Thursday, June 30, 2022

Humble Yourself

 




Now He said also, to some who have confidence in themselves that they are just, and are scorning the rest, this parable.  "Two men went up into the sanctuary to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a tribute collector.  The Pharisee, standing, prayed to himself; 'God, I am thanking you that I am not even as the rest of men, rapacious, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tribute collector.  I am fasting twice of a sabbath.  I am taking tithes from all whatever I am acquiring.'  Now the tribute collector, standing afar off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his chest saying, 'God, make a propitiatory shelter for me, the sinner!'  I am saying to you, this man descended to his home justified, rather than that one, for everyone who is exalting himself will be humbled, yet he who is humbling himself should be exalted.  

Luke 18: 9-14, Concordant New Testament


The hotshot quarterback was in a celebratory mood.  His team was up big at halftime, and he was dancing on the sidelines proclaiming, "It's over!"  The trouble was, it was only halftime, and the team he was facing was none other than Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide.  Nevertheless, Texas A & M quarterback Johnny Menzel continued with his celebration as if he had just won the national title.  Two quarters later, as Johnny made his way to mid field in defeat, the cameras caught a Alabama lineman put his arm around Menzel and say something to him.  When he was asked after the game what he had said to the young quarterback, the Alabama player said matter of factly, "I told him to humble himself."  Wise advice from someone who had been there before.  I can honestly say that I have been in Johnny Menzel's shoes before, where my pride has gotten the better of me.  Many times, it does not end up well.  Don't get me wrong, not all pride is a bad thing.  There is a old saying that competence breeds confidence, and I stand by this.  For if we are competent at something, we are more than confident that we can do it.  I believe that there is nothing wrong with this.  However, there are also times where our own confidence takes us places we should never be.  That is, exalted over those around us.  Nine times out of ten, we are only exalted by ourselves and not by others.  Confidence run amok.  What would God say about such confidence?  Well, in the right context I believe that He would approve.  Are we confident in Him?  Are we confident in the indwelling Christ?  It is this form of confidence which leads to our knowing of the Father.  It is our arrogance which proclaims that we don't need Him.  


For if anyone is supposing himself to be anything, being nothing, he is imposing on himself 

Galatians 6: 3, Concordant New Testament


Let me be clear, there is a definite difference between confidence and arrogance.  One comes from knowing while the other simply proclaims we know it all already.  There is a big reason that Jesus Himself taught a valuable lesson on arrogance when He spoke of the Pharisee and the tax collector {Luke 18:9-14}.  From the get- go, this arrogant Pharisee proclaimed that he himself was so much better that those around him.  He abided by the rules and gave so much more than the next guy.  The arrogance of the Pharisee is evident when he prays that he is not like that tax collector, immediately putting the tax collector beneath his own status.  The way he saw it, this Pharisee was the most righteous man alive.  On the other hand, the tax collector approached the Father with reverence.  He knew that he wasn't the best game in town, but he also knew that despite this, God was able to provide for him.  The tax collector humbled himself.  Which of these men would you assume was looked upon more favorably by the Lord?  Yes, the man who had humbled himself before the Lord went home justified.  In the end, Jesus provides a good moral to this parable, "Everyone who is exalting himself will be humbled, yet he who is humbling himself should be exalted."  Wise words indeed.  We do well to never act out of our own arrogance, proclaiming that we, and not those around us, are the best game in town.  Sooner or later the opportunity will present itself where we will be required to humble ourselves.  


Now he who is boasting, in the Lord let him be boasting.  For not he who is commending himself is qualified, but whom the Lord is commending.  

2 Corinthians 10: 17-18, Concordant New Testament 


~Scott~ 

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Many Faces Of God

 




"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.  And henceforth you know Him and have seen Him."  Philip is saying to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficing us."  Jesus is saying to him, "So much time I am with you, and you do not know Me, Philip!  He who has seen Me has seen the Father, and how are you saying, 'Show us the Father'?  

John 14: 7-9, Concordant New Testament


It is a question many a Christian child has asked their parents or Sunday school teachers for hundreds of years.  What does God look like?  Growing up, I asked that very same question of my mother.  Her response was to point to a artist's rendition of God in my illustrated children's bible.  I have a feeling that this is the typical response which parents give when asked this question.  The disciple Thomas wanted to know what God looked like as well, so he went cut out the middle man, went directly to the source and asked Jesus to show him the Father.  You'd think that Jesus would give a brief description of His Father to young Philip?  Nope.  Instead, Jesus proclaimed, 'You want to see the Father, Philip?  Here I am.'  You can imagine the surprise of his young apostle when Jesus let him know who He truly was.  Of course, comparing Himself to God was the main reason the religious authorities of His day set out to kill Jesus.  God was holy, and Jesus was this...sinful man.  But Jesus wasn't lying when He revealed Himself to Philip.  Nor is He lying when the Father reveals our true identity to us.  So, what does God look like?  He looks like me.  He looks like you.  He is, in fact, a God of many faces.  How can this be?  Consider the teachings of the apostle Paul, who himself inquired of Jesus who He was {Acts 9:5}.  It is through the writings of Paul that we are introduced to our own reality of Christ Jesus in us {Galatians 2:20, Col 1:27}.  Now, Paul himself wasn't with the original apostles when Jesus revealed Himself to Philip.  At that time the man Saul was too busy persecuting the early church.  However, in the years following his Damascus road experience, Paul came to understand not only who he truly was, but the image of the Father in him as well.  After all, as Jesus told Philip, 'He who has seen Me has seen the Father.' 


With Christ have I been crucified, yet I am living; no longer I, but living in me is Christ.  Now that which I am now living in the flesh, I am living in faith that is of the Son of God, who loves me, and gives Himself up for me.

Galatians 2: 20, Concordant New Testament 


A few years ago, there was a faith based film released titled Heaven is for real.  In the movie, young Colton Burpo claims that he had seen heaven during his recent hospital ER visit.  As the film progresses, young Colton describes the man who he came to know as Jesus.  Of course, this image was an artist's rendition, and it followed many of the traditional images believers have come to associate with Jesus.  Interestingly enough, scripture does not mention all that many passages about the appearance of Jesus.  We read about His clothing, but not His physical features.  Can we then assume that Jesus the man was not remarkable in physical appearance?  That He was...normal?  I would definitely agree with that.  So, barring all but artist's renditions of the appearance of Jesus, this is all which we are presented with.  So, what would your response be to someone if they were to ask you what God looks like?  Would you refer them to one of the drawings Christians have used for generations to show the image of Lord?  The kindly, smiling elderly man?   Remember the words of Jesus, 'He who has seen Me has seen the Father.'  How is it that we see Jesus?  If we take the words of Paul to heart, we see Jesus when we look upon others.  We see Jesus when we look in the mirror.  If Christ is indeed in us, then this is our one true image.  Therefore, the image of the Lord is...me.  When I see Jesus, I see the Father as well.  He is indeed, a God of many faces.  


Beloved, now are we children of God, and it was not as yet manifested what we shall be.  We are aware that, if He should be manifested, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him according as He is.

1 John 3: 2, Concordant New Testament 


~Scott~ 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The November Witch

 




"I guess my biggest fear, then and there, was that I didn't want to be out there alone"

Dennis Hale, sole survivor of the wreck of the Daniel J Morrel 


Growing up on the shores of Lake Superior, I came a decent respect for the weather she would often inspire.  In summer, cool breezes would blow in by the lake while a few miles inland would be baking in the summer sun.  Winter was another story altogether.  In winter the big lake would produce snow storms that could bury the city in a foot of snow overnight.  Those who have sailed on the lakes often refer to these storms as "The November witch."  Few who have never experienced the great lakes region in the winter could ever understand this.  Of course, along with the weather would come violent storms out on the lake.  Most people were bitterly reminded of the power of Lake Superior in November of 1975 when the 729 foot ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald went down with all hands lost.  I recall watching the newscast that night when the news broke that the Fitz had been lost.  The Fitzgerald was just one of the over 6,000 ships that have been lost to storms on the great lakes.  Another vessel that gets a lot of attention is the wreck of the Daniel J Morrel.  Unlike the Fitzgerald, the Morrel produced a single survivor, watchman Dennis Hale.  Hale would survive over 14 hours in the frigid 34 degree waters of Lake Huron before being lifted to safety by the Coast Guard.  For years after his experience, Dennis Hale would experience what he described as survivors guilt because he had survived while his shipmates had not.  Was he wishing that he had perished along with them?  Not at all, I believe that Dennis Hale simply struggled to comprehend why events had occurred as they had that night.  Was he special?  Did God have other plans for him?  Perhaps.  In September of 2015, cancer did to Dennis Hale what the gales of Lake Huron had failed to achieve.  


"All that which the Father is giving to Me shall be arriving to Me, and He who is coming to Me I should under no circumstances be casting out"

John 6: 37, Concordant New Testament


One quote proclaimed by Dennis Hale in one of his subsequent interviews got me thinking.  He said that his biggest fear that night was being out in that storm all alone.  I get it.  Many of us have been in that midnight storm, with the waves of circumstances out of our control smashing against us.  We don't want to go through this alone.  Where do we turn?  The apostle Paul tells us that when everything else fails, that there is One who never will.  Paul tells us that we can do ALL things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us {Philippians 4:13}.  In recent years I have tended to modify this scripture to proclaim simply...Christ IS my strength!  Again, Paul assures us of this fact in Galatians, where he tells of the indwelling Christ in each of us {Galatians 2:20}.  What storm is there which Jesus cannot overcome?  Scripture tells us of how He quieted the storm on the Sea of Galilee as He and his disciples traveled across it {Mark 4:35-41}.  His disciples, in wonderment proclaimed, "Who can this be?"  Who indeed.  I have no doubt in my mind that as Dennis Hale often struggled to come to terms with why only he survived his ordeal, that Christ was working through him into the lives of others.  We may never know just how many people Dennis Hale inspired with his story.  I know another true story, of a Man who survived death on a cross that others would live guilt AND sin free {2 Corinthians 5:21}.  Jesus assures us that when the storm arrives, we are never alone.  


And they were afraid with a great fear, and said to one another, "Who, consequently, is this that even the wind and the seas are obeying Him?" 

Mark 4: 41, Concordant New Testament 


~Scott~ 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Long Goodbye

 




Now, whenever this corruptible should be putting on incorruption and this mortal should be putting on immortality, then shall come to pass the word which is written, swallowed up was death by victory.  Where, O Death, is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sting?  

1 Corinthians 15: 54-55, Concordant New Testament


I had a conversation with a good friend the other day who recently lost her husband to the covid virus.  Although it has been awhile since his passing, she still grieves.  I can honestly say that I will think long and hard before I suggest to anyone that they "move on" from their own grieving process.  Because not so long ago this was me as I grieved the loss of my mother a few years ago.  Granted, there were those around me who insisted that I let her go and move on with my life.  I did just that, in my own time.  See, everyone of the Father's children is uniquely different in the fact that we react to things differently.  We may have been created by the Father in His own image, but He also created us with habits and behaviors which are unique to us.  This is exactly why the grieving process is a very delicate one.  Each of us does so in our own way.  Maybe it took me more time than others to move on from the loss of my mother, but that is how I do things.  My friend grieves in her own way.  Make no mistake, the time will eventually come when the sting of her loss will less painful.  I still remember my mother, but they are mostly happy memories now.  I have moved on from my own grieving process.  I also understand that there is a knowing in our hearts which makes the loss of a loved one less painful.  This revelation, when it comes, helps us to understand that this life which we live in the flesh is but temporary, and that we will be reunited with those who have gone before us.  I believe that this is part of the "Expectation of glory" which the apostle Paul speaks to in Colossians.  We who are in Christ Jesus know there is more to our own life than the physical which our eyes can currently see.  


To whom God wills to make known what are the glorious riches of this secret among the nations, which is Christ among you, the hope of glory. 

Colossians 1: 27, Concordant New Testament 


Wouldn't it be a tragedy if this physical life was all which we knew?  Live life to the fullest for tomorrow we die!  Seize the day!  The world is full of live for the moment philosophies all bent on stressing that we need to enjoy the moment because that's all there is to life.  Sorry, I'm not buying what they're selling.  There are even some contemporary Christian speakers who are less than enthusiastic about the afterlife.  The God I serve has never promised me a rose garden of a life here on earth.  My heavenly Father, however, does promise my eternity in Him {Romans 10:9, Ephesians 2:8, Romans 1:16}.  This is our hope, that the sting and pain of death may be mitigated by the reality of our own future in Christ.  Paul himself realized this as well when he mentions his own philosophy on life {Philippians 1:21}.  For Paul, his life...was Christ Jesus.  Death only hurried the moment when Jesus would be revealed for all {Romans 8:18}.  What a blessing to live in the knowing that the life I live in the flesh is but temporary, that we await the glorious revealing of  Christ Jesus.  This is what Paul was referring to when he asked, "O Death, where is your sting?"  There is indeed more to our existence than we see in this life in the flesh.  Come Lord Jesus!  


For if we are believing that Jesus died and rose, thus also, those who are put to repose, will God, through Jesus, lead forth together with Him. 

1 Thessalonians 4: 14, Concordant New Testament 


~Scott~ 



Friday, June 24, 2022

Me/Him

 




There is NO independent, self-operating self in the universe, except the One who calls Himself I AM {Ex 3:14} and says, "I am the Lord and there is none else, there is no God beside Me {Isa 45:5}.  

Norman Grubb ~ No Independent Self 


For some time I've been noticing a new, left influenced way for people to identify themselves.  This is through what is commonly known as pronouns.  Now, according to definition, a pronoun is a word which we often use instead of a noun or a noun phrase.  Sounds simple enough right?  Well, except when we began to institute pronouns of gender identity.  All of a sudden simple grammar becomes a statement of who it is we feel that we are.  I mention who it is that we "feel" that we are for a very important reason.  Because who it is that we might feel we are in no way resembles our own true identity.  I can feel sick or weak, but it does not take away from the man that I am.  The man that I am in no way resembles what some leftist gender mongering blowhard might say that I am.  For I am a child of God.  Granted, I don't have a monopoly on that reality either.  Which means that ALL men, women and children carry the same lineage which I do.  Our own constitution, which Democrats love to refer to only when it suits them, proclaims that ALL men were created equal.  Obviously, our founding fathers were on to something.  Scripture backs this up as well {Genesis 1:27}.  Fancy pronouns can never take away from the fact that we were lovingly created by our heavenly Father.  In fact, I believe that our list gender identity pronouns could be boiled down to just one...Him.  When we strip it all away, it is only the Father that matters.  We are created by the Father in His image.  It is the Father who breathed into His creation the breath of life {Genesis 2:7}.  Without Him, we are simply flesh without life or hope.  The belief that we can separate what God has created is, on its base, ridiculous.  Yet mankind continues in its quest to achieve individuality.  


With Christ have I been crucified, yet I am living: no longer I, but living in me is Christ.  Now that which I am now living in the flesh, I am living in faith that is of the Son of God.  Who loves me, and gives Himself up for me.

Galatians 2: 20, Concordant New Testament


What is it that we are trying to accomplish when we use pronouns to define ourselves?  At the end of the day, when we engage in such behavior, we are succumbing to the lies of the accuser.  For it is Satan who has spoken to the lie to Gods creation {Genesis 3:5}.  It is Satan who proclaims that if we follow him that we will "Be like God."  It is also Lucifer who, speaking the lie, proclaimed that he would be greater than God {Isa 14:13}.  Of course, we all know how that worked out for him.  Yet, for thousands of years after the bite of the forbidden fruit, we continue to accept the lie of the accuser, that we can somehow be independent of God.  Author Norman Grubb put it best when he claimed that there is no self-operating self in the universe save for He who calls Himself I AM {Ex 3:14}.  Think about it, all which we have or will ever have is from the Lord.  Life, love and material possessions all originate from His providence.  Think you can survive without God?  Good luck with that.  Think that you are independent of the Lord?  That all works fine and dandy up until you hit rock bottom and you're on your knees crying, "HELP ME GOD!"  God never changes, He is the same always and forever {Mal 3:6, Heb 13:8}.  We are the ones who are always changing, not God.  God does not need a dozen or so pronouns to describe Himself, He is who He is.  He...is God.


Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, is the Same One for the eons also.

Hebrews 13: 8, Concordant New Testament 


~Scott~ 

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Unloved

 




And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.

Genesis 2: 7  NKJV 


A friend asked me the other day what has come to be a talking point for too many Christians these days.  Can Jesus be seen in broken people?  Traditional Christian theology teaches us that in order for one to even come close to being "like" Jesus that we must first live a near perfect life.  For man is a sinner, always has been and always will be.  Knowing this, our only hope to be close to Jesus is to live as close to a holy life as we can.  But is this what Jesus Himself desired for Gods children.  Is our future one of only being "like" Jesus?  Not if you ask the apostle Paul.  For Paul tells us that it is Christ Jesus who lives in us today {Galatians 2:20}.  But when was the last time you heard a mainstream pastor mention that Jesus is in you?  It would seem that the fix is in, and has been for thousands of years.  We're to live as best as we can, knowing that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, wants nothing to do with being close to us.  After all, how can a holy Jesus ever indwell in sinful man?  This is something I've struggled with through my first years of Christianity.  I was fed the story of Jesus hook, line and sinker.  What else did I have to believe?  Then the words of Paul began speaking to my spirit.  How Jesus gave Himself that He might be with us {Corinthians 5:21}.  How He put sin to death that we should no longer be enslaved to it {Romans 6:6}.  This isn't something just unique to Paul, but to all of Gods children.  Knowing this, ask yourself that question once again.  Can Jesus be seen in broken people?  The answer is YES!  Jesus can absolutely be seen in those whom life has dealt a bad blow.  Jesus is definitely present in the lives of those who others would deem as unlovable.  We see them every day, those who we immediately pass the judgement of the Lord upon.  God could never love him.  How could Jesus dwell in a guy like him?  Believe me, I've heard a few of these words uttered about me as well from a few self proclaimed Christians.  In the end, if Jesus cannot reside in those we deem unlovable, what happens when the tide of public opinion turns against us?  


That they may all be one, according to thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us, that the world should be believing that Thou dost commission Me. 

John 17: 21, Concordant New Testament


I have a better question, perhaps a rebuttal to the question asked by my friend.  Why can't we see Jesus in those who we deem unlovable?  Do we have a monopoly on those whom Jesus chooses to dwell in?  Is it we who choose such things?  Thankfully no.  But for those who stick to their guns and proclaim that Jesus could never reside in someone whom society has forgotten, I present to you the breath of life we have all received from the Father {Genesis 2:7}.  See, when God breathed into us the breath of life, a part of Him remained in us.  Simply put, Gods presence in us is part of our DNA.  Knowing this, we understand that Jesus Himself resides in ALL of the Lords children.  Whether or not we notice it does not diminish the fact that He is there.  All too often, it is our own prejudices that cloud our vision of Christ Jesus in others.  How arrogant the believer who proclaims Christ in himself yet denies Him in his neighbor whom he dislikes.  Like I said, what becomes of us when the tide of public opinion turns against us?  Will we become the ones whom Jesus refuses to dwell in?  Will we become the unloved?  In the end, Jesus doesn't play that way.  We do well to recognize that Christ abides in all of the Lords children.  The court of public opinion hold no sway where Jesus is concerned.  It is Jesus who spent a good deal of time ministering to those less fortunate.  It is Jesus who ministered to those whom society of His day had deemed...unlovable.  The woman caught in adultery.  Matthew the hated tax collector.  The undesirable Samaritan woman at the well.  This was the love of Jesus.  This is the love that abides in us.  


And we know and believe the love which God has in us.  God is love, and he who is remaining in love is remaining in God, and God is remaining in him.

1 John 4: 16, Concordant New Testament 


~Scott~ 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Usual Suspects

 




How , then, should they be invoking One in whom they do not believe?  Yet how should they be believing One of whom they do not hear?  Yet how should they be hearing apart from one heralding?  Yet how should they be heralding if ever they should not be commissioned?  According as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those bringing an evangel of good! 

Romans 10: 14-15, Concordant New Testament 


I know a man, my good friend Dennis, a former man of the cloth, who during his final years of preaching and teaching from the pulpit, would often struggle with the concept of knowing Jesus on a more personal level.  He recently referred to this in one of our podcasts as the "Two gospels."  The first gospel is the traditional teachings of Christ which both Dennis and I grew up knowing and learning.  The second gospel is one spoken of by the apostle Paul.  A gospel not only of Christ Jesus, but of knowing Him on a more personal level.  The conflict Dennis faced as a pastor was struggling with the centuries old Christian doctrine he had been commissioned to preach and the radically new Revelation which the Lord had placed on his heart.  These days, he cringes when he thinks of the theology he once preached.  He has all too often jokingly apologized to me for all those years of misleading me on Jesus.  I hold no grudges.  I believe that he was simply proclaiming what was right in his heart at the time.  Yet why on earth would Dennis feel that tug of guilt over sermons delivered so long ago?  I believe that this speaks to the conflict of the two gospels.  One traditional and one so radically different that even Paul referred to it as the "Mystery among the gentiles" {Colossians 1:27}.  I had no idea of the conflict which my friend had faced until, on one of our short hikes, Dennis confided in me what I will forever know as my own revelation of Christ Jesus in me.  This is the second gospel which Paul spoke to {Galatians 2:20}.  The fact that churches proclaiming the truth of Christ in me are few and far between makes the revelation I have received less than mainstream in the Christian community.  Which explains why many readers probably have never even heard of it.  Were it not for one man, I more than likely would never have been introduced to the second gospel.  Predictably, most pastors continue to stick to the centuries old theology talking points in their teachings.  When was the last time you walked into a church service and hear the pastor speak to Christ Jesus in you?  Have you ever heard a pastor speak from the pulpit that sin...is dead?  Wait...sin is dead?  But don't we all still struggle with sin?  Yet Paul assures us that sin is indeed a thing of the past {Romans 6:11}.  This is part of the struggle Dennis and I faced as we each received our own revelation of Christ in us.  


With Christ have I been crucified, yet I am living; no longer I, but living in me is Christ.  Now that which I am now living in the flesh, I am living in faith that is of the Son of God, who loves me and gives Himself up for me.

Galatians 2: 20, Concordant New Testament 


I can definitely understand the struggles Dennis faced because I faced the same internal revolt among my own beliefs as well.  I also understand how recalling his days preaching the same old theology from the pulpit has made him at times feel like a get away driver who evaded capture.  I get it.  Somehow, he feels guilty by association.  Yet I believe that, as the Father intends everything for a reason, that the revelation which Dennis received was in no way by coincidence.  For his revelation of Jesus led to my own.  It is fair to say that God reveals Himself in us in His own timing.  This is especially evident in Paul's experience on the road to Damascus.  Traditional Christian doctrine speaks to Paul being converted on the spot, but this was not the case at all.  For Paul had questions and struggles with his new found revelation as well.  Remember, the man Saul was a devout Jew who had been raised up in the faith.  Saul was, if you will, a major religious authority of his day.  His zealous beliefs eventually leading him to persecute the early followers of Jesus.  Now, put yourself in Paul's shoes for a minute.  You've just encountered something/someone whom you cannot wrap your mind around.  Your teaching is telling you one thing, but your heart is pulling you in a totally different direction.  For Paul, his Damascus road experience led him to more than a few years in the desert as he undoubtedly wrestled with what he knew and the revelation he had received.  I have no doubt that Paul, like Dennis, had regrets about the theology which he had embraced for so many years.  By his own admission, Paul was the chief persecutor of the early followers of Jesus {1 Timothy 1:15}.  I for one am thankful that Paul worked out his struggles with his revelation out there in the desert, for he has become a confident voice for the truth of Christ in us.  Whether or not Dennis feels guilty by association to the old theology is of no consequence.  For through his guidance more than a few others have come to the revelation he once received.  We hope that through this book that many more will come to see the truth of Christ Jesus in you.  


To whom God wills to make known what are the glorious riches of this secret among the nations, which is Christ among you, the expectation of glory.

Colossians 1: 27, Concordant New Testament 


~Scott~