The Civil War of the Church

Cannon at Antietam 1

(FreeImages.com/Margan Zajdowicz)

I am stepping out here because I realize that someone might misunderstand it, but here goes…

Last night, I was praying and asking God to specifically speak to me about the Church…

I had a dream last night that was very interesting, and I know that I know that I know that God was speaking to me in the dream. Just so no one gets all worried about this, I believe that all dreams need to be taken to the Word of God to make sure that the dreams do not contradict God’s character and Word already established.

So, my dream was about the Civil War. The focus of the dream was not about the Civil War specifically so there were few details. God was using it to teach me a lesson. I had just read about the Civil War so God took something that would make sense to me to point out a truth. Reminds me of what Jesus did all the time when teaching in parables to the crowds and disciples. He used examples and practical analogies to which the people could relate.

In my dream, the Lord spoke to my heart (very clearly and undeniably His voice) that the Church and often our (my) view of the Church is very much like the conflict between the North and the South. Both sides fought for what they considered to be an important issue. The North fought against slavery and to maintain the Union. The South fought for state rights. There were strengths and weaknesses within both sides. Each side was willing to fight against brother and friend and neighbor even for the sake of their beliefs/causes. The nation was divided over differences on what each side thought was important.

The Lord went on to speak to my heart that what mattered though was unity. I felt very strongly that He was telling me that the same is true with the Church today.

So often, we have churches established around what divides them or sets them apart from other denominations. Believers refuse to give respect or listen to other believers because of where they stand on a doctrinal issue.

We do have a responsibility to “rightly divide the Word of God.” But, we have so often missed the entire message of the Gospel. As Jesus said, “Man isn’t made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man.” The Church was not made to serve doctrines, but doctrines are made to serve the Church. Okay, maybe, that is not the best wording, but hopefully, you get my point.

We have forgotten the one thing that endures — the main thing that is a mark of a Christian: love. Christ’s desire is unity. I do not believe this needs to be exclusive of sound doctrine, but you are not going to agree with every Christian on every matter, and you probably do not completely on every issue even with your spouse. So, we can continue to walk around as a divided Church, focusing on what divides us and building churches around our divisions, or we can remember the purpose of the Church. Her purpose is to serve Christ and to establish His kingdom and show forth His righteousness and His love. “They will know us by our love.”

We complain all the time about the state of our nation. We complain about social and moral woes, but we also continue to fight against the rest of the Body. “A House divided against itself cannot stand.”

Please understand that I am not saying that we just link arms with everyone. I would not go into business with a person lacking integrity and moral character. I am just saying that the Body of Christ that is truly desiring to follow Christ, even though they may have a different interpretation of Scripture on some issues, should be able to gather around the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We talk about how we need persecution to purify the Body, but may I also say that persecution helps to unify the Body. Why? Because it separates those who are not there for Christ’s glory, and suddenly, doctrinal differences (for example: Calvinism versus free will or pre-destination versus pre-wrath) no longer seem important. Suddenly, we are so thankful to simply be in the presence of a fellow believer.

What God was speaking to my heart last night was that we have so focused on our causes that we have forgotten that we are the Bride of Christ, and she must walk in unity in order to function to her fullest.

After all, is not our purpose to gather around the work of Christ and not around rules and regulations and doctrinal differences? Should not the focus always be on Christ? Should not He define us and nothing else?

Note: I have strong beliefs on many issues. I search the Scriptures and spend a lot of time really studying the Word to form my beliefs, but ultimately, I am willing to meet, fellowship, and serve alongside other believers who may believe differently on various issues because I understand that we are all the Bride of Christ. I cannot love part of His Bride less than the other part because of a difference in doctrine.

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Are Your Preparations Big Enough For The Provision?

Camels in Wadi Rum

(FreeImages.com/ChrisS)

I have been reading in Genesis 24, and today’s reading once again provided a deep truth.

In Genesis 24, we have the account of when Abraham requested that his servant Eleazar would find a wife for his son, Isaac. (You might need to study the culture of the times back then to understand some of the actions taken.)

What drew my attention as I read was the faith and preparations that Eleazar made to fulfill Abraham’s request.  (Eleazar was like Abraham’s Administrative Assistant, and it is obvious that Abraham fully trusted Eleazar and Eleazar likewise.) Eleazar was to travel to the land of Abraham’s kin and to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham’s son, and to bring this wife back. Eleazar departs, leaving with ten camels.

The significance here is that he is prepared to either look the fool or to receive the answer to his faith/mission. Ten camels was an act of faith.  Eleazar left fully prepared to return with a bride for Isaac, her personal servants, and her possessions.  Eleazar’s preparations demonstrate that he is fully expecting to fulfill his master’s request.

What struck me is the following:

Sometimes we don’t believe big so we don’t prepare big. Eleazar either went looking the fool or the believer, depending on your own perspective/faith. He was willing to look the fool in order to receive what God had prepared.

Sometimes, our faith requires us to look the fool in order to receive the results of our belief.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you had to step out, prepare big, and dream big, in order to receive big?

A 10-camel caravan represented Eleazar’s faith in action. He was prepared to return with Isaac’s future bride, her servants, and her personal possessions.

I needed this reminder:

If I want to receive the abundance of God’s supply, my actions and preparations need to be in proportion to what I receive. My actions and preparations need to be in accordance with my request.

There are many events in Scripture where God asked for obedient action before He provided the answers.

It’s impossible though to obey if you don’t believe. It’s impossible to trust if you don’t believe God is a good Father.

The first step today might be to receive the outpouring of His love for you and me.

 

Value To Your Service

Sign

(FreeImages.com/Thad Zajdowicz)

In my study on Genesis today, I was reading in Gen. 23 about the time when Abraham approaches the inhabitants of Hebron to purchase a piece of land to bury his wife, Sarah.

It was interesting to read how the people responded to Abraham’s request. They immediately told him that he could have his choice among their lands for a burial spot and expressed their deep respect for him. They were eager for him to choose their land! So simple, but I was struck with the profound lesson here:

Depending on your view of the one who needs your service will transform the way you see your service. You will either see service to them as an indignity and burden or as a privilege and honor.

The “Hebronites” respected Abraham so service to him was an honor and privilege.

It’s like being asked to mow the White House lawn versus being asked to mow a little plot down the street in a run-down neighborhood. Our humanness might naturally cause us to see one service as an honor and another service as a chore and sacrifice. The work itself doesn’t change. In fact, the White House lawn is quite extensive compared to the small, plot down the street. The difference is how you view the worth of the one you are serving.

What if we all saw every single opportunity of service as being done unto the Lord? I know it sounds so “spiritual” and “religious,” and reality is so much harder… But really?!!! What if we did the dishes and cleaned the bathrooms for the countless time with joy because we saw the value of serving another being with infinite worth?!!!

What if we saw every single person as having inherent worth?

Wouldn’t it change the way we view need and service?

Seeking Supernatural Powers?

Cap

(FreeImages.com/BerkeleyRobinson)

Drawn To the Supernatural?

Within every human is the awareness of the supernatural. This is why there are many books and movies that copy this concept. Not all of these concepts are correct nor wholesome, but they express an awareness that within each of us, there is the subconscious reality that there is another “realm” not limited to our natural senses.  Why else would there be such a thriving industry of Marvel Super Heroes?  Just browsing the aisles at the library reveals that what the majority of readers are interested in is everything having to do with magic, spells, and wizards.

The reality is that we all know there are forces at work that we cannot control or fully understand. We also see and experience situations and circumstances that we cannot control. We are drawn to super powers because we like the idea of tapping into a power that makes us no longer powerless (or so we imagine).

There is truth and also cautions with the reality of the supernatural world. As we see in the example of Lord of the Rings, the power of the ring had potential for great danger. Eventually, the ring had to be destroyed before it destroyed all that still remained good. In other words, tapping into a force of power can make us feel powerful, but the reality is that these outside powers actually control us more than we can control them.

There is a supernatural world that operates within and outside of our natural world. As our subconscious validates, there are good and evil sides to this supernatural world, and not all of it can easily be discerned. Evil can masquerade as good, and sometimes good is not immediately received or seen as good.

What if though we connect to a Supernatural God who isn’t just all-powerful but who is also good and righteous? This means in His righteousness, He might limit those things that appear as freedom, attractive, and pleasurable if He knows the reality of the inherent dangers within.

I would also suggest that not only does God describe Himself as good, but the nature of goodness and love is that it will always trump evil and lies. The very nature of goodness and love insures that eventually it will triumph over all of evil. Love is the greater force. Truth is the greater force. In the end, they will always prevail.

To Learn About Something, What Do We Study?

The Truth Shall Make You Free

(FreeImages.com/yournewven)

1.  If you want to learn about something, what do you study?

  • You learn about the thing (person, place, thing, or idea) by studying the thing.

2.  If you want to learn about something, is it reliable to solely study how it is used?

  • Sometimes, we may gain insight by watching how that thing is used, but there is great potential risk to this method of interpretation.  We may gain a false concept of the thing because of the potential false usage of that thing.  

3.  If you want to learn about something, do you study those using the thing or study the source of the thing?

  • Another way to ask that question is, “Should those using the thing determine its authenticity or should the source of the thing determine its authenticity?”
  • What’s the best way to learn about an Apple iPhone?  Do you learn about it best through your friend, Johnny, who owns a phone and may or may not know how to use yours or through a manual that was created specifically for your exact model of iPhone?
  • If we continually look to human practice to determine the authenticity of something, we are looking to a flawed source.  Therefore, there is potential for a flawed result in our understanding.

4. What does our focus tell us in regards to our motives?

  • Focusing on the abuses or false can become an excuse for avoiding truth that is uncomfortable.
  • If we focus on the misapplication of a truth, it is easy for us to dismiss the reality of the truth and justify our avoidance of it. 
  • We think that by finding how the truth is falsely applied, we can somehow avoid the reality of the truth.

In summary:

  • Truth is truth, regardless of how it is potentially misunderstood or misapplied.
  • There will be abuses of the authentic in the practices of flawed humans, but the abuses never change the reality of the truth.

The Harvest Principle of Life

garlic shoots

(FreeImages.com/JasonAntony)

The Sowing-Reaping Principle

There is a sowing-reaping principle that is established in nature. It works the same for human nature as well. You sow what you reap.

You will only get a return on an investment if you make an investment.

If you want to improve the status of your life, you have to improve your life.

If you want change, you have to be the change.

If you want to have success in life, then you have to make decisions and have corresponding actions that lead to success.

The same sowing-reaping principle holds true in character as well. If you are angry and impatient towards others, you shouldn’t be surprised if you reap a harvest of broken relationships.

You cannot detach your actions from the inevitable consequences.

Societies and systems may attempt to avoid the sowing-reaping principle, but the outcome will always be chaos and destruction.  

Prejudice

Prejudice is not limited to race, gender, age, educational status, political party, class “privilege,” or financial/social status.

Prejudice happens whenever we see ourselves as better than someone else, whenever we put ourselves before someone else, and whenever we stop valuing or respecting others.

Prejudice happens when we confine people to their past choices or judge them by a description rather than by who they truly are.  It happens when we judge someone by what we hear about them — rather than who they really are. 

Prejudice happens when we stop listening to what others are saying and only care to listen to ourselves.

Prejudice happens when we are not willing to find unity around what unites us instead of what divides us.

Prejudice happens when people become less important than agendas and people become a means to our platform rather than the platform becoming a means to people.

The answer to prejudice is seeing others as Jesus sees them: as inherently valuable and unconditionally loved. It’s loving them into their identity and calling them into their destiny. It is loving people where they are, but loving them into all they are.

It is loving people where they are, but loving them into all they are.

Just A Few Quick Thoughts While Studying…

Edens garden 2

(FreeImages.com/JennyW)

I am not going to elaborate, but I wanted to share just a glimpse into some of the amazing things I am looking at during my Bible studies.  Feel free to delve deeper because there are way more treasures to be gleaned!

Flesh Offerings and Baptism by Fire:

I have been thinking a lot about the meaning behind the “flesh” offering in the OT and the connection to the Baptism by fire in the NT.  I believe there is quite a parallel, but as usual, the OT is pointing ahead to a greater truth in the NT.

Just a small hint: Flesh will never crucify the flesh, but the Holy Spirit (typified by fire) alone can “burn off” the flesh (our fleshly or sinful/selfish nature).

Also, offering signifies the sacrifice or laying down something of ourselves. In this case, it’s the yielding of ourselves in obedience to the Holy Spirit.  I am still doing more studies on this, but God has highlighted this portion to me. There is so much to learn in the Word. May I “rightly divide the Word of God.”  (Further notes: https://www.bible-history.com/tabernacle/TAB4The_5_Levitical_Offerings.htm).

Matthew 3:11 New King James Version (NKJV)

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit [a]and fire.

Acts 1:4-5 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit Promised

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,”He said,“you have heard from Me;for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

1 Corinthians 12:13 New King James Version (NKJV)

13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink [a]into one Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 New King James Version (NKJV)

19 Do not quench the Spirit.  (comparison to a fire — Holy Spirit)

Luke 3:16-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”

The Garden Of Eden And Jesus Christ:

While studying Genesis, my attention was turned to the fact that gold and bdellium are mentioned in the Garden of Eden’s description.  I looked into bdellium, and it is a sister-tree to myrrh and frankincense. In fact, within this area is where myrrh is still known to grow.

bdel·li·um
ˈdelēəm/
noun
  1. a fragrant resin produced by a number of trees related to myrrh, used in perfumes.  (Google search)

In Matthew 2:11, we find that wise-men brought gifts of these same valuable items to present to the young Jesus.

There is significance in the very meaning of gold (royalty, signifying Jesus is the King of Kings), myrrh (used to embalm bodies and for medicinal purposes, signifying that Jesus would be the ultimate sacrifice, and by His death/stripes would be our healing) , and frankincense (used in temples by priests, signifying Jesus is our High Priest and able to make the final and perfect sacrifice).

When the wise-men brought these three gifts, they were bringing incredibly valuable gifts, but they were also showing prophetically (with actual objects) that Jesus had come to restore all that was lost to man in the Garden of Eden due to sin. Jesus came to restore all that was lost and in much greater and in perfect measure!

Some have suggested that the Garden of Eden was God’s first “temple.”  Incense was used in the temple for worship by the priests, and it was made from the resin of both myrrh and frankincense.  It’s interesting that both flourished in the Garden of Eden and still do in that area.

Gold was also used in the temple to form all of the priestly vessels, laths, mirrors, bowls, etc…  It was woven into the tapestries and hammered to cover the rods for the tapestries.  The candelabras (Menorah) were formed from this gold.

Notice what was central at God’s establishment of what we might call a “temple”: God’s Presence was there and fellowship/communion with His people was central to the “worship.”  It seems that worship and communion/fellowship are intertwined.  

Worship is truly entering into His Presence — into fellowship and communion with Him.  Yet, we often think that worship is about the programs, the presentation, and the elements.  The only elemental part of worship involves God’s Presence and our hearts in communion with His.

Yes, God encourages the gathering of the Body of believers to worship:

Hebrews 10:25 King James Version (KJV)

25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

God loves to use objects to be a visual picture of what He wants to teach us.  He gives instructions to include communion within our Church assembly times:

1 Corinthians 11:25-26 King James Version (KJV)

25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

Communion is a continual reminder to us of the sacrifices Jesus made.  It also can speak of more.

There is a saying that we are what we eat.  There is a lot of truth to this.  What we eat does become the building blocks (molecules and enzymes) for our body’s cells.  If we eat unhealthy food, we will have an unhealthy body.

By partaking of Communion, we are reminded that Jesus is to be our very source of sustenance and life.  He wants His very nature to be the “molecule” or “building block” upon which our lives are empowered and sustained.

1 Corinthians 6:17 King James Version (KJV)

17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.

 Once again, it’s all about Jesus!  

Just a side note: I would encourage you to look at how myrrh is processed.  Did you know that it is a thorny tree/bush?  Sound familiar?  The resin from the myrrh is also “farmed” by taking a spike or similar instrument to pierce the trunk of the tree.  This can be repeatedly done until the myrrh resin pours out and is then “harvested” for use.  Sound familiar again?  …spikes!  …resin  poured out!  So many analogies…!

Dependency = Influence

Those upon whom you are dependent, you give the right (or they have a right) to have a say in your life.

If you are dependent on the approval of man, you allow a lot of nonsense and negativity to be spoken into your life.

If you are dependent upon creditors, you give them permission to harass you day and night.

There are many things and people upon which we willingly choose to become dependent, and then we react when those things begin to exert their control. The warning to me is “To whom do I want to give that much influence in my life?”  There will always be people we need in our lives, but are they the same people that we want to also have so much influence?

If you allow your happiness to be dependent upon the weather, then your happiness is as unpredictable as the weather.

If your faith is dependent on what you can scientifically measure or prove, then your faith is only as good as your senses are and is reliant on the natural rather than the supernatural.

If your view of God is based on your current circumstances, then your god is your circumstances and can do nothing outside of those circumstances.

Be careful upon whom you become dependent because ultimately they will exert the greatest influence over you.

Our Greatest Treasures

Chest 1

(FreeImages.com/Ove Tøpfer)

What are Our Greatest Treasures?

 

“When we value God, we value people… Honor is what love looks like.  That sense of value will result in stewardship… Many of us today have received gifts and blessings from above.  How we deal with them will determine how we will be entrusted with heavenly riches.” (From Called To Reign by Leif Hetland).

As I read the last part of that quote this morning, conviction entered my heart, and I began to weep for the truths God was revealing to me.

Intellectually, I have known for awhile that my kids are a blessing.  I have begun to believe this too.  (The rest of this story is in previous blogs from a few years ago: “Afraid of My Children — Part One” and also part two of that story.)  Yet, God revealed this morning that there are still parts where I have believed lies above the truth. Even though I have known intellectually that my kids are a blessing, I have not lived fully from that because my belief has subconsciously lived the lie.

Knowing something intellectually is completely different than what you live out sometimes, and what you live out is what you truly believe.

As I read the quote above, what I realized is that I have not valued my kids like I should.  I have not comprehended the value of my gift.  I have not stewarded my gift to my very best because I have not fully comprehended its value.

I don’t mean I have been a bad mother because that is not true.  I am actually a good mother, though it took awhile for me to believe that, and I still struggle with this truth at times.  The truth is you can be a good parent, a good spouse, a good grandparent and still not really treasure the gifts you have been given.

Here’s the powerful truth: If you understand the value of something, you won’t feel inconvenienced by it.  

I want to say that again.

If you understand the value of something, you won’t feel inconvenienced by it.  

If you and I were given a two million dollar inheritance, we would feel honored to steward it.  If a friend bequeathed their Jaguar to us, we would feel honored to “steward” it.  If God gave us a ministry that impacted hundreds, we would be honored to lead it.  If we received a job promotion, we would be honored to receive it.

Yet, the only thing of eternal value are people.  We can’t take our jobs, our possessions, our promotions, our degrees to Heaven with us, and I am not undervaluing them; I am just not over-valuing them.

We spend so much time valuing and serving things, but things are only to serve for the benefit of people.  People are not to serve as the promotion of the things.

God revealed that the stewardship of my earthly sons and daughter is the first step to an abundant inheritance of spiritual sons and daughters.  Do I steward with the understanding of the abundance of my inheritance and the resources of my inheritance that enable me to steward it?

Here is the final raw truth that is powerfully convicting:

What we feel honored to serve or what we feel inconvenienced by shows what we really value.

There are times that I have felt inconvenienced by my greatest treasures, and yes, my greatest treasures will always hold my greatest responsibilities too.

If I have my Heavenly Father’s heart, I will see the value in each person that I am called to serve and no longer will they be an inconvenience but an honor to steward/serve.

Lord, continue to change my heart to look more like your heart.  You, are my greatest treasure and so are the things that you treasure — no matter how much responsibility and effort on my part they take to serve.  Thank you, that with every responsibility, there is also an abundant supply of your resources to wisely and lovingly steward what you have entrusted to me.

Psalm 144:12

12 That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace:

This means that our sons are being raised from their youth in the Word of God and the fertile soil of love.  Our daughters are also being raised from their youth on the foundation of the Word of God and become heart-connections to bring unity to the family.  There is much more that this verse means; I am just beginning to dig.  Feel free to join me in digging for more treasure.