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Archive for July, 2013

from JO’s sermon tonight:

so often, we think that God is only interested in the “good people,” the people that have it all together, people that never make mistakes, never give into temptation.  if your performance is good enough, then you can expect God’s goodness, but, if you ever get off course, fail, have doubts, God says, “too bad, it’s your fault, if you don’t want Me I’ll leave you alone, I won’t bother you.” the truth is, it’s just the opposite;  when you blow it, God doesn’t turn away from you, He turns to you.  His grace comes looking for you.  when you have doubts, God doesn’t say, “what’s wrong with you?  you need to have more faith.”  no, God will even pass over people with faith and come to you, the one that has doubts.  Jesus told a parable:

Matthew 18:12-14 (NIV)

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

what was that?  grace came looking.  but we tend to write people off and think, “God wouldn’t have anything to do with them, they make fun of me for coming to church, she’s living the wrong kind of life, he’s out there on drugs.”  no, do you realize that over half of the New Testament was written by a man that at one time hated believers?  Saul was the main enemy of the church, he was having believers put in prison, but one day:

Acts 9:1-6 (NIV)

Saul’s Conversion

9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Saul became the apostle Paul, and wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else.  what happened?   grace came looking for Saul.  don’t ever write anybody off;  your family members, friends, may be making poor choices, in the natural you think, “they’re never going to fulfill their destiny, do what’s right,” no, grace is looking for them.  you may write them off, but God doesn’t write them off.  God knows how to get their attention.  if God can change Saul, the greatest enemy of the church, and turn him into the greatest asset of the church, God can touch your loved one.  God can turn your son around, change your daughter.  Paul wrote:

Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

if anyone understood grace, it would be Paul.  one translation of the word “freely” that he specifically used is “promiscuous,”  meaning that God’s grace will go to anybody.  if someone is promiscuous, they’re loose, unrestrained, they’ll be with anyone, doesn’t matter.  that’s the way God’s grace is;  you can be high on drugs, and grace is looking for you.  you can be working in the wrong kinda place, grace is looking for you.  you can be cheating, dishonest, no integrity and God will leave the 99 and come after you.  you can be discouraged, depressed, about to give up on life, the good news is, right now, grace is looking for you.  you may have made mistakes, you’re not where you wanna be in life, you could easily sit on the sidelines, let the accusing voices convince you that you’re all washed up, nothing good is in your future, no, right now, grace is coming to you. God is saying, “I’m not mad at you, I’m madly in love with you.  I’m not holding anything against you.  I’m not keeping a record of your mistakes, I’m not even interested in your past, I’m interested in your future.”

it doesn’t matter to God where you’ve been, it matters to God where you’re going.  that’s why He’s comin’ after you;  He won’t leave you alone, His grace will never give up;  he loves you too much to let you miss your destiny.  you can turn away again and again;  grace will keep coming.   wherever you go, grace will keep looking;  you can’t outrun the grace of God.  you can’t do too much wrong to keep it away.  you can’t turn away too many times, God’s grace will keep coming, saying, “I’ve got something better;  I’ve got forgiveness, mercy, restoration, a new beginning.”  if you’ll shake off the guilt, condemnation, start making choices that honor God, God will do for you what He did for Paul;  He’ll bless you in spite of your mistakes, make something great outta your life, in spite of your past.  God never gives up on you;  don’t give up on yourself.  receive the grace, believe that there’s something amazing in your future.

John 4:3-26 (NIV)

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

He left Judea and returned to Galilee.  It was necessary for Him to go through Samaria.  And in doing so, He arrived at a Samaritan town called Sychar...  6 Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well…  When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)… 17 Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true”… 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

Samaria  wasn’t necessarily the shortest route…   (NB:  the Bible doesn’t say this, but it’s probably geographically true.  look at the map of Ancient Israel shown here

http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/galilee.html

Jesus had to pass through Samaria in order to go from Judea to Galilee.  The last specific place he is described as being in in Judea was Jerusalem

John 2:13 (AMP)

13 Now the Passover of the Jews was approaching, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem

which is right of center, and then later he left and:

John 3:22  (AMP)

22 After this, Jesus and His disciples went into the land (the countryside) of Judea...

We don’t know where he was when he started his trip to Galilee.  Sychar is on the far right, and his destination in Galilee was Cana

John 4:46  (AMP)

46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee

which was in the middle.  There’s a big central zone in Samaria with no towns.  If Jesus took the shortest route to Cana, it would lead right through there.  If this town-free zone was a valid way to travel, Sychar WOULD have been out of his way.  However, if, as seems logical to me at least, he traveled such that he went from town to town to be assured of food, water and shelter, as many people to talk to as possible, and roads rather than cross-country travel, Sychar would have been right along his way.  If he had been over to the left when he started out, Sychar would have been WAY out of his way, of course.  It seems as if the Bible would SAY if Jesus went out of his way, but even if not, the most we can assume is that he MIGHT have gone out of his way.)

in those days the Samaritans weren’t friendly with the Jewish people.  his disciples said, “Jesus, that’s the long way, we’ll go a better route, plus we might have some problems with the Samaritans.”  Jesus said, “no, I have to go this way.”  (I can’t find this in the Bible;  JO often suggests what Biblical figures might have said, or probably said, but he usually is clear that he’s doing so…  I assume that’s what he means here.)  but the whole reason Jesus went to Samaria was to meet this woman.

John 4:27 (NASB)

27 At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman…

… and especially that it was THIS woman.  this is what grace is all about;  it’s promiscuous, it doesn’t just come to the people that you might think, the “good people,” the fine upstanding people, no, it goes to people like this lady, that have made mistakes,  people that have gone through heartache and pain, people that think, “it’s too late, I’ve blown it, don’t deserve it.”  this is what grace is all about.   that day was a turning point in her life.  “my coworkers don’t believe in God”;  that’s alright, grace is looking for them. ” she’s working in the clubs”;  that’s ok, grace can go into a club.  God’s grace knows no boundaries, has no limitations.  “they come from a different faith”;  that doesn’t stop God.  grace is looking for them.  our titles don’t set a boundary for the Creator of the universe.   “they’re Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu”;  that doesn’t stop God, our God is all-powerful, our religious names, different affiliations, that can’t stop the Creator of the universe.  the Samaritan woman was of a different faith, yet she was the first one Jesus revealed himself to as the Messiah.  not to the Jewish leaders, rabbis in a synagogue, but to the girl working in the clubs, the young man that’s never been to church.

God will save who He wants to save, have mercy on who He wants to have mercy.  His grace is looking for people that don’t have the best reputation, that have blown it and failed, that have made a mess.  it can penetrate any situation.  are you writing someone off, thinking that they’re too far out there, they’re never going to change?  or are you writing yourself off, thinking you’ve made too many mistakes, missed too many opportunities, now you have to sit on the sidelines?  no, grace is coming to you;  no mistake you’ve made is too much for the mercy of God.  nothing you’ve done has canceled your destiny;  you can still become who God’s created you to be.  quit listening to those lies telling you that you’ve seen your best days, and you had your chance;  God is the God of another chance.  He will never give up on you, His call on your life is irrevocable, His grace is going to keep coming to you.  you may ignore it today, but it will be there tomorrow, next week, month, year.  this is what Jonah did:

Jonah 1 (NIV)

Jonah Flees From the Lord

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”  But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.  Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up… So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”  He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)  11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”  12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”  13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.

he should have drowned, it should have been the end, but grace showed up in the form of a whale:

Jonah 1:17 (NIV)

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

you can’t outrun God’s grace.  wherever you go, grace is gonna come looking for you.   Moses, when he was a young man, murdered a man and had to flee for his life, spent years on the back side of the desert;  looked like he’d missed his destiny.  but 40 years later,  grace came looking for him.  God said, “Moses, I have not forgotten about my calling on your life.  you may have delayed it, but you didn’t cancel it;  you’re still going to fulfill what I put you here to do.”  you may have made choices that have delayed your destiny, but God is saying, “you have not cancelled you destiny, you can still fulfill your purpose, accomplish your dreams.”  you need to get ready, God is going to bring opportunities back across your path that you missed out on;  you’re going to still become who God’s created you to be.  the scripture says:

Luke 19:10 (NLT)

10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

“seek” means to go after, pursue, track down.

John 3:16 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world

it doesn’t say, “God so loved the good people, people that have it all together,” no, God loves people with addictions, that have gotten off course, made mistakes;  His grace is unrestrained.  Paul said:

Romans 5:20 (NKJV)

20 … where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

you would think the further you got away from God, the less interested He would be, but it’s just the opposite;  God leaves the 99 and comes searching for you.  when you go the wrong way, like Jonah, God’s going to send a whale.  when you get off course, God’s going to have somebody come track you down.  when you make a mess of your life, God’s going to say, “I must go through Samaria, let you know I have a new beginning.”  even when we run away, God runs to us.  even when we don’t measure up, God says, “that’s ok, I forgive you anyway.”  “he doesn’t deserve it, it was his faut, he brought the trouble on himself”;  that’s what grace is all about.  you can’t earn it, you don’t have to be good enough, it’s a free gift;  all you have to do is receive it.   don’t go your whole lifetime living guilty, condemned, beating yourself up for past mistakes, thinking that you have to pay God back by giving up your peace, joy, happiness;  the price has already been paid 2000 years ago.  it’s not our goodness, it’s God’s goodness;  God has made us worthy.  we think, “God’s never gonna help me, I brought this trouble on myself,” but think of it as a father;  our heavenly Father, even when you make the mistake, bring the trouble on yourself, God is so merciful, He says, “I’ll still help you to get out”;  that’s why it’s called “amazing grace.”  you don’t deserve it, you didn’t earn it, it’s just the goodness of God.

Luke 19:1-6 (NIV)

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

they had never met before, but Jesus knew his name.  the Pharisees got very upset.  they couldn’t understand why Jesus would want to associate with Zacchaeus, a tax collector;  they were known for being dishonest, cheating people, taking advantage of them.  they had a bad reputation.  they thought if Jesus were for real, he would know he was going to dinner with the wrong kind of person.

Luke 19:7 (NLT)

But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

out of all the people there that day, Jesus went home with the most notorious sinner.  this didn’t line up with the Pharisees theology;  they thought that Jesus would rebuke Zacchaeus, or at least ignore him.  this is where grace shows off;  grace comes to the least likely, to those that don’t deserve it, that have made a mess.  religion says, “stay away, you’re bad”;  God says, “I’m coming to see you, I’m gonna make you better.”  Jesus didn’t preach to Zacchaeus, he didn’t berate him, he simply loved him, showed him mercy, became his friend.

Luke 19:1-10 (NIV)

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

he changed his ways, not because he was shamed into it, but because he was loved into it

Romans 2:4 (NKJV)

… the goodness of God leads you to repentance

but some people, all they’ve heard about is how mad God is at them, how they need to do better, how they don’t measure up.  but when you really understand the grace of God, the fact that God is for you;  even if you’re a most notorious sinner, God isn’t holding that against you.  if Jesus were here on Earth today, he’d say, “I want to come over and hang out with you today.”   grace is looking for you. if you’ll receive it, quit beating yourself up, living guilty and condemned, then you’ll have the power to break strongholds and anything that’s holding you back.

John 8:3-11 (NKJV)

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned.  But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him…  He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”..Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

he didn’t say, “go and sin no more, then I won’t condemn you, get your act together, start making better choices, then I’ll forgive you,” no, he said, “I don’t condemn you, now go and change you ways.”  if people feel condemned, berated, told that they don’t measure up,  then they don’t change;  they live guilty, feeling bad about themselves, weighted down by life.  but when you know you’re not condemned, God’s not holding your mistakes against you, that God is saying, “I want to come to your house, be your friend.  other people may have written you off, but I don’t write you off, I know what you have to offer, how amazing you are,”  that’s when you’ll have the power to really change.  you may have made mistakes, you’re not where you want to be, those accusing voices, they’ll remind you of all your shortcomings, everything that you’ve done wrong, but by faith you’ve gotta hear God saying to you, “I don’t condemn you, I’m not holding anything against you, I’m not keeping a record of your mistakes.”

friends, grace is coming to you today;  will you receive it, shake off the guilt and condemnation, put your shoulders back, hold your head up high?  nothing you’ve done has canceled your destiny.  some of you are kinda down on yourself, focused on all the ways that you don’t measure up;  God is saying, “I must get to you and let you know;  My mercy is bigger than any mistake, I’m not interested in your past, I’m interested in your future, you are forgiven, redeemed, it’s not the end, I have a new beginning, your best days are still out in front of you.”  you may not deserve this, you may be the least likely;  that’s what grace is all about.  it’s promiscuous, unrestrained, it goes to anyone.  if you’ll receive this grace, God will do for you what He did for Paul;  He will bless you in spite of your mistakes, He will still make something great of your life in spite of your past.  even when you bring the trouble on yourself, God will be there to help you get out.  God is going to track down your loved ones, your relatives that are off course, set them free, cause them to fulfill their destinies.  grace is coming our way.

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We hear a great deal about Jesus loving everyone, and being willing to give love, forgiveness, blessing and healing to basically anyone because of his loving nature;  this includes sinners, from which we get the idea that Jesus/God will forgive and love anyone no matter what they did.  And the Bible certainly shows plenty of examples of sinners that the average citizen, and certainly the Pharisees, would NOT want anything to do with, that Jesus DID interact with:

The woman who was caught in adultery would have been stoned to death, but Jesus saved her life and did not condemn her.

The woman who had had 5 husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband was the first person that he told that he was the messiah (at the well in Samaria).

The woman who anointed his feet with oil was a sinner of unspecified type;  it’s assumed to be a sexual sin.  He forgave her.

He ate with Levi, “tax collectors and sinners.”

He ate with Zacchaeus the tax collector.

He forgave a thief who was dying on the cross next to his.

These are all shining examples of his goodness, but look more closely;  we have sexually “loose” women, tax collectors who are assumed to be cheating people and thus to be essentially thieves, and one outright thief.  What we DON’T see are those that are guilty of crimes of violence:  murder, assault, rape, child molestation.  We don’t even see those who have damaged or destroyed property;  no one that burned down a house, killed someone else’s sheep, etc.

IS THAT A COINCIDENCE?

It’s not as if Jesus couldn’t have found people of this sort, and causing such people to repent would have made a better story than mere tax collectors, so any such incident would certainly have been recorded…  so why did he choose not to do so?

WHY?

This one will require some serious thought…

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In the post “God is giving me a social life” from 7-14, I said that I’d gotten:

“4)  An email from a friend from high school that I have not seen in 3 decades telling me that she’ll be in my city and wants to see me”

Today (7-27) I saw her!!  🙂

In the abovementioned post, I told the tale of seeing a different friend who I hadn’t seen in several years, where I was going to have to set an alarm and get up early to meet her… and then the power went out while I was sleeping and killed the alarm…  and I caught that and brought in a battery-operated clock which then died less than an hour after I got up.  That was pretty close timing, but today I REALLY saw how God does in fact time things to the second:

I had spoken to “today’s friend” earlier in the evening, and we had agreed to talk again tomorrow after I got up to plan to meet.  The she called me hours later suddenly wanting to get together after 10PM!!  They had added another city to their itinerary and would be leaving early tomorrow, so she wanted to drive down to see me tonight because…  well, she just wanted to, although objectively it was silly for her to do so with the gigantic amount of driving she’d be doing in the next 2 days.  But THAT wasn’t the miracle, although God may well have been behind it.

We agreed to meet at my mother’s house, since mine doesn’t have a bare patch for anyone to sit on (my roommate is a borderline hoarder).  Although I’m generally fanatical about making sure everyone has every phone # for something like this, when plans happen without notice that can sometimes not happen.  As my roommate and I were rushing out of the house, I was telling him to hurry, because he’d dragged things out such that we couldn’t be 100% sure of getting there before her.  And this man who’d leave his head behind if it wasn’t attached actually asked if I had her cell # on me…  which I didn’t.  I went back inside, looked it up, wrote it down, went back out, shut the door, took a step away…  and the phone rang!!  One of the freeways that was on her route was CLOSED, AND, their GPS thing was pretending not to know where my mother’s street was (but later on they tried it again and it worked FINE for her street), and they needed us to give them a new route.   If I hadn’t gone back for the cell # I should have already had…  if I’d had one more second to walk away, taken that couple more steps, I wouldn’t have heard the ring and I’d have missed her call.  And as it turned out she only had half an hour to spend with me (which I did NOT know in advance), by the time it would have occurred to me that she was late enough that it wouldn’t seem “pushy” to call her and ask what the holdup was, she would have been out of time and we would not have seen each other.

Closed freeway, malfunctioning GPS, unexpectedly tiny window of time, wildly atypical failure to give or carry all relevant #’s…  and God reached down and saved the situation with literally split-second timing.

You can count on Him to fulfill every promise He makes, to finish everything He starts, to make it all happen even if it takes a miracle.  Every time.  Count on it.

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Like with all such incidents where knowledge that I had no possible direct access to pops into my head, my question is:  is it E-S-P or G-O-D?  Or, ESP could be something God gives us (as opposed to it being genetic or a mutation or whatever), which would be a little bit of a gray area.  In any case:

I’m unusual in many ways, one of which is that, previous to today, I’d NEVER seen MacGyver, and I mean not one single second of any episode, EVER.  I assume that, given the show’s popularity, someone I know must have seen it, but they’ve never discussed it with me…

(I just got an email that included a mention that YouTube has full-length movies.  I checked my bookmarks to verify that I had one for this, which I did, and I felt the urge to click it to see if it was still valid, which it is, and the top movie was one I’d never heard of: “Only God Forgives.” Is that a hint?)

…  so I really, really have no clue about it.  Anyways, this afternoon I was watching my tape of “House” episodes, and when I turned it off the program that was on that channel came on.  What I saw was a college-age boy looking through a peephole in a door from the outside;  the camera showed us something long and metal from that viewpoint that he said was a garage door opener.  He made some comment like it was clever, and a nonsensical thought popped into my head:  that what would be really interesting was if the garage door opener had nothing to do with it…  nothing to do with WHAT, I had no idea.  The whole thing was odd enough that I didn’t turn the show off right away, and there were other college kids trying, it quickly became obvious, to get through doors with various weird things keeping them locked.  Eventually someone said “MacGyver,” which made it obvious what show it was.  I don’t know why I kept watching;  the one kid was going to find the frequency for the garage door opener, the other was going to do something to speed up the clock on the time lock on “his” door…  there was no mystery, and I didn’t know what the story was, or who the characters were, or care…  but I kept watching.

And the punchline:  it turned out that the garage door opener had nothing to do with it!!  It was a FAKE, shown in a scale model of the room that was being seen via a periscope that was attached to the peephole at the other end…  the door was in fact NOT locked!!

Freaky.  Do you know why people with psychic flashes aren’t all millionaires from picking lottery #’s?  Because THIS is the sort of stuff you get flashes of, not lottery #’s or anything else of your choosing.  I think God might give us chances to see these things to make sure that we keep using that part of our brains (whether that part came directly from Him or from genetics), so that when He wants us to see something we can do so without Divine intervention.  Or it might be something totally different;  maybe some day we’ll know for sure.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

the people God put in your life are not there by accident.  it’s not a coincidence that you met that woman, fell in love and got married;  the Creator of the universe brought your paths together.  you didn’t just decide to have those children;  they didn’t just show up because you and your spouse got together.  God knew your children before they were ever born;  they had your name on them before you even thought about having a child.   your parents, the people that raised you, you didn’t just happen to end up in that home, God put you there on purpose.  He’s given you your spouse, children, parents, as a gift;  they’re on loan to you for a period of time, they’re not always going to be there.  God is counting on you to take care of His most prized possessions.  they’re not ordinary, they are extremely valuable.  don’t take them for granted;  your husband, wife, they may have some faults.  you may not always see eye to eye, but they are a treasure, given to you by almighty God.  those children may be a lot of work, they don’t always do what’s right, but they’re a gift from God. you have to see your spouse, children, family, as being extremely valuable, a special treasure that God has entrusted you with.

every day, you need to tell them, “I love you, I’m proud of you, I’m so glad that you’re in my life.”  they need to hear this on a regular basis;  not just on their birthday, their anniversary, “honey it’s Valentine’s Day, I love you,”  no, once a year is not going to cut it.  if you don’t tell your wife how much you love her, somebody else will.  be generous when it comes to expressing your love.  be free with your compliments.  men, you can never tell your wife too many times how much you think she’s beautiful, and how glad you are to have her in your life.  that’s one of the best habits we can all develop;  complimenting our spouse.  people never get tired of hearing how much you love them, how proud you are of them.  how many relationships would go to a new level, how many marriages could be saved, how much arguing and petty strife would stop, if we’d simply start expressing our love on a daily basis.  yesterday’s “I love you” is not good enough for today;  every day you need to express it, and one of the best ways is with our words, with compliments.

people don’t know what you’re thinking;  a blessing is not a blessing until it’s spoken.   you have to express it, tell them what you’re thinking.  words have creative power;  they can lift people up, bring out confidence, self-worth.  when you tell someone, “I’m proud of you.  you’re a gift in my life.  if I had to do it all over, I’d marry you again in a split second.”  those are not just nice phrases;  those words are like glue.  they strengthen the relationship;  they’re deepening the roots.  that’s what makes it easier to go through the difficult times of life.  when people know you believe in them, you’re proud of them, when you keep the emotional accounts full, then when you hit a bump  in the road you have the strength to stick together and overcome it.  but the reason some people, they split apart so easily, they can’t withstand the smallest adversity, is because they don’t have any glue, kind words;  they’re not expressing their love.  when tell your spouse something as simple as, “honey, I love you,” you are speaking the blessing over your marriage, adding more glue.

ladies, one of your husband’s greatest needs is for you to be proud of him.  he may seem big, strong, invincible, like he doesn’t need anything, but underneath that tough outer shell is a little boy longing for your approval.  one of the most powerful things you can tell your husband is, “I am proud of you.”  when that man hears that you’re proud, something comes alive on the inside.  this is something only you can give as his wife.  his parents can be proud of him and that’s good, they should be.  his colleagues can give him awards, that’s nice.  his friends can tell him how amazing he is, that’s fine.  but nothing compares to the power you have as his wife to tell him, “I’m proud of you.”  when you do that, that does more than all of the others combined.  studies show us, having a wife that’s proud is at the top of the list of what every male longs for.   women, don’t withhold your blessing.  just as you like to hear, “you’re beautiful, I love you,” your husband needs to hear, “I’m proud of you.”   “I’d do this if he was more of this and less of that,” no, don’t focus on all of his faults, focus on his good qualities. the more you praise him, the better he will do.

your husband is like a cork floating in the water.  the more honor you pour in, the more you tell him that you’re proud of him, it’s just like you’re pouring water into that bucket;   that cork, you husband, will keep rising higher and higher.  he may be down right now, but instead of nagging, complaining, pour some honor in.  find something he’s doing right and say, “I’m proud of you for being at that job for 20 years., coaching our children through school, coming to church with our family each Sunday.”  he may be doing 100 things you don’t like;  find 3 things you do like and start pouring some honor in.  maybe your husband is not reaching his highest potential because the honor level is low.  you as his wife control the honor faucet.  you have the most power to do something about it.  don’t complain, pour in honor.  “honey, I’m proud of you.  you may not have broken the addiction altogether, but I’m proud of you for at least trying.  you didn’t get the promotion, but that doesn’t change one thing in my mind;  I’m still as proud as I can be of you.”  your husbands cannot live off of old honor.

you were proud of him when he graduated from college;  that’s good, but that was 5 years ago.  you were proud when he stepped up to take care of your parents, that’s great, but that was in the past.  what has he done lately that you can tell him you’re proud of?  if you’ll pour in some new honor, not only will he rise higher, but the whole family will rise higher.  when you get up tomorrow morning, give your husband a big hug and say, “I’m proud of you, you good-looking thing.”  when you pick him up off the ground, he’ll go out with a spring in his step.  you’ll be amazed at how these simple words will lift his spirit.   they’ll cause him to accomplish more, he’ll have a better attitude;  he’ll not only treat other people  better, but he’ll treat you better.  he’ll go out of his way to do kind things for you and the children, all because you met one of his greatest needs, that longing for you to be proud of him.

in the same way, men, your wife needs your approval, blessing;  this is vital to her becoming who God created her to be.  and God is going to hold the men responsible as the spiritual authority in the home (NB:  I’m dubious about that-God holds ALL of us responsible!!) for blessing our wives.  that means to build her up, make sure she feels loved, valued, respected.  I know men, they never give their wife the blessing;  these women only hear about what they’re doing wrong, the dinner was late, the kids ae too loud, how they’re not that attractive.  men, you’re not going to be blessed if you’re pushing your wife down;  she’s connected to you.  if you say disrespectful, demeaning things, you’re not only pushing her down, you’re pushing yourself down.  many women suffer from low self-esteem, depression, because they never receive the blessing from their husband.  men, don’t let that be your wife.

Solomon is considered one of the wisest men that’s ever lived.  every morning he blessed his wife;  he started his day complimenting his wife.  what would happen, men, if every day we told our wife, “you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.   there’s nobody like you in all the world”?  “well, if I did that, I’d be lying”;  no, your wife should be the most beautiful woman in the world to you;  don’t compare her with your neighbor’s wife, or the girl on the cover of the magazine, or the actress on TV, they’ve had a lot of help.  your wife is the gift God gave you.  physical beauty can be fleeting, but true lasting beauty is found on the inside.  your wife is a gift, treasure, one of a kind;  nobody has her fingerprints.  when you realize this, you can get up like Solomon and say, “hey baby, you’re looking fine today.”  men, don’t ever put your wife down.  get out of the habit of saying sarcastic remarks.  you don’t always have to have the last word;  let it go.  keep peace in the home.  if you can’t say anything good, don’t say it.  words can cut like a knife.  you can say something hurtful that only takes 10 seconds, but 10 years later the person still feels the wounds.  be careful what you say, especially to those that are closest to you.  are you taking care of your gift?  in 8 chapters , Solomon praised his wife over 40 times.

“my wife, she’s hard to get along with, she’s got a bad attitude,” no, you start praising her, telling her how beautiful she is.  when you talk about the good, you’ll draw out the good;  when you talk about the negative, you’ll draw out the negative.  you need to remember the reasons you fell in love.  when you were dating that person, you only focused on their good qualities;  that person had the same negative qualities back then as they have right now, you just didn’t focus on it.  too often, we fall out of love and start noticing, little annoyances become magnified. what’s the solution?  we’ve gotta fall back in love.  start remembering the reasons why you couldn’t live without that person.  magnify their good qualities.  overlook the things that are bothering you.  bring some freshness into the relationship;  laugh more often, take more walks, do something out of the routine.  that person God has given you is a gift.  they have 80% of what you need;  no person has 100%.  if you’re not careful, you’ll focus on the 20% that you don’t like and end up frustrated;  see their good qualities instead, the 80% that they do have.

it says in the scripture that because Solomon praised his wife, their children rose up and blessed her as well.  (he might mean the following from Proverbs:)

Proverbs 31:28 (NIV)

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:

in other words, when the husband takes the lead, and blesses the wife, the children will as well.  husbands, fathers, we’re setting the example in the home;  how we treat our wife is going to have a great impact on how our children respect and honor their mother.  men, go out of your way to show respect to your wife.  treat her like you want somebody to treat your daughter.  ladies, treat your husbands like you want somebody to treat your own son.  men, we need to get back to the days of respect and honor.  it takes a man to open the door for his wife, to say, “I love you, you’re beautiful, I’m proud of you.”  you’re not a man just because you’re male;  treating your wife with respect, taking care of your family, watching after your children, makes you a man.  in reproduction, the father is the one that gives the child identity;  if he gives it an X chromosome, it will be a girl, if he gives it a Y it will be a boy  God has given us power as fathers to help our children know who they are.  we have incredible influence in our children’s lives, a responsibility to affirm our children.

every day;  “I’m proud of you, you’re going to do something great, you’ve got an amazing future.”   our children need our approval;  we’re helping them to form their identity.  but if we’re too busy, never there, that child is not going to be as confident and secure as he should be.  fathers, be involved in your children’s life.  bring them to church, be at their ballgames, meet their teachers, know who their friends are, listen to what they’re listening to, pay attention to what they’re watching.  they may not like it, but a child that has boundaries, deep down, that child knows that he’s loved;  that’s what gives him value.  fathers, we have something extremely powerful;  your children need your blessing.  make them a priority.  it’s not an option, it’s a responsibility.  you have something to give as a father that nobody else can give.  give your children your undivided attention;  make sure they know that they’re a priority in your life.  men, take time for your children;  don’t become the greatest pastor, athlete, coach, businessperson at the expense of your children.  your first mission field is your own family.

Joel 3:9 (KJV)

wake up the mighty men…

I know today I am speaking to mighty men, men of valor, honor, that rise up like Solomon and bless their wife.  men that make their children a priority, speak the blessing over their family.  I’m speaking to women of faith, honor, that rise up and tell their husband, “I’m proud of you.”  women that keep pouring the honor in.  you radiate strength, beauty, intelligence, dignity;  you are one of a kind.  make sure you are taking care of the gifts God has given you;  they’re not always going to be here.  be generous with your words;  “I love you.  I’m proud of you.  I’m glad that you’re in my life.”  express love on a daily basis.  men, get up every morning, tell your wife how beautiful she is.  make sure she feels special.  women remember;  you control the honor faucet.  you keep pouring honor into your husband, and he is going to keep rising higher.  if you’ll do these simple things, you will have a strong, healthy, faith-filled family.  every force that’s trying to stop you, your marriage, your children, is being broken right now.  God is releasing strength, healing, deliverance, favor, new beginning,  you and your family will rise up and become everything God’s created you to be.

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In “I spoke to an amazing man today” from 6-18, I described speaking to a man who was obviously a true man of God:

“A man whose words I have long admired, both because of his kindness and because he is a brilliant poet, had offered up his phone # on the DAB.  I had left a message for him when his mother recently passed away, but had the strong urge to speak to him directly.  I had a good timeframe in which to call today, and I did…  and he is, as the title says, AMAZING.  A true man of God, with the spirit in him so powerfully that I could feel it right over the phone.  He said a prayer for me out loud;  no one had ever done that for me before.  Tears were pouring down my face, and not for the only time in that conversation;  that’s how deeply touched I was.”

I had tried a fair # of times to speak to him again, but always got his voicemail.  He doesn’t work, he has family handling his groceries and such (he’s blind), and I’m very careful about the time zones so as not to call when he might be eating, sleeping or getting ready for bed, so I was first puzzled, then concerned, and then vaguely alarmed, at my continued inability to reach him.  I had felt certain that this man was meant to be in my life, but I’d had someone appear in my life just to provide a spiritual lesson and then disappear before, and in general have a hard time telling the difference between “friendly and wants to be my friend” and “friendly but NOT interested”…  was it possible that I was “pursuing” someone who was dodging my calls and hoping I’d give up and go away?

Each time I’d tried to call him, I’d asked God to let me speak to him that day. Today, I told God that I was worried that the man might deliberately not be taking my calls because he didn’t want to make a new friend under these circumstances, and if that wasn’t the case to please let me talk to him today so that I’d know that he was NOT avoiding me and was in fact someone I was meant to have a friendship with.

I got through right away.

It was another lovely conversation, that ended with me praying for him and him for me…  which included him specifically saying that he hoped out contact would continue.

Ask and ye shall receive.  You have not because you ask not.  Figure out the specific thing that you want and need, not wild demands for wealth or sexual favors from a famous person or to magically lose 50 lbs, but the things that will help you move along the path that you know deep inside that He wants you to follow…  and ask humbly, with trust that He will fulfill your needs, and He will come through in extraordinary ways.

Edit 7-21:  I listened to the DAB for today, and thus discovered via a message from this man that his phone had DIED (he was asking everyone to send their #’s via email so he could have them added to his new phone);  THAT’S why I kept going straight to voicemail…  further proof, should any be necessary, that he wasn’t trying to blow me off.  Why did God give me that info 2 days earlier, even though he KNEW that this DAB message was coming to explain it to me?  Because He loves me so much that He wanted to save me 2 days of thinking that the man had “rejected” me.  This is why I have unswerving belief that He’ll do other things for me;  because He DOES.

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A big issue within the Christian community, and in my own mind as my beliefs evolve and crystallize,  is how to describe how Jesus fits in with God (the Holy Spirit is also a part of this, but appears to not be of primary concern to many people).  The “Today’s Topical Bible Study” email from BibleStudyTools.com today contained a term I’d never heard before:  modalism (aka Sabellianism).  I went to Wikipedia, which then led me to Unitarianism, which I’d of course heard of but never read a definition of, and now suddenly I have FOUR answers to choose from for my question (technically, the 2 new ones are nontrinitarian beliefs, but they are specific subsets rather than the general concept so I’m showing them as separate):

Trinitarian:

The doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons or hypostases: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit; “one God in three persons”. The three persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature”. A nature is what one is, while a person is who one is.
The Trinity is considered to be a mystery of Christian faith. According to this doctrine, there is only one God in three persons. Each person is God, whole and entire. They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: as the Fourth Lateran Council declared, “it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds”. While distinct in their relations with one another, they are one in all else. The whole work of creation and grace is a single operation common to all three divine persons, who at the same time operate according to their unique properties, so that all things are from the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. The three persons are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinitarianism

Nontrinitarian:

refers to monotheistic belief systems, primarily within Christianity, which reject the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity, namely, the teaching that God is three distinct hypostases or persons and yet co-eternal, co-equal, and indivisibly united in one essence or ousia.

According to churches that consider ecumenical council decisions final, trinitarianism was infallibly defined at the First Ecumenical Council (the Council of Nicaea) in A.D. 325. Nontrinitarians disagree with the findings of the Council for various reasons, including the belief that the Bible as they understand it takes precedence over creeds, or that there was a Great Apostasy prior to the Council.

(There are a bunch of belief systems included here, but I’m only adding the one that really intrigued me because it’s so out there)

Binitarianism – people through history who believed that God is only two co-equal and co-eternal persons, the Father and the Word, not three. They taught that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person, but is the power or divine influence of the Father and Son, emanating out to the universe, in creation, and to believers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nontrinitarianism

Unitarianism:

is a religious theological movement named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism, which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one being. Thus, Unitarians contend that main-line Christianity does not adhere to strict monotheism as they do, maintaining that Jesus was a prophet, and in some sense the “son” of God, but not God himself…

Unitarians believe that main-line Christianity does not adhere to strict monotheism but that they do by maintaining that Jesus was a great man and a prophet of God, perhaps even a supernatural being, but not God himself. They believe Jesus did not claim to be God, and that his teachings did not suggest the existence of a triune God. Unitarians believe in the moral authority but not necessarily the divinity of Jesus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarianism

Sabellianism:

In Christianity, Sabellianism, (also known as modalism, modalistic monarchianism, or modal monarchism) is the nontrinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one monadic God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons within the Godhead.
The term Sabellianism comes from Sabellius, a theologian and priest from the 3rd century. Modalism differs from Unitarianism by accepting the Christian doctrine that Jesus is fully God.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modalism

This gives me a lot to think about…

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