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Perseverance Over Opposition

Opposition is expected from the enemy. Sword of Truth -- be ready!

Opposition is expected from the enemy. Sword of Truth — be ready!

At this time in our world the daily news reports are predominantly more bad news than good. The disregard for fellow human beings has superseded even basic consideration of others and “loving others as yourself”. In secular society the “Golden Rule” seemingly has been replaced with “MY way or the highway.”

It is terribly sad, but what if I told you… it’s NOT surprising.

Why is it that people (who endeavor to live ethically, morally as Christ did), are “shocked” when people who have not yet acknowledged God and His Sovereign Lordship? They do not fear God’s promise of just punishment for every sinful thought, word and deed. Why is it so shocking that the unprincipled people would live unrighteously?

That’s right, God has revealed in His Word and through recorded events throughout history, the curse of sin that plagues our world since the Fall continues to degrade our societies into not-so-civil civilizations. That same “cause” is at work today! The blame does not fall on guns, knives, drugs, or terroristic gangs of people. The root of our problem is SIN. That is truly something that we ALL share; each and every one of us cannot help but commit sin in our natural life. Transgressions are unavoidable. What we do about them is the decision that will either bring us everlasting peace or continuing turmoil.

I have not only heard growing severity and numbers of reports from other people about the encroachment of evil opposition into their daily lives,  but lately I have experienced personal attacks that leave me shaking my head in disbelief at what I am witnessing first-hand.

Given recent developments, I even more appreciate the wisdom of the leadership and pastors at our church in selecting the current series of messages in the Bible’s book of Nehemiah and Ezra which focus on our need to think differently about our mission in reaching a lost world with the message of salvation which is for all mankind… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God does punish sin, but He SAVES sinners that genuinely seek His righteousness. Get that? It is Jesus’ righteousness (we could NEVER accomplish it on our own), but it is offered to ANYONE who will believe. How awesome is that!

.Today’s message was delivered by Curt Tyra and was entitled “Advancing God’s Work in an Antagonistic World”. He covered both chapters three and four of the book of Nehemiah in the Bible’s Old Testament.

Nehemiah Chapter Three — EVERY INDIVIDUAL MATTERS.

Did you ever notice how many times there are all these near unpronounceable names in the Old Testament? Why not just say “a bunch of people got together and this is what they did”?  I had thought it was because by recording actual names and lineages, individuals could be identified by their neighbors of the time and also be researched throughout history. Their individual testimonies and actions could be studied, challenged, and/or verified. Their witness mattered more because they were “named” individuals.

Curt stressed, “Names Matter: Individuals Matter!” There are individuals who were used by God and their participation mattered. Look at that participation:

  • Individuals of all kinds of people: one task, yet various skill sets, ages, societal status
  • Corporately working together: the phrase “next to him” pointed out the teamwork of the project and that they were a bunch of individuals that were “all in it together”.
    • Communication is VITAL. Whether it is a white picket fence or a stone wall we NEED to know the plan and be working together toward the same end.
  • Enthusiastic participation – they “set to work”. Didn’t just talk about it… they rolled up their sleeves and got things done.
  • Not always unanimous – even amongst their ranks, people didn’t always agree. The nobles would NOT stoop to chip in; they would not humble themselves to do the work of the Lord.
    • NOTE: The people did not stop progressing forward. They didn’t say “if they don’t work, then neither will I”. They persevered and continues the work!

Nehemiah Chapter Four — Persevering Over Opposition

The Enemy has a predictable and often repeatable pattern in of opposing us when we are working God’s plan.

  • ANGER – (4:1,7) as long as we are just talking about what we want to do, the enemy leaves us alone, but the moment we actually move into action the enemy unleashes his anger toward us. Being sucked into a battle of emotions (very primal, fleshly, “natural”) could stop progress.
  • JEERING – (4:1-3) the enemies anger will quickly turn into jeering and taunting. This is designed to cast doubt on our own contributions to the good mission. The Enemy says “who do you think YOU are? You CAN’T do that?!”

When neither the enemy’s anger nor taunting stopped their work, he involved others in his plan to thwart the mission…

  • PLOTTING — (4:8) How evil can someone get? Intentionally lying and acting in such ways as to do harm to others is bad enough, but to enlist the support of others via misleading them is especially heinous. As we get serious about actually doing the work of God, the enemy will gather others together to conspire and plot and CAUSE CONFUSION.
    • NOTE: remember that God is not a God of confusion… that is Enemy territory. That is the direct result of what happens when one does contrary to God’s sovereignty and best for us.
  • THREATS — (4:11)  Personal threats are a drastic attempt at the enemy to stop us from doing what we know to be right. The Enemy likes to use FEAR along with his lies to try to deter us from getting the job done. God’s Word says “Perfect Love casts out fear”… Jesus is that perfect love. As children of God, ours is not a spirit of fear. Rather, we have been given all we need to overcome; “victory in Jesus”.

OUR RESPONSE TO OPPOSITION: “The people of God persevere in the work of God for the glory of God.”

  • PRAY — (4:4, 5, 9) Look at Nehemiah’s prayer to God: “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.”  Prayers of confessing our dependence upon God and that we may have His perspective. Not a call for personal vengeance, but for God’s perfect plan. Things like Jesus’ model prayer for us “THY kingdom come”.
  • REMEMBER — WHO God is. Is. 46:9 “I AM God and there is no other.” God is ours and we are His. No enemy is greater than He. “If God be for us, who can stand against us.?” The fear intended by the enemy can be overcome when we remember that GOD is in control, especially when we are feeling so “out of control”
  • PLAN — (4:13, 16-22) There were NOT unaware of the enemy’s scheme and plan accordingly. They continued the work by working together to protect AND work… a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.

The opposition came when they went to work (not just talk about it) in the midst of coming together and building the wall, the enemy’s opposition came quickly and it came fiercely!  His intent was to tear down that which was being built and to confuse and demoralize the workers BUT …

“The people of God persevere in the work of God for the glory of God.”

and they did so with prayer, remembrance, a plan and by each individual ACTING, and doing so in the unified spirit of building.

See Ephesians 6:10 > regarding our need to put on the FULL ARMOR of GOD.

 

For Understanding: Classification versus Stereotyping

label tagI want to be clear… stereotyping of groups of people in such a way as to imply that “ALL of the group ARE this” is commonly seen as wrong. After all, every individual is their own person and no group of people are ALL the same… groups are made up of individuals.

For the sake of order and efficiency in our lives we do tend to catagorize things and classify people into generalized groups based on some kind of common trait. Inside those groups there may be subdivisions within that classification and maybe subsets of those. There may be such great difference discovered that an entirely different group is created. Labelling is an ongoing process as we learn more and maybe even redefine our criteria for a group.

Like many people, I order, categorize and label to quickly identify and efficiently use my time. I also use them for gaining quicker understanding. My groups or labels or terms may not necessarily agree with someone else’s who may have a different understanding or judgment of where something fits.

Since I have spent a good deal of time lately in conversation with a number of people who do not think the same way I do (in fact some in direct opposition to as I do) I thought this would be a good time to lay down a basis of better understanding.

THIS is what I mean when I use these terms: #Atheist (they call themselves this -no God)  #Angry or #Mad (predominantly displays anger, bitterness and criticism of others) #God-hater (displays hatefulness toward God, Jesus, Bible, and Christians) These terms defined by the everyday common understanding of the words: #Illogical or #Unreasonable (not following logic, reason) #Lie (not #True, contrary to the truth, facts, or nature of something) #Wrong (may be #mistaken, but definitely not #right which I use God’s ultimate standard as well as general humane definitions) #Bible (The Word of God, originated by God and recorded by divinely chosen men for benefit of mankind’s understanding God, truth, love, wisdom and how to live good and upright lives), #God (God as revealed in the #Bible, God of Abraham,Isaac & Jacob, Yahweh, “I Am,” Alpha & Omega, Everlasting Father, Almighty, Sovereign, Eternal, Omniscient, Creator of the universe and all that is in it, Sovereign, Provider, Sustainer, HOLY = pure good, love, truth, righteousness).

Being a Christian I do not pretend to know all the various forms of atheism and their subtle differences. As a Christian the foundation of my faith and life is Jesus Christ, truth and love. Love God and love others as myself.  Contrary to the accusers of me on twitter, I do not judge that a person is EVIL because they believe differently than I do.  Belief is an individual choice.

However, if anyone, believer or not, shows contempt for others and lies about truth I am compelled to speak against that bad behavior. That is admonishment — confronting lies with truth, wrong doing with righteousness.

It is not an easy thing to do. It is not a fun thing to do. But it is the RIGHT and LOVING thing to do. Depending on the degree of harm being done and whether I believe the person is even receptive to or respectful of the dignity and direction of truth, I may try to speak truth that exposes the wrong in hopes that misunderstandings are corrected and bad behaviors cease. All of us make mistakes. I would hope that someone else would do the same for me.

Like the wisdom of scripture states, there are those who have hardened hearts, deaf ears and are blinded to truth and righteousness. At those times when it is clear that the perpetrator has no desire to truthfully analyze or correct, there is no point in preceding. Don’t cast pearls before swine. Leave them with their depraved mind. Kick the dust off your sandals and walk on.

LIVING A GOOD LIFE IS SO MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE WITH OTHERS

Like most people, I enjoy hanging out with people that do the same things I like to do or generally believe the same things I do. Our experiences shared with our family and friends are the real memory makers that we get to enjoy over and again.

However, I also have great friendships “outside of my circles” where I am getting to know people I would not have even met in a sequestered life. The most profound discoveries of new friends happens as I engage in my online excursions. Social media after all is social.

I enjoy learning of various world-views from people that are not normally in my social circles. It is quite invigorating to engage in conversations with these new friends; growing in understanding of other people and ideas that I previously didn’t know. “Come let us REASON together,” is a welcome invitation to learn from one another and examine things together.

The experiences that I have with people helps in me to understand so very much more than I did before I had the blessing of knowing them. Even those who have been unpleasant to me have taught me valuable lessons in human behavior and communication. God is so very good. He allows us to grow in truth, love and wisdom as we encounter people who do not employ them. They demonstrate for us the consequences we have been told in the Bible will befall the liars, selfish, and foolish . . .without us actually having taken that particular path ourselves. Likewise, others can learn from our shortcomings when we share them transparently. ALL of us make mistakes. ALL of us can learn from those mistakes and help one another not to repeat them. Iron sharpens iron.

In closing, I believe that labels are just labels. They are not meant to define a person. They are just one way of quickly identifying what is same or different, or to point to a place. I believe that making statements about the characteristics of a group does not mean that it always applies, all the time, to all the individuals of the group. General statements about groups of people are that . . . generally speaking . . . for the most part.

The problem that I see with those who stereo-type is that they misuse labels. They proclaim that ALL people of this certain group are ALWAYS ________ (insert their claim). THAT in my opinion is the key difference between labeling and the wrongness of stereo-typing . . . having the label defining the person places one’s judgment of a person over who that person actually may be.

What do you think about this topic? I welcome your comments.

That Pivotal Moment in Time (with #GoodFriday poem)

 

Torn Veil

Temple veil was torn from top to bottom at the very moment Jesus Christ died.

This Holy Week has afforded us with yet another chance to ponder just how remarkably profound these events truly were in the scope of all history and indeed eternity.

Think about the state of affairs of the apostles who had just witnessed the horrible beating, public humiliation and torturous crucifixion of there leader, teacher and friend. I wonder, can you imagine how it must have been?

While sharing in the solemnity and intimacy of celebrating Passover only nights before the disciples were stunned enough by having their esteemed leader strip himself of deserved dignity and stature to wash their feet. During the seder the elements that for centuries had always represented the lamb’s body and blood,  sacrificed and applied as necessary method of deliverance from death, were given NEW meaning. Jesus made a point of stressing that these elements now applied to Him. Jesus told them repeatedly that the Son of Man must suffer and would be going where they could not. But He continued to encourage them with [“I go to prepare a place for you. I will then call you to Myself. Until I return… Do this in remembrance of Me.”] His time was near.

What agony Jesus endured during the night in the garden of Gethsemane as He prayed to His Father God, can there be any other way? What utter loneliness must Jesus have felt as His very best friends and followers couldn’t even stay awake with Him at this dark time in His spirit.  Jesus was even at that time being betrayed by Judas Iscariot who literally “sold out” His mentor to the enemies for 33 pieces of silver. Jesus knew that. More prophecies being fulfilled. More yet to be met. He was in the waiting room of the torture quickly approaching. His time was still nearer.

The assembly of soldiers sent by the officials defended upon the garden, waking the sleeping friends and causing quite a stir. As a sign to the captors Judas kissed the Lord. “You betray Me with a Kiss?” More of the foretold prophesies received their tic. Peter slashed his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. Yet it was the captive Jesus who performed the miracle and miraculously reattached the ear while warning his disciple against fury and violence.

“Who do you seek?” WHAT a PROFOUND question… even today!  The words of Jesus inquired. The soldier responded “Are you Jesus of Nazareth?”  What happened next?  Jesus responded with “I AM”… those incredible words… the name of the ONE true God… the men fell on their faces in an instant!! Even though they didn’t worship any Jewish God these men couldn’t help fall prostrate before the Almighty. How shocking is that? Still Jesus went as their captive to be brought to a secret night time trial before the Sanhedrin who had already prepared their false witnesses. As He was seized the disciples realized that as Jesus followers they were likely also in danger. They fled. Jesus went still closer to the appointed time.

The mock trial was an agenda driven display of men who claimed to be righteous actually practicing all kinds of unrighteousness on the ONE who really was without sin. The irony. Just as the prophets had revealed the Messiah stood silent before His accusers. Then the next morning brought before Pontus Pilot so that the Religious Persecutors could convince the Roman official to get the government to do the dirty work of actually killing Jesus.  Next more prophesied events took place; He was severely scourged, mocked, cursed and spit upon, and received beatings such that Jesus scarcely resembled a man but more a hunk of bleeding stripped apart flesh. “by His stripes we are healed”… Isaiah’s revealed Words of God were happening. Oh dear God, were they ever!

And in the wings was Peter… close enough to see, but careful not to be seen or taken into custody himself. Just as Jesus had said, Peter denied he even knew Jesus not one, or twice but even with curses on the third time. A rooster crowed. Peter wept. This was the day Good Friday! Jesus appointed work was underway.

Pilot publicly announced he found no fault in Jesus and attempted to get him released during a release event in which public could choose one prisoner to be set free. But no… “Barrabus the murderer” was the one they chose. As for Jesus the crowd was incited and yelled “Crucify Him”!  Pilot after brief discourse with Jesus about truth and Lordship delivered Jesus to the executioners with instructions to place a sign “King of the Jews” at the head of Jesus cross. When someone tried to amend it with “do you mean that ‘he SAYS he is the King of the Jews”?  Pilot answered “no, I have stated it correctly”. The mockers placed a crown of thorns upon Jesus head and a woven robe to parade Him and add humiliation.

It was added torture Jesus carrying the beam of the cross that would be the instrument of His death through the Via de la Rosa. Large crowds of people who came this day to celebrate Passover were everywhere. Many actually saw Him… the Lamb who was being sacrificed for the sins of all. Jesus was getting even closer step by agonizing step.

Along the route Jesus fell and Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service to help carry the weight of the cross that Jesus human body simply couldn’t do anymore. A woman along the way used her scarf to wipe Jesus face. It is a relief to know there were still some kind hearted people not afraid to minister to Jesus as he approached certain death.

Golgotha — the place of the skull — just outside the wall of Jerusalem that only a week earlier this soon to be executed Jesus had rode into the city filled with throngs of people calling “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”  O’ what a difference a week makes. There are a few more messianic prophecies being fulfilled in this Holy week!

Here we go… the CROSS!  THIS is IT!  The very purpose for which it was necessary that Jesus come to earth and live as a man. To offer Himself as the Perfect Lamb without blemish or spot — sinless — as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Jesus was the ONLY possible sacrifice that could suffice for eternity, because He is eternal. His particular sacrifice is the gift that KEEPS ON GIVING!  Only Eternal God could apply restitution to justice for all past, present and future sins. Only GOD could do that. Only MAN could die… Jesus humanity was a necessary stage of His existence for the sake of the redemption of sinful mankind. Jesus was all-inclusive in His offer.

Huge nails drove through his writs and ankles and Jesus was lifted up on the cross for all to see. Placed between two criminals who were also being crucified. One which was mocking Jesus, the other who recognized Jesus’ goodness and asked for Jesus’ consideration. “this day you will be with me in Paradise” said Jesus. Even a criminal status/reputation  can come out victorious if one has a repentant heart and one can face,  address, repent and receive forgiveness from the Lord.  Hanging on the cross, amidst criminals — more anticipated prophesy realized.

Even while suffering and struggling to breath Jesus focused on the needs of a caretaker for his mother. And asked aloud for God to forgive those who were killing Him. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Almost done now.

The sky grew dark. The Sun was up in the sky, it was high noon after all… it just wasn’t “ON”. No, not cloud cover, fog or haze . . .the sun just didn’t put forth it’s light. The miracles of God over nature would surely bring attention to the fact that this was no ordinary crucifixion event, wouldn’t you think?

The darkness of sin’s full weight fell upon Him. . . the Lamb of God . . .Jesus Christ came to deliver and that is what He was doing. All the punishment for sins was accepted by the one who could actually save people by restoring mankind to right relationship with His Father. Holy God requires perfect justice for the sins of man. The LAMB who was Slain was breathing His last. “Unto you do I commit my soul” Jesus said . . . then “IT IS FINISHED” !!!

THERE IT IS >>> THAT KEY MOMENT IN ALL OF HISTORY — the moment when the Perfect Lamb of God, Immanuel–God with Us, who had sacrificed His solely divine status to be born of a virgin and live in the flesh and now… NOW the time had come … he was dying so that others could live. Indeed it was finished!

50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;… –Matthew 27:50-52

At that moment the ground quaked and the huge curtain in the Temple was torn… from Top to Bottom and the wall that separated the place of God’s presence was no longer barricaded or only accessible by a select few… Jesus had made a way where there used to be no way.  No priests or animal sacrifices would ever be needed to pay for the atonement of sins that Jesus had just made once and for all.

This year’s Good Friday Poem I wrote is called:

That Pivotal Moment in Time.

At that pivotal moment in time, ugliness of sin with bloodied flesh on the cross was displayed.

it’s long-standing curse, punishment and death upon Jesus had all been laid.

The transaction completed. Divine judgment meted.

Separation with God then tore for Jesus’ loving redemption, a new way made.

THAT PIVOTAL MOMENT IN TIME Had  arrived …. Jesus paid it all!

 

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