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August 13, 2014

The woman was convinced.  She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.  So she took some of the fruit and ate it.  They she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves…So they hid from the LORD God among the trees…Then the LORD God asked the woman, ‘What have you done?’ ‘The serpent deceived me,’ she replied. ‘That’s why I ate it.”

Unfortunately, Genesis 3 can be attributed all of our guilt, shame, and suffering.  Because of Eve yearned for what she could not have, we too yearn.  Thankfully, through the life of Jesus, we as believers have Good News. There is victory over death.  “The Scriptures tell us, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living person.’ But the last Adam–that is Christ–is a life-giving Spirit…Let me reveal to you a wonderful secret.  We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!” (1 Corinthians 15:45, 51).

In times of defeat, where we feel deceived by the serpent, let us concentrate on the life-giving Spirit.  Mark Driscoll speaks on these verses,

It is interesting, isn’t it? The first Adam forgot who he was, the last Adam didn’t. When Satan came to Jesus, he said, ‘Do no put the Lord your God to the test.’  He went back to the issue of identity.  I know who I am, so I know what to do…The issue of identity comes down to being in Adam or in Christ.  The first Adam turned from the Father in the garden, the last Adam turned toward the Father in a garden…In Adam there is defeat, but in the last Adam, there is victory.  In Adam there is condemnation, but in the last Adam there is salvation…In Adam we are cursed, but in the last Adam we are blessed.

Where is your identity? In times of trial, when battling mental or physical illness, are you in Adam or in Jesus?  Who do you cry out to or who do you blame?

Eve chose to eat from the tree, desiring its’ wisdom.  She was unaware and then her eyes were opened to the shame.  God made it clear then when she told them to not eat from the tree.  Now we have Scripture, “Look to God’s instructions and teachings!” (Isaiah 8:19).

“When we choose to sin, we choose to suffer.  And when we break God’s laws, we also break God’s heart,” (Mark Driscoll, “Good News Before Bad Advice”).

I know I fall short, but I do not desire to break God’s heart.  Rather, I’d like to be a recipient of transformation, “God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please Him” (Ecclesiastes 2:26).

May we have the strength to obey Him.  Oh wait, my prayer has already been answered.  He promises, For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13).

It is true, “According to the path of Good News, Jesus changes who you are and helps you change what you do. Who you are determines what you do.  Jesus says it this way, ‘A good tree bears good fruit,'” (Mark Driscoll).

Therefore, no matter the trial you are in, you have a choice.  A choice to follow the path of deceit or to remain obedient.

“You’re identity precedes your activity…The decisions people make are in light of who they think they are.”

Who do you say you are?

Are you an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven?  Do you own your physical body or do you yearn for your perfect, heavenly body (1 Corinthians 15)?

Whatever the weight is on your shoulders, know that on the path of Good News, “In Christ you are not just forgiven, you are new.”

Reach out.  Find a Bible.  Call a church.  Become a member of Jesus’ Church.  Wear white, for you are made new.  He treasures you as His bride.

Nothing about Jesus is imperfect. Nothing. God’s love for His people is immeasurable.

Do you accept it?  Can you embrace the identity He has gifted you?

My favorite image will remain,

Abraham willing to sacrifice his son

Abraham willing to sacrifice his son

God’s love for Abraham was so abundant that he allowed for a lamb to substitute the offering of his son (Genesis 22).  However, God’s love for His people allowed an everlasting offering.  Where God dismissed Isaac, He replaced all sin by offering His only son.

Jesus Christ gives us new life.  Although it doesn’t always feel physical, know that your burdens are lifted.  That the pain of mental or physical illness is not too heavy for God.

As a follower helped Jesus carry His cross, allow Jesus to help you carry yours.

You belong.  I belong. We belong to a great Family.  Our Father knows discipline, mercy, grace, and love in its’ perfect form.

Brene Brown, Ph.D. and researcher of shame and vulnerability says this quite well, “Belonging is the innate human desire to be apart of something larger than us…True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Allow yourself to be seen. And once you reach that place of vulnerability and Jesus has transformed you, may it not be the imperfections of man that the world views, but rather may you be seen for the example of Christ that you are unto humanity.

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August 12, 2014

Iraqi Christians are being persecuted.

It has been referenced to as a modern-day Holocaust.  The Islamic State is posting images of raped and slaughtered women, beheaded children, and of the hanged men.  They are seeking the world’s attention.  And they have it.

Christians are asking, “Why aren’t we doing more?” Politicians understand “We just pulled out and we aren’t about to start another war in Iraq.”  Who is responsible for aiding the victims of this violent rampage?

The Islamic State has marked the Christian homes just as Nazi’s forced Jews to wear yellow stars.

Their command for Christians in Iraq is to convert to Islam, pay a high tax, flee or die.  The ISIS has allowed Christian descendents to choose from the 4 options; whereas, those who abandoned Allah for Jesus are seen by ISIS as apostates and are offered to either return to Islam or be killed.

There is also a difference in faith that it takes for someone facing such threat in making the decision to convert, flee, or die for their beliefs.  Reports show that no families opted to pay a high tax.  This leaves us with thousands of individuals killed since the first IS announcement in June, and thousands of displaced Christian families traveling, seeking refuge across the Middle East.  As for those who chose to return to Islam, let us pray for the sanctity of their minds and the sanctuary for their hearts.

Is it a subconscious value of the physical self over the spiritual self made new in Christ that permits an individual to verbally abandon their relationship with Christ to the community?

May they know and continue to trust in God the Father of Jesus Christ who bore their sins on the cross.  Perhaps in their staying in Mosul, many of the persecutors will come to also know the forgiving grace and adoring love of God.  Let us pray that their hearts have not been deceived, that in publicly proclaiming their return to Allah, that they have not dethroned Jesus as Savior in their lives.

Let us call out.  Let them call out.  Hear our cries, Father.  Watch over your children.  Walk with your lost sheep.  Bring them Home.

The Islamic State terrorist attacks are being broadcasted around the world.  Both religious and secular media sources share the news of this Christian-genocide. To learn more of what is being done and what you can do specifically to aid the persecuted visit The Voice of the Martyrs.

Warning, the footage on both media sites is hard to see.  Surely, as Jesus wept over his city, God is weeping over His sheep.  Let us pray for shepherding.  May they all find their way Home as God has planned for His people.  Delighted both in the Christians who have been raised by Christian families, and the Muslim converts to Christianity; there will be dancing once they’ve returned to His fortress.  Whether it be in this life or in their heavenly body, there will be dancing.


 

I want to also attract attention to the members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  In praying for the persecuted Christians yesterday, I found myself questioning faith.  How far must one be pushed before surrendering their beliefs? However, today, I awoke shattered by my concern for the persecutors.  Let me say this again, I prayed for the persecutors.  One of my favorite people in historical accounts is Paul.  Saul as persecutor, Paul as apostle, Paul as servant, and Paul as persecuted.  The persecutor became the persecuted.

Saul was witness and perhaps led the persecution of Christianity’s first martyr, Stephen (Acts 6:8-8:1).  Paul says “I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13) and yet, now we attribute Paul’s life as Christianity’s greatest evangelist.  Perhaps then, one of these ISIS members can also be transformed.  Perhaps even, God has a plan for salvation for several of their lives.  What part in this transformation can we play?

Let us pray.  Let us surrender our words to God, may He lead us to pray what is in direct correspondence to His will.

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.  And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15).  For we know that God desires to be glorified, and  this transformation will bring glory to His name.

With the world looking in, a modern-day Saul-to-Paul transformation would bring great attention to the grace of God.  Is this God’s will?  Is this how He pleases to bring honor to His name, to bring witness to His great works?

Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.  May your people in Iraq believe that you are their fortress.  May they take upon themselves the complete Armor of God.  May your Truth be enough.  Satisfy their lips with words of Hope and Salvation.  May their bodies be fueled by the Bread of Life and cleansed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.  May they hear you audibly if they do not have your Word to examine with their eyes.  Remind them of your Truth: “I command you–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Thank you God, for being their Shepherd.  For walking with them.  Thank you for being victorious!  We may not see it yet, but with prayers of expectancy, we know you will gain great victory when you see it best. We pray all these things in the mighty name of Jesus. For all these are possible.  Let us raise up Your Name and proclaim this victory yours.  We rebuke Satan’s grasp by the name of Jesus Christ.  He is Savior.  He is Friend.  And we are grateful that He is near to us, always.  Amen.

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