I Stand Amazed in the Presence ……

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It was simple. It was clear. It was filled with welcoming, acceptance, warmth and unity: people literally from all over the world meeting together in a park to celebrate the Resurrection and our oneness in the love and family of Christ. So it was no problem for me to invite passers-by to join us. Soon the chairs were  taken, and  folks sat on the stone wall around the meeting area, singing, listening to the singing, and listening to God’s clear invitation into the transformation of new life in Christ. I was  blessed,and I do mean blessed, to be able to talk to some of the people watching and passing by who didn’t know ”us” or why we were there.

One young woman from Asia chatted with me and I shared that we aren’t about religion, about forms anyways and traditions, as much as about the ONE who unites us all, traditional, Charismatic, high liturgy, non-denominational: Jesus, in relationship  with him, receiving God’s boundless love  through Christ. She said she sensed that,sensed a peace and love in me (which is Christ, not me!)  and knew this meeting must be about love. With plenty of food, why shouldn’t I/we invite people just walking by to come sit and eat with us and welcome them into the love we know and feel and walk in: not just  feel-good “limerence” love, but TRANSFORMATIONAL passionate, powerful love strong enough to change us from “world/leaf-eating simply existing caterpillars” into the new creation, significance and God’s purpose filled, Jesus-Holy Spirit-indwelling “butterfly” sons and daughters of God we were created to be?

This is one short post, but I don’t have to expound at length on the truth that Jesus WAS there with us,  yes in and through each ordinary people other, undeniably loving and extending  his hand and hope and value. I do truly pray these people will come again  on Sunday nights where the group  meets in Brian and Jessica’s house, just to sing and fellowship, and feel welcomed. nothing high  falutin’ , just the love of God in Jesus Christ.

10 He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1: 10-14 N

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 Living Bible

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4: 10-11 NIV

What more do we need?

The women in this music video aren’t religious fanatics: they’re the ransomed, the redeemed,the sinners saved by grace, transformed to significance, purpose, and passion to see others find this same incalculable love, by unconditional  love through the  righteous Blood of Jesus and the unending love of  our Creator Almighty Father God!

Family, friends, please sing this at my “graduation party”!

The only “…BUT…” to pray today is BUT GOD ALMIGHTY AND JESUS LOVE ME, this I know, ENOUGH TO SUFFER, DIE AND RISE TO LIFE FOR ME!

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The Hymnal in Me

princeofpeace13  Frequently I wake up with a song in my thoughts. With this week being Holy Week, I may “fast” from my own thinking and simply share the songs in the night the  Lord brings me. These come from my childhood, words still dear to me and still true, even though the modern church does’t sing  them anymore.

Etna Green EUB Church

This morning it’s this beautiful request:

And our asking the Holy Spirit:

And God’s purposes entrusted to us:

 

And my prayer is simply Amen!

 

G-ray vision

imagesSuperman in the 1950’s TV series had X-ray vision to see through walls and doors and anything. In my later years I wondered, as I’m sure some boys did in earlier years, if he truly saw through EVERYTHING. No doubt some wished for that super power.

I’m moved so deeply today through another kind of super power. To be “catchy,” I’ve titled it “G-ray vision,” but its far from a funny hook. I was moved to fall on my face on the floor in humility and my own contrition for a huge blunder I made last month, on the floor a few minutes ago to recognize that beyond our sin, how incredibly valuable God’s children are to him, how great indeed beyond measure the price he gave for us to be in relationship with him, not as his servants, but as his sons and daughters. That gives each of us who call him our Father and Lord the responsibility to see each other, to consider each other, to regard each other as that valued and actually holy. You are God’s child, infused with incredible value, worth, dignity and honor, and any person who seeks to know you (at least I think in God’s perspective) dang well ought to recognize and respect your intrinsic value, irrespective of anything you do or don’t do, or say or don’t say, withhold or give, apart from your intelligence, apart from the deeply demanding work you do, apart from your appearance, purely because you are worth the Blood of Jesus.

How we miss it! How we value and withhold value from others based on all of those superficial things, go through online dating sites’ bazillion questions to determine “compatibility,” screen out people as friends or worth getting to know or let into our life in any way based on their appearance, their job, their net worth, their car, their hobbies, what movies and music they like, what they do for fun, when we ought to be looking for the stamp of God’s ownership on each other, knowing other factors are minor, superficial, of secondary importance compared to that person’s God-infused dignity and value.

That’s why I can’t lead a brother into temptation and sin, why I can’t dress enticingly – especially not in church – why I can’t use my words to flirt and flatter and cause any brother to fall into any kind temptation or degrade him in any way by seeing him as a “catch” or “something that will give ME worth to possess” or to “bag.” How disgusting to God if I thought of any man that way, and how dishonoring to him and filth-bringing to the vessel of honor God intends me to be because of his offering of himself in his Son Jesus to bring me into God’s very own family.

It’s why no Christian man, no one who names himself by the Name above all Names, should ever entice a woman with flattering words, shiny gifts, pricey dinners, or false promises just to “bag” her for his own glorification or personal gratification. We aren’t created and bought with Jesus’ blood to use each other or lead anyone away from personal integrity and purity.

Why does a  Christian woman wear that extremely short dress to church? I saw one woman today on Easter Sunday and wondered how she cold sit in the chair in front of me without revealing what God has called holy, meant to be seen by one man alone in covenant alone? Why the plunging neckline and five-inch heels? Sisters in Christ, why lead a son of God into temptation just to satisfy your need to feel desirable and wanted? Men, brothers in Christ, why are you giving  seductive winks, flattering words and slick phrases like flowers meant to attract a “bee,”  and false promises to God’s daughter if you don’t intend to honor and respect her and protect her integrity and purity? Do you see what you are doing to your own worth, dirtying the dignity Jesus gave you in his bearing the lashes and thorns and nails?

This is G-ray vision:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8 NSAB

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12: 9-11 NIV

His (God’s) divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:3-7 NIV

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:18-21 NIV

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 2 Peter 2:20 NIV

I don’t care what “modern American culture” says is okay, what is tolerable, what’s even admirable and desirable to achieve “self-actualization,” what slips and slides from righteousness are “not so bad.” I actually heard a man excuse and rationalize  his pornography habit by saying, “If that’s my worst sin, it’s not so bad. Besides, God made me this way.”  What an insult and affront to the Blood of Jesus, the holiness of God, even that man’s own purity as a son bought and meant to be cleansed and holy by the agony and sacrifice of Jesus Christ! I don’t care WHAT the world says; I care what the God of the Universe, Alpha and  Omega, Creator, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Righteous One, Holy One, Immutable Love and Purity,says is right, what He says is wrong, what He says honors others, what he says degrades them and defiles me in the doing.

Under the compelling conviction of the Spirit, today, on Resurrection Day, I  publicly say these things to prayerfully help a few other people who may read it choose to really, truly, rightly and respectingly turn from culture and truly honor and value others.

Anyone’s attitude of dishonor, contempt and degrading selfishness is intolerable to God, given what Jesus paid for you and me. That’s not my pride talking, because i didn’t and couldn’t do a thing to make myself “acceptable” to God.I am only acceptable, and more than acceptable – beloved – because of Jesus’s death on the cross for my sins.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5:21

Believe me, in no way am I “holier than thou,” I ain’t holy at all in my own right, and I fall down and fail as often as the next person. Today I had to bow before my Father God in surrender and say, “Yes, Abba, I am yours, I must choose to see and honor your value in me and not degrade the price you paid for me, just to have a man want me.”

Salvation is our free gift; discipleship costs us. What am I, what are you willing to give up, give over, do without, yes SPEAK OUT and stand up for to honor the Savior who bought you?

Can I call you to join me today to become the true superheroes? Can I ask you to choose, against the tide of an increasingly narcissistic culture, to  become the men and women with G-ray vision? Can you feel your own dignity rise as you do, to your rightful place as a child of the living, holy God?

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And value them as you are valued, see them as you are seen by God!

My letter to a Muslim friend

Thanks so much for your question. I will do my best to answer you as simply but in as much wisdom as I can, and not my words as much as what God has spoken.

I need to “back up” before telling you what Easter means to us. The story of Easter begins long before Jesus walked on the Earth.

It starts back with Abraham, when he left Haran to go to a land God, the One God, the Creator of all the Universe, called him to. In the first book of our Bible, which is also the first book of the Torah for Jews, God came to Abraham: the LORD came to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them,m he hurried from the entrance to the tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.” Genesis 18:1-2 God promised Abraham he and his wife Sarai (Sarah) would have a son the next year, the child they name Isaac. That was the beginning of two lines of people who would come from Abraham through Isaac and Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Sarah’s servant Hagar. The children and generations who came through Isaac became the Hebrews, the Jews.

Isaac’s son Jacob had twelve sons, and from them came the twelve tribes of Israel (the new name God gave Jacob). Down through hundreds and hundreds of years, God spoke through people like the shepherd boy David (who became probably the greatest king of Israel) and through prophets that God would send a King, a Redeemer, to Israel.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is the King of Glory? the LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.” Psalm 24: 7-8 (written by King David)

“Never the less, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled Zebulun and Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. The people waiting in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned….For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on forever.” Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7 (Isaiah was one of Israel’s greatest prophets).

The problem was that the Jews thought God was sending an earthly king who would defeat their political enemies. But God always had something much deeper and more powerful and difficult to do on his heart: he intended to defeat the sin, the ungodliness, the selfishness and insecurity and fears that live inside all of us and cause the problems we have with each other, wars and killing and slavery and repressive governments, cheating and lying, greed, and creates a huge wall between us and God. God is totally holy, and we by our own choices are NOT holy, but sinful.

We all sin. Not one of us is purely holy, as God is holy. This truth is in both the Torah and the prophets of the Jews, what we Christians call in our Bible the Old Testament, and repeated in writings at the time of Jesus and after his death and resurrection by his followers in what we call the New Testament. (So one difference between Jews and Christians is that we have and believe both their holy writings and the sacred writings about Jesus and the 60 years or so after his crucifixion and resurrection.)

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles (anyone who is not a Jew) alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written: there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Roman 9: 10-11

Above all,God loves us his children and wants to be in a loving relationship with us. You can understand that in the way you feel about your daughter! Is there anything you wouldn’t do or give to keep her safe, healthy,protected, and happy, and to see she experiences the best life she can? Would you ever stop being her loving father, even when she makes terrible mistakes? No! You will always love her as a father and want to be in a good, close relationship with her.

That’s exactly what God wanted, too, and wants with all of us. He gave laws to the Jews, but those laws only showed how none of us can keep them. Laws were meant to point out our weaknesses and lead us to God to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. And that is precisely who Jesus was and what he came to do. For some reason the Jews overlooked other promises about their Redeemer (Messiah) in their own Torah and prophets:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering,. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised ….Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity (sin) of us all. Isaiah 53: 2-6

The sacred books of the Jews told them that their Messiah would come as a suffering servant and the sacrifice that made all other animal sacrifices for sin completely unnecessary. But we all would rather see a conquering king smashing our enemies, not a LORd who comes to pay the price for our foolishness and selfishness. That kind of king requires that we admit our own guilt – maybe the hardest thing for any person to do. God is SO amazingly both holy, just (He can’t look upon sin) AND loving that he did the only thing he could do to save us from our sin: he paid the price himself! Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” H_____, what kind of love sacrifices like that?

The promised King came first as the sacrificial lamb. God poured himself into a cell in the body of a young Jewish girl named Miriam (Mary). God did NOT have sexual relations with Miriam. Why would God the Creator need to do that to create a body, when he created all of us, Miriam included, out of nothing but himself? When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (actually Yeshua in Hebrew, which means “God saves.”) Mary was frightened, and she answered, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1: 30-35 (Luke was a doctor who traveled with some of the disciples, though he was not one of the original 12 men Jesus called to follow him.)

Jesus taught in parables, or stories, and he called himself the Good Shepherd. In his own words, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” John 10:11 (John was one of Jesus’ closes friends as well as a disciple of Jesus, and his writings show the deepest intimacy of Jesus) Jesus was in the Temple at the time of the Feast of Dedication. some Jewish teachers of the law gathered around him there and asked him,”If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. .. I know my sheep and my shneep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen (meaning people who are not Jewish) . I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd… I and the Father are one.” John 10:14-16, 30

Jesus very pointedly said that he was truly the Son of God, and as Paul said, “The fullness of God in bodily form.” Jesus again told some religious leaders who were questioning by whose authority Jesus did the miracles he did (including giving eyes to the blind, healing lepers and healing the crippled so they could walk, and raising people from death) , “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am.” John 8:58 “I Am” is that name God told Moses when Moses asked God for his name so he could tell the Israelites in the desert who was speaking to him. Jesus said he was equal and one with the Father. John wrote about Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made by him.” Jesus is the Living Word.

This is a long way to get to your question, but we Christians come out of the Jewish roots of our faith. Jesus was a Jew. He was their promised Messiah, but most of them even in his time couldn’t wrap their understanding around God, the Messiah, coming as a servant and a sacrifice for their sins. To Christians, and to Messianic Jews who do recognize that Jesus Yeshua is the promised King and Savior, Easter is the most holy day we celebrate, because it is the time – during Passover when lambs were traditionally sacrificed and Jews celebrated the Seder meal to remember their deliverance from slavery in Egypt – that Yeshua became the sacrificial lamb who took on himself the penalty and punishment for all of our sins, ALL of our sins forever.

We say that our sins are washed away by the “Blood of the Lamb,” and now God sees us through the righteousness of Yeshua. He rose from the dead three days later, just as prophecies from over 400 years before he was born promised, and just as Yeshua said he would rise again. Early in his ministry he went into the temple and saw merchants and money changers defrauding people who came to buy animals for sacrifices. Jesus Yeshua took a whip and drove them out of the temple, saying they were making it a den of thieves. The religious leaders became angry and asked him on whose authority he thought he could do this in God’s house.

John 2:18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

For Christians, Easter is a joyful grateful celebration that, when we receive this free gift from God of cleansing from our sins through what Jesus did and restoration of relationship with God as his sons and daughters, we know we have that same eternal life with God in Heaven after we die.

“To as many as received him (Jesus), to them he gave the power to become children of God, even to those who believe on his name.”

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are!..,. This is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:1, 15-16

We aren’t made right with God by our good works, because none of us can ever be totally free from bad works. But in accepting Jesus as our sacrifice, we walk into the amazing love God has for us. Out of that love, then, because we want to do what honors him and brings God happiness, we do all the good we can for others. Now I admit that over the centuries many people who call themselves Christian have acted in ways that dishonor God. People have done much evil in the world and tried to cover it with “this is for Jesus,” which must make God want to vomit. Jesus himself said that many people would say, “Lord, Lord,” who never really knew him.

What this means to me personally is this: the man I was married to and loved for 38 years who committed adultery many times and now says he wants to “honor God” by being faithful to another woman has ever truly known Jesus, and never really made him Lord on the “throne” of his own life and will. The world would say I should hate him, but if that man turned around today, confessed his wrong, and asked my forgiveness, I would take him back and give him all my love forever. That is what knowing the love Jesus has for me does in me. I was and am forgiven of so much; how can I not forgive others, even my betrayer? I pray for him every day and have cried a river of tears asking God’s Holy Spirit to make Jesus real and visible and audible to that man who has never known Jesus’ love. I pray, “God, restore in him the man you created him to be before his father’s mental illness and his mother’s coldness so wounded him. Make and recreate in him the man you meant him to be while he still has life left to praise you.”

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The two greatest commandments Jesus said, and the total of all the law and the prophets, are these two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

Easter, the horrible death of Jesus, and it was horrible to the extent that the whipping alone he took cut away the flesh from his back and exposed his bones and his internal organs. He was mocked, spit upon, a crown of thorns pushed on his head, and he was forced to carry the crossbeam of his cross on his bleeding shoulders to the place of his execution. There his wrists and feet were pierced with huge spikes and he was nailed to the cross, where his lungs filled with fluid, he suffocated and bled to death. That is how ugly and brutal sin is. We have to recognize how truly terrible and repulsive our sins are. Yeshua gave himself willingly out of love for us, so the penalty of sin – which is death and eternal separation from God – could be paid in full BY GOD HIMSELF so we could live with God forever as his children, loving, forgiving, caring, and blessing while we live on earth, and enjoying his presence in Heaven forever.

Real Christians don’t “blame the Jews” for Jesus’ death. We know our sins put him on the cross. Most Jews don’t recognize Yeshua yet as their promised Messiah, so Easter means nothing to them. To real Christians, it is the very reason we live, and we hope all people come to know this great love. We won’t force anyone to claim Jesus as their Savior, but we certainly hope everyone comes to know this miracle of love for them.

This is a very long answer, but I hope it makes sense to you, my dear friend. YOU are loved passionately by a holy and merciful, just and loving God who made you to know him and to be loved as his son forever.

With deep respect and much regard, my brother,

https://youtu.be/38EVco7eba0