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July 2011

Birth & Pain

No, this isn't a post about women giving birth, but rather about a way God has used childbirth to illustrate his hand in our lives. This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible and I found it in a children's Bible my daughter had, which turned out to be a New Century translation.

Isaiah 66:7-9 (NCV)
"A woman does not give birth before she feels the pain; she does not give birth to a son before the pain starts. [8] No one has ever heard of that happening; no one has ever seen that happen. In the same way no one ever saw a country begin in one day; no one has ever heard of a new nation beginning in one moment. But Jerusalem will give birth to her children just as soon as she feels the birth pains. [9] In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born," says the Lord. "If I cause you the pain, I will not stop you from giving birth to your new nation," says your God.

This tells me that when it is God's hand on us that is causing pain it is for a purpose and life will come from it, and that life will come quickly. This is exciting to me.

Change is a part of God's hand on us. Sometimes it is incredible and amazing. Sometimes it is painful. Sometimes he brings healing and deliverance and provision. Sometimes he brings pruning and discipline. Sometimes he gives, sometimes he takes away.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

In all of this his thoughts toward us are good.

Jeremiah 29:11-12
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

One area of our lives that may contain pain is growth and maturity. We can't grow into something new without leaving the old. And many times we don't want to leave the old. It has become precious to us.

Luke 5:36-39
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

I wrote a song years ago. Here are the lyrics.

Morning comes only after resurrection
Resurrection follows death
And death is never very easy
Oh, the tears I've cried
And fears my heart has felt
But Jesus took them all upon himself

First fruits always seem the sweetest to enjoy
But there's still more fruit to come
And how my soul often travails for the Son
Growing up has always
Make me want to hide
But Father gives me peace and joy inside

So, let the growing come
Peace, be still, and know your God
And, when the tears come
Count them as the morning dew
That heralds forth the coming of the sun

So I reckon that the present sufferings
Are really nothing when compared
To all the glory that awaits the bride
Saints that die to self are precious in His sight
Perfection is the purpose of my life

God's hand on us is for our good. If he causes us pain he will not stop us from bringing forth life and it will come quickly. Have faith, and find your rest in God.

The Things We Say

I have heard a variety of teachings over the years about the power of what we say, the things that come out of our mouths. What comes out of our mouths is important.

Matthew 15:10-11, 15-20
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Matthew 12:35-37
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

I think the scriptures above make it clear that our words are important. But sometimes people look at these scriptures and see a type of law rather than a living word. Those people can become very legalistic regarding their words. What we forget is that we are under authority. God can choose to disregard any of our words and confessions. He can even choose to take our guilt upon himself.

Numbers 30:3-8,10-15
“When a young woman still living in her father’s household makes a vow to the LORD or obligates herself by a pledge 4 and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand. 5 But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the LORD will release her because her father has forbidden her.

6 “If she marries after she makes a vow or after her lips utter a rash promise by which she obligates herself 7 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her, then her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. 8 But if her husband forbids her when he hears about it, he nullifies the vow that obligates her or the rash promise by which she obligates herself, and the LORD will release her.

10 “If a woman living with her husband makes a vow or obligates herself by a pledge under oath 11 and her husband hears about it but says nothing to her and does not forbid her, then all her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand. 12 But if her husband nullifies them when he hears about them, then none of the vows or pledges that came from her lips will stand. Her husband has nullified them, and the LORD will release her. 13 Her husband may confirm or nullify any vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself. 14 But if her husband says nothing to her about it from day to day, then he confirms all her vows or the pledges binding on her. He confirms them by saying nothing to her when he hears about them. 15 If, however, he nullifies them some time after he hears about them, then he must bear the consequences of her wrongdoing.”

Guard your heart and your words, but don't become afraid of saying the "wrong" thing. Our Father in Heaven can confirm or nullify our words. Jesus can confirm or nullify our words. He can even choose to be responsible for our guilt. And that price has already been paid. That's finished. So be careful, but also be at peace.

"Our maker is our husband, our redeemer is our friend." - lyrics from a song.

Have Faith

I hear lots of different things on faith, some good and some not so good. So I wanted to share just a few scriptures along with some thoughts on them. My point is simple: anyone can have faith in God. So have faith in God. Trust him. Rest in him. Hope in him.

John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Just to emphasize my first point. Anyone can have faith in God. Anyone.

Hebrews 11:4 (NIV)
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

Something to think about here, and it applies to all of the examples in this post. Abel was not "saved," he was not "born again," he was not "filled with the Spirit." But he had faith and God spoke well of his offerings because of his faith. Have faith.

Hebrews 11:8-10 (NIV)
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. [9] By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. [10] For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Hebrews 11:13-16 (NIV)
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

One aspect of faith is that we see something beyond where and what we are now. It is the "evidence of things not seen." And because we see something in God that is beyond where and what we are now and we have faith in it God is not ashamed to be called our God. He has a committment towards us and has prepared a city for us. However, if we set our affections on this world, on where we are now, we lose that faith. We start wanting God to bless us where we are now instead of asking him to bless us in our journey to something he has prepared.

Hebrews 11:31 (NIV)
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

Rahab did not have faith because she heard annointed preaching. She did not have faith because she lived a godly life. She did not have faith because she heard the word of God. She simply heard rumors and gossip about a nation and she had both fear and faith in the God of that nation. And God honored her faith.

Matthew 8:5-10 (NIV)
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. [6] "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering." [7] Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." [8] The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. [9] For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, `Go,' and he goes; and that one, `Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, `Do this,' and he does it." [10] When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

Israel was filled with the word of God and God's convenants, but it was a Roman centurion who impressed Jesus with him faith. His faith did not come from understanding the law and convenants of God. His faith was built from a worldly understanding of authority and submission. But when he heard stories of what Jesus was doing he had faith. Even though his faith was based on something he understood, he saw something beyond that in Jesus.

Matthew 15:22-28 (NIV)
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." [23] Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." [24] He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." [25] The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. [26] He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." [27] "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." [28] Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Here is another person who did not have faith because of the law or convenants of God but heard what Jesus was doing and had faith. Faith to keep knocking and seeking when the door was first closed, or looked like it was closed. Jesus said what he did to her to expose her faith. To the citizens of the kingdom of God, both the Roman and the Canaanite were outsiders. But Jesus and the Father honored them.

We never know how someone will respond to what we say about His mercy, grace, faithfullness, mighty acts, etc. Faith could rise up in anyone, including ourselves. Let faith grow in you. Set your heart on a better county, on a city whose builder and maker is God, on something beyond where and what you are now.

Have faith in God.

Gathering and Sorting

My last post centered on Jesus telling his disciples that the way to life is narrow and few find it. He said this in the midst of the multitudes that were responding to his ministry. I shared this at a church meeting recently and a brother made the comment that he had never thought of Jesus as being exclusionary.

So I wanted to offer a few more thoughts on this thread, and it isn't about whether or not Jesus is ever exclusionary. It is simply to look at some scripture. Sometimes scriptures give us teachings and doctrines. Sometimes they just minister truth to us. These are to just minister truth, not to say anything specific.

God often gathers. We are in a time of gathering. Jesus called it "the acceptable year of the Lord," or "the year of the Lord's favor."

Luke 4:18-19
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

When Jesus said this he was quoting Isaiah 61 but he left out a phrase "and the day of vengeance of our God." He did this because he was proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor, not a day of vengeance. We are in a time of great favor from our Father in Heaven. It is a time of openness and invitation. Here are some examples.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 9:12
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:35-36
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus still has compassion on the crowds, knowing our weaknesses and infirmities. He understands what we are going through and he intercedes for us before our Father in Heaven. We are still in the year of the Lord's favor. We are still in a time of gathering.

But there will come a time of sorting and sometimes this message gets forgotten in the process of showing mercy and gathering unto the Lord.

Matthew 13:47-48
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.

A part of the work and manifestation of the kingdom is a great gathering. But all who are gathered are not a part of the kingdom. If we don't share all of the message like Jesus did we end up keeping the truth from people who need to hear it.

Here are some examples of sorting.

Matthew 25:31-46 - These scriptures recount the story of a time of judgement where God separates everyone into one of two groups; "sheep" or "goats." The sheep are those who feed the hungry and thirsty, gave clothing away, looked after the sick and visited those in prison. The goats are those who didn't do these things. Living faith expresses itself in our actions in caring for others.

Matthew 22:2-14 - These scriptures recount the story of a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son and the invited guests were too busy to attend. So the king had his servants gather everyone they could find, both good and bad. When the king saw the guests in the wedding hall he noticed that there was a man who did not have the right clothes on and that man was thrown out. Then Jesus sais "for many are invited, but few are chosen."

Matthew 25:1-13 - These scriptures recount the story of the ten virgins. They took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five were wise and had extra oil, five were foolish and did not. When the bridegroom finally arrived the five wise virgins had enough oil for their lamps to work, the five foolish ones had to leave to find more oil and when they got back they were not allowed in with the others. In fact, the Lord refused to let them in and said "I don't know you."

None of this is to say we shouldn't be full of faith is God's mercy to us, his forgiveness of our sins, his grace, or his hand on us for good. But is does show that we are in a time when many are being gathered to the kingdom. That's great. But there will come a time when all that are gathered will be sorted. We have to make sure that our faith is a living faith, a faith that expresses itself in our actions and how we treat people, in how we prepare ourselves for service and in how we wait upon the Lord.