Prayer of Abandonment

Loving Father,

I offer you my pain

and trust you for healing.

I offer you my tears

and trust you for comfort.

I offer you my darkness

and trust you for light.

I offer you my loneliness

and trust you for companionship.

I offer you my despair

and trust you for eternal hope.

I offer you my death

and trust you for new life.

I offer you all that I have in this world

and trust you for a new heaven and new earth.

I offer you nothing

and trust you for all.

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Love and Hate

The Lord’s hatred is more loving that the most compassionate Buddhist or most devout Muslim.

Buddhism states that that the key to escaping the pit of suffering is to cease desire.

The Word of God says that the way to escape suffering is to desire the Lord Jesus more than your necessary food.

Often, compassion  is demonstrated by Buddhists by allowing people to die with dignity.

Jesus displayed the depth of His compassion by getting angry at death and raising the dead.

Mohammed demonstrated his devotion by calling for the execution of those who dishonored him.

Jesus displayed his devotion by calling for mercy on his executioners as he was shamed on the cross.

Mohammed demonstrated his love by gathering up to 10 wives at one time to himself, regardless of their marital status, age, etc.

Jesus showed his love by rebuking religious hypocrisy and forgiving the immoral woman who threw herself at his feet.

Human religions of every variety excuse sin.

Jesus judges sin and pardons sinners so that we might come to Him.

Jesus did not stay on the cross for us to gaze upon; He rose from the grave on the third day so that we might have power to transform societies into gatherings of saints who likewise hate sin and love one another.

O that I might hate sin more and live in God’s love more!!

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Love is at the Heart of Hard Times.

The Lord disciplines those He loves. (Proverbs 3:12)

Maybe you have been wondering if God loves you since you seem to be going through such a hard time. Maybe you are poor or sick or harassed. You know God is love intellectually, but you don’t “feel” love.

My friend, you have a wonderful opportunity to choose to trust God.

God is over all the earth. He is King. He is Greater than all your troubles.

But He is closer than your own mother. He desires to be your Father, not only by creation but by adoption and regeneration. If you would choose life, choose God. Choose to trust Him.

He put you where you are and set you in the times of your life so that you would reach out and find Him: the Giver of life. (Acts 17:26)

God loves you enough to let you suffer, so that you will look to the Lord of life beyond the gains and losses of life on this earth.

He won’t leave you. Maybe you feel that now as, “He won’t leave me alone. He keep watching me.” Remember, God intends to give you good. The reason God is paying such close attention is that he cares so much.

But just as a good leader leads his people through difficult times so that they might enjoy times of prosperity and joy, so for now for a little bit you may be going through difficult times so that later, perhaps only in the resurrection, you will have in your presence perfect and total joy.

Keep hating sin. Keep loving what is right. Keep seeking peace & pursuing it. You will reap a harvest in due season if you do not lose heart.

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Jesus came to give you a hard time … for now.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn:
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.
Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Perhaps you will disagree with the assertion in my title of this blog entry, but taken at face value, these words quoted above from Jesus’ sending of the 12 in Matthew 10 certainly do seem to agree with the title. The normal pattern of people on planet earth is to do other than what Jesus wants them to.

Oh, sure, people may be nice enough, they may participate in religious observances, even Christian religious observances, even often, but at their heart, people want to be comfortable in this world.

Jesus makes it clear: HE does NOT want you comfortable in this world. He wants you to find joy in the world to come. While the rage in Christian circles is to get people busy about their jobs, their careers, their families, their health, their ease and to enjoy this world and to share that joy in this world.

Jesus, being ever counter-cultural, calls us to get uncomfortable. “Leave your comfort zone,” is sometimes said to those going on short-term missions. However, we are to daily take up the cross and get uncomfortable for Jesus. We are no where in the Good News encouraged to be comfortable in the world. If you are comfortable in the world, you will be uncomfortable in eternity. That is a promise.

However, if you find your life right now uncomfortable, not just occasionally, but regularly, routinely, daily, you open up the way for the Kingdom of God. No longer is it about this world nor is it about you. Rather, it is about eternity. Your life is to be about God. 100%. Sold out, consumed with the vision of the Living Lord who guides and controls every moment of your life.

You are NOT your own. You belong to Jesus. You are no better than anyone else, but you do belong to Jesus. If you accept this as the mission for your life, you will have a reason to live and a reason to die. Jesus bought you with His life. Your life is now to be hidden with Christ in God. If you reject that, you reject hope, meaning, purpose, and a reason for living.

Oh, you will say, I am my own god. I define my own purpose.

Really? What happens when you die? All your efforts to define yourself will fall flat and you will be cast into hell. IF YOU define your purpose and YOU define your life and YOU define your destiny, the moment you get sick, the moment you die, your meaning is challenged and then extinguished.

However, because Jesus proved that meaning is not coterminous with one’s natural life by rising up out of the grave of His own accord, those who hide themselves in Jesus and accept Jesus Christ as the definition of their purpose suddenly have a life beyond this world.

Even if your own family members reject and crucify you and beat you and spit on you and persecute you, you will have meaning. God redeems your suffering if you let Him. However, you must look to Jesus Christ the righteous Suffering Servant when you are suffering if your suffering is to have meaning.

Notice, I do not merely say that you will feel good. There are many who feel good though they are ultimately going to be cast into hell. The wrapper on a fine chocolate may look and appear gorgeous, but the moment the chocolate is consumed and enjoyed and the chocolate reaches its fulfilment and the wrapper is cast aside into the trash, discarded, it is JUNK. People do not go to the candy store to buy wrappers, they go to buy confections. The wrapper is merely a transportation device for getting the goods from the factory to your home into your body so your heart will rejoice.

Likewise, our comforts in this body and in this world are merely means to an end. If we ever look at them as an end, we will be disappointed.

Yes, despise this world. Do not love it. Do not pursue a high place in the system of the present world. Your throne satan will be cast down and you will come to nothing.

Rather, if you want an enduring life, seek a low place. Seek humility. Seek poverty. Seek abandonment in the arms of the infinite Creator. You are not infinite. Anything you create has limits on how satisfying it can be. But if you look to God to create satisfaction in your heart, you will find it. Though the final peace waits many days and though you see not a glimpse of joy in this world, do not be discouraged: there is a resurrection.

Rejoice in the world to come.

Peace to all who heed these words.

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Father, forgive them …

I continue to ponder the paradox of forgiveness and the offensiveness of the Good News of Jesus.

Today, let’s turn to the Lord’s prayer. In one petition, we say, according to one version, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those indebted to us.”

I particularly like this more than saying transgressions or sins because it quantifies our guilt: We have a debt towards God greater than all the taxes of the world. Our neighbor may owe us a hundred days’ wages.

Like all large numbers, infinity is hard to grasp. The offense, the debt, that our sin creates towards God is hard for the human mind to grasp.

However, when we see that our father or mother, our sister or brother, perhaps your husband or wife, your sons or daughters, your neighbors, coworkers, or fellow citizen has offended you will often have in mind particular numbers of offenses and the exact punishment which you believe is due them. Perhaps you think they owe you a dollar for the soda you purchased for them. Perhaps you think you should kill them for not comprehending that you are a person of honor and dignity and should be respected as such.

The moment we think of the offense of a transgression or sin, we humans are apt to think that we deserve X in compensation for our trouble. We seek to justify our anger.

Maybe we think they started it, and we are just exacting a just revenge, at least in our minds. Perhaps in the back of your mind, the repeated offense has become chalked up against your relationship with that person. The weight of the offense becomes tremendous. You feel you MUST execute vengeance. Your self-righteous anger rises and your virtue falls.

Lord, have mercy!!

As long as we hold onto the burden of bitterness, we are unable to release the pain of the past. As long as we hold onto past offenses, we are unable to embrace fully the future Open Door. As long as we focus on what other people have or have not done for us, we will forget what God has done for us.

Here is the offense of the Gospel, the Good News. The Good News beckons us to reorient around God’s promise of freedom which was secured on the cross and in the resurrection. 100% guaranteed … if we will accept the challenge of living by trusting God rather than seeking to defend ourselves against other people all the time. The natural human heart revolts against this acts of mercy. It cannot comprehend how the death of Jesus could pay, once for all, the sins, the transgressions, the debts of mankind.

Perhaps you will say now, Oh, but I am a nice person. I don’t get angry. I just keep track of what they have done to me and don’t let it happen again.

Are you any better? Has not hatred overtaken your heart? You love those who love you and ignore the rest. Is this nothing more than a polite ISIS? Do not even the pagans do this much?

What makes Jesus so offensive is that he commands us to look for ways to risk our comfort. He could have just said, Meet once a week and remember the good times we had. Encourage each other and get better.

Instead, he said, Go, make disciples of all nations! Preach the Good News to all creation! Repentance and forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem, wait in the city … WAIT!!

The disciples were instructed to hang out in the very city where their Lord was murdered in cold blood in the cruelest manner possible. Wait? Wouldn’t it have been wiser to run? Why not go where there were receptive crowds? Why not preach about Moses preparing the way for the Messiah and hinting at the coming kingdom? No, they were commanded by the Holy Spirit to rebuke their own people for rejecting their own King and then to invite them to follow that King in being immersed as a pledge of a good conscience towards God. They did not manipulate or maneuver, they just said it like it was in a way that the people could understand.

That is boldness. Some admire and replicate that boldness. Some shy away and become ashamed of the Good News. Some attack such witnesses. Boldness comes at a price: love. Boldness that does not love is mere cruel boasting.

We have a choice before us: follow the humble way of peace or strive in violence. One is marked with 666 the mark of the beast; the other is marked with the stigma of Jesus.

Choose whom you will serve.

I worship Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on me and all who hate me.

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Love-Hate Relationships

These days everybody wants to talk about love. People act as though it is a sin to talk about hating anything or anyone.

Go to most churches on a Sunday, and you will hear the word “love” at least once. That is the way it should be.

Go to many movies, and you will hear about love, often in a more vulgar sense or almost always in a selfish sense. Sometimes you will get to see hate acted out.

Go to a stadium, and you will see love demonstrated vigorously (sometimes for no reason). But you will also see some hate (for the opposing team).

Go to a psychologist, and they will encourage you to love yourself and your family and your community. But they will put the censor on any reference to that “h” word like it is a four letter word. Well it is, but so is love … and lust. (These two “L” words are often confused by a psychologist, but we will talk about that at another time.)

If you love someone, you hate others, at least in a relative sense. If you love someone, you are drawn to him and repelled from all others. At least this is true if we are talking about the highest, deepest, and most extensive of loves.

The Love of God should fill our lives. But, we cannot love God properly, unless there is also some relative hate for all others. Jesus taught this.

Where in the Word did Jesus get the idea that we should hate?

The Psalmist says, “I hate them with a perfect hatred.”

Wait a minute, Jesus said love your enemies? There is no room for hatred if there is love, right?

The more proper question is, “Who is our first love?”
It must not be for ourselves.
It must not be for the church.
It must not be for our family.
It must not be for our spouses.
It must not be for our wealth or status.
It must not be for anyone … other than God.

The Lord is our first Love.
Shema Yisrael …
All who do not love the Lord are anathema, accursed.

Whoa, buddy! What are you doing!! Calling down curses on people?

I am simply referring to the same Holy Bible that says, “Jacob have I love, but Esau have I hated.” The Holy Spirit inspired it, and He will help us understand it, as He teaches us.

So often, you will hear people mixing up the love commands (not love command, singular, but plural.)

Our first love is for God and God alone.

NOBODY shares in the full glory of God except the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One Lord.

Muslims call such replacing the Love for God with lesser loves shirk. It is a great evil.

However, the Love of God is such that God is willing to pour out His love into our hearts. As we hate sin and even the garment stained with sin, we will be drawn to love the Lord with pure devotion.

We will humble ourselves so deeply that it will appear to be a kind of hatred. We will appeal to the God of Heaven for His mercy moment by moment, because we will know that without Him we can do nothing. This is what it is to despise oneself: to delight utterly in God.

But if we so humble ourselves, he will lift us up in due time.

To hate your wife is to put intimacy with God ahead of intimacy with your wife. This will sound weird to some, but we must kiss the Son lest He be angry in His wrath and we perish in our way.

But if we are intimate first with God and most intimate with God, then we will enjoy the times we spend with our families all the more.

Perhaps you are by now eager to hate your mother and father and sister and brother that you may get them back. I think you get the picture, your family must be formed around your identity as a child of God the Father. And if you love God, you will certainly seek to repay your debt of love to your parents and the rest of your family by sharing the Gospel with them and all that they need if you have it at all in your power to help.

However, there is more, perhaps you will be like those who only get to see their family occasionally, if at all, because they have chosen to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth to reach the nations.

Ah, you will say, the nations must be hated because they do not love the Lord, and so they must. We must never love any ethnic or pagan so much that we hide the truth from them out of a counterfeit sensitivity that leans more toward those you have gone to reach that towards the God who sent you. Yes, we must love God more than the lost.

But if you love God, you will certainly want to see His name honored among the nations. A love for God will most supremely mean that if it is your first love, you will seek to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all nations. If one group will not hear, you will go to those who will, till some from all have heeded the Hope of Heaven’s Reward: Life in Christ.

Perhaps you harbor a little hatred for your enemy, pure hatred rather than perfect hatred. I would urge you to repent and love your enemy as you know you should. You may receive no reward in this life. Don’t worry about that. Look to the joy you will have on the last day when you will have a clear conscious when you cared nothing for honor in their eyes, but cared more for the Honor of God among the wicked.

How do you honor God? Truth in love. Think, act, speak with all integrity and compassion, patiently and kindly fixing your eyes on God, the Author and Finisher of your faith, the Foundation and Goal of your hope, the one who loves you enough to send His Son to die for you and is worthy of supreme love to the end.

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Connecticut Shooting and Jesus: A Massacre of the Innocents

Peter Paul Ruben

Peter Paul Ruben: Massacre of the Innocents. Painted 100 years before Newton, Connecticut was founded and 400 years before the recent American Massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School


I believe that this year, the Lord wants to be near the people of Newton. Just as the birth of Jesus was seared into the memory of Bethlehem by a massacre of innocent children by soldiers commissioned by Herod, so also, satan inspired this man to kill children around Christmas time this year.

Normally, the sheep of Bethlehem were the only offerings used to please God, but God was pleased in Jesus day to fulfill prophecy by permitting the death of children. Bethlehem had been the home of King David, a renowned figure, who set Israel free from pagan oppression and harassment. Normally, the town of Newton is small: only about 25,000. The town’s most notable person was James Purdy, who helped slaves escape to Canada in the 1850s and ministered to smallpox victims during the American Civil War, but now a man enslaved by anger attacked and killed many. The athlete Bruce Jenner, political leaders, and some authors also came from Newton. Nowadays, the following industries are the most prominent: manufacturing, professional, scientific, and technical services, construction, retail trade … Like Bethlehem, Newton was an ordinary town with a proud heritage.

The news of Bethlehem was conveyed in the Good News account of Matthew of the New Testament in the Christian Scriptures. The Bad News of Newton is heard wherever you turn. The murderer in this case was apparently upset by the divorce of his parents. Herod was troubled by the threat to his throne.

This shooting was the second deadliest school shooting in American History. The deadliest was a massacre at Virginia Tech. While the massacre at Bethlehem was a deadly and brutal act during Herod’s reign, he was more known for killing his own relatives and nobles in an attempt to elicit mourners and remove competition. Bethlehem consisted of only a few hundred inhabitants in Jesus’ day, thus the death of male infants would not have been mentioned in ancient secular-historical accounts.

Out of Bethlehem came Jesus. Perhaps some Jewish scholars doubted that Jesus came from there because so many were killed. “Surely he would have died in that generation if he was born there,” they speculated. But God had a divine purposed. Evil has a limited purpose. If some lives were destroyed by evil, we can be sure that those who remain are alive for a reason. They have a calling from God to live for Him.

This may seem to be of no comfort to the parents who lost children. But we cannot go back and revive all who died. We must go on living. Life is for the living and those who are dead though seemingly alive may truly live.

You are alive. You have a pulse. Evil has yet to consume you entirely. Will you live for God or for yourself? Will you fulfill your God-designed purpose or live like a beast seeking only bodily needs and acting on impulse.

This Christmas, we do not need merely civil religion uttering platitudes. We need redemption from slavery to sin and the sickness of soul that afflicts our race. We need men like James Purdy who will not stand idly by as violence happens against the human race. We need Jesus.

May God be with those this year who suffer persecution and massacre on a regular basis in cities and towns around the world where the Name of the Son of God, the King of Israel, and the Prince of Peace is not tolerated. May Jesus also be God with us, Immanuel.

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Pray for all saints & souls at all times.

I remember a time a dear brother who worked in a retail health food store in a church I was pastoring requested prayer for his back. He had been my first employer upon my return to Arkansas and I worked at the health food store for a year. I think he later recommended me for the church where I pastored for a couple years.

He was the worship leader, but he had back trouble & NOTHING WORKED: chiropractors, expensive mattresses … NOTHING. The elders gathered & prayed. He was healed instantly as we prayed: Matthew 11:28-30, i.e. taking up the yoke of Jesus and finding rest.

That dear brother, my former boss, is now leading 3 thrift shops that serve a population of redeemed prisoners in Mississippi. God has promoted him from his own business, to the Father’s business.

This Holiday Season, do not be timid to pray for the saints with all kinds of prayers at all times. Who knows, they may be the one to win the people you love and who need love the most.

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The Path to Persecution

Persecution is least easily received when from those you love. Yet continuing to love the persecutor is crucial to learning obedience, hence enjoying God’s love. Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered at the hands of his own people for:

1. Healing on the Sabbath as well as other days.
2. Loving, not condemning, the nations.
3. Forgiving sin.
4. Not going through the ritual of cleansing off the “defilement of the world” for common meals.
5. Associating with sinners.
6. Clearing out the temple and condemning the temple hierarchy.
7. Acknowledging that he was the Son of God.
8. Receiving unfaithful followers.

If we follow Jesus in these, at some point, we will likely be persecuted. It will not be easy, but we can proceed in the confidence that Jesus has gone before us.

This year, join in praying for the persecuted church:

November 11, 2012. Vote for the Kingdom of God!

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