Some thoughts on a book I’m currently reading

Why is it that I read more in the summer months than the winter? It would seem I should read more in the winter, since there are less things for me to do, based on the often brutal weather outside. Not sure of the answer, but it is a fact I find it easier to read in the spring/summer months. Maybe just being outside with a book (ok my Kindle Fire) is so relaxing. I want to share from a book I’m currently reading, “Hosting the Presence.” by Bill Johnson. (an actual soft-cover book too.)

I can’t digest this book in large chunks. Most theological reads, for me are like this. I have to take in bite size pieces, often checking the referenced Scripture texts and figuring out if I agree with the point(s) being raised. I don’t think this book is for everyone, not even every follower of Jesus. However there are a couple of points I think demand everyone, (possibly even non-believers) take into consideration for their life’s journey.

The first thought I want to explore is taken from chapter 28 of Genesis. The verses that Pastor Johnson highlights are 16-17. “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it. He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

Pastor Johnson explains:

“The elements of this story are simple—open Heaven, Father’s voice, angels ascending and descending, and the ladder on the earth reaching to Heaven. This in it’s entirety is a picture of the church. But the most astonishing part is the conclusion Jacob made from this revelation. This is none other that the house of God, the gate of Heaven. Did you catch it? The house of God is the gate of Heaven.”

I have read the story of Jacob at least a dozen times and did not make that connection. Johnson sums it up like this.

“This picture is quite profound. The Church is the eternal dwelling place of God. And at this moment in time it is a building built on the edge of two worlds. We are dual citizens of both Heaven and earth. As such, we are not only those who are to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, we are the tools who are often used by God to release that reality into this one. I’m not sure that we are to always know the magnitude of what we’re doing or the impact we’re having. But it’s helpful to understand that our obedience always releases His world into this one in a way that is more substantial than we ever thought possible.”

My core beliefs seem to agree with the above statement. The church is not a building, but a group of believers, and in its smallest unit, each individual believer. Gods Kingdom is at hand, it started with Jesus and His resurrection, and will continue until the His return to rule Heaven here on earth. (albeit a new earth see Revelation 21:1 ) When we draw closer to God, following the example given to us in Jesus, we impact people, often without knowing it. So with this knowledge what am I to do? Seems simple enough, the more I follow God’s will for my life, the more I am able make a difference in the world. Of course living in our broken world it is sometimes difficult, if not seemingly impossible at times, to feel I am doing what God would have me do. The good news is that God can overcome what I can not. As a long ago prophet gave us these words.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10

Being Thankful for What We Are Thankful For?

It’s that time of the year. People start to do crazy things.

Ok normally sane people start to do crazy things.

#Thanksgiving
What sane person, on an extra day off of work, decides to get up early, throws a 15 lb turkey in the sink, starts pulling out all kinds nasty stuff out of it, so they can then put bread filling into it, pop it in the oven…. Thus starts the day of Thanksgiving for many people. Yes, I have had to get up on occasion to help with the turkey. Then the preparation of everything else that goes into this special meal….. that may last 30 minutes.
So then after a day of eating way to much, watching football and trying to avoid the cleanup after the meal… People decide yes, it is time to go shopping….
I don’t know about you, but if I have to get up earlier than I do when I go fishing, just to get a special “sale” item…. I think I’ll just pay full price.
To think this is just the kickoff of the “Holiday Season!”
Life just seems to get so busy this time of the year.

This can cause a lot of mental anguish to many people. Why??

I think it really comes down to us forgetting in the busyness of the season all the things we have in our lives. The more distracted we are by the whirlwind of our lives, the harder it is to stay grounded in what is important. Especially the most important thing…… Each other…….

The world tells us that we are all different, unique individuals. 0526140813a

We are, each person different, yet all connected together through our actions. The world tells us we are the most important. If  I don’t look out for me, who will?

Yet that is not what the story of the Bible tells us.
As a country founded on Christian principles, why have we spiraled so far from doing what is right?
I think mainly because most “Christians” get it wrong. Somewhere along the path from 1776 to 2014 the church didn’t follow the most important command Jesus gave us.

The three year ministry of Jesus walking the earth was coming to an end. He had gathered together his closest disciples for a last meal, and here is what he tells them…..

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

That is it, right there, a new command. Yet how many times have you experienced a “Christian” not loving another “Christian.”  I’m as guilty as the next person. It can be hard to love people.

How different would our world be if we had just gotten this “new” commandment right. If most of us people going to church actually lived this commandment out?  How do you think the early church survived and Christianity spread?

Maybe because they lived this commandment.

So be sure you are thankful for what is most important. Each Other!

Love each other. After all, it is what Jesus commands us to do.

Is Temptation in our lives Sin?

I had originally posted this in 2012. I thought it was time to bump it up.
Kevin….

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV

Who is not tempted? Yes that is a trick question. Anyone who ever walked the earth has faced temptation. Jesus was tempted, Matthew 4:1 “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  So if God allowed Jesus to face temptation you can be sure all of us must face it. No it is not a test, resist and win, give in and lose. Temptation can have many purposes. Sometimes it is even for our benefit. First God does not cause the temptation, the evil that is our broken world is the source of temptation. So no matter how “good” you are, you will face temptation in the world we live in.
If we accept that statement as fact, then instead of trying to flee all temptation we need to examine how best to not give in to the temptations we face. Sometimes we will need to flee from it as fast as we can. At other times it can be a way to examine ourselves and find where our spiritual strengths and weaknesses are. Why do I feel this way and is there something I can do to change my feelings about this temptation. If you agree God does not cause the temptations we face, then we should accept he allows them, at times even for our benefit. Yes for our benefit.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:1-2 NIV

In these verses and the ones that follow Jesus gives us a reason for some of our problems and temptations. I have found in my own life, the problems I have gone through allow me to spiritually grow in some way that benefits not only me, but my service in the Kingdom of God. Do I wish I didn’t have to go through many of these problems, yes.  Yet when facing seemingly insurmountable problems sometimes all we have to grasp is the fact that God is with us and things will work themselves out for our benefit and God’s Glory if we allow it.

A song that really speaks to me about this process is Kutless’  “Even If”. If you like that kind of thing check out. So what to do when faced with temptation? Trust in God. Don’t think you have to deal with it alone, that is the world’s way of deceiving you. Use friends, mentors, pastors, counselors. God created us to be in fellowship with Him and with other people. Getting through tough times is one reason why. What we experience we can then use to be of benefit to others. Let me close with some words from Jesus, John 15:12-15 NIV

 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

IS BEHAVING LIKE A CHILD THE KEY TO ACCESSING THE KINGDOM OF GOD?

“Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”Luke 18:17 (MSG)

So how does one receive the Kingdom of God like a child? What if we think about receiving the Kingdom of God as something like getting a birthday gift from someone when we were a child. Here is this shiny wrapped up gift. We do not know for sure what is inside. Has any child ever looked a wrapped gift presented to them and said without opening it, sorry I don’t want it, I don’t deserve it, take it back. So a person has heard the Gospel, acknowledged Jesus as their Lord and Saviour yet when offered the wonderful gift of God’s grace they turn their backs and say no thanks. No I am not good enough to serve God. I am too old to serve God now. I am too poor to serve God. I do not have the time to serve God. All these reasons and any other excuse we give, is us handing back that beautiful present,
unopened and without knowing what may be inside once unwrapped. See we have to accept that gift of  grace. That is what helps lead us into doing what God would have us do and becoming who God would have us become. M. Robert Mulholland Jr gives insight;

In the final analysis, there is nothing we can do to transform ourselves into persons who love and serve as Jesus did except make ourselves available for God to do that work of transforming grace in our lives.

So we need to tear the bow and wrapping paper off, open up the free gift of grace that is given to us. That is how we not only gain access to, but become an active participant in Gods Kingdom. See Jesus is standing, holding this great big, beautiful wrapped up gift. He calls everyone no matter what their social, health, or economic status is. “Let the little children come to me.” Jesus at the same time gives a warning “do not hinder them.” The obvious message is for his disciples to allow the children to approach Jesus and receive a blessing. We as followers of Christ should also take care that nothing we do hinders anyone from access to Gods Kingdom. As discussed earlier, no one is unimportant and all have access to Jesus. This open invitation should include all,
without restriction. If we are including all, then certainly we must include ourselves. So each person may need to reflect on the question, is there anything that is hindering my own participation in the Kingdom of God? Are there any preconceived ideas that turn me away from a truth or truths of Gods Kingdom? It should be important that all believers attempt to not allow what they “like” to determine how they worship, praise and serve God. That is a challenge for many, but I believe that it should be related to the “do not hinder” warning Jesus gives us. So in summary what did I discern from the lesson Jesus gave speaking of the children? All are welcomed into the Kingdom of God. The realization that all we have is dependent on God opens up the door to accessing the work of his transforming grace. Once we allow this work to begin we should be on guard for anything that could stop us from being and becoming what God wants us to be.

Truth?

What does truth, mean to you? When I think of the meaning of truth my first thought is something that is real, accurate. Of course what I believe to be a truth may not be what others believe to be a truth. So is truth subjective? I do not believe truth to be subjective. Just because I believe something is true or not true does not make it so. It is either true or it is not true. Forgive me for this Star Wars reference. Yoda gives an excellent example of this while Luke (no not the same Luke of the Bible) is trying to lift his X-Wing fighter out of the swamp and Luke tells Yoda he will try. “No, Try not. it is either do or do not.” For some questions there must be an absolute answer, either yes or no. I am hoping most people will agree with that statement.

The trouble is in determining which questions demand an absolute answer and which are OK to have gray areas. Who will win the Super Bowl? If you know the true answer to that you could yourself make a little money. Is the weather nice where you are? Some people in the same location can have very different answers to that question. What about these four questions; Is there a creator of the universe? Is there a God? Was Jesus a real person? Is Jesus of the Bible God? Gotcha, these questions require a yes or no answer, don’t they? Either there is a creator of the universe, or due to the right combination of something all this just happened. There is either a supreme being(s) or there is not. Jesus was a real person, even most atheists will agree with that. There is too much historical evidence to deny. OK so if there was a real Jesus, is he or isn’t he God? Has to be yes or no, right?

So if you agree that those four questions require either a yes or no, how do you answer them? Even more important, why do you answer them the way you do? Have you really thought about the question? Or is it just what you “think?” We live in an ever-changing world. The amount of information available to us is truly only limited by the amount of time we want to invest in seeking it out. All I ask is if you have answered no to any of those four questions, without giving it much thought and study, please take the time to investigate each question you answered no. Be sure the information you use is factual. (not just Wikipedia) Even more important, just talk to God. I know, how can you talk to someone you don’t believe to be real. All I can tell you is to try it. Something like,“God if you are real I want to know you.” “Jesus if you are God I want to know you.” You see what I know to be true is that God loves everyone and wants to have a relationship with them. May I leave you with these words of Jesus recorded in John 16:12-14 (MSG)

“I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t handle them now. But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you. Everything the Father has is also mine. That is why I’ve said, ‘He takes from me and delivers to you.’

Questions and comments are always welcome.

Coincidence or Godcidence?

Julyvac2012 003 How often do you have something happen that just seems too odd to be accounted for by just blind happenstance? You think of someone you have not seen or thought of in a long time and soon after you see them. Two total strangers meet and discover there is a connection between them that neither knew about. You are short money that is needed urgently for something important, like the rent. Suddenly extra income or a gift is given that is exactly or close to the amount that was needed. Have you had something like this happen to you? Sometimes this run of coincidence is negative. In my local area recently an elderly driver ran a stop sign and hit a car being driven by a young unlicensed driver. Of all the vehicles on the road circumstances put these two people together at a moment of time which resulted in this vehicular accident. So not only good things, but bad things happen that can cause you to pause and think, what are the odds of that happening? Ok, I confess I don’t call these things that happen in my life coincidences anymore. I call them “Godcidcences.” Yes, I am an Evangelical Christian. No, I do not have it all figured out. But I do know who does, God.

 James 4:13-15 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

What I have found in my life is that if give control of my life over to Jesus, things just happen that you can not explain other than God is working his plan out and I am lucky to be a small part of it.

 Phillipians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

No this does not mean my life is without problems or times of trouble. What it means to me is that in all things I want to try to honor God. When things go the way I want and when things go badly I strive to keep God first. What I would like to do now is to just tell the latest Godcidcence that happened to me. Those who know me are aware I have just resigned from a job to relocate with my wife to a new state. (Total honesty we have owned a condo in a beach area for a couple of years and decide to make the move earlier, rather than wait to retire there in three-five years) So as of December 22nd, you could count me among the unemployed. I had an interview for a part-time job that had been rescheduled, at my request, several times. It is a group interview, myself and three other men.

During this process I find somethings out about the younger man next to me;

  • He was brought to the interview by his mother.
  • He is hungry. No time for breakfast and will be happy for the lunch break.
  • He is living about 15 minutes away from where I live.
  • We all get offered a job, he is excited about staying for training that afternoon.

I make an offer to take him home after the training is done.  Hoping to save his mother from having to hang out until we are done.(four-five hours later.) Oh yeah, she lives about an hour and a half away from the interview site. So while commuting to the training site and then on the drive home we share more about our lives.

  • He went to church over the holidays and he asked God for a job. He had mentioned several times during the day what a “blessing” this day turned out to be.
  • He saw my Phillies key chain and asked if I was a Phillies fan. His mother moved with him out of the Philly area so of course he is a fan of all the Philly teams.
  • On the way home (no I did not make a detour!) we went by the church my wife and I attend, and just mentioned it to him. “That’s where we go to church.”
  • His girl works right next door to where I live so I dropped him off there.

Oh yeah, as he got out of my vehicle he asked if I had a card or something with the church phone number on it. I said no, why do you want that, to find out the service times? Yes that was it, so I wrote the times down for him.
(Forgetting that I did have the phone number in my cell phone, in my jacket pocket.)
So what does all this mean? I have not a clue. I know I am not going to be searching for hidden meanings or thinking I get extra points for playing taxi for someone who needed it. All I know is that for that 30-45 minutes I got to know someone a little bit. Someone God put into my path for some reason. In that time God showed me once again that he is in control. Now if I can just keep from getting in the way God will work out his plan for my life.

   “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11