The governing bodies of America are shifting Like tectonic plates underground. One presses from New York city skyscrapers The other presses from the Appalachian Mountains The molten center is in our capital.
One rises with Nature and Nature’s God The other builds a tower to the Heavens One rules by Constitution One rules by Progress They clash over one man.
His feet trample the mountain grass He’s empowered by the wheels of progress Yet the mountain people praise him And the city-dwellers raze him. Why?
He accepts the boundaries of stone And breaks the bands of silicon. He pushes back on man’s frailty Establishes natural rights fruitfully. A volcano is not self-centered.
Betwixt these moving forces mold A new way through the new and old One must accept God’s quiet voice. As we are led to the defining choice. A choice that may not be either or.
New growth must retain the life of the old. What is that life, and where is it hidden? Ask the quiet voice. It will tell. Listen.
– – Hi, I’m Luke Ferguson. I’m your boss. My boss has some thoughts that he’s given me, and I want to pass them on to you.
– – The Truth is being suppressed. Your power is limited, but you can help. The Freedom of the Press and the Freedom of Speech apply to you just as much as it does to every American. Find a window where the Truth can be spoken that no media outlet can touch. Offer verifiable information, and so win the trust of your people. Call the nation, government, people, and culture to Justice. And let yourself be the first casualty of the movement. You know of whom I speak, when I reference this.
– – I hope and pray that our boss will be glad that He hired you. Show the world His love and power, the way Jesus did.
God is the One who made everything, and he loves everyone. He needs us to do the right thing and stop doing bad things. These are His rules.
There is only One God: Him. No other gods are allowed.
Don’t make statues of God or worship them. God is represented by living humans, not nonliving stone or wood or metal.
Treat God’s name respectfully.
Make sure to take a day to rest to remember what God is really like.
Respect your parents, so you’ll have a long life.
Don’t kill someone, or want to kill someone, value other people’s lives.
(This one is *mainly* for grownups) Don’t share your deepest heart or body with someone other than the person you’re married to.
Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you, but respect other people’s stuff.
Don’t try to get people to believe things that aren’t true; instead help people believe the truth.
Don’t wish you had what other people had, but be thankful for what you have.
Above all the two most important rules which sum these up are: Love God with your entire being, thinking, and doing, and Love the person next to you as much as you love yourself.
And for the most advanced rule followers: As Jesus Christ has loved you, love other people in the same way! (This one requires a bit of study and experience to follow, because that’s how you learn all the ways that Jesus Christ has loved you.)
Why this is important
The reason why all of this is important is because all of us have done wrongs things, and the older we get the more wrong things we will do. Remember that God has to punish people who do wrong things in order to be fair. He will judge everyone in the whole world unless they are willing to ask God to forgive them, to say they’re sorry, and to stop doing them. The punishment for sin is death and God’s standard for who gets punished is if they match up with Jesus’ perfect obedience. I can’t obey God perfectly like Jesus did, and neither can you.
Now, He is fair, but He is also merciful. God sent Jesus not only to set the standard, but also to give his life on the cross to take the place of anyone who wishes for God to forgive them. That way God gets to be both fair and merciful. Those who ask Him to forgive them, He forgives. Not only that, but He also gives his Holy Spirit to those who ask for him, to help them do what is right. Only those who have the Holy Spirit living in them are able to obey God perfectly.
God has a plan for all of this. God wants people to be filled with his Spirit so that He can bring people everywhere back into a good relationship with Him. Then once he’s got all the people who will stop sinning, and start obeying on board, He will burn up this old earth and sky and make a new one where there are no bad things and no people who do bad things anymore. If you ask God to forgive you and give you his Holy Spirit to help you do the right thing, you too will be allowed to be in that New Earth and Sky. And God will build his house on earth with them, and they will all live and reign in the new Earth like Kings and Queens forever and ever. If you don’t, there is an fire that never dies that will burn up all who do not ask God to forgive them, and receive his Holy Spirit. But if you do this, you will be called a Christian.
Now, the life of a Christian is hard, because the rest of the world is sinning against God and doesn’t want to serve God, but if we do what Jesus did, we will show the rest of the people in the world how God really loves them and wants them to repent so they can have a good relationship with Him again.
Rapacity is such a striking concept, according to Dictionary.com
given to seizing for plunder or the satisfaction of greed.
Inordinately greedy; predatory; extortionate:
This word is closely akin to “rape,” and yet it is the very thing Jesus accuses the leaders of the Jewish religion, the Pharisees of being.
In Luke’s Gospel, after the disciples ask Jesus why his disciples don’t ceremonially wash their hands. the Lord said to him,
“Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of [rapacity] and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?
Luke 11:39-40 (NASB brackets mine)
The indictment is not on the external world but doubly about their internal world. The two things mentioned: Rapacity (the craving for more to satisfy the self) and wickedness (lack of ethical moral character) are things I myself as a sinful human being can identify with. In fear, I crave the acquisition of my own entertainment so I don’t get listless, my own food so I don’t get hunger pains, my own acceptability in crowds so I don’t feel ostracized, my own money so I can avoid being forced to do anything. I crave the satisfaction of the self. I know what it is to serve God in a skin-deep way, only inside to leave the more precious, secret and important things for myself. The result of my own Rapacity has led me to situations where I am less than ethically or socially or morally care-filled, loving, and true.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. This is because the rapacity and wickedness of man has, does, and will destroy God’s messengers.
How do I know? Because of what Jesus says when he switches from talking to the Pharisees to the Law-experts. The Pharisees and the Law-experts were of the same sin. He tells them:
“Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs.
Luke 11:47-48 (NASB)
They are the offspring of those who killed the prophets, the rapacious and the wicked. It was this rapacity and wickedness that God recognized and said in His wisdom:
“I will send to them prophets and messengers and from out of them they will kill and persecute.”
Jesus quoting the Wisdom of God (Luke 11:49, translation mine)
Anyone who thinks that the days of persecution of God’s people are finished is shortsighted and foolish. It is the one who recognizes the wisdom of God that see the rapacity and wickedness of man, including the rapacity and wickedness of their own heart are the real villains in this world. The craving to serve the self and the lack of character has rendered the very object of God’s desire–the heart of His beloved creatures– the very weapon of the enemy used against God to wound Him.
The rapacity of man makes war against God and His people.
The call now to you, if He gives you the conviction of this rapacity and evil in yourself, is: repent! If you are like the Pharisees and your outer world is good while your inner world is rotting away with greed, and all the dark treasures you hold close for your own self-service and self-glory, then Jesus’ words to you are these:
“Charitably give what is within you, then behold everything is clean about you.”
Luke 11:41 (NASB)
The way to repent of this selfish desire to attain for self, is to give those things that are most special to you to the Lord and to the poor by extension. Then you will be like your Father who gives the deepest truest treasures He loves to show the World how much He loves them.
One final warning–do not leave your rapacity unrepentant: it makes you an enemy of God.
There are a lot of passages that seem far removed from today’s world, but this one is very close to reality.
Passage is Luke’s shorter account of the Sermon on the Mount in Luke 6:20-49. The longer one is Matthew 5.
The audience is: Jesus’ disciples. How many disciples did Jesus have? Vs. 17 (Not just the twelve)
I’m not going to use the word “disciples), going to call them: students.
Jesus has spent the night in prayer, and the day healing the sick
And Jesus lifts his eyes to see his students, and speaks to them.
He presents a contrast in the opening verses which is a
different contrast from Matthew 5. In Matthew 5, it’s all about “Blessings” and
laws that believers used to hear were updated to what they were now supposed to
follow. In Luke 6, Jesus contrasts “Blessings” with “Woes.” In both, he is
addressing his students (Again, not the 12, but all of those who are following
Him, and learning from him.)
Now, since we are followers of Jesus who get to listen in on
Jesus training the twelve, we can place ourselves right in this audience
alongside the listeners of His day, and we can hear that Jesus is speaking
directly to us who are seeking to follow Him and be like Him.
Here are the two lists side by side.
I did not realize that Jesus was talking to his students when he gave both lists. As a Christian in America, I see myself on the side of the list I do NOT want to be on. We spend so much time accumulating wealth, serving our own satisfaction, our entertainment, and the good opinion of men, when all we’re doing is securing deep pain for ourselves in the future. In living for the present, we sacrifice the eternal future God promises to those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, ostracized, ridiculed, and cast aside because of Jesus.
Is Jesus saying that wealth, satisfaction, entertainment,
and good reputation are evil things? No. Neither is being poor, hungry,
weeping, and hated and ridiculed necessarily good things. He’s pointing out two
paths of those who follow Him. One path involves being comfortable, worldly,
unbroken, and well thought of, the other is living in want, poverty, sorrow,
and ignominy for Jesus’ sake.
Some I could see may start to object. Can’t I serve Jesus and still be comfortable? You can, but you miss out on over-exuberant joy. You miss out on the deep laughter that comes from honest hearts, you miss out on the true satisfaction that smells of eternity, and you miss out on the Kingdom of Heaven. And that is a tragedy of which Jesus said, “Deep pain to you.”
But why can’t I be happy now, and later? Why can’t I enjoy
my comfort now, and still be exuberantly happy later?
What? Have you forgotten your mission? Why are you here anyway? You are here to represent God on earth. Does God accumulate wealth for himself, or does God make himself poor so that others can be rich? Is God deeply satisfied with his own food, or does God forgo His own satisfaction, so that others can have theirs? Does God seek his own entertainment, or does God weep for those who are in anguish and agony? Is God well thought of by the world, or do people cast Him aside like a crumpled up trash-wrapper? Which God do you serve? You’re made in His image, so why don’t you look like him?
Jesus said in this passage, “A student is not above his teacher; but everyone after he has been fully trained will be like his teacher.” This is why the students of Jesus in America today are in such a sorry state: because we have ceased growing to look like our teacher.
Either, you will spend your time, resources, and livelihood–which means poverty, hungry, weeping, and ridicule– for something that will last forever –God’s work to bring about good in this world and the life to come. Or you will use your time, resources, livelihood to procure something that in the end will mean nothing. You’ll feel comfortable now, but deep in your heart you will know that you wasted your time.
Remember what Jesus said to his students. You are the salt of the earth. You’re the only thing making this world flavorful. Don’t give up your saltiness.
Illustration: 2 pretzels passed out at the beginning.
This is the world with you wealthy, satisfied, entertained,
and well thought of. (Eat the saltless pretzel)
This is the world with you being poor, hungry, weeping, and
rejected. (Eat the salted pretzel)
Confess your sins to God and cease from them.
Pursue Him devotionally in prayer.
Obey His commands in whatever situation you are.
Keep doing this until you have found your joy in Him again.
This is a guide for those seeking the Presence of God in their hectic internal world.
So much needs to be cleared from the Workbench of my mind. So that it can become an Altar where God can meet with me.
Many cares. They keep me from seeing and knowing Him.
My self-sufficiency. It keeps me from even looking to Him.
Distractions–I put them on the Workbench, making no room for Him.
These three things have been my mindset, and way of being. However, The following three things are what I long for.
4. An Altar–My First ministry
I cannot account for why, but in these moments I have discovered that the eagerness of God has been ready to send the fire of His Holy Presence to blow through, and search out, and scour away my heart with the Glory of His Spirit, His Word, and His presence.
5. The Fire
All of this is one thing: His letting you know Himself. It returns the heart to its original glow, and the problems are cast with a smaller shadow. His light shines from a heart now aglow with his fire. And so long as that fire is kept burning (For our heart is a most unreliable fuel) then it will keep our minds enlightened.
6. Enlightened (In the Christian Sense.)
As Paul prayed, so I pray “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. ~Ephesians 1:17-19
For this to happen, you must clear your workbench and first make it an altar.
Faith can be a most unconscionable and impertinent actor. The Woman with the issue of blood in Luke 5:25-41, discovered what most of the people today don’t know. Many who languish in doubt and life’s worries, do not know that their deliverance is in their reach. Because they don’t fully reach. They reach haphazardly, or partially, hesitantly. The type of Faith that brings healing to a person’s situation is Full-reaching breakthrough faith.
In my life, I have gotten lost in pointless and fruitless worries of life. Some even bear the resemblance and even smell of responsibility. But the first relationship and first ministry of concern to every person is with his God. I say again: the first relationship and ministry of concern to every person is with his God. If things are falling apart this is the first place to go, not the most convenient place to go. So often, when life has our face in the dirt, we don’t look up. Such an act of willful rebellion against those pressures which hold us down is unthinkable, except by faith. Faith leaves the nets behind to follow Jesus. Faith leaves father and mother and cleaves to the Lord. Faith stops everything it’s doing, and pursues Jesus. Faith breaks through the walls that hold the uncommitted at bay only. Faith goes off the tracks to be reset by the master conductor. Faith presses through a crowd just to touch his clothing. Faith does not demand. Faith lives or dies.
If you are sunk down in the yucky gunk of life. Go find Him.
“You will find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
An imagined quote of a Pastor friend: Preach to me from the Greek: from the Book of Philippians.
Here the words of Paul to a people who understood them: 4Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε. Paul talked to people who were giving constantly—giving, giving, giving, expecting nothing in return. And he called them to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say rejoice.”
This call to rejoice is a command to find joy in every
circumstance in which they find themselves. And he relayed this command because
they found themselves in a position to rejoice in the Lord, because they gave,
gave, and gave constantly.
Another thing about Joy to consider is that in the Old Testament, the Psalmist described the restoration of the fortunes of Zion (Psalm 126) and he said “Rejoice!” This was a testimony to the nations that God had done a marvelous work, and it was so that the nations would be drawn to this joy. The hands of the people of God had been emptied and then filled, and all the people could do was rejoice in God who had given them all these things.
My charge to you, dear friend, is not to seek to follow this command at first, but first to find yourself in a place where you could be commanded to do thus. This is a joy that is only known by those who know what it is to be emptied, and used up, and depleted of all that one has, except the Lord. And once a person has given up all of this for the Joy of selflessly giving, he discovers the treasure that awaits him to sustain him in his giving: “Rejoice in the Lord Always.”
This is the secret that the Psalmist knew when he spoke “There is fullness of Joy in the Presence of the Lord.” (Psalm 16) Rejoice In the Lord always. This promise of “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) This promise of “I am with you always even unto the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Is the priceless treasure of every believer. Ravi Zacharias quoted G. K. Chesterton when he said “Joy is the central feature of life for the Christian, but sorrow is peripheral; because the fundamental questions of life are answered by his faith. But for the unbeliever, sorrow is central and joy peripheral, because only the peripheral questions are answered and the central ones remain unanswered.”
While Chesterton expresses the intellectual side of Joy, I add that this centrality of Joy is because at the believer’s heart is a priceless treasure of the presence of God which is the source of rejoicing as he gives up everything else he has. This is the Pearl of Great price which Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to in Matthew 13:45-46.
Now, how do I know that this is what Paul meant? By looking at the next verse. 5τὸ ἐπιεικὲς ὑμῶν γνωσθήτω πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις. ὁ κύριος ἐγγύς.“Let your gentleness be known to all men; the Lord is near.” What I see here, is just as God bore witness to the nations of His goodness when he restored the fortunes of Zion, so He has sought that the joy of a Christian’s heart might be a light that would bless the joy-less, sorrow-full people of the world in darkness. This is why the command is to “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say Rejoice!” This is why Jesus said, “No one lights and a lamp and puts it under a basket, but does so to give light to all others who are in the house.” (Luke 8:16)
But you may ask, “What does this look like for me? Does this mean
I have to walk around with a big smile plastered on my face all the time?” No.
We know that when Jesus, our Joy, walked among us, he did not selfishly show
off his joy. He carried his joy into people’s situations as he bore with their
griefs and carried their sorrows. He was so deeply confirmed in his Joy that to
weep with those who wept He did gladly. And His gentleness was demonstrated to all
men “for the joy that was set before Him.” (Hebrews 12:2) And we too, are to
self-lessly rejoice in God, glorifying Him as the true source of life and joy,
and to do so meekly, gently, mercifully because “the Lord is near.” And He “is
near to the brokenhearted.” (Psalms 34:18)
The heart of the matter, according to St. Ignatius of Loyola, “Sin is unwillingness to trust that what God wants is our deepest happiness.” We have come to disbelieve God wants our true Joy because we are unwilling to find our true Joy in Him. It is convenient to ignore His presence and seek after whatever can offer us significance, satisfaction, or contentment on our own terms. This is the problem of our pride and the false spring, dry of living water resulting in our lack of joy. The answer is much more simple. The application of the matter is,
Make sure you are in a position that you can find joy in the Lord. How? By examining your life for anything you would be unwilling to give up for the Lord, to the Lord in a moment. If you hold onto anything with greater force than you hold onto Him, your joy will never be full until you relinquish it. If you are bound in any circumstance you have bound yourself chasing after Joy on your own terms, get free: addiction, ambition are a couple. This is the imitation of Christ that Paul called believers to make of himself. Consider 1 Corinthians 4:8-16. And again in this letter to the Philippians, in 3:17. Consider Philippians 3:8-18.
“Rejoice in the Lord always!” Find Joy in Him by spending time with Him. By understanding Him, by Obeying Him, and following Him. By listening to His voice, by cultivating a life that is lived by the truth that His loving eyes are on you and He is very, very near to you at all times.
“Again I say rejoice!” Even in the midst of the greatest tragedy, stress, unfortunate circumstance, even blessing, and enjoyment, you will turn to Him who is near you, and thank Him as the source of your Joy. Remember to stop and remember His presence with you, and cast your cares upon Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
“Let your gentleness be known to all, because God is near.” Do not let your rejoicing be the cause of greater sorrow to others. Instead, do as Christ did, and love people with your Joy by even laying it down to grieve with others, and show people love by sitting with them, embracing them, empathizing with them. And discover the joy that comes through giving more of yourself to others, this joy which God finds in doing the same with us. After all Jesus said, “It is more blessed (happy) to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Finally, let this joy in your heart be bright so that those around you can see the God who is real, and who is indeed the truest source of all joy, and then be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15) As Piper said, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” (Desiring God)
What has been the common attitude about Joy in the Christian churches in which you’ve been? Explain your feelings about that attitude.
How have you felt pressured to put on a brave face for other people even when things aren’t going so well?
Paul talked to the Philippians about rejoicing as they gave. What is something you gave that brought you great joy to give it? Or what was something you were given that you could see it was a joy to them to give it, even if it was given sacrificially?
What do you think it means to rejoice in the Lord? What are some ways you have done this or seen this done around you?
Have you ever considered that there might be certain commands in Scripture that must be followed before others can be followed?Example: “First give sacrificially of yourself, then Rejoice!” What are some of the commands that are the first steps for a believer to take before they can move on to fulfilling the next commands?
Why does the presence of the Lord bring Joy?
Why does the presence of the Lord cause a person to be gentle and humble?
How did Jesus navigate Joy in God’s presence, and sorrow in the presence of so many hurting and suffering?
What is the difference between selfless Joy and selfish Joy?
Why is it important for us to rejoice in the Lord?
In life, there are many things that can take a place of importance next to God, and oftentimes they become more important than our relationship with Him. What are some things (even good things) that have held great importance of your life and prevented you from being fully satisfied with Just Jesus?
What are some things you need to give sacrificially to others?
What are some practical ways you can rejoice in the Lord?
What are some ways you can let your joy help when reaching out to people who are in pain, suffering, or sorrow?
Dearest fellow Christ seeker! – – In my search for Christ, I discovered some clues to the significance in his life in a deeper study of Luke’s Gospel, which I thought I’d share with you, “O most excellent Theophilus.”
Mary (Mariam) was a virgin in Nazareth, and Gabriel is sent from God to her. Suddenly this one who has stood before the face of Yahweh is speaking to her!
Gabriel’s first word is a very common greeting in those times, “Hey! May your days be well! Great to see you! Rejoice!” all summed up in “Greetings” My that english word can be a bit of a let-down, but in the original it’s a joyful salutation. It’s like “Heyyyyyyy!!!” with a big smile.
Then he calls her “highly favored.” It’s like In The Matrix, Dozer greets Neo with great excitement and anticipation for what is about to take place. The common solemnity of this occasion is enough to excite some people to fear, but here, this first word from Gabriel to Mary is very a version of: “Hey, you super-special person!”
The Lord is with you. He is not trying to calm her down yet. He is pointing out what David recognized is the source of the fullness of Joy. “The Presence of the Lord.”
These three parts of his salutation are awesome. It’s about to be some very good news. And earlier in the chapter we got an example of what happens when people don’t believe when an angel is telling them good news. Cousin Zacharias has been silenced now for over 6 months rather inexplicably, because this same angel delivered some super special news, and he didn’t believe him. Mary’s response however is very human and humble. She is doing two things. She is deeply perplexed through and through, and she’s also pondering what kind of visit this is.
Then Gabriel unloads on her a super-duper bombshell of a lifestory.
Now, just to reveal: as I studied each verse, I wondered “What it would mean if he had just stopped there?” What was the significance of everything Gabriel told Mary. Since it was divine communication, kept treasured forever in the heart of a human concerning the salvation of all humanity and the world, I figured it be worth looking into.
Don’t be afraid.–Mary needed to be calm enough to hear this.
You have found favor with God–It always starts with God’s grace!
Behold you will conceive in womb–Life will start
And you will bill bear a son–Life will be born
And you will call his name Jesus–The child shall be named.
He will be great–this will be his quality
And He will be called the son of the Most High–The child shall be named again.
And the Lord will give him the throne of his father David.–He will inherit David’s Kingdom
And he will rule over the house of Israel forever–He will rule in this kingdom forever
And of his Kingdom there will be no end.–And there won’t be a time when he stops ruling, or when his kingdom falls apart.
These insights stand out to me from these poetic lines from Gabriel’s word.
The Lord is compassionate of our frailty. He knows we can’t hear or remember anything He said if we are afraid.
God’s Grace is what shone on Noah before it described him as righteous. It is His way to begin with the face of God’s gracious favor being turned in the direction of an individual through whom he would bring about His salvation. In these moments we glimpse the mirth of God who is glad at the beauty and effectiveness of His plan.
Jesus’ life is outlined here from “Conceived, born, named . . . to given a throne, ruling, and never-ending. Each piece is important, and each piece speaks to something special that God is doing.
The middle section is “He will be great and be called son of the Highest One.” There any many high ones, but this child will be son of the “Highest One.” Also, He is called twice, did you notice? First his name is called “Jesus” then he will be called “Son of the Most High.” A mystery, but is this just common parallelistic repeating in the scriptures or is there an intentional pattern here?
In any case, dear Laughing Son of God’s Grace, there is a lot of joy packed into these verses which overuse and traditional limelight can really make hard for our eyes to see.
Merry celebration of Jesus’ Birth! Which probably happened right around this time of year btw!