Archive for July, 2009

v66 Fight The Good Fight

Paul charges Timothy in his parting words toward him to "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses." 1 Tim 6:12. There is a war going on. Are you dressed for battle? Do you know how to fight, who to fight, what your weapons are and how to use them? Paul expresses some similar thoughts to the Ephesians in the closing remarks of his letter to them.

Parting words are often well thought out words. They are rarely haphazardly given, especially words inspired by God and relayed by the Apostle Paul. We need to take heed of the words that He is giving to his beloved when he leaves them. They are weighty and instructive.

Let us look at the passage in Ephesians 6 regarding this warfare and our relation to it for the next few days.

Paul says in verse 10, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might."

First notice that these instructions are given to "my brethren". These are words directed to believers, brothers (and sisters) related by blood through Christ. Others are not fighting this war and others do not have these weapons nor can they heed these instructions. It is only those who are Christ’s that this pertains to. So often we try to use our Bible verses and speak them to everybody as though they have a magic and will work for them. They do not. Much of God’s Word is qualified by the audience it is spoken to. On the day you were joined to Christ you enlisted in the battle. The battle is a spiritual warfare. Dead spirits are of no interest to our enemy, they are already his. So this is addressing the brethren.

What does God (through Paul) say? Be strong in the Lord. The word for strong in Greek is endunamaoo and it means to empower with strength and in this verse it is speaking particularly to the empowerment of the mind. It says in essence, make your mind empowered with strength. Where do you suppose that strength is supposed to come from?

We empower (i.e. put power into) our minds when we renew them with the Word of God. It has amazing spiritual properties that effect the mind spiritually when you inject it by faith through the blood. So we are being told right off that our mind must be conditioned. We must know the power of His might. Do you know that power? I don’t mean have you read about the healing miracles He performed and the power that Resurrected our Lord. I mean do you know it by experience? Has He healed you? Has He Resurrected you? If so, you will be empowered in your mind for the battle. Be strong in the knowledge of what He has done for you in Christ.
I want to share with you something I read yesterday from Francis De Sales, one of my favorite old time saints. This is from his "Treatise On The Love of God" first published in 1616. He illustrates the role of faithful service so poignantly here.

I learn so much from books. In fact I would say that they are the the vehicle that God most often uses to bring revelation to me. There is just something about getting alone with God and spiritually inspired, spirit-filled writers that I can not find the equal of. It is almost impossible to find a good spirit inspired book at the bookstore. Most often I have to order them through the mail. If you ever want some ideas on something to read let me know. I hope you can find a quiet place and time to reflect on the written word and works of saints who loved (and continue to love) God and expressed their relationship with words.

God likes books, he wrote 66 of them. That’s a good place to start. If you haven’t read your Bible through at lest 5 times, shame on you. How can God work in you if you haven’t put His word into your heart? Sermons and devotionals can’t cut it. No more excuses, just do it.

Here is the passage from Francis De Sales:

   Imagine a statue that has been placed in a niche. Suppose it could talk. You ask it what it is doing in that niche. It would answer, "Because my master put me here."
   "But what is the point in sitting there doing nothing?"
   "My master did not place me here to perform any task. It is enough that I am here."
   "Poor statue," you reply, pressing the point, "what difference does it make that you are there?"
   "I am not here for my own sake," it would answer. "I am here because it pleases my master. That is enough for me."
   "But you don’t see your master. How can you be content with pleasing him?"
   You are right. I can’t see him. My eyes don’t work any better than my feet. It satisfies me that my dear master is pleased to see me here."
   You continue to debate with the statue and ask it, "But don’t you at least have a desire to approach you master and offer him some greater service?"
   "No. I have no desire to do anything other that what my master wishes."
"Then you have no desire to be anything other that an immovable statue in a hollow niche?"
   The wise statue answers affirmatively. "I only desire to be a statue in this niche as long as it pleases my master. I am content to be here because the own who owns me is content to have me here. Because of him I am what I am."

v64 The Sublety of Self

My favorite verse in the Bible (if I could have one) is Galatians 2:20. My favorite translation of the Bible used to be NIV. My NIV Bible is literally in shreds. I have had to tape the backbone back onto it, Every page is covered with underlines and notes in the margins. Now I seldom ever read the NIV although most of my bible memory was done in that version. Why? Because I saw something one day that made my spirit shiver, and there it was right in the middle of my favorite verse.

Galatians 2:20 in the NIV reads,

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Did you see the contradiction? Look again. The entire meaning of the verse is (or should be) that it is not me who lives, but Christ in me. Then why does it say by implication that it depends on my faith? "I live by faith in the Son of God" Since the last reference is the "I" preceding it implies that it is my faith, that I work up a faith that I place in Christ and live by it. That is a blasphemous lie, the type that will place you straight into hell. That is exactly what the entire Bible is not saying. The Bible is continually and supernaturally leading us to understand that we can’t do this apart from the life of Christ in us. It is Him who is the Life. It is all Him. All things are from Him and by Him and to Him and for Him.

The KJV reads,

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Now that’s better. It places the ownership of the faith clearly on Christ. It is His faith, the faith of Christ. It is not my faith. If I could muster up the faith and live by it and thus gain eternal life to myself would I not be one to whom all the glory belongs for my salvation.

Dear brother and sister in Christ you must have this type of dogged uncompromising discernment. Yes, salvation is by faith to all who believe but it is eternally important what you believe. God is not trying to trick you or trap you, your Self is. Self is trying to gain to itself the credit and hence the glory for every good thing. There is no good thing in you except Christ.

And God is after that we will manifest Christ in us to the world so that they might see His Light and glorify Him (not us). So don’t for a minute take any credit for your salvation. That is works. That is Self effort and that will damn you for eternity. If you attach any cause for your salvation other than Christ you are standing on dangerous ground. How many spots can you have on your robe? Last time I checked it was to be spotless. Not because of my righteousness but because He is the spotless Lamb. If there is any of my righteousness on my robe it will become spotted and unacceptable.

I don’t know what happened (but I do) in the NIV translation to shift the meaning of that verse to a damnable lie. A subtle lie that Self enjoys. Was it poor translating or bad theology? I don’t care which, it was Self that is always subtly working against the Spirit. The Flesh wars against the Spirit. The one is contrary to the other. Contrary in that it is leading to one destination while the Spirit of God is leading to another destination.

Now just in case you think this is an honest mistake, here is another verse. Now exercise your own discernment.

Ephesians 3:12 in the New International Version (NIV) reads,

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

The King James Version (KJV) reads,

"In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him."

Watch out for Self, he has the subtlety of a serpent (now a snake) in the grass. "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said…?"  Gen 3:1

v63 All Hands on Deck!

In time of war its all hands on deck both for those engaged directly in the battle and those who are left at home to participate in a supportive role. In both the WWI and WWII episodes of of American history everybody was important to the cause, everybody had a sense of playing a part in our ultimate victory. Every thing that could be used was used for the purpose of obtaining the victory. Nobody had a sense that they were not needed. I do not know that that would be the case if our country were to become engaged in another World War. Once a country gains (at least in its own mind) the sense of superiority it becomes lax toward it’s resources. If you read much history you find that often it is the party that takes this attitude of superiority that runs great risk of losing the battle.

"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Cor. 10:12

Can you imagine the excitement of being a part of something that will eventually define all history (His Story) from that time forward? Talk about motivation. I think about the Israelites as they were called upon to build the Tabernacle and then later Solomon’s temple. These edifices were the icons of their faith, their very lives. They were in fact the dwelling places of God. Wow, imagine being a part of building such a place.  Talk about national pride. Everybody had a role in the project. Nobody was unnecessary.

God has undertaken the greatest building project of all time – His Kingdom. And he needs a few good men. God wants to use every resource in the tool shed, the school yard, even the play pen. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. No one is exempt from duty and purpose in this engagement. God is not only building a House – His Church – He is simultaneously engaged in the greatest and most critical War of all Time and Eternity. Talk about purpose, talk about a sense of belonging. There is a place for you!

Here is the point. I don’t know how anyone can afford the luxury of remaining disengaged in the building of God’s Church and His Kingdom. If you find you are left in the toolshed to rust and rot, you need to get yourself into the hands of the Master Craftsman. He wants to use you, He designed you for His use and purpose. If you are not being picked up and put to use regularly perhaps you are in the wrong toolshed. In any case, God has formed you and fashioned you for great things. Get to work! It’s all hands on deck.

The approach to life of a young child is very simplistic. When very young, a child is innocent of the true demands of life that will eventually fall to him or her. They are without much necessary understanding about the complexities of the bigger world that exists outside themselves and they have a narrow and limited perception and perspective of the world and how it works.

A child is completely and totally unaware of the absolute dependence they have upon their parents or guardians for their very basic needs. They just live and take life at it unfolds in front of them. Without their knowledge, even this unfolding of the world and the environments they experience are in some ways orchestrated by their parents. The parents would not bring the child into harms way and are always bringing experiences into the life of the child that will teach him and mold his thinking and ability to make choices.

A good parent is forever crafting the experiences of the child, choreographing the dramas of life that present themselves to the child so that the child’s understanding and ability to make good choices are both ever-expanding before them. The parent is tuned to the child’s heart, knowing where they are in terms of knowledge, morals, virtue, maturity, strength, responsibility, confidence, etc. and anticipating just the right scenario to gently guide them to the next step on the ladder that will raise them up to a new level of understanding, morality, virtue, etc.

As the child is busy about living and enjoying life, the Good Parent is involved in a world that is mysterious and unknown to the child. The Good Parent is always looking ahead of the child far beyond the child’s sight of the future to make a way that will provide both provision and protection for their future. They recognize that some day the child will need to leave their immediate presence and will be on their own to make their own choices. The Good Parent is stealthily and systematically placing new tools in the child’s toolbox and continually but subtly teaching the child the use of the tools by demonstration and use of them in the child’s presence.

Some of the hardest work of the Parent is to allow their child into the big open world without them, armed with nothing but their toolbox, a molded heart and a growing respect for their Parents ways, to make choices as they come at them. Accompanying them unseen on these voyages are all the prayers and groanings of the Parent for the child’s welfare. This waiting and watching takes great patience and faith.

So you see that the child is often unaware of all that the Parent has done and continues to do for His child throughout his or her life. Not until the child finds him or herself in the role of the parent does he begin to understand all that their Parent has done for them.

This is what I mean by Daddy’s work.

As a child we are overwhelmed by all the demands upon us to grow and learn and become mature and responsible. We never really stop to think and appreciate all that our Good Parent has done to raise us up.

Just as when the dad asks their child to come and help with washing the car and the child can only to address those areas that are lower and easy to reach so is God, our Heavenly Father working above us, working on the places we can not reach, washing and watering a vehicle that will eventually take us where we need to go.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 55:9

A friend and recipient of the Himsights asked me some good questions about what I wrote in the last Himsights. Perhaps you may have had these same questions.

Here is what he wrote:

So why do you feel that if I share my thorn it is not my thorn?  I share with my brothers my thorns in hope they will pray for me and in turn allow me to do the same…. Do I misunderstand your definition of thorn?

This was my reply:

These are great questions. I am pleased to see these messages working in
you. To the question of whether you misunderstand my definition of thorn,
perhaps. I am not talking about a temptation or trial that is brought to
us by others or ourselves. I am talking about something that is allowed by
God and sent to perform a refining work in us. Things that show us where we fall short of the Glory of God and produce deep spiritual work.

As Christians we will all face trials and afflictions which are the
warrings of our spirit against the devil (or his emissaries), the world
and the flesh. We all need to share these trials with others who are spiritual and recruit their prayer support.

Our thorn, on the other hand,  is often deeply personal and intimate. In fact, so intimate that we probably could not explain it if we wanted to. It is the way God works in us according to His good pleasure. I hope this helped.

As I took this to God in prayer He reminded me of the division of spiritual work. In essence, what I told my friend was that there is work which we must do because we can do it and God by His Spirit entreats us (in fact, often the crisis is there to stir us from our otherwise spiritually lethargic state). And then there is the work that our Father must do because we can not do it – He must do it or it would not get done.

In my discussion with my friend I was pointing out that there are three enemies that we must conquer – the Devil, the World and Self (Indwelling Sin).

Yes, the Devil has been defeated and is a toothless lion. But he still goes around roaring, seeking whom he may destroy (by his loud and empty threats and deceitful lies). He is a threat to those who do not exercise Faith and believe the Word – Jesus Christ.

Yes, we are more than overcomers through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is by Faith alone that we overcome the World. "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Jn. 16:33 and "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." 1 Jn. 4:4

Yes, our sins (plural) are removed by Faith in Christ’s Redemption and that is no longer an issue but Self (the indwelling presence of Sin in us) must be brought to death (Hint: remember the power of Sin is the Law). Self has always been OUR problem ever since the Garden when we exercised him against God and His will by disobedience.

Now God has given us the victory over Satan (i.e. Christ), the ability to overcome the World (His Life in us), and the power to defeat Sin (i.e. grace). But we must deny ourselves and take up our cross and die daily. Our Faith must be in Christ alone and not in Self. This is our spiritual work.

We must by Faith in Christ’s work on the Cross – by the blood and the testimony of the Word – defeat the empty threats and deceitful lies of the Evil one. We must overcome the World as we place our Faith in Christ’s overcoming Life in which we now live and move and have our being. We must by Grace through Faith reckon ourSelves dead (i.e. love not our lives, even to death) and deny ourselves thus defeating Indwelling Sin in us. This is the victory – even our Faith. This is our work – Faith.

I will share Daddy’s work next time.

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