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Self Promotion

Unknown“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.” 

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul here is addressing a common malady among ministers, one seen with all too much frequency in today’s modern church. This is the issue of ‘Comparison.”

Such comparisons are seen with much clearer acuity as the church and her ministers advertise and announce meg-events on the social media.  Some of these announcements by their design and flash can give the impression that Jesus is coming back center stage at the event.  Promises are made that makes one question whether it is real or not, yet, at the same time underneath the “flash’ there breeds a hope that it is real and the offer stands true.

I would surmise that what undergirds the urge to promote rather than announce is the need to be recognized.  This is too often accomplished by comparing one to another and Paul says, it’s a stupid thing to do so!

He puts it like this… “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

They are without understanding of the rudimentary fact that they have been assigned their task. It has not been earned nor competed for but assigned!  Paul addresses this issue of comparing one to another because there is a basic failure to recognize that the ministry, the influence that you have has been assigned to you.

When one understands this, self-promotion no longer drives us.  There is no need to fight to be recognized by enlarging your importance or putting down another’s.  To understand your assignment puts the deathblow to “inter-tribal” competition and promotes trust among the saints.  Coordination and harmony replace strife and jealousy. Men find the joy of the Oil on Aaron’s head. ()

Paul does not disregard boasting in its entirety.  He suggests two areas in which boasting is proper:  In the work you have been given (That fruit seen in those lives you are responsible for) and in the Lord Himself.

The right focus moves us from commending ourselves and competing with one another.

“For it is not the one who commends himself who is approves, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

 

SELAH!

 


13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. (ESV)


12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. (ESV)


133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes! (ESV)

The Mystery of Taste

tast and see

He wrote it like this,  “O taste and see that the Lord is good…” David does this frequently peppering the song with outburst of praise.  It sometimes seems to just explode on top of you, similar to a sudden rain shower catching you by surprise.

The goodness of the Lord however is more than a sudden burst of good things.  It is more than a shift to good fortune, a swift deliverance from an inextricable situation or the sudden healing of my child.  Without a doubt his goodness invades hopelessness and turns the inky darkness of uncertainty into a shimmering brightness of a million suns!  It is often seen suddenly and without anticipation, catching us by surprise.

It’s GOOD! It’s sudden; it’s unexpected…  but not always.

Here David invites us to “taste” and then we see.

 O Lord sometimes your goodness lies hidden from the obvious. It seems quite out of sight of the realities at work on the ground at work or home or at the garage.  No one would deny you are THE GREAT GOD, but there are times when the invasion of your goodness doesn’t come when I think I need it.

There are times when your goodness is not grabbed or jerked into my situation but rather it is slowly tasted.  I hold it and search it by tasting!

Slowly I experience this abundant goodness, sometimes for year.  Then I savor it taking my time and tasting all the multiple flavors of it.  Tasting soon becomes absorption into my being.  Something is taking place, a change from the dark despair of what my eyes see to a brilliance lived out in another reality far above roads and trees and crowded cities with corrupt governments. I taste then… I see.

The scripture stories and my daily events of your extended goodness shine as a glass offered.  There is an appearance of “wine” in the glass but the full joy of it I cannot  experienced until it I taste it.

O Lord, I will come and taste your goodness that I might SEE YOU and not just the effects of all your goodness.

Then the “True Wine” will open my eyes to the “Wine Maker.”

You are truly GOOD O LORD!

 

 

 

 

 

UNCONTAINABLE

This Magnificent Man   Day 5

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

 Have you ever tried to hold oil?  Impossible! Some things are beyond our ability and the empire’s attempt to silence the message was as futile as trying to hold oil.

Why would the “crown” want to silence John?  Empires rely on normalcy, the status quo to keep things going.  Power is entrenched in a select few and that is enforced with the might of the sword. Anything that challenges this authority must be dealt with swiftly and completely or else control is lost.

John is arrested.

But what those power brokers did not know is that you may silence the messenger but you will never silence the message. Like fine oil it will drip through your grasp and be discovered by those dwelling in the dust.

The marginalized are not forgotten; those who had hope preached to them by John will not be left holding an empty bag. There is another who will take up the torch and wave it madly in plain sight until all men see the light!

The One who is the portal between heaven and earth, the One who has overcome the nemeses of humanity now comes to Galilee announcing, “It’s time!” His message is no echo nor is it something utilized to gain multitudes of followers. It is the MESSAGE! It is heaven speaking loud and clear to earth in such a bold a dynamic way that the choice in the end will be clear, embrace it or kill it!

His announcement is not reserved for a few special dignitaries, or a particular nation nor is it limited to just the poor and oppressed it is heralded to humanity!  All of it! From time beginning to its end, in every century, every nation, every tribe and every language this message will ring loud and clear!

It is for all men!

It is for you!

It is UNCONTAINABLE!

 

 

 

 

 


14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV)

SECRET TESTING Day 4

 

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The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

 YHWH is not benign! He holds to a standard far beyond our imagination and rally’s all of His strength and power to maintain that standard. When the standard of His perfection is not upheld then we discover his sever attention given to the matter. Jesus is no exception.

It was the custom of kings to be tested before receiving the crown.  Leonidas the valiant King of Sparta who withstood the mighty army of Persia at the Battle of Thermopylae, had been trained in the Agoge, a school that trained young men for citizenship and leadership in Sparta. It was a rugged school and many washed out; a school that movies are made of but this was nothing compared to what Jesus endured for the forty days in the wilderness.

Of all people Jesus is forcefully driven into the wilderness by none other than the Holy Spirit. The God-Man is expelled from society not by the hand of men but by the hand of God. There is no delay either.  Immediately after His baptism his direction is aimed to a desert place in Judea to be alone and to learn to fight!

His fight would not be for a nation nor would it be with swords and shields.  His fight would be against the author of all-evil, not one of his emissaries but the Satan himself.  The two would meet head on and only one would emerge victorious.

Mathew adds that Jesus fasted the entire time. For forty days Jesus ate nothing. He slept on the ground wrapped in his robe, drank from the brooks where water could be found and engaged in continual combat with the Devil. Again Mathew lets us know of three distinct temptations the devil presented to Christ but it would be fair to assume that the bombardment of these seductions far exceeded the number three.

Day after day the salvos came. Ruthless, incessant, cruel, the devil knew no mercy.  Yet Jesus never yielded nor did he have a pity party.  He held firm and gloriously repelled each attack.  The Devil had met his match! Jesus would now become his worst nightmare!

In our case such seasons either make you or break you. All that Jesus took on himself for us obviously did not include our periods in the desert, those times of serious testing and preparation. Our commission is born in the hearts of men and women who have passed the test and these are the ones who emerge as a force to be reckoned with. They bear the marks of the desert and are noticed by those who have experienced the same. Maybe they could be called “Comrades in arms!”

But we return to that lonely struggle in the Judean hills. Hills that had drank the blood of David’s enemies now witnessed a victory that far surpassed former battles.  Eventually it was the devil that gave up. The fight had come to a lull but would continue for another three and one half years. Future battles would be fought and Jesus would emerge without even so much as a scratch but this struggle during these forty days did not leave Jesus unscathed.

Angels we are told came and ministered to him.  There were no crowds, no applause no face book posts, just solitude and angels!

The world was about to see a man like no other!


12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. (ESV)

This Magnificent Man Day 3

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THE PORTAL

 

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

 “In those days…” They were without a doubt days that would change history. Calendars would determine their dates by the arrival of this man.    Here another figure joins John at center stage but this man is the One of whom John spoke, the One whose sandals were more honorable than the prophet’s reputation.

Jesus leaves home. Few outside his immediate family have a clue to his future.  Jesus has grown to become a man working hard in his father’s workshop.  Hands roughened by years of working with wood are now destined to heal the sick, comfort the hurting and overturn man’s carnal ambitions. All his years at home were in preparation for a brief three and one half year ministry. Our culture demands instant results and often we demand them from unqualified men but one must ask, “What qualifies men to lead?”  As we look to the Prime Example in Jesus it would seem quite natural for God to take His time in carefully molding His will and character into the lives of those who bear His name. Jesus was at it were, hidden for thirty years while God was preparing both His Son and those who would receive Him.  Growth takes time, even for Jesus!

The day comes when he leaves his family and is guided to a river.  He stands in line with families, children, aunts and uncles waiting to enter the waters.  Others don’t recognize him but then it’s his turn.   John looks towards the next candidate and recognizes his cousin. The Baptist knew what others did not.  This was no ordinary man and certainly one that needed no repentance.  Mathew describes the moment with a sense of hesitance on behalf of John but John will agree to Jesus’ request.

I wonder what went through John’s mind and his heart as he lowered his cousin into those gentle currents. Questions undoubtedly raced through his mind when suddenly the clouds began moving rapidly as though they were being torn apart by an invisible hand.  Looking up it seemed Jesus could peer beyond the physical and see that innumerable host of angels gazing on as the Lamb of God fulfilled all righteousness. In plain view of those observing the Holy Spirit descended like a gently dove upon him.  And then suddenly The Father spoke from heaven. His words were heard by all but understood by only a few.  Perhaps some thought it was thunder but Jesus heard them clearly.  What other men mistake as something of nature those who have ears to hear walk away with understanding.  The Portal between heaven and earth literally stood before John!

Mathew the tax collector records it in the following way. “ This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” But Mark puts it more personal by saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Baptist may have seen the same thing but the message from heaven was not so much for others as it was for Jesus himself.  One must consider that if YHWH would give such a clear testimony of Jesus’ sonship what more will He do to assure you that you are His?

The entrance and continuance for the believer in the Kingdom of God is not something that must be guessed for or wondered about.  Jesus is fully capable of presenting Himself with such clarity that doubt is overcome by knowing.  A voice may not break forth from heaven or a dove lite on your shoulder but that chest-pounding confirmation of the Holy Spirit will arrest your heart and settle you into the absolute confidence that you are his!

His baptism will be his inauguration into his work.

Messiah has come!

Now it begins!

 


In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (ESV)

This Magnificent Man! Day 1

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Over the past several months I have been immensely enriched by taking a hand in hand journey with Peter and Mark. My adventure in Mark’s Gospel has drawn me into the scenes, the smells and the sounds of a time in the past and has enlivened  my senses to a Jesus who seems to come out of the pages.

I will begin to post my journey here on “Thoughts From My Moleskine” and I want to invite you to come with me, eat with me, feast with me.  This is not a technical work as much as it is a story, one that calls us to enter into.

Now… we begin.

THE BEGINNING

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,  “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

Beginnings start at the beginning and Mark sets in motion the story, not just any story but a story that has impacted all of creation and shall continue to do so for all eternity.  This is the story of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is filled with amazing joy and deep pathos.  There are tears of profound saddness  and shouts of Hallelujah, babies, demon possessed, prostitutes, raging seas, jealous followers, cruel death and an empty tomb.    But our narration does not begin in a manger. It begins with the pen of an aged Prophet, seven hundred and fifty years earlier who is drawn into the far distant future.

Sitting at his desk Isaiah is arrested by the Holy Spirit.  This is no strange thing for this man. It is not a sudden fit nor is it a trance but rather a beckoning to come aside and listen. He is accustomed to such special moments, accustomed but never comfortable with them.  He sits attentive smothered with great respect and a sense of awe.   His wife a prophetess in her own right understood the things he saw and heard and even his sons were named to reinforce the prophetic narrative of Judah, but this didn’t make anything better for his kinsmen.  The enemies of Judah would soon surround her and the life span of her walls seemed numbered.

Smoke from Babylonian campfires would one day soon fill the nostrils of frightened Jews. It was a bleak time but it belonged to YHWH and he was about to speak something that men would hardly believe.  It is during this difficult season that God points to a future that seems like a pipe dream to those who hear it.  In the darkness of men’s pessimism the Holy Spirit interjects Himself and sounds forth a different narrative, one that contradicts the story on the ground.

Prophets do that! They see an alternative and then against all odds proclaim it with an assurance that causes the “brokers of power” unavoidable tension.

Mark sets the stage with a quote from Malachi and then concludes with a passage from Isaiah’s fortieth chapter.  The prophetic announcement bursts forth like a sonic boom with a “voice of one crying in the wilderness.”  He uses words like ‘messenger,’ ‘voice,’ ‘crying,’ and ‘wilderness.’  This is no political machine or a new conqueror about to come to the forefront appearing like the proverbial knight in shining armor.  It is herald by a single man, a man who would be called the last and the greatest of all the prophets.  It is the urgent disclosure that someone is coming and you’d better get ready!

Imagine it.  Isaiah was telling people not yet born to set their house in order and brace themselves for the dawning of a new era!

This is where Mark begins!

 

 

 

 

 


1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’” (ESV)

Change

NATURE 2Fall, it reminds us of the hot days of July and the cold freeze that is coming.  But for me it reminds me of something else, namely that life is in constant transition. Babies take their first steps, cars wear out, muscles turn to flab, and eyesight is blurred.  Lovers get married, boys turn to men and championships are won but leaves eventually fall.  They fall to only provide the stuff for a new season, a new generation.

May our lives bear fruit for another season!

The Avenging and Forgiving YHWH

Here’s a verse that some may wish was never in the book.

 “ O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.”

Two extremes that seem incompatible with each other; mercy and judgment, forgiveness and vengeance. This creates a problem for many. We prefer to ignore it because it does not fit our quaint reductionist view.  We have turned Him into a caricature of our own wants with the phrase, “Good God Bad Devil”. Hence we avoid the difficulty of reconciling the two, but they are here, side by side in the Psalms and in many other places as well for one simple reason.  It’s necessary!

Why so?  The defense could go something like this. “Unless you admit that God is the avenger of wrong doing you will never fully know nor appreciate what Jesus absorbed for you on the cross. His payment would take on little value.  To deny the God of vengeance (, , , all of which are New testament quotes) is to undermine and insult the price paid upon the cross. One could follow the logic like this: If Hell is not real, if wrath is not real, if judgment is not real then Jesus died in vain.”

In such a case his death would have been a most pathetic failure of which country music artists could use for their lyrics.

But the Psalmist does not stop there. He gives overwhelming hope.

  • God is great and awesome!
  • He is just and righteous. 
  • He is holy.
  • He is forgiving. 
  • He is good. 
  • His steadfast love endures forever and His faithfulness to all generations. 

The extent of His mercy equals the extent of His wrath, if this were not so He would be unjust. But He IS JUST!  Infinitely Holy and infinitely Merciful.

This horribly deserved wrath is now swallowed up by mercy in Christ.  His anger for my sin is satisfied by the most perfect and innocent sacrifice. His wrath was avenged by love!

Some in modern circles would say the sacrifice of His Son is “Celestial Child Abuse.”

I call it , “Love beyond comprehension.”

JWIII

 


O Lord our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings. (ESV)


that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. (ESV)


19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (ESV)


28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (ESV)


Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Holy is he! (ESV)


The King in his might loves justice.
You have established equity;
you have executed justice
and righteousness in Jacob. (ESV)


Exalt the Lord our God;
worship at his footstool!
Holy is he! (ESV)


O Lord our God, you answered them;
you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings. (ESV)


For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (ESV)


For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (ESV)

The Last Word

Friends

Letters use to be sent with the post now they are sent mostly by email.  I am writing this to several of our friends some who support this work and some who do not.  Nevertheless it is quite clear that if you are a supporter or not we seem to all be navigating waters that we have never known before now.

The news has had its affect on the psych of the American public. Ratings for news outlets are posted weekly on Drudge and it is clear we are a people who thirst for information. Yet, I cannot remember the last time I got up from a newscast encouraged, by what I saw.

International instability, economic uncertainty, Congressional hard ball, government shut down, debt limit ceiling and the new health care law all cause us to weaken in the knees as we see things spinning out of “our control.”  I stress “Our control” because we were never meant to have it and now one sees the impotence of our arrogance as a nation.

But for those of us who bear His mark there is another reality that is different than what our eyes see and our ears hear. It is a narrative composed not by bureaucrats in Washington or the power brokers of our time, It is a reality written by a Celestial hand on the hearts of men while the party continues.  The proverbial “hand writing on the wall” is being carefully scripted.  I do not say this to feed any animosity towards what we are experiencing and those causing it but only to say there is an alternative and it is the alternative of YHWH!

“Pharaoh” never has the last word!

We are faced with a far more important question than the one looking for solutions to the problems above.  Our question is “How do we enter into that heavenly narrative and not be swept up into the maniacal fear that is gripping the world around us?

When Israel was threatened from her enemies it was a time to turn to God, to run to Him and not from him. It was a time to “grasp the hem of His garment” and not let go regardless.  Sadly we often take such measures only when faced with overwhelming odds that oppose us.  But some of you have learned well how to lace your fingers and heart around the Savior.  You have seen and can testify that He really is your refuge and this time is no different.

But the demonstration of our faith has a subversive tone to it.  It is a clear announcement that you are led by and controlled by and committed to another value, another reality and each time you engage in that obedience you are communicating to the powers that be that there really is another One in charge here!

Such actions speak loudly in Israel’s past.  Things like going into battle singing, collecting manna for six days and not seven, striking a stone in the desert and enjoying a gusher of fresh water; all of these and many more illustrate that there is someone behind the seventh day, the hard rock, and the looming foe.

So my purpose here is to encourage you!  The manna will continue!

Pharaoh never has the last word!

Jesus does!