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(You) as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

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I began to write a piece about how Christians are like Legos in God’s hands.

I was going to title it, ‘Christ’s Lego-cy.’

I deleted it after reading this:

And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built. 1 Kings 6:7

The Pits

In the final assembly of the temple, there was no sound of hammer or chisel upon stone, because all the noise was being made back at the excavation site. All the smoothing, all the shaping, all the friction was taking place in the quarry pit. In one way it’s a prophetic picture of the sanctification process every Christian willingly submits himself to while on earth.

Bottom line: we’re not Legos.

Legos are a done deal. They come prepackaged: no sharp edges, no rough exteriors, and no ability to accept or desire change. I suspect if Legos were mentioned in the Bible they would likely be associated with the Pharisees.

Living stones on the other hand speak to obedience, surrender, and a valued understanding of a need to be made useable regardless of the process involved. By definition they are submitted. Jagged exteriors, pointy protrusions, and coarse demeanors are dealt with on earth in order that the completed Heavenly structure will be pure, peaceful, and undefiled.

Frankly, Legos would melt under this kind of pressure.

“There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4b

Born This Way?

Like Lady Gaga, Christian’s understand that we were born a particular way, but that’s where the similarities end. We call the condition what it is: sin.  We’ve learned that it wasn’t a part of God’s original plan; Adam messed up.  Because God desires the absolute best for us, He has provided the solution in His Son Jesus.  Accepting the solution means to first accept and acknowledge that perversity in any form is not a life style, it’s a sin.  At this juncture the restoration and reformation can begin.

Discovery

There is a firm appreciation when we realize that everything we are going through in this life is for a specific purpose in the next life. Change is good. The shaping, the forming, the molding is being divinely orchestrated and knowing that gives us the capacity to not just tolerate it, but to welcome and cherish it as well.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…For we are His workmanship…Ephesians 2:8 + 10a

Are You…

  1. Submitted to God’s plan?
  2. Seeing the bigger picture?
  3. Struggling with change?

~ ~ ~

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But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:6-7

I voted today.

I rode my bike to the polls so at the end of the day I would not feel like the effort was a total waste of my energy. You could possibly conclude from that remark that I am not entirely thrilled with the election process and/or the candidates vying for my precious vote.

Be that as it may, riding home I found myself musing over some portions of scripture, not remembering exactly where in the Bible they were found.

I looked it up when I arrived home. 1 Samuel 8:6-7.

The passage is convicting and as it relates to my experiences today, I found myself compelled to mull over, “What in God’s name is civic duty and how does it line up with the ‘truth’ revealed in the Romans 13:1-4 verse?”

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Romans 13:1-4

Civic Duty

I looked it up.

Free Dictionary told me that civic duty is, “The social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force.”

Frankly, that definition frightened me a little.

In another location, civic duty was equated to citizenship and this definition was provided, “Citizenship status, under social contract theory, carries with it both rights and responsibilities. ‘Active citizenship’ is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public, volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens.”

Okay.

I can live with a philosophy as long as it maintains that the truths found therein are derived from the God of the Bible. Plainly said, a philosophy without God is a lie and a sure path to destruction. Our true citizenship is in Heaven; therefore, the force that propels and binds the Christian is not social, but Spiritual.

Consequently can we say that God desires to use us towards the betterment of our temporary homes through our active participation? Yes, I believe we can draw that conclusion, as long as we are seeking God’s will and direction in the choices we make.

Hence, prayer is a critical component.

Confession Time

I’m ashamed to tell you that this man of prayer forgot to pray before I voted today. I merely voted along party lines; the ones most closely associated with the same godly, moral standards I embrace. I fear if I had prayed beforehand, I might not have cast a vote at all.

In that light, is not voting a viable option?

I think it is, but I’m not entirely convinced.

Perspective 

My son is retiring from the United States Navy in less than a month and I surely do appreciate that he and thousands before him, risked their lives in order to preserve my right to freely choose.

 

Thanks Dan!

And thanks dad, my World War II veteran!

And thanks Pop Pop, my World War I and World War II veteran!

And thanks to all the unknowns!

In honor of your service I promise, if Christ Jesus should tarry, to cast or not cast my future votes as wisely as I can.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men – 1 Peter 2:9-15

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Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31b

“Grace,” I said, “in order for this to happen…”

The topic was on improving my eleven year olds’ performance on the cross-country team and I was teaching her about pacing herself during a race. In our home we don’t emphasize winning, but rather doing our best for God’s glory.

“Pick the fastest girl on the team,” I said, “and run just behind her for as long as you can. Back off when you get tired, but save enough in your tank for the final sprint to the finish line.”

I threw in a NASCAR reference to make sure she understood what I meant about finishing with just enough gas.

As the words were coming out of my mouth, I wondered silently if her coaches would agree with my counsel. There were only two races left in the season and I had just challenged Grace to keep pace with a teammate who ran, on average, about two minutes faster than she did. I thought my message was, that in so doing she would greatly improve her time, and not that she beat the best girl on the team.

Okay dad, but I’ll have to run with ‘soft feet’ because she’ll hear me and run faster,” she said.

Soft Feet?

My heart was racing.

Soft feet?  Where did she come up with that one?

With my encouragement had I inadvertently set an unobtainable goal for my daughter? I found myself choosing my words very carefully from this point forward, not wanting to deflate a dream or inflate a fantasy. It was about that time I stammered out, “In order for this to happen it would take a…well I mean…beating *Carly would be a miraculous thing.”

Gracie altered her expression ever-so-slightly and I feared I had sown a seed of doubt. I began to sweat and sensed it was probably a good time to reestablish our foundation.

Okay Grace, you need to understand that God needs to be in this equation. Jesus needs to be in this before, during, and after the race. Grace, even if you run the worst race of your life, Jesus Christ still gets all the glory. This is important stuff Gracie. Do you understand?”

“Of course daddy,” she said.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Race Day

“Carly’s not here daddy, she’s was sick today.”

I felt a little relieved.

“Not a problem, the plan hasn’t changed, just the person you’re running behind,” I said. “Get behind *Anna and do the same thing. Are you prayed up?”

“Yes daddy,” she smiled and sighed.

“Don’t forget to call on Jesus during the race; He’ll help you,” I told her again for what she probably sensed was the millionth time. “And win or lose, He gets the glory!”

From the back of her head I heard a faint, “Yup!” 

The meet began and I waited anxiously at the finish line. I saw Anna and to my amazement, Grace was about fifty feet behind her. They crossed the finish line one and two (7th and 8th overall), with Grace perhaps ten seconds behind her — Grace had just run her fastest race ever, shaving about a minute and a half off her fastest time and almost three minutes off her slowest time.

Giving her a big hug I said, “Gracie, I know I’ve said this over and over, but remember to give God all the glory in this!”

“I will daddy,” and she ran off to get a hug from her mother.

Snow in October?

It was the last meet of the season, a huge middle school invitational and the weather could not have been much worse—a mixture of heavy wet snow and twenty mile-an-hour winds. By the time Grace was lining up for her event, she was soaked through and through. She was not alone. In all there were about two hundred girls, standing in a couple of inches of snow and mud, all shivering, and many crying. Gracie stood there on the verge of tears as well.

“Grace,” I leaned over and whispered in her ear so as not to embarrass her, “you don’t have to run if you don’t want to. Really, it will be all right if you don’t.”

Trembling she said, “I want to try.”

Now I wanted to cry. I didn’t want to say what I said, but I was glad that I did.

The start of the race was still fifteen minutes away and my flesh wanted to scream at the officials, “Start the race already!” but the Lord reminded me of the importance of being a good witness.

I didn’t need to remind her to pray. I knew she was or she had or she would. Nevertheless I tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to Heaven. She nodded in agreement.

BANG!

The starter’s pistol!

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Michelle and I watched for a few seconds as the girls trotted off, but then we turned and ran to be there for her at the finish line.

Through the wind and the snow we saw the first group of girls approach. The racers would dash past the finish line once and run about another half mile before actually coming around to cross it. At this stage we were close enough to see Grace’s wet face, but not quite close enough to distinguish her tears.

The Final Surge

Just when you think things can’t get much worse…

With about a quarter-mile to go Grace tripped and fell in the mud. In the process, her blue knit cap fell off. Leaving it behind, she got up quickly and kept running.

The leaders began to cross. The agony on their faces was concentrated and it affected all the spectators. Then through the snow Grace appeared.

“Go Grace go,” we shouted as she entered the chute. “Watch out behind you!”

Grace crossed the line holding her position.

33rd out of 183

Grace did not win the race, but she accomplished her goal — Grace finished first among her teammates, a full twenty-one seconds in front of the fastest girl on the team. We were ecstatic!

“Grace, come on,” we said as we thanked God and applauded her effort, “let’s get back to the bus to get warm and have some hot cocoa.”

“No,” she demanded.

I was taken aback.  What am I missing?

Grace, not yet composed herself, wasn’t ready to celebrate her victory. “I’ve got to find Carly and Anna. They were crying so much during the race.”

While I had kept reminding my daughter of the importance of giving God all the glory, she reminded me that there are many ways by which that can be accomplished. Gracie, I believe inspired by the Holy Spirit, chose an excellent way.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Post Script

This was not Gracie’s day, I want to be clear about that.  This was God’s day. Jesus showed up and got His glory.  And in so doing He blessed a whole bunch of people.

Praise be to God.

Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:20b

*Not the girls real names

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There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:41-42

Have you ever wondered what awaits us in Heaven and how rewards from the Father will be made manifest. One thing we know for certain — we will all be pleased.  We will all be pleased because the vessel we ultimately show up with will be filled. But what of this vessel?  Cannot both a thimble and a boxcar be filled; a teaspoon and a tanker?

The Apostle Paul points out that while each star in the Heavens is indeed glorious, they are not the same size.  Some are mere specks, others are enormous. The issue then becomes not if we will shine for Jesus, but how brightly will we do so. For eternity, and for His glory, we have the choice of becoming celestial midgets or celestial giants.

Does it matter?

Some might say it doesn’t matter—as long as they get to heaven they will be ecstatic. This is true! All who make it to Heaven will be overjoyed, regardless of their capacity to be filled or how intense their glow. However, I suggest to you that an attitude such as this is short-sighted and yes, rather selfish.

No Tears in Heaven

Who told you that?

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

2 Timothy 4:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:5 speak of a judgement that is coming for the believer; not one of condemnation, but of recognition.  In Heaven and before the Throne, there will be for us a time of remembrance; a review of what we did with the giftings and time we were allotted.  Inevitability, there will much sorrow.  Why?  Because we will see just how much time and energy we wasted on stuff that has no eternal value.   Make no mistake about it, every believer will fall short and some will fall shorter than others.

Now You Know

The reality is [that] God’s truth changes people and if His truth isn’t changing you, the likelihood is that don’t believe it. If that’s the case, you probably believe in something else.  Could it be self-centeredness, self-indulgence, or self-worship? Quite possibly.

Remember 

What a Christian does during his earthly walk determines the kind of vessel he or she presents to the Lord for filling.  Selfishness shrinks us and faithfulness enlarges us.

In other words, it is our privilege  to shine on earth for Jesus.  We don’t have to, we get to.   The brighter we shine on earth, for His glory, the brighter we will shine in Heaven.

Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3

Shine Brighter!

Who is getting the glory for what you have done today? 

Teaspoon or tanker: it’s a choice we make. Choose wisely because the decision you make will last forever.

Comments?

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Let all things be done decently and in order. 1 Corinthians 14:40

When it comes to exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it’s obvious that churches have different approaches. Some have the ‘let all things’  part down, but aren’t too keen on the ‘decent and orderly’ perspective, while other congregations have nailed  ‘decent and orderly,’ but might be neglecting some of the gifts. The Apostle Paul adds some clarity by adding another component to the equation.

Let all things be done for edification. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:27, 33

Who’s Getting the Glory

Edification is just a fancy word for strengthening, or building up another person in the Lord as it pertains to the good of the church.  The root of the word essentially means, ‘to build a house.’ Properly exercised, edification does not take any glory away from God.  Ignored, it produces strife rather than peace. God is the author of peace and where there is no peace there is likely no body-building going on.  And where there’s no strengthening of the body there is probably no order or decency.  Reverse the negative trend and a usable pattern emerges.

All things + Order + Edification = A Strong, Loving, Peaceable Church

“This sounds like my church.”

Then I thought about it more deeply.  I remembered that my congregation, like me, is a work in progress.  If I’m honest, the church I attend is not operating as smoothly, as efficiently, and as effectively as we could.  I further see that I am part of the problem and by God’s grace, part of the solution.   Remembering that Christ is the faithful provider, if the situation is to improve, it can start with me.

I must purpose in my mind to exercise the spiritual gifts I have access to, in an orderly fashion, in a manner which builds up rather than tears down,  for the singular purpose of bringing glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I am not saying that this is a work we must do.

If anything, it’s a commission that we get to do.  If there’s a sense of obligation that comes  from anywhere other than gratitude, the effort is of little use because it’s misguided. Our motivation in this realm is directly proportionate to gratitude, and if it isn’t, then a reexamination of doctrinal terms ‘deliverance and redemption’ would be in order.  Why is Communion so important?  This is why.

What are Your Thoughts

  1. What does your church like?
  2. What would your church like if it were filled with a hundred of you?
  3. Do you have gifts you’re ignoring?
  4. Are you ‘in order’ or ‘out of order’?
  5. How’s your gratitude?

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Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

Recently I had a discussion with a person and was able to share the Good News. Much to my delight she agreed to attend church the following Sunday with me and my family where the pastor confirmed and elaborated upon many of the things we had previously discussed. The pastor gave the invitation to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior, but she did not respond to the offer. Later on I asked her why.

One of her reasons was, “Because I am already a good person.”

“No you’re not,” I wanted to say, “you’re a rotten person,” but I bit my tongue. As true as it is, there was no love to be found in that response.

The fact of the matter is that we spent a lot of time talking about the very false doctrine of universalism (her other issue) and never really brought the conversation back around to her (our) perceived goodness.

There is none who does good, no, not one. Romans 3:12b

How to Tell a Nonbeliever That They Are No Good

It’s hard to tell someone they are no good and sound loving at the same time. You can say, “I love you,” all you want, but all they’re going to hear is that you just insulted them. From where they stand, they (and perhaps the world) see themselves as good people heading in the right direction. We on the other hand see them lost and heading in the wrong direction. What’s needed here is a road sign. What will a road sign do? Two things actually—it tells you where you are and it tells you the direction you need to go. The Law is that road sign.

You can easily show a nonbeliever the Ten Commandments and demonstrate how they have broken every single one. From there it is easy to point out that no one can be justified by the deeds of the law (Romans 3:20) because no one aside from Jesus has ever been able to keep the Law. So what’s the Law’s purpose? To show you where you are (in sin) and to point you in the direction you need to go (to Jesus). It really is just that simple.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Here’s the solution. Say, “Jesus, I was just at the road sign and it showed me I was a lost sinner. Thankfully, it pointed me in Your direction. Please cleanse me.” That’s all there is to it.

Remember, the Law was written on tablets of stone, not bars of soap–it cannot clean you.


 

These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24

My sophomore year in high school I tried out for the track team. The first day of practice the team gathered and the coach asked me what event I’d like to run. I looked towards the starting-blocks that were being hammered into the ash track and said, “I dunno, the 100 yard dash maybe?”

To his credit, the coach held back his laughter and said, “Alright then, have a go at it.”

The other sprinters were not so kind.

We ran the race and I walked off the track shaking my head in disbelief at how incredibly slow I was. The coach encouraged me to run the mile. I would soon discover that I was slow at any distance. I never placed in any race I ran.

One race however I was determined to finish in the top three. Before the event I decided I would sprint the fourth and final lap, regardless if I might die in the attempt. An amazing thing happened; I sprinted past the fourth, third, second, and first place runners and took the lead on the back stretch. The cheers from my teammates were exhilarating. Then it happened—I ran out of gas. One by one, each of the competitors passed me. As hard as I could I tried to hold third place, but gave it up about 20 yards before the finish line. Several of my teammates pounded my back and said, “Great run,” and the like, but my eyes could only focus on the others who looked away shaking their collective heads with disgust.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

That race plagued me for years. It plagued me because a) it was never about running; it was about winning and b) I was running a race that I was never going to win. I was never going to win because I hated running.

When we practiced we could run off the school property. Want to know where I ran to? I ran to the boardwalk and grabbed a hotdog with sauerkraut. My heart wasn’t in running; therefore I was never going to win. I was off-course in more ways then one.

When I became a Christian, as you might imagine, 2 Timothy 4:7 did not sit well with me; finishing races well was not my strong suit. Then it occurred to me that the spiritual race Christians are in is not a competition. It’s not really even a race! We’re not vying against other believers to win an event. Our pace has no bearing whatsoever! If we wanted to, we could lie down and roll around the track.

Think about it, all that really matters is that we stay between the lines.

Consider the finish-line. It’s not a location, it’s a moment-in-time; it is the second you take your last breath anywhere on the track and your first breath in Heaven…almost simultaneously. In actuality, it doesn’t matter ‘where you were’ on the course, but ‘that you were’ on the course. It’s not a line we cross, it’s just the cross!

If you want to walk, walk. If you want to sprint, sprint. If you want to pause and throw-up, go right ahead. Just whatever you do, do not go off the course. The other runners are not there to beat you to the finish line (or least they shouldn’t be, but that’s a whole other blog), they are there to assist you and you’re there to assist them. Christ in us the hope of glory!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1+2

Remember the thief on the cross; where was his finish line? I’ll tell you where it was. It was the second he stepped onto the track despite having never gotten out of the starting blocks. Looking unto Jesus he finished gloriously.


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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