Thursday

The Missing Diamond Rings

Some time ago, Jane & her husband John had difficulty connecting heart-to-heart with the people of their little country church. So they decided to invite folks to their home. That went so well that they made a habit of it, inviting folks from the church, and from the neighborhood to their small home for a meal and to talk about life, and how God relates with them.

One week, Jane was cleaning her home for the guests expected later that afternoon, and she took her diamond wedding rings off and put them onto her ring holder on her dresser. They were pretty large diamonds; they’d belonged to her husband’s grandmother, and they were every bit as special as they were valuable. One thing led to another, and she forgot them there when guests started arriving.

There were several new people, lots of good food, and excellent conversation. Throughout the night, individuals would excuse themselves to use their bathroom, which was accessed through the master bedroom, right past the dresser.

Jane didn’t remember her rings until they’d farewelled their last guest, and sat down to unwind. As soon as she remembered, she jumped up to check her rings, while John did the dishes and put chairs away.

As she rushed to her bedroom, she instantly saw that her ring holder was empty: her rings were gone! She burst into tears, remembering the many people, many of whom she didn’t know, marching past her precious rings, all alone in the bedroom, where anyone could slip a ring in a pocket. She searched the dresser, the floor, the bathroom, in case they’d fallen somewhere, but found nothing. One of her guests must have taken them. Now they were gone forever. 

She fell on her bed, weeping. John heard the tears, and took extra time with the dishes, so Jane had time to share her broken heart with the Lord, and that unleashed a fresh wave of tears. She was creating quite a wet spot on her bed quilt, and still she poured her heart out.

As her tears faded away, a black cloud of discouragement started to take its place in her heart. Those rings were family heirlooms, and she’d failed in her care of them. Now she’d never be able to pass them on to her daughters and granddaughters. The black cloud began to settle over her heart.

But before the cloud had completely settled in, a small voice whispered, “Check the quilt.”

Hunh?

“Check the quilt.” Then no more came.

She sat up and looked around. This quilt had also been in her family for generations. It had been hand-sewn by one of her great grandcestors as her wagon train made its way to the Northwest.

Check the quilt? What could he mean by that? She looked more closely at the quilt, noting the even stitching, not noticing the great wet spot from her tears. Eventually, she worked her way to the corners: her grandcestor had sewn a few coins into each corner so that the quilt would lay flat. It felt like four quarters in each corner.

“You’re getting warmer.” More of a thought than words. She examined the four corners, wondering what she should do next. Eventually, with a mental shrug, she got her seam ripper from her sewing kit, and, gritting her teeth, she opened the stitching holding the quarters in place.

Working carefully, to do as little damage to this family heirloom, she opened the seam, and four quarters fell into her hand. Her eye caught the nineteenth century date on the top quarter, and thought about her ancestor’s sacrifice to make the quilt. She picked up the top quarter with her other hand; the one beneath it was even older.

Now interested in the dates, she picked up the next quarter, and there, in her hand, between the coins from a century earlier, were her diamond rings that had just gone missing this afternoon.

She wept some more, but these were tears of joy.





The Law Of The Spirit Of Life In Christ Jesus Has Made Me Free From The Law Of Sin And Death.


In the New Testament times, the biggest threat to the New Covenant was “The Circumcision Party,” also known as the Judaizers. They were trying to drag New Covenant believers back into the bondage of the Old Covenant Law.

That’s still happening today.

There are people all over social media, in every congregation, working to drag free believers back into bondage to the Law. Sometimes they’re aware that they’re bringing people under the bondage of the Law, but most of the time, they’re not aware that they’re being a tool for bondage: they’re just excited about things that they can DO that the Bible described as once being about being part of a covenant with God. They’re excited about their works.

Nowadays it’s not so much about circumcision. These days, the Judaizers appear to be most often focusing on the Old Covenant dietary laws, or Old Covenant holidays. “Keep the Father’s commands!” they say. “Jesus followed these laws!” they say.

They conveniently miss the fact that the Old Covenant was still in play when Jesus walked the earth. So yeah, he mostly followed those laws. The New Covenant wasn’t in place until his Resurrection, and the Old Covenant was completely annihilated in the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD (as the Bible foretold).

But the modern Judaizers teach, “Torah means direction, teaching, instruction.” The literal word “torah” means “teaching,” yes.

But the application of the word “Torah” is “Old Covenant Law.” They say, “This isn’t a ‘Law.’ It’s just how God wants us to live.”  

But this is the very thing that Paul preached against over and over again: the attempt to bring free New Covenant believers under the bondage of the Old Covenant Law. It’s been the same with the Pharisees in Jesus’ day and in Paul’s day and in our day.  

And when people teach, “Following these “teachings, instructions” will make God happy with you,” or “...will get you closer to God,” they’re replacing the grace of God with the works of man. They’re teaching a very literal anti-Christ doctrine. This IS the Anti-Christ spirit that the New Testament warns believers against. These are the ones about whom Paul writes, “I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves castrated!”

Let’s say it clearly: Anyone who teaches that keeping this bit of the Old Covenant Law will please God is, by definition, teaching that your works are what pleases God. But Scripture teaches that it’s Jesus’ works, not yours or mine, that connect us with God.

So when someone pressures you to not eat bacon because it’s against Father’s commands, whether intentionally or not, then they’re working to drag you away from your freedom in Christ and back into the bondage of legalism, of the Law of a dead covenant. If you don’t want to eat bacon, don’t eat bacon. But don’t do it to please God. That’s rubbish.

So when someone encourages you to celebrate an Old Covenant holiday because that’s a thing that God wants us to do, then whether intentionally or not, they’re working to drag you away from your freedom in Christ and back into the bondage of legalism, of the Law of a dead covenant. If you want more excuses to celebrate, then have a grand time. But don’t do it because it was part of the Law. That’s a dead-end road.

So when someone declares tattoos to be ungodly because it’s against Father’s commands, then whether intentionally or not, they’re working to drag you away from your freedom in Christ and back into the bondage of legalism, of the Law of a dead covenant. If you don’t like tattoos, that’s fine. But don’t hold up “Leviticus says so!” as a reason.

Just say no to returning to the Law. Just say no about returning to the jail that used to hold you tight.


Two GOOD Trees in the Garden

A friend asked a really good question recently: Why the heck was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the Garden in the first place if it was evil? Wasn’t the Garden perfect?

He got me thinking! (I love it when that happens!)

Knowledge of good and evil is a fine thing. But it’s a lousy way to live my life. It’s a poor choice for First Place in my life.

I suspect that AFTER Adam & Eve had eaten of the tree of life (like they were supposed to), they would have understood how to use the tree of knowledge of good & evil properly. That knowledge, when rooted in Life, would be useful.

I look at that whole scene as a choice for How I’m Going To Live Life. Am I going to choose to feed on stuff that brings life? Or am I going to choose to feed on the rules: right & wrong, good and evil, obedience & disobedience. Which principle is the foundation for my life.

Any time I build my life on knowledge, I’m in trouble. Paul said “Knowledge puffs up.” He didn’t say, “Knowledge of sin puffs up” or “Knowledge of popular movies puffs up.” It’s knowledge itself – if that’s the foundation for my world, I’m in trouble.

Worse, if I build my life on judging what’s good and what’s evil, I’m in greater trouble. There’ll be a day for that, and we do play a (minor) part in it, but that’s a hideous foundation for my life.

On the other hand, if I’m building my life on bringing life – to myself, to people around me – then knowing what’s right & wrong has its place. In that situation, the knowledge of good and evil can be used to bring life.



God Teaches a Teetotaler About Beer.

I grew up in a “dry” household. My family never drank alcohol. We didn’t vilify it, we just didn’t consider it, though occasionally at big family dinners at Grandma’s, my parents and other adults would drink something red out of goblet. They made funny faces when they drank it, so I wasn’t real eager to try it.

I grew up and learned religion. So of course, my home was a dry household. And then I worked for a pastor who never taught that alcohol was evil, but he surely acted as if it were, and expected his staff to as well. It started me thinking.

Eventually, we had children in our alcohol free home, and it was good, of course. Until God intervened.

On one of my regular retreats, on a solo camping trip, God woke me up in the middle of the night and warned me that I was failing my children. OK. he had my attention.

I crawled out of the back of the pickup where I was sleeping so I wouldn’t fall asleep in the middle of our conversation. Sure enough, the little voice, the impression in the back of my head continued:

“In a few years, your children will be entering junior high school. They won’t be out of your influence, but there will be many other influences there. Some of them, and you know what this is like, will invite them to discover beer, to discover drunkenness.”

And then he dropped the big one. “And you’ve done nothing to prepare them for that temptation.”

My heart sank. I knew he was right. But he didn’t let me sink there. After a moment or two, my mind began to fill up with perspectives and ideas and insights.

One of them caught me seriously off guard. He reminded me that I loved barbecue, but I was frustrated: a great steak was NOT complimented by a glass of milk, or by a CocaCola.

And then he tied them all together: “I want you to discover beers, good beers. I want you to find out what you like, and what you don’t. And I want you to invite your family to join you in that discovery.”

Oh my. Seriously?

But then I had visions (pictures) of what could happen. I saw better barbecues which led to better fellowship. I saw my children - my family - separating themselves from the religious spirit that accompanies alcohol-free homes. And then I saw my son, in junior high school, being approached to step behind a barn and share a Budweiser with him, and my son responded with, “Beer? That’s not beer. Let me tell you about beer!”

Oh my. I remind you that this is in the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods. I remind you that while I had tasted beer before (and not liked it), I had never had a glass of beer. I remind you that I was really comfortable in my no-alcohol religion.

And here’s God, telling me not just to drink beer, but to become educated about beer. And God was telling me to (gasp!) give beer to my school-age children, and to (gasp!) listen to their opinions about the stuff!

That was fifteen or twenty years ago, and it has been a glorious success (as if it’s surprising that God’s plans work!). I became a far better father than I had been before! And the beer? I had no idea of the variety. I still don’t love all kinds, but there are some that are pretty good, and there are some that make a good barbecued steak into a great barbecued steak. Who knew!

Oh, and that vision about my son telling his tempter, “Beer? That's not beer!” Yeah, that happened, though it looked different than the way I imagined it. And now he brings both life and excellence into a world I'd never reach, to people for whom alcohol is pretty important.

I’m not trying to say, “You need to drink beer!” Oh heck no! Don’t do that (unless God speaks to you the way he spoke to me). My obedience included learning about beer, but others' obedience involves not drinking beer.

I’m trying to say, “It’s a really good idea to do what God says, even if it’s really weird!”

Oh, and let me add: God the Father has some really good insights about how to be an excellent parent. I encourage you to learn from his wisdom on that topic!

Clean Off Your Boots

Father has had something on my heart for a few days, now. I’d like to share it, in case this is talking about you.

Some folks are in a formidable war, and they know it, but they’re misunderstanding the war.

Some of the battles are about overcoming a sin that’s been besetting you. You’re fighting back, and mostly you’re succeeding, but you surely wish the temptation wouldn’t be so strong and so in-your-face.

Some of the battles come in the words of our neighbors, our leaders, even our brothers and sisters, but they are surely not God’s words. Instead they’re words of accusation, words of manipulation and control, words of rejection and abandonment. You keep shaking them off, but it’s hard to dismiss them entirely.

A small number of the battles are when we’re pressing forward to walk in the fulfillment of God’s promise (and maybe you’ve heard God well, or maybe you’ve missed some of it, it doesn’t matter here), and you encounter opposition and discouragement and ridicule and slander. But still you still fix your eyes, if not on the promise itself, then even better: on the giver of the promise, and you are trying to press forward into your calling.

 Some of the battles that we’re fighting aren’t even our own battles. We’re fighting for sons and daughters who, despite our prayers, are still making foolish choices, partners who have chosen to no longer partner with us. Some of us are fighting on behalf of those who have hurt us, and may still be hurting us. They seem to be trying to fight off our prayers and reject our best intentions for them, and how discouraging that is.

Some time ago, Father spoke to me as I woke, and he’s been bringing it back to my attention recently.

“Tell them that they need to clean off their boots,” He said.


“Wha? Hunh?” I mumbled reflectively. I hadn’t had any coffee yet.

“Tell them to clean off their boots. They’ve been kicking the devil’s ass for so long that their boots carry his stink.”

So I tell you: you need to clean your boots. The devil has told you that you’ve been losing the fight, that you have no hope of winning this particular fight. The devil has been lying to you. (Imagine that!)

The devil has been hiding from you the fact that you’ve been making hamburger of his hindquarters, and he can no longer walk straight because of the beating you’re giving him. He wants you to think you’re losing, when in fact, he’s already lost, and you are, in fact, successfully enforcing our victory over him.

I tell you that you have been more successful in your battle against the evil one than you can know. Keep fighting, he cannot maintain the illusion forever.

His promise is certain: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

He’s talking about you. http://nwp.link/1SjebvW