Just Think About It

It is hard to sleep the night before you expect a big fight or you start a new job or you go on a 3 month vacation or you meet the Prime Minister of Namibia. Your brain won’t stop thinking.

Even during the day, your lizard brain will flood you with things that you should worry about. If you listen to it for more than 30 seconds and believe it, you will always imagine yourself broke and homeless in a week or two. Better things to ponder and allow to fill your imagination:
In conclusion, brothers, focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.
(Philippians 4:8,9 Complete Jewish Bible)

Low Visibility Warning

Part of the daily weather report is the meteorologists’ estimation of atmospheric visibility hindrances. They offer their perspective in miles.

Jesus told Nicodemus that a person has to be born a second time before they can see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). He merely described it as a prerequisite – He didn’t offer it as a guarantee – to be able to see the Kingdom. I can be born from above and still not have attention pointed in the direction of the Kingdom, and therefore miss seeing it. I can walk in so much doubt or fear that it is not possible to see God’s reigning actions over my circumstances or over governments or groups of people.

Some things that can hinder the conditions of visibility are:

  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Lusts for physical comfort
  • Doubting Yahweh’s love
  • Doubting Yahweh’s intentions
  • Doubting Yahweh’s character
  • Ignorance of Yahweh’s actions
  • Ignorance of Yahweh’s statements
  • Believing evil reports from unbelievers

Some eye openers are:

  • Knowing Yahweh
  • Knowing Yahweh’s words
  • Knowing our destinies

Our trip through the hard places of life is designed to increase our ability to see by giving us opportunities that are designed to increase these three valuable assets. Embrace them. Look for the Kingdom and His righteousness.

 

Loyal

John (Jonah / Yochanan) had a son named Simon (Shim’on). Jesus gave him a nickname: Rock (Cephas / Peter).

Simon’s actions as a follower of Jesus included declarations of his desire to worship Jesus (and Moses, and Elijah: Matthew 17), the fact that Jesus’ Father is Yahweh (Matthew 16) and that he would die before denying Jesus (Matthew 26). Yet, another of his acts was to call curses on himself if he were lying when he swore to have never met Jesus (Matthew 26).

Our loyalty is located in our hearts and minds. It is influenced by pride, fear, greed and laziness. Better news, though, is that it is also influenced by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). That’s what we want. The strength of agape love, of faith, of self control, of patience is what we want empowering our loyalty.

When David’s mighty men returned with him to Ziklag from a mercenary mission and found their families and possessions had been stolen, their response was to turn on David with the declared intention of murder. David’s family and possessions were also gone, but his response was to turn to Yahweh, with the declared intention of gaining strength and wisdom through submission (1 Samuel 30). Even when no one was loyal to him, he was loyal to Yahweh.

 

Knock-off Comfort

If you shop at flea markets, you have seen merchandise that is considered “knock-off” whether you knew it or not. Some of the items that have brand names or team logos are not manufactured by companies who have paid the royalties for the names or logos. Much of this merchandise is also made cheaply, unlike the true brand quality. It fades or wears out quickly.

Many sources of comfort that we have access to, promoted by society or cultures that are prominent in the United States, are of knock-off quality. They offer very little comfort, or their comfort is short-lived. They lead to addictions. Frequently they are sold as comfort, but in reality only qualify to be described as distractions or numbing agents. An “amusement” is literally something that is supposed to make us “not” (a) “think” (muse).

Comfort from the Spirit of God is healing. It is strengthening. It makes me better able to discern and understand. It is hard to access without seeing things God’s way. It seems bland when I am suffering from withdrawals from fake relationships or drugs or sugar or amusement. When I become dependent on the real comfort, delivered by the Comforter, nothing else will seem valuable as an alternative.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
John 14:16-18 KJV

 

Spiritual Comfort

Your righteousness reaches heaven, God,
You who have done great things;
God, who is like You?
You caused me to experience
many troubles and misfortunes,
but You will revive me again.
You will bring me up again,
even from the depths of the earth.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once again.
Therefore, with a lute I will praise You
for Your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing to You with a harp,
Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praise to You,
because You have redeemed me.
Therefore, my tongue will proclaim
Your righteousness all day long,
for those who seek my harm
will be disgraced and confounded.
(Psalm 71:19-24 Holman Christian Standard Bible® © 1999)

The difficulties and tests that are ordained in your life by your God are your access to honor and comfort from Him.

Holding Christ’s Words

John 8:51 –

I assure you: If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death—ever!
(Holman Christian Standard Bible® © 1999)

The word Jesus used that is translated “keeps” in this exclamation is a verb: an action word. The noun form of it: thing, place word, is sometimes translated “prison.”

How tight is our grip on the things that Jesus has said and is saying? How possible is it to talk us out of believing them, like the serpent did Adam and Eve? How skilled have we become at defending them, like Paul did before Agrippa? There are many other promises to those who “keep” His words.

Bind them in reality to your heart and mind like the Pharisees did symbolically. In the law He gave Moses, Yahweh instructed the Israelis to write laws down and fasten them to their arms and foreheads. The Pharisees made leather boxes they called “phylacteries” to hold Yahweh’s words. If they had held them in their minds and hearts, they may have been able to take the next step under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and recognized His Word when He stood before them speaking Life to them.

 

The Fake Kingdoms

Karl Marx was the grandson of a Jewish rabbi. Before Karl was born, his father converted to Lutheranism to escape persecution as a Jew. Karl was baptized into the Lutheran church in 1824.

He was influenced by many liberal thinkers in his education, but somewhere in his educational experiences he was exposed to the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven. A glimpse of it is available in Acts 2, were Luke described a social and economic structure of some sort that was developing in the initial church that included sharing possessions.

LThis kind of commonality is the basis for a socio-economic ideal that is lived out in structures called “communes.” The idea of pure “communism” is that all of the citizens of the commune have community ownership and management of all property.

Socialism in modern political terms is an attempt to build a city like the one described in Genesis 11; it is the Kingdom of Heaven absent of the Heavenly King. Men reign in socialism. Humanism is always close at hand as its theology in its various manifestations in the earth.

When the members of the Family of the King of Heaven are aligned with Him and with His ordination of their identities and work (1 Corinthians 12:18), we will displace all of the governments of men and all of their false presentations of His values and provisions and protections, and He will reign for ever and ever.

Gnosticism and the Ways of Jesus

Gnosis is a foreign word that means “knowledge.” The “Gn” part of the word is pronounced like “gnat.”

Gnosticism is a loosely connected set of ideas held by groups of people who believe that there is “hidden knowledge” that is only accessible to the “enlightened” or “invited.” Kabballah, Freemasonry, Shriners, Buddhists, Hindus, alchemy, and a hundred forms of witchcraft argue about the proper definition of Gnosticism.  Some of the various bits of “knowledge” that the various groups (and Christian theologians and historians) argue about include dualism, which is the idea that matter is evil and spirit is good, that good and evil are false concepts that exist only in the minds of unenlightened people, that all religions lead to god, that a person can only be delivered from this evil, fallen world by receiving enlightenment from outside it.

What is the difference between these types of teachings and what Jesus answered when He was quizzed about why He taught in parables? His answer to that question was, in essence, “So they won’t understand.” To His disciples, He added, “The ability to understand has been given to you.” (Luke 8:10)

One of the tenants of Gnosticism is the idea that salvation comes by special knowledge. I can think of many “Christian” groups who lead their people to believe exactly that – if you don’t have their baptism, their rituals, their code words or handshake, you are not “going to heaven.”

So what is different about what Jesus was teaching, and the way He was teaching it? The “knowledge” with regard to salvation is “knowing” Him. It is not the acquisition of information – it is the surrender to a relationship.

The “knowledge” with regard to the Kingdom is “knowing” what He is instructing you to do with your life. Clues are found in books or teachings, but the real answers are only found by listening to the Spirit of the King, and the real advance in that knowledge is found in obedience.

The two judgements all humans will face are related to getting these two bits of “knowledge” correct: having my name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and entering the Kingdom of Heaven by obeying the King of it (Revelation 20).

Golden Toothpicks

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Now the one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s co-workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to God’s grace that was given to me, as a skilled master builder I have laid a foundation, and another builds on it.

But each one must be careful how he builds on it, because no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid—that is, Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.
(1 Corinthians 3:6-15 Holman Christian Standard Bible® ©)

I am convinced that we pass through many baptisms. They come in forms of what Moses described in Deuteronomy 4:34: trials, signs, wonders, wars, and the strong hand and outstretched arm of Yahweh. Some of these transforming experiences are like a fire that burns off of and/or out of us qualities that are not like Jesus.

We may be tested with regard to our patience, and it happens in an environment where we need much patience. After the experience (or experiences), we are more patient: there is less of who we used to be. We are a little smaller.

We grow more mature in that new, improved identity. We are bigger and stronger. We encounter another baptism. It washes off or out of us some more of who we used to be. We are a little smaller. We grow in that new strength, and become larger.

The overall development of our character shows that we grow more than we shrink – not one step forward and 3 steps back. Maturity is measurable in evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The more we are transformed, the stronger and more mature and more humble we are.

The contrast, I am convinced, is that we can avoid much of the transformation by avoiding difficult situations and difficult people. Stay away from wars and trials, and costly situations. This path prevents growth, though. My imagination has created a picture from this passage above from 1 Corinthians 3: If I pass through many fires, being transformed into His likeness through them, even if I make some mistake in my building in some way, the final fire over my work will not be so destructive or costly.

If I am avoiding all the fire now, that final fire will be so great that it will have to burn much away. I won’t have the second stage of the process, in which I grow back larger than I was, and all that is left of me may just be a little purified toothpick.