I am hoping to Podcast a devotion that will encourage the church. Please stay tuned for the podcast site
I started thinking about how believers are supposed to deliver the gospel. Currently we are studying through the book of Acts, and it is filled with the gospel. Peter, John, Stephen, Philip, Paul among others give gospel presentations to different groups of people. Sometimes it is started with scripture, sometimes with another religion. All of them travel a similar track to one destination, Jesus. These men knew the Gospel.
Today, we talk about the Gospel with many different terms, and approaches. Emphasizing different aspects of the it. While I can say that many, of these are not only true but helpful to believers and unbelievers alike, a comfortability with the gospel, and a knowledge of its implications need to be stated and studied in order to integrate it into our lives as we live on mission. My hope for this series of blogs is to give not only the truth of the gospel, but a help in understanding the gospel, so that we can take it out into our world.
So, what is the Gospel? To boil it down into one or two sentences is helpful, but that is not my aim in this blog series. The aim is to give a more complete picture of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So let’s start at the beginning. The very beginning. Genesis 1:1 tells us that “In the beginning, God created…” That’s the starting point of any understanding of the gospel. In the beginning of everything, time, space, matter, consciousness, everything. God created in the beginning. That tells us that the very bottom line in any life is that God created us. He has the ultimate authority in all matters in the universe, because it’s His universe. We, the earth, space, animals, the mountains all belong to Him. That is not only an amazing statement, that a being that we cannot, in this life, completely conceive of. His power, His majesty, and creativeness are so far beyond anything our minds can understand. That’s an amazing statement as it is. With huge ramifications. Who is this God? Is He a kind God? What intentions does He for His creation? If all we knew about God was that He created, then we could live in relative fear of who He is. Always looking over our shoulder, and looking up to see if the day might come where God would grow tired of His creation, and end it all.
But that is not God’s last word to us. Not by a long shot. He tells us the order of creation, and the prize of creation, us! Of everything in the universe, all the vast galaxies, all the beautiful green countries, and the vast forests, the amazing mountains, and deep blue seas, we are the height of His creation. Of all the creatures, the cheetahs, the whales, the bears, and the elephants, all do not compare to us in the eyes of God. So, we know that God places an amazing value on each and every one of us. Which should always give us hope, and peace. We are valuable to the God that created the universe and everything in it. Let’s just stop, actually stop reading for a second, and think about that. That we are valuable to the creator of the universe. Let that sink down for a minute….
Now, here’s what God tells us so for. First, He created an amazing universe and everything in it, and calls us His greatest creation. That could be the end of the story, but it’s not. After we read about creation in Genesis 1 and 2, we get to see the catastrophe that is described in Genesis 3, the fall of man. In the fall of man we see three things. A general rejection of God’s authority, the failure of mankind to run our own life, and the cost of sin. In Genesis 3 we see a conversation between Eve and the serpent. In this conversation we need to understand exactly what God was telling Adam and Eve. God gave the couple authority over creation, to multiply, and subdue creation, but do not eat the fruit of one tree. There was nothing special about that tree, it had no magical properties. God was telling them to do something, simply because He asked them to. Don’t eat of that tree simply because I told you to. That’s what He asked. He asked us to obey Him, not because there was reason behind it, but because He said not to. The serpent took that and turned Adam and Eve with the simple suggestion, that we can be our on god. That has always been our problem. We want to be our own gods. We want ultimate authority of our own life, and choices. The problem with that is God build the universe, and we played a role in creation making the entire universe run. Our great problem is that we reject our role as creature, and try to be the creator. When that happened, we were truly lost. Sin entered our hearts, and we rejected God. We rejected a relationship with the all powerful creator of the universe, to be our own gods. When this happened, we lost the greatest, and only good future of our souls, to be with God.
Now that we understand what happened, and have come to a base of understanding our situation, we can start to appreciate, and desire a remedy to it. We may want to put ourselves in God’s place at this point. We have all had someone wrong us. Someone betray us, and our hearts want justice, or revenge on those who hurt us. God’s response is two fold. First He tell us what the natural consequences are for rejecting a relationship with Him. Work will be cursed, childbirth, relationships will be complicated and hard, as well as many other things. The reasons behind everything is sin. Let’s look at our relationships. They are hard, and often cause heartache, because there are two people living together who at their core, want to be their own gods. We are selfish. Two sinners living together will always lead to heartache and tension. Because of sin, we hurt and are hurt. This is heartbreaking, and if that was God’s last word, we would have no hope. It’s not His last word, not even close. This is in the first few chapters in the first book of God’s word, that contains 66 books, in His story. The rest of the book is an execution of God’s plan to rescue us from ourselves. Did you get that. We hurt Him, and He responds with a plan to rescue us. That’s the first display of the character of God, He not only created us, and places high value on us. But in the midst of our rebellion, He wants to rescue us. This is what God says.
Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall crush your head, and you will bruise His heel.” The is the first preaching of the gospel. That God is going to send someone to crush sin, the desire for sin, and bring man back into a relationship with Him. Yes, in this same statement God proclaims that we will have hardship and pain, but He cannot help himself from telling us about this. God did not leave us alone in our rebellion, nor did He crush us. He sent someone else to be crushed for us. Jesus is this seed of the woman that crushed the head of the serpent by giving His life for us. The cross is the boot of God, crushing the rebellion sin that we all engage in. Yes, this means that God is just, and will punish rebellion, but He punished our rebellion by punishing His Son. Jesus is the master plan. John tells us that, “He was with Him in the beginning, and without Him, nothing was made that was made.” John 1:2-3. When Eve first pierces the skin of the fruit, Jesus commits to the cross.
The gospel is God’s rescue plan. The gospel is God’s amazing way of showing His love. To all of us. To look at God and still reject Him, is rejecting His authority on your life. There is nothing more important than seeing Jesus as who He is. Our Savior, God, King, and ultimate rescue from ourselves.
As we will continue this series, I hope that this will not be something you will simply take out to give someone that is lost. But, instead open the Bible, read of the rescue plan, discover the love story of the gospel, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the understanding and boldness to love people, and tell them of the greatest rescue that has ever, and will ever happen.
What is the purpose of the church? What function does it fulfill in the world? How are we supposed to know what that is? These are questions that I have been asking lately. With so many model's of church out in the world, which one is right? Which one is the true church founded by Jesus over two thousand years ago? I drive through my city and see church after church lining the street corners. With their own little marketing slogan for the outside world. I saw a clever one yesterday that said "What is missing from ch ch? UR!" Well it made me laugh. But, on Sunday mornings, I have looked around the churches, my own included, and see too many empty seats. Nearly empty parking lots. Large church buildings with few people inside. So I ask, what is the purpose of the church?
The word church is from the greek word "ekklesia." It means a gathering. Sometimes officials would call citizens out of there homes to a public meeting or hearing and that was ekklesia, the gathering. But Jesus had other ideas. He was literally calling people out of their homes to meet together. His gathering, His church or ekklesia, was going to be different. But, what was the purpose?
It's not an easy answer. Not to say that many places in scripture point out parts of the answer. But, what is the purpose? I Timothy 3:15 tells us that; "but if I am delayed, [I write] so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The church is the pillar and ground of truth. That's what it is. That is what Paul declares the church to be. The Pillar and ground of truth. That's like saying that I have ten fingers, or brown hair, it is part of me, but it is not my purpose. Would you say that your purpose is having brown hair? No, oh corse you would not. So the church is the pillar of truth, but that is not the purpose, that is an aspect. So what is the purpose of the church?
We know who's in charge, or who owns the church. It's Jesus. It's His gathering. In Colossians 1:18 Paul says, "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." So Jesus is in charge, it's His body. It's His gathering. But what is the purpose? We could say that the purpose of the church is to be the body of Christ, but that sounds again like declaring what it is, not what the purpose is?
If the church belongs to Jesus, and it is the pillar of truth, then He must have given the church it's purpose. The purpose of the church is not what it is, it's what it was made to do. The purpose of the church is to act out something. Jesus said to Peter, "Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed [this] to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Here we have the reason for the gathering, and the purpose of the church. It is exactly what Jesus says it is, to storm the gates of Hell with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's the purpose of the church.
If the church get's sidetracked from this, everything falls apart. If we decide to make what we are, the Pillar of truth, and the body of Christ, our purpose, we short circuit our true purpose. The church must be the body of Christ, and the pillar of truth, but we can never forget our mission. Our purpose. Jesus is kingdom minded. He is full of Grace and truth. It seems like we have lost our way some. It seems like we tend to swing toward one or the other, either all truth and no grace, or all grace and no truth. But, we are the body of Christ, and the pillar truth, and we cannot ever forget that, but we, the gathering, and broad body of Christ, must always be pushing beyond making sure doctrine is correct. We must move beyond making sure that we are serving. We must move beyond the checking of facts and love. We must engage culture with the gospel. We must confess to the world, in absolute love, and tenderness, that Jesus is the Son of God, came and died for our sins, and rose again on the third day. We must break down the gates of hell, and advance the kingdom. We must move past our own shortcomings, and failures, and march on this world in the love of God. Only then will we actually be fulfilling the true purpose of the church.
If there is one thing that I have learned in life about people, is that things get messy. Because, ultimately, we are messy. That's right, you, me, and everyone you meet, are messy. We are impulsive, reactionary, and biting. Sometimes things get out of control, and loud. Disagreements turn into arguments, and eventually broken relationships. It's inevitable, confrontation will come. So then the question becomes, how do we deal with it all? How do we deal with people?
If you could get that right, how would your life go? Perfect, certainly not. Better, yes! That's what we want to get to. We can be better, and it starts with us. I have read many books about relationships. Every time I do, I recognize all the behaviors that set me off. I immediately see the things that drive me crazy. It takes time to see the things that I do, that set other people off, or exacerbate the situation. In fact, I can clearly see when situations get out of control and people get hurt, but have no idea how they got there.
Jesus said, "First remove the plank out of your eye, before you remove the speck from your brothers." Matthew 7:5. The simple fact is, we can pray for change in others, but we control our own actions. You can't control others, only yourself. Let that sink in a bit. Good and deep. As much as we don't want that to be true, it is. The only thing we can control is our own actions! So where can we start?
There are so many places in the Bible that talk about how we are to treat others, but in I Peter chapter 3, there is a key to all relationships. "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, knowing you were called to this." This almost seems so idealistic it's unreal. So let's break it down. There are four everyday truths to deal with conflict.
The first is this, love as an action, as well as a mindset. Peter says, "having compassion for one another; love as brothers; be tenderhearted; be courteous..." Not only should we act out the love for others, even as they offend us, but we need to keep this in our mind. It has to be a conscious thought. As someone is offending you, stop, think about the fact that you need to love them. It's up to you to bring the situation back from the brink, because you love them. Keep your pride in check, because the person is greater than your pride. Finally, simply be courteous. Be polite, and civil, even obliging, which is the very definition of courteous.
The next part is the fastest, most effective, and hardest thing to do. "...not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling..." Think back to the last argument you had, with your spouse, your friend, or family. In the heat of the argument, are you ready to stop the cycle? The more they offend, disrespect, and hurt you, the more we want to pay that back, plus some! I can truly say, I tend to go for the throat, like a lion, in an argument. I want to put them in their place! Because I don't have the right mindset, and because of that, I exacerbate the situation. There is no getting around this, it's hard. There is no guarantee that they won't stop their side, but this is on you, not them. You are the only one that control's you!
Finally, the reason and base to accomplish this seemingly impossible diffusing of the situation, is the latter end of the verse. "...but on the contrary, knowing you were called to this." On the contrary means we return the reviling, treating with reproachful or contemptuous language, and the evil with respect, and blessing. Sounds amazing right? But put yourself in the middle of conflict and then you won't feel like blessing them. Blessing is a wish of happiness pronounced, or a prayer imploring happiness upon another. It's hard to do that when you don't feel like it. The only way to actually do it is to know that your literally called to. A calling goes beyond a goal, or wish. It goes beyond good feelings, beyond what sounds good. It's something you sacrifice for. Think about this way. Many people feel a calling into their occupation. Like a medical doctor. You have to sacrifice to pay for medical school, sacrifice to study, get through your residency, until you finally make it to be a doctor. Then you spend your life helping people. Our calling is the same. We have to sacrifice our own pride, our own feelings, and sense of respect to love someone.
Jesus calls us to live a life so radically different that we can do this. But only if we call Him Lord. If we call Jesus Lord, what pride can we have? If we call Jesus Lord, what respect do we really need? If we call Jesus Lord, what kind of love do we need from others? The difference that being a christian is, is that we draw all of those things, pride, respect, and love, from God. Jesus can be the ultimate source of everything we need in this life, and here Peter is making that claim. Peter is telling us that everything we need comes from Christ, and since that is true, we can draw on that sense of acceptance, love, pride, and respect from the Lord. We don't need it from others! Since that is true, we can be free to keep the mindset of love toward people disrespecting us, free to love them, free to repay evil and reviling with love and blessing. We are called to this.
Relationships are hard. They are not going to be easy. We have to fight the urge to change others. That job belongs to the Lord. If we focus on the change God is working in us and through us, we will change. From those who make the world harsher, to those who are a catalyst for change.
Resolutions-A Pattern for Change
Thinking about New Years resolutions, and how often (or always) they are broken, brought me straight back to a chapter of an awesome book called, Pleasing God, by Kay Smith. If you have never read that book, I suggest you do!
The chapter that came to the forefront of my mind is called, you guessed it, A Pattern for Change. Kay brings us to James to find this pattern that we can apply to our lives when we recognize that something needs to change.
As far as new years resolutions go, I would guess most, if not all, of them come from something in our lives we have been convicted of as sin. So this goes perfectly with thinking about a resolution, something we decide needs to change.
James 4:7-10 says: Therefore submit to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts you double minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
This paragraph tells us exactly how to change our ways. So let's look at bullet points and pull out of this an exact 'recipe' on how to change. Isn't it awesome when we can find exact “here's what to do's” in the Bible? I love being told step by step how to change. This I can handle!
Step 1: Humble yourself before God (vs.7), in doing this your sin always becomes apparent! Recognize your sin.
Step 2: Resist the devil (vs. 7b). Ignore the lies from the devil that you shouldn't change, or you can't change, or it really isn't a big deal.
Step 3: Draw near to God. When your close to God you desire to obey Him, and then you can rely on His strength to get you through.
Step 4: Cleans your hands. (vs8) Seek forgiveness for your sin. Here's the part where if you fail, you just go right back to!
Step 5: Mourn over your sin (vs9). Recognize how big of a deal sin is to God and don't shrug if off like it doesn't matter.
Then..... In the last part it says He will lift you up!
So, if you apply these 5 steps, you can have victory!! It may take going through these steps over and over and over some more, don't give up on day 2 of failing!!
Star Wars Episode VI ¾
There is chaos in the galaxy. After the fall of the galactic empire freedom rang out. But, without the strict order of the empire, or the balance of the jedi order, warlords sprung up everywhere. System after system fell to one tyrant or another and enslaved their population with the popular slogan, Only the Strong will survive. Powerful leaders oppressed the weak. Many fled for their lives, including a young slave Eli, who had escaped from his master. Fearing for his life, Eli went searching for the only one who might provide answers.
Luke Skywalker has not been seen for decades.
My vision had become hazy. The endless wind gusts threatened to topple me over at any time. The skin that was exposed to this horrible planet was dry, and bleeding. So thirsty. I can’t believe that I’m stuck out here.
Upon discovering that I was being tracked by scavengers beyond the Outer rim, I decided to seek refuge on a desolate planet. I did not know that the entry was going to be so rocky, and my relic of a spacecraft, just could not handle the stress. Blinking red lights, and screeching alarms still ringing in my mind. The glass of the cockpit shattered, otherwise I would have never left the relative safety of the X-Wing fighter. Yes, it’s outdated, and barely running, but she has seen more action than anything else I could have ever taken on this quest.
The quest, I’ll get to that. Let’s just say we need answers, and no one has them. Everyone seeking after their own interpretation of the way the universe functions. All wrong, and now everything is in chaos. The gangs take what they want, the helpless have no one to stand up for them. The strong rule the weak, and claim divine right to do so. They quote historical science books, so old they are still in print, on paper. This also helps them sell their religion. They say that this was established long ago. Written by an ancient race to explain everything in the galaxy. Even though those authors still believed that they were alone in the galaxy.
For all these reasons, I asked questions. Oh, and one more. I was born a slave. My father was a farmer, not a very good one, and a coward, my mother was strong and beautiful, but our masters decided they were worth more dead than alive. So, they threw them into the local games, and at the age of 9, I became an orphan.
So my questions. If divine right gave them permission to kill my parents for sport, and enslave me, who can I complain to? Who can hear my cry? So I ran. With no money, or credit, I simply ran. I hopped a ship to the farthest place I could get to, and to my surprise found the same circumstances everywhere I went. Poverty is rampant, murderers, and thieves seem to rule every corner of this universe. I decided to give up, and give in.
Then I came across something. An abandoned city planet. Still in ruins from the destruction of the empire, but in the ruins, there was a temple. It had burn marks everywhere, and seemed ancient. Though I couldn’t read, I was fascinated by the writing, the statues, the draperies. I slept many nights there, lived there for a time. I explored every day deeper and deeper into the temple looking for clues to what this place was. Until finally found something. Walking into a chamber that used to overlook a large part of the city, I was surrounded by chairs in a circle. The glass had been long shattered, and the room in shambles, but it used to be holy. I could feel it. I sat in the center chair and a light flickered in front of me. Blue-green and fading, with faint sound.
“Greetings. If you are listening to this, then all has fallen. The empire has been defeated, and balance has been returned to the force. Rejoice friend, go and may the force-------”
The screen flickered, and the young man that had been proudly standing there was gone. He looked so noble, so knowing. Like he held all the answers. The screen flickers again.
“I don’t know what happened.” said the much older man in the hologram. Upon looking at this new image, I thought it was someone else. Much older, with no hope left inside of him. The man wore the same black tunic, same metal robotic hand, and lightsaber on his belt, but he was so much older.
“We thought that if we defeated the Sith, and brought down the evil empire, peace, and truth, and justice would reign throughout the galaxy. We were wrong. It’s worse now. Men have risen up and oppressed the weak, taking slaves, and whole planets. I cannot fight them anymore. I don’t know what to do. If you are watching this, my name is Luke, I am a Jedi like my father before me. I helped bring down the reign of terror and control of the empire, but we ushered in a time of anarchy. The old masters are gone, the Jedi order is gone, we have nothing. I am running now. Hoping that someone will remember the old ways, and see this. I am embarking on a new mission now, to find answers. To find truth. That has to be the only weapon left. If there is truth in the force, I will find it, and when I do, i’ll return.”
The hologram disappeared. I was left alone. This was the one who brought down the empire. Who ushered in a new era. All I could think of was what he spoke of, “truth.” What is that? Why did it matter? I needed to find him. Maybe he could explain. Maybe he could tell me of the deeper meaning behind the force. Maybe he found truth.
That was many years ago. Since then I have been searching for this Luke, everywhere. He had simply disappeared. I had been imprisoned, beaten, escaped, and now broken down. The only thing I could see was a faint light against a rock cliff.
Slowly, nearly crawling against the sand storm, covering my face against the tearing of the whipping wind, I crept toward the light. It had been days since I had food, or water. My vision was becoming hazy. My legs weak. I had journeyed so long, without a trace of the man I sought. Without a home to come back to, without a hope of finding the man. It seemed so easy to just quit, just lie down and rest, for only a moment, then it all went black…..
I awoke to see a fire. The howling of the wind was not biting my face. I was warm. I decided not to move, but only use my eyes to look around. I was inside a cave. Sandy hard walls surrounded me. As my eyes drifted I stared at the open flames of the fire, seeming to dance in front of me, almost hypnotic. I was alive. I moved my head the slightest bit to see the front of the cave. It was only about twenty feet away and there seemed to be some kind of shield in front of it. Faintly I could see a pink clear shield.
After several minutes of silently watching my surroundings, I determined I was alone. Sitting up I now took in the entirety of the shelter. There was a chair made from clay, a desk that looked like it was salvaged from a ship’s wreck, and books everywhere. On the floor, on the desk, even shelves had been cut out of the very walls of the caves to make room for them. Real paper books. They looked like the books the warlords quoted from on their planets. Except the writing was different in almost every one. I didn’t recognize a single written language, and wondered if there were even a protocol droid in existence that could.
Nothing but the howling of the wind to keep me company I continued to take in the cave. I decided to take a log out of the fire for light and explore what I could not see. The cave was rugged. About ten feet wide and the most narrowing as I traveled back into the dark. The cave narrowed for another hundred feet or so before I nearly tripped on a low hanging hammock. Here was the farthest the cave reached. I held the makeshift torch up, and gazed on the strangest thing I had ever seen. Chiseled into the walls were notes. Over the walls, the roof, even carved into the bed. Strewn all over the floor were pages and pages of old paper. Some torn from books and written on the margins, and a recorder sitting on the bed. The language was one of the strange ones that had been in the books by the front.
I ran my hand over the walls, hoping to gain a clue to the meaning of all of this. There was one word over and over again. I did not understand. I could not read it, I could barely walk, my throat was dry, and my stomach had stopped announcing it was hungry days ago. I knew my body is now dying.
“What do you search for?” a voice sounded raspy behind me.
Startled I spun around. I grabbed for the blaster on my belt but it was gone. This must be my rescuer and captor.
It was like looking into the face of a ghost. Suddenly before me I say the man that I had only seen in a hologram. He wore a short beard, and dark brown tunic, with a hood. On his belt I was my blaster, along with some other tools, and weapons, one of which I recognized as a light saber.
“You’re Luke!” I exclaimed as a statement and not a question. “I have been looking for you for years. What are you doing out here?”
“Looking for quiet. For peace.” Luke said as he turned toward his desk and sat down clearly exhausted. “There was no peace. No place to learn, study, and think. So I left everything and everyone. I finally found this moon devoid of any civilization, and made myself study. Devoted my life to it, you could say.”
“I can’t believe it’s you! You are the person I’ve devoted my life to search for.” I said.
“Yes, you said that. I’m curious, how did you find me, and who sent you.”
“You did.” I said rather meekly. “I was on Coruscant hiding. I lost everything, grew up a slave and could not escape the warlords. So I left. Seeking refuge.”
“And how did you find me?”
“You found me. My ship crashed into this planet. I was heading for the outer rim when my ship started to malfunction. I crashed into this planet. I had to abandon the wreck due to the sand storms when I guess I passed out.”
Handing me a crude clay cup he opened a small door in the wall and said, “Drink.”
As I could not remember the last time I had a drink I quickly placed the cup in the door and watched as a small tube descended from the cabinet and filled my cup. “Where did you find water?”
“This place used to be a forest. You are sitting on top of an ancient below ground river.”
After chugging the entire cup and then refilling and drinking again, I leaned up against the dirt wall of the cave and watched as Luke reclined in his chair, fingering the light saber on his belt. He seemed to be contemplating whether or not he believed me.
“I am Eli, I have chronicled my search for you. Inside my ship there are recordings, and records of everywhere I have looked…”
He cut me off. “I don’t need that. I’m know you are telling me the truth. What I want to know is why you are searching for me? What do you think I can tell you?”
“The truth. Answers that you were looking for. You said in the message you left in the Jedi temple that you were leaving to look for answers, and when you found them you would come back.”
For an uncomfortable long time we sat in silence. Luke seemed to be looking into the distance. I could still hear the sand storm howling outside, and through the force field I could see that it was still raging outside the little cave.
“What is truth?” He stated rather than asked. “That is a question that has been posed by many over the years. It’s something that had been debated, fought over, and never settled by our species for thousands of years.” He slowly and methodically spoke. Almost as if he were closely guarding his words. “There is much we don’t know. Much that we have forgotten. Much that we take for granted.”
“I can assure you that I am genuine in my search. I believed that you held the answers, that you would find them, and save us all.”
“No. I can’t save you, or anyone. I don’t know if I can be saved. I don’t know if what I have found can really save anyone. I have more questions than answers.” He looked tired as he spoke. Like the weight of a thousand years and a thousand souls weighed on his shoulders. “I can however, give you a picture. Fill in some of the gaps, and bring new things to light.”
“Please.” I said quickly. “I have to know, I want to know. The ways of the Jedi, the ways of the force. I saw the temple, read in the archives. We need this, we need truth.”
“The force.” He chuckled. “You speak of what you do not know. And of things you do not understand.”
“But you do!” I cut in.
“NO!” He raised his voice and looked sharply in my direction. “It’s too dangerous. Too many I have seen turn down the dark path. Seek to empower themselves, and destroy the truth contained in the force.”
“You speak of the dark side.” I said
“Again, you do not understand.” Luke let out a long sigh. He rubbed his eyes with his hands, and leaned back in the chair. “I suppose, you deserve something. Let me start at the beginning.”
The old man rose and walked over to the fire and sat down. He picked a device out of his pocket and tossed it to me.
“My travel recorder!” I exclaimed.
“I went over to your wreck to investigate, just who you were. I have listened to much of it, since you were out for about a day or so. I wanted to test you. I have to make sure you are truly seeking truth.”
“I am, I…” He waved me off.
“Come, sit.” He pointed to a small cushion near the edge of the fire ring. I quickly sat down.
“Please, take out your device and record.”
I took out the small metal oval. There was one button in the center used only to activate and deactivate, since everything else was voice activated. Pressing the button I opened an open line to record on, then set it down.
“What do you know of the force?” Luke asked picking up a small branch and poking at the fire.
“I know it exists all around us, it is in us. There is a light and dark side, with hate, fear, and anger of the dark path. I know that the Sith ruled the galaxy, Lord Vader being your father, and the Emperor Sidios, the master.” I tried to conjure up in my memory all that I knew of the force, but that was the most I could say with certainty.
Luke sighed. “Yes, the force exists. There is a light side, and darkness, and all that you said is true of my father and the emperor, but that is only the most basic, and fragmented knowledge of the mysteries of the universe. The knowledge of the force that we were all taught and have is like saying that all beings in the universe need oxygen for air. It is true, but what of fish, or other species that derive oxygen from other places. There is much more.
“And you have found more?”
“Much more! Yet I do not yet fully understand it all. Let’s start with what you know. The force exists all around you, and in you, yes? But you only know the basics of how the force works. The Jedi order sought to protect peace and justice through the will of the force. This I never questioned. Though something always bothered me. I would have explored it more, but we were at war. My master Yoda, and master Kenobi, always spoke of the force as an impersonal thing, yet they were very clear that the force has a will. The dark side also. It was on that level I began my exploration of the question, what is the force?”
“And what did you find?” my full attention was now his.
“Not what, but whom!”
“An old master? Fallen friends?”
“No, no.” Luke said sharply. “Pay attention. I started looking at the force for what it is, and found that the force is not an it, but a who.” He paused and looked not at me, but seemingly right through me. “We do not fully understand the force, because He has His own will.”
“You mean to tell me that, the force is a being?” I asked.
“Not just a being, the being! An all powerful being, in control of the entire universe, not just our galaxy.”
Skeptical that this might be just be the ramblings of an old man, I asked, “How do you know?”
“Great! You do have a mind for questions! You have to have reason, and thought, to understand this. I searched for knowledge, and wisdom. Our galaxy was so overrun with corruption and oppression that I needed to find out more of how the force worked. I searched the Jedi temple archives for years after Coruscant was abandoned. Most everything was on hologram, except some of the most foreign manuscripts. These were secured and preserved. They were strange languages. But, I found some in ancient languages, that looked vaguely familiar. So I took them to some mystics. Old hermits living in the outer rim. They possessed a keystone.”
“What is a keystone?” I asked.
“A keystone has different words from different languages that tell us what they mean. I worked for years on translating scrolls from language, sometime seven translations to get it to something I could read. The mystics helped. They were fascinated with finding answers of the unknown.”
“As were you. So why are they so far away from everyone?” I asked.
“That is a question of human nature. I need to speak to what I found. Now after years of research, and endless questions, I finally could read the ancient texts.”
Looking back at the endless inscriptions along the cave walls, “Is that what is written here?”
“Some, but some are observations of the text, and of what I learned.”
“What did they say?”
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
“Is that you it speaks of? Or the prophecy your father was supposed to fulfil?”
“Once I thought that my father was the one, even this spoke of. But I know better now. This was a prophecy of God. The God that brings peace, justice, and counsel. The God of miracles, and of life. The very God, that is the force. There is no light side, nor dark side to God, there is another realm. A realm that we cannot see or hear, only feel and believe. The force, or what we call the light side is God himself. Not manipulated through us, but working His will through our choices and actions. The dark side is made up of three. Our darkness, the darkness contained in our reality, and a spiritual darkness that causes even death of the soul.”
“Wait, I….I have to process this.”
“Yes, That was precisely my reaction to all of this.” Luke chuckled.
I stood and rubbed my eyes. This was all too much. Too much to take in. I turned to Luke and said, “How do you know? The warlords use supposed ancient texts to show us that since they are strong, they have the right to take what they desire. If what you say is right, the force, or God, should have wiped them out years ago. Why has He not spoken, what does He not care? My parents died for no reason, I was a slave who could have been free.”
“That, my friend, is what I would like to tell you about. What you call the “Dark side, God calls sin. It is what we all do, and have. Think of it like this. We all have the dark side seething in our veins. We all can turn into Lord Vader, and do horrible things. This is the fundamental problem in the universe. Because whether we want to admit it or not, we are all dark.”
“So what is the plan then.” I said is disbelief, and with contempt.
“Meet Him.” He simply said with a smile.
“Who, God?” I snapped
“Yes.” Luke said
“How?” I said sarcastically
Luke raised himself up to me now. He looked at me with compassion and said, listen to this. He handed me a small hologram device. It was small and compact.
“Is this the texts you translated?” I asked
“Yes, that’s what I’ve been doing out here. Recording everything down into my voice and telling the story that God has already been telling for thousands of years.” Luke said patting me on the shoulder. “I don’t expect you to believe it all right away, or even speak to Him, but you can.”
I walked over and stopped the recording on my device. I placed it in my pocket.
“Now you must go.” Luke said handing me a coat. “The storm has ceased, and by now the droids are done with your ship.
“You were planning this from the start” I said.
“Yes. When I found you, I had hoped that you might be the one to carry this message. I am getting old now, and my time has come, my race is coming to an end. You must decide if this is truth or not, and carry it to the galaxy.”
I thanked him, and we walked out into the desert. Like two old friends. I was still skeptical of the findings Luke presented, but it was hope. If this was real, there really was a king, God, and being that could put everything right. I was looking for hope.
As the cockpit closed I waved one last goodbye to the old hero. As I blasted into space and cruised into the orbit, I realized I had nowhere to go. I had been searching for so long, I never thought of what would be the end. So I charted a course home. My home planet, Tatooine. I charted the course, and sat back reflecting. I had just completed my quest, and still had questions. Out of my pocket came the hologram recorder. I pressed the button and played the presentation.
“In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, and by Him all things were made that was made…..”
Happy Thanksgiving Eve! I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to thanksgiving and all the traditions that (at least in my family) come with it: potatoes and stuffing, family, puzzles, soccer in the chill of the morning. I can’t wait!
During this time of year we all give thanks for the things that are going well in our live, so of course I want to talk about that today. We give thanks for our family, our friends, the new job we got, the food on our table, the day off work… Do you ever feel like your thankfulness is typical?
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I want to challenge you to think of some things that you have never thought of being thankful for. God deserves our praise and thanks for so much more than we give him credit for. So, make a list of weird or previously not thought of things that you are thankful for, in addition to the things you already thank him for daily. For example, here are some of the things I am thanking God for today:
The flood in the time of Noah
That water expands when it freezes
My failures and shortcomings
That I can pray for those who persecute me
That I can read
That I have diabetes
That I drive daily, and yet have not been harmed in an accident
That meteorites burn up in the atmosphere
So challenge unleashed: What are you thankful for today? Please join the conversation on Facebook and leave a few comments with your ideas.
My other comment is this; while you are thinking about what you are thankful for; do not neglect to spend some time dwelling on WHO you are thanking. It is easy to just say “I am thankful for x, y, and z.” but not to anyone, just a general declaration of thanks without recognizing who you should be thanking. We need to recognize that God is in control of everything from a to x, y, and z and give your thanks to Him who deserves it. Also don’t forget to tell the people around you what things they have done, or that they are, for which you are thankful.
I hope you all have a great day tomorrow, with many blessings and much thankfulness.
In Luke 1 we find Mary (of Mary and Joseph) just having a normal day, and then she gets the biggest pregnancy announcement that any woman, at any time had ever received. There were plenty of huge pregnancy announcements in the Bible. Like God telling Sarah she would have a baby at age 89, and Rebekah being told she was having twins, but this was THE announcement. The only pregnancy announcement in the history of the world that was this big. For one, she was going to give birth to Jesus, THE Jesus, the savior of the world; and two, she was a virgin! Mary reacted with complete humility, her response? (Luke 1:38) "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be done to me according to your word."
First look at what she regarded her self as, a maidservant. She didn't do a little dance that she was the chosen one. She didn't think "yeah, God picked the right girl!" She called herself what she truly was, a maidservant of the Lord. Instead of feeling like she was the best, she was humbled that she was worthy of carrying God's precious baby in her womb. She called herself a maidservant, showing her love, devotion, and humility before the Lord. The word maidservant means someone who voluntarily serves the Lord. This is not saying she is forced to serve him, she is not a slave to Him, but she choose to use her life to serve God. When we have something great and huge happen to us, let us all think about Mary's reaction and remember we are maidservants of the Lord.
True humility is your value placed on God, your trust placed in God, and your eyes seeing through God's. You don't think highly of yourself because you are so great, you have confidence in yourself because God is so great. You know that the Holy Spirit is in you-the same power that rose Jesus from death to life is literally in you, right this second. Your confidence and self worth comes through Jesus. That is when you can be excited about what you have to offer the world, because what you have to offer, when you place your worth in Jesus, is everything. Mary said "Yes Lord", she trusted in His plan, His timing, and His will. She didn't argue with him about why this was going to be very hard on her, and she didn't feel sorry for herself that her reputation would be ruined (and yes it did get ruined). She didn't even try to make a deal to get out of morning sickness (because ladies isn't that the worst part of being pregnant?). She just simply trusted God. She saw the situation through God's eyes. That was the only way she could handle this huge life change right? She saw that she was chosen to carry the baby that would save her from her sins, and would save the entire world from their sins. She saw how important this was, the Messiah everyone had been waiting for. The tough challenges that would follow didn't matter a bit when she saw that the world would be totally different after this baby was brought into the world.
So start placing your value on God-not yourself and how good you are. Place your trust in God-not your own actions. Purposely see situations through Gods eyes-not the panic that is in your eyes.
I will leave you with perfect words from John the Baptist-
"He must become greater, I must become less." John 3:30
“When we write our prayers down, it is like bringing things from the spiritual realm into our visual presence where we can now see the physical hand of God moving in our life.”
~Gina Duke, Author of “Organizing Your Prayer Closet: A New and Life-Changing Way to Pray”.
This week I would like to encourage you to start (or continue) a prayer journal. A prayer journal is just a journal where you write down your prayers to God (pretty self-explanatory huh?). There are lots of different ways to do this, from simply writing down a letter to God each day, to doing a very methodical organized approach. No matter how you go about doing it, there are many great reasons to keep a prayer journal.
Writing down your prayers helps you to articulate to yourself and to God what you are praying. Do you ever notice yourself saying the same thing over and over with just slight variations in your prayers? I have found that by writing it down, I am not just mindlessly asking for the same thing in ten different ways. By writing it down I find that I put more thought into what I am actually saying. This has given my prayers greater depth and scope.
Another reason that I know a lot of people like to keep a prayer journal is so that you can look back at your previous prayers and see what God was doing in your life last week, a year ago, or a decade ago. We often forget that we have prayed something and then do not notice when God answers that prayer. A prayer journal can become a kind of history book of your journey with God.
Some people (like me) can get stressed out about the idea of a prayer journal because if it is written down it is permanent. Some of us tend to mock our past selves whenever you go back and read something old. Here is an article that addresses that:
This one addresses that some also,
http://womenlivingwell.org/2013/02/putting-my-prayer-life-in-order/ (I REALLY like how she talks about intentionally including confession in our prayer, something I think most of us are a bit eager to not do all that often)
If you are the type of person who needs structure in your life here are some articles that have different ideas for different methods of prayer journaling:
http://mothersniche.com/a-mothers-best-friend/ (I like this one, but personally I would include a “praise” or “adoration” section)
http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com/how-to-make-a-prayer-notebook/ (for the ultra-organized!)
An afterthought: At Intervarsity (the Christian group we were a part of in college) we would have worship nights, with many different types of worship including “worship through creating”. This was a station with lots paints, colored pencils, ect. Where you could sit and make art simply for God (to please him, to reflect of the beauty of his creation, ect.).
Today's two minute message was about kindness. Its so simple, yet so powerful. When we stop, think, and then speak with kindness, it can change the tone of any situation. Are you a kind person? Are you kind to others? Let's pause with whatever were doing and take a look at ourselves, and evaluate if we are kind. I'm sure, for most of us, when we truly look at ourselves we can admit that we are not as kind to people as we wish we were.
If you have looked at yourself and see something you don't want to, good! That means you can turn from your unkind ways and habits, and look to Jesus for change. Admit to Him that you have been unkind, and that you desire to love people. Treasure those around you and show them His love.
Proverbs 31:26 says “and on her tongue is the law of kindness”. So today, declare a law for your tongue! Declare that the rules have changed and your tongue will be used for kindness, and not hurt!
So you have instructed your tongue that it has new rules. Now think about the things, or triggers, that cause you to lash out in anger! I have come up with a few things I think are common to most people that cause them to be nasty, rude, and ways that we can change how we react to them to show kindness to those around us.
Exhaustion- This is huge! We get too tired and then are very cranky, and rude to people because we are overtired. The good thing about this is its a very easy solution. Go to bed early! So stop binge watching Netflix (yeah that's me!) and just go to sleep.
Politics- Yep I said the “P” word!! Oh man, how nasty and unkind people can be when talking politics. I have seen grown adults yell at each other the meanest things when arguing over politics. Take a minute before you post a rant about a candidate and remember, that candidate is a real person. A person who is precious to God, and a person that Jesus laid down His life for. I'm not sure why we think it's a free ticket to be nasty when it comes to political matters, but man, just read posts around election time, and it's so sad to see the horrible things people say! If your a Christian you are representing Jesus, and your life may be the only Bible people read. So consider how it looks when you say and post hateful things about someone. Not to say you can't have your own opinion about important matters, but let's be kind! Use your right to vote! If you are advocating for a particular person or party, use kindness in all matters. Talk less, and pray more.
Stress- When we are stressed about something, our tongue seems to leap about 5 steps ahead of our heart and brain, and that's when terrible things come flying out. Take some time to sit down and figure out what it is that you are stressed about. See things in perspective, and if it's insignificant, then let it go. Trust God with the things you can't control, and work out positive solutions for things you can.
A messy house- For me this is my #1 thing that causes nastiness to fly out of my mouth. To prevent this, first, get some perspective and realize it's people that matter, not the cleanliness of your house. Second, do something about it! Get a good routine and habits in order to keep your house a peaceful place to live. Don't expect perfect unless you plan on moving out of it. My very favorite person that gives brilliant help on keeping your house nice is FlyLady. Go to flylady.com and check out her routines, baby steps, and systems to keep you house nice! Her stuff is free ,except some cleaning tools and things she sells, but the system is free.
If I did not hit on the “trigger” that causes you to be unkind, then sit down and take the time to figure out what that is, and what you can do about it. However, the problem is still the same, it's an issue of your heart, and that you have to give to Jesus. Making changes to triggers will only help with the symptoms. If you don't let Jesus take control of your life and change your heart, then working on changing all the problems will just leave you more frustrated!
I'll leave you with this for today from the book of Proverbs;
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue...” Proverbs 18:21
JOY, joy, JOY, joy
Last week we talked about not complaining, this week I want to talk about Joy. Hopefully if you read/listened to last week’s Women’s Wednesday you are already starting to get rid of the habit of dwelling on the negative. I want to encourage you to turn your thoughts even more towards the positive and to live a life full of Joy.
In his blog entry, “Don’t stop having joy”, Pastor Levi Lusko describes joy in the following way,
“Joy is a supernatural fruit of the Spirit that enables us to delight in God’s goodness no matter what we are going through. Joy operates independently from circumstances. It doesn’t require us to be ordering happy meals in order to for it to function. Joy goes deeper than that. In fact, even when we are suffering we can rejoice, remembering that God uses trials to make us more like Him.”
If you google the word ‘joy’ and look at the images, one of the first ones to come up is a picture of someone being lifted by balloons. Most of the other pictures are of people jumping in the air. We tend to associate joy with flight because joy is a kind of weightlessness; it is taking all the burdens that normally anchor you down and placing them at the feet of God. Take all your burdens and cast them on God and then you will feel so light that the ground just simply cannot hold you down.
I want to challenge you today to continue to abstain from complaining, but to also take it one step forward and dwell on the joy you can have because of your relationship with Christ. Ask God to fill you with his everlasting Joy today. Spend some time today thinking about the goodness of God.
Have you ever meet someone who you can just tell from looking at them that they are a Christian. I think that is just the physical manifestation of what is going on in their heart. They are so full of joy that it changes their very countenance. This is something I want for myself, and for each of you: to be so filled with the joy of knowing Christ that even our physical bodies are affected.
To help you meditate on Joy today, please listen to the song (I am betting it will get stuck in your head).
Beginnings can be scary. After all, the future is largely out of our control. So I want to spend some time talking about Joshua 1, and specifically looking at what the Lord said to Joshua at the beginning of his leadership of Israel.
A little background info for those of you who need a refresher on what is happening at this point in the Old Testament…
The Jews, God’s chosen people, were enslaved by the Egyptians. Through some very cool, yet bizarre, means God gets his people out of the control of the pharaoh (see Exodus 1-14 for that epic tale). They then traveled to the Promised Land that God had prepared for them. When they got there they were overtaken by fear and did not trust God to help them conquer the land, so they had to spend the next 40 years wandering in the desert before they could go into the Promised Land. We are joining the story at the end of the 40 years, when Moses (the God appointed leader of the people) dies and is replaced by Joshua. God tells Joshua that he is now to lead the people into the Promised Land and then tells him
“Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left hand, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:5b-9
You will notice how repetitively God commands Joshua to “Be strong and courageous”. At the beginning of his leadership and the beginning of their entering into the promise land the thing that God tells Joshua over and over is “be strong and courageous”. Not only does he command Joshua to be strong and courageous, but he also tells Joshua where he can get that strength and courage from. He can draw strength from
the knowledge that god will fulfill his promises—“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them” Joshua 1:6
God’s Word—“be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left hand, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” Joshua 1:7-8
The knowledge that God is with us—“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
So weather you are at the beginning of something completely new and huge like Joshua was (maybe you are starting a new job, building a new friendship, or moving to a new place) or if you are just at the beginning of a new day, God commands you to go forward with strength and courage; drawing that strength from the meditation of his Word and the knowledge that he is with us and will fulfill his promises.
“Courage is knowing the worst—and discovering that, in God’s world, the very worst can’t really hurt you” ~Unknown
I am lost
There are few things more terrifying than feeling like you are truly lost. Not lost in a neighborhood looking for someone’s house. Not lost like straying away from camp, but still within earshot of help. What I mean is truly, and helplessly lost. So lost that no one can hear you. So lost that nothing looks familiar. So lost that you feel helpless, and truly alone. That is terror. It’s harder and harder to actually get lost today. GPS and other devices help us stay along the paths. The help us navigate to places we have never been before in a calm, clear voice. We’re hardly ever alone, and lost.
[iamlost] But it still happens. People try to escape the everyday, and leave their GPS and smartphones behind to get as close as possible to being lost, but stay safe. Sometimes people cross the line that divides safe and lost, never to return. Adventurers and weekend warriors have been pushing their own boundaries for decades, with large numbers of success. So what happens to get people lost? How is this possible in our modern country today? I recently read a story about a P.E. Teacher from Seattle that got lost for a week inside Olympic National Park fighting for her life. She had planned on climbing Mt. Rainier, but her partner canceled at the last minute, so she changer her plans. Mary O’Brien left Seattle with every intention of buying a topographical map of the area she was hiking. Her plans included an 18.8 mile loop through the North American Rain forest. Thirty hours in, she was crossing cat creek with white water surging beneath her, she was bruised, and starting to hallucinate. A few hours earlier she had encounter an early fog, darkness, and snow. Mary slipped in the darkness and as she climbed back up to the trail, she took a wrong turn.
What followed was a week long survival expedition. She was running out of food, and conditions were getting worse. She climbed up the side of a nearby mountain and started signaling for help with her headlamp. When no one responded, she took a compass bearing, and set a straight coarse for the lights. Mary eventually came to a lake where some boaters rescued her, but her story is our story in life.
We go through life with out really thinking things out. Planning for the treacherous journey, and making sure we stay on the trails. Mary failed to bring a map, or even leave a note in her parked car, so no one knew where she was. No one could even look for her. So often we stray off God’s path. We slip and fall, get disoriented, and try to pull ourselves back up. Only to find they we have wandered so far off the coarse, we start hallucinating visions in the wrong direction. We end up chasing ghosts, and wind. When were lost, the sense of panic sets in and we make worse decisions. Mary decided she needed to climb up to see light. She got her bearings, and went straight for it, no more side trails, no more change of direction, no more wandering.
If you feel lost, you can look out and see God. Maybe you can even remember where you strayed, but can’t get back now. So what can you do? You start by looking in the right place. Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” ESV. Then go to Him. Mary knew she needed a map, something that would have guided her to safety. We have not just a map, but a living God. John 16:13 Jesus tells us, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard.” NLT. Our map is a person. A guide to truth. Truth that is contained in the Bible.
Mary O’Brein was found by boaters that carried her to the lights that she saw shining in the darkness long ago. As the church, who are you finding that is lost. Wandering around in the darkness, longing for God. They might be bruised, broken, and so lost that their minds are playing tricks on them, but they need a rescue.
Make today the day you look for lights. Today the day you want to get out onto the path. You can be rescued, and He has a name, it is Jesus.
by- Cameron Barber
Story of Mary O’Brien can found on the backpacker.com site under the survival tab.