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The Great Contradiction


This post is a reprint, if you will, of an email devotional that I receive from a dear brother in our faith.  I invite you to set aside a few moments to read this and think on these things.  Father, bless all who read this and accept the challenge to allow the Holy Spirit to identify the areas in our lives, one at a time, where we have and do call You LORD and yet do not obey.  We thank You for Your Grace and humbly ask in the name above all names, Jesus Christ our LORD and SAVIOR. Amen.
“He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. ‘Then a voice said to him, ‘Get up Peter; kill and eat them.’…’Never Lord,’ Peter declared. ‘I have never in my life eaten anything forbidden by our Jewish laws.’ The voice spoke again, ‘If God says something is acceptable, don’t say it isn’t.’  The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was pulled up again to heaven.” Acts 10:11-16
 
This account in Acts, which tells of Peter’s vision from God that sets the course for his going and ministering to and having fellowship with a non-Jew. Something strictly forbidden by Jewish law. It is much used by the Church as an illustration of our tendency to restrict just who we will love and reach out to. But in it is something more. Something usually missed by most of us who read the account.
 
I’ve a friend that calls this passage “the great contradiction.” Why? Because of two words spoken by Peter, and in the same address; “Never,” and “Lord.” Do you see it? In the same breath, Peter calls Him Lord, yet refuses to do what He commands. In his relationship with His God, what greater contradiction could there be?
Here’s a more penetrating question for each of us. To what degree are our lives and relationship with Him a great contradiction as well? In how many areas and ways do we call Him Lord, yet disregard, disobey, and even defy His will and direction for our lives? Where has He spoken His purpose to us, and we, for whatever reason or justification, told Him, “Never Lord?” Where are we doing so now?

I think we are most prone to this sin, and yes, it is sin, when Christ leads us to a place far outside our comfort zone. He requires of us something out of our ordinary experience. Something we were sure He never would. I have lost track of all the times I have heard believers say, “I don’t think the Lord would do that.” I’ve said it myself. Surely that mindset was upon Peter. The Jews had very strict dietary regulations and boundaries. He could not envision the Father ever taking him outside of them. Yet He did. Where are the self-made boundaries that we’ve set up in our lives that put a limit to just how deep our obedience to Him will go?
Where are we living “the great contradiction?”

 
Be assured of something. Jesus will call us on this contradiction. In His word He said, “Why do you call Me Lord, and yet do not do what I say?” It’s a piercing question against which none of our excuses, justifications, and rationalizations can stand. All the contradictions in our lives fall before that question. We may spend our lives running from it, but in the end, we will stand before Him and give account. There will be no lives of contradiction in heaven. That being the case, why do we insist on living them on earth?

Christ meets us where we are, and where we are is filled with contradictions. Growth in grace is a process of those contradictions being removed, one contradiction at a time. Do you welcome that? Or, do you go on living “the great contradiction?”

Blessings,
Pastor O

Published by permission.

Choose TRUST


“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” – Psalms 56:3-4

When faced with uncertainty, fearful situations, or challenges today… In that moment we choose either to rely on our own abilities and strength OR we may choose HIM in whom all wisdom, provision, and grace IS certainly found.

Choose the best way, the only sure way found in Christ Jesus is to trust God first and then, armed by His provision and wisdom move forward bravely in confidence that HE alone is trustworthy! Blessings and peace for today.

~Robert

walking with me


“I am so thankful for the  many “trees” that have stood with me and supported me throughout the years.  And I am grateful to be walking this journey of life-

with my husband

my family

and my family in Christ…

and you!” ~Julie Harris

stepping in time we walk in stride  thankful you  are by my  side…  with no one else I’d rather be-  all is right  when you’re walking with me I came home the other day to BOTH tv…

Source: walking with me

Who are the “trees” in your life and mine, the ones we need to reach out to and simply say thank you for being a part of my life?  Great or small, each has gifted us with a portion of themselves and contributed to who we are and will become.

For those of us in Christ Jesus, God uses everything in our life to work His out the transformation in us into the likeness of Jesus! Paul told us to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind,…” Romans 12:2.  As God uses His word to work this renewal, He also uses brothers and sisters in Christ in this process.  In Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Blessing and Peace Always,

~Robert

The first gleam of dawn…


“So, stop being so hard on yourself…surrender those thoughts to HIM! It’s a new day to love the Lord and to recognize how much He loves YOU!”  ~Julie Harris

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

 2 Corinthians 10:5  

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,     which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.  But the way of the wicked is like total darkness.     They have no idea what t…

Source: The first gleam of dawn…

Heart Thoughts – Wineskins


Today, Pastor O challenges us to realize that we might have again placed God in a box, an old wineskin…
“No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” Mark 2:22……..’We know God easily if we do not constrain ourselves to define Him.” Joseph Joubert….”The life of a disciple may be rigorous, but it is never rigid……Though we can certainly expect Him to be constant, we cannot expect Him to be predictable.” Chris Tiegreen
 
Judging, if I may use that word, from what I see on Facebook and other places these days, there seem to be a great many people who feel they have pretty much figured out what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will do and how They will act. We’ve done quite the job of putting labels upon each other, so its small wonder we should try to place labels upon Him. We see ourselves as flexible and would reject the idea of being considered, “old wineskins.” Yet our flexibility seems to disappear whenever we come into contact with anyone who might not agree with our concept of the 3 in 1 God. There is much tragedy to be shared in all of this, but the greatest tragedy is that we have succeeded to a very great degree in removing the mystery of who He is. Our western minds want a Father, a Jesus, a Holy Spirit that we can have reasonable expectations as to how They will show up in our lives. We don’t like surprises, and we certainly don’t like living in the unexpected. I believe very strongly in having correct doctrine and theology. However, we can construct a God that we insist stays within the bounds of our doctrine, theology, and especially the characteristics of our own group. We don’t want Him to step outside the boundaries we’ve set for Him. When that happens, we become old wineskins, and we can be just as unaware of that as were the Pharisees Jesus spoke of.

Chris Tiegreen writes, “Do we take the time to ponder which of our own wineskins have attempted to accommodate Jesus and failed?….On what points are we rigid? Where do our expectations lie? Do we insist that Jesus bring about our own vision for the future? Do we try to constrain Him to our church structures? Do we rely on methodology in our ministry? (They)….may be good, but Jesus will not fit. He defies constraint. The Lion of Judah cannot be tamed.”

Jesus said in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases.” We cannot control the wind. Why do we seek to control He who is the Source of the wind? Joubert’s quote is powerful. The less we seek to define Almighty God, the more we may know Him. And the desire of His heart, His greatest desire, is that we know Him. He is a mystery. He says so Himself. But He invites us to enter into His mystery, and behold Him to reveal Himself in its midst. To do that, we have to let go of all of our presumptions about Him. I had a very great friend who has since gone home to Him. One of the favorite things he used to say was that he had an “Oops theology.” As in, “Oops, I guess I was wrong.” Old wineskins can never live in such a theology. Only new ones can. He will never violate the truth and authority of His Word, but we must know that our limited minds cannot begin to understand how deep, high, and wide His truth really is.

I continue to grow older, and my natural skin is losing the soft, flexible feel it once had. Yet it is my fervent hope that the “skin” of my heart remain as tender and pliable as that of a child. How about you? In the spiritual realm, we’re all wineskins. Are we old ones…..or new?

Blessings,
Pastor O

Create in me… by Julie Harris


Today I am excited to collaborate with some lovely people who write for the blog church set free!  We are all writing about what worship means to us.  I hope you will visit the site and that it will encourage you in your journey to knowing and growing closer to Him…”

 

Source: Create in me…

Heart Thoughts – A Reputation


But I think what Jesus saw in the midst of it was that they were doing all of it with hearts that had drifted far from Him. The church was a well oiled machine, but machines are not alive.”
Shared by permission from Pastor O
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis……I know all the things you do and that you have a reputation for being alive – but you are dead. Now wake up! Strengthen what little remains for even what is left is at the point of death. Your deeds are far from right in the sight of God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly and turn to Me again. Unless you do I will come upon you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.” Revelation 3:1-3
 
I realize that there is disagreement in the Church as to how we are to apply the book of Revelation to it’s life today. Still, regardless of where your “theology” fits into it’s message, to deny that His Spirit speaks to the Church now through it all is the height of foolishness. What the Spirit says to the church at Sardis scores a direct hit on me as a pastor, an individual, and as a part of the Body of Christ. We disregard it to our great peril.

The “angel” the Spirit of Christ speaks to is the pastor of the body of believers found in Sardis. What pierces my heart here is the use of the word “reputation.” For most of us, our reputations mean everything. How we are viewed by those around us carries tremendous weight. What the Lord is saying to the fellowship at Sardis is that in the eyes of the culture around them and even in the sight of other believers, they have the reputation of being centers of His Life. It would also seem to be the opinion of those in that church as well. What should shake us to our very foundation is that it was not the view of Christ. He saw a tremendous amount of activity for Him, but He did not see a body of believers rooted and grounded in Him. Think on that for a moment.

What do we generally see as being a church filled with life? Top of the line worship with high quality skills in musicianship and voice. Skilled communicators in the pulpit. Many and varied ministries that care for children, youth, singles, as well as home and care groups geared towards those with special needs. A ministry pointed toward reaching out to the community and drawing them into the fellowship. An atmosphere where there is a sense of excitement, of something “happening.” I think that these are just a few of the things we’d define as a church with a reputation for life. I think that much if not all of these were found in the congregation at Sardis. All of them are good things. Very good. Yet none of them seemed to enter into Christ’s assessment of them as to their being a true Life giving fellowship. How could this be? What could be missing?

It’s human to desire that all that is listed above be found in a church. They should be. But I think what Jesus saw in the midst of it was that they were doing all of it with hearts that had drifted far from Him. The church was a well oiled machine, but machines are not alive. They move and are active, but they have no soul. Without realizing it, a living body can become the same. Sardis had crowds. Sardis had ministries. Sardis had a name. Sardis did not have life. His Life.

The question we have to ask ourselves, whether we are the “angel” of our fellowship, a leader in it, or a member of it, is, are we, in the midst of all we do, really producing Spirit filled followers of Jesus Christ? Are we overcoming the world both within and without by the power of His resurrected life? Is real transformation taking place in the lives of the people, and are those lives marked by maturity, victory, and wholeness? Are we trying to take flesh, and by our efforts, make it better flesh, or are fallen, lost lives being laid hold of by the power of His Life and made new? Completely new. Have we drifted from the “first things” into just doing church things? Have we become so enamored with our reputation among men that we no longer really know, or care what our reputation with Him really is? Can He even speak to us about it? It starts with the “angel” but the speaking goes on throughout the entire body. He’s speaking. Are we hearing?

 
He speaks today as to our reputations.  What does He say about ours? What is our reputation…..with Him?

Blessings,
Pastor O

Heart Thoughts – Appearances


Can we make the move from living in the natural, to moving in the supernatural, and know that this doesn’t make us “weird?” Can we dare to live in a realm that depends upon really having the eyes, mind, and heart of Christ? ~Pastor O

A devotional by Pastor O, shared by permission.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7………..”Nevertheless” is an important Gospel word: it is a pivot from the way things appear to the way things are, in Christ. It is a transition from our partial understanding to the Spirit’s complete revelation.” Eugene Peterson
 

I am becoming more and more disturbed by comments and statements made by well meaning, and perhaps some not so well meaning brothers and sisters. Statements that are so dogmatic in their content that they will tolerate no disagreement from any quarter. As someone said, it is imperative that we belong to the “right club” within the church. We in that club are right, and everyone else is wrong. My sense of it all is we are depending far more upon our own intellectual understanding of His Word and teaching than we do upon the direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. We must have correct doctrine and theology on the essentials of the faith, and especially the final authority of scripture, but most of our conflict, even warfare, is a result of arguing about non-essentials. And we can be extremely unloving in our disagreements, resulting in labeling, and even name calling. All the while, I believe Jesus weeps, and, I think, feels no small amount of anger. I think it is time, past time, for the Church, you and me, to hear Him speak a new “nevertheless” to us.

When Jesus spoke the above scripture to His disciples, He was telling them that He was leaving them. They didn’t understand any of His reasoning and were brokenhearted. They saw and sensed only the appearance of it all. He would be gone….they thought. They could not see or understand what He was following that statement with; that He would be sending them the Comforter, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would not only be with them, but in them. He was promising them an even greater companion than His physical presence, but they couldn’t see it. They lacked discernment and understanding. That would not come until they were baptized in the fullness of His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It will not come to us until we experience it as well. When we do, we will no longer live by appearances and our own understanding. We will not live by the power of our intellect, but by the power of His Spirit. We will not live with information about Him, but revelation from Him. We’ll discover that truth and reality are not based upon what appears to be, but on what He has spoken and revealed…..and continues to speak and reveal. We discover that His Word is alive and not static. Growing and unfolding within us in ever deeper ways. Never making itself void, but always taking us beyond our intellectual limits. It’s a mystical and supernatural experience, and our staid, western intellects struggle with that. So we live by our senses and our natural reasoning. Knowing what He has said, in our minds if not our hearts, but not what He is saying now. We’re leaning upon our own understanding, but we never seem to realize it.

Can it become less important for us to be “right” in all these debates, and most important that we know and hear Him? Can we believe that there may be areas of life, doctrine and theology, where we may be at least in part, wrong? Can we make the move from living in the natural, to moving in the supernatural, and know that this doesn’t make us “weird?” Can we dare to live in a realm that depends upon really having the eyes, mind, and heart of Christ? This is frightening to the flesh, but very welcoming to Christ. Will we live in the place where our flesh is most at home, or where His Holy Spirit is? What’s our answer as concerns our lives, homes, and fellowships? Do we live by appearances, or by His appearing and speaking to us through them?


Blessings,
Pastor O

The Timekeeper – by Pastor O Shell


Pastor O asks these questions: “Do we really believe that He’s never late, that He’s always on time? Can we surrender to Him who is “the Timekeeper?”
  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son.” Galatians 4:4…..”His (Jesus) peaceful pace seems to imply that He measured Himself not by where He was going and how fast He could get there but by Whom He was following and how closely they walked together….deeply contented in the Company.”
Alicia Britt Chole

“How long O Lord?” This is the cry from millions of hearts. Likely from our heart as well, and often. We spend so much of our life energy setting, focusing on, and striving to reach goals, accomplish agendas, and bring to pass the deep desires of our hearts, but all we have in the end is exhaustion. And more often than not, disappointment and frustration as well. We do seek Him in it all, but mostly as a means of reaching our desired end. He said He’d give us the desires of our hearts, and we mean to hold Him to His word. Even if we do get what we want, we miss what we truly need, Him. We can do this in every facet of life, and may well be most guilty of it in the area of ministry. We have good ends that we want to reach, and we’re in a very great hurry to reach them. Jesus said that He “must be about the Father’s business.” Well, so are we. The problem is, we don’t understand what His business is really all about. We have allowed working for Him to take the place of knowing and loving Him. We can have lives dedicated to Him, but I’m not so sure the same can be said of our hearts. This may be best seen when we’re forced to deal with the delays that can come along in getting to the place we want to be. Achieving the end that we’ve been aiming for. Jesus didn’t live this way. We ask what would Jesus do? Will we ask as to how Jesus really walked….thought…..lived?

Jesus spent 30 years in obscurity. In that time He had an ever growing picture of what He had been sent for, particularly by the age of 12. Yet He didn’t deal with the delay with impatience or frustration. He knew what He was here for, but He was at total rest as to how and when the Father would bring it all about. Chole speaks beautiful words as to how He walked in this time. He did not just have His eyes on where He was going. He had His eyes on the One He was going with. He had zeal, but that zeal was first and foremost in His walk with and in the Father. All the energy of His ministry flowed out of that relationship. He didn’t come to show us how to “do.” He showed us what to be. What we can become in Him. That’s why His Life, amidst all the delays, difficulties, trials and tears, was marked by the total rest and contentment He had in His Father. The One He trusted to bring about all things for Him in the fullness of HIS time. Can we?

 
Chole asked a question along the line of “Who will hold the clock as to the timing of His purposes in our life?” Who does hold that clock? As concerns His promises, our calling, our ministry, everything that concerns us, who holds the clock? The Father, or us? Whose timetable are we on? His, or ours? Yes, the seconds are ticking away. Will we trust Him fully as they do? Do we really believe that He’s never late, that He’s always on time? Can we surrender to Him who is “the Timekeeper?

Pastor O

Published by Permission

A GREATER PURPOSE


“Three times I begged the Lord to take it (His thorn in the flesh) away. Each time He said, ‘My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.’ ” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9….”Broken things in life find their greater purpose in His story of redemption.” Laura Story……”God takes broken pieces and makes them masterpieces.” James Robison
 
In the reading of Pauls words in 2 Corinthians 12, did you catch the fact that not only did Paul ask the Father to remove the terribly painful “thorn” in his life, but that after each request, God said the same thing. “My grace is sufficient for you.” Apparently Paul had a very difficult time accepting and believing this the first two times He spoke it. We do as well. We feel and experience the pain, the need, and it blinds us to the truth of His promise.

Laura Story, a singer and author of the book “When God Doesn’t Fix It,” tells the story of her 10 year walk with the Father through the brain tumor that afflicts her husband. This tumor has not only robbed him of the sight in one eye, it has also caused him many mental and emotional problems as well. Much prayer has gone up for his healing. Yet he is not healed. At least in the manner that most of us understand healing. We expect when we pray that the Lord will answer and fix everything. But as Story writes, what happens when He doesn’t? What happens when the thorn remains? What happens when He either doesn’t remove the problem, or remove us from the problem? What happens then? What are we left with then? If someone tells us that we are left with Him, all that is Him, and nothing else; no change, no healing, no deliverance, can we accept that? Is He really enough?

Story said that “He doesn’t have to ‘fix it’ in order to get us where He wants us to be.” Can we accept that? Are we really willing to walk a road with Him that leads us through places we don’t want to go or see? Are we willing to go to the place in His Life He calls us to be even when He allows all the mountains, giants, and needs to remain? Do we have a trust that goes that deep? Do we even want to?
 
When we think of the blessed life, our flesh is usually it’s definer. We’re comfortable, safe, provided for in all ways. Troubles come, but they don’t touch us because He makes them disappear before they can. This is the usual western/American church view of the blessed life. Story, in a song she entitles “Blessings,” sees this life not through eyes of flesh, but of His Spirit. She asks in song, “What if Your blessings come through raindrops, What if Your healing comes through tears, What if a 1000 sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?…….What if my greatest disappointment or the achings of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy.” 

We are so rooted into this world and its ways that we can be staggered at the thought, the truth, that His ways with us have their end in eternity and not the here and now. Paul had a great desire to have that thorn, whatever it was, gone. He had an immeasurably greater desire to know Him in intimacy. If that meant that the thorn would be the Father’s path to that intimacy, He would go there. Willingly, joyfully, completely. That path will meet all who seek to be His entirely. It is human to cry out to Him for the removal of life’s painful thorns, but it is the truly God centered life that goes on with Him even if it’s not. Trusting, believing, knowing, that there is a greater glory to be had when we do. Who do we really want? God the Fixer, or the God of Glory?

Blessings,
Pastor O

Published by permission
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