God’s Kingdom is for the Empty-Hearted

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In this week’s cassette tape study, late preacher Ted Kell tells us about the kingdom of heaven, and how we can be in God’s kingdom, starting today into eternity. It’s a glorious existence to serve the King of kings, Lord of lords, Heavenly One, and Creator. Let us define what His kingdom is, and how we go about entering into the gates.

First of all, let’s describe the difference in philosophies between the physical realm and the heavenly realm. With the physical, there’s this philosophy that if you can’t see or touch in tangible form a building or throne, there is no kingdom. People love to visit castles in England, and onion domes in Russia with their colorful tops, and the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, from times gone by; or like the young man who asked our current US President recently on Twitter, “It would be my honor to mow the White House lawn some weekend for you… I have been mowing my neighbors’ lawns for some time” — if there is no stepping into the threshold, no soles of one’s shoes hitting the marble floor before the throne where Abe’s statue sits in the Washington memorial; like that, if it hasn’t been experienced physically, then it can’t be marked off the bucket list, therefore it cannot be said that we ever “entered into the kingdom”.

In heaven’s philosophy, God the Creator made the whole world, and His kingdom is where His throne, and His authority, is. In Isaiah 66:1-2, we can read that God is with the hearts and minds of those who are contrite. (To be contrite means to show remorse or to have the desire for atonement.)

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one I will look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.'”

Kell said, paraphrased, you’re God’s people. Ours is the kingdom. The whole earth is ours — the Alexanders think it’s theirs but it’s not, it’s God. His great victory is ours, too, because God lives in us, within us. We must empty our selves, our egos, in order to receive God’s victory.

With that mindset, we can ask ourselves, what in life can be taken away from a Christian? How does one break a man who is already broken? What’s the victory in beating a man who has already given up the physical? So it is for the kingdom inheritors who accept Jesus’s words as true, and follow His example, becoming brothers and sisters in His blood as we sacrifice our selves on the cross next to Him.

Apostle Paul described his own poor and contrite perspective in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, as he explained his works, along with Apollos’s (another servant of Christ):

 “So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

“So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”

It’s mysterious to fathom God’s kingdom, both physically and spiritually, and the sooner we admit the answers don’t come from ourselves, the sooner we will enter into the gates and step before His throne.

Finally, Ted Kell told of a sobering example where soldiers from World War II defined the meaning for us, what it means to lose oneself to gain the kingdom:

7 troops from the Ukrainian army bravely volunteered for a dangerous work -utmost secrecy- against the ominous Nazis who came with tanks and artillery in a complete takeover. They volunteered to conduct a Kamikaze-type journey of blowing up the enemy’s tanks. As they stood before their leader, he began selecting the troops who would carry out the mission, and they waited anxiously to find out who among them were chosen. 7 names were on the board. The leader struck out 3 of the names. Immediately, those 3 troops began to protest, as they thought that being struck out meant they weren’t chosen. “We volunteered!” they objected. “We want to go!” The leader was quick to correct the misunderstanding. “Your names weren’t struck out because you were not chosen. You are chosen. After today, you will no longer be accounted for by the army officials. You 3 cease to exist. We are not responsible for your lives.” The chosen volunteers were going to be removed from the roster- proving the extent of deadliness in their mission.

Through it all, the glory of war did not leave those Ukrainian soldiers, because they chose to sacrifice themselves in the most rewarding call of duty, with their very lives, volunteering headfirst for the suicidal course of action. They even protested when they thought their names were canceled. Likewise, we as kingdom inheritors must voluntarily lose ourselves in order to gain possession of the kingdom. Whoever is willing to lose his carnal, physical life for Jesus Christ’s sake will in return find his spiritual, immortal life. Guaranteed!

“Now when He (Jesus) asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

 

Ted Said Happiness Is Our Identity, Not Our Goal

I don’t think my readers have to guess I’m a Bible geek. It’s always been that way since I can remember, partly due to the influence of teachers and scholars whom I’ve never met. I only heard them, and heard about them, thanks to the power of audio recording, word of mouth, and probably The Great Commission. All my life, Dad has always harped on Sunset preachers Edward Wharton, Jim McGuiggan, Richard Baggett, and Ted Kell, among others.

A few weeks ago, in the garage we found an old box of Bible courses from Sunset Preaching School, now known as Sunset International Bible Institute. That’s where my father was schooled. This particular Sunday, I listened to a dusty old tape which had a lecture on it from the late Ted Kell; he stated that it was the year 1974, so it’s been more than 40 years ago. Wow… I still shake my head in amazement that he was talking about subjects so relatable. It’s like he was talking about today! Except I think the world is even worse since he talked. (Maybe I’m just a millennial, aka Snowflake, aka Woman of Generation Why? as they call it…)

Ted Kell’s lecture was about the Beatitudes. Since I talked about Matthew 5 in our last study, I was extremely curious to know more. I listened closely. Here’s a summary of what I learned from him thus far:

The Beatitudes is part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is Jesus Christ’s longest sermon ever recorded. People from all over Palestine came to listen to Jesus teach, and ever since that time up until present day, it has continued to be the most popular part of his ministry; yet it is the least applied.

If the Sermon on the Mount is the essence of the Bible, then the Beatitudes is the ESSENCE of the essence. More specifically, the Beatitudes is where you go to find the principles of God’s laws, the very seed in which all the other verses of the New Testament grow from. These verses, which are Matthew 5:1-12, are also the answer to finding joy and godly fulfillment.

People are miserable today, Kell said; newspapers made the claim that anxiety and depression plagued the Post-Activism Era. People gave up on their dreams, dropped out of college, and committed suicide. (As it still is today. While I write, my thoughts drift to the recent suicide of Chester Pennington, vocalist of Linkin Park.) However, healing and prevention and freedom are found in Jesus Christ, only in him. You must apply his words to your life to get relief.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks to the multitude. He was first walking in a plain with a crowd of thousands of followers, when he saw how huge the crowds were, and decided to climb a mountainside and sit down, to teach. In Bible times, it was custom for the teacher to sit down before he began teaching. You can see that in Luke 4:20—Jesus was reading from the scroll with the prophet’s words, in the synagogue, fulfilling the very words as he read them, and then he sat down and said, “While you heard me reading these words just now, they were coming true!”

Jesus amazed the crowds at the synagogue, and he amazed the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount both. The Bible tells us that, in Matthew 7:28-29:

When Jesus finished speaking, the people were amazed at his teaching. He did not teach like their teachers of the law. He taught like someone who has authority.” (ERV)

The question still remains as to how, then, should we apply The Beatitudes? None of Jesus’s teachings come naturally to the human disposition. Everything he says runs counter to human nature. So we cannot be a natural peacemaker, or a natural poor spirit. Transformation of character is only possible when a Christian actively seeks Christ.

To review our knowledge, allow me to explain the vernacular usage of “the world” or “worldly people”, before we go any further. I have a friend who seemed to relate the Christian’s use of “the world” to a sort of anti-globalism stance, or some kind of pro-xenophobia agenda. No, no. Let’s define “the world”, and the difference between “the worldly” and “the righteous”:

The righteous is the flock, the sheep, in which Jesus is the Shepherd. The world are those who reject His teachings. Please refer to the picture below, to see a list of traits, taken from the Beatitudes, and then the antonyms, which can be applied to the worldly person.

righteousVsWorldly

“ Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2  (WEB)

Beatitude comes from a Latin word, beatus, that means “blessed”. There are a lot of beatitudes in the Bible, not just in Matthew 5. You can especially find them in Psalms. For example,

“Blessed is he who considers the poor. Yahweh will deliver him in the day of evil.” Psalm 4:11

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you; who have set their hearts on a pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5

The Beatitudes aren’t so much commands as they are praises, praising those who are all these things: poor-spirited, mournful, gentle, thirsty for what’s right, full of mercy, pure-hearted, makers of peace, and persecuted for God.

The Beatitudes are also steps. You won’t mourn until you are poor in spirit, and you won’t be meek until you are mourning your emptiness. Once you’re meek, you will hunger and thirst for righteousness. That’s why this applies to all people, regardless of nation, heritage, origin, race, color, or language.

“Blessed” comes from the Greek Word, makarios, which is defined by BibleHub as “blessed, happy.” Ted Kell explains blessedness as a divine blessing only from the Lord, not from any other source. To quote 1 Timothy 6:15, “I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of Kings, and Lord of lords…” Lord Jesus is blessed, and he shares his blessings with us, if we follow his teachings. What’s awesome about that is, the generic story behind gods and goddesses is that they live it up and enjoy life, but God sent Jesus so that we can be blessed and happy ourselves. Only God has blessedness, and so only in God can we find real happiness.

Conjointly, happiness from God is independent of circumstance. The word “happiness” can be misleading because it comes from the same word roots as happenstance, which means it occurs from an accident or lucky break or chance encounter, but God’s happiness is different than that. It does not come from random happenstances. It comes from faith in Jesus Christ, and joy in the works we partake in on His behalf. Therefore, that’s why I say that in conclusion, the key phrase to summarize Ted Kell’s first sermon tape on the Beatitudes is this: Happiness is our identity, not our goal.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)

“I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10

I want to end with a fable:

In a quaint cottage set in medieval England, there once was a woman named Beatrice. Her name means bringer of joy, or one who brings blessings. From a young age, she strove to represent that; she strove to be what her name was. She married an average man. He was hardworking and sensitive, a good listener, and a light sleeper.

Beatrice did everything to bring blessings to her husband and her neighbors. She made them plum pudding on holidays, sewed them scarves on their birthdays, and kept the house clean and comfortable for visits. When her husband was sick with a cough, she made him the tastiest soup. If a cat came for milk, she always set a bowl out, warm and fresh.

As months and years went by, Beatrice grew weary of being the bringer of joy. She sometimes got sad at how much work it was, but she never stopped.

Soon, she bore twins. It was a happy event, but then again, she was forced to learn how to forgive, after the twins turned into obstinate brothers that always fussed.

As the years progressed, she began to notice her husband becoming restless. At night, he would toss and turn, and some nights he would stay out late. It left Beatrice alone to raise her sons, and sometimes the neighbors criticized the lack of authority in the house.

One day, Beatrice asked her husband why he had been distant. His answer surprised her.

“I toss and turn because I hear you crying in the kitchen. I stay out late because I want to make enough to buy you jewels. You never ask for anything but you give everything. If you yelled at me, I would feel more human. If you hated me, it would be more natural, yet you never do. You are the purest person I have ever known.”

“But, my husband,” she said, “I don’t need jewels. I love you and want you to come home so you can be with your sons.”

“Ah! See? Still, you consider not yourself. How, Beatrice? How? How do you bless me so much? Tell me your secret.”

Beatrice took a moment of silence, and her head was bowed, as she thought about his question. Finally, she answered simply but surely. “What’s in a name unless you live to make it true? I live to own up to who I am, and I live to make the blessings new, every day. For I am a bringer of blessings, not one who brought or one who will bring. I must bring today, and every day, to keep my name with meaning.”

Moral: Beatrice the name also derives from beatus, the same word Beatitudes derives from. Like Beatrice lived to see her namesake be real, we need to live up to our namesake: Christian.

“They will know we are Christians by our love.” -Peter Scholtes

Girls With Swords, Final Week

This week, we’re discussing Chapter 9, Sword of Harvest, of Girls With Swords.  The contents of the pages honestly alarmed me: author Bevere compared Christianity, and the Word of God, to a machete, which is a sword known to be versatile and effective, yet easy to carry and wield. I was alarmed because, at the very beginning of the book, I was lead to believe we would have sympathy throughout our study, for those stuck in situations like human trafficking, sexual abuse, violence, and domestic abuse, and so I found the sword/faith comparison this time a little disturbing, a bit frightening.

To compare our power as Christians to that of a machete, in modern days, is harsh and uncouth. This type of sword may have originally been a North American invention (as author Bevere states), and it may be used for numerous things such as cutting vines, gathering crops, and altering territory, but right now, it is only seen as a tool for murder, at least in the news. I extend a bit of grace to the author for the fact the book’s copyright dates back to 2013, so perhaps she wrote it without modern news in mind. But even that’s not an excuse. Here’s a story from 2008, about churchgoers in Kenya being literally slaughtered by a violent mob who held machetes (click here to read it), which was a story that came before she copyrighted the book. She writes her book for an international audience; then she must write for a broader view than her own!

To strengthen my argument, I took a quick moment on Google to search the term “machete”. At first you can see stores that sell them, the movie from IMDB titled “Machete”, among an assortment of things. But go to “News”, and all you see is violence, killing, and attempts to chase, threaten, and harm one another with the sword. I understand reading the Bible can even be harsh sometimes, and there are times when addressing war and weapons are acceptable, but considering the audience she boasts about having at the beginning of the book, I would think she’d consider their lives, stories, and traumatic experiences. I read a story, about a year ago, in a newsletter I get, where a woman talked about raiders who were Muslim came to her Christian village and horrifically slayed the villagers with the weapon, and she couldn’t get the image out of her mind, the image of her attacker holding the machete. How would she feel after reading Chapter 9? I don’t know, but I thought the book was meant to heal people like these, not remind them of their horrors, even making them feel like they need to hold the sword and wield it, like some sort of revenge or surrender.

Therefore, the uncouthness of the book leads me to say, I can no longer study the book, seeing as I feel betrayed for the sake of the audience (I thought) we both want to reach out to. I started with hope that insight would come; instead, as the book progresses, it gets repetitive (same message about good vs. evil repeated chapter after chapter), it gets shallow and gimmicky, which she herself condemns. Bevere also does interpret the Word and doesn’t teach it deeply; she simply uses it to further her message, which can be misleading.

After all, I’ll even confess. A hint of remorse is in my heart now, when I think of my earlier video activities, where I compared our lives to that of the samurai, or the musketeer, and others – yes, I taught it that way to be excited and zealous for the journey, and help others understand a good message, but I ask myself now, when can comparisons go too far? Can they be used to enshroud the truth, rather than reveal it? I feel that’s true in Chapter 9, that she cannot be straightforward and won’t tell us in more detail what we need to know, for right living, and for being God’s girls.

So after 9 weeks, I am frustrated and disappointed at Girls With Swords. Kat backed me up by saying, “Face it, it’s not the book I thought it would be.” Our study has not been worthless, but I would like to move on to something else now and conclude the study. Thank you so much for being interested, and let me know if you have questions or requests.

A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Proverbs 17:22

 

Girls with Swords, Week 8

(All of the following Scripture is taken from the New International Version Holy Bible.)

God is love.

“Do not those who plot evil go astray?  But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.” (Proverbs 14:22) ~ “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3) ~ “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12) ~ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) ~ “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21) ~

God Loves you.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so,  but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:1-8) ~ “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5) ~ “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12) ~

Love all people.

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) ~ “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is a fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10) ~ “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48) ~ “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all that I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) ~

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.” (James 2:8)

 

Lisa Bevere’s workbook, the Fencing Manual, made the statement: “For far too long the Word has been interpreted rather than proclaimed.” Then it asked the question: “What is the difference?” Lacy’s written reply was,
“Interpreting Scripture is when someone tries to grasp its meaning, with bias that overcomes willingness, and so the Scripture is read with the bias as absolute truth, rather than God’s word and meaning.  Contrastingly, proclaiming is when Scripture is read in context, read cover to cover, and shared.” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“The language of God is LOVE.  That needs no words at all.  Wouldn’t it be something if the church just… stopped talking for a change and just… ACTED on love, instead of speaking?” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

Girls With Swords, Week 7

“Then Eleazar the priest said to the soldiers who had gone into battle, ‘This is the requirement of the law that the LORD gave Moses: Gold, silver, bronze, iron, tin, lead and anything else that can withstand fire must be put through fire, and then it will be clean. But it must also be purified with the water of cleansing.  And whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through that water.” Numbers 31:21-24, NIV

The Israelites had just gained victory over the Midianites, and they brought back the spoils of battle.   Since the Israelites were God’s holy people, they were required to follow strict rules to not defile themselves or the rest of their camp.  To protect themselves from defilement, God gave them this command: purify all the spoils with water and fire.

The Bible uses the example of the refinement of gold and silver many times in the Bible.  Job used the idea first, in Job 23:10.  “…he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

This act of refinement is compared to God’s testing of our hearts.  Daniel received a vision in which he was told of the testing: “Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” (Daniel 11:33-35. NIV)

Some of the wise will stumble so that they may be refined… God allows his people to make mistakes so that they can grow in character and learn from the mistakes.

“For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off.  See, I have refined you, though not as silver. I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:9-10, NIV)

We are tested in the furnace of affliction.  To refine gold and silver, a smithy melts it down it a very hot fire, and the fire burns away any impurities in it.  This causes the precious metal to become more pure.

But according to Isaiah, God tests us in the furnace of affliction.  We are made pure by passing through the fires, surviving the trials that God tests us with.

“Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people?  Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit, with his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him. Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’” (Jeremiah 9:7-9, NIV)

God must refine and test His people to reveal their intentions.  If they are true to Him and striving to be good, then they will become pure from the affliction; but if they are with evil plans, then God will surely punish them like He did with Israel once Israel and Judah split into 2 nations, and Israel grew corrupt.

“Son of man, the house of Israel had become dross to me; all of them are the copper, tin, iron, and lead left inside a furnace. They are but the dross of silver. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Because you have all become dross, I will gather you into Jerusalem. As men gather silver, copper, iron, lead and tin into a furnace to melt it with a fiery blast, so will I gather you in my anger and my wrath, and put you inside the city and melt you. I will gather you and I will blow on you with my fiery wrath, and you will be melted inside her. As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the Lord have poured out my wrath upon you.” (Ezekiel 22:18-22, NIV)

“Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” Psalm 66:8-12 (NIV)

God judged his people in the old testament, but where do we fit in?  We, God’s chosen people, can read some wonderful news in the book of Malachi.  (2:17-3:5) “You have wearied the Lord with your words. “How have we wearied him?” You ask.  By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them,” or “Where is the God of justice?”  “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple: the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerer, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.”

Jesus is the Master Refiner.  We are made pure through Him!  1 Peter 1:3-9 explains it like this: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of  your souls.”

As all impurities are burned away from gold in the refinement process, our imperfect deeds will be burned away to reveal our pure intentions.  I Corinthians 3:11-18 says “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”

When we do our works according to God’s wishes and dedicate our lives for Him, then we will surely receive the inheritance which Jesus is preparing for us.

“In the whole land,” declares the Lord, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, “They are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is our God.”  (Zechariah 13:8-9, NIV)

(Example of a time you “traveled through flames”) “Not literally, but that time Kathryn got sick with the [ovarian] cyst and had surgery, I was pretty afraid for her. I didn’t eat for days and lost 20 pounds during that time. I thought death was around the corner…” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

(Example of a time you “traveled through water”) “We had just gone to Germany. I was still new. We had barely been there a week.  That Sunday (our first Sunday at GK) all the youth were going to camp. I was in new territory. I only knew Kristina from letter writing once or twice.  And yet, I was swept up to join the youth group, to go to Camp Gemunden.  I didn’t want to go to camp [because I was a shy girl], but it was good for me. It was fun, and it strengthened my friendships while I was in Germany.” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

Girls With Swords, Week 6

“Good men must not obey the laws too well.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this week’s study, we were given this quote and asked to explain what we thought it meant.  I really had no clue what to imagine the quote meant, but finally came up with this answer to the challenge:

“It needs context. I went and tried to read a little bit of the essay that the quote is from, and it’s generally about government.  In more entirety, the quote actually says ‘Every actual State is corrupt. Good men must not obey the laws too well.’ The essay also argues the ‘government’ between Laban and Jacob; how Laban and Isaac are the keepers of the land, [and are in charge of making decisions on matters concerning their land, and though Jacob lives there too, he must simply earn his keep.  He has no power over what happens to the land.]  So from the little that I read, maybe it means that there is no HUMAN state that is flawless.  Only God’s state is really Good.” 

Later, my dad shared a new thought with us, a sermon that he had heard spoken, and it cleared my understanding of Mr. Emerson’s quote. It dealt with the story in John 5:1-18. In the story, Jesus was healing a man who couldn’t walk.

When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.” Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.” (verses 6-9, NCV)

According to the laws of love, Jesus did a wonderful thing.  He healed a man who had been trying to reach an angel’s healing touch for 38 years.  Who could have possibly been against such a good act of kindness?

“Because Jesus was doing this on the Sabbath day, some evil people began to persecute him.” (Verse 16, NCV)

As wonderful as was the kindness that Jesus showed to the cripple, the Jews weren’t happy with his work because it was on the Sabbath, which was their holy day of rest.  According to the Jewish laws, no one was allowed to work on the Sabbath.  Jesus, however, never allowed the laws of the Sabbath to stop Him from doing a good deed.

“But Jesus said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too.” This made them try still harder to kill him. They said, “First Jesus was breaking the law about the Sabbath day. Now he says that God is his own Father, making himself equal with God!” (verses 17-18, NCV)

There are many stories where Jesus healed people on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-31, 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17, 14:1-6; John 9:1-16).  Jesus was hated for His work.

“Every actual State is corrupt.  Good men must not obey the laws too well.”  Jesus matched the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson perfectly in this story: He is a good man, the only good man on earth, but He didn’t follow the Jewish laws perfectly.  Instead He followed God’s flawless law: love and mercy.

 “Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” Mark 10:18 (NCV)

Amen, Lord Jesus!

“Our Warrior-King is beautiful. His very image is beyond compare. The wondrous span of creation captures a mere fragment of his beauty. The mighty ocean, soaring skies, and majestic mountains declare the powerful, immeasurable, enduring beauty of his strength.  Each and every living thing-from plants to animals- is an irresistible revelation of the fact that our God is gorgeous! He lovingly formed his sons and daughters to carry more of his majesty, glory, and beauty than any other creation.  We are his masterpiece.” –Quote from Lisa Bevere, Girls with Swords

“Being kind to people who see no kindness, or little of it anyway, [moves me].  Also being reliable. I am moved by quality, whether it’s quality of life, writing, behavior- perhaps I have high expectations, but…”    -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“Read the Psalms.  All over the place, [the scriptures can bring you perspective when you’re anxious or afraid], it calls God “a fortress”, “a shield”, “my strength”.  I never really understood the concept of the Psalms until we came up with Belaedria, and Escaping the Lair.  Taliesan [our fictional character] is always impressed by the Psalms.  He convinced me that God really is our shield!” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual  

Girls With Swords, Week 5

The chapter this week focused on the cross, and how Satan thought he was victorious as Jesus drew his final breath on the cross and said “It is finished.”  Satan didn’t realize that it was man’s fate of being covered in sin with no hope of redemption that was finished; not God’s wonderful plan of salvation!  Through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, we are forgiven! There is no condemnation for us; all that is expected is that we boast in the cross and believe (and proclaim) Jesus Christ is Lord!

“…Aaron will take the two goats and bring them before the Lord at the entrance to the Meeting Tent. He will throw lots for the two goats—one will be for the Lord and the other for the goat that removes sin. Then Aaron will take the goat that was chosen for the Lord by throwing the lot, and he will offer it as a sin offering. The other goat, which was chosen by lot to remove the sin, must be brought alive before the Lord. The priest will use it to perform the acts that remove Israel’s sin so they will belong to the Lord. Then this goat will be sent out into the desert as a goat that removes sin. … He will put both his hands on the head of the living goat, and he will confess over it all the sins and crimes of Israel. In this way Aaron will put the people’s sins on the goat’s head. Then he will send the goat away into the desert, and a man who has been appointed will lead the goat away. So the goat will carry on itself all the people’s sins to a lonely place in the desert. The man who leads the goat will let it loose there.” Leviticus 16:7-10, 21-22

In the Old Testament the Israelites were commanded to use the blood of a lamb for the forgiveness of their sins.  They were also commanded to send out a scapegoat to carry their sins into the wilderness.  Once gone, the sins would be forgotten.

Looking into the future, the prophet Isaiah told how one day a Savior would come to the nation of Israel and save God’s people from the judgment that awaits those who do not respect and obey God.  In Isaiah 49:6, the prophecy even tells how people who are not part of Israel will also be saved by this wonderful Savior. “The Lord told me, ‘You are an important servant to me. You will bring back the tribes of Jacob. You will bring back the people of Israel who are left alive. But, more importantly, I will make you a light for all nations. You will show people all over the world the way to be saved.’(ICB)  God wanted us ALL to be brought into righteousness.

Isaiah 53 is a direct prophecy of Jesus Christ, telling how He would be treated unfairly, killed, and become the sin offering for all who believe in Him. “We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done.” (verse 6, NCV)

Jesus is not only the Lamb of God which is sacrificed to wash away sins, but He is also the scapegoat which carries the sins of all the people away, no longer to be thought of.

Isaiah also prophecies Jesus’ victory in his resurrection. Isaiah 53:11 says that After his soul suffers many things, he will see life and be satisfied. My good servant will make many people right with God; he will carry away their sins.” (NCV)  Jesus did gain the victory over death, and He offers the same to us.

“He willingly gave his life and was treated like a criminal. But he carried away the sins of many people and asked forgiveness for those who sinned.” (verse 12, NCV)

Praise the Lord!  Thank you, Jesus.

“The cross addresses our raw human tendency that not one of us can escape. Before the cross, we were victims of destiny, our own fate hung over our heads like doom, but after the cross, we had another option: eternal life with Jesus.” –quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

“It’s the blood of lambs that would wash away the sins of the Israelites. A purely good life must be given – its blood spilt, for the sanctification of our own sinful lives.  And so what other way could Christ have saved us?  He is our lamb of God; a sinless, perfect life. He had to fulfill all the prophesies.”  –quote from Kat’s fencing manual

The Lion and the Lamb, by Lacy Andrews

Slain, on a cross, crucified,

Treated like a lamb, sacrificed,

By the very people who should exalt Him,

He was spit upon, punished.

 

Born to die, pure and true,

He was treated so badly, so cruel:

The Way, the Truth, and the Life,

But they didn’t listen, and He was sentenced to die.

 

They thought they were rid of Him, relieved,

But three days later He had victory,

A Lion transformed from a Lamb,

And Satan lost to God’s glorious plan.

 

Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb,

Our very Savior, the very hope of every man.

Now we can stand our ground against evil,

And never have to face that eternal destiny of Hell.

Girls With Swords, Week 4

“Now by the laws of war, better than defeating a country by fire and the sword, is to take it without strife.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

As Christians, we are not called to fight a war with earthly weapons; the battles that are fought are actually in the spiritual realm.  Instead, we are called to show kindness to all people.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV)

My Task, hymn lyrics by Maude Louise Ray

“To love someone more dearly every day, to help a wandering child to find his way, to ponder o’er a noble thought and pray, and smile when evening falls: This is my task.

“To follow truth as blind men long for light, to do my best from dawn of day til night, to keep my heart fit for His holy sight, and answer when He calls: This is my task.”

Being equipped with the armor of the Lord and the Sword of the Spirit, we are a part of the army of the Lord.  Take heart, you are not alone!  There are Christians all over the world, and they are going through similar battles.  That’s why we need to encourage one another and help strengthen them.  I liked a quote that I read in the Art of War, which says “Skillful soldiers make defeat impossible, and further render the enemy incapable of victory.”

Let’s be skillful in our task, and help others become skillful in their tasks too, so that we may render Satan incapable of victory.

“Division weakens the Church. As long as people are focused on their squabbles and disagreements, they cannot further the kingdom of God.” -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

“The Unity Creed: To create peace and unity, I must work hard. I must observe the world around me. I must minister in time of need. I must listen actively all the time. I must remember all that I can. Then when I need help, if no one gives it, I must pray to God, giver of all things.” -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

 

Girls with Swords, Week 3

For my birthday earlier this month, Lacy bought me a book that I’ve been wanting: The Art of War.  It’s said to be a great book, used by successful entrepreneurs  to improve their skill.  But as I read it during this time while I’m also studying Girls with Swords, I find we can apply it to Christian living, too.

“To all nations war is a great matter.  Upon the army death or life depend: it is the means of the existence or destruction of the State.” Sun Tzu in The Art of War

The existence of God’s Holy nation – Christians from every part of the world – depends on how well each of us prepares for our spiritual battle.   If we stand ready to fight against the spiritual enemies who wage war against us, we will be able to persevere and protect our people from the enemy’s attacks; but if we stay ignorant and in denial of the war around us, Satan will easily overpower us and cause the people of God to stumble and fall away.  War is a great matter, whether we stand in the offense or in the defense; we have to be ready for the battles ahead.

If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” John 15:18-21  (ASV)

This week, the Girls with Swords chapter focused on how we might be heroes just like the men and women spoken of in Hebrews 11.  Through faith, we can face the enemy and stand bravely for Christ.  With God as our power, we can be superhuman.

It sounds unbelievable; but don’t be fooled by Satan’s lies against this concept- you really are the hero of your own story.  The moment you chose to be baptized, you became an enemy of Satan, and all the angels in heaven rejoiced (Luke 15:3-10).  If you haven’t chosen baptism yet, then Satan’s legion of demons fight every day to keep you from making the decision of accepting salvation through Christ’s resurrection.  While God wants no man to perish but all to have eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, 2 Peter 3:9), Satan wants quite the opposite. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), but Satan wishes that all people shall perish and none have eternal life.

Once you accept your role as hero, whether you perform amazing miracles like the hero Captain Sullinberger of the US Airways flight 1549 or you’re just a forgotten survivor, victim of life’s worst events the way that Chuck Noland was in the movie Castaway, you are a hero in your own story and Satan is trying to bring you – as a Christian – to ruin.

“Reacting does not equal choosing. Fear will drive you to react, but as you become more skillful with the sword, you will choose your response with the intent of honoring your Father – rather than protecting yourself.” -Lisa Bevere, from the Girls with Swords Fencing Manual

The best way to choose your response with an intent of honoring God instead of fearing the enemy is to prepare for the attack and be ready for whatever will happen.  To be ready, we must put on the proper armor so that we will have the protection that God provides us.

“He who does not know the evils of war will not reap advantage thereby. He who is skillful in war does not make a second levy, does not load his supply wagon thrice.”  Sun Tzu, The Art of War

If you don’t spend your time preparing, then the enemy will have an advantage over you and you won’t have enough “supply” -strength, knowledge, and will- to fight back.  On the other hand, if you prepare for war and grow skillful with the provisions that God gives you through Scriptures, then the enemy cannot surprise you with an attack that you didn’t expect.

Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us six articles of protection that we should wear in our fights against Satan.  We should never be found without them, unprepared.  Our enemy is always on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8), and will pounce the moment we set our armor aside for a moment of rest.

Heroes may feel afraid of something, but they trust in their power, whether its the power of their sword, or their own [superhuman] abilities, or something else. In [Christians’] case, God is our power.  -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

God is permitted to do what he wants with me, because I have no idea who I am anymore. I mean, if my ideas have to “be scrapped” before God can place me in his own, then let it be so, because my plans are void almost like a money check when it’s VOID. So Lord, I permit you. -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual