Bringing Dry Bones Together

Many are sensing that we are entering into a special time for the Ekklesia, the Church. God has been preparing his church for a time of awakening. We must be like the men of the tribe of Issachar who understood the times and respond to Holy Spirit’s lead.

1 Chronicles 12:32 NLT

‘From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. ‘ 

There is a sense in many that now is a time to move forward boldly but in the ways shown to us by scripture. Holy Spirit showed me something about his methods. We have heard Zechariah 4:6 quoted as guidance in the past.

 Zechariah 4:6-7 NLT

‘Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’ ” ‘

“Not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit”. We must call upon the Lord of Heaven’s Armies to move on our behalf. The church has been given authority to speak, to declare, with expectation of seeing big and small miracles. Zerubbabel was promised that the mountain will be made level by the Spirit. When we speak, inspired by Holy Spirit, we set in motion spiritual activity.

Holy Spirit showed me something I had not seen before in the battle between Israel and the Philistines when David conquered Goliath. Here is a snippet from that story.

1 Samuel 17:45-47

‘David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord ’s battle, and he will give you to us!” ‘

We usually focus on David’s five stones and sling and his well-honed skill with the sling. However, this was not a battle in the natural world. Just as Zechariah prophesied enabling Zerubbabel to complete the temple, not by might or strength, David was Holy Spirit inspired to make a prophetic declaration regarding the demise of Goliath and the Philistines. David’s skill was not the deciding factor, but the Holy Spirit inspired a declaration he made that set-in motion David’s demonstration of great boldness.

Holy Spirit showed me something in Ezekiel that I believe is a timely encouragement. Holy Spirit took me to chapter 37 and the story of the bones brought to life.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

” The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” “O Sovereign Lord ,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.” Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord ! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord .’’  ‘So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’” So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord . I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord , have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’”

Holy Spirit said this is the state of too much of my Ekklesia today. The church is dried bones, separated without the necessities to bring the bones together. We are called to action, not by our own power or the politics of today. We are called to be inspired and move according to Holy Spirit. Today the prophets are speaking of a coming revival in America but that must start within the Ekklesia first. When the church moves in unity, led by the Holy Spirit, things will happen. Miraculous things will happen. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!” This is focused on individuals, not groups or denominations, but the global church. God will put the flesh and muscles and cover with skin. He will shape us into His Bride, the Ekklesia. We are to declare His word to bring life to His Body, the Church and it will happen. Holy Spirit showed something else regarding the assembling of believers into a cohesive effective entity in Ezekiel 37.

Ezekiel 37:15-23

‘Again a message came to me from the Lord : “Son of man, take a piece of wood and carve on it these words: ‘This represents Judah and its allied tribes.’ Then take another piece and carve these words on it: ‘This represents Ephraim and the northern tribes of Israel.’ Now hold them together in your hand as if they were one piece of wood. When your people ask you what your actions mean, say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will take Ephraim and the northern tribes and join them to Judah. I will make them one piece of wood in my hand.’ “Then hold out the pieces of wood you have inscribed, so the people can see them. And give them this message from the Sovereign Lord : I will gather the people of Israel from among the nations. I will bring them home to their own land from the places where they have been scattered. I will unify them into one nation on the mountains of Israel. One king will rule them all; no longer will they be divided into two nations or into two kingdoms. They will never again pollute themselves with their idols and vile images and rebellion, for I will save them from their sinful apostasy. I will cleanse them. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. ‘

For a period of time there were two countries, Israel and Judah, two groups of the original tribes. Holy Spirit prophesied through Ezekiel that they would become one kingdom, one people. Just as God did this for the Jewish nation so God wants to do it for His ekklesia, His church, His Bride.

What I was shown is twofold. There is the coming alive of the Ekklesia, the individuals through an awakening of God’s presence. These people are also divided into various groupings (denominations and other structures). There is also the coming together of these various groups. This not a structural amalgamation but a kingdom consolidation where the two commandments given by Jesus are the guiding lights. It is essential that we, the Ekklesia, be in unity. This is not by might or strength but by the Holy Spirit. He will set in place the desire and implementation. It is not about a meeting place, as the Kingdom of God is Christ within us. It is about each of us recognizing that God does have a Kingdom. Jesus spoke about it often. That Kingdom is not defined by political or geographical boundaries. It is a spiritual kingdom where the King, Jesus, has authority.

I believe God is wanting to bring revival to our country, but we are the arms and legs on the ground. As Ezekiel was told to prophesy three times so must we. First, to assemble the bones, to set them in order with all the connecting tissues. Second, to breathe life into the assembled body. Thirdly, to assemble the fragmented groups of the bodies into a cohesive unit, a Kingdom, that acknowledges Jesus as King. The time has come for us to prophesy the bones together and prophesy the breath of life, into the restored bodies. Revival starts with those who are already Christians and God wants to revive those bones in the Body of Christ, the church, the Ekklesia, and get them connected. Those of us who are believers are asked to pray and prophesy, speak, this into being. That is the first part of Ezekial 37. Secondly, God wants to bring together the various ‘tribes’ in a relational, not governmental, sense. Prayer and declaration is required here also, of course. Both actions will require miraculous assistance. God is ready. Is the Church?

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Revenge?

In two earlier blogs we explored some of the verses in the Bible that help us with understanding civility. Revenge comes under the civility umbrella but is important enough to address separately.

Revenge begins at the beginning

In this blog we are going to explore what scripture says about revenge. God has some clear commands regarding revenge. Those commands call us to walk in faith believing in His desire and ability to act on our behalf. Revenge has brought great tragedy and disasters to humanity since the beginning of our history. God evicted Lucifer from heaven. Lucifer took revenge against God’s creation by deceiving Eve and Adam.

Genesis 3:1-7 (CSB)

“Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. “No! You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. “

The result for human behavior was disastrous. Adam and Eve had a safe place, a fantastic haven. Like Satan/Lucifer, they lost their luxurious environment. The door to evil was opened. Another act of revenge quickly follows.

Revenge again

Genesis 4:1-8 (CSB)

‘The man was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I have had a male child with the Lord ’s help.” She also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of flocks, but Cain worked the ground. And Abel also presented an offering — some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord, but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”

God found Abel’s offering to be acceptable but not Cain’s. What happens next has been repeated far too often since then. Cain ‘blows his stack’. God tries to help Cain, admonishing Cain to cool down and not allow his emotions to cause him to sin. Cain is told he must decide to rule over his emotions or sin will rule over him. Cain ignores the advice. Cain lures Abel to a field and kills him. When our emotions rule us, they can deceive us resulting in bad decisions. We don’t know the population at this moment in history. From Scripture we only know about a small circle. There is God, and everyone we know about was in communication with Him. We also know that God’s authority was established with all the known people in existence. Cain obviously was not thinking clearly. God had given him advice. Cain kills Abel. Does he think God would not know or not care? In another aspect of the situation, Cain is mad at God, but he takes his revenge on Abel. We have another characteristic of revenge. It is sometimes taken against a ‘third party’. In this case Abel had found favor with God, who was untouchable, so Cain took his revenge on Abel.

Misdirected Revenge in recent events

Revenge does not always result in physical harm. Revenge can be taken by damaging property or by verbal abuse. This can be against innocent ‘third parties’. Examples from recent events in our society would be rioters mad because someone was shot by a policeman taking revenge against business owners by looting and/or burning their stores. Also, demonstrators hurling verbal abuse on policemen who attempting to maintain order.

Recently in Buffalo, NY, a man wanted to take revenge on people of color, specifically Blacks, whom he claimed are trying to replace White people. This man believed a lie. Too often revenge is misplaced or based on a misunderstood situation. In this situation, the wrong demographic was chosen because the one demographic that could be charged with replacing Whites is Hispanics. However, if you dig into changing demographics a little, you will find that there are multiple factors affecting a change in demographics. Between now and 2060, for example, the forecast is that Hispanics will grow to be the largest population group. Whites will diminish as a percentage of population, but not shrink in size, while Blacks will be the same, percentagewise or up a point or so, remaining the third largest group. However, if Whites and Blacks want to look for cause and effect, they need only look at themselves. For a culture to maintain its existence, the number of children that are born must exceed the number of people dying. Long before Covid-19, some groups of people’s replacement rate fell below the number of deaths. The magic number is 2.1 births per woman to maintain constant population. Whites in the USA are around 1.6. Blacks are also below the replacement rate as well as Hispanics, but both are higher than Whites. More could be said on the why’s and results, but we just wanted to point out that tragic revenge was horribly misguided. The more recent Uvalde, TX tragedy is another apparent revenge carried out on innocent third parties. While we don’t have sufficient information to say this as fact, we are confident that the children had not done anything to offend the shooter. The shooter was in emotional pain and wanted to avenge his pain on someone.

Is revenge compatible with Jesus’s Two Commandments?

Revenge is always misguided as Scripture tells us. In the Old Testament revenge is mentioned as justified sometimes. However, when we transitioned into New Testament times, we have both Jesus and the writers of the New Testament telling us that revenge belongs to God and the commandment to us is to love and forgive everyone. It is how we are to be known. No escape clauses. Let’s look at some verses.

Mark 12:29-31 TPT

Jesus answered him, “The most important of all the commandments is this: ‘The Lord Yahweh, our God, is one!’ You are to love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with a passionate heart, from the depths of your soul, with your every thought, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.’ You will never find a greater commandment than these.”

The two commandments given, if taken to heart, would resolve all human misery. Can we follow the second commandment and seek revenge on a person? This was an earthshaking statement to the Jewish population of that time. Jesus said, “Love God.” “Love your neighbor.” In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus defined ‘neighbor’ with a Samaritan as the one who understood the true meaning of love your neighbor. Choosing the Samaritan as the main protagonist is significant since Jews were not supposed to socialize with them.

Apostle Paul says who can take revenge

The Apostle Paul comments in multiple letters regarding demonstrating love vs revenge.

Romans 12:17-19 CSB

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes

Romans 12:17 TPT

Never hold a grudge or try to get even, but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others.

Romans 12:19 TPT

Beloved, don’t be obsessed with taking revenge, but leave that to God’s righteous justice. For the Scriptures say: “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay,” says the Lord.

Ephesians 4: 26 TPT

But don’t let the passion of your emotions lead you to sin! Don’t let anger control you or be fuel for revenge, not for even a day.

Ephesians 4:31-32 TPT

Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults.

But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love.

1 Thessalonians 5:15

Resist revenge, and make sure that no one pays back evil in place of evil but always pursue doing what is beautiful to one another and to all the unbelievers.

Hebrews 10:30 TPT

For we know him who said, “I have the right to take revenge and pay them back for their evil!” And also, “The Lord God will judge his own people!”

Old Testament on revenge

Proverbs 20:22 TPT

Don’t ever say, “I’m going to get even with them if it’s the last thing I do!” Wrap God’s grace around your heart and he will be the one to vindicate you.

Proverbs 24:29 TPT

Don’t ever spitefully say, “I’ll get even with him! I’ll do to him what he did to me!

Leviticus 19:18 CSB

Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

Deuteronomy 32:35 NIV

It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”

Psalms 37:8 TPT

Stay away from anger and revenge. Keep envy far from you, for it only leads you into lies.

Our nature, whenever we feel offended or abused, is to do as Solomon tells us not to do in Proverbs 20:22 and 24:29. However, the overriding theme of Scripture is love. Yet, we hear hate and death daily. The commands of Scripture are isolated from the public dialog. They should be pervasive and were intended to be the foundation of our lives and our societies. It is incumbent upon our leaders in every aspect of our culture to speak this message of love and to challenge the message of hate. There are problems between racial groups and there are problems between economic classes. There are problems between political parties regarding how these problems should be resolved. Hate prompts acts of abuse or violence which can result in revenge. However, it is love that wins ultimately.

The MLK,Jr Challenge

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr understood this principle of life. He challenged Blacks to be careful regarding their actions to seek equal recognition. This is what he said in his I Have a Dream speech at a march on Washington, DC in 1963.

“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again, and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

That is a challenge to all of us regardless of the issues. A call to rise above the emotions that would propel us to hate and conflict.

Politics and Revenge

We should challenge our leaders to rise above petty politics and work together, showing respect for all. There is no escape clause in God’s commandments for political gamesmanship. Hate speech and political revenge are counter to what should be our goal of national unity. Political revenge works against unity and achieving consensus on the resolution of issues affecting the citizens of any country. Biblically, we see that God created government. God did not create politics and political parties. Government serves the people of the country. Political parties serve their view of what government should do. As such they provide a flawed foundation for the operation of government. The United States of America’s government is structured according to the US Constitution. Elected representatives are sworn in with an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution. By forming political parties, they seem to work against that goal, especially when they use revenge as part of party operations.

Our political parties are flagrant abusers of revenge, both intra-party and inter-party. At a time when the country needs our elected representatives to come together and find consensus, we see a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. According to Pew Research, 34% of the population are Independents with 33% Democrats and 29% Republicans. Since, the largest party, Independents, does not field candidates Independents will split with some supporting Democrats and some supporting Republicans. Pew Research has the split netting Democrats at 49% and Republicans at 44%. Statistically, this is close to even. Neither party has a mandate. These percentages have not varied significantly for the last 30 years.

We find revenge operating in a political party as an intimidation tactic to keep party members in-line. This is an unhealthy practice and does not aid the cause of unity. Even when there is agreement on 80-90% of a party’s dogma, revenge is used to persuade a representative to vote 100% according to party leadership. This has even gone as far as to excommunicate a party member because they could not, in good conscience, vote on one issue as instructed by the leadership. It has carried over to recruiting opposition and funding for candidates to oppose those who were not obedient. All this works against inclusion and unity towards common goals. It is also a poor example to our citizens.

Whether in a person-to-person relationship or on a national level or between countries, revenge as a chosen behavior is wrong. The reason it is wrong is quite simple. Psalms 24 tells us:

Psalms 24:1 TPT

Yahweh claims the world as his. Everything and everyone belong to him!

God knows what is best for us. He knows that revenge results in unhealthy behavior stirring up hate which is the opposite of His love and plan for humanity. The blessings of God follow obedience to His commands. Failure to live by His commands brings undesired consequences on us individually and in our corporate life as a nation. We ask how can we make things better? God has answered the question already in His Word. We must choose to live in civility with each other and without revenge. He will respond if we turn to Him.

CSB – Christian Standard Bible, © 2017 Holman Bible Publishers

TPT – The Passion Translation® is a registered trademark of Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Copyright © 2020 Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc.

© 2022 Colin F. Burch

Is Civility important? Part 2

In the affairs of human beings a certain decorum is needed to establish and preserve peace. The Bible gives great wisdom. In my previous blog, ‘How Should We Treat Each Other‘, we presented a definition of ‘civility’ written by the creators of http://www.instituteforCivility.org. We also looked at numerous verses from the Book of Proverbs that are compatible with that definition. The Book of Proverbs was written primarily by King Solomon, who when asked by God what he wanted – “riches or wisdom?”, chose wisdom. God gave him both wisdom and riches. The definition of Civility is repeated here, both the short and long versions.

Civility – concise definition

“Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

TOMAS SPATH AND CASSANDRA DAHNKE, FOUNDERS, INSTITUTE FOR CIVILITY IN GOVERNMENT

Civility – expanded definition

Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored. And civility begins with us. Instituteforcivility.org

TOMAS SPATH AND CASSANDRA DAHNKE, FOUNDERS, INSTITUTE FOR CIVILITY IN GOVERNMENT

In this blog, we look at New Testament verses that further help to define civility. In the New Testament we have four books known as the Gospels which tell the story of God’s son, Jesus, from birth until his death on the cross and his resurrection. With regard to the character of God, Jesus says of himself that he, Jesus, modeled God in his humanity. Jesus set the God-given standard of behavior by his perfect representation of God.

John 14:9 TPT

Jesus replied, “Philip, I’ve been with you all this time and you still don’t know who I am? How could you ask me to show you the Father, for anyone who has looked at me has seen the Father.

We can, therefore, look at Jesus in the Gospels for examples of how humans should relate to each other. The New Testament also contains several letters written primarily by the Apostle Paul, but also Apostles Peter, James and John who were with Jesus during his brief ministry on earth. While Paul did not walk with Jesus, Paul was given a divine revelation of Jesus that resulted in his transformation from a persecutor of Christians to an Apostle and writer. All of these writers bare witness of God and His plan for humanity. They also tell us what happens if we fail to attain God’s expectation for behavior and do not repent. Repent means to make a determination to change our behavior, receive God’s forgiveness and solicit God’s Grace in making that change.

Romans 3:23-24 TPT

for we all have sinned and are in need of the glory of God. Yet through his powerful declaration of acquittal, God freely gives away his righteousness. His gift of love and favor now cascades over us, all because Jesus, the Anointed One, has liberated us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin!

God will give us the Grace to change if we choose to follow Him. While ‘civility’ is not a Biblical term, the scriptures instruct us to behave in a manner that is compatible with the above definition of civility.

It is important we understand that behaving in a Biblical manner, being civil in our discourse, does not negate the need for Christians to speak up regarding actions of government that are contrary to the instruction given us in the Bible. Our discourse must be compatible with Biblical instruction to achieve beneficial results. When our behavior is compatible with Biblical instruction we can expect that it will ultimately bring positive fruit.

Jesus’s Instruction

Israel received the 10 Commandments from God through Moses. These commandments and all the law that was given by Moses were still in effect at the time of Jesus. Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a Jew who abided by Jewish law. He mentioned the First Commandment often. The 10 Commandments can be split into two parts. The first four specify important ways that God is to be loved and honored by our actions. The last six are all related to how we relate to our neighbors and how we regard ourselves. Jesus reduced the list to two commandments which he declared expressed the whole law and prophets. These two scriptures, in the Gospels written by Mark and Matthew, declare the importance of these two commandments.

Mark 12:29-31 TPT

Jesus answered him, “The most important of all the commandments is this: ‘The Lord Yahweh, our God, is one!’ You are to love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with a passionate heart, from the depths of your soul, with your every thought, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.’ You will never find a greater commandment than these.”

Matthew 22:37-40 TPT

Jesus answered him, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’ And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’ This is the great and supreme commandment. Contained within these commandments to love you will find all the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus declares the same passion as Moses did so many years before regarding the strength of and the all-encompassing love we are to have for God, the Father. Jesus adds to this a second with equal importance, love your neighbor. Mark quotes Jesus ” You will never find a greater commandment than these”. Matthew wrote the quote a little differently, seemingly adding greater emphasis – “Contained within these commandments to love you will find all the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.

Teachings of the Apostles

Civility is doing exactly what Jesus commanded as a second, but equal in importance commandment. Jesus gave us a command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The Apostle Paul defined love for us in his poetic and inspired passage in 1 Corinthians 13:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 TPT

Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else . Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten.

This is a powerful statement regarding how we should behave. So much is said in so few words. As I think of the words Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, I am drawn to the contrast with our world today, especially the political segment. Some seem to need to elevate themselves by dispensing shame and disrespect but that is not love. Some are easily irritated and take offense quickly. ‘Some’, in reality, is probably all of us at one time or another. If we take Jesus’s 2nd commandment as what it is, a commandment, and, we also take Paul’s inspired definition of ‘love’ as God speaking to us, then we all probably have some work to do. Where do we start? First, we agree with the Word – we receive the instructions as from God to us personally. Second, we repent for missing the mark which is not a one-time act for most of us. Thirdly, we ask for God’s help, his grace to help us match our behavior to the word. Fourthly, repeat. We are all probably familiar with the importance of “timed space repetition” in the world of learning. We used that when we learned math tables or a foreign language. The same process is necessary for aligning ourselves with God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 1:10 TPT

I urge you, my brothers and sisters, for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree to live in unity with one another and put to rest any division that attempts to tear you apart. Be restored as one united body living in perfect harmony. Form a consistent choreography among yourselves, having a common perspective with shared values.

1 Corinthians 1:11-13 TPT

My dear brothers and sisters, I have a serious concern I need to bring up with you, for I have been informed by those of Chloe’s house church that you have been destructively arguing among yourselves. And I need to bring this up because each of you is claiming loyalty to different preachers. Some are saying, “I am a disciple of Paul,” or, “I follow Apollos,” or, “I am a disciple of Peter the Rock,” and some, “I belong only to Christ.” But let me ask you , is Christ divided up into groups? Did I die on the cross for you? At your baptism did you pledge yourselves to follow Paul?

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, he was addressing disunity within their church. One issue that provoked disunity was that sects had developed regarding allegiance to a particular apostle. Paul points out that neither he nor the others died for them, but Jesus did die for them and the only allegiance should be to Him. Paul further admonishes them that they needed to be unified about their primary mission which is to spread the good news of Jesus to their community.

James 4:11 TPT

Dear friends, as part of God’s family, never speak against another family member, for when you slander a brother or sister you violate God’s law of love. And your duty is not to make yourself a judge of the law of love by saying that it doesn’t apply to you, but your duty is to obey it !

James, perhaps in stronger words, admonishes the church to abide by the ‘law of love’, especially regarding members of the family of God, the church. It is our duty to live by the ‘law of love’.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians also supports the ‘law of love’.

Galatians 5:14 TPT

For all the law can be summarized in one grand statement: “Demonstrate love to your neighbor, even as you care for and love yourself.”

In the same chapter Paul further dissects the aspects of human behavior with an itemized list of both good and bad behavior.

Galatians 5:19-21 TPT

The behavior of the self-life is obvious: Sexual immorality, lustful thoughts, pornography, chasing after things instead of God, manipulating others, hatred of those who get in your way, senseless arguments, resentment when others are favored, temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions, being envious of the blessings of others, murder, uncontrolled addictions, wild parties, and all other similar behavior.

Haven’t I already warned you that those who use their “freedom” for these things will not inherit the kingdom realm of God.

Paul doesn’t leave us stuck in the negatives. He gives us an itemized list of the attributes of how we appear as we walk in Holy Spirit defined Love.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart , and strength of spirit . Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless. But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit. Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.

All the above leads to how the collective group of Christians, the Church as the Body of Christ, should reflect the teachings of God as seen in Jesus and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Civility is behaving as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13. As humans created by God with certain inherent characteristics, we need to recognize that love is the foremost. Love defines God’s relationship to us and he has also inspired the Biblical commands to us to also manifest that same love towards others. There is a spiritual truth. “What you sow, is what you reap.” If we sow love we will reap love. If we sow hate, we will reap hate. God’s blessings follow love. Hate brings discord, disharmony, hurt, injury, and many ills. Love may not always bring love in response but love eventually conquers all. Civility is the manifestation of love and is much needed in our culture and politics. Maintaining civility should take precedence over all else in the affairs of our society. Can you make it a priority?

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 TPT

For now, we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. So, above all else, let love be the beautiful prize for which you run.

Ephesians 4: 29 TPT

And never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to help them.

This is a strong admonition. Not only should we consider our speech in regarding the use of ugly and/or hateful words, but we should go beyond that and make our words encouraging gifts to those who will hear. In the last blog, we saw multiple admonitions in Proverbs regarding the power of speech.

Colossians 4:4-6 TPT

Walk in the wisdom of God as you live before the unbelievers, and make it your duty to make him known. Let every word you speak be drenched with grace and tempered with truth and clarity. For then you will be prepared to give a respectful answer to anyone who asks about your faith.

Our speech, a primary indicator of our faith, can have great impact on those who are not believers in the salvation available via Jesus Christ. Mahatma Ghandi, a Hindu, recognized the unrealized potential power the gospel could have when Christians actually taught and lived the teachings of Jesus. Ghandi was instrumental in India gaining freedom from the colonial rule of United Kingdom. His primary tools were peaceful demonstrations and fasting.

If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.

Colossians 3:8 CSB

But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.

Again, Paul urges constraint in speech. We have seen the videos, where there is a line of policemen attempting to control demonstrations while being savagely attacked by the demonstrators. The police are required to maintain their cool. Without any moral constraint we would be inclined to respond contrary to this guidance to the Colossians. Our moral constraint is easier when we determine our purpose is to demonstrate the love of God in all situations. It is our higher call.

2 Timothy 2:23-25 CSB

But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, because you know that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.

The Apostle Paul mentored Timothy who also became a leader in the church. This scripture points out that we need to be conscious of our focus. Are we more interested in ‘proving ourselves right’ or demonstrating the love of God? Can we make the second phrase in the above quote our ‘modus operandi’? It is not always easy, the battle between our ego and the will of God, but God’s grace is available to enable us. Can we commit to walk in love?

Summary

Jesus and the Apostles, all admonish us to walk in civility. Not only are we admonished to avoid arguments and keep our speech ‘clean’, but also to make our words to be gifts of grace sharing the love of God. In today’s world, with social media readily available for use at anytime, we have lots of opportunity to practice our responses to other’s comments. Also, to practice encouragement in our comments. It is unfortunate that social media, in general, does not raise the level of civility in our society. If we had a balance scale displaying the relative ‘weight’ of civil vs uncivil speech, it would be tilted heavily towards uncivil. Perhaps we can help improve this by our positive contributions. We can demonstrate that we can express our opinions about the issues of our time without degrading someone else in the process. Let your words be the lever in the jack that is lifting the civil side of the balance scale. We will all be better for it.

Next blog as we continue exploring Biblical civility

One of the biggest enemies to the ‘law of love’ is revenge. In some cultures revenge is considered acceptable and admired. Revenge is too often a part of our political world Unfortunately, revenge leads to revenge in perpetual motion. It can span generations, even. It can have unintended consequences. Revenge is on the agenda for my next blog. God has some very clear instructions regarding revenge in the Bible.

CSB – Christian Standard Bible, © 2017 Holman Bible Publishers

TPT – The Passion Translation® is a registered trademark of Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Copyright © 2020 Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc.

© 2022 Colin F. Burch III

Is Civility important? Part 1

This blog and following blogs are presented in the belief that God has given us some commandments that are of great importance. In fact, they are to be foundational for our daily living. They are of utmost importance to us because there are blessings that we will never see if we ignore these commandments. It is important that we walk in the Truth of the Bible. There are truths in the Bible where God instructs us in what our behavior should be towards Him. There are other truths where God instructs us on how we should relate to each other. In fact, both these truths are voiced as commandments. Whether in the affairs of our home life, our community life, our involvement in politics and government or the Body of Christ, these commandments and related scriptures should be our guide. There is a word that encompasses a lot, if not all, of our relational behavior. That word is ‘civility’.

The topic of civility has been rattling around in my being for a long time. It dates to the 2016 campaign for my most vivid memories of derogatory and demeaning comments. However, it has been an issue for all the time humans have lived on earth. Conflict started with Cain and Abel and, unfortunately, has continued since then. It can be addressed from many perspectives, but my interest is focused on the dialog by candidates during political campaigns and, also, the dialog between people debating pro’s and cons of various issues. Within either group a question must be asked: how can we expect to make progress if we do not respect each other? Have we downgraded our culture when winning or just feeling superior overrides how we treat people?

I confess that I can get drawn into the fray when someone expresses an opinion contrary to my own. However, in my Biblical studies God has shown me quite clearly that we are called to a higher level of human interaction. He has also shown me that, while my salvation via Jesus’s sacrifice on a cross is secure and I have a place in His Kingdom, the blessings of that citizenship have some requirements regarding my behavior. These requirements affect my relationship with Him and my relationships with other people. From God’s perspective we are all His children and, as such, we should all treat each other accordingly. Scripture tells us we are to Love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. Regarding human interactions we are to view ourselves as God’s representatives to the world. This role is part of what I call ‘The Bigger Picture’. The Bigger Picture says I subjugate all issues to the ‘love your neighbor’ commandment. In other words, I do not allow any disagreement, as far as it is within my power, to disrupt a loving relationship with my neighbors. As I see the Scripture, we have no escape clause, ‘no’ doesn’t apply in any scenario. Our Bigger Picture role says treat each other with respect and love regardless of all the categories that try to divide us. Demonstrating God’s Love is not agreeing with or validating any unscriptural behavior. It merely recognizes that we are all human beings traveling on the same globe. It also humbles us, regarding showing love where behavior, dress or group affiliation, including non-Christians or Christians with different doctrines, appears to be contrary to our understanding Biblical standards. We are called to grant the same Grace that God has granted us.

There is a word that defines this behavior, civility. Its roots trace back via Middle English, Middle French and Latin to civilitat, courtesy. However, there is much more involved in this word ‘civility’. There is an organization that has advocated for civility in government for many years, The Institute for Civility in Government. The founders of this organization have a definition which puts a fuller scope on civility.

Definition of Civility

“Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.” Tomas Spath and Cassandra Dahnke, Founders, Institute for Civility in Government

And this expanded description from the same organization gives a fuller context to the meaning of civility.

“Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.

And civility begins with us.”

Biblical Guidance

God never intended for his creation to be at war with each other, whether individuals or people groups. God did give his creation freedom of choice and there lies the problem. Some choose to violate the basic principle of civility as defined above. Let’s explore what the Bible says regarding civility. You won’t see the word ‘civility’ in scripture but you will see the definition in many forms.

The Old Testament, especially in Proverbs, has a lot to say about what we say or do. In the New Testament Jesus gave us a commandment to love one another. In multiple examples of how to demonstrate that love Jesus told us stories which we know as Parables. The Apostle Paul poetically defined love in 1 Corinthians 13, challenging our core behavior. Apostles Peter and John also give us tips on our behavior towards others. The scriptures do more than just present interesting commentary on how we should relate to each other. They give us instruction from God the Father who through the Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures to be written.

Choices

Before we explore what the scriptures say and their importance, we recognize that we have this dichotomy. We are set free by God to do whatever we want. His love has no constraints. We do have choices and our choices are decisive. Where they line up with Scripture, blessings are a result. Where they don’t, there is usually pain and difficulty. Salvation is a free gift which comes by acknowledging that Jesus died for us in the ultimate demonstration of love. He took our guilt and shame on His body on the cross. When we accept His sacrifice we can also join in His resurrection with the promise of living eternal life now and forever. Sin is doing something contrary to God’s instructions in the Bible. God, because of Jesus sacrifice, will forgive us if acknowledge that we made a mistake and we make a heart-level decision to change our behavior. God’s Grace enables us change our ways and, also, to not repeat the it. However, that does not mean we are free from the consequences of our actions. Regarding demonstrating love vs hate, forgiveness for perceived offenses and other relational issues is a choice. How we decide, and scripture gives us a lot of help, determines the results. We can bring blessings or curses into a situation. Paul gave this instruction to his mentee, Timothy, regarding Scripture.

2 Timothy 3:16 TPT

God has transmitted his very substance into every Scripture, for it is God-breathed. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Galatia warned them regarding their behavior. I have highlighted phrases related specifically to our discussion.

Galatians 5:19-21 TPT

The behavior of the self-life is obvious: Sexual immorality, lustful thoughts, pornography, chasing after things instead of God, manipulating others, hatred of those who get in your way, senseless arguments, resentment when others are favored, temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions, being envious of the blessings of others, murder, uncontrolled addictions, wild parties, and all other similar behavior. Haven’t I already warned you that those who use their “freedom” for these things will not inherit the kingdom realm of God.

Jesus spoke in regard to demeaning and derogatory comments towards others.

Matt 5:22 CSB

And whoever demeans and insults a fellow believer is answerable to the congregation. And whoever calls down curses upon a fellow believer is in danger of being sent to a fiery hell.

And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

While some may focus on the ‘fellow believer’ to say the above scripture applies to Christians, I think the next scripture clearly expands the group we are considering. It should be noted that Samaritan’s were half-Jewish, half-Gentile, the result of intermarriage between the groups during the several times of Israel’s forced emigration into Gentile lands.

Luke 10:25-33 CSB

Then an expert in the law stood up to test him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

“You’ve answered correctly,” he told him. “Do this and you will live.”

 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?

Jesus took up the question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day as he was leaving he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’

“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

Regarding Civility in Proverbs

There are many ‘civility’ related instructions in the Book of The Proverbs of Solomon, the wisest man ever known.

Proverbs 3:34 TPT

If you walk with the mockers you will learn to mock, but God’s grace and favor flow to the meek. 

Mocking is contagious and unfortunate. It fails the definition of civility as it basically is demeaning and disparaging. It is someone thinking that they are raising themselves up as better by putting someone down as less. It may seem funny to the mocker but is seldom seen that way by the person being mocked.

Proverbs 4:24 CSB

Avoid dishonest speech and pretentious words. Be free from using perverse words no matter what!

Pretentious can mean false or the appearance of more than actual reality. Perverse is contrary, purposely contentious.

Proverbs 12:16 CSB

A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible.

A fool shows up broadcasting their displeasure without being willing to enter a discussion. The second phrase is what I call the kingly position. When you are King you can ignore insults as you are the boss. You can take the higher road. The scripture says we are kings and priests, and more is expected of us. We are called to bring healing with our words and demeanor.

Proverbs 12:18 CSB

There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

There is great power in the words we say. We can bring discord and hatred, or we can bring healing. We choose to raise or lower the bar on behavior.

Proverbs 13:3 TPT

Guard your words and you’ll guard your life, but if you don’t control your tongue, it will ruin everything.

Many a person has been tripped up by an unbridled tongue. We have seen politicians at all levels lose stature by their choice of words. Same situation with newscasters. Freedom of Speech is not freedom to malign or degrade. Whether in family or a public forum like a school board meeting, we set the level of our culture by our behavior.

Proverbs 14:3 TPT

The words of a proud fool will all come back to haunt him. But the words of the wise will become a shield of protection around them.

The fool thinks he knows something. He does what my father described as “engaging mouth before putting brain in gear”. The fool thinks more is better, in regard to words spoken. The wise measures his words, but makes them meaningful, building a fort around himself.

Proverbs 14:15 TPT

A gullible person will believe anything, but a sensible person will confirm the facts.

This proverb is wisdom for all of us who use social media. I was caught many times in the early internet days when we would receive lots of unsolicited emails on a wide variety of subjects. I ignorantly passed on some that contained misinformation. Then I would get an email in response by someone who actually did the factcheck explaining the lies or misstatements. I have learned to factcheck everything. Today, on social media, especially the various new platforms that groups have migrated to after some people were excommunicated from the more popular sites, there is a lot of misinformation and lies. Doing intelligence on what is received is a daily chore. Of course, some sites have an abundance of people who get fired up when their preconceived notions are proved wrong. I have learned to let those live in their world. Today, we have internet access and a large number of trusted websites we can use to validate information received. There will always be some that choose to remain gullible vs sensible. The blessing follows wisdom.

Proverbs 14:25 TPT

Speak the truth and you’ll save souls, but in the spreading of lies treachery thrives.

Our credibility will determine our reception. Truth matters and lies are hard to overcome, they can breed dissension and separation. Our message must stay true if we are going live Biblically in today’s world.

Proverbs 22:2 CSB

Rich and poor have this in common, the Lord makes them all.

Humility says we recognize all people, regardless of any class or demographic differences as equal in the Eyes of God. As we are all God’s children and He has all our photos in His wallet and on his refrigerator, we should not think we are more important than anyone else. Our varying levels of responsibility and position does not change our relational value. This proverb is also helpful for how we respond to those who serve us.

Proverbs 25:15 TPT

Use patience and kindness when you want to persuade leaders and watch them change their minds right in front of you. For your gentle wisdom will quell the strongest resistance.

The country, the world, would be so much more peaceful if we behaved as this proverb instructs us. When we act according to God’s wisdom, we can expect God’s blessing on our petitions. All the boisterous school board meetings where little is accomplished could end with more desirable results with prayerful preparation based on God’s wisdom. This proverb’s appeal is for civility.

Proverbs 29:11 CSB

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person holds it in check.

I have been the fool, on occasion. Many, many years ago, we had been married just a year or two when we moved into our 3rd apartment as we attempted to avoid terrible traffic by getting closer to work. One day the maintenance crew had entered our apartment to repair a duct that was partially blocked. The worker had used an adhesive, and some had dripped on our furniture. I was quite upset and marched over to the rental office and boisterously told the rental manager what I thought about this assault on our property. She said she would get it fixed and I left. By the time I got back to our apartment, the rental manager had called my wife asking that I not be allowed report problems to her office in the future. Besides this proverb, my behavior also failed a few of the proverbs included above. By the grace of God, my behavior has changed dramatically from those days. Some might say this proverb is OK but add a phrase on the end “and gets even.” God has covered that option with Deuteronomy 32:35 which the Apostle Paul, quoted in Romans 12:19 – “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Be civil and let God work it out.

Proverbs Challenge

There are more proverbs that speak to civility, so I encourage doing the Proverbs Challenge. Read the chapter for the day in the Book of Proverbs. God must have intended for us to access His wisdom often as He inspired 31 chapters which matches or exceeds the maximum days of a month in our calendar. While I don’t get to the daily reading every day over the period of months, I read all chapters switching between translations each month.

Does being civil imply being wimpish?

Being civil does not mean being wimpish in voicing our opinions. However, Proverbs does give great guidance for how to frame that expression. Think how much better our individual and group relations would be if civility reigned. One way I think, regarding the relational aspect is, do I reflect “I see you.” Do I see the other person or group of persons as part of God’s creation, and, as such, worthy of respect.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 TPT

Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion. And pray for every political leader and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts.

It is appropriate to speak up regarding injustice and prejudice. It is appropriate to challenge the education system when it attempts to usurp parental responsibility or disregards strongly held beliefs. How we do that is very important. What we do first is also important, probably the most important thing we can do. God changes the hearts of the kings, but he wants us to ask. As Paul instructed Timothy, we need to pray for all those in authority in our governmental systems. When we are united in prayer, we will see positive results. Let’s do it God’s way. In my next blog we will look at New Testament guidance with respect to civility. Please share this post.

CSB – Christian Standard Bible, © 2017 Holman Bible Publishers

TPT – The Passion Translation® is a registered trademark of Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Copyright © 2020 Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc.

© 2022 Colin F. Burch III

Truth

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

“For if you embrace the truth, it will release true freedom into your lives.” John 8:32 TPT

Is truth subjective?

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” In other words we can say that beauty is subjective. Whether what is being observed is a work of art or an actress or a sports car or a scenic view, the beauty value is determined by the observer, the beholder. Truth is different. Truth is an absolute. Truth is not relative. Does that mean we all agree that a particular conclusion is true? No, but our goal should be to find the truth, to eventually reach an agreement on the truth.

Truth must be sought

How do we determine the truth about something? We investigate until we find the raw truth. Truth can be elusive. If you have watch TV mysteries you will often see that the path to the truth about a crime can vary considerably. The first conclusion of who committed a crime, after further investigation, fails to be true. Sometimes the truth is hidden because of filters, preconceived assumptions, that hide the truth. Sometimes it appears that one of several people could, independently, have been the committer of the crime. It is only after thorough investigation does the investigator eventually narrow the list to the perpetrator of the crime.

From the scenario above, we can see that the truth about something is not always immediately evident. My observation is that we have become a society of ‘rush to judgement’. Before we have allowed sufficient investigation to be done and a final report issued, a presumption is made, latched onto by the media, and propagated as if it is the ‘truth’. Once the initial ‘rush to judgement’ is out in the community, it is hard to get to the truth. Also, once truth is found, there are some that will never accept it. There is a Biblical principle given in the Gospel of John 8:32 which I am showing from The Passion Translation.

John 8:32 (TPT)

For if you embrace the truth, it will release true freedom into your lives.

Filters distort our view, hide truth

When we can embrace the truth, there is a freedom that comes with that embrace. Often though we will have some filters distorting the truth. We have preconceive notions that hide the reality of the truth. We must recognize our filters and be willing to remove them or we will not find truth.

God gives an advantage

God gives us an advantage when seeking the truth, though, given our human frailty it can still be difficult to grasp. The pure truth is found only in Jesus Christ. As he states in John 14:6, Jesus is the truth. In 1John 2:20 John tells us that believer’s anointing gives us access to the truth. Jesus tells us in John 10:7 the he speaks eternal truth. We read and listen to many sources in search of the truth but the truth is actually a person, Jesus, who sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth.

John 14:6 (TPT)

Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life.

John 2:20 (CSB)

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

John 10:7 (TPT)

So Jesus went over it again, “I speak to you eternal truth:

Where do we find truth?

How do we draw from this well of truth? The bucket carrying the truth is the Bible. The Bible has two Testaments, which Christians call the Old (OT) and the New (NT). The New Testament covers the life of Jesus and the early Apostles. The Old Testament covers all that went before Jesus. The Old Testament points to Jesus and requires that context to be fully appreciated. As we read and meditate on the Bible, our comprehension of truth will grow. If you have not been much of a Bible reader I encourage you to read starting with the Gospel of John, then Acts of the Apostles, then the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the church in Rome, known as Romans. If you have not read those books in The Passion Translation I have found it to be helpful to my understanding. There are many translations. I find that I use the King James (KJV), New King James (NKJV), The Amplified (AMP), the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and The Passion Translation (TPT) the most lately. The TPT is currently limited to the NT, Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs (BibleGateway.com also has Isaiah).

Online sources

Two websites that contain the Bible in many translations and in many languages, are:

https://www.bible.com/

https://www.biblegateway.com/

BTW, I was gifted a printed TPT NT which I have enjoyed reading. The copy I received has an abundance of footnotes as well as introductions to each book.

Enjoy your pursuit of Truth. God loves you and wants to have a conversation with you.

Nuggets of Gold in the Word #1

The photo shows gold nuggets from a South African mine. Imagine holding so much gold in your hands. Now imagine that each nugget represents an essential truth from the Bible. Each a ‘word’ for us to be discovered by searching and meditating on scripture. God has so much to speak to us that we can be in endless pursuit receiving new insight each day, new revelation of who God is and how much He loves us. God has given me some nuggets which I am going to share in this blog and some future ones that have special meaning to me.

Faith is required

Two scriptures are foundational as we consider the Word of God.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith living within us it would be impossible to please God. For we come to God in faith knowing that he is real and that he rewards the faith of those who passionately seek him.

2 Timothy 3:16 Every Scripture has been inspired by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God.

(The Passion Translation® Copyright © 2017 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc.)

Beginnings

The first words of the Old Testament are: “In the beginning, God…” We don’t know what happened before “In the beginning…”. We just know what happened afterwards. Beginnings are foundational, our starting point. The first ‘beginning’ is the beginning of everything for us. Our whole story starts with this beginning.

In the New Testament, the Gospel of John starts with the second “In the beginning…” It reveals to us the place of Jesus, the Messiah, in the creation story. He was intimately involved, speaking into existence all that exists.

Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning, God...” A profound statement. We don’t know what preceded the creation story but we know God preceded us. First, he created a seemingly never ending universe. We humans have just begun to understand the fullness of what he created in the heavens. They are vast with an unknown number of stars and suns and planets. Stars so large our sun would be like a grain of sand next to very large ball and so far away they are unreachable by us with our current technology. In this great vastness he created a perfect place for us, earth, on a very small part of that immense universe. He gave the first humans complete freedom to run it. God did the ultimate demonstration of love by freeing them to do whatever they wanted. However, Adam and Eve made a bad decision with cataclysmal results. God did not forget us, though. He created us for a love relationship and he wasn’t giving up on us. God had plan for redemption of each of us via His Son, Jesus Christ. All we have to do is accept that Jesus is that redemption. The first ‘in the beginning’ started our story. It is our choice to be part of the continuing saga.

Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. ‘ (Christian Standard Bible) (emphasis added)

John 1:1

Who is the Jesus? For most of us, our first thought regarding Jesus is that he was the baby born in a manger. We think of his time when he walked this earth and his death on the cross. However, there is another part of his life we should also know. He is declared in the Gospel of John as part of the second mention of ‘In the beginning’. Jesus came as a man but he is also a member of the Trinity, the God-Head: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was there in the beginning. Jesus is described as the Living Expression in The Passion Translation. Other translations describe Him as the ‘Word’. Together they give us fuller understanding of the great significance of this opening statement John’s Gospel. Jesus, the Word, is the creative voice that spoke into existence all things. The very one that walked among us as a human being is the same being that created all that we know.

John 1:1-4In the very beginning the Living Expression was already there. And the Living Expression was with God, yet fully God. They were together— face-to-face , in the very beginning. And through his creative inspiration this Living Expression made all things, for nothing has existence apart from him! Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity.’

(The Passion Translation® Copyright © 2017 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc.)

John 1:1-5He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God. In the beginning [before all time] was the Word ( Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]. ‘

(Amplified® Bible Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631)

These two beginnings are worthy of meditation. There are revelations, nuggets of gold, to be found in them. What will you find?

More nuggets for your consideration coming in future blogs.

What does Love enable?

God is Love.

God is Love! The Apostle John has been called the Apostle of Love because he wrote extensively about the Love of God and its importance to us. The phrase ‘God is Love’ is used several times in his first letter. John tells us that if we do not love then we can not know God, because God is Love. God and love are indelibly linked.  That linkage is fundamental to knowing God and experiencing an intimate relationship with Him.

Those who are loved by God, let his love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of him. 1 John 4:7 TPT

The one who doesn’t love has yet to know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8 TPT

In Psalm 145 verse 9 (TPT) the psalmist tells us that God’s love is blended into everything He does.

God, everyone sees your goodness, for your tender love is blended into everything you do.

Let Love pour from each other to each other.

John tells us to let that love continually pour from each other to each other. That love, God’s love, is a powerful attribute that enables our relationship with God and, also, with each other.

We have come into an intimate experience with God’s love, and we trust in the love he has for us. God is love! Those who are living in love are living in God, and God lives through them. 1 John 4:16 TPT

Jesus told us if we would display the love that He has toward us to each other that it would be a sign to the world that we are His true followers.

“So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.” John 13:34-35

God’s love is the gateway to an intimate knowledge of Him. It is, also, a part of everything He does. It is a powerful force when, we, the church allow it to be manifest through us. There is much related to this love that is synonymous with the creator of the universe.

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:

I was praying about this posting and was drawn to Galations 5:22-23. In the usual translations we see a list of the fruits of the Spirit that starts with ‘Love, joy, peace…’. I sense the Lord saying that Love was the superset that encompasses the other mentioned fruits. Joy, Peace, etc all flow out of Love. When I looked up the scripture in The Passion Translation that is how it is presented.

But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:
joy that overflows,
peace that subdues,
patience that endures,
kindness in action,
a life full of virtue,
faith that prevails,
gentleness of heart, and
strength of spirit.
Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.
Gal 5:22-23 TPT

Paul restates his definition of Love in 1 Corinthians 13 which describes God’s nature which our nature becomes by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. In Galatians Paul tells us the fruit of allowing God’s nature to work through us to manifest those attributes.

Looking forward I hope to explore some more of this love that can not be measured. If there is one thing we all need to know, really know, it is that God’s Love for us totally unconditional and big enough to solve any problem. It is God’s provision for man’s success in this world. Accepting by faith that we have these attributes and meditating on them is what Paul commands us in Romans 12:1-2. Love is the driving force.

Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship. Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

God's Love is Beyond Comprehension

i hate nothing about you with red heart light
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Well overdue for this blog in what was to be a series on the love of God.  Now, with the coronavirus attacking us, more than ever we need to know that we are loved by our heavenly Father. 

It is on my heart to somehow write something that proclaims how great the love of God is for all of his creation. What can we say any better than two Apostles, Paul and John, have said?

Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 3:18-19 (TPT)

Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions.

How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!

Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions.

How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love!

How enduring and inclusive it is!

Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!’

This love is more than we can contain. It overflows throughout all our relationships. It should be our motivating factor as we relate to each other.

The Apostle John’s First Letter, chapter 4, verses 7-13 (TPT).

Those who are loved by God, let his love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of him.

The one who doesn’t love has yet to know God, for God is love.

The light of God’s love shined within us when he sent his matchless Son into the world so that we might live through him.

This is love: He loved us long before we loved him. It was his love, not ours. He proved it by sending his Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.

Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life!

No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendor. But if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us.

And he has given us his Spirit within us so that we can have the assurance that he lives in us and that we live in him.

What is the greatest power in the world? What is the power that can not be defeated? It is the power of LOVE that God has entrusted his children to proclaim to the world. How are we to demonstrate this love?

John 13:34-35 “So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.” (TPT)

It is only in this love that we become effective world changers. We have been given the free gift of this love for one purpose. That purpose is to demonstrate to the world how powerful it is. As we live in that unity enabled by the love of God, we contrast clearly with the world around us. When Jesus said in John 13, above, that we should love each other as much as he loves us, is he saying he loves us because we are perfect? No! We do not love one another because they or we are perfect because there would be no love as we are imperfect. Nor do we love each other because we agree on everything. Doctrine, politics, race, religion, etc. should not define the limits of our love.  Especially, at a time like this, we should be the light shining on the hill that shines steady continually through the storm.

John 17:23 You live fully in me and now I live fully in them so that they will experience perfect unity, and the world will be convinced that you have sent me, for they will see that you love each one of them with the same passionate love that you have for me.” (TPT)

We are here to show the world that the Love of God is sufficient for the challenges we face.  As we rest in His love, we will find peace through this difficult time. As beacons of His love we spread His peace around us. 

From another time of strife is this Burt Bacharach/Hal David song- What the World Needs Now , Jackie DeShannon version.

While we are in our varying degrees of quarantine, extend the Love of God via social media. Make sure your neighbors are OK.  Be safe.

Blessings to all.

Scripture quotations from The Passion Translation® Copyright © 2017 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc.

Love – what is it?

Love – what is it? A behavior or a feeling or both?

The Oxford Dictionary has these two definitions of the noun along with several of more casual relations. These two seem to represent what we mostly think of when we consider love in a relational sense.

  • an intense feeling of deep affection:.
  • a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone

 The verb definition adds ‘feel’ to it

  • feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone)

How do the above definitions compare to the definition given by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian Church? This is from the New King James Version, Chapter 13 verses 4 through 8a which I rendered in list format.

  • Love suffers long
  •  Love is kind
  • Love does not envy
  • Love does not parade itself
  • Love is not puffed up
  • Love does not behave rudely
  • Love does not seek its own
  • Love is not provoked
  • Love thinks no evil
  • Love does not rejoice in iniquity 
  • Love rejoices in the truth
  • Love bears all things
  • Love believes all things
  • Love hopes all things
  • Love endures all things
  • Love never fails

Another translation, The Passion Translation, renders the verses in this way.

“Love is large and incredibly patient.
Love is gentle and consistently kind to all.
It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else.
Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. 
Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor.
Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. 
Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. 
Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others.
Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.
Love never stops loving.”

Wow! I would like to say that I am a loving person but I must admit I don’t measure up well against the Biblical definition. Notice the Oxford definition, the definition most of us can relate to, and the definition I think is generally accepted, is more about “feelings” while the Biblical is more about behavior.

God’s definition of love is quite challenging from a human perspective. This pure form of love was lost when Adam and Eve transgressed God’s wishes in the Garden of Eden. Many years later God appeared in human form as Jesus, the man, who would demonstrate the purest love humanity has ever known.

I find the Biblical definition quite challenging in the political arena. If you have spent any time on Twitter, Facebook, or other blog sites you have probably noticed that there is some behavior that does not come close to what is described in I Corinthians 13. Then there is the unloving behavior displayed in demonstrations, sometimes, even by Christian groups.

My intent is not bring condemnation on anyone but only to point out, as a culture, we have need of some help in this area. The Apostle John was one Jesus’s closest disciples. John’s gospel gives us many glimpses of Jesus demonstrating or describing love. In John’s first letter he equates God and Love. They are clearly intertwined in the Bible.

In my next blogs we will explore the importance of understanding Love from God’s viewpoint as it applies to three relationships:
– God’s love towards us
– Our demonstration of love to God
– Our demonstration of love to one another.

Can human effort make this work?

This is not a wrestling match. At least, it not intended to represent that. It is suppose to show the coming together of France and Germany. This statue is on the German side of the Rhine River in a park. There is a pedestrian bridge over the Rhine connecting Kehl, Germany and Strasbourg, France. A person can walk or ride a bike between the two countries without any need of passports or security checks. NATO leaders celebrated this freedom on this bridge at the celebration of the 60th year of NATO in April 2009 by walking from Germany to France. Given the centuries of hostilities between the many groups of people in the territories now defined by these two countries the statue is highly symbolic of hope for peaceful times.

Only the love of God brings a sustained peace that is meant to be represented by this embrace. It is the love demonstrated by Jesus, the Son of God, who died for us. In my next blog we will look at God’s definition of love given to us via the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian Church, Chapter 13.