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Truth rests in a Person

Adapted from a Flickr photo by Zach Dischner, Creative Commons License
Adapted from a Flickr photo by Zach Dischner, Creative Commons License

Here we have one of the fundamental differences between God and man. If we make a promise, we don’t entirely know if we will keep it. When God makes a promise, you can depend on Him to fulfill it. If we make a judgment, our interpretation may be skewed by what we don’t know or understand. When God makes a judgment, it is 100% objective. Put enough pressure on us, and we might bend the truth a little to get out of a tight spot. You can’t back God into a corner and force Him to lie.

Truth is the bedrock of our lives. Without it, there would be no stability. But truth doesn’t rest in scholarship, in science, in learning, or in discovery. Truth rests in a Person. When things are unstable, when the world is shaking we run back to that Person, Jesus Christ. There we find the soothing, strengthening encouraging Truth.

From the Bible: God is not a man; He never lies. Numbers 23:19 The Easy Bible

[Jesus said,] I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.
John 14:6 The Easy Bible

Be encouraged!
Dwight

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The deception strategy

Adapted from a Flickr photo by Andrew Mason, Creative Commons License
Adapted from a Flickr photo by Andrew Mason, Creative Commons License

How do you destroy the people of God? And, assuming you are a man or woman of God, how do you defend yourself against destruction?

Much of the Bible is devoted to answering these questions. In the Old Testament book of Numbers, we read about how the enemies of God’s people were looking for a way to destroy Israel. War didn’t work. Sihon and Og fought against Israel and lost everything. Strike one.

Since they couldn’t fight them, they tried a different strategy: cursing them. It seemed like a cheap but effective solution. Get Balaam to curse Israel. But that didn’t work either. You might know the story—God sent an angel, the donkey’s mouth was opened, and Balaam blessed instead of cursing. Strike two.

The enemies had no intention of striking out, so they went back to the drawing board, and started figuring it out. As long as the Israelis were connected to their God, they were indestructible. If they were going to subdue Israel, they must come up with a way to drive a wedge between the people and their God. Here’s what they came up with: immorality and idolatry. From the enemy’s point of view, immorality is the perfect introduction to idolatry because it can seem so attractive and enticing.

All of this, of course, is based on deception. What’s the lie? We can start with: “Your God is depriving you. My god will give you anything you want.”

Sin seldom works without deception. The enemy’s biggest job is to give us a warped view of God, of ourselves and of our world. Once we are deceived, sin makes sense. It seems desirable, even honorable.

But we can use our knowledge of the enemy’s strategy against him. When we desire what is evil, do some detective work. Find the lies. Take them to Jesus. He is the truth, and the truth will set us free.

From the Bible: “…they treated you as enemies when they deceived you…” Numbers 25:18

Be encouraged!
Dwight

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Empowered by Jesus

Adapted from a Flickr photo by Waiting For The Word, Creative Commons License
Adapted from a Flickr photo by Waiting For The Word, Creative Commons License

Why do we do the things we don’t want to do?

The Apostle Paul writes, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

We know, but we don’t do. We know God doesn’t want His people to be alcoholics, yet some cannot seem to escape alcohol. We know that God wants us morally pure, yet some cannot give up impure thoughts or relationships. I could keep going with examples and sooner or later I would list something that identifies you and that identifies me.

What’s wrong with us? Why are we so helpless?

Let me suggest to you that knowing will never result in doing until Jesus occupies that helpless place in our souls that can’t get it right, no matter how hard we try. Jesus didn’t come to heal the healthy. He came to empower us helpless people, those of us who know, like Paul did, that we can’t get it right no matter how hard we try.

Be encouraged!
Dwight

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Honor those who suffer

Adapted from a Flickr photo by Doug Ford, Creative Commons License
Adapted from a Flickr photo by Doug Ford, Creative Commons License

The apostle Paul didn’t drive a fancy car. He didn’t have a limo pick him up at the airport. Read through the New Testament—in many ways he was unimpressive. People slept through his sermons. Some mistook him for the sidekick, the entertainment before the main act.

If he were around today, I doubt he would have many followers on Twitter. I expect many would ignore him altogether.

Sure, the Lord did miracles through him, but, when he went to defend himself, he barely mentions the dozens (probably hundreds) of miracles the Lord did through him. Instead, he focuses on the hardships and troubles he endured.

He was a great man of God not because he saw visions, or healed people, or because he knew his Bible backwards and forwards. He was a great man of God because he suffered well. His possessions, his reputation, his comforts, his sleep, his health, his freedoms, his friends—everything you and I cherish were torn away from him. Yet he found the grace of God and remained kind, joyful, gentle, caring and focused on pleasing Jesus Christ.

Why does God want us to make room in our hearts for those who suffer? I think it’s because in suffering the wheat and the chaff are separated, and what is both endearing and enduring remains.

If Christ hadn’t suffered, there would be no triumph in our faith. We would merely have another theology to compete with all the other voices out there. But Christ did suffer and overcame, and one of the ways we can remember and honor Him is to remember our brothers and sisters who suffer.

We hurt with them, but we also know that another triumph is in the making.

From the Bible: Make room for us in your hearts. 2 Corinthians 7:2

Be encouraged!
Dwight

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Wide open spaces of freedom

Adapted from a Flickr photo by Brad.K, Creative Commons License
Adapted from a Flickr photo by Brad.K, Creative Commons License

There are certain places you don’t want to be. You don’t want to be standing in the middle of highway in the path of a semi truck heading toward you at 70 mph. You don’t want to be outside in your swimming suit when it’s twenty below zero. You don’t want to climb into the polar bear’s cage at the zoo.

You get the point, I’m sure.

Freedom has boundaries, just like we have boundaries. The moat between you and the polar bear is a very nice boundary. If the polar bear is hungry, he won’t have you for lunch because of the moat. In the same way, as soon as we disconnect from the Spirit, we are no longer free.

Let’s put it another way. Why is the Spirit here? He’s here to keep you free. He’s here to keep you on the right side of the moat. God cares so much about our freedom that He send His Spirit to keep us in the wide open places of freedom.

From the Bible: In Jesus, you are free. That freedom doesn’t give you an open door to sin. Instead, it empowers you to love and serve each other. The whole law is summed up here: “Love others as much as you love yourself.” Take your lead from God’s Spirit. Then you won’t try to satisfy your evil desires. Part of you wants what God hates. God’s Spirit stands opposed to that. But if you let God’s Spirit lead you, then you won’t need to center your life around rule keeping. Galatians 5:13-18 selections The Easy Bible

Dwight

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Out of our comfort zone

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Maria Ly / co-founder of www.skimble.com, Flickr, Creative Commons License
Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Maria Ly / co-founder of www.skimble.com, Flickr, Creative Commons License

Growth means facing our fears and stepping out of our comfort zone.

Remember the three wise men who brought gifts to Jesus after He was born? Before visiting Jesus, they stopped and talked to the local king: Herod. They asked where the new King, the Messiah had been born.

Matthew (2:3) records the response: “When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”

No surprise. The world is full of people who are disturbed by the news that a King has been born.

Herod is so crazed with power that when he finds out the news that the Messiah has been born, his first response is to try to find Him and kill Him. The people of Jerusalem also somehow seem to know that this Messiah came to save them from their sins, and they wanted no such salvation.

Why do we resist letting Christ be King? I suggest it’s because we believe a lie. Herod believed the lie that he could hold on to power and that power would protect him. But he died, just like everyone else, and all his power was stripped from him.

Where are we unwilling to let Christ reign? In our fears? In our lusts? In our pride? In our greed?

We all have a line someplace in our souls. On one side we say “yes” to Christ; on the other side we say “no.” In between is the lie. That is our spiritual journey. Find the “no,” and we face the lie. Let Jesus tell us the truth, so that another “no” can be turned to a “yes.”

I’m not saying this is easy. It requires great courage to find the border of our faith—but that is where Christ takes us—out of our comfort zone, out into the deep. But it is out in the deep that we let down our nets and discover what we never dreamed was there.

Dwight

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Don’t let yourself be deceived

Courtney Carmody

Deception has one primary purpose: to keep us from the life Jesus offers.

If lies didn’t sound like truth, they wouldn’t be any good. Lies deceive precisely because they sound or feel so very true. And most lies contain a grain of truth.

Lies can sound intellectually sophisticated, socially tolerant, and/or culturally acceptable. Intellectually sophisticated thoughts, socially tolerant attitudes, cultural norms sometimes reflect truth. Sometimes they deceive. But if we use these things as our only barometer of truth, we are probably deceived.

Common lies:

Lie: God is whoever you conceive him/her to be.
Truth: God is who He is (Exodus 3:14). He is not sculpted by our beliefs. But, if we allow Him to, He can shape our beliefs.

Beliefs can contradict reality. We see this with schizophrenics all the time. I can believe that I can drive into oncoming traffic and be fine. But I will wake up to a far different reality if I try.

Lie: Jesus is one of many.
Truth: Jesus is one and only.

Not only did Jesus claim that He was the only way to God (John 14:6), but He asked God before His death if there was any other way (Matthew 26:39). If there was another way for humanity to be reconciled to God, Jesus would not have voluntarily submitted to a painful and humiliating death by crucifixion. Jesus’ claim to be the only way was reiterated by His close followers (Acts 4:12).

Many other lies permeate our culture and define our experience. Education does not necessarily drive them out. Some lies are reinforced by education. Some lies are transmitted by Christians, and reinforced by well-meaning sermons.

Quite often, a speaker can tell the truth, but a listener hears a lie.

In response to deception, Jesus offers Himself as the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). He makes it clear that the truth will set us free (John 8:32).

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Courtney Carmody, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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What is the gospel?

Khánh Hmoong

God sees.
God knows.
God cares.

He sees that our lives, our relationships, our communities are messed up, and He is not aloof. He hurts with us.
He sees that our efforts to fix what’s broken aren’t working.
So He devised a plan to make all things good once again.

That means the day is coming when He is going to purge the world of all that is evil, hurtful and destructive.
He is angry that little children are molested, needy people are oppressed, the people He loves are abused.
Perpetrators will answer for their crimes.

But that creates a dilemma.
We are all of us perpetrators. We are all guilty at one level or another.
We are all stained with sin.
So how does He purge the world of evil without purging us along with that evil?

Enter Jesus.
God becomes vulnerable.
He moves in range so we can take a swing at Him if we want.
And that’s exactly what we did.
We hated Him.
We nailed Him to a cross, and left Him there to die.
But while He was absorbing all our wrath, He also absorbed the wrath of God.
He took our punishment, so that we perpetrators could be set free.
He met hate with love, and overcame.

Jesus and death had it out.
Death lost.
Jesus won.

Now the life and love of Jesus is available to all—
if we want it.
If we invite Jesus in, His life and love rebuild our lives, our relationships, our communities, our world.

This is an opt-in or opt-out arrangement.
No one will compel you to participate.
It’s your choice.
You may want to define yourself with evil.
You may want to draw a line between you and God.
You have that power.

But the day will come, when God will honor all those lines,
and finish His work
of purging our world
of everything evil, hurtful and destructive,
and rebuilding
everything good.

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by Khánh Hmoong, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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The tide is coming in

Sand Castle on Beach
A word for someone out there…

Terrible things have happened—
horrors beyond imagination.
But these are sand castles on the shore of eternity,
and the tide is coming in.

Dwight

Adapted from a photo by Damian Gadal, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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How do you create a perfect world?

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Every so often I run into someone who tells me that religion is the root of all problems experienced by humanity. To that person (or to anyone who will listen), I say:

Imagine a world populated with people who care for and about one another—people who truly value one another. What would it be like to be able to walk all day and all night through any neighborhood in any city in the world and not only be perfectly safe, but also meet person after person who not only wished the very best for you, but also stood ready to sacrifice their time and money to make sure you were okay…what would that be like?

Suppose every person on this planet was filled with some kind of delicious happiness—no need for anyone to get high because everyone is already high—high on life. And suppose deep down, each person was at peace—at peace with oneself, at peace with one’s neighbors, at peace with the world. You couldn’t meet a grumpy person because there wouldn’t be any such thing.

This world we’re imagining is stress free because its people simply cannot get stressed out. They’re beyond that. Nothing rattles them. It’s not that they’re delusional; instead they’re triumphant. They greet every problem, every set back with a cheerful smile. Along the way they’re dreaming up ways to make one another’s world a better place. They leave a trail of kindness wherever they go.

These are people of integrity, people who keep their promises, people who can be fully trusted. The most fragile person is safe with any of the inhabitants of this world. Nobody flies off the handle. Nobody loses it because deep inside, there’s nothing to lose. This is a world of people who have already won. They are complete. They are good.

Now where do you find a world like that? I only know of one place—it’s the place where you throw open every door in the basement of your soul—throw them open to Jesus, and allow His Spirit to come in and transform you into the you imagined, created, redeemed and forever enjoyed by God.

I don’t know how you define religion. If you define it as a bunch of people trying to control each other or people on a jihad or crusade, then maybe you’re right. Maybe religion is the problem. But if it’s opening the door and inviting Jesus in, then I cannot imagine a better way to create a perfect world.

As the Bible says: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Remember, you are designed to make a difference!

Dwight

Photo credit: Adapted from a photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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