Father

water flowing over fountain

Our Overflowing God

Why has Samsung come out with a new smartphone? The answer is simple. Samsung has found a way to create value from new advances in material science and the science of physics. A few hundred years ago, philosophers threw the baby out with the bathwater. Huh?

Modern Philosophy

For almost 2,000 years, philosophy was science that made scientific studies holistic. Back then, scientific studies were not just limited to studying nature to control it or make use of it. Instead, from about 300 B.C. until 1500 A.D., science valued and included morality and beauty. These abstract aspects of nature were all categorized under the heading of the “Arts” and were given equal standing with tangible science.

But in the late 1500s, Francis Bacon threw the “baby” out. He said that intangible things such as “the good,” beauty, and morality had nothing to do with science. This was the beginning of “Modern Philosophy.” That’s when the Humanities (arts) and the Sciences parted ways. Today, most college graduates receive their degree as a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science.

Kill it and Cut it Open

This modern science believes that if you find some new creature, no matter how lovely, kill it, cut it open, and see what’s inside. In our modern world, we assume that every scientific endeavor will provide us with value; we just have to learn how to extract it. We believe that value extraction is the purpose of science. But this is not how God works.

I agree with some theologians who believe that the nature of God continually overflows out of Him, and some flow into His creation. When we look at the night sky, we see material things such as stars, the moon, and planets. Yet we also see and understand intangible characteristics. There is beauty and wonder and magnificence in the heavens – and on earth.

Overflowing

God’s Word tells us that His mercies are new every morning. God’s Word tells us that on us, for us, and through us to others, He pours out Himself until He overflows. We’ve probably all read the 23rd Psalm:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Psalm 23:5

And we remember that what is in our hearts, either good or evil, will flow out of our mouths. (Luke 6:45) Also, no doubt, we are familiar with Jesus’ statement that with whatever measure we use to give, that measure will be used to pour back to us, but what is poured back is more; it is “pressed down, shaken together, running over. (Luke 6:38)

The nature of God is to overflow anyone or anything He touches, and He has placed this nature in us. Jesus said that out of us, rivers of living water flow. That living water is the Holy Spirit. He is in us, and he overflows out of us and onto and into others!

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’

John 7:37-39

Good News

So, let’s not hold back anything from God. Let’s not be concerned that what God has given may run out. Here’s the good news. Throughout eternity, the nature of God has been flowing out of Him and into all that was, and is, and ever will be. Don’t worry. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Image by Michael Kauer from Pixabay


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Bible, Worship, Christian, Religious, Christianity Bible Worship Christian Religious Christianity

Pray Like It Matters

6 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27

Blubbering Prayers

Please allow me to throw off the uniform of ecumenical propriety, and speak plainly to you about this watershed moment in which we live. As God’s people, we must stop praying “tidy” prayers. We need to pray blubbering prayers, prayers where we cry our eyes out as we call upon our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus, our Master, and Savior.

This is a crude analogy, but in a tiny way, Jesus is like the Internet. People around the world log on to the Internet to connect to a resource; it might be a search engine, it might be a Bible site, it might be WebMD, but it’s a resource they seek. Jesus is the great connection between us and the Father. Jesus is called our mediator.

A mediator is like an attorney that bridges communication between their client and the judge and prosecutor. Our prayers connect to God through the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

The Holy Spirit Helps Us Pray

Our Father hears us, but what we say is helped, improved, and corrected by the Holy Spirit. If we were invited to meet the Queen of England, we would first be prepared for the meeting to make sure that we said the right things, responded in the right way, and understood that we weren’t following our plans but, instead, we were to follow the lead and direction of the Queen. Even more so are we to be before the Father. The Holy Spirit helps us like this, and He does more.

We need to pray. When we do so we are wearing Christ’s suit of righteousness. God won’t look upon sin; we all have sins. So when God looks at us He sees us dressed in the sinlessness of His Beloved Son.

With the help of Jesus, our Master, and the Spirit of God, our prayers are proper and presented to the Father. This is why we can have absolute confidence in God’s answer. We may have blubbered some half-intelligible prayer birthed from our anger or pain or disgust, but that prayer comes before the Father as a sweet-smelling aroma that is pleasing to Him.

Pray Like it Matters

In the times in which we live, we must pray like it matters because it does. Never in our lifetime have we seen such evil paraded and called “good.” The world will go headlong over the cliff, like the pigs when Jesus cast out the legion of demons, but the body of Christ will not. We must pray and we must have confidence that God hears our prayers and intercedes for us.

Satan accuses us day and night before God. He is like a wicked prosecutor that enjoys hurting people and using his power to mess with people’s lives. He harms people because God loves us. We are like children in a dysfunctional home where a drunken, violent, evil dad hurts his kids as a way to hurt his ex-wife. This is why we see the violence and murder reported to us in the news each night. God doesn’t cause evil, satan does.

God hears our prayers and He is not constrained by anything including time or circumstances. He hears our polished, buttoned-up prayers and He looks at His Beloved Son, who suffered and died for us, and then God acts.

21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22

God Answers in Shocking Ways

God may say “yes”, “no”, or “wait” but He may also step into our prayers and make a way where there is no way, He may do more than we ever imagined, He may break barriers that constrain us, toss roadblocks aside, and cause all manner of miracles because He desires freedom for us and in Him we find that freedom.

The truth is, we can’t imagine how God will answer our prayers, but we should pray like it matters, praying in faith, and in our knowledge that God is reliable. God really does change things. Jesus asked the Father and our Father has given us the Holy Spirit. He is in every true Christian and He will come upon all who ask.

We do need to understand that we will be tested, we will be persecuted, some will be imprisoned, and some with be killed. As Christians, we expect suffering, just as our Savior suffered.

Be of Good Cheer

The times in which we live are unlike those when we were children. We must pray like never before, for it is our time of communing with God that we will gain the endurance, wisdom, and guidance to be the peacemakers, the merciful, the pure in heart.

Be of good cheer. Jesus wins in the end and He will lose no one that the Father has given Him. Let us all pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.


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picture of a Bible

The All of God

Have you ever noticed how often the word ‘all’ is found in the Bible? I was reading Psalm 31 this morning and noticed the ‘alls.’ It made me curious, so I did a quick search. There are 4,638 Bible results for “all” from the English Standard Version of the Bible. That seems like a lot, so I began thinking of places in Scripture where my life depends on God’s all.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

Reliability From “All”

In the book of John, there are 49 “alls”. For example, concerning Jesus, “All things were made through him” (John 1:3)” and “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) If we jump over to the book of Romans we see, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) and “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) In 2 Corinthians 1:3, we see that God is the “God of all comfort.In 1 Peter 5:10 we learn that God is “the God of all grace.” 

From the ‘all’ of God, we find reliability. We rarely talk about God’s reliability, but it is the reason we can trust the Father, receive Jesus, and walk in the Spirit. God is not arbitrary. He doesn’t change. Neither time nor circumstances can change God, for He is sovereign. The “alls” of God is great news for us!

Good News

How could we have an intimate relationship with God if we couldn’t trust Him? That doesn’t work for people, and it doesn’t work for faith in Jesus Christ. God is “all in” for His creation. He is “all in” for you. So, because of the ‘all’ of God, we can trust Him, rest in Him, and be confident that He will resurrect us. For God is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:10) I would call all of that good news!

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash


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seeing eye dog

Why is God Hard to See?

“Daddy, if God loves us, why does He hide?” I asked my dad when I was young. I don’t remember Dad’s answer but, knowing him, he gave me a thorough, accurate, and theologically correct answer. But, sometimes, we don’t need an expansive answer articulated to us. Instead, we need something we can grab on and cling to for dear life.

Of course, the answer we receive must be theologically sound doctrine; that’s a given. But the words used, and their presentation can be vital when tossed as a life preserver to a brother or sister that feels their strength waning and satan’s imps pulling on our feet. To understand God’s Words, we must first hear them interpreted by the Holy Spirit.

I don’t remember Dad’s answer, but I knew I needed the correct answer to my question: “Why is God hard to see?”

By faith, not by sight

Why does God appear to be hiding? Oh, when I look at His creation, I see the handiwork of God. His work testifies to His existence. And when I see a newborn baby, and I’ve seen a lot of them, I am humbled by God’s gift of life. And when I sit at the bedside of a saint of God passing from this life of trials and turmoil and entering the presence of God, I see the unspeakable grace of God to His children. So, for years I was baffled by God’s propensity to remain in in the periphery of my sight.

Why, oh God, maker of heaven and earth, the establisher of kings and kingdoms, the Great I AM, why do You make it so difficult for us to see you?

God’s answer is simple. Jesus told His apostle Thomas the reason. Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) God gives a special blessing to all of us that believed Christ’s Gospel without seeing God.

It’s a matter of trust

From Genesis all the way to the end of the book of Revelation, three things that God continually offers to people: repentance, saving faith, and the promise to never be abandoned.  Yet most people reject God and become hard hearted. Salvation is a matter of trust in the perfect work of Jesus. This is rejected by most, but God’s desire is that all would come unto repentance:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

So, why is God hard to see?  God can’t be seen. Our entrance into His kingdom is only available by grace, through faith, which is a work of God. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.(Matthew 7:14)

It is out of God’s love that He has made faith the device for us to not only see Him, but to be received by Him.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash


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pots of soil

Good Soil

Seeds can be sown correctly, spaced correctly, fertilized correctly, but without good soil they will never germinate, they will never grow and produce fruit. So, what is “good soil?”

Good soil seems to have three things. It has dirt. It has sun. It has water (moisture). Think about it, for a seed to grow it needs all three. Leave out any one of those and the seed just dies.

Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.” – Matthew 13:5-6

Dirt, sun, and water

Good soil needs dirt. A seed won’t grow without nutrients and something to hold the seed in place. “Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” – Matthew 13:8

Good soil needs sunlight. A seed won’t grow in the dark. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” – John 1:1, 4

Good soil needs water. A seed will wither without water. Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ – John 4:13-14

Crops for Christ

God’s Word is the seed. “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” – Matthew 13:23

As believers in Christ Jesus, let’s make sure we keep ourselves bathed in the light and water of Jesus. We all want to produce a great crop for God!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


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closet doors

God Sides With You

I read a great statement that my niece posted from her church, Woodland Heights Christian Church, in Crawfordsville, Indiana. They said, “God sides with you against your sin; not against you because of your sin.” This comment harkens back to the promise God made to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:11:

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

We may be weary

With the enemy and the world fighting against us, it’s easy to feel burned out or isolated while doing God’s will. If we give an inch to this emotion, it is easy for us to slip out of God’s will; to sin. When we become weak, we become easily led astray by thoughts contrary to God’s will. 

We may feel desperate for a return to some past experience when “life was simple.” We may wish for old friendships. Or, we may be so frazzled that we long for a quiet bubble of rest from God. One thing is sure, just as our immune system becomes weaker when we are down or exhausted, so do our spiritual “deflector shields” (nod to Star Trek) collapse from exhaustion, repetition, and alienation. 

Our help

Jesus is aware of our spiritual health, which is likely why he said, “See that no one leads you astray.” ( Mark 13:5) When we need help, remember, the Holy Spirit is The Helper (John 14:16).

The cure for spiritual weakness is time alone with Jesus. We may think, “I need to talk with so-and-so.” or “I need to step back from some of my commitments.” You may be correct but first go to your “prayer closet,” lock the door, and talk with Jesus.

You may say, “Why? It never works for me!” Well, there is a well-established approach. This approach has been recommended by great Christian leaders such as Charles SpurgeonD.L. Moody, and Franklin Graham. 

Guidance

What I’m about to write should not be taken as a formula or recipe but as guidance from people mightily used by God.

Before we can “hear from heaven,” we have to unclutter our minds; rabbit trails are the antidote to prayer! To clean a cluttered mind, we start with confession. We need to tell Jesus everything – this is transferring our burdens to Him and becoming “clean vessels” for the Holy Spirit. 

Then it’s good to thank God. Our thankfulness is a declaration of faith, acknowledging our trust in Him. Our gratitude can easily transition to praise. We may not be able to carry a tune in a bucket, but it’s uplifting to sing to God. God doesn’t judge us on the quality of our voices. “God inhabits the praises of His people.” (Psalm 22:3)

Hearing from God

Now, with uncluttered minds, forgiven souls, thankful hearts, and God’s presence, we’ve prepared ourselves to hear from Jesus. Jesus is the Word (John 1:14), so it’s good to open God’s Word to a personally familiar and meaningful passage. It might be John, chapter one, or the “Beatitudes” in Matthew, chapter five, or perhaps it is Psalms 32

Before we begin reading, we can ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to receive the living Word of God; then we read, pondering each word, each phrase, asking the Holy Spirit to makes these words alive in us. 

Refreshment

As we read, we also quietly listen. Soon we will become aware of the presence of God, and He will open His Word to us; His Word will feed us. His abiding presence is medicine to us. Being in His presence heals us, strengthens us; He refreshes, renews, and rejuvenates us. We can linger with Him.

God sides with you

When we come out of our prayer closets, we will be spiritually refreshed. Having a regular time for meeting with Jesus is better than going to a gym! There’s some value in regular exercise, but so much more value from a consistent prayer time. (1 Timothy 4:8)

So when we sin, let’s remember this post. Do not forget that “God sides with you against your sin; not against you because of your sin.”

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


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macbook pro displaying group of people

Don’t Waste Your Pain

I heard a preacher say, “God never wastes our pain.” The moment I heard this, it resonated in me. This statement is true. And, as the way God works, I had just finished reading:

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. – Acts 14:19-20

Suffering

The apostle Paul suffered much for the cause of Christ. Most of his Christian life, he was a man on the move. I relate to that. During my career, I traveled all over America and around the world. I can’t tell you how many times I would be someplace and longed to share it with my wife and kids, but they were home, and I wasn’t. Sorry, that’s a rabbit trail.

The apostle Paul suffered. He was a man on the move, ministering in places that had never even heard of Jesus. Paul wrote:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,
    and those who have never heard will understand.”

– Romans 15:20-21

The Prison Epistles

Paul was a man on the move, but God locked him up in prison. Can you imagine how painful this must have been for Paul? No longer could he get back on the road to visit and encourage the churches he planted. So, from prison, Paul wrote. And from Paul’s pain came Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Without these four Prison Epistles, we would not have:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8-9

Now let’s turn our attention to you. If you’re a Christian, what pains do you have? Now name one. “I have a broken marriage.” “My child hates me.” “I have cancer.” Now that you’ve pulled your pain out of the clutter in your mind, pray, and ask Jesus to show you how to use your pain. Ask Him to give you opportunities to use your pain for the good of others.

Let God use Your Pain

Yes, ask our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, to heal the cause of your pain, but don’t let your pain be wasted. This same preacher said, “Do what you can with what you have where you’re at.” If you have pain, then that’s what you have. Ask God to use your pain.

Be bold in your faith in Jesus. It’s okay to say, “I’m a Christian. I have MS, and I’m scared.” But don’t go on that journey alone; don’t waste your pain.

Talk to people, go to support groups, and say, “I know Jesus is with me and He cares for me. I’ll pray for anybody that’s scared.” Put yourself out there. The Holy Spirit lives in you. Life is in you, even if you’re dying. God will use your pain to point others to Jesus, to pour hope into people that desperately need hope.

Don’t linger in your pain, but until your pain is gone, let God use it to help people.

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Citizens of the Household of God

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, “then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).  

As citizens of God’s household, we have the privilege and responsibility to represent Jesus to the world. With our citizenship comes the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. That presence of God within us affects the people around us. To the lost, they feel conviction. We are the smell of death. To the saved, we radiate life and hope. We are the fragrance of Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)  

God’s Presence Goes With Us

Many years ago, a dear missionary couple told me that they became aware of an unusual thing that happened when they entered a store or restaurant. No matter how empty the business was when they entered the establishment when they left, there would be people in the store. God’s blessing upon them went with them and blessed the places they entered. My wife and I have experienced this, too. 

Now you may say, “Whoa, you’re starting to get weird.” That started a long time ago, and it has nothing to do with what I’m saying. 😉 If the Holy Spirit is in you, then you’re not normal. Normal people are under God’s judgment. They are spiritually dead. They cannot understand the things of God. 

As citizens of God’s household, we do affect people, but not always in pleasant ways. We can expect people to become angry at us, to try to humiliate us, and, even, to harm us. As the Apostle Paul wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)  

For Humanity’s Sake, Let Your Light Shine 

We may all be getting tired of hearing, “We are living in unprecedented times.” Whether our unprecedented times are different from the unprecedented times of other generations is not relevant. What is relevant is for us to be aware that God’s presence is within us and, regardless of whether it’s well-received or not, we must let the Light shine from us to those around us. We must not hide it. (Mark 4:21-24)

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Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel

The monotheistic “We”

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 

2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV) 

A while back, I watched a documentary produced by Jews about Jewishness. The show was fascinating but sad. Oh, how we “goy” (i.e., Gentiles) have persecuted the Jews since their dispersion.

If you know someone that is Jewish, consider apologizing to them, for surely somewhere in your ancestry “you” (and I) have badly mistreated Jews. Anyway, in this documentary a Jewish leader affirmed that Islam is monotheistic but implied that Christians are not monotheistic because we believe in a triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He then made a remark that has been rolling around in me ever since. He said, “Three? Why not four or five?” 

My human response to his comment was a desire to meet him and explain that the God he serves is the true monotheistic “We.” While it is true that God did not openly reveal His triune nature until the New Testament, it is also true that once revealed, we, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, have been able to go back to Old Testament Scriptures and discover the truth of the Trinity in passages that previously were opaque to this truth (see Daniel 3:25). When Jesus came into the world, the trinity of God was revealed. 

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?   

John 14:8-9 (ESV)

In Christ’s reply to Philip we find the monotheistic “We.” Jesus tells Philip that He is God and God is one. Notice that Jesus does not say that “Father” is another name for Himself. It is clear that Father God is unique. In fact, when Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He started with, “Father, hallowed be your name.” (Luke 11:2) So, obviously, Father God is not Jesus, but Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is teaching Philip that there are not gods, only “God,” but God is a monotheistic “We.”  

To drive the point home that Jesus is man and Jesus is God and God is trinity, let us consider one more passage of Scripture, John 8:50-58

Jesus said in John 8:50Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. Notice that Jesus declares that His Father’s motive is to glorify Jesus, His Son. 

In John 8:54, Jesus answered the Pharisees, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ Notice that Jesus openly declares that God is His Father. Jesus plainly says that God fathered Him.  

Then in John 8:58, Jesus declares, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” From Strong’s Concordance’s Greek 1510, “am” means “exist.” So, Jesus said, “I exist.” No beginning or ending, 

This is a clear reference to Jesus’ eternal preexistence. Since this is an attribute of God alone, this text is a forceful statement of Jesus’ deity. The present tense of the verb suggests the eternal present of God’s eternity. “I am” is also reminiscent of God’s name in Ex. 3:14 (vv. 24, 28).

R.C. Sproul, Reformation Study Bible 

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) And, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14) Amen!  

Photo by Dave Herring on Unsplash

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Brave New World

Acts 4:32-37 (ESV) 32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

This passage of Scripture is, perhaps, the most threatening in the whole of the New Testament. Over the years, I have heard innumerable Pastors and Evangelists manipulate or even desecrate God’s message contained in these few verses. And I understand why. They appear to fly in the face of Capitalism and they most certainly cut the legs out from under any leader in God’s kingdom that has set their heart upon constructing a magnificent edifice (building).

I’ve been praying to understand what God is doing in the world today and I think I see three things. I’ll save the best for last.

One

Christians were first, and horribly, targeted for persecution as a group by the emperor Nero in 64 AD. A colossal fire broke out at Rome, and destroyed much of the city. Rumours abounded that Nero himself was responsible. He certainly took advantage of the resulting devastation of the city, building a lavish private palace on part of the site of the fire.

Perhaps to divert attention from the rumours, Nero ordered that Christians should be rounded up and killed. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive as human torches. Over the next hundred years or so, Christians were sporadically persecuted. It was not until the mid-third century that emperors initiated intensive persecutions.

From a BBC article by Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe titled Christianity and the Roman Empire

Note that the date is 64 AD. This persecution occurred after Acts, chapter four. What God did for the early Church, He has repeatedly done for the Church down through the ages. He gives times of rest and refreshing and then He leads the Church into battles where many die a martyr’s death – the greatest growth is during the battles.

Therefore, my first point is that God gave the Western Church a respite but we turned it into a lifestyle.

Two

No doubt, for the early Church, it was from the wealth of the members selling their possessions that funding for the great dispersement provided. This dispersement was triggered by the stoning of Stephen. We find this in Acts 8:1, And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 

There are no times when we can be cruise-control Christians. If God is building the Church’s wealth then a battle is just around the corner.

Three

Throughout all of the history of Adam, God has used peculiarity (i.e. set-apart) to draw the attention of God’s elect to Himself. God’s people prepared for a flood when none was visible, prepared for a baby when age cried “Impossible!”, birthed a nation from a baby floating in the Nile, trusted God when surrounded and vastly outnumbered by their enemy. Yes, I have Scripture for this and it’s best seen in the KJV, 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” (emphasis added) The meaning of the word “peculiar” in this verse is “set apart” as “a person set apart for God’s own possession.”

God’s people don’t try to be peculiar, it’s just what happens when we follow God. Peculiar doesn’t mean crazy. As I wrote, it means “set-apart” but being set-apart often makes a person seem peculiar. A good example of peculiar was “Mr. Rogers” on PBS. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, he was certainly peculiar within the staff of PBS. He was not “one of the crowd.” Fred Rogers is quoted as saying,

“I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.” My guess is that we have rarely, if ever, taken a job because we thought we could turn the employer from bad to good.

We, as true believers, are peculiar people. That is God’s way. People living in the world must notice us, and notice that there is something different, a good difference, between the children of God and the children of the world. As true believers, we quickly surrender our possessions, surrender our rights, surrender our lives, to demonstrate the character of Jesus to people who remain under God’s curse.

A missionary once told me that every missionary had to able to do any one of five things at a moment’s notice: 1) preach 2) pray 3) teach 4) sing 5) die. We all should hold our lives as a gift of service to Jesus our Savior.

However, for decades now, while we’ve been living the lifestyle of Christianity, we have continually moved the Church closer and closer to the world. We justified these actions as attempts to remain relevant in a changing world. 

It is Christ Jesus who makes His Church relevant; it’s never within our ability to accomplish this.

God Stopped the Whole World

Never in my lifetime has the whole world stopped. Until now, the closest it came was in 1969 when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. If you are old enough to remember that then you remember how TV networks cut to locations all across the globe, showing people gathered around TV sets, all gobsmacked. 

Well, this pandemic is more profound than Neil’s history-making step. Trust me on this, God did this out of His great love. You may ask, “How could God allow this to happen to good people?” The answer is simple and painful; there are no good people. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)

God stopped the world so we all would consider what life is about. For His Church, we face profound changes, not in the Gospel but in our lifestyle. Comfortable Christianity is not God’s intent. Jesus said, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38)

Yes, we are told by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” We are to have this goal but we are also told to “take up our cross” and told by the Apostle Peter that we are a peculiar people. These messages are from the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. These messages do not conflict. We are not faced with a dichotomy. So, what does God want from us? 

What does Obedience Look Like?

What Jesus said to His disciples is that He wants us to be obedient, and if we are, then our joy will be full. (John 15:9-11) So, obedience is not something we can choose. Our decision is to either be a Christian, or not. Choosing not to obey is choosing not to love Jesus. (John 14:15)

The Point

I’ve written a lot of words to lead us to the following thoughts, and they are: 

  1. God has prospered the members of Western churches for one hundred years. And countless churches own behemoth buildings that, overnight, have been rendered useless. This is not a mistake, rather it is God’s “bank account.”
  2. God’s blessing of an accumulation of wealth has not been for “us” to look like the world. That wealth is not ours.
  3. God’s people do not overcome the world by being a twin of the world. “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” (Revelation 12:11)

No revival, no world movement by God, can start or continue without the Holy Spirit moving and igniting souls. When we are full to overflowing of the Spirit within us then the oil of God’s anointing splashes into the fire of the Holy Spirit and we burst forth with power, testifying to the world the things of God.

What will the Church look like, now that we’re in a post mega-church building era? Perhaps, in cities, we will be those peculiar people that sold our cars and gave the money to churches in Syria and Egypt.

Perhaps we will now flood mass transit systems – and the world will take notice. Perhaps, in the new world, the Church will unwaveringly speak what we know as true even if our testimony costs us our homes, our liberty, or even our lives. Perhaps, we, as God’s children, will choose Truth over political correctness, and not allow God’s Truth to be bridled by godless people.

Conclusion

I don’t know what this new world holds of us. I don’t know if we have the will to rise to the occasion of becoming peculiar to our family, our friends, our workmates, our employers, our community, our country. Will we be a “Fred Rogers?” Will we carry Jesus into places we hate? I just don’t know. However, I do know that God is watching to see how we respond to this brave new world.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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