November 11 – Beneficial Sufficiency

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)

Context is important all the time an especially for our verst today. It comes in the midst of Paul’s defense of his apostleship to the believers in Corinth. Such is our promise today. This is God’s universal purpose for all the suffering Christians have in life. Suffering develops our trust and contentment in God as we learn to have less dependence on ourselves and the ways of this world. Paul stresses for us, that in our sufferings we find the glory of Christ’s all-sufficient grace magnified. God repeats for us each time, what He said to Paul in answer to the request to remove the thorn of suffering he was experiencing, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  It is sufficient and beneficial because the power of Christ is given to us to overcome suffering. And that power is made perfect when we need it most – when our weaknesses are most exposed. So suffering is intended by God not only as a way to wean us off of self and onto grace, but also as a way to spotlight that grace and make it shine. That is exactly what faith does: it magnifies Christ’s grace in the future.

– 197 –

Holding Fast

The comments and thoughts in this post were sparked to life by this passage from a blog I read recently.

Speaking of the beginning of time, as we are accustomed to think about it, the author of the blog says…
“It wasn’t always this way. In the beginning God came to a place that was formless, empty, and dark. The Bible tells us “the Spirit of God was hovering”  [Gen. 1:2] over this place before He went to work creating a space where He could enjoy fellowship with you and me.”

It is positively mind-blowing to attempt to capture an understanding of the creation process by God who tells us he can not be contained, explained, or captured in thought. It is so beyond our ability that even when we do our best, we end up making statements and conjectures that are truly non sequiturs. No matter how earnest and careful we are, we humans will always get in the way and our conclusion will be tainted with our imagination and preconceived concepts of God and the world.

Consider an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator God who IS and always has BEEN and the closest self description He has given us about who He is, is the statement he gave many times when speaking about who he is.

“I AM.”

Now, consider how this God could possibly “come to a place that was formless, empty and dark.” Did He come as in a passage of “time”? Did He come as He moved about within the confines of an existing universe? Were there other “places” He could have come to that were not so formless, empty and dark? Did He come after considering other options? No. No. Don’t Know. Don’t Know. But we can understand to a limited degree that He is the universal START to all that we know.

We can only apply the language we have using the understanding and knowledge we have – all of which is extremely finite. He, on the other hand is Creator of all things. Nothing that exists was not created by Him. He is the One who holds everything together. The formless, empty and dark place was not a place he arrived at but a place he created. He cannot arrive if he exists everywhere and always has.

My feeble attempt would be that he first created the “stuff” out of nothing at all and then used the “stuff” to create a stage or workshop wherein he created the Universe we have which did have a beginning out of nothing even though God’s eternity is complete and exists outside of any concept of time as we understand it. For God, there is no eternity past or eternity future, there is Him. He IS and He has always BEEN, therefore, He can say I AM with no limitations “Before Abraham was, I AM. A concept beyond our ability to manage in our processing and effots to get above what is around us and explain it.

It is simply and totally mind-blowing. We will someday know just as we have been know. Then, while still created beings, we will understand more.

November 2 – Revealed from Him Through Him

“All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  John 16:15 (ESV)

Jesus is the Word, and the Word is God. He is the revelation of the Father. Paul expresses it as  “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).  Therefore, all that belongs to the Father also belongs to the Son.  Our verse declares how the Spirit of Truth reveals God to us. Our promise in this verse is that the Holy Spirit also speaks on the authority of God the Son. He brings glory to Jesus when He speaks and all that He hears and affirms to us. Whatever God has for us to know about himself, about Jesus, and they are one with the Spirit, it is the Spirit of God that brings that truth to us and reveals that truth to us. God our Father does not give us these promises, (the ones we read each day) and then leave us to draw them out of the Word like buckets of water from a well. No, the promises are out of His Word and are written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Our guide to truth and glory from the Bible is God’s Holy Spirit.  He takes what is Christ’s and reveals it to us daily. 

– 199 –

THE 4 C’s OF SUPPORTING SOMEONE WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS

By Robert DuffJanuary 8, 2018Blog Post

https://www.duffthepsych.com/4cs/

One of the things that is difficult across the board is understanding how to support someone with mental health issues. People on the outside will say, “Let me know if you need anything!” or “I’m here for you.” Those statements are nice, but they place the burden on the person who is suffering. They may actually feel pressure to come up with a way that you can help. Then again, if you offer some specific way helping, there is no guarantee that someone will be willing to take you up on it. The bottom line is that it’s confusing and it’s hard to know the right way to help people with anxiety or depression. As a psychologist and the spouse of someone with significant mental health struggles, I have come up with a few key principles that can help you be the best supporter possible. I like to call them the 4 Cs of supporting someone with a mental illness.
If you’ve ever bought a diamond ring for someone, you probably became quite familiar with cut, clarity, carat, and color. Those are the 4 Cs of diamonds. A helpful little mnemonic to help you understand just how much of your annual income you are about to blow. When it comes to supporting someone with mental illness, we can distill it down to another 4 Cs: clarity, consistency, compassion, and curiosity. Let’s break these 4 Cs of supporting someone with a mental illness down.

CLARITY
Say exactly what you mean. If you don’t understand what your friend or loved one is feeling, say so. If you don’t know how to help, but care so much that it hurts, say so. A person with mental illness is likely to mentally distort what you say into an interpretation that fits their internal narrative. For example, if you say, “I don’t know what to do for you,” they may interpret that as, “they are tired of my crap and they don’t have any more energy to figure out how to help.” Even if that’s far from the truth, this interpretation is what will stick regardless of what you actually meant. Therefore, in the spirit of clarity, it can be helpful to make less room for interpretation. For instance, you could say “I really care about what you’re going through and I want to help, but I’m not sure the best way to do that. I’ll keep trying, but if there is something specific I can do, please tell me.” That’s pretty damn clear. They still might not believe you, which leads me to the second principle…

CONSISTENCY
Consistency is so important when dealing with mental health issues. By nature, people with depression or anxiety are going to vary in their moods, their mental clarity, and their willingness to interact. You don’t have control over that. So when you say a very clear supportive statement like we talked about above, the person might seem to blow it off or may not be in a place where they can believe you yet. That’s why you want to be consistent. Keep telling them so that one day when those defenses are not as strong and the barriers ease up a bit, they might take you up on your offer or hear what you mean.
COMPASSION
This one may be a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s hard to adequately support someone with mental illness if you don’t actually care about what they are going through. Demonstrating that you understand the gravity and the important of their mental illness can mean a great deal to someone who is struggling. You don’t have to know exactly what they are experiencing, but you do need to appreciate the impact that it has on their life. You need to recognize that they do not want to be this way, but haven’t found a way to work themselves out of it yet. Mental illness is pervasive and it colors your entire experience. It may mean the world to them if you simply understand that it hurts, and it’s exhausting, and they feel guilty for what they are. Be there and reassure them that you see their struggle and don’t think they are are any less for it.

CURIOSITY
The best way to build compassion for someone is to try to understand what they are going through. This can be hard with someone who has no firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to live with mental illness. That’s where curiosity comes in. You can achieve a better understanding and more empathy for what someone is experiencing if you have a genuine interest in what they are going through. Ask questions. Do research and read about their issue. Try to avoid making assumptions and, instead, observe. Look for the subtle or obvious ways that the person’s mental illness creeps into their life. Asking questions goes a long way because even two people with the same psychiatric disorder can have two very different experiences with it.

And there you have them. The 4 Cs of supporting someone with mental illness. If two of these look familiar, that’s because I mentioned them in one of my weekly emails that I send out each Monday. If you’ve like more quick content (like mini blog posts) to start your week, please sign up!

If You’ve Been Told Once…

How many time in our young lives did we hear out parents, teachers or even friends, brothers and sisters say, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times …blah …blah …blah”? Probably a million times, right?

Well, there is something to repetition. It underscores the importance of a message and it actually increases the potential of the message to reach into and settle in the brain of the person reading, hearing or seeing the message.

A favorite claim by many, including Rick Warren, one of the pastors of Saddleback Church and probably the one most well known, likes to promote the claim that the Bible says “fear not”, or “do not fear”, or “do not be afraid” or something else that means the same 365 times in the Bible.  One for each day (except, I guess on leap year).  Well it is not true.

Yes, we are told often and in many ways that fear is not necessary if it means we are afraid of what might be coming down the pike or around the corner.  Funny thing though, we are also told many times to “fear the Lord” and “fear God,” in various ways. We are taught to not fear them but to fear Him. All in all it is really rather a tangled mess if we try to count and align good fears and bad fears so that we can know when it is okay to fear (God) and when we need not fear (bad) or we need not fear (God).

Here is the take-away. God only has to tell us one time for something to  be true and for us to be responsible to understand and obey it.  God could have told us just once “Do not be afraid of them, or Me, or it, or this consequence, or that outcome.”  And we could know that since God said it, it is true.  Repetition does not make it more true. Telling us 365 times is not necessary for it to be a commandment we follow.  But he does tell us many times in many ways. As he has told many different people over the centuries we have a rather substantial collection of the commandment available for us in His revelation of His Word, the Bible.  Why? Because we need to be reminded. We actually need the repetition over and over and over again because we like to forget, ignore and avoid paying attention to His commandments.

So, God allows and even sends trials and tests our way which have the potential to stir up some fear and then he says, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Surly, I will help you. Surly I will uphold you with My righteous right hand…For I am the Lord your God who upholds your right hand. Who says to you, do not fear, I will  help you.”  Wow, in two verses he tells us at least three times.  See, we need it.

For this is the circumstance, our comfortable way of living and doing the church thing is being challenged and much more is coming our way. Much more sever problems are coming our way.  Innocent people are being killed by crazy people who just hate them because they do not agree with them.  (Here is a secret, however, even if every person on this earth believed the same thing and all people agreed with each other, there would still be crazy people, evil people, killing innocent people.)

As things get more and more difficult and as our world changes in big and frightening ways and as we become afraid to venture out somewhere because some evil loony is hunkering down behind the third base dugout waiting to shoot the second baseman for whatever reason, the one thing that will not change is God and His truth.  Do not fear, He is with you and if you believe in Him, you will not die even if you are shot and killed while playing second base.  It doesn’t make sense? It does if you understand the bigger picture and why.  Because if God has told you once, he’s told you 400+ times in various ways and in various versions and translations the you do not have to fear.  You really do not.

Make No Place For Fear Here

Do we believe what we read in God’s Word so thoroughly through and through that our lives remain on track according to the straight path God has made before us? (1)

God says, do not fear. But there remain many things that I fear.

God says He is with me. Should I not be brave and unafraid knowing God is indeed with me because He says He is.

God cannot lie. It really is that simple in truth.

It is not so simple in practice but God has a training program in place for us to help perfect our practice.

God says to not anxiously look about. The only reason for this command is because we do anxiously look about in fear of what might happen. God gives us the reason to not be anxiously looking about because God is our God – and he says it in such a way that the statement should be enough. Yet He knows that we are weak and he knows that we need unusual strength and help. He says He will strengthen us and most certainly help me. Do we doubt His word? No. But we behave in ways that too often beguile what we confessed just now. God promises to uphold us with His right hand. (2)

It is a given.

It has been written.

God is true to every word He has spoken and revealed.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

We suffer for a reason and we fall short of fully understanding the working of God in our lives, also for a reason. We are not intended to fully experience the fullness of the Kingdom of God while dwelling on this earth. We are promised that for another time when our bodies have been transformed into conformity with Christ’s body and we are dwelling with Christ in eternity.(3)(4)

Our suffering has many reasons, too many to exhaust here today. But one reason is to prepare us and reveal to us the omnipotence of God. God promises and we believe but our belief is incomplete. It is conditional and limited by our level of faith and understanding.  We say we believe and then we encounter trials and suffering and we waver, wobble, and become weak kneed in response to the trial.  That is when we are tempted to anxiously look about to see who’s doing us in and why. Perhaps we are looking for help from someone or something around us. By doing that, we miss the fact that the trial and suffering is a way of revealing that what God has said, he will do. What he has spoken he will make good. (5)

Without the opportunity to put what we profess to believe into practice our growth in faith will be nil. We must encounter the opportunities to exercise our confession of hope and learn to do that without wavering. When we encounter these opportunities, then we can exercise what we believe, what we claim to confess. (6)

Confession is good and it serves as a signpost to what we believe – at least that is the idea. But the confessions that are true are those that we utter when we are faced with trials and sufferings. No matter what situations we encounter, we confess something by our words, deeds, and thoughts. What we confess in our creeds, our prayers, our motto, our yard signs, our bumper stickers, or wrist bands, they do not mean anything until they are put to a test to see how deep their roots go into our faith.

The result of a test is manifested in the exercise of our faith, our belief, in what we confess. Is God indeed with us? If He is, we do not have to fear. In the most threatening circumstances, we can know that God is with us because He has declared that he is so. We know without a doubt (most of the time) that God is with us because He has spoken those promises so many times it must be true.  God only needs to speak the promise once for it to be truth but he repeats it for our sake throughout his revealed Word.

The process is this, my daily walk in this fallen world will lead me into occasions of testing and temptations and I need to know that such is the normal experience for all who are children of God and called by His Name, even those who believe on his name. (7) When it happens, I exercise my faith in what I know and believe is true. God is with me. No matter what the outcome, I am sustained (held up from underneath) by God’s righteous right hand. (8)

So, the encouragement is this, when suffering comes, remember it is common among those who are called out and have received full adoption into God’s family. Before us and after us are many who have and will suffer the same. Some much more severely than we ever will. Some will encounter kings who in arrogance and anger they are bound and tied and thrown into a furnace of fire so hot it killed those who threw them in. Some will be tossed into a pit full of hungry lions as a result of evil conspiracies and only because they would not cease their practice of praying.

God has saved and spared the lives of some and not of others in such circumstances. Some lost their head and some are still losing their heads because they speak and believe in the true and only God. Imagine a believer today taken from his house and in the sight of his family is given the choice to deny God and renounce his faith in Jesus or lose his head. Can we understand how they can then and there lay claim to God’s promise that He is with them even as their head is separated from their body?

When will we get serious about our current circumstances? When will we prepare ourselves for the day when we are the one on our knees before the evil one and its servants and offered the opportunity to live if only we deny the one who died on the cross for us?

Are we ready?

Am I ready?

That, we will know the answer to only at the moment such an option is truly offered to us. In the meantime (if that ever does come to be) our opportunity is to exercise our faith using the opportunities we are given today. Begin by being thankful and joyous for those opportunities. (9)

God is not changed from the time Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He still promises to be with us even if it means getting together in a furnace of fire that no person can survive without God. (10)

God is not changed from the time that Joseph was dragged out of the well and sold as a slave and carted off to Egypt because his brothers hated him so much they actually planned to murder him. God was with him in the bottom of the well and went with him to Egypt. (11)

God is not changed from the time that He allowed His servant Job to suffer every imaginable loss except the loss of his life. (12)

God does not change. He is not different from the way He works in our country or the way He works in the parts of the world where believers are being martyred because they cling to Him in faith.

It is time to get ready. We must stop putting our faith in kings and presidents and chariots and jet fighters. The words and promises of men and women are useless. We must stop fearing what is coming and get ready in our faith to face what is inevitable, what has been promised, and we must do what we have been given to do and do it today.

We honestly and sincerely need to consider it all joy when various trials come our way. Let us not duck and cover but let us allow the testing to strengthen our perseverance. Our only offensive weapon is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. It is sharper than any two-edged sword.  We have some training to do so let’s get to it. (13)


(1) Proverbs 3:5-6; (2) Isaiah 40:10,13; (3) 1 Peter 5:9-10 (4) Philippians 3:20-21; (5) Numbers 23:19; (6) Hebrews 10:23; (7) John 1:12; (8) Joshua 1:9 Hebrews 13:5; (9) James 1:2-4; (10) Daniel 3:16-19; (11) Genesis 37,39-46; (12) Job 42:10-17; (13) Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12

An Option When the Fork in the Road Leads to Desolation

From time to time we come upon a fork in our road that offers little hope for anything better than what we have presently. If there is any promise from the world it is more of the same desolation. The options while appearing to be different are not different. The common characteristics are many and each has touched on the serious angst that has our country and our world in turmoil.

Is there any hope for repair? Is there any hope for a return to conditions which are more comfortable and civil? Honestly, I think not. The changes in our society, in our country, in our world, have been going on without interruption since creation. Snippets of history will show ideas that the world has made changes for the better from time to time. However, the larger picture shows the trend of continual depravity and selfishness throughout history. Greed and despotism may be subdued for a time by righteousness but eventually the evil that is allowed to rule this earth will raise up yet another godless leader who has the powers to captivate large numbers under a web of lies and false promises. Eventually enslaved, the oppression begins and there is little that can be done. The process does not happen quickly and not even in large chunks but by increments that are hardly noticed.

The advance squads are here and have been working. For those who will look around and shake the spell off, the will see the changes and hopefully if they consider they will begin to understand and take serious notice. Civility is declining. Hope is failing. Faith is fading. Despair is on the uptake. We are in a new dawn. What lies ahead for this world is not pretty. Our country is in for some dark days and the global events which have already been set will evolve and manifest. It is just a matter of time.

God will not ever forsake us because we are his own – we belong to Him. He will never fail to fulfill any of his promises. He promises to not desert us and commands us to not fear because he is with us. He is our Lord and the only God. Believers who follow of the true Way* can rest secure that though they will suffer trial, tribulation and persecution, God is with them.

The question raised then, especially in the midst of this 2016 election of a president, is what our responsibility is. Without delving into yet another dialogue it is enough to say that neither political party has done much to stand up for the traditions that made our country strong. We need something else something that has a foundation that professes the sovereignty of God and builds its platform on solid moral principles. If it is time to dispense with our current two primary parties (and I believe as followers of the Way, this is up for serious consideration) then perhaps it is time to turn to a party that has the foundation and principles that align very closely to my beliefs as a child of God.

The preamble of the Platform for the Constitution Party is:
The Constitution Party gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States. We hereby appeal to Him for mercy, aid, comfort, guidance and the protection of His Providence as we work to restore and preserve these United States.

The statement on the sanctity of life:
We affirm the God-given legal personhood of all human beings from fertilization to natural death, without exception. The first duty of the law is to protect innocent life, created in the image of God. No government may legalize the taking of life without justification. Legalizing the termination of innocent life of the born or unborn, whether by abortion, infanticide, euthanasia or suicide, is a direct violation of their unalienable right to life. As to matters of rape and incest, we find it unconscionable to take the life of an innocent child for the crimes of his father.

I’ve not settled yet but I am close to making Darell Castle my choice on November 8.

  • On the ballot in 23 states.
  • Write in Status in 20 states including Texas and Illinois.
  • Write in Status pending in 4 states including California
  • NOT on the ballot in any legal way in 3 states including Oklahoma

https://www.constitutionparty.com/our-principles/platform-and-resolutions/

*There is evidence that the earliest name which follower of Jesus Christ was “The Way” or “Followers of The Way.” It was the followers of the Way that Saul has secured letters from the Jewish leaders in order to go to Damascus and roust them and bring them back bound to Jerusalem. Saul was dedicated to destruction of the so-called sect of Judiasm as he saw it. But Jesus met him on his way and Saul was converted to Paul and began to follow the Way. His own testimony in Acts 24:14-15 bears witness to this.

Faith Walking or Fear Walking

Take a moment to read this verse. If the English Standard Version is not your favorite version, find the verse in your version and read it there.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (ESV)

A packed verse, I’d say. To fully understand and to fully appreciate the truth and promises in this passage would take some time. We are not, at this time trying to do an exhaustive exposition of the verses – but we want to go in for a close-up on one powerful truth, one very powerful promise. We want to consider how then we should live today. Focus on this — for we walk by faith, not by sight— and consider how we conform to it.

Do we?

Sometimes we do, right?

How about the other times? No so much. Why not?

The process of being transformed by the renewing of our mind[i] is anything but an instantaneous process.  It is indeed a process full of victories and failures, of successes and disappointments. It is a cycle of being on track and then off again as we continue the journey from where we are to where God has planned for us to be. It is good to know that on the days we think we have made no progress; we actually have because we have persevered to that day. God has been with us and we have learned something, we have exercised some spiritual muscles and they have gained some strength. We have been in the battle, in the war and it is there we have found rest and peace in the midst of trial, tribulation and even persecution. The war just happens to be the process of finding our rest.[ii]

When it seems the progress has waned it is still there.  We grow as we keep our gaze fixed straight in front of us.  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but we have this commitment, keep our eye on the goal which is the one God has directed for us—to Jesus and to maturity. We are expectantly in this together and I’m all in – I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.[iii]

The proposition is this, “Our progress comes when we actively choose to live by faith and not by sight.”

Walking by sight is, in effect, walking by fear. Walking by sight includes more than the sense of vision, it includes what we hear and what we read.  As we walk by sight we will make decisions that are influenced by what we see and hear and what we see generates fear, anxiety, doubt, and hesitation. It blinds us to the places of rest and it keeps us agitated trying to fix things. In the bigger scope we fear what we do not actually see but what we imagine in our mind’s eye. We create scenarios of what is going to happen in the world or in our country. Our imagination ultimately spawns fear. This reinforces our perception and shapes our understanding. The old worn out saying “perception is reality” is a horrid axiom but we tend to live as if it is absolute. We desperately grab and cling to what we see around us (sight again) and what we believe will protect us. When we find no lifesavers or escape routes we despair and lose hope. Fear Walking, as we are going to call it is the way to hopeless ness because it robs us of hope. Hope that will not disappoint us is hope that we acquire when we walk by faith. Faith Walking is rewarded by hope and produces more hope.[iv]

This is where we might get a bit far afield in this discussion – and we might get distracted from what we need to learn about walking by faith. But we need to understand what is driving our thought process. We need to know that what we consider important is what our treasure is. Learning where our treasure is will reveal to us where our heart is. This is a point of significant conflict, it is a battle ground. You know that war we mentioned previously?  Some will see and recognize the potential that exists and threatens a way of life that they hold dear – a life they want to continue enjoying.  This life has brought pleasures, comforts and rewards. It has been enjoyed for so long that we have failed to even notice the existence of a rot that has been taking place within it for decades.

By now, the rot has reached deep into the roots and far up into the branches. It has invaded and poisoned practices and commitments that once were sacred and holy. The rot is so very perverse and has so deeply imbedded itself into our society that it is spoiling the true treasures we should hold dear. The rot has caused our own reasoning, our own understanding to replace the precepts and commandments given to us by God. We stop agreeing with God because such agreement costs us something we do not want to give up or do.

We can now identify traces of it everywhere as it sends out its runners to pollute and establish what is false as truth. The arguments for embracing the rot will always end up at a point where the meaning of God’s word is reassigned, redefined, and even rewritten to support the rot. The rot rejects anything from God that holds our life accountable to Him and makes us uncomfortable or requires us to give up some pleasure or presumed liberty. And because we do not want to totally jettison God all together, we must recast our understanding of God so that instead of being created in the image of God, we recreate God in the image of the rot. This is handled well by leaders of our assemblies, the ones set over us to shepherd us become the ones leading us away from the truth and faith and into a place of living fully by sight and reason. If our faith conflicts with the way we see things, the faith must change. We must adjust what we believe our faith to be suitable with what we see.  We are dressing ourselves up for destruction and judgement and we do not care. Instead of growing together in the Spirit, we have given over to the rot which has been infecting and splitting the gatherings of believers. Some believers, Fear Walkers, merge into the world to protect what they fear they will lose, and others choose to remain Faith Walkers, to be set apart and not succumb to the rot.

Here we will parenthetically set out some historical facts to help us understand why believers are set apart for specific purpose.

[ To set the identity of those who profess to believe in Jesus Christ apart from common labels, we will avoid the common label “Christians” and will identify believers by the term first used for them. They were known first as followers of Jesus, it was a true Jesus movement and officials and themselves referred to them as “Belonging to The Way” or “of The Way.” Because at the very beginning all believers were Jews who were still a part of Judaism, The Way was considered a Jewish sect or a part of the Jewish religion.[v]  Those that belonged to The Way gathered together in private homes. It was the pagans in Antioch that first used the adjective “Christian” to describe and identify the believers of Jesus.[vi] It was intended as a derogatory term.[vii]

The word “church” was used to identify a body of believers of The Way much before any building was constructed as a specific meeting place. It may well have been in the mid-3rd century that first building was exclusively set aside to be used as a gathering place for meetings of The Way.[viii]   It was hardly the intent of the early churches to become what they have today with the gatherings splitting into varieties with distinctive affections method and hierarchy. For God called first out a people to purify for himself, a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. We were all the church and the church was whoever was meeting together in homes at Philippi, and at Ephesus, and at Galatia, and at Thessalonica and eventually at New York and at Chicago, and at Longview. Wherever a gathering of believers were, that was where the church was. For some perspective on the early church and how it transformed when it became government approved see this blog post[ix] ]

The result of the rot has been worse than a wrecking ball as this malformation of what God calls us to let rot come in. Sometimes it has done its damage without the gathering even being aware. Can it be imagined that today any minister or leader in a gathering of believers, perhaps the gathering you are a part of, would stand up and say, “Where do y’all think all these dreadful fights and arguments come from? Do y’all think they just happen? Well, think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. Y’all get all lustful for what you don’t have and some are even willing to kill to get it. Y’all want what isn’t yours and mean enough risk violence to get your hands on it. Y’all wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? No, you wouldn’t, and just why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. Y’all spoiled children, each wanting your own way.” James 4:1-4

Our Faith Walking and our confessions quickly fade away when we switch to Sight Walking or Fear Walking. What we with our own eyes we believe more than what we might just have experienced because of faith. Our great example is our brother Peter who saw Jesus walking on the surface of the Sea of Galilee. It was by sight and it generated fear. This had to be a ghost for no person could stand on and walk on water – especially the surface of a tumultuous body of water. The disciples were in a boat crossing to the other side of this lake which was about 5 miles across. Jesus had not come with them this time as he wanted to spend time in prayer. The wind is against them and pretty strong. The waves were significant but not dangerous. It was sometime after 3 a.m. and the boat was about three fourths of the way across. When they see this what they think is an apparition. Peter recognizes Jesus approaching the boat, he is overcome with awe and to make sure that this person walking on the unsettled surface of the lake was Jesus he says, “If it’s really you Lord, tell me to come to you, right now.” Jesus had just confirmed that it was him but Peter wants more assurance because what he sees has actually put fear into him. Jesus says just one word, “Come.”

Peter is out of the boat and making his way on the surface of the water toward Jesus. His walk has suddenly become a walk by faith. We have no idea how many yards he walked. He is actually doing the impossible because he has faith. Jesus called him to come and he believed and he was Faith Walking…right up until he switches back to Fear Walking. He looks around and is astounded and recognizes that he is now attempting the impossible and he fears the outcome. He sinks. Jesus has to save his sorry soul or Peter would have drowned.  That is the way it always is. When we depend on what we see we become not Faith Walkers but Sight Walkers which become almost immediately Fear Walkers.

Is it faith or is it fear that directs our path these days. Fear, I’m afraid has many by the throat and is choking the life out of them. The reaction to the fear is to rush to solutions that seem tangible and embrace them without consideration of their faith. Fear walkers will strive to find a solution that will make things great again, will restore the life they have enjoyed and is now crumbling around them. Some will not even see the crumbling and although they will still be driven by Fear, “Fear is one of the most primal of all motivations.  It drives people to do things they would never even consider under normal circumstances.  It blinds them to truth, makes them cling in desperation to any hope that presents itself (even hopes that, in clearer-headed times, they would recognize as dangerous), and lash out viciously at any perceived threat to that hope.  It makes them see friends as enemies and not realize enemies are pretending to be friends.”[x]

Their solution is to hold fast to their confession of hope without wavering and trust Him who promised because He who promised is faithful. He Himself has promised that He will never leave us or desert us.

[Now, let me make it clear, that these comments are made for the benefit and in the context of those who are believers and followers of The Way – those who believe the Truth and have the Life because they have the Son of God. Those who have chosen to not believe have no real faith there is no one to put their faith in until they recognize their need, repent, confess, believe and receive the free gift of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ. He is the only Way, to God the Father.]

The danger we face when Fear is the motivator of our thoughts and decisions because we are not walking by Faith is that we fall into the trap (set by the devil himself) of believing that God cannot fix our world by Himself. Fear walkers believe that fixing the world and ridding it of all its wanton evils requires our involvement because for some truly ungodly reason Fear walkers believe God is not inclined or able to accomplish their will and what they (the Fear Walkers) want and believe they need. Fear Walkers fail to understand that with or without them, God’s will is always accomplished without fail. What He promises, He will do, what he has spoken He will deliver on.

Fear Walkers may cling to a way of life and a way of government and to a country that they believe has been established by God especially for their pleasure and blessing. They believe this because the establishers were, for the most part believers in God. Some were even quite devout followers of The Way. And because the establishers believed that a Creator God was responsible for all things and believe that God governed the affairs of mankind and because this belief was evident in the sayings and writing of our country’s establishers, our country, the United States of America was therefore established as a Christian nation. The degree, to which that assumption is true, or not true, depends on so many other assumptions and presumptions and interpretations it is safe to conclude that the question is not settled. We can be fairly certain that while America’s establishers were not pagan atheists and likely not even agnostics, they were not all devout men of strong spiritual character. It is unlikely that the majority were any more Faith walkers than much of us are today.

So with these conclusions what responsibility does the body of people of The Way have to their country? Does The Way in America have a different responsibility to American than The Way in France? How about The Way in Japan or Korea? Perhaps the responsibility of The Way in China, Venezuela, Congo or Argentina to their respective country is different because of the history of those countries. Certainly we would be a bit amiss to think that Japan or China or Congo are Christian nations or had a Christian beginning.

Would it be so very horrible to think that The Way in America is special with a special calling to preserve a special way of life because it had such a special beginning?

Yes, it would be very horribly wrong to think that.  For in truth we are more bound in our responsibilities to our brothers and sisters in Korea and Venezuela than we are to the reprobates who lead this United States of America. We have a greater responsibility to serve and help followers of The Way in Syria, Iraq, and Iran than we do to preserve our own way of life. When has The Way in American ever been excused from the responsibility given to it by the Lord Jesus Himself when he said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all 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 (NASB)

It never has.

 


[i]  Romans 12:2 (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

[ii] http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-the-christian-life-peace-or-war

[iii] Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message) I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

[iv] Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

[v] Acts 9:1-2 (ESV) But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

[vi] Lexham Bible Dictionary, Copyright 2016, Lexham Press.

[vii] http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/christian.html

[viii] http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/november/why-and-when-did-christians-start-constructing-special.html

[ix] https://prandersonblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/from-the-setting-of-the-sun-it-will-always-rise-again/

[x] From The Five Pilgrims “Fear: A Path to the Trump-side for Evangelicals”, C Phillips, August 19, 2016 http://thefivepilgrims.com/2016/08/19/fear-a-path-to-the-trump-side-for-evangelicals/

There Is No Good Reason to Despair.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord – Psalm 27:13-14

There is no good reason to despair.

God has promised that he will take care of us. In the middle of the worst conditions, in the middle of the most sever persecution, even if we are giving up our earthly lives because of our belief and confession in Christ Jesus, he will take care of us. If the time comes to choose between our head and our heart for God, He will be there to take us to a place of eternal comfort.

Too many times it is my physical condition and my comfort that matter most and if they are out of sorts, then my life is out of sorts. If my life goals are thwarted I become frustrated (another way to say angry).  This is not the way it is to be. Not in the land of the living.

So the world we have enjoyed is drying up and the freedoms we have enjoyed are evaporating. Our sense of security which is built on law and order is bring ripped away and we are feeling exposed, at risk and in danger. Those willing to be our protectors have become the hunted.   Pay attention to what is happening in the world and understand the result is fear and again anger. This fear and anger develops into hate against what we identify as our enemy.  Out of fear, anger and hate we create defenses to protect what we hold dear, our way of life.  What is our way of life? Is it liberty and freedom? Is it opportunity for all who work hard? Is it the pursuit of excellence and greatness? Is the the ability to succeed if we work hard enough and are smart enough?  Is it gathering together in buildings we call church or in the open square and lifting our voice in worship and praise?  Is it the ability to dress as we wish without fear of assault, rape and death?  Is this the American Dream? And, without this American way of life, we are what? Lost? Finished? In trouble? Hopeless?

The way of life which we have come to expect because it was given to use – often at the expense of the lives of others – and we have worked hard for it and because it has been considered our birthright in this country for so long, we see it eroding away beneath our feet. Be on your guard, has God indeed promised his children what so many today believe they are entitled to?  Have we been deceived by the siren song as it has been delivered from the pulpits of our church?  God Bless America, we sing while in truth, and for a long time, America has been forgetting God and replacing worship of the Creator God with worship of the creature’s desire.

What God has promised is found in his Word, not in the documents that formed and governed this country.  As wonderful those documents are in their original intent, and as dedicated to God as many of the those who formed those documents, the fact is, the Word of God has been discarded and we have placed our faith in the words of this country’s founding fathers. Some have their faith in the reinterpretation of those words by leaders who have never believed in God.

We have become confused about who it is that we are supposed to listen to and draw our hope from. We have placed our hope for security and greatness into the hands of people who impress us with their performance, or success, or promises and our hope is built on nothing less than what they say they will do for us.

In whom should we place our trust? It is God Almighty, not the President of the United States. Our faith is to be in what God has given us, not in what the White House, or Senate, or House of Representatives, or Supreme Court has given us or what our founding fathers have given and entrusted to us.  Take a look at what we have from these and consider again what political party or ideology is greater than the Lord God and his Word. Stop believing in might and power – believe instead in the power and promise of the Spirit of God.  It is time to unhook your political party from your faith and rest on faith alone. God can and will do everything he has promised and he does not need your particular political ideology to accomplish it.

Do Not be a NameOnly Christian

This post is a bit about my story, my walk. I accepted Jesus Christ when I was 11 years old. I spend my early years wandering away from Christ. At 19 I began my walk with Jesus and it has been on and off. God has been with me the whole way even the many times I strayed and did not follow and had little faith.

I have generally had reservation about how boldly or forcefully I should be when talking about my faith. After all, we don’t want to offend, do we? We (I) therefore am guarded of what I say and where I say it when it comes to talking out loud to others or writing in my blogs or Facebook notes about what I believe and why I believe it.

Another factor that has added to my reticence is that I do not take criticism well. I do not take scoffing well. I do not take rejection well at all. I never have. There were enough occasions early in my Christian life that my effort to testify and witness to others met strong and even hostile resistance. That was never any fun. Often in those days I would try to engage a non-believer and it generally ended up that the ones I was able to engage were feisty people who enjoyed the battle of wits and enjoyed tripping me up with questions I could not handle. The result on my part was a feeling of failure, defeat, discouragement and inadequacy.

So, after a while I sort of eased up on my search for engagement about my faith. I would still encounter the opportunities but those times it was mostly because the other person knowing something about my profession of belief in God and Jesus Christ would initiate the engagement. These too generally ended up as arguments and battle of the wits.  I still would walk from these times feeling like a failure and defeated. I just did not have what it takes to be successful at “soul-winning.” And,  that of course simply added to my inadequacy and pushed me further away from trying.

Deciding that God had not called me to personal evangelism I settled on believing that he gave that gift to others.  It certainly was not a gift he had given to me so he must have given me something else.  After all, the Word says,  And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  (Ephesians 4:11-12) 

I was not really happy with this conclusion because, at the time I was in school, a school that was founded by a robust evangelist and winning souls for the Lord was simply something everyone was expected to become proficient at. At every corner along my journey and several stops between the corners I would be reminded, encouraged, instructed, exhorted and simply told that the Great Commission was mine to fulfill so it would be best if I just got to it.

“What a kind of loser You must be?” That was what I would ask myself. My answer was simple. “Total loser” – especially when it came to cold calling, broadside witnessing. And it was not for lack of training or instruction. I had the best instruction from one of the best schools with tools and examples of successful soul winners all around me.  But all I got from all that was a huge fail and I got a gigantic pack of guilt strapped to my back. I started to dread anytime I would be in a class, service, meeting that was about soul winning and especially when I knew that we would have some practical Christian work to practice at the end of the session. We would split up in 2, 3 or 4 person groups and fortified with our Bible and pocket full of tracks we would be sent out.  I hated it. I became very good at letting whoever I was with do all the talking while I “supported with prayer” from the sideline.

I want to make it clear that I was not afraid to share my testimony. I was not afraid to tell another person what I believed and why I believed it. I even was good an admitting I did not have every answer and was still learning. I actually really loved sharing my faith in situation where I did not feel threatened. Given the opportunity to talk to one or more, even a congregation of non-believers I could do it with boldness and confidence. At least as long and there was no hostile heckling or scoffing or ridicule coming my way.  When that would happen, I would slam shut like an oyster ready to nurse the little grain of sand out of sight from everyone else. I developed techniques to avoid the unpleasant feeling of failure and defeat. I became quite good at them as well. Those methods actually helped me to gain a profound knowledge and understanding of the Word of God.

Sure, I knew the Bible and was on the way to becoming an in-depth biblical scholar. I would have too but I did not quite reach that goal and I watched others in my family and other of my friends do so instead. But that is a different story.

So what now?  Those days are nearly 50 years ago. In that span I have taught many hours of adult Sunday School classes and have filled the pulpit a good number of time when needed on Sunday Morning worship with a sermon.  While I was doing that, I knew I was doing my part. Maybe not winning the souls directly but I was doing the “make disciples” part. Or, was I? I could prepare insightful lessons. I cold deliver them in a way that engaged and did not bore the classes. I was complimented on a regular basis. I put 4X to 6X the hours in preparation for each hour in presentation.  And I loved it.

I began to question the fruit. Was it there? Were lives being changed and was that even something I should be concerned about? I just never really understood why after several years of teaching the same class of adults, I just did not see significant change in the class members lives. Was it something I was doing wrong? Doubt became a companion and when that happens, it stifles Joy. My joy and my enjoyment diminished but I pressed on and tried to shake it off. God was working but it was not in a way that was easily evident. Who was i to question how God uses me?

Then, in 1992 something went wrong. I was derailed. A near train wreck which was not fatal  exactly but I was off the track and I never really got back on. There have been a few exceptions over the years – especially when we attended a new church – but I have not re-engaged in even the “make disciples.” It is something that disturbers me. It creates questions and inner struggles but by now at 66 I have learned how to brush those nagging feelings aside. I do it very well. Just not well enough for them to go totally away.

At the same time, and all the time God has been faithful and He has never given up.  For over the past 18 months or so, I have have been on a new track, and progress is evident. I have become more bold to speak the truth out with confidence and without fear of scoffers or ridicule. I know that they might be there from time to time. In fact I know that the chance of it is far greater now than 45 years ago. The scoffers and naysayers have grown in number and bolder too. Respect for religious liberty is eroding away and today it is even more likely that if I speak the truth from the Word of God that I will offend someone. But, I do not shy from that as I did then. I still do not seek to offend but I do not care if I do offend when it is the truth that I am speaking or writing.

As believers we are entering a greater storm. We are facing a greater challenge. We are less accepted and there is far less tolerance from active non-believers. They have become more aggressive and while there is still much talk about “live and let live” and about “coming together on what we can agree” the reality is that Christian are becoming more hated in this country. The soft cushion of freedom granted by the Constitution is being stripped away. We do not have leaders who honor God or even pretend to for votes as we have had for so long.

As Christians we need each other more than ever and we need to shed the dependency we have had on a “NameOnly” Christian life. NameOnly Christians are people who profess Christ but have not accepted Christ in faith believing and surrendered to Him as both Savior and Lord. They have gone through the motions, the classes, received the affirmation and been through the ceremonies but they remain on the outside of the Family of God.  They say they are Christian but their lives manifest more affection for the things of the world and the ways of the world and the attitudes of the world.  They willfully tweak the meaning of God’s Word so that it will fit their lifestyles. They want the benefits of being called Christian but they do not want to pay the cost.

NameOnly Christians have not come all the way to the foot of the cross and looked up into the bleeding face of Jesus and asked Him to forgive them and cleanse them of their rebellion and rejection and sin.  They do not look to Him and His word for specific guidance in how they should think, speak and act. They want to mold their Christianity to fit what they want first rather than be transformed by the renewing of their minds. The argue for fairness and acceptance and love of others and it becomes their perceived way to the Father. But Jesus has said that there is only one way and that is through Him. He is the only way, the only truth and the only life. If the bible says something that does not seem fair, then it must not be right because Jesus would not be unfair. NameOnly Christians judge the Word of God by what fits their sense of fairness.

NameOnly Christians are dangerous as long as they cling to their own way and their own understanding and refuse to fully acknowledge God in all their ways. True Believers in
Christ are going to be tested. So will the NameOnly Christians. The test will result in a lot of pruning and casting aside. The world and the prince of this world has already organized his forces and incited the movements to persecute True Believers. God has already promised to be with us all the time and we truly do not have to be afraid. Some True Believer may pay the ultimate sacrifice for their faith. Many in countries run by Muslims have already lost their lives by losing their heads or being hung or burned alive or summarily executed just because they profess Christ and refuse to forsake Him.

As True Believers we need to recognize the world we live in and not adapt to it but to allow the Word to renew our thinking and our mind and and we must not not shy away from our calling. If we have been duped into believing and accepting what the Word of God clearly has called sin, we need to call it sin too. It is not about how much sense it makes or how it jives with our personal sense of justice. It is only about the absolute truth given to us from God in his revelation as recorded in the Bible.

True Believers need to cleanse themselves of all the effort to walk in the light and in the world at the same time. It does not matter if the world calls us haters and intolerant and whatever kind of despicable names. We do not return evil for evil but instead we love those who hate us and say spiteful and hurtful things about us and to us.   It does matter if we reject the pure Word of God and call it something else. What God’s word meant in 60 AD, it means in 2016 AD. It has not changed its intent and meaning. People have changed their intent and meaning so many times and have tried to justify it by rearranging what they say the Bible really means. The grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of our God stands forever. Stand with it, stand on it, do not waver. God is with you True Believer and you do not have to fear what the world thinks of you or says about you.

America is not on a path to be Great Again. Actually it has not been so Great for quite some time.  The result of bad decisions to move away from honoring God and instead worshiping the created rather than the Creator has already transformed America so much we have two despicable fraudulent liars running to President. Don’t hope that we will return to something that has been gone for a long time and we are just now recognizing the seriousness of Godless leadership.

It will become more and more difficult to stand on the precepts of the Word of God.  It will become more and more challenging to hold fast your confession of hope and faith. God will always be with you and He will give  you the grace you need. Surely He will help you, surely He will uphold  you with His righteous Right Hand. Do not be afraid, God is with you wherever you go. He Himself has said that He will not desert you, nor will he forsake you.What can mere man do to you? Nothing. Even if they take you life and even if you are put to death because you profess and believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Creator of all things, you will not die for you possess Christ’s resurrected life that is eternal.  He died so that He could secure it and give it to you and secure you with His spirit.

Amen.

Hallelujah!