Hostility: A Profile

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; – Romans 8:6-7

Hostile–not exactly a passive kind of word.

What does this hostility–this warfare look like? In what way does my wandering mind take up arms against the lover of my soul?

Try this on for size.

There’s the pile of bills sitting on the dining room table. There’s the checkbook that’s not quite as tall as the stack.

God says “I will supply all your needs according to My riches in glory.” (From Philippians 4:19)

I look at the heap. I look at the balance. I look at the pile–the problemthe circumstancesthe giant and I start looking for a part-time job.

God says “I am your provider.” (From Genesis 22:12)

I pull out the want ads and tell God, I’ve got this covered.

God says (perhaps a bit more emphatically):

For I am the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, I will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. (From  2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NLT slightly tweaked)

My mind set on my own ability to provide militates against my ability to trust God. My flesh based solutions undermine my ability to hear God’s voice.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take that part-time job. I’m not saying God won’t use your job–your overtime–your next gig–to provide for your needs.

I AM saying that as soon as you look at your own ability as your source, or your employer as your source, your next gig as your source, you’re making war against God’s provision.

A mind set on the flesh doesn’t always look like a porn addiction or an inordinate interest in sports or entertainment. It’s not always related to seeking pleasure or plotting evil.

A mind filled with worry is a mind set on the things of the flesh.

A heart that hoards every last penny for the future rather than stewarding with open hands–yep–mind set on the flesh.

And it’s all hostile toward God. It all fights against God’s will in your life. It closes the door to God. It closes the door to faith. It says, “No Lord.”  As our text in Romans 8 continues:

…because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:7-8 NASB

The war for ownership (Lordship) of my soul takes place in my mind. Worry, preoccupation, distraction–these are the weapons or my warfare. These are the tools I use to flex my will and drive off the will of God for my life.

I must put down the weapons of my warfare today, and let the Lord Jesus rule. I need to set my mind on things above.

How is it with you?

I hope this helps.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by.

Don’t forget to shine where you’res screwed in.

Ben

Crucible

A quick thought for the day:

The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold…

I came across this Proverb today, and the simile surprised me.

What do you think Solomon pegged in a person’s life as similar to the crucible or the furnace? What one thing in life tests you, tries your character?

…and each is tested by the praise accorded him. – Proverbs 27:21 NASB

Does that surprise you? I was thinking of some kind of trial or attack from the enemy.

But Solomon learned that accolades and honor test a persons character as well as any trial.

My mom (or Muth, as our family called her) would call after me in the mornings as I left for school or work, “Remember who you are.” Oh, yeah, there was something about my underwear too. I’ve been thinking about “remember who you are” a lot lately. It’s great advice. Don’t think too much of yourself and don’t think too little of yourself.

When you’re tempted to go the wrong way, remember who you are.

When you’re tempted to think of yourself as better than those around you, remember who you are.

I’m not suggesting you’re a nobody.

Far from it.

You’re a child of God by the grace of God.

All you have you received from Him.

All you know barely scratches the surface of what He knows.

So then…

How do we receive praise from others?

Do we lay it all off on Jesus? You know that–Oh, it’s all Jesus–uber-humble nonsense. Let that one go, OK. If it were all Jesus, it would have been way better.

When others praise you, accept it with thanksgiving to them, and thankfulness toward your Father, from whom all blessings flow.

Don’t let it go to your head. It’ll fill up all the space intended for meditating on our awesome Father.

OK – I’m done.

Hey – walk in God’s blessing today.

And by all means…

cropped-BenHeadshotRemember who you are! (and don’t forget to change your underwear)

Love you,

Ben

In Paul’s Defense

A Facebook friend of mine, Jenn McClin posted this the other day, and I asked if I could share it here. It stretches what needs stretching in the Church right now.

Enjoy…


Pretty interesting to read Paul defending his own ministry from other believers who probably spent a lot of energy critiquing his every move, method, weakness, fault. I wonder what he felt when he wrote this to his brothers and sisters at Corinth. (2 Corinthians 10)

I also feel convicted at how often I do this toward my fellow brothers and sisters without even batting an eye, overly zealous to find fault or cracks in one’s theology and therefore dismiss their entire ministry. Seems like a pretty faulty way of measuring, especially since God decided to utilize human beings as vessels of His Hope and Glory haha!

As someone in ministry, it’s a fine line to know when to address the whispers that go on about you, or how to hand them over to the one who Defends and Upholds my cause, and who knows intimately the condition of my heart toward Him and toward His beloved creation. Paul thought it was appropriate to address this issue with the Corinthians and impart a little truth. Thankfully, He knows where and from Whom his commendation comes from, and it’s in this thought that we (ministers of God’s Word and commission) take refuge! Don’t listen to everything so closely that the enemy can use it to destroy you! God is good.

Paul’s Defense of His Ministry – 2 Corinthians 10

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you–I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. – 2 Corinthians 10:1-18 NIV


Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise–why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool–why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.

Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city. Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you– for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.

All this I tested by wisdom and I said, “I am determined to be wise”–but this was beyond me. Whatever exists is far off and most profound–who can discover it? – Ecclesiastes 7:16-24 NIV

A Walk with the Father

God revealed something really special to me recently out of Genesis 3. It’s in God’s initial reaction to Adam and Eve’s sin.

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:8-9 NASB

I get the sense that this was a daily meeting of the Father and the first family. They regularly walked in the garden. The Father created them for this very reason, to commune with them, to walk with them. He wanted to hear their thoughts and wanted to share His heart with them.

But on this day, He showed up for their walk and they were hiding from Him. (That makes me chuckle a little, hiding from God.)

Was God aware of their sin? Yes.

Did He know where they were? Yes.

Here’s the thing that blew me away… Even though they had sinned, God showed up for their walk in the garden. He didn’t hide from them, they hid from Him. He was there, like the Father of the prodigal, ready to have them back. His heart was already set on reconciliation before the full weight of what they had done began to dawn on them.

This stands out to me.

The Fathers reacted to sin with remedy and reconciliation NOT wrath and retaliation. Again, as with the prodigal, He stood at the end of the drive watching for His son and daughter to come back to Him.

There were consequences for their actions, but God did not cut them off from communion with Him. He came to them, the same way He had forwho knows how long. How long before they sinned? Days, weeks, years, decades? I guess that’s none of our business, eh?

Today, don’t let sin stand between you and God for another minute. He has already taken down the wall that separates you by the blood of Jesus. He’s standing at the end of the path just waiting for you to turn back toward Him. His arms are open wide and He’s ready to throw the best party at your return.

He’s not angry with you. Not even a little.

…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB

Come home today.

cropped-BenHeadshotSee ya’ again soon.

Ben

Alert

Will you allow me one more note from Colossians 4:2?

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; – Colossians 4:2 NASB

I commented briefly about being devoted to prayer, but Paul gives further instructions regarding our prayer that needs our attention.

keeping alert in it.

It’s far too easy to let prayer become talking at God.

Let’s think in the natural. If I’m broadcasting a news report, I can just read it to you and I’m good to go. I have communicated to you. I have not communicated or communed with you.

This might be the way some pray, but it’s not the kind of prayer God desires. At least it can’t be our entire prayer life.

Paul, here, is exhorting us to get up close to the Father and be with Him. When we pray, we must keep our ears attuned to Him. Give Him our attention. When we cast our cares on Him we must keep paying attention to His Spirit’s whisper. He may give us solutions or strategies as we pray.

One of my favorite prayers these days, especially when faced with a difficult situation, “Lord, teach me to pray,” or “teach me how to pray for this.” And then—it’s time to listen!

Ok – simple and obvious, right. But I’m learning.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping in today.

Have a great Lord’s day.

Ben

Devoted

There’s a bit of rhetoric going around these days that goes like this.

You can tell how popular your church is by how many show up on Sunday morning. You can see how popular your pastor is by how many show up on Sunday night. You can find out how popular God is by now many people show up at prayer meeting.

Catchy, and probably intended to carry some “you ought to” with it. Hey, it could be that prayer meeting is a miserable time. Maybe the intercessors of your church are the depressing–God’s glass is almost empty and His bowl is almost fullkind of people. Maybe the prayers offered carry so little faith that it actually leaves you less in love with God than when you came.

And yet, Paul says this:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; – Colossians 4:2 NASB

Hey–I know you can pray in secret. I know prayer meetings can miss the mark. I know some people loath praying out loud. I know some people (I’m sure there are those who would point this finger at me) seem like they love the sound of their own voice.

But we must pray.

It’s the first thing to slip in our lives.

Private, personal prayer is the first thing to go as we drift.

The first thing to slide in the Church setting is corporate prayer.

My inclination is to end with a “you oughta’…” but instead, I’m just going to ask you to meditate on this one phrase today:

Devote yourself to prayer…

And see where it takes you.

cropped-BenHeadshotHey – thanks for coming by.

Shine on!

Ben

Paul’s Prayer Request

In Colossians 4 Paul asks the folks in Colossae to pray for him.

He finds himself in prison, and like any of us, he calls on those men and women of faith in his life to pray.

He prays, as I surely would, for an open door.

But I’d be asking the church to rally and pray for my release.

Wouldn’t you?

Not so with Paul.

praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; – Colossians 4:3 NASB

Want some open doors in your life? Join with Paul in prayer.

What some more freedom? Pray that you find an opening for the gospel.

What to be more Christ-like? Rather than looking for a way out of your circumstances, be thankful in them and look for a way to use your current moment to make Christ plain to those around you.

cropped-BenHeadshotSomething to chew on, anyway.

Blessings,

Ben

Unity

church13I just want to throw down a quick thought for the day.

Unity is NOT built on agreement.

It’s natural to come to the conclusion that if we gather with people of the same mind, there will be unity. But that is more like conformity, and honestly, it’s not healthy.

Paul tells us in Colossians, we can choose unity, and it’s all about what we’re wearing.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. – Colossians 3:12-14 NASB

Let me give you that list of clothing again.

  • A heart of compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Bearing with one another
  • Forgiving each other

And–beyond all these things (does this mean as an overcoat, or as underwear–I’m not sure how this should work in the analogy–anyway)–most importantly…

  • Love

Yep–unity comes from putting others first and turning your love on. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to be the same. We just have to love.

cropped-BenHeadshotGive it a whirl.

Thanks

Ben

Zion

I’ve heard folks say… “I read the end of the book and…God wins!

True enough, but there is some other stuff in the end of the book that is a little mind blowing. 

If you know me, you know I’m pretty jazzed about the fact that God takes up residnece in the believe’s life. 

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. – John 14:23 NASB

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that Jesus, by His shed blood, breaks down our walls and fits us together as a dwelling place for the Father.

I pointed to Paul’s statment in 2 Corinthians, pulled forward from Jeremiah and Ezekiel that He would be our God and we would be His people.

Well guess what! That is were the book ends, and with a bang.

Check this out:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. – Revelation 21:2

Wait—what? The bride of Christ is what? I thought I was the bride of Christ. I thought the Church was the bride of Christ. What am I missing here?

I want to show you something wonderful. God’s deepest desire for man, from the day He breathed the breath of life into Adam and made him a living soul, was to walk with man, to dwell with and in man.

The greatest picture of this is Jesus, the God-man. As man as man can be, and yet all the fullness of the Godhead dwelled within Him. All man. All God.

Jesus came as our Savior, God taking the punishment for sin upon Himself.

Jesus also came as a picture of God’s desire for man. Christ in you, the hope of Glory (or can I tweak it a tad and say, Christ in you, the fulfilment of Glory’s hope.)

So here it is, in the 2nd to last chapter of the whole book:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, – Revelation 21:3

This is not the echo of those other word, they were a foreshadoing of this moment. The moment when God reveals the bride, the wife of the Lamb!

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, – Revelation 21:9-10

The bride is a city! Jerusalem, the city of the great King. Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God Himself.

This triggered something huge in my heart. Jerusalem, sometimes called Zion, represents the body of believes, the bride of Christ. Jesus perpared this dwelling place for the Father by His blood and through His body on the cross.

I promised I would change the way you read the Psalms, well, here it is.

Next time you run into a reference to Zion in the Psalms, plug yourself, and your local community of faith into the text and see what happens in your heart.

Here are a few examples to chew on.

“But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” – Psalm 2:6

Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores His captive people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad. – Psalm 14:7

Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion in the far north, The city of the great King. – Psalm 48:2

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth. – Psalm 50:2

His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion. – Psalm 76:2

The LORD loves the gates of Zion More than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. – Psalm 87:2

Hope there’s a wow in your spirit as you ponder this.

I have to tell you, believers need community. You’re a building block, a part of the body. Don’t live your life like a lone leggo lying on the living room floor. God’s plan includes you, fitted in place.

To be clear–I don’t care if you sit in a pew or a coushined chair and “attend” a Sunday meeting. I don’t care if your community meets in a living room, a hotel conference ceter, or a diner. You simply need to live life with other believers. 

You need to “one-another” somebody.

We are the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, Mt Zion, the Holy City, a dwelling place for the All Mighty!

Hallelujah!

Thanks for stopping by today.

Shine on!

Ben

WALLS

Today, I want to talk to you from the back end of Ephesians 2.

Paul’s talking to the gentile believers in Ephesus about how God, by the blood of Jesus, has taken down the dividing walls that separated them from the Jews.

If you can believe this, there were divisions in the Church! 

I know, hard to grasp, right?

We all know our society is split up a dozen ways. In the US at least, there are fractures everywhere, and these breaks are growing day by day.

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, – Ephesians 2:13-14 NASB

This dividing wall between Jew and Gentile is not the only wall the blood of Jesus can break down.

All the walls of hate that separate us are fodder for His blood.

Walls that devide the races.

Walls that devide denominations.

Walls that devide rich and poor.

Republican and democrat.

Educated and uneducated.

by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, – Ephesians 2:15 NASB

But to what end?

Why take this fractured mess and bring it together as One New Man?

What’s the point?

Frankly, it’s so He can build something new.

He had to tear down the walls we built between us so that He could erect walls around us. More precisely, He desires to use us as building materials for a new structure.

This is the part I really love!

having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, – Ephesians 2:20-21 NASB

He breaks the walls down that separate us, then, as a master builder, fits us together. 

But to what end? 

Jesus is not building a temple where we come to remember a distant God and His works from long ago.

He’s not making a museum or library.

in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:22 NASB

He destroyed all that separates us and built a home for our Father. 

God didn’t send Jesus to build a memorial to a God of the past. He sent Jesus to prepare a place where He Himself could be at home with His family. A place where He could—well, I like the way Paul puts it, borrowing heavily from Jerimiah:

just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. – 2 Corinthians 6:16 NASB (check out Jeremiah 7:23 and Ezekiel 11:20

Frankly, daily relationship is all God wanted from the day He thought of Adam. God’s heart yearns to commune with you, with us. He longs for the day when He can walk with this One New Man in the garden in the cool of the day. When our conversations would include Him. When His voice would be heard in the congregation of the saints.

We tend to put off this level of relationship with the Father to the day we go to heaven, but that’s not God’s plan. His desire is to dwell among men. Emanuel—God with us.

That’s enough for today, but next time, I want to talk with you about Zion, the city of the great King. It’s a revelation that will change the way you read the Psalms.

Thanks for coming by.

Don’t miss it.

Love y’all.

Ben