “Thank You!” to God.  An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy.  He revels in his role as child and friend of God.”

I mean really, do you not want more of that – to revel (to feast in a riotous manner) with God?  Do you not desire that intimacy?

  • “A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.”

This is beyond rigid rule and law-keeping!  This is love!

  • “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle.  Obsessed people know that you can never be ‘humble enough,’ and so they seek to make themselves less known      and Christ more known (Matt. 5:16).”

OK, this is sobering!  Except where Jesus is exalted – AWESOME!

  • “People who are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures.  Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace.”

    Rope Bondage

    Imprisoned and bound by sin and addiction.

So raw, I’m ashamed of what I’ve shared with Him.  But He’s BIG ENOUGH.

  •  “A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort.  Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God (James 1:2-4).”

Not here yet.  Work in progress, waiting on Him.

  • “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own      lives being shielded from pain or distress.”

Really, really, really not here yet.  Long way off.  Pain hurts.

  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure.  Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.”

Man, this is getting harder!

  •  “People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him.  They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distractions and alternative messages.”
  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another.  Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him (I John 2:4-6, Matt. 16:24-26).”
  • Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in  terms of success or wealth on this earth.  As Martin Luther put it,      ‘There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day’ (Luke 14:25-35, Matt. 7:13-23; 8:18-22; Rev. 3:1-6).”
  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden.  Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people (Matt. 13:44; John 15:8).”
  • “People who are obsessed with God are known as givers, not takers.  Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world. (James 2:14-26).”
  • “A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently.  Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.”
Rope Snapping

Bondage snapped by Jesus!

The apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians, “that you may know what is the hope of His calling” (Eph 1:18).  I think if we better understood and God more intimately revealed that the hope of His calling is confident expectation in the reality of His effectual (quickening, inward and invincible) call (from AW Pink), we would by His grace and power snap all cords of bondage that binds us, shrug off every weight of sin that ensnares us and run with joy – freely, crazy fast and determinately – toward the very One who saves us (Heb 12:2); a people obsessed with a goal; a people obsessed with a Person; a people obsessed with deep, unfailing, unconditional love.  It’s all about Him and He wants you and I to know we have eternal life now!  God gave us an entire epistle to tell us that (1 John 5:13).  Crazy!

The Pretender and the Genuine

There are two kinds of duty: 1) Duty of the unbeliever; and 2) Duty of the believer.  This can be illustrated by asking the question, “Why does the church goer attend worship service?”

Is it out of duty because it is good that the individual needs such encouragement and correction to be a good citizen of the great land of America?  This motivation being the protective establishment of a system of government created to provide a shield and defense of freedoms to despicable, greedy, corrupt and morally reprehensible citizens and people who naturally seek power and wealth to the detriment of themselves and society.

Or is it out of duty because I (eternally dependent upon the Spirit) am crucifying the flesh, mortifying the deeds of my old man full of evil and vile desires, that I by means of grace, therein proving through test and trial, pain and suffering that God has gifted eternal life and He will by His promise grant me by His gracious generosity on that Day the fulfillment and euphoric completion of His divine gift secured in His Son, worked out by His Spirit?

The duty of the first and former being completed by devout men and women, ignorant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having only a distant, formal, cold and incompatible public knowledge of the power of God similar to the vile devils, and thereby being spiritually dead do pile up future agony upon themselves when on that Day they come to realize their work of religion fails the test of a mighty, awesome, perfect and holy God who has patiently endured their arrogance, and in that patience has actually blessed them with many common graces that He has poured generously and lavishly upon His creation, which they have rudely, arrogantly and selfishly consumed.

The duty of the latter being the yielding and submitting of the believer to picking up the painful cross of Jesus Christ, resulting in the mortification of the deeds of the vile body by the all-powerful, artistic moving of the Creator and Savior God of the universe.

So do we then, the second, condemn the first?  No, not at all.  But rather we share the Good News of God’s great grace, that they too may believe not in themselves, but laying down their lives they take up the real and genuine power of the One who makes all things possible, even the salvation of filthy sinners by a holy and just God.

13For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:13-14

Thoughts written while reading “The Mortification of Sin” by John Owen (Chapter 1).

This Past Week

Your prayers are important and we thank God and you for them.  Our Equip team seemed to be under attack for a few days last weekend and Monday.  Michelle got sick about 3:30 am last Sunday morning and as a caution we kept her in the hospital for one night, then fellow team members had their house broken into while they were at church, another team member had trouble with an incision that just would not heal and got infected, and by God’s grace on Monday as I was taking the vehicle we are using into the garage, a ball bearing went out about 100 yards from the garage.  Had I been on the open road when the ball bearing when out at a high rate of speed about 10 minutes earlier, I would have had a very serious accident.

We’re so thankful for your prayers, especially as more ministry opens up and as we stand up for the name and person of Jesus Christ – that name in whom the Gentiles trust!  The enemy loves to get us focused on anything else besides Jesus, because He is the power of God to salvation (1 Cor 1:24; Rom 1:16).

If Satan can get us focused on our failure, on the peripheral shadows and not the substance, on our problems, on our obedience, on him the devil, or any other thing, he has had some success.  Unveil the enemy by exposing the light of Jesus Christ.  Look to Jesus, the source of our strength.  Abide in Him.  As one song entitled, (click on link to open in a new window and listen) “The More I Seek You” puts it,

“The more I seek You;

The more I find You;

The more I find You;

The more I love You.”

“I want to sit at Your feet;

Drink from the cup in Your hand;

Lay back against You and breathe,

Feel Your heart beat.

This love is so deep,

It’s more than I can stand.

I melt in Your peace,

It’s overwhelming.”

This is the love of Christ – seeking Him, not His blessings; not His gifts.  This is intimacy.  This is sitting at a meal with our Savior, sharing our deepest thoughts, listening to Him and then going out and letting the oppressed go free, breaking every yoke, sharing our bread with the hungry, bringing in the homeless, covering the naked, and not hiding ourselves from our own flesh (Isa 58:6-7).IMG_6149

Look at how the apostle Paul describes the minds of those who are perishing, “whose minds the god of this age (Satan) has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…should shine on them” (2 Cor 4:4).

That Gospel is not the gospel of Jesus’ Kingdom, it’s the very Gospel preached during this age of the church that is the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ by grace.

Ask yourself this question, if God would give you a world with no fighting, a world with no problems, a world with no tears, a world with no pain, with no sickness and all your needs satisfied, yet Jesus would not be there.  Would you want to be there?

Your answer reveals how much you love Jesus and how much you love His gifts and blessings.  Which (or better, Who) do you desire most?

Jesus Was No Sabbatarian

Luke 6:1-11 For purposes of this blog, a Sabbatarian is defined as a person who obstinately holds to the 7th day Sabbath command so much as to define who a true Christian is.  Jesus was no Sabbatarian.

In my experience as I have watched xCG’s they always have within their organizational walls those people who watch carefully to see who is breaking the Sabbath.  The Sabbath in Jesus’ time was the core religious belief, the identifying sign.  For the Pharisees the Sabbath was a complex set of rules.  Those extra Biblical laws they created resulted in the Sabbath becoming the worst day of the week.  In the Bible the 4th commandment, the Sabbath, was simple:  Keep it holy by no work.  That’s it. Simple.

The 4th commandment is silent about attending worship service.  Does that not imply 7th day worship service was a tradition or ceremonial?  And does that not imply worship should be a 7-day-a-week practice?  There is no command in the 10 commandments to go to synagogue or church on the 7th day, although that was certainly done by Jesus, and it was commanded in Leviticus 23.  Paul went to synagogue until Acts 18:6 when the Jews opposed him and blasphemed.  Paul shakes his garments and he says, “Your blood be upon your own heads…from now on I will go to the Gentiles.”  From this point forward Luke no longer records the Christian leaders going to synagogue on the 7th day Sabbath.

One thing that bugged me when I was in Worldwide Church of God (WCG) was that I knew I was a Christian because I went to church on the 7th day.  The 4th commandment is rest, not church attendance.  Yet my ticket to salvation was 7th day church attendance and rest.  That was my security.  That was my salvation – my obedience.  The other six days, I needed to live a moral life and be a good person.

Now read carefully, after Jesus heals another man on the Sabbath in John 5, Jesus says in John 5:39 to the Jews who sought to kill Him, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life.”  Stop right there.  I thought my security for eternal life was in Sabbath observance – that identified me as a child of God similar to how the Jews thought their eternal life was in the Scripture.  What does Jesus say?  And these (the Scripture) are they which testify of Me.”  The purpose of Scripture and Sabbath is pointing to the reality, the One who possesses and gives eternal life.  The purpose of the Scripture and Sabbath is to point to Jesus.  When we elevate either to eternal life security, we fail and miss the fulfillment; the Savior and the relationship with Him.

Jesus comes along, and He doesn’t just crush the extra-Biblical laws the Pharisees created, He uncovers their deceit by actually fulfilling the shadow of 7th day Sabbath observance and presents Himself as the reality and fulfillment of the shadow – the Lord of the Sabbath who says, “Come to Me all who labor and I will give you rest.”  This was prophesied in Isaiah 30:15.  You want true rest?  “Follow Me,” Jesus says.  Then your salvation will be a delight.  “The one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out.”  “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:37, 47)

But Sabbatarians ask, doesn’t following Jesus require observance of the 7th day Sabbath? Herein lies the crux of the issue:  if you didn’t keep the 7th day Sabbath, you were not a true follower of God.  In the new covenant there is no problem resting or worshipping on the 7th day Sabbath.  If the Holy Spirit leads you to do that, you should obey the lead.  The problem exists in denying the work of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ in the lives of other people whose lives and work evidence fruits of repentance.  That problem was the same problem the Pharisees had – they could not, would not, let Jesus work in their hearts and minds because they myopically limited the very work of God.  They stubbornly and obstinately refused the work and life of Jesus Christ.  They held to their 7th day framework.  Jesus said, “you will know false teachers by their fruits.”  To deny Jesus and the Holy Spirit working in lives of sinners outside the 7th day observance, that is borderline blasphemy.  It is denying the work of God through Jesus.  It is the same sin the Pharisees had.

The Pharisees missed both the Savior (God) and God healing the man with the withered hand!  They overlooked God and the miraculous healing.  Why?  In order to differentiate and reject Jesus from themselves and their religion.  They denied the work of God in Jesus in order to protect themselves, their positions and their religion.  They had control and they were not about to humble themselves and lose it for God’s glory.  After all they were God’s people.  They followed Moses.  They were children of Abraham.  Yet, Jesus came and messed all that up and they would kill Him because they hated what He brought – God’s fulfillment.  They didn’t need Jesus’ salvation, theirs was secure in their religious framework, heritage, obedience and Scriptures as opposed to being secure in Christ.

What about you?  Have you missed the healing today – I’m referring to the spiritual healing of sinners outside the walls of 7th day Sabbath observance?  Is it because you refuse to acknowledge that Jesus heals spiritually outside of the 7th day religious framework?  Sinners lives are being dramatically changed.  If you deny Jesus works outside of 7th day observance, it’s not a simple mistake.  You are denying the very work of God Himself to draw people to Himself.  That’s dangerous ground.  The Pharisees did the very same thing – denying that God would even work in a sinners life.  Those sinners never measured up.  The Jews  could not answer the healings, but in turn they refused to believe Jesus’ work and miracles in other peoples lives so as to stubbornly hold to their history, heritage and framework.

Think about it.  When the early church received news of the salvation of Gentiles, the true believers rejoiced.  The problem came from those hypocrites and Pharisees who wanted to burden the new converts with requirements of circumcision, Moses laws, eating clean meats, and 7th day Sabbath observance (Acts 15).  Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was made for man to point man to the true salvation rest found in its Maker, Jesus.  Jesus is the true, pinnacle fulfillment of the 7th day.  It’s Jesus who calls the shots on the Sabbath, not religious leaders or churches.  It’s Jesus who decides who is saved and He secures sinners.  Did He not say, “I will lose nothing” (John 6:39) and “neither shall anyone snatch them from My hand” (John 10:28)?

Don’t miss the symbolism in Luke 6:6-11.  This man’s right hand was withered, probably from paralysis.  The right hand represents the strength of a man, work.  It was withered.  The Pharisees watched carefully to see if Jesus would heal this man on the Sabbath.  They knew He could heal.  Was the paralysis healed on the Sabbath so the man could do Kingdom work?  It’s an interesting thought, but the text reveals Jesus did this healing defiantly, right in front of them as a witness and testimony of who He is.  The result was rage!  It got them mad enough to kill Him!

xCG’s always have within their walls those people who watch carefully to see who is breaking the Sabbath.  Why?  They don’t want to lose that identifying sign.  That sign is their security, while Jesus is minimized; secondary.  They cannot and some will not, see Jesus as their salvational security.  They essentially don’t trust Him.  “If I mess up, make a mistake, God is so harsh He may kick me out,” they reason.

Isn’t that the idea of the man who received one talent, who did nothing with it because he knew Jesus to be a hard man?  Matthew 25:26 Jesus says of this man, “you wicked and lazy servant.”  This man didn’t work, he physically rested.  His hand of work you might say was withered because he was paralyzed with fear of God as opposed to joy; obstinately holding to what Jesus had given him, hiding the gift and ultimately denying the Lord and Savior, the true Jesus.

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Desiring God above His Gifts

Turn to Jesus, our true rest.  Leave your salvation in His capable hands.  He will cause you to rest, but also do His work.  If you are convicted by the Holy Spirit to observe the 7th day rest and gathering for worship, do so.  Just do not commit divisions, disunity and borderline blasphemy by rejecting the work of God amongst other Christians who follow Jesus within the Body and have fruits of righteousness and lives that glorify God.  This is what true atonement means – being at one with God because of what Jesus has done for us.  Jesus will never disappoint.  If Jesus were to ask you, “Why are you saved?” and you answer, “Because of my obedience,” you’ve got the cart before the horse and you’re resting in failure, for He is the power to repent, love and obey.
Some of the thoughts and ideas from this blog and it’s title come from John MacArthur’s sermon on this piece, as well as my own research and experience.  See http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/42-70/

What Does Jinja Remind You Of?

The city of Jinja rests at one of the northern points of Lake Victoria.  We can see the lake in the distance from the house we rent.

The city was founded in 1906 and has a current population of at least 80,000 at night. It is estimated that the population during the day more than doubles, some official estimates are as high as over 200,000. It is Uganda’s second largest city.  Sources vary on the average income in Jinja between $100 – $500 US dollars per year.  Per year, not per day or month.

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Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, to the North of where Ripon Falls used to be. Ripon Falls is now covered by water due to a dam being created on the Nile in 1954. Jesus said if we believe in Him, out of our hearts would flow rivers of Living Water, which He said was symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

Jinja is the “Source of the Nile” – the place where the Nile River begins flowing from Lake Victoria towards Egypt.

Years ago large rivers like the Nile separated people groups, formed some protection from enemies, but also hindered trade and forming of relationships. But here in the Jinja area near the source of the Nile, large rocks created a pathway across the large river near Ripon Falls.

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The Nile River north of Jinja. This photo is taken looking to the south toward Jinja and Lake Victoria. The lake being just over the mountain in the background.

Because of this rocky path the place was named Jinja, a word which comes from the two tribes, Baganda and Basoga, on either side of the Nile. In both tribal languages the name “Jinja” means “rock.”

This history of the Jinja area has deep spiritual symbolism. In a number of places in the Bible God and Jesus are referred to as a rock and the rock of our salvation (Deut 32:15; 2 Sam 22:47; Psm 95:1; Matt 7:24; etc.).  In the New Testament Jesus also said of Himself, “I am the way” (John 14:6) or path.  Our sin separates us from God and the only way or path to an initial and ongoing relationship with God is the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father, except by me.” (John 14:6).

Additionally, Jesus said He was the source of eternal life and the Holy Spirit (John 4:11-14 and 7:38), metaphorically illustrated in the Bible as (rivers) of living water.

Living in Jinja reminds us of the insurmountable and impossible task of trying to overcome the oppression of poverty and sin, but more importantly Jinja reminds us of the true answer to life’s problems, the refreshing source of living water, the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.