One Hit Away

Some of you will look at this picture and immediately know what it is saying, while others just don’t get it. And it comes down to a culture and experience difference. Those who have grown up playing video games will immediately recognize the hearts at the top left as health indicators — and will realize that almost of of the health (the red part) is gone from the hearts, indicating that this character is just one hit away from death unless something changes soon.

So to a “gamer”, this picture immediately conjures up images of “I’m about to die” or “I’m one hit away”, etc.

Many times in life, we can face trials and circumstances and challenges that might have us wondering if we are just “one hit away”. When life piles up a lot on you, like in a video game, we can try to run around trying to ignore the dangers around us until one eventually blocks us into a corner — or we can press on forward, trusting that we’r wil find that next healing right on time, exactly where it needed to be to see us through to the end.

And it seems in video games that the difference in the two approaches comes from either an attitude of expected defeat or of expected victory. In fact it reminds me of the movie The Matrix where Neo kept getting beaten and defeated until we hear Morpheus say, “He’s beginning to believe!”

Trust.

Where does it come from?

How do we get it and not just fake it?

How do we go from just SAYING “I trust you” or “I believe” to actually meaning it?

Well, the Bible seems to teach me that trust isn’t a skill that we muster up and hone on our own, but that it is a gift from God. Yes, it is learned and imparted, but it is something that is built upon a foundation not formed by the hands of men. It is an altar made from stones not touched by iron tools or skilled craftsmen. It seems to teach that this good gift of faith comes down from the very God that it is meant to be used to teach us to trust. It seems to teach that it is a fountain of life flowing from Christ.

That’s some pretty circular logic there, isn’t it? That the very thing we are supposed to offer in return, comes from the source it is intended to honor/ glorify? Yes, the gospel at its core is so God centric and exclusionary, that anything outside of God and His perfect righteousness and holiness is an abomination, is an enemy of God, is a perversion of what is good and right and just. Something that tells us that any “good” that “we do” is either NOT GOOD, or WE DIDN’T DO IT (He did it through us and deserves all the glory).

People want to call their children good little boys and girls. People want to call their spouses and friends “good”. But the Word of God makes it clear:

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
Luke 18:19 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.18.19.ESV

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.3.12.ESV

This is pretty easy to accept when you’re “one hit away”, which is I believe why we read that:

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/jas.4.6.ESV

because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord . Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.'” And they brought back word to the king.
2 Chronicles 34:27‭-‬28 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/2ch.34.27-28.ESV

Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.
Daniel 10:12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/dan.10.12.ESV

because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord , when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord .
2 Kings 22:19 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/2ki.22.19.ESV

Do you know that judgement is coming?

Do you know that Holy, Righteous, Almighty God who is light and has no part in darkness is coming to exact judgement upon the wicked a d to demonstrate His loving kindness and mercy to the faithful?

Even if you mock this in your mind, and in your rebellion, and in the wicked things you do that God tells you are wicked and that your heart condemns you for even now — you know deep down that they are true — you know that you fall short before a God who can see into your internal thoughts and desires even if you have learned to train your pet dragons so they aren’t glaringly obvious to others around you.

If a man is foolish enough to dismiss the idea of God, he must be an utter fool to dismiss the truth of the being a difference between right and wrong, light and darkness, that doesn’t chesnee by the whim of society or culture or what men choose to do and call right or wrong because of their own basest desires.

TO BE CONTINUED….

Dangerous Pets

Would you keep as a pet something whose only goal is to harm you, to kill you?

Those aren’t “pet sins”,
But “familiar demons”.

A great excerpt from a wonderful article I read:

The Lizard Upon the Shoulder

But many have tried. C.S. Lewis depicts this philosophy pictured above in The Great Divorce. In the book, a Ghost who has been kept out of heaven tries to keep his pet sin, a red lizard. In the scene, the Ghost constantly scolds the pet upon his shoulder. An angel asks the Ghost if he would like the lizard silenced.

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh — ah — look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killinghim at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the only way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the Lizard. “Shall I kill it?”

“ . . . ”

“Well, there’s time to discuss that later.”

“There is no time. May I kill it.”

“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please — really — don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

“May I kill it?”

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

“The gradual process is of no use at all.”

More excuses are given, but now we overhear the lizard whispering in his ear,

“Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams — all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent . . . ”

It is easy to fall into patterns of training our sin rather than killing it.

If your biggest reason to fight sin is that you don’t want to confess it again to an accountability group, you’re training your sin. If you only pray about the sin after you’ve “done it again,” you’re training your sin. If you do not seek Christ’s presence, if you do not commune with him in prayer and his word, if you do not invite believers into your life to stick daggers into your sin, you are training your sin to play dead without killing it.

Read the full article here:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-train-your-dragons

Community / Family

Huge, huge thank you to Tom Pierce and Austin Bruce for working into the night/morning to help finish the electrical.

Wonderful friends. They are family closer than blood. It humbles me to know men like them, and to receive their loving assistance. Because I know that their lives are busy and that their own responsibilities are great, but they see a need around them and they help! Man, I can learn from this example and do better myself in that area for sure!

And the relationships that it builds — doing life together regularly, blending families into a community that helps each other, contributing and helping build each other up, pouring into each other’s lives — that’s so much more close and personal than hundreds we sit with on Sunday mornings, or thousands that “friend” and “follow” us on online apps/sites, or hundreds that share the same blood/legal family ties. It’s something deeper and more personal and more tangible. It’s TRUE FAMILY / COMMUNITY.

Don’t listen to the wrong voice on this post — I’m not slighting anyone else for not being close with me, for not helping me, etc. I feel like that happens far too many times when something is revealed that should encourage us to press in deeper, to change, to try it out and see for ourselves. We look at the messenger as if they are judging us for what we have or haven’t done in the past (that we can’t change), instead of realizing the truth of the message as an opportunity to be an agent for change in our “now”.

So I’m saying that community is valuable, and that we all can really thrive when we jump into it and fulfill our purpose towards one another. We are all much better for it in the end. Let’s not isolate ourselves so much from the neighbors and friends around us who could benefit and pour into a thriving community just as much as we could ourselves.

I know as much as the next guy that it is easy to isolate ourselves into little, closed in drywall boxes, with glass windows to the world that we cover up to not let the light shine in — but we are called out into life with others, not to spend our whole lives in front of a screen, behind a keyboard, lounging in our comfortable escapes.

I just want to encourage you to recognize the dividing lines that have been isolating you from the ones that are your community. Step over the lines of anxiety, of depression, of unforgiveness — of whatever excuse that voice in your mind gives you for not drawing close and expanding your relationships with others, and for closing yourself off.

For my Christian friends — On another level, these wonderful friends (and several others recently as well) have shown me that the body of Christ, the family of believers — truly isn’t who sits together on a Sunday morning, but — is a body in unity that loves and cares enough to get into the trenches together in the rough times, celebrate in the wonderful times, spend time together with eyes that don’t see the dividing lines, and praise God together so naturally and encouragingly and in awe every day that gifts are active and flowing and God is being glorified daily.

I’m so blessed to have such good friends, to be able to be a good friend, and I hope that I will see their need and contribute and be alongside them as well. And I truly believe that this “true community” comes from a power source greater than myself, greater than these two wonderful men that have honored me, and that I am seeking to honor as well.

Thank you, Jesus!

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:42‭-‬47 ESV

Adultery

A man walks into a single mother’s house amongst her many children and says, “I decided yesterday to cheat on my family and come spend time with your mother, and I’ve found that you are all so much better than the family I have at my old house. So I’m going to start living here instead.”

The same thing happens when we abandon the calling and purpose God has on our lives to instead “live for the world”.

The same thing happens when people abandon the church family they are a part of because a newer, shinier, fancier, more comforting and compromising option is presented to them.

Adultery is not just about sex, but it is about abandonment, it is about being unfaithful in the areas we are supposed to be committed even through the hard times, it is about choosing the broad and easy way instead of the narrow gate. Don’t think that just because something “feels easier” or “seems right in your heart” that it is right, because the Word of God tells us that “the heart is deceptive”, and that there is “a way that seems right” — but are we testing these “feelings” against the Word of God? Are we seeking answers from the Lord to guide us? Are we saying “We will not go unless the spirit of the Lord goes with us”?

I know that life seems to be moving past us at 100mph, and that there are plenty of things out there competing for our attention. But let’s don’t abandon our post! And let’s not be the ones celebrating when someone abandons their assigned post “to choose us”. I see too many single moms, causes, and yes, even churches, celebrating because they have increased their numbers by poaching from the fields of other shepherds, with no effort made to send these little wandering lambs back to their rightful shepherd, or to at least come into unity together with our neighboring shepherd about exactly where the Lord wants and needs someone to be stationed.

And because of this disrespectful treatment towards each other, there is division and competition amongst religious gatherings as they compete against each other for proselyte butts in seats of their divided camps — instead of equipping and sending servants, laborers, martyrs, and disciples in the public square as a unified body of Christ.

Lord, help us to have eyes to see these traps and tricks of the enemy that entangle and snare and hinder us from operating together, and that instead set us in opposition to one another, and in opposition to your will. Help us to be steadfast, faithful, solid and firm in our conviction, in our purpose, in our love, and in our mercy — as you have taught us. Amen.

Flourish

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord ’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!”
Psalms 92:12‭-‬15 NLT

Lord, help us to flourish not grumble, to grow not to turn back, to produce the fruit of your Holy Spirit not the poison of sinful desires, to remain green and vital not weary and anxious. Help us to declare your glory, proclaim your Good News, sing your praises, love your Word, serve your people, be your disciples. By your power, and to confirm your promises, make us like you. Amen.

False Accusations

“For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit” (Psalm 35:20)

A friend and I had a great discussion about false accusations last night. And I read a great related article here this morning: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gotquestions.org/amp/Bible-false-accusations.html

We have probably all faced false accusations, gossip, slander in some way or measure in our own lives — and we’ve probably participated in it more than we wish to admit as well.

I think of the story of Mary and Martha, where Martha tries to accuse Mary before Jesus of “not doing enough” of “not helping with the work” — and it runs the same as the older brother of the prodigal son who reveals that he doesn’t work beside his father because he loves doing so, but out of obligation. And I think of Cain who was angry that the Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not his, and Paul’s words about who is the clay to speak to the potter about which vessel he makes for honorable use and which he makes for destruction.

I hear “Christians” grumbling against each other, complaining that this one wasn’t here for such and such, that one isn’t fighting hard enough against their temptations, another isn’t “a powerful man of God like he should be by now” — and all I hear is envy, is false accusation, is strife, is division, is grumbling against the Lord for not having things laid out at this moment and time the way “we think it should be”.

And then I look at how I get frustrated sometimes with the trials, the challenges, the things that seem unfair at the moment, and I realize that when I grumble, it is because of the expectations I have set in my mind about how “I think things should be” instead of trusting that God has things firmly in His hand, and that even close things meant for evil will be turned to god for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes.

I find that when I have my eyes set upon Him, when I am remembering the sweet yet horrible sacrifice He made for me upon the cross, when I remember the wretched life that He rescued me from, when I remember all the evil I happily did before He revealed Himself to me, it is much harder to put my eyes upon a brother or sister to compare them in envy, pride, pity, etc.

But when my eyes and my heart step aside from Him running in the forefront of my mind — when I relegate Him to “an app running in the background to be pulled up when needed or convenient to me amongst the other things of my life” — I find that my attitude of measuring others easily becomes like Martha, Cain, Haman, and so many others who make false accusations against their brothers and sisters, which at the root is really grumbling against God about what, where, and how He is or isn’t operating.

Lord, help us to remember you, to set our minds upon you and to not leave your presence. If you go, we will go, if you stay we will stay, Lord — let your will be done in our lives. Help us to remember when we are falsely accused that we should ” rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven“. And remind us that those who make false accusations are under God’s judgement. Instead of grumbling against each other, instead of measuring and comparing and judging people by the flesh, instead of arguing and debating over the Word of God instead of living the life of Christ, call us by name, reveal yourself in that powerful way that leaves us trembling in awe and fear of God, remind us of your glory so that we’r don’t try to claim any of it for our own — so that we can’t stand in pride looking down in judgment or expectation towards one another — but that we might be that God does anything at all of worth or value from such a wretched, disobedient, cold hearted, complacent, prideful, loveless, unforgiving people as we have been. Lord, forgive us our sins. Judge us not in your anger, but deliver us from evil. You have the power, you will have the glory for all that is done si that no man can boast or complain against each other, and you are honorable and just in how you choose to operate and use these vessels of clay — so we ask you, use us, mold us, help us in all we do. Amen.

WHO CAN STAND AGAINST THE LORD

WHO CAN STAND AGAINST THE LORD, MY PROTECTOR, MY SHIELD, AND MY GUIDE?

NO ONE!

Just when it seems like so many are standing against me, the Lord reveals Himself through those who rise up by the breath of the Holy Spirit to stand together by my side —

And it isn’t the polished religious or the slithering snake that stands with me —

But the wild eyed radical, the bold and fearless friend, the humble and meek servant with great power under control, the outcast redeemed and called to powerful action.

I stand with the Lord. I do not lie in this. Test me and you will see — not because I am strong or proud or willful in and of myself — but because I have known my need and I have cried out to the Lord, and He has heard me! I do not seek to slay you, but if I must cut you in order to pass by, let me heal you as well, and like a surgeon remove the cancer that lies beneath, festering, strangling life away from you.

Do you think of ways to oppose me, you shadows that pass through and corrupt members minds trying to work against me, trying to bring me harm — do you not know yet that My Father wil turn it to god because He loves me, because He knows my name, because He has called me out to see your wicked ways, your worthless sacrifices and traditions, your dead religious practices, your complacency and your hypocrisy crushed beneath His feet?

Repent while the is still time.

Come join me at the altar together.