To Infinity and Beyond! (From Abstract to Absolute)

You must have felt, the air is chilly, when that craving for hot, steamy satisfying tea appears, where you crave that comfortable heat to fill your body, your hands, your head, your heart; you don’t want to freeze, so you want hot tea. Your favorite flavor may be zesty lemon, fresh mint, or spicy cinnamon. “Ahhh” would be a natural reaction your lungs have when steam fills yours nostrils, cheeks begin to rosy up, and your nose gets runny.

That’s how I feel when I get tea. You?

At least with the leading brands like Yogi, tearing back the paper and pulling out the stringed teabag lately brings the reading of a wise proverb. One tea stated,

“Love without trust is like a river without water”.

I like that one. Another tea stated,

“The gate to happiness is self-compassion”.

(What is happiness? …self-compassion?)

Wise sayings like these are usually harmless. Mostly they hold some truth, take them as they are. However, the second message (about self-compassion) can be interpreted both to harm and not to harm, due to its abstractness. For example:

A mother’s interpretation might be: “I should care about me this weekend. I’ll soak in a long bath while the hubby’s home.” Mostly harmless.

A painter’s interpretation: “Heed not the family business. Instead, do what makes me happy and go to art school.” Maybe harmful, maybe not.

But then a troubling interpretation from an angry teen: “To protect myself, I should get rid of the bullies. Tomorrow the gun goes in my backpack.” Mostly harmful!

Do you see where I’m going?

There’s no need to blame the teabags for sinister influence. These sayings are far too short and vague for the granting of ill intentions, and it’s entirely the responsibility of each person how he thinks, how he plots, or how he reacts. Right?

With that said, what concerns my writing today is the manner in which we consume abstract thoughts like these – even if each person is responsible for their own living and own behavior, it is the responsibility of a society, or a community, to provide the ambience needed for people to produce good thoughts each on their own.

It is a matter of how we habitually think and live. If we make a habit of consuming messages that are vague and abstract, our lives will be lived in the same abstractness. Our lives will be lived for the general purposes of “happiness”, “wellness”, or “productivity”; that is, the persons that we are will become bounded to the finite. The predictable. The limited. The temporary. Without the eventual consumption of that which is deep, unlimited, and endless, we will never find the absolute truth that sets us free.

As I have taught from week to week for more than a year now on my blog, I teach again: we can find that absolute truth by reading the entire Bible. It allows us to live a life boundless and free, unpredictable, unimaginable, and everlasting. Partly the purpose of my blog has always been to discuss again and again the Scriptures so you will come to know the Bible without having to read it alone and in cold, hard truth. I pray you come to see the burdens-lifting message of the gospel.

The inspiration of my writing today came from a teabag message I have not yet shared with you. I believe it is my favorite, because it brings to my mind the entirety of Christ. Quote:

“Love is an experience of infinity.”

What Yogi meant by putting it on its product I don’t know. Maybe,

God is love.

Love at its fullest mends all hurts.

Love shared by two people has an out of this world feeling.

Lovers are metaphorically stargazers who will never see every star no matter how long they gaze.

Love literally does not stop when completely unconditional.

Love has no ending of explanations.

Christ, however, reveals the quote much less abstractly, in fact, as Paul states it, there was a mystery and that mystery is now seen in Christ. All that was abstract is now absolute in our Lord and King who reigns on heaven and in earth. Read this passage in Ephesians 3:14-21 to get a true taste of infinity!

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

 

 

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The Great Eucatastrophe: The Christian Joy

“Jesus draws a circle around all the human family.”
-Jim McGuiggin in Drawing Circles, Part 3

 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14

In an essay JRR Tolkien wrote called “On Fairy Stories” (written for the collaborated book Essays Presented to Charles Williams), he called the birth of Christ the “eucatastrophe” of human history. It’s a great eruption of goodness!  God’s own Son, the one who created the entire earth in just 7 days, the one who is “the Word” talked about in John 1:1, came to Earth as a lowly man, the son of a carpenter!  He gave up the riches and glory of heaven to live among men, to befriend them and to relate to them; to be judged by them, loved by them, reviled  by them, killed by them, and ultimately to save them.  To quote Tolkien, “This story begins and ends in joy.”  The famed author was comparing the Gospel to a beautiful fairytale, the perfect story, even more perfect than any other fantasy stories ever told because unlike all others, which have been created by the “corrupt making-creatures” which Tolkien has named mankind as, Christ’s story is truth, and has “entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation”.

“For to us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)

As Tolkien wrote in his essay, “To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.  It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true…”

The truth is, the Righteous Judge was lowered to our position as human, so he could give us what we don’t deserve: forgiveness and salvation.  He chose a manger for his throne.  The precious hands that uniquely crafted every creature and plant on earth has entered this world as tiny hands of a baby.  The Son of God was made into the Son of man.

 

“And then the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and his kingdom there shall be no end.”  Luke 1:30-33

Jesus came to earth so that we can go to Heaven.  Heaven: the land of eternity that transcends time and space.  Heaven is our promise, the triumph over death.  It’s the end of all things dark and sinister- the end of evil looming to bring fear to man.  It’s the end of all things alienating: it’s the end of sin.  With Jesus, we no longer have to fear God’s judgment.

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, an idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.  I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.”   Revelation 22:12-21

Jesus Christ was born as a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth and placed in a manger.  He was exalted by the angels and visited by shepherds and kings alike.  But when he comes again, He will be Lord and God.  King of all Kings.  I love the way that Tolkien expressed it in his essay: “God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves.  Legend and History have met and fused.  But in God’s kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man.”

“Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” James 2:5

“Then Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry. He who believes in me will never be thirsty…The Father gives me the people who are mine. Every one of them will come to me, and I will always accept them.  I came down from heaven to do what God wants me to do. I did not come to do what I want to do.  I must not lose even one of those that God has given me, but I must raise them up on the last day. This is what the One who sent me wants me to do. Everyone who sees the Son and believes in him has eternal life. I will raise him up on the last day. This is what my Father wants…The Father is the One who sent me. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him to me. And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the prophets, ‘God will teach all the people.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the One who is from God. Only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth. He who believes has eternal life. I am the bread that gives life…I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh.  I will give my flesh so that the people in the world may have life.”  John 6: 35, 37-40, 44-48, 51

 

Jesus in Televison

It is the latest trend in the television world for diversity to be on our screens. It seems to Hollywood, globalism is the path, equality the door, and acceptance the key.

In 2017’s TV industry, an unprecedented rule of thumb looms overhead, expecting all cultures be represented (not only Caucasian, English, etc.), and the culture must be accurately shown; if not, at least make sure the cast is diverse, to offset any potential whitewash.

For example, Kat noticed the new rule of thumb in the movie “The Star” out at theaters, with the cast being greatly diverse, including Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Clarkson, Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Kelly, and Aidy Bryan, among other big names.

The Star’s trailer:

Personally, I have no qualms with the above subject. I love the newfound diversity, and find it appealing. That being said, I can imagine the rule of thumb will make us look back on old films and cringe, where we shake our heads at the “era before equality”. Look at the popular news spots for the teenage and younger millennial audience, and you will see this as our reality, at least in the United States.

Here’s an 80’s music video of Michael W. Smith’s Secret Ambition:

What does this mean for the future of Jesus films? It may be, we find viewers being critics of all the former movies portraying Jesus, because Jesus is always, always (…almost always) cast as a Western-looking man. Maybe the exception is Selva Rasalingam, as he played in “The Gospel of John”. According to Wikipedia, Rasalingam is maternally British, paternally Tamil (Sri Lankan).

Here’s my quick sketch gallery of actors who have portrayed Jesus:

 

 

Let’s be honest. Every portrayal of Jesus is going to be inaccurate, except an early 30’s male actor who comes directly from the seed of King David. I doubt a person with that credentials would be possible to find, since the family tree would have to go back so ancient as 1000 BC. (Then again, the Bible itself is a family tree, so that’s a start.)

Really, anyone from Israel may look like Jesus. Who knows? We know little to nothing about Jesus’s appearance except that he was ordinary and did not stand out like royalty does. King Saul, Samson, and Esther for example all stood out; they would have won contests with their charm and skills, which is different than how Jesus is described in Isaiah 53:2, where it says,

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”

There’s also the interesting fact that Jesus was related to a lot of beautiful men and women: Joseph, David, Rahab, Rebekah, Rachel, and Sarah were all mentioned as appealing to the eyes, which means Jesus has really great genes, to give him a few shapely features, here and there. So there is no reason to portray Jesus as unsightly or funny-looking, neither should he be seen as un-Hebrew.

To strengthen the point that Jesus didn’t have to be unsightly even looking at the words of Isaiah, remember in the story of David as a boy, he was the last to be picked as King simply because he was a young shepherd kid and he was too busy for formalities. It’s not like Samuel said, “Ew, I’m not anointing him, he’s ugly”  – the Scripture says he was “ruddy and handsome” and had “beautiful eyes” – but because David was unimportant and ordinary, he wasn’t first choice. For Jesus, he, too, was an ordinary man. A carpenter, who hung around fishermen, got his needs provided for from widows and lowly women, and played with children off the street, Jesus was also “without majesty” because he wasn’t anybody different.

Conclusively, my opinion is that all actors who play Jesus Christ should be enjoyed for how they play the role, despite race or appearance. Jesus came and died for all, so that all might live eternally with him in heaven; I believe it is ok for modern trends to be considered, along with production needs and availability of actors, but it is also ok for all people and all cultures to enjoy the chance to play as their Savior, and most certainly one’s character should be considered as importantly as finding the right look or the right attraction.

Won't it be a great day when Jesus returns? Check out Hachi's video - listen to the trumpet sound!

Give Me the Bible

My father was stationed overseas when I was born.  Yakota Air Base was our home for the first 3 years of my life, so my family has had a kindred heart for Christians in Japan.  When I would brag to my friends in school that I was born in Japan, they would always come back with a reasonable question: “Can you speak Japanese?”  The question bothered me at the time, because I was a quiet child and didn’t even speak much English until I was 3 years old.

When I was 13, we moved to Germany.  We lived 2 years on the German-Dutch border, in the small German town of Gangelt.  We had a German neighbor and received advertisements in the mail in a language we didn’t know.  We made some special friends in our small church group which met at a chapel at the Nato base my father was stationed at.  If it weren’t for the gracious people of Germany who would gladly speak English for us, we would probably have been clueless about a lot of things there.

So I have always had a pretty good concept of foreign languages and different cultures.

If I were to pick up the little red Dutch Bible that I have in my library, I wouldn’t be able to read the words because I don’t know the language.  Even if I browse the pages of the Japanese Bible that I have, I may recognize a symbol or two from where Lacy and I are working on learning, but I still wouldn’t be able to read it and understand what it says. I can bet that if I were to know Japanese or German, when I read the Bible I would still have to focus on the words and grammar, because it’s not my first language.  It’s not the language that I hear when I think thoughts in my own head.

 “Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.”  Luke 24:45-48 (WEB)

Aside from Japanese, which I’ve always kinda wanted to learn ever since my friends asked me if I could speak it, another language that I’ve always found attractive is ASL.  My mother has always had a desire to learn sign language (and she passed the desire on to Lacy and me), so when she saw a piece of mail with a man on the envelope signing the words “Please open”, it was no surprise that it stole her attention and made her open and read the enclosed letter.  It was from the Pioneer Bible Translators, an organization that translates Bibles into foreign languages.  Their goal is to translate the Bible into every known language, so no man will be hindered from knowing God due to not having His Word in their own language.

This particular letter from Greg Pruett, the president of Pioneer Bible Translators, was talking about a personal experience when he was trying to decide whether to pursue a version of the Bible for the Deaf.  In it, he says “Brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to repent of how we have ignored the Deaf of the world as if they were not included with us in the message of God’s love. It’s time to take action…”

“Now, why would the Deaf need their own Bible?  They just speak English, or Dutch, or Korean, or Italian, or whatever the language of their environment.”  I’m sure that thought would go through the mind of many people.  But in knowing the differences that can be found in languages, it makes perfect sense to me.  Sign Language, as well as other languages like Japanese, isn’t as complicated as English.  Where we speak what we want to say in complete sentences, “I would like to give you this gift.”  They don’t clutter their thought with the needless extra words.  “Give.”

“It is true some Deaf learn to read by memorizing what each sequence of letters represents.  But this is tedious and unnatural, and those words will never be their heart language.  Most Deaf think in sign. For God’s Word to resonate deeply within their hearts, they need it in sign language.” –Greg Pruett

Also, according to Greg Pruett, people who were born deaf have a disadvantage.  When they read a Bible verse in the language of the country they live in, they only recognize the words as symbols on a page.  They have never heard the sounds that they must read.  While people who speak English see the word “Pizza” and think of how it sounds (like PEETsa), the person who uses ASL as their native language might read that word as a “Z” drawn with the index and middle finger.  Like this…

The truth is, Sign Language is an entire network of languages that haven’t even been considered for a Bible version of its own until recently.  And each region of the world has it’s own version of sign language.  ASL is “American Sign Language”, and is used by Americans.  But Pioneer Bible Translators are working to expand their reach to include the Deaf community all over the world.  They want to make many versions of a sign language bible, made into phone apps, a website, DVD, or memory card for the phone or computer; they want God’s promise to be carried even into the most silent of communities, so that all will have the chance to find God’s truth.

They are trying to raise $100,000 by the start of next year.  Would you be willing to help them out?  You can donate on-line or by check, by visiting http://www.PioneerBible.org/YearEnd2017

 

PioneerBibleTranslators

Below are some amazing videos of songs which have been translated into Sign Language.

“Let me be blunt: If one of us—even if an angel from heaven! –were to preach something other than what we preached originally, let him be cursed.  I said it once; I’ll say it again: If anyone, regardless of reputation or credentials, preaches something other than what you received originally, let him be cursed.”   Galatians 1:8-9 (MSG)

Invited to Come

“And Jesus answering spoke to them again in parables, saying, The kingdom of the heavens has become like a king who made a wedding feast for his son,”  Matthew 22:1-2 

Imagine for a minute that you work for a very important company.  You’re a hard worker, and you’re looking for a raise, so you’ve been working hard to be seen by the CEO (your boss!) and have your work noticed.

Now imagine that your boss’s son is becoming the new CEO of the business that you work at.  It’s a happy day for the boss and it’s put him in a good mood.  Such a good mood that he decides to throw a party.  He’s very proud of his son, so he invites all the workers of the business to celebrate his son’s achievements with him.   That includes you!

“and sent his bondmen to call the persons invited to the wedding feast, and they would not come.” (v.3)

The day comes, and you get a message on your phone.  Not just a reminder, but a personal message from the boss:  “I’m celebrating my son today.  I hope you’ll come and help me celebrate him and all that we’ve done together with the business.  Remember, the doors are open in an hour.  Don’t be late for the toast!”

Keeping in mind that you’re looking for that raise, would you miss this chance to celebrate with the boss and his son, and maybe show off your charm and friendly personality and maybe even get a word in about all that you’ve done for the business?  Of course not!  You’d most likely shine your medals, wear your best outfit in the closet, and take a glass of champagne as you proudly join the ranks of all the leaders of the company.   You would want to be noticed by the boss!

But in this parable that Jesus tells the crowds, the people who were invited were not coming to the wedding feast that the king had thrown for his son.  It was a proud day for the king: his son had found a beautiful princess to love and cherish and be wed to, but none of the people that he invited…. “they would not come.”  They didn’t bother to show up at the feast that he was throwing.

Now imagine you decided that you had other things to do, instead of celebrate your boss’s son’s promotion.  He’s not the one who deserves it; you work hard.  You need to be the one up there being praised and honored, not the boss’s son.  So you decide not to come.  And no one else shows up either.

How do you think the boss would respond to no one showing up when his doors are opened.

“Maybe there was a mistake.  No one received the message.  Maybe it didn’t send.”  Cell phones aren’t the most dependable form of sending messages, after all.

“Again he sent other bondmen, saying, Say to the persons invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatted beasts are killed, and all things ready; come to the wedding feast.  But they made light of it, and went, one to his own land, and another to his commerce. And the rest, laying hold of his bondmen, ill-treated and slew [them].” (v.4-6)

The boss decides to send an email to his employees.  “The doors are open!  The food is ready. Come, celebrate my son with me!”

You read the short and simple email, and laugh it off.  Why would you celebrate that egotist?  After all, he’s entitled and privileged.  You notice others on Facebook and Twitter expressing the same thing.  One person even copies the boss’s letter to their Facebook status and speaks negative and disrespectable things about the boss’s son.

“And [when] the king [heard of it he] was wroth, and having sent his forces, destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (v.7)

Of course, when the boss sees what his employees are saying on social media and when he sees that no one cares to come and celebrate his son with him, he becomes very angry with the people who work under him.  How can he hand his business to his son and expect people to respect the new CEO, if they don’t even respect the current CEO (him!) enough to come to a celebration that he throws?

You and all of your co-workers might find yourself with a new message on your phone.  “Don’t come into work tomorrow; you are relieved of all the duties that you are responsible for in my company.”

Wait, that wouldn’t be very smart, since firing everyone would mean that the boss would no longer have any workers at the company, right?  It would surely be a company suicide.

“Then he says to his bondmen, The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy; go therefore into the thoroughfares of the highways, and as many as ye shall find invite to the wedding feast.” (v.8-9)

Instead of canceling the party and closing the business, the boss creates immediate buzz to put on TV.  “Breaking News!  There’s a celebration going on, and everyone is invited!”

“And those bondmen went out into the highways, and brought together all as many as they found both evil and good; and the wedding feast was furnished with guests.” (v.10)

Now imagine you’re a local shop clerk who’s dreamed of working for a large company, but you have never had the chance to be discovered.  You can’t even afford to own the proper evening-ware for a party of this stature.  But now everyone is invited to come celebrate the passing of the baton in this highly esteemed company.

So you decide to drop everything, change into your best clothes and attend the party.  The boss is pleased at the outcome, because many people  have come.

“And the king, having gone in to see the guests,” (v.11)

The boss mingles with the new guests.  He hires people on the spot, eager to replace the disrespectful people who had been working for him before.  He has a vision for his company.  There is no room for hateful people who don’t show respect for anyone but themselves.

“beheld there a man not clothed with a wedding garment.” (v.11)

Imagine, instead of dressing in your very best clothes to impress the boss, you drop everything and come as you are: in casual tank top and shorts.  You’re not here for a job; you just want to gaze on the beauty of the fine silverware and the exquisite foods that will be served there.  You know nothing about the company, the CEO or his son.  Maybe you could even take home a bag of leftover food and save it for later.  Would anyone miss just one crystal champagne glass if it was lost? With so many, surely not! Even if they did, they would have the money to replace it.  Right?

Even if you don’t think about taking away a souvenir, your main purpose is to enjoy viewing the lifestyle of luxury and enjoy the rich (free!) food that you could never afford on your own.  Maybe you’ll wish that you could live in a grand mansion or eat from golden dishes, but you don’t have any plan to shake up your own life with change.  It’s too much work.

“And he says to him, [My] friend, how camest thou in here not having on a wedding garment?  But he was speechless.” (v.12)

What does it mean to be speechless?  Merriam-Webster.com expresses it as this

  1. Unable to speak: Dumb
  2. Not speaking: Silent
  3. Not capable of being expressed in words

So, for just a moment, imagine yourself as the boss.  You’re celebrating you’re son: a bright young man who you have seen from infancy, grow into a mature and responsible leader.  You’re brimming with pride. You want to show him off and honor him for everyone to see what you have had the pleasure of seeing all along. You’re promoting him to the position that you would only give to a person you trust as much as you trust yourself: the head executive of the business that you dreamed, started, and fought for most of your adult life.

With that in mind, when you see a man dressed in slacks coming to your honorary celebration, you don’t want to judge a person based on the clothes that is worn.  He could be living on the streets, and needing help.  Who is he?  Where did he come from?

“Friend,” You say.  “Don’t you know that this is a celebration of the utmost importance to me? My son is taking over the company that I started 40 years ago with my own hands. Why haven’t you come in more formal clothes?”

He is speechless.  Maybe he’s ignoring you?  Or perhaps he doesn’t have anything to say.  You try to reason out in your mind why he doesn’t speak.  You can think of 3 reasons (based on the definitions above) why he could be speechless.

  1. Maybe he is mute. If he were, then surely it wouldn’t stop him from having words to say.  He would still try to express his reasons to you, even without the ability to speak.  He could use gestures and facial expressions to give you an answer.
  2. He does not wish to speak to you, because he has intentions that he wants to keep hidden. Perhaps he is a thief, here to steal your silverware when you’re preoccupied with hosting the party.  Or worse, he’s here to pick pocket your unsuspecting guests and take advantage of the people who have gathered.
  3. He will not speak simply because he has come to gawk at your wealth and gaze at the beauty of your living. You cannot have him disrupting the celebration and intimidating your guests; after all, you didn’t invite people to come and stare at your accomplishments and marvel at your golden platters, they are here to honor your son, who you are very proud of.

“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him feet and hands, and take him away, and cast him out into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. (v.13)

That’s harsh!  But looking at the possibilities, why wouldn’t you want to throw the man out? You have the power to send away anyone you wish to send away, because you are the host of the celebration.  He didn’t respond to you when you spoke to him.  He’s either ignoring you, wanting to steal from you or your guests, or he’s turning all of your guests into spectacles to gawk at and watch as if they were animals in a zoo.  He won’t even talk to you, so if he’s troubled or needing help, you surely don’t know.  You’ll send him out, and if he doesn’t leave, you’ll probably call security.  The harder he fights, the worse it will be for him.

“For many are called ones, but few are chosen ones.” (v.14)

Truth be told, you most likely wouldn’t go to a millionaire CEO’s party in shorts and a tank top.  It would leave you feeling awkward and out of place.  But the issue here isn’t what clothing is or isn’t appropriate.  The issue is the fact that the speechless man didn’t treat the host of the party with the deserved respect.  Don’t you think that a man kind enough to invite everyone to the party would be equally kind enough to help the speechless man out, if he had just asked?

Let’s imagine, instead, that you are a guest that came to honor the host of the party and his son, but you came only as you are because you are poor and cannot afford anything fancier than the second hand clothes that you’re wearing to the party.  What might happen if the CEO comes to you and asks you about your clothes and you choose to give him a respectful answer instead of staying silent.

CEO: “Friend, don’t you know that this is a celebration of the utmost importance to me?  My son is taking over the company that I started 40 years ago with my own hands.  Why haven’t you come in more formal clothes?”

You: “I’m sorry, sir.  I came because I was invited.  I’m simply a sales clerk.  Though hard-working, I have just enough money to pay rent and buy food for my family. I don’t have anything impressive to wear.”

With this response, the boss is impressed with you, and for reasons unknown to you he takes you to his office and helps you clean up your appearance.  You are transformed; when you look in the mirror you see a confident and strong entrepreneur that you’ve never seen before.

The boss brings you to his son, who is the new CEO of the company, and introduces you.  “Look son, I have brought to you our new COO (which is the chief operating officer- the second in command) in the business.  I expect you to teach your new employee everything that I have taught you.”

 Jesus's words to His Father: “I have told these men all about you.  They were in the world, but then you gave them to me. Actually, they were always yours, and you gave them to me; and they have obeyed you.” John 17:6 (TLB)

 

 “Let us rejoice and exult, and give Him glory; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready. And it was given to her that she should be clothed in fine linen, bright [and] pure; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of the saints.  

And the angel says to me, Write, Blessed [are] they who are called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb. And he says to me, These are the true words of God.”  Revelation 19:7-9

Why does God allow persecution?

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  -2 Timothy 3:12

We can see in so many places in the Bible where God’s people were persecuted and even killed!  It causes many to wonder why God would allow persecution to happen.  It doesn’t seem like a very loving thing to do.

The truth behind the persecution of the Christian churches can also be found within the pages of the Bible.  In Genesis 3:15, God’s curse against Satan is this: “From now on you and the woman will be enemies, as will your offspring and hers.  You will strike his heel but he will crush your head.” (TLB)

Satan caused Adam and Eve to bring sin into the world because of the great hatred and animosity that he felt against God.  The truth is, Satan hates God!  And so he also hates humans, because we are loved by God and have His protection.

You can see Satan’s bitterness against God and His beloved creation in the story of Job.

“One day as the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan, the Accuser, came with them. 

“‘Where have you come from?’ the Lord asked Satan. 

“And Satan replied, ‘From earth, where I’ve been watching everything that’s going on.’

“Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth-a good man who fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.’

“‘Why shouldn’t he when you pay him so well?’ Satan scoffed. ‘You have always protected him and his home and his property from all harm. You have prospered everything he does-look how rich he is! No wonder he ‘worships’ you! But just take away his wealth, and you will see him curse you to your face!’

“And the Lord replied to Satan, ‘You may do anything you like with his wealth, but don’t harm him physically.’

So Satan went away and sure enough, not long afterwards when Job’s sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother’s house, tragedy struck.” Job 1:6-13 (TLB)

Satan comes to God again in chapter 2 of Job and acts the same way. What hatred Satan presents to God!

We are also warned in 1 Peter 5:8 “Be careful-watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart.” (TLB)

There are many stories in the Bible about God’s people being persecuted. Next time you read about them, remember the one who is doing the persecuting; Satan, who is our enemy.

IDOP-StoriesOfPersecution

We can read more about Satan’s animosity in Revelation 12:7-13.

“Then there was war in heaven; Michael and the angels under his command fought the Dragon and his hosts of fallen angels. And the Dragon lost the battle and was forced from heaven. This great Dragon-the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world-was thrown down onto the earth with all his army.  

“Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, ‘It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of his Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth-he accuses them day and night before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony; for they did not love their lives but laid them down for him. Rejoice, O heavens! You citizens of heaven, rejoice! Be glad! But woe to you people of the world, for the devil has come down to you in great anger knowing that he has little time.’

“And when the Dragon found himself cast down to earth, he persecuted the woman who had given birth to the child…” (TLB)

So Satan resents God for exiling him, and he takes out his resentment by persecuting God’s people on earth.   You could say it’s Satan’s way of getting God back for punishing him.

IDOP-TypesOfPersecution

But that doesn’t explain why God would allow us to be persecuted.  After all, if He’s a loving God, wouldn’t he have the power to stop Satan from persecuting His people that He loves?

But here’s some news that may seem unbelievable…

We are actually blessed by our persecution.

Yes, it’s true.  When we are persecuted, we can count our blessings and feel joy in these truths:

  • We are identified through Christ Jesus.
"At one time you were separate from God. You were God's enemies in your minds because the evil deeds you did were against God. But now Christ has made you God's friends again. He did this by his death while he was in the body, that he might bring you into God's presence. He brings you before God as people who are holy, with no wrong in you, and with nothing that God can judge you guilty of. And Christ will do this if you continue to believe in the Good News you heard. You must continue strong and sure in your faith. You must not be moved away from the hope that Good News gave you. That same Good News has been told to everyone in the world. I, Paul, help in preaching that Good News. I am happy in my sufferings for you.  There are many things that Christ must still suffer through his body, the church. I am accepting my part of these things that must be suffered. I accept these sufferings in my body. I suffer for his body, the church." Colossians 1:21-24 (ICB)
  • The world is paying us tribute because we belong to Christ.
"But you should be happy that you are sharing in Christ's sufferings. You will be happy and full of joy when Christ comes again in glory. When people insult you because you follow Christ, then you are blessed. You are blessed because the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is with you." 1 Peter 4:13-14 (ICB)
  • God compliments us over our service to Him.
"Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you noticed  my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him.  He is an honest man, innocent of any wrong. He honors God and stays away from evil. You caused me to ruin him for no good reason. But he continues to be without blame.'" Job 2:3 (ICB)
  • God is weaning us off of our love for the world by letting us see where our trouble actually comes from.
"Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him.  Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.  

"You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet-and before God himself." 1 Peter 4:1-5 (MSG)
  • God is perfecting patience through our persecution.
"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. 

"If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open." James 1:2-8 (MSG)
  • We are being identified with great saints of the past.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
  • We are waiting to receive God’s great promise to us.
"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won't last very long.  Yet this short time of distress will result in God's richest blessing upon us forever and ever! So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (TLB)

 

IDOP-OvercomingPersecution

We typically think that in Jesus’ resurrection, He destroyed Satan’s power which is death. But that’s not true! Jesus actually destroyed Satan’s power and plans with His death, not rising from the dead.  He was sinless- our passover lamb.  His innocent blood washes us clean.

“Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15 (MSG)

“We have this treasure from God. But we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure.  This shows that this great power is from God, not from us. We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us.  We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. . We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies, so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death. This is so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. So death is working in us, but life is working in you.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (ICB)

Playing Heaven’s Song

Yesterday after supper, I was extra tired. My eyes were heavy. I didn’t want to go to bed, because I had things to do: write in my journal, exercise, take care of my dog, read the mail, along with other stuff.

Kat advised me, “Just lay down and close your eyes. You don’t have to go to sleep. But if you do, it’s ok. Just lay there and let yourself rest until I get back.” I knew she’d be gone for about 30 minutes. She also revealed to me, “Laying there without doing anything helps me. You can listen to music… but don’t do anything else. After that, you’ll be ready to go on doing what you have to do.”

So I tried it. Getting under my blanket to take the chill away, I stretched my legs out until my toes were nearly emerged. A sigh filled my lungs, and wonderment filled my thoughts about whether I really would feel rested afterwards.

As I peered into the darkness of my eyelids, and let the music fill my ears, the music started fading from my mind when I began to visualize a scene. In the scene, there was me standing there; now normally I don’t picture my own self; I’m always picturing fictional characters or other people I never have met, but this time, it was plain me.

Golden rays of light shone from the sky as I stood, taking a few steps forward in a field of champagne-colored grass. The grass rustled gently, but I didn’t hear it, I only felt the wind in the form of calmness, peace, and joy which surrounded me, and the rays provided warmth all around. On my face was a smile, and in my eyes was a mission I knew I had, as I peered over the field at something. There was a quiet confidence and an assurance I could get it done. In my hand was my mission: I carefully held it, and I was ready to use it.

I couldn’t make out what was in my hand. In my thoughts, there were questions: What am I doing? Why am I standing there? What is it I am accomplishing?

I tried to control the visual. Zoom out. Try to see what’s on the other side of the field. Figure out what you’re holding. The end of a violin suddenly came into view, but I stopped imagining that when confusion arose. I can’t play the violin! Why would I be holding a violin? …That’s crazy…

But I wanted to keep seeing more, so I begin to brainstorm what my mission was, what I should do, and what God might expect from me. As soon as I began to think about the projects that swamp my life and the issues like money and relationships, the peace left me and the visualization blinked out almost like it was interrupted by white noise or a faulty satellite dish. It was gone because I let my human concerns interrupt it.

I saw no more of it before Kat got back, and we began talking. However, later, the Bible interpreted for me. When going to the Bible app on a mobile device, you can find a ‘Verse of the Day’ at the Dashboard or Home screen; in this case, I went to Bible Gateway and the verse of the day surprised me with its relevance:

“Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; but the Word of the Lord will last forever.”

It took me off guard for the verse to be about grass because that’s what I saw! Grass – yes it was brown, but glorious and golden! Not brown and dying. I should be encouraged by your Word, Lord, but instead it makes me sad to think my aspirations, and my dreams will die and fade. This makes me sad, not happy. I’m sorry. I know your Word is what lasts, not my projects or what I want to do.

I left the app and went to other things, talking to Kat, getting sidetracked, but then I wanted to tell her about the oddity of my vision, if that’s what I can call it, and the oddity of the Bible verse, so I went back to the app and the Dashboard had a glitch. Oh man, I scolded myself, why didn’t you just write down the verse when you first saw it? Now it won’t come back. But then I realized, the rest of the app was working, so why not do a search? I searched “brown grass” and it took me to the exact verse I had read. This time I read the whole context, and it was in the context I got the positive message, the interpretation.

”For you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ, God’s ever-living Message to men. Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; but the Word of the Lord will last forever. And his message is the Good News that was preached to you.

“So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don’t just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty and jealousy and talking about others behind their backs. Now that you realize how kind the Lord has been to you, put away all evil, deception, envy, and fraud. Long to grow up into the fullness of your salvation; cry for this as a baby cries for his milk.

”Come to Christ, who is the living Foundation of Rock upon which God builds; though men have spurned him, he is very precious to God who has chosen him above all others.

”And now you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building his house. What’s more, you are his holy priests; so come to him—you who are acceptable to him because of Jesus Christ —and offer to God those things that please him. As the Scriptures express it, ‘See, I am sending Christ to be the carefully chosen, precious Cornerstone of my church, and I will never disappoint those who trust in him.’

”Yes, he is very precious to you who believe; and to those who reject him, well—‘The same Stone that was rejected by the builders has become the Cornerstone, the most honored and important part of the building.’ And the Scriptures also say, ‘He is the Stone that some will stumble over, and the Rock that will make them fall.’ They will stumble because they will not listen to God’s Word nor obey it, and so this punishment must follow—that they will fall.

”But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself—you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it.”

1 Peter 1:23-25, 2:1-10

I can assume, God probably had my Bible app glitch up so I wouldn’t be able to get depressed! It forced me to read Peter’s true message from God, which was that I am the Lord’s “holy priest”, as Peter says, called to build his church in which Christ is the foundation.

I also did a quick Google search on the symbolic meaning of the violin, and some consider it to be the symbol of Heaven, angelic being, serenity, calmness, and majesty. Here’s how I interpret what I saw:

The field of grass symbolizes the temporary life, and those living in it. The rays of light symbolize heaven, where God is, and it shines on the grass, where I stand. My mission is to play Heaven’s song -the violin was an instrument of Heaven- so that light will shine on the grass and it can live gloriously, eternally. Finally, God’s peace and spirit surrounded me, like the wind.

You want to know what added to the mystery? Let me add to the story:

Today, I was telling my mom about the scene I envisioned. Her face lit up. “What’s funny is, I had a dream this morning that I woke up from, that sounds a lot like what you described.” I’d told her about how I couldn’t “zoom out” and see what was beyond the field of grass. Anytime I tried to, the vision was halted.

“My dream had a field of grass, too!” she said excitedly. “I was standing in a field and was looking out over it, and saw three elderly people. One was a woman who had a cane, but she was running towards the other two men, like she didn’t need it. One of the men helped her into the light, and the other man was standing there, waiting to greet her. I tried to squint and see who they were, and then it zoomed up, like you’re saying yours couldn’t do! Mine could. I zoomed up and tried to look harder to see who it was.”

She realized, in her dream, the elderly woman was going from this life into the next, and she was being greeted by her loved ones who’d already passed on. “But there was the field of grass and the light in my dream,” she said. “Just like you described.” After she told me that, I proceeded to read to her 1 Peter (the passage above), and we were all inspired by how the dream, my vision, and Scripture were connected to each other.

I believe the take-away message we can get from this experience is that our mission as Christians is to become the building-stones for God’s family. Life here on earth is temporary. We should keep our minds set above, less on our projects and our careers, and more on how to bring others into God’s glorious light.

At least, in my case, God was telling me that I should focus less on my personal success, or how many sales I’ll get, or whether I’ll finish a project, and instead, I need to make Heaven my goal. If I am not playing Heaven’s song, if my project is not to advance God’s Kingdom, then my influence will be temporary and fade, or maybe God will even let my goals fizzle and be stopped like my vision was, when I got distracted with my human reasons.

For example, the many Christian writings I have done, here on my blog along the way, I have done for the sole purpose of helping others know the Lord Jesus. My writings have never been stopped, and inspiration has always flowed. But the instant I try to make money the goal, or I try to make impressing people the goal, my creations are stalled, halted, or quit by some circumstance.

All in all, there is nothing depressing about letting God’s message get out. Your brain can tell you that you don’t want to focus your time on Bible things or Christian affairs, instead you want to get out and make a splash! Experience the world without reserve. But as I am learning, the only way to have an eternal impact and earn an eternal reward is to take up the cross, become a building-block, and play Heaven’s song.

5 Common Misconceptions of What a PEACEMAKER is:

  • a PEACE WISHER is a person who wishes for world peace: they imagine a world where all people are at peace.  Though they can see the image in their own mind’s eye, they do not act on these wishes.  James 4:17 says that “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (NIV)  Also, James 2:16-17 says “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (NIV)  To make peace, we must act on the deeds that we know is true and right.
  • a PEACE BENDER is a person who believes they are an expert at knowing how to make peace with other people, and so they insist that everyone must gain their understanding and live by the standards that match what they know peace to be. Matthew 7:15-17 tells us how we can recognize a peace bender: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (NIV) If a person does not try to pursue peace and be at peace with all people (1 Peter 3:8-12), then their actions will portray their spirit. They are not an expert on peace, but are actually a peace bender instead; they bend the definition of peace to match their own ideas.
  • a PEACE MARTYR is a person who would willingly sacrifice anything to keep the peace.  They are willing to sacrifice their integrity, their happiness, and even their salvation in order to keep the peace with their friends and relatives around them.  Philippians 4:6-7 reassures us with these words: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
  • a PEACE YIELDER is a person who believes that peace on earth means no more wars will ever be fought.  They are ready to fly the white flag of surrender in order to “keep peace”, and they protest war and speak against people who would attack evil to subdue it. Though that may sound like a peaceful concept to the untrained Christian mind, our own Savior Jesus, the Prince of Peace, reminds us in Matthew 10:34-36 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” 
  • a PEACE HOARDER is a person who is content with life.  He has everything he desires, and lives life only in the comfort of his own circle.  He will not share the peace that he has, whether it’s out of ignorance or out of selfishness. Jesus says in John 16:32-33 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV)

Life on this earth will not be easy, and there will be many times when it will feel like our life lacks peace.  But blessed is the PEACEMAKER who sees all the hostility and the unfairness in the world and yet works to spread God’s word anyway.  The truth about peace is this: Peacemakers are soul-winners! They are the people who pray for others, who volunteer at food pantries and in relief groups, who invite their friends to church meetings or camps.  They’re the ones who live as Christ-like examples and are unafraid to declare Jesus’ name to the world (and to their friends!).  It’s only through Jesus that we can find peace.

“…since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:1-5 (TLB)
“Peter, an apostle (special messenger, personally chosen representative) of Jesus Christ,

To those [elect—both Jewish and Gentile believers] who live as exiles, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia [Minor], and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be yours in increasing abundance [as you walk closely with God].”  1 Peter 1:1,2 (AMP)
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the  highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.  

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
“And now there is one more thing to say before I end this letter. Stay away from those who cause divisions and are upsetting people’s faith, teaching things about Christ that are contrary to what you have been taught. Such teachers are not working for our Lord Jesus but only want gain for themselves. They are good speakers, and simple-minded people are often fooled by them. But everyone knows that you stand loyal and true. This makes me very happy. I want you always to remain very clear about what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The blessings from our Lord Jesus Christ be upon you.”  Romans 16:17-20 (TLB)

Guardian of Your Heart

“God blesses those people whose hearts are pure. They will see him!” (Matthew 5:8, CEV)

Do you want to see God? The sixth Beatitude says we should have a pure heart to see God. What is the heart? If nothing else, it is those feelings we associate with the red shape drawn on our Valentines cards, with two rounds at the top and a point at the bottom… Right?

Nah, the heart is more than that. Like the Trinity is God –Father, Son, Spirit – thinking, saying, and acting the same, there are also 3 organs that “speak” to each other a special way inside your body: the heart, the brain, and the stomach. Did you know that according to research, all three organs have their own neurons and neurotransmitters, meaning the heart can communicate to the brain feelings of pain and emotion? Likewise, the stomach can communicate hunger and digestive feelings. Some websites say different things, implying the heart and stomach can “think” on their own, but then others say they can’t. Really, though, what is “thinking”, and what is “feeling”, if not a collective effort of the body’s functions?

Think about a scenario: a man is waiting for his wife to stride downstairs donned in her little black dress for the date –wouldn’t his heart be racing as he envisions the dinner and car ride home? How about another: a kid walks in the bedroom while her parents are watching a midnight horror film and catches a glimpse of blood and gore – wouldn’t her heart be pounding when she runs back to bed and feels monsters underneath? In the same way, your stomach grumbles and you think, I’m hungry. It’s all feelings, and feelings are the government of your thoughts.

To be what God intends for us to be, you and I need to give our brain the role of guardian. Imagine that your organs are a family, your heart and stomach being dependents (children), while your brain is the independent (parent). They come to your brain with emotions of anger, fear, an adrenaline rush, or a lack of appetite. Your brain executes a plan determined by surroundings. For example, someone is walking nearby in the street, at the same pace as you, oh, but maybe a step or two quicker; immediately, an adrenaline rush begins to occur and your mind works out the facts of whether you have a stalker. Is the person suspicious looking? Is he armed, strong, and are you alone? Then suddenly, he crosses the street and heads towards the other block. Your reasoning grows serene at the realization he is a mere stranger.

In the example above, the heart was an influence to your thoughts. How? A pumping heart can affect your thoughts, making your brain scramble to keep calm.

But whether or not the heart’s neurons can grow fearful or the brain itself does the “feeling” and the “thinking” does not matter for this discussion. We can wait until later for science to discover the details. Right now, whether he means the Valentines heart or the muscly organ, Jesus has our answer in Matthew 15:16-20 regarding the role of the heart:

“Don’t you understand?” Jesus asked him. “Don’t you see that anything you eat passes through the digestive tract and out again? But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the man who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile; but there is no spiritual defilement from eating without first going through the ritual of ceremonial handwashing!” (TLB)

The Old Testament also speaks of the heart. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says:

“The heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is! Only the Lord knows! He searches all hearts and examines deepest motives so he can give to each person his right reward, according to his deeds—how he has lived.” (TLB)

That’s why the heart needs a guardian, because it needs to stay dependent on the brain to make sense of things, and connect with the knowledge of the Lord and His Word. There may be neurons in the heart (estimated to be 40,000), but there are billions more in the brain and the brain is where laws, principles, logic, solutions, and memories are kept.

“For whatever God says to us is full of living power: it is sharper than the sharpest dagger, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are…” (Hebrews 4:12, TLB)

Meanwhile, the stomach (where an estimated 100 million neurons are!) is temporary to this life, and probably sends signals to keep us alive, but does nothing for our spiritual walk. As Jesus said to Satan when he was starving in the wilderness, to keep temptation away,

Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:

‘No one can live only on food.
People need every word
that God has spoken.’”

(Matthew 4:3-5, CEV)

Paul also makes the argument, in the context of sexual immorality and how wrong it is, that the stomach and the body is temporary and that the body should therefore be used for God’s purposes instead of man’s whims.

“Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.

And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.”

(1 Corinthians 6:13-14, KJV)

Therefore, the mind should become the guardian of the heart and stomach, watching over them from a leader’s perspective. The mind is where the higher intelligence of Jesus Christ and his gospel is stored, along with steps on how to get to heaven, saving a person from the “second death”:

But those who are cowards, who refuse to believe, who do evil things, who kill, who are sexually immoral, who do evil magic, who worship idols, and who tell lies—all these will have a place in the lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8, ICB)

We must stay on the “road of right living” to stay safe:

“The road of right living bypasses evil;
watch your step and save your life.

First pride, then the crash—
the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

(Proverbs 16:17-18, The Message)

It takes smarts to decipher “right living”! However, it’s not too hard a concept: even Abraham was considered righteous because of his faith, which is the same as it is now, with faith in Jesus Christ.

Genesis 15:6: “And he [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He [God] accounted it to him for righteousness.”

In conclusion, with the smartness of your brain, the knowledge of Christ, and the grace of God, you can make your heart pure and keep it clean and fearless in the sight of God.  You’ll find a beautiful treasure waiting! Your pure heart will become the loving kindness behind the logic – the brain’s benefactor – and compassionate intuition will aid your deed doing.

 “So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith. We have been cleansed and made free from feelings of guilt. And our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22, ICB)

 

 “…Everything about us is bare and wide open to the all-seeing eyes of our living God; nothing can be hidden from him to whom we must explain all that we have done.” (Hebrews 4:13, TLB)

 

”No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God [Jesus], is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” (John 1:18, NLT)

 

“By the power of your hand, O Lord,
destroy those who look to this world for their reward.
But satisfy the hunger of your treasured ones.
May their children have plenty,
leaving an inheritance for their descendants.
Because I am righteous, I will see you.
When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.”

(Psalm 17:14-15, NLT)

“You can either doubt God and think he is in no part of your life, or you can believe God and think he is in every part of your life - everything changes.” ~Lacy Andrews

 

Hymn of the Day: Blessed Assurance

Blessed assurance!  We are given a promise of redemption and salvation!

Isaiah 43:16-21 says: I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a path right through the sea. I called forth the mighty army of Egypt with all its chariots and horses, to lie beneath the waves, dead, their lives snuffed out like candlewicks.

But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I’m going to do! For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness of the world for my people to go home, and create rivers for them in the desert! The wild animals in the fields will thank me, the jackals and ostriches too, for giving them water in the wilderness, yes, springs in the desert, so that my people, my chosen ones, can be refreshed. I have made Israel for myself, and these my people will some day honor me before the world.” (TLB)

God will give us new life.  We are His new creation.

Hebrews 6:10-12 says: “For God is not unfair. How can he forget your hard work for him, or forget the way you used to show your love for him—and still do—by helping his children? And we are anxious that you keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward.

Then, knowing what lies ahead for you, you won’t become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience.” (TLB)

God will not forget all that we do in His name!  We are blessed with the assurance of His promises.

Hebrews 6:13-20 says: “For instance, there was God’s promise to Abraham: God took an oath in his own name, since there was no one greater to swear by, that he would bless Abraham again and again, and give him a son and make him the father of a great nation of people. Then Abraham waited patiently until finally God gave him a son, Isaac, just as he had promised.

When a man takes an oath, he is calling upon someone greater than himself to force him to do what he has promised or to punish him if he later refuses to do it; the oath ends all argument about it. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those he promised to help would be perfectly sure and never need to wonder whether he might change his plans.

He has given us both his promise and his oath, two things we can completely count on, for it is impossible for God to tell a lie. Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.

This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven, where Christ has gone ahead to plead for us from his position as our High Priest, with the honor and rank of Melchizedek.” (TLB)

Since God is the righteous judge, we can be assured that His promises will be kept. 

Mark 5:35-36 says: ”While he was still talking to her, messengers arrived from Jairus’s home with the news that it was too late—his daughter was dead and there was no point in Jesus’ coming now. But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” (TLB)

 

2 Samuel 7:22  “How great you are, Lord God! We have never heard of any other God like you. And there is no other God.” (TLB)