Friday, July 29, 2016

The HeadMaster



Recently, my church has hit a pothole in the road.  In essence, the direction of the church, the vision for leadership has been in dispute.  We are working through resolving the issues.  It has not been fun. At all.

When I read today's verses, I am reminded who is in charge of our church.  Take a look:


18He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.
19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son
20and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross – through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Colossians 1:18-20 NET

As church members, regardless of denomination, it gives us certain comfort (and sometimes license) to know that "someone is in charge".  The pastor is in charge of the vision and preaching the Word of God.  The men of the church (and in some denominations the women) are elected as elders and/or deacons.  There are committees for this and for that task.  Structure gives us order, security, peace.

But, sometimes this "order" gives a license to disengage.  It is oh-so seductive to just "go along to get along" and to "let someone else handle it".  That is fine, if we are remembering who the actual Head and Master of the church is, and as long as His precepts are being implemented.  It is not-so-fine when egregious oversteps occur and our response is to "check out" or cut-and-run.  But, I digress...

Why do you supposed Paul put that fact about Jesus' headship over the Church into this letter?  (Paul goes on to emphasize in Colossians 2:10 that Jesus Christ is the Head over ALL.)  Shouldn't it be obvious that Jesus Christ is the Head of His Body, that group which, regardless of denomination, is comprised of all true believers around the world?

This truth is emphasized in Paul's letter to help prevent schisms and riotous behavior among the members of the Church. It is also in there to affirm that no angel or other spiritual entity has a right to this position, as the Gnostics believed.  Since Jesus ascended to Heaven, many men have wrestled for control of the Church.  Some denominations have titular heads of their denominations, such as Pope. It seems to me that this has not worked out very well, given the history of the Papacy.  Little wonder.... Jesus Christ, and only He, is the Head of the Church Universal, or the "church local".

In His position as "Head/Master", He supplies His Church with life, through His Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, He gives spiritual gifts to men and women that they might serve Him and their fellow believers through the exercising of those gifts in truth and love.  Ephesians 5:25-30 reminds us that Jesus Christ, through the power of His Word, cleanses and nourishes His Church.  Yes.  There are times we need His cleansing, uncomfortable though it may be.  The evidence of His cleansing is repentance and revival.   It is easy to forget who is in charge, to get all wrapped up in our own narratives and to become beset by pride in the exercise of our spiritual gifts.  Doing so leads us and sometimes the entire local body into pain, until we remember who He is - - - our church's Head, our Origin, our Master.  Acts 20:28 after all, y'all...

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

What right does Jesus Christ have to this title/position as Head of His Church?  This is explained in verses 19 and 20.  We studied verse 19 yesterday.  In verse 20, Jesus earned this right through the shedding of His blood on the cross.

I love the picture that is presented in Revelation 5.  Go read the chapter if you have the time.  John was being showed a picture of what happened in the throne room of God after Jesus was resurrected from the dead.  Oh glory to His name!  Look at these verses, if you don't have time to go read the whole chapter right now.

7Then he came and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne, 8and when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders threw themselves to the ground before the Lamb. Each of them had a harp and golden bowls full of incense (which are the prayers of the saints). 9They were singing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals
because you were killed,
and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God
persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
10You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

"...at the cost of Your own blood..."
This ultimate sacrifice gives Jesus Christ the right to be Head of His Church.  It is His blood which makes peace between us and our Holy Father God, which reconciles us in our sinful state to a holy, righteous God.  It is His blood which provided the remedy, which paid the steep, steep price for our salvation.  1 Corinthians 6:20 reminds us that we "were bought with a price" (the precious blood of our Savior).  It is His blood which cleanses us from our sins, all of them, so that we can have a relationship with God our Father.

We tend to relegate the power of the blood of Jesus to some secondary position.  We don't like to talk about it, for fear people will accuse us of having a "bloody religion".

It is only through the spilled blood and finished sacrifice of our Savior, however, that we can have peace.  It is only He, in His headship over His Church, who brings correct order and growth to our fellowship of believers.  God the Father has given God the Son the pre-eminence in the Church Universal, and we would all do well to remember that so that we may walk with one another in purity and truth as well as in humility and grace.

Father, how I need the constant cleansing which your precious blood provides!  Thank you for cleansing me of all my sin at the moment that my salvation began, that moment I accepted Your Son, Jesus, as my Lord and Savior.  While I rest in that knowledge, I also know that my sin nature is never at rest, but is constantly battling with my new nature for control of my soul and spirit.  I acknowledge that You, in your purity, righteousness and holiness, are the Head of me, my church and the Church Universal.  Bring a new purity and holiness to my spirit, Lord, and to my local body of brothers and sisters as well.  Use me, use us to spread the message of Your saving grace far and wide.  May the preaching of the gospel be proclaimed with power and may the message of the gospel be on all our lips as we reach out to "Jerusalem", "Judea", "Samaria" and "the uttermost parts of the Earth".  In the powerful, holy name of Jesus and through His blood, amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The "Whole Package"



"If you've seen her, you've seen her mother."  Have you ever heard anyone say that?  The comment can refer to mannerisms, gestures, ways of speaking or physical appearance.  Some children look so much like their parents it is uncanny!

Jesus said to His disciples that since they had seen Him, they had seen God the Father. (John 14:9)

I suppose some, reading that statement, could "take it" as I described above.  But, that would be a mistake.  Jesus doesn't just "look like" or "act like" God.  He IS God, fully.

In Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 Paul continues to put forward a correct explanation of who Jesus Christ is, in order to counter the error that was beginning to be propagated in Colosse by the Gnostics.  The Gnostics taught that angels were something they are not, and that Jesus was less than He was.  The Gnostics would not deny Jesus' importance, but they would deny Him the throne to which He is entitled.  They did not discount Christianity, but judged it incomplete.  Paul emphatically refuted that position/philosophy.  Look at Paul's inspired words in these two verses.


19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son

9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

"All His fullness".  The Greek word translated "fullness" is "pleroma", a term used often by the Gnostics.  (So, Paul was using their own terminology against them!) The term meant "the sum total of all the divine power and attributes."1

The totality of the Trinity is in Jesus Christ.  He is the "whole package".

Now, back to the larger context, Colossians 1:17-23...

15The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Verse 18, which states the Jesus Christ IS the beginning hearkens back to verse 15, where he is called the "firstborn" over all creation.  Not created, He was and is "the beginning", or as He refers to Himself in the book of Revelation "the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last" (Revelation 22:13 NIV).

Not only that, He is the "firstborn from among the dead".  The apostle John mentions this same attribute in Revelation 1:5.  What does that mean?  It is clear from Scripture that others had been raised from the dead, some by Jesus Himself during His earthly ministry.

However, Jesus was "the firstfruits of them that slept", (1 Corinthians 15:20) that is, He was the first to be raised from death to immortality by God the Father.  In that, as in all things, He has the supremacy.
In his landmark book, Earthquake Resurrection, David W. Lowe2 describes the Bible's six resurrections from death to immortality.  They are:
1.  Jesus' resurrection
2.  The resurrection of the "many saints" in Jerusalem, after Jesus' resurrection (Matthew 27:50-54).
3.  The resurrection of the dead-in-Christ (I Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54)
4.  The resurrection of the "two witnesses" (Revelation 11:3-13)
5.  The resurrection of martyrs from Daniel's 70th week, i.e. the Great Tribulation (Revelation 20:4)
6.  The resurrection of "the rest of the dead" (Revelation 20:5 and Daniel 12:2-3)
This distinguishes Jesus from all others.  In this, too, He has the pre-eminent position, the supremacy.

He also is the head of the church, which He established through His death, burial and resurrection. That will be the topic of tomorrow's post, as we continue to explore the Person of Jesus Christ.


Sources:

1   Wiersbe, Warren W., and Warren W. Wiersbe. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete New Testament in One Volume. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007. Print, p. 670

2  Lowe, David W. Earthquake Resurrection: Supernatural Catalyst for the Coming Global Catastrophe. Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., 2005. Print. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Holding It Together



I have become one of those old ladies who can never find her glasses.  After looking here and there around the house, I've concluded that I left them this morning at the beauty salon, where I went for a periodic attempt at beautification.

The point is, we have trouble holding it together at times, don't we?  Of course, misplacing a pair of glasses is mild in comparison to that dreaded phone call from the doctor:  "I need to see you and your husband in my office tomorrow."  Or, when the sheriff's deputies walk up to your front door.  Or, the mandate to "clean out your desk", and I'm not referring to a grade school teacher's instruction to a messy child either.

You know what I mean.

I guess all these scenarios are why I love Colossians 1:17 so much.

Here it is, translated from the original Greek:
And He is before all things, and all things in Him hold together.
The words "hold together" are translated "consist", in the KJV.  The Greek word for "consist" is sunistano/sunistemi, which is the word we often translate as "sustain".  So, not only did Christ create all that is, He also sustains it.

The First Law of Thermodynamics is the best-proved law of science, despite that scientists cannot explain to us how it is true. Basically, it says that, although matter can and does change forms, no new matter is being created OR annihilated, but rather it is being conserved or sustained.  Were He not to be sustaining all things, all those things He created in the past, the binding energy of the atom would collapse, plunging the entire universe into chaos.1

Does this surprise you?  We are told in Acts 17:28
"In Him we live and move and have our being."

It's so incongruous to me that scientists, those people who know the most about the observable, physical universe, are sometimes the most resistant to the idea of a personal God, a Creator of all things.  How in the world (pardon the pun) can you explain the marvelous intricacy of nature, apart from intelligent design?  I challenge you to study the Earth's rotation, revolution, electrical system, gravitation and atmosphere, to name a few.  What you will find is that if any of these deviated just a smidgeon or an iota, life on Earth would be vastly different, or even in some cases, non-existent. The Eternal Son, the only begotten of the Father, holds them all in His hands.

What does this have to do with my reading glasses?  Or, dreaded knocks on our doors?  The same God who holds the universe together can hold my life together as well.  He is not merely concerned about keeping the planets in place.  The Lover of My Soul is equally interested in the minutiae of my life, even those foibles and failures of my own personal walk.

Aren't we often guilty of this, treating our Savior as the Swedes treat their monarchs?  They respect and revere them, but don't really expect them to have any meaningful involvement in their lives. Here in this verse we are reminded of who Jesus is:  not some weak or flippant observer, but instead the Master of the Universe.

He is the God who loves to be "bothered" with us and our smallest needs, the God who delights in being invited in.  He holds it all together, even when we feel it is falling apart.  We can be assured of that and after taking a big, deep sigh of relief, then breathe a prayer of everlasting gratitude!

Lord Jesus, You are the Everlasting Son, the Creator and Sustainer of All.  I can rest in the knowledge that I don't have to "hold it all together", because You do.  You plans are better.  Your ways are higher.  You are Sovereign and All-Knowing, while also being All-Loving to Your children.  Thank you for this blessed assurance.  In Your Name I pray, amen.

Source:

1  http://www.icr.org/bible/Colossians/1:16-17

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Image Inexplicable




Most Bible commentators I've read believe that Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians because that little church was being unduly influenced by Gnostics.  (Sounds like a group of aliens from Star Trek, doesn't it?)  We'll look more deeply into the beliefs of Gnosticism later, but let's start by confronting a couple of their false beliefs.  The first is that Jesus Christ was merely one of God's manifestations (appearances, emanations) to an evil, material world.  Gnostics also believe that all physical matter is evil and that God could have no contact with it.1

Because of this alarming incursion of Gnosticism into the Colossian church, Paul launches into a series of verses in which he describes who Jesus Christ actually was and is.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,
16for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers – all things were created through him and for him.
17He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.
18He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.
19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son
20and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross – through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Paul begins with establishing the deity of Christ by detailing His various interactions with mankind, as you see in the verses above.

Today, we are going to focus on verses 15-16:  incarnation versus emanation.

I do not fully understand the mystery that happened between God the Father and God the Son, when the decision was made to give the Father "form" - - material, physical form.  This is not fully explained in the Bible, perhaps because we don't have the capacity to understand.  Most certainly, this occurred before any other created thing was created, because both verses 15 and 16 state that it occurred prior to creation AND that Christ WAS the creator of ALL things.  So, in a move that runs totally counter to Gnosticism, we see the Creator God the Son making the material and constructing the spiritual realms.  The apostle Peter also confirms this in 1 Peter 1:20.

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake. 
(NET)

A little bit ago, I was musing...does God the Father or Son or Holy Spirit EVER in the Bible manifest as any created thing?  Oh, He inhabits created spaces, such as when "His glory filled the Temple".  In other scriptures He is referred to (in his Christ form) as "the angel of the Lord".  But, He never manifests as an eagle or a bear or a serpent (as Satan did).  He is called the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and C.S. Lewis portrayed Him as the lion, Aslan, in his fictitious allegory series, The Chronicles of Narnia.  But....He always takes the form of a man, the God-Man, whom we learned at his birth to call, Jesus.

Man was created by Jesus Christ, the God-Man, in His image.  Jesus is the image of God the Father, who Himself is Spirit, invisible. And we are created in His (Jesus') image.


"Through him and for him" - - -


Having expounded upon the first, let's consider the last.  We, mankind, were created FOR God, for Jesus Christ, who knew what the future held for Him, who knew that, even in creating us we would fall into sin; we would need a Redeemer, and that He was the only One who could save us.

"Slain, from the foundation of the world".... 
(Revelation 13:8 KJV)

Not only did He create all things, He became us, became a human, ultimately the human named Jesus Christ, fully God and fully Man.  The incarnation (the "en-fleshing", encasing in human flesh) of the invisible God.  The human body is not evil, as Gnostics claim.  If it were, Jesus would never have incarnated Himself into one!

As a result of The Fall, all human love, all of it, is tainted by self-interest.  I am unable to conceive of a love like Jesus Christ's, a love so pure and holy.   A love that could not bear to see us forever lost, forever separated from Him, a perfect love which constrained Him to snatch us back from the pit of Hell at an incalculable personal cost.

This is not an aloof, removed God, afraid to get His hands dirty.  This is a God who not only plunged right into the fallen world, to abide with us, but who also longs to be with each of us in every way, every day, even now.  This is a God who finished redemption's work so that all of Gnosticism's rule-following is rendered void, and replaced those heresies with grace, pure grace alone.

Hallelujah for that!

https://youtu.be/YnM3lc-LyzY


Source:

1   Wiersbe, Warren W., and Warren W. Wiersbe. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete New Testament in One Volume. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007. Print, p. 659.



Monday, July 25, 2016

I've Heard of You!




It feels good to sit here at my desk, starting the book of Colossians.  I began Philippians nearly six weeks ago, and being immersed in that book sustained me through some of the more difficult spiritual circumstances of my life, lately.  I'm grateful for God's sustaining grace and for His empowering direction during troubling times.  Miracles are more apparent during those times; faith is strengthened.  God is good!

At any rate, the next Pauline letter in the chronological study we've doing is Colossians.   So, onward!

4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—
(1:4, NIV)
9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.
(1:9, NIV)


There are a couple of mega-churches of which I have heard and would love to visit.  One is the Brooklyn Tabernacle, in New York City.  Those of you who know I'm a musician understand my fascination.  The choir there has, for years, been glorious!
The other is John Hagee's church, in San Antonio.   I ALMOST got to visit it when I was in that town for a reading convention a few years back; but, to my misfortune, Dr. Hagee was out of the pulpit that Sunday.  Bummer!

In the verses above, Paul says he has "heard of" the church at Colosse, because he never visited there, at least, he had not to this point, nor is there any record that he did later.  By this time, A.D. 60, he was nearing the end of his ministry and his life.  Paul did not plant the church at Colosse either.  It appears from chapter 1:7 that the church was started by someone named Epaphras.  Who was he?

In his New Testament Commentary1 Warren Wiersbe notes that the Colosse was a small town.  The Colossian church, a predominantly Gentile church, was started by two converts from the church in Ephesus.  Those two converts were Epaphras and Philemon.  We can reconstruct this from comparing Acts, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon.

Acts 19:10 tells us the scope of the Ephesian church's influence.  Ephesus was a large town, large church, which "planted" smaller churches all throughout Asia.  One of these was the Colossian church, which was probably about five years old at the time Colossians was written.

"We have heard of your faith...."

What a tremendous compliment!  Here was the renowned apostle Paul, writing to this little po-dunk church to say that their faith had come to his attention.

Another point that is key here is that this (seemingly) little "nobody" church was a key player in "spreading the gospel to every creature", as Jesus had commanded.  We are often deceived into believing that the big, flashy ministries are the ones that matter.  Just this morning I was thinking about Beth Moore, for instance.  There is no doubt in the world that her ministry has been and is continuing to be mightily used by God to save souls, release Christians from spiritual bondage, and so forth.  She has been used by God tremendously in my own life!  But, my next thought was something akin to this:  my little ministry is worth less than nothing.  That was a devil-thought sent like a flaming arrow to my spirit, right there!

I assure you that neither you nor I can comprehend the scope or influence of this ministry or any other, for that matter.  Only God knows.  I believe we will be shocked and amazed if and when God reveals to us in Heaven which ministries He used the most to further His kingdom!  Most of them we probably will never have heard of!

One of my college roommates lost her father a couple of weeks ago.  He had been pastor of his church, one church, for over 60 years!!!  Yes, you did read that right!
Or, I think of my friend, whose ministry is under tremendous spiritual attack at the moment.  Who KNOWS what God wants to do with that ministry of his, in the future, when Satan is defeated in his current attempt to destroy it!
Or, there's Jim Elliot2, whose name came up in Sunday School yesterday.  Jim's ministry to the natives in Ecuador, on the face of it, looks like a terrible tragedy.  Yet, God has used that ministry to not only bring many of those Ecuadorian natives to salvation in Jesus Christ, Jim is famous around the world today for his witness and his martyrdom.

So, my fellow believer, don't think that you are a "nobody" for the kingdom.  God knows you.  He knows your heart.  He knows the extent of your love for Him.  He wants to use you in ways that you cannot even imagine or even see with human eyes.

Be faithful.

"We have heard of your faith...."

Father, You know the name of each of us, Your children.  We may believe that what You have called us to is insignificant or, even....silly!  But, only You know the true impact of our callings, faithfully fulfilled, to Your kingdom.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven!  May each of us shrug off the enemy's arrows and re-affirm in our hearts the spiritual callings you have placed on our lives today.  Grow our faith exponentially, Father!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Sources:

1   Wiersbe, Warren W., and Warren W. Wiersbe. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete New Testament in One Volume. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007. Print, p. 658.

2  End of the Spear, 2005.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Wednesday of Convention Week


Wednesday was a +Ted Cruz kind of day.  The various state delegations plan activities for their folks when the convention is not in session.  Accordingly, several of us from the Tennessee delegation, who had worked on the Cruz campaign, were invited to a reception this afternoon, at which the senator spoke.  He gave a wonderful, inspiring speech, during which he gave heartfelt thanks to us for our efforts.  Don't believe the hype you hear in the media.  This man is a brilliant, principled conservative who is genuine and who has a good heart.  He loves his country, as does his wife, Heidi.  I greatly respect them both.

It was with eager anticipation that I awaited the senator's speech at the convention Wednesday night.  The question on everyone's minds was, "Will he endorse Trump?"
The way I looked at it was this:  he had three paths and none of them were anything short of suicidal.
First, he could have "done a Kasich" - - refused to appear at the convention.
Second, he could have endorsed Trump, which would have alienated the conservative wing of the party, his loyal supporters.
Third, he could have done what he did, which was to give an inspiring, patriotic speech about the centrality of freedom, in which he congratulated Donald Trump on his win.

Ted Cruz was set up.
Trump asked Cruz to speak at the convention, approved Cruz's speech two days beforehand and then had his goons whip up the NY delegates to begin booing Cruz at a certain point in the speech.  I was in my plum spot in the front balcony.  Immediately below me and slightly to the right, I could see the Trump family box, where the children were seated.  You may have missed this, but....during the last minute or two of Cruz's speech, as the booing continued to intensify, "The Donald" appeared at the entrance to the family box.  I watched in horror as the spotlights found him and he began to wave, to pander to the crowd, to draw the attention to himself.  DURING CRUZ'S SPEECH!  Cruz left the stage to loud booing. His wife was treated so poorly she had to be escorted from the convention floor by Ken Cucchinelli.

This type of self-aggrandizing behavior is unprecedented.  Historically, the candidate does not even appear at the convention until the night he makes the acceptance speech, in this case, Thursday night. But, Donald appeared on stage in person Monday night, on live video feed Tuesday night and then his saboteur stagecraft on display Wednesday night.
There is something profoundly wrong with this type of behavior, from a man many Americans plan to elect as our nation's president.

It was an experience in which my nation's future flashed before my eyes.  And, I recoiled in horror at what I saw.


Tuesday of Convention Week



As we boarded the bus to journey the 30 minutes into Cleveland on my first full day of the convention, I made a photo of my credentials and posted them on Facebook.

Ted Cruz and his campaign entered this convention with between 500-600 delegates.  If a candidate has a certain number of delegate votes, he or she will have his or her name placed into consideration for the nomination and will have to make a speech, ostensibly to win the nomination, whether a competitor already has enough votes to lock up the nomination or not.  The Cruz campaign did not want him to have to speak on Tuesday night at the convention.  They knew he had a slot to deliver a speech on Wednesday night, and they did not want a Tuesday night speech to overshadow the later one.  (In retrospect, I don't think anything could have overshadowed Ted's Wednesday night speech...). So, during the roll call of states, in which each state delegation announced the votes of its delegates, some of Ted Cruz's votes were converted to Trump votes.  Again, this was at the request of the Cruz campaign and demonstrated tremendous deference to the Trump campaign.

I enjoyed watching each state delegation announce its votes.  Each state crowed about its special accomplishments and features.  It was wonderful to get this small picture of each of the 50 beautiful states and few territories (American Samoa, anyone?) which are represented here at the GOP Convention.

What I did not enjoy as much was the protestors.  While they never harassed me to the point I felt afraid, we did attend on Tuesday a pro-life luncheon that was picketed by pro-abortion protestors.  One of them was carrying a large sign with a uterus on it.  Many of them were screaming at us as we walked into the security checkpoint.
I also came into close contact with the infamous Westboro Baptist Church protestors.  Sad, just very sad, and like no Baptists I've ever known.  Assuredly, they do not represent this Baptist's beliefs or tactics.
The area surrounding the Quicken Arena in downtown has been flooded with law enforcement of all types, from many municipalities and states - - ICE, highway patrol, Cleveland police, Michigan police, policemen on horses, policemen on scooters, secret service....It has been a dizzying array.  Needless to say, we have felt very protected.  All with convention access were given a clear plastic tote in which to carry personal items.  These were checked by law enforcement every time we entered the Quicken Arena, where the convention was held.  Inside the arena, access to each area was controlled.  For all the sessions I attended, I sat in the section designated for alternate delegates.  These were great seats, at the very front of the center balcony.

One of the most fun things was experiencing the excitement in the arena.  Famous faces were everywhere.  I ran into some of the members of my state's delegation (I was with a neighboring state's  delegation), plus saw George Stephanopolous, Greta Van Susteren, the Trump children (Trump himself - - more on that later), Nikki Haley, Herman Cain, Lou Holtz, Phyllis Schlafly, Nick Loeb,  (TV celebrity who sat at our lunch table Tuesday) Ted and Heidi Cruz, to name a few, "close-up".

A celebrity to me is my relatively new friend, @TeriGRight, whom I ran into at the Cruz event on Wednesday, plus my old, old friend Terry H., whom I had not seen in more than 40 years!  Terry lives in the East Cleveland area and saw the picture of my convention credentials on Facebook.  He suggested that he, his wife and I have dinner Tuesday night.  We had a very late-night dinner at Denny's.  It was GREAT to see him, to meet his wife, Julie, and to catch up on more than 40 years, with a thankful heart for how all of us have been richly blessed by the Lord!


Monday of Convention Week

Trying to find an opportunity to write a blog post during the #RNC2016 has proven an impossible task...until now.  At this point, "it's all over but the shoutin' ".  What a ride!  Where do I start?

Here are the day-by-day highlights, from my admittedly-biased perspective, along with the inevitable commentary:
(As a leadership speaker once said, "I hate to use personal experience, but it is the only kind I have had.")

Coming to Cleveland, I was a Ted Cruz supporter, but possessed a small window of hope I could be convinced to support Donald Trump.  After all, Hillary Clinton fills my heart with dread.   I also hoped that the constitutional conservatives in the party could make some inroads in wresting the party away from the party elite and return it to the grassroots voters, if not for this election cycle then the next.

Those of you who know me may wonder how I got to attend the GOP National Convention at all.  One of my college roommates, a long-time and dear friend, is a convention alternate delegate.  Each delegate and alternate receives a guest pass, and she invited me to accompany her.  It was her first national convention as well.

Due to a previous commitment I had to miss Sunday and most of Monday's convention festivities.  On Monday afternoon, the Rules Committee gave its report, which had to be voted up or down by the delegates.  The rules being put forth by the committee "bound" the convention delegates, to vote according to each state's or territory's rules.  There was a faction at the convention, led by Ken Cucchinelli, Sen. Mike Lee and other constitutional conservatives, who wanted to reject the committee's rules as put forth.  This was not unprecedented; it had been done in prior conventions.  They had built an alliance of 11 states who wanted a state roll call vote on whether or not to accept the rules.  (They only needed 7).  The "rebel" state delegations were man-handled by the Trump forces, and two states dropped from the group.  That left nine states.  However, the chair announced  that only 6 states were left in the group, which was, of course, one state shy of the needed total.  That was a total lie.  When Mike Lee and Ken Cucchinelli tried to object, they realized that their microphones had been turned off.  As a result, a voice vote on the rules was taken, and in the opinion of the chair, the "resistance" was not as loud as necessary.  The Rules Committees' rules "stood", as presented.
I was soon to realize that such thuggery would be a hallmark of this convention.
The binding of the delegates was only one feature of the rules which will govern GOP primaries for the next four years.  Another element was that these rules further cemented the power that the more "mainstream" or "Establishment" Republicans have in the party.


On a positive note, the GOP "platform committee" did a great job coming up with a very conservative "platform".  The term "platform" refers to essentially the Republican "creed", their foundational beliefs, for the next four years.  Many have said that this convention's platform is the most conservative of any in the past several conventions.  That is a huge "win", but only if the nominee, Mr. Trump, abides by it as he governs, should he win In November.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Yawn!

Today has not been a typical day.  It has been a day of travel, to the GOP National Convention in Cleveland, OH.  My former college roommate, an alternate from Tennessee, got me a guest pass to the convention.  How could I say "no"?  So, here we are.

My flight was cancelled from ATL today, but the airlines cooperated with each other to get me on a similar flight with a different airline.  I actually ended up getting here earlier than originally planned. On the flight, I sat by this young lady who is studying nursing at Indiana Weslyan College.  She and 30 or so other young folks, were returning from a mission trip to Haiti, where they had done some construction and taught some English.  They were gone 10 days.  I was reminded of my own experiences in Haiti in the late 1970s, on college mission trips.

Today, I got to experience Uber for the first time!  What an awesome experience!  I had a coupon code, which made it cheaper.  The driver was pretty new to Uber as well, but he did a great job.

Well, please forgive this short and rather vacuous post.  I had about 4 hours of sleep last night/this morning.  I'll try to do better in the morning.

I'm grateful, Father, for the opportunity to participate in our nation's election process, although it is looking more and more fatally flawed.   I know that You have a plan for America and just pray it is a plan to restore our people to faith in You.  In Jesus' name, amen

Friday, July 15, 2016

Sleep Aids



Don't you just love little kids, who can sleep almost anywhere?  Their bodies demand rest and, well, they just "konk out", as the expression goes.

The other day I ran across an article that listed the worst medications for ongoing human health.  The number one offender was sleep aids, not the occasional use, but the continual use of those in the person's life.  Do you find that shocking?  I did!
Now, full disclosure:  I have never used a sleeping pill.  We all have our physical challenges, and that is just not one of mine.  Believe me....I have others!

Occasionally, though, I do have trouble getting to sleep; or, I wake up between 3-4 a.m. and can't return to sleep for an hour or two.  I was reminded of this last night because I chose to read some psalms before going to bed.  I wasn't sleepless, just "hungry".  Afterwards, I went right to sleep!

The Psalms are promises from God to His people. They are not some sort of "magic charm" or "magic pill".  The promises found there pertain only to those who worship Jehovah God and His Son, Jesus, who Jehovah God gave so that we could enter into a righteous relationship with Him (Father). Could it be that God is stealing your sleep in an effort to draw you to Himself?  Have you settled your soul in Him?  Have you chosen Jesus Christ as Savior?  If not, I urge you to do that today.  Go here for guidance, in settling that life-changing matter forever:

http://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-main-thing.html

There are various other reasons for sleeplessness:  physical pain, grief, worry, anger, etc.  And, honestly, there are Psalms that are great to help us Christians "re-center" and re-focus our hearts.  It would be impossible to mention all of them in one, mere blog post.

But, since this is a personal devotional blog, here are some I read last night or have found helpful recently to help me sleep.  I'm not going to reproduce all of the texts here.  Take a short tour through these on your own and bookmark those which resonate with you currently.

Psalm 17, particularly verses 1-3 and 15

Psalm 4:8

Psalm 3, particularly verses 3-5

Psalm 121, particularly verses 3-4

Psalm 139, particularly verses 7-12

Psalm 62, particularly verses 5-8

Psalm 116:7


So, these are just a few that you might find a comfort on those late nights.  I am a "morning person" and, very tired from a long day tend to see things more bleakly than I do in the morning.  Even if you are not "sleepless in (your town)" you may need some encouragement.

My suggestion, Christian, is to build yourself a bank of favorite scriptures that you can read at night before bed. (There are others which are wonderfully comforting but are not in the book of Psalms.) Put them beside your bed and feed your spirit nourishing food before you turn out the lamp.

Rest well, my brethren!  Sleep in the peace of Your Savior!

Father, thank you for deep, healing, restorative sleep.  Thank you for Your Word, in which we find the true peace that enables us to turn it all over to You and rest.  I appreciate how, in my life, You clean my brain out overnight, as I rest, so that in the morning I can awake refreshed and ready to face what You bring into my life each day.  I dedicate this day to You, O blessed One-and-Only!  With love, in Jesus' name, amen.






Thursday, July 14, 2016

What Are You Chasing?


I always have difficulty in this blog when I am "between books".  First starting out, I just sort of blogged on important topics, at least, those I believed to be important.  Then, I began to flounder for daily inspiration, and so began the discipline of working through a book of the Bible at a time.  That has worked well for me, and I hope it has for you too.  Always, though, between books, I sort of get into this funk that is akin to eating a beautiful plate of food.  I am a one-at-a-time eater, by and large.  That is, I don't like to mix my food up on the plate, and I eat one food before moving on to another.   So, it applying that habit to Bible study, when I finish one delicious food, I am confronted with choosing another!

I am supposed to move on to Colossians, but just don't have the "appetite" for it yet. There is a theme, a biblical truth, that is resonating with me right now.  So, I am going to "go there" and satisfy that hunger.

But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  
Matthew 6:33 


The key question Jesus is asking in these verses is: what are you seeking?  
That is...what are you pursuing?  What drives you?  What are you chasing?

How does one pursue the kingdom of God anyway; and, if one is a believer, how does one pursue His righteousness?  Don't we have His righteousness already, if we are His?

Lots of questions....

First, yes, those who believe in and trust Jesus Christ as Savior have His perfect righteousness "credited to their eternal account".  (The fancy, theological word for that is "imputed".)  Romans 4:22 is the reference here, where Abraham is used as an example of eternally-saving faith.
If you are reading this and you have not made that personal decision to accept and follow Jesus, your quest for righteousness begins there.  Without Him, you can go no further.  He is both the Source and the End-Point of "saving grace, through faith".
Once that is settled, then, Believers:
....what does it mean to "chase righteousness", to pursue it, if we already possess it?

Proverbs 15:9 says this:
"The Lord detests the ways of the wicked, but He loves those who pursue righteousness."

Second, Believers, this is not going to be a popular thing to say.  You have been warned.
It is not possible to seek, pursue or chase after the kingdom of God apart from seeking, pursuing or chasing His righteousness in this world.  Truth and righteousness are the foundations on which His kingdom are built.

Pursing righteousness is not popular these days.  It is often mis-labeled as "legalism".  
Admittedly, there is a fine line.
But, I would like to make the case to you that our country, our families and our churches are in the messes they are in because we Christians have "laid down" in the battle; as a whole, we no longer pursue righteousness.

What we do instead is to pursue "love" or some namby-pamby, sissy form of love that is weak.
True love is not weak.  It is supremely strong, because it is grounded in truth and righteousness.
Or, we pursue "unity", which is great, if it is grounded in truth and righteousness.  More often, however, it is a deceptive, false unity, driven by weakness of purpose, lack of courage, and the succumbing to a "go along to get along" attitude.  By allowing the enemy small (seemingly insignificant) victories, we may have "lost the war" in America, in our churches, in our homes.

Here is an example:
Shopping at Target
I don't have to say any more, do I?  Most of you who read this blog are aware of the stance this store has taken against righteousness and decency.  Now, stories are emerging of cross-dressing men going into Target restrooms and making videos of women during their private moments. 


I ask you to consider your response to this situation.  Are you still shopping at Target?
Oh, you can think of many reasons why it is okay to shop at this store, even if there are other alternatives.  Spare me.
The only real question is: are you going to take a stand, or not?

This is just one example, which you may think is a ridiculous one.  I submit to you that it is not; rather, it is highly illustrative.

Christians have, in most cases, lost their will to battle for truth and righteousness.  Instead, we seek after "all these things", regardless of what they are, and most of them are "good things"!  Be assured of this, Believer, what you chase is what you will catch.

We have "got it backwards", according to God's Word!  Notice how our verse begins:
"Above all"...

Father, I need, we need some honest, self-examination in light of Your Word today.  In response, may we have Your truth and Your righteousness, the foundations of Your kingdom, in the forefront of our minds at all times, even when it is "unpopular", even when we find ourselves standing in the minority, as Christians will increasingly be in this seductive, modern culture.  May Your righteousness be what we seek after, as we desire to further Your kingdom.  In Jesus' name, amen.




Wednesday, July 13, 2016

At All Times


“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” 
Proverbs 17:17 (ESV)

One of the three Greek words for friendship is “phileo”, from which our city of Philadelphia is named.  Friendship is a double-edged sword.  A true friend loves at all times, the Scriptures say.  This was one of the first Sunday School verses I was ever taught.
“All times” means in happiness and in sorrow, in abundance and in need, in sickness and in health, in bewilderment and in joyful amazement.

Day before yesterday I finished studying Philippians; and then, yesterday, honestly, I was too busy to write a post, as the day was consumed with the team’s preparations for a church-wide “dinner on the grounds” to honor our pastor and his family.  There has been a supernatural degree of upheaval at our church recently.  Because of this, it was very important for the church family to join together and love on our pastor and on one another.

God showed up.

Rarely, have I had the opportunity to, first of all, have such awesome and true friends.  Every single one of my pastor’s family members, from the very youngest to the most senior, sets my spirit ablaze!  It is my privilege to co-minister with them all, to pray for their ministries, work in their ministries, financially support their ministries because, they are “the real deal”.  I know that God has amazing plans for each and every one of them, and I just pray to continue to have a part in what He is going to do.  (Romans 8:31)

So!  A party for nearly 500 people…outside at a public park!  You know, there is a time to plan and to coordinate and to request help and …. to just then step out of the way. 

This week’s topic at The Loft is “Still”.  (You can find The Loft at leahadams.org) We can plan and plan and then be anxious over our planning.  (I prayed Philippians 4 a lot yesterday!  Again, God had me in His Word exactly where He needed me to be…)  But, things go best when we obey His leading to exercise the gifts He gave us, and then still ourselves to simply “let God be God.”

There were miracles last night.
First of all, the main entrĂ©e was hotdogs, which we invited Sunday School classes to donate.  Our church runs approximately 700 in worship in recent months.  About 450 hotdogs were donated, and only about 200 people had rsvp’ed to the event.  We were laughing about all those hotdogs!  But, you know what?  Like the loaves and fishes, less than 30 “dawgs” were left over.  God knew how many we would need.
I went through the food line last and was still able to fix myself a hotdog and a full plate of food, plus dessert!
Did I mention this event was held outside?  In mid-July?  At 5:30, it was 95 degrees.   By the time the event began at 6:30, though, the shade had overtaken the area, with a gentle breeze had begun to blow.
And, at the end, when the last speaker was sharing about deep, decades-long friendship and the closing prayer was being prayed, the wind whipped up as if the Holy Spirit Himself was blowing through the souls of the people as they stood to bless this precious group of loved ones. (Numbers 6:24-26)  I believe He WAS there, blowing through our hearts throughout the evening.
Miracles occurred in hearts.

“Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the heathen.  I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)


Abba Father, when we seek Your will, to align our meandering wills with Your perfect will, and when we follow You in obedience, then it is time to step out of the way and be still…to be still and watch You do Your marvelous, spotless, grace-filled miracles.  The greatest miracle of all is how You love us with a love that will never be fully understood by us, because it defies our human capabilities.  I am not only grateful for how You have loved me, but more so for how You have given me the opportunity to love others, in Jesus name.  May Your name be praised, today and through all of eternity. Amen.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Strength and Glory


With some degree of humor and amazement I often discover that wherever I am in my study of the Scriptures, God asks me to "live it out" in my daily life.  That place is now at one of the most often-quoted Scriptures ever, Philippians 4:13, 20 (NET) - - -

13  I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.
20  May glory be given to God our Father forever and ever. Amen.

Verse 13 has spawned such platitudes as, "If He called you to it, He'll bring you through it," which...depends on what you mean by "through it".  Jim Elliott, who was killed by native peoples in the jungles of Ecuador, while there to spread the gospel, was taken on to Heaven, after all.

Between verses 13 and 20 Paul is speaking to the Philippians further about more mundane and logistical matters, culminating in the lovely promise of verse 19.

So, if God leads us to a difficult task, will He see us through it?  Will He give us the strength to complete the task?  What about when the task appears to be a failure?  What about then?

Verse 13 is a comfort to me, and especially so this week and next.  Both weeks present entirely different challenges, all of which I believe God has called me to.  But, last night, as I lay sleepless at (and after) 1:00 a.m., I prayed, "Lord, I cannot get through these next 11 days alone.  If you don't help and strengthen me, I won't make it."   The Power Principle here is to not depend on our own paltry "strength", but to tap into and rely on His.

My situations over the next few days are "episodic".  By the end of next week, things should have "settled down".  Some of you are in long-term crises, such as caring for a chronically sick spouse. My second cousin died last week of ALS.  Over the past year, her husband was in a long-term crisis of care for her as her health precipitously declined.  These situations require God's supernatural strength as well.

But, really, should we not be living this way, even in the day-to-day and seemingly hum-drum?  My friend was telling me that she asked God yesterday for something mundane, and then felt guilty for it because she didn't need to "bother" Him with something so ... plain.  But, our God of the Glorious and Stupendous is also the God of the Smalls.  He comes to us in the cataclysms as well as in the quiet.  He is concerned with every, "minor" detail of our lives, and wants to be God of all, every single iota.  He loves for His children to ask!  And, His gifts are there for the asking and taking. What

The reason I was meditating on verse 13 as well as verse 20 is that, often, these critical situations to which God calls us, these challenges, were not in our plan, the short-term or the long-term.  But, they were in God's plan, the overall plan which will bring Him glory.  Earlier, Paul was talking about being in need and being in abundance.  In both situations, he had learned to be content because, in the tough times, he leaned on Christ's strength as sustenance and as power source.  And, he KNEW that whatever befell him, it was for the glory of God.

When, as Christians, we combine these two scriptural truths, we are then allowing ourselves to be used mightily for the kingdom of Jesus Christ, during our time here on earth.

Paul's final word in Philippians is "Amen", a word which means, "let it be so".  It is a word which aligns our will with Father's will, a word which signifies agreement, between Christians who pray corporately and between child and Father, in individual prayer.

May His will, whatever it entails, be worked out in each of the lives of His own beloved, as He gives us His strength to accomplish it.  And, may all the glory for His work in our lives be given to God the Father, forever and ever.

Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Wealthy






Are you wondering what bread and wine have to do with wealth?
Let me ask you something else:
Are you wealthy?

I asked my husband that a few months ago and was surprised by his answer.  Without hesitation, he replied, "Yes!"  I was surprised because....well, it is a "loaded question".

What IS wealth, and why is it a spiritual matter?  As we wind up Philippians, let's see what the apostle Paul had to say about it.

10 I have great joy in the Lord because now at last you have again expressed your concern for me. (Now I know you were concerned before but had no opportunity to do anything.)  11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance. 12  I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. 13  I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me. 14  Nevertheless, you did well to share with me in my trouble.
Philippians 4:10-13 (NET)

Remember that the apostle Paul was writing this letter from "house arrest".  Although he was a tent-maker by trade, he was unable to "earn a living" while on house arrest for preaching the gospel.  He was, at this point, a working missionary who was unable to work and support himself.  Like all missionaries, he had to either work to support himself or ask for financial support; or, as is the case with 99% of missionaries, he had to ask others to financially support him to some extent.  It appears that this is one of those times when he needed to be pretty much totally financially supported by the small churches he had started across that part of the world.

Still, I'd argue that Paul was one of the wealthiest people who ever lived.  Now, to justify that statement:

1.  Paul knew Jesus Christ as Savior.  In Ephesians 2:7, he referred to "the incomparable riches of His grace".  In other words, the grace of Jesus Christ, which utterly transformed his life forever, was/is priceless.  Nothing is more valuable.  Anyone who has surrendered his/her life to Jesus Christ as Savior is already incomparably rich.  Jesus is "our Daily Bread" (Matthew 6:9-13) and the Bread of Life, "broken" for us (John 6:35).

2.  Paul stated in his first letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:6) - - -
Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit.
In other words, the godliness that Jesus Christ's salvation provides, plus being content with the material gifts God gives, is the best investment anyone could ever make.  These life decisions pay the greatest dividends this earthly life offers as well as guaranteeing eternal reward.  When we "live out" the salvation Jesus has given, we literally "increase our wealth".  Godly living almost always results in material needs being met.
But, then, why is contentment important? Why did Paul add that in here?

3.  Paul realized that godly living would potentially produce material wealth.  He also realized the potential for material wealth to become a trap for the Christian, just as it does for many non-Christians.  What can happen is that people begin to worship material wealth.  Oh, they would not say they "worship" it.  But, if they put accumulation of wealth ahead of their relationship with Christ, letting wealth (and the power it brings) guide their lives instead of God, then that is a form of .... worship, a lifestyle which breed discontent, because no matter how much is gained, it is never "enough".  This is why Paul later on in the 1 Timothy 6 passage declared  "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10).  Our love and passion belong to Jesus Christ, if we are Christians, after all.

4.  One last point - - "contentment" does not equate with laziness or envy.  Neither laziness nor envy have a place in either godliness OR in contentment.  God expects us to live out our salvation by exercising the spiritual gifts He gives us.  Our doing so brings Him glory.  We do our best to serve Him faithfully, and He is faithful to supply all our needs.  We trust; He supplies.  We don't look at the gifts given to our neighbors and gripe because they have "more".  What a contentment-killer!
The companion verse to Philippians 4:10-13 is Philippians 4:19-20 - - -

19  And my God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. 
20  May glory be given to God our Father forever and ever. Amen.

So, I ask you again - - - are you wealthy?  And, if so, are you content with the gifts God has given you?

Father, thank you for meeting all my needs, in every way.   I want to pray specifically for those who do not have a relationship with You through Your Son, Jesus, the only name given to mankind for salvation.  I pray that you will reveal to those who are reading this post and who do not yet know You the great riches that can be theirs through Jesus, as Savior.  Open their hearts, Lord, so that they, too, can be eternally rich!  For those who know You already...teach us about contentment.  Please reveal to us where we have let "the world" with its lusts for money, fame and power creep in.  Remind us of the humility of Jesus who focused on serving Father God, while having no "foxhole" or "nest" of His own.  He was the "picture of contentment".  Mold us more and more into His image, Father!  In Jesus' name, amen.