A Weekly Diet for Running the Good Race

The Training Table

The Training Table is set, and the menu carefully selected to regularly nourish those who are running the good race set out for us. If you would like to maintain a weekly diet for running the good race, please subscribe to The Training Table.

Why the Training Table?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoming its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7).”

Posted in Training Table

Do You Believe “The Fall” of Genesis 3 Effected All Things?

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Will We Ever See How It All Went Down… E.g., ALL Went Down… at The Fall (Gen 1:3)?

There is really no reasonable and life-giving way to “really get it”—E.g., get all of life, death, and everything jot and tittle in between—devoid of knowing about, and fully believing in what God originally made very good (Genesis 1,2) AND The Fall (Genesis 3; Romans 1:18-32), which turned ALL things God made good to darkness, degradation, disgrace, disrepute, and doodoo… And this is putting it nicely.

And even though it would seem the only reason God might give us a birds-eye view of ALL the chaos that occurred in the universe when Eve, then Adam, disobeyed God in The Garden of Eden, is for us to see how BAD things were so that God could show us how His son is to resolved and redeemed it back to GOOD—as we will then live in The New Heaven and The New Earth.

And there’s second point about my first point that’s seminal as well: There’s really no way of seeing how much God loves His own until we see how The Fall has damned, darkened, and defeated US… personally, intergenerationally, holistically, deeply, intimately.

So, before we take a gander at ONE of the aspects of The Fall—via 10 symptoms of the dysfunctional organization”—let’s take remind ourselves of what the above amounts to as a summary of The Gospel, The Good News, of Jesus Christ: “That I am more sinful than I could ever dare imagine; and yet I’m more loved than I could ever hope for.”

The Fall Genesis 3) AND The Redeemer (Job 16:25; 1 Peter 1:18-21) are both very real. Are they both very, really real, to you?

10 Symptoms of the Dysfunctional Organization, by Ken Cooper, CooperComm

What makes one organization a success and another a failure in any sort of business environment?

CooperComm is in its third decade of helping organizations to develop their people and to achieve desired business results. In interacting with hundreds of organizations – public and private, large and small, growing and fighting for survival – we have identified common characteristics of organizations that are in trouble. These indicators of dysfunction can be used to identify areas where the organization can be improved.

NOTE: Although this paper addresses workplace issues, our research has shown that the dysfunction indicators are also useful in other “organizations” such as the family, church, community groups and so on. Lessons from the workplace can readily be applied in these other areas.

1. constant crisis

In the early days before personal computing, organizations had “word processing centers” responsible for churning out the paperwork that keeps an organization running. There were supposedly two classes of work going through the center, normal work with a two-day turnaround and “rush” work that had to completed ASAP.

It became a quick indicator of how well an organization was run to merely ask the Center Manager, “What percentage of your work comes in as a ‘rush’ job?” In many workgroups, it hovered around 20 percent, but in some it ran as high as 80 percent.

In today’s harried business climate, running on accelerated “internet time,” many organizations have settled into a permanent crisis mode. Management is continually unhappy with performance, everything is always over budget, all projects need to be done faster and cheaper, people’s jobs are constantly in jeopardy, etc.

Stress management experts tell us that, to stay healthy, for every period of stress, there must be an equal period of “Whew!” to break the pressure. The predicable consequences of unremitting stress are: (1) people try harder as long as they can, (2) people burn out or break down and (3) people ultimately give up. A fear-driven, unhappy, pressured, can’t-win environment generates employees who check their brains at the door.

The problem is a total lack of balance. Organizations cannot survive in a continuous crisis mode. Management must either provide breaks in the crisis or else develop established processes for handling day-to-day requirements without merely applying more pressure to workers.

2. organizational Insanity

Bill Walsh, coach of the Superbowl Champion 49ers, has an interesting definition:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over … and expecting a different result.”

Many organizations are locked into this form of insanity. The motto seems to be, “If it doesn’t work, don’t fix it.” No matter how many business gurus urge managers to encourage change, produce paradigm shifts, pursue the Wow! or get a creative whack on the side of the head, things stay the same.

This stay-the-course approach is like the New England farmer who had won the lottery. When asked what he was going to do with the money he responded, “I’m goin’ to keep on fahmin’ until it’s all gone.”

Leaders must quit worrying about leading edge concepts such as, “If it ain’t broke, break it.” It’s hard enough for most organizations to address what is wrong and to fix it.

3. pluralistic Ignorance

It’s amazing in dysfunctional organizations how many people just “don’t get it.” Using a teenage term popularized in the movie of the same name, they are ‘clueless.” In many organizations nearly everyone is clueless, i.e., pluralistic ignorance.

Speaker Joel Barker, popularizer of the term “paradigm,” quotes research by Thomas Kuhn that showed scientists were physically unable to perceive data that didn’t agree with their preestablished ideas. Managers and workers encounter similar difficulties.

Effective organizations are open to reality. As a banker who specialized in helping companies work through loan defaults said, “No matter how bad it looks, it’s always worse.” He was an expert at getting clients to pay attention to the facts and draw rational conclusions from them. His job was to make certain executives “got it.”

4. relative success

It’s easy for managers to fool themselves by comparing their operations to other, more dysfunctional organizations. “You think we’re bad, you ought to be working for Crack-the-Whip Enterprises.” They make the mistake of looking at relative success rather than absolute success.

Teenagers have a wonderful term for this self-deception: “We suck less.” Being less bad is not good. Teens recognize, rightfully, that being better off than terrible is still fairly terrible.

Dysfunctional organizations look externally with a sense of accomplishment, “We’re losing less money than anyone in our industry” and ignore the fact that investors can find numerous opportunities in other industries that are actually making money. Or they compare themselves to their former internal condition, “We’re better than we used to be – at least we’re moving in the right direction” even though the internal work environment is thoroughly demotivating.

The problem is a lack of absolute standards. Measures such as specific business results and trends, internal process efficiencies, employee and customer satisfaction, and strategic goals and plans are not used.

5. sub-optimizing

In his seminars on reengineering, author Michael Hammer talks about the problems of sub-optimization of processes. Common wisdom says that “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.” Sub-optimization suggests that the sum of the parts is less than the whole. In many organizations, there is a fundamental assumption that if each department is maximizing its effectiveness (sub-optimizing), then the organization as a whole is optimized.

This explains how management can cut the IS technical support budget and believe there has been a savings. What actually occurs is that end user technical support needs don’t disappear, they are now addressed out in user departments by (more highly paid) professionals helping their co-workers. Although the IS budget has been reduced, overall organizational support costs actually increase. But they are now hidden throughout everyone else’s budgets.

Seamen have a saying about problems that is related to sub-optimization, “Not on my watch.” In dysfunctional organizations, everyone is worried about his or her own “watch” to the overall detriment of the organization.

6. indirect causes

An early warning sign is when the sentences in a conversation shift to passive verbs – particularly when talking about problems. Someone will say, “Sales are down.” While this may be true, the passive nature of the sentence omits any causal information. It’s as if “sales” have an independent life of their own.

In TQM, finding the “root cause” is a critical step in understanding defects and in improving processes. Passive verb sentences need to be replaced by active ones such as, “The sales force is not meeting quota” or “Manufacturing is sending out too many DOA products.” There has to be a who and what in there somewhere in order to understand responsibility.

In too many organizations, “things happen” rather than “people and processes produce results.” The indirect cause attitude suggests that events are beyond anyone’s control. The root cause approach means people skills and process designs can be improved to address the issues.

7. OK sorry’s

There is a big shift in moving from the World of Kids to the World of Adults. If you swing a bat in a crowd of kids and plunk someone, you’re off the hook with a sincere, “I’m sorry.” Run a red light and plow into another car, and being sorry for the resulting injuries isn’t enough.

Dysfunctional organizations can get locked into a “Sorry is OK” mentality. This is not to suggest that being sorry for mistakes is wrong, or that blame is even a primary concern. But there are a myriad of actions for which it is not acceptable to be sorry.

One example is sexual harassment. Courts had established the “should have known” principle that some behaviors are so obviously out of line, some situations so clearly inappropriate, that managers should have known better. Contrition and remediation after the fact isn’t sufficient.

Dysfunctional organizations have a high tolerance for failure, as long as the attitude is right and “lessons have been learned.”

Successful organizations realize that the higher you get in an organization, the fewer lessons should be learned. Executives are expected to bring with them certain experiences and skills to perform at a high level. Individuals who don’t possess these capabilities are probably not in the right position.

8. segmented morals

A small business owner once remarked wryly, “Honesty as a policy only applies to the first $10,000. After that, the phrase is ‘good business.’”

Dysfunctional organizations are infected with a morality of selective absolutes. The stated values and actual behaviors, usually self-serving, are often in direct conflict with each other. This situational ethics approach to organizational values generates a conflicting set of behavioral guidelines that destroy management’s credibility.

For example, “Employees are our greatest resource, and that’s why we’re lowering their medical benefits and laying off about 10 percent of them due to a new outsourcing arrangement.” Or, “Honesty and integrity are our greatest strengths, but we’re reneging on our building agreement with the city unless it can come up with bigger tax abatements.”

Healthy organizations have a set of values and a behavioral culture that is consistent. The “do as I say” and “do as I do” formal and informal messages are in agreement.

9. multi-class society

Many organizations are heavily segmented by class. The signs are everywhere: executive stock bonuses, golden parachutes, executive dining room, executive health club, country club membership, chauffeurs, special parking, and so on. In the interests of “executive productivity,” employees are quickly shown who is important and who is not.

In other organizations, even very large ones, the company President can be seen lugging his plastic tray at lunch in the company cafeteria. Executives park out with everyone else. Everyone is on a first-name basis. While there are obvious organizational differences in title, pay and power, the overall impression is one of a class-free society and culture.

Remember the lesson of Sam Walton. He made billions using near-minimum wage workers, helping to destroy their local economy and taking its former profits out of town. Yet these same employees loved him because he (1) dressed casually, (2) treated everyone as an important person, and (3) drove an old pickup truck.

10. broken behavior-consequence chain

According to the best motivational speakers, the path to success is simple. Believe in yourself, work hard and well, and you will succeed. Conversely, lack confidence, do less than your best and lower than maximum effort, and you will fall back.

Today cynics say, “Work hard and keep your nose to the grindstone, and you’ll end up with a short nose.” The Peter Principle states that people move up until they’re incompetent and then stay there. In government, the joke is, “Screw up and move up.” The worst mistake is to become invaluable. Bestsellers tout “winning through intimidation” and leveraging secrets of everyone from Machiavelli to Star Trek’s Captain Picard. Groups are “on the road to Abilene” despite everyone agreeing that they don’t want to go there.

The problem is the one-joke premise of Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon. Workplace behaviors don’t generate the expected consequence. (The proof is, despite all the idiocies, Dilbert’s company is still in business.)

In functional organizations, there is a rational action-reward system in operation. People are incented to achieve because there is a commensurate payoff to be gained.

summary: slaves to process, technique, “same-‘ol, same-‘ol”

A common theme through these symptoms of dysfunction is one of continuing the status quo. Organizations, large or small, follow Newton’s Law of Momentum paraphrased here: “A body in motion tends to stay in motion and tends to continue in the same direction.”

To be effective, leaders must first take an outside view of the organization. The ten symptoms above are helpful in recognizing and communicating what is happening. They provide, with succinct phrases, a terminology that can be used to discuss problems. They provide a first step in analyzing why something is not working, and provide a basic approach for remediation.

If these are the symptoms of dysfunctional organizations, then there is one symptom of a functional organization. The latter never tolerates dysfunction. The alternative is “organizational insanity.” [END]

And I’ll Add One More That Sits Above… All of the Above

11. many leaders with no idea how to lead the led

The two most important things about any leader are, a) he or she knows what their first duty consists of: To execute the Vision, Mission of the organization—whether it be one self, family, or global organization; and, b) In order to be and do (a), leaders of any stripe need to arrive at the job having done the hard, fulfilling, rare work of formulating and executing his or her own, personal Vision, Mission. 

We must make every effort to reverse the curse!

This is the best way for any leader to arrive at the place of purpose, passion, and total commitment to something like: “Effective, enduring and memorable leaders set a vision and use their authority to create an environment where people can contribute to the vision’s success and flourish doing so.  Leaders are environmentalists.”  (John Gardner)

Does this quote resonate deeply with you? You see, only LEADERS who have taken the same journey personally they’re asking the LED to embark on organizationally, every single day, can get ‘er done day in and day out!

See all of you Beloved of God at the Training Table next week

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

[Please] Don’t Stay Dim: Separate the Light from the Dark… and Shine On!

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

There’s No Doubt That Dark and Light Exists… Right? We just need to separate one from the other.

My story includes having been raised under the triple-threat-trifecta of shame, criticism, and anonymity. The two choices I had to survive was to either hide or harden my heart. And, since what is personal is most universal, it’s highly likely my own story is similar to many other’s story.

So what this has to do with our feast of the heart today is this: I’ve probably been 40% mildly, to 15% mediumly, to 5% deep-dark-chronically depressed for most of my life.

The only reason I haven’t done away with my life is that I’ve been blessed, guarded by God and certain people by ways to distract, numb, deny, and like myself and others just long enough that, in the midst of the darkness, a ray of light shown through… and I squeaked by and lived instead of died, for another day. There’s no question that in the earliest stages of my own life God kept me from dying so that, at just the right time, He could save me at age thirty-one and I could, for the first time, begin to live in the love and light of the Father, for the Son, and by means of the Spirit.

Because I had things I was supposed to do, people who would miss me when missing, various ways I could distract or entertain myself, I somehow got back to life with a modicum of light and focus, and a maximum of avoidance… amidst the dim-to-darkness of my life.

Sound desperate? Sure. But I think we’d all be shocked if we could see how common my story is in the people’s lives right under our noses. I can promise you that my story of darkness and depression is more like a paper-cut compared to the staggering numbers of despairing, depressed, and hopeless Image Bearers right in our midst.

The difference between my being blessed by NOT having ended my life is that I’ve had the luxury of distractions and many occasional ways to NOT live in the darkness of depression for a long period of time. Because people who do—those who have to simply stay and live in the dark with no means of being distracted, entertained, and getting back into the light—usually don’t make it. Dim turns into dark, dark into despair, despair into hopelessness, hopelessness into death is better than life.

Human beings were not created to live in darkness of any kind, but we tend to simply re-define what living life consists of. And I’m sorely afraid that the bar is now set quite low. Heartbreakingly low. But there’s hope IF we reach out for the right sort of wisdom and help.

My point? How many folks live in the damned darkness, depressed, but are saved only by means of avoiding staying there just long enough? How many folks are even on meds for depression and, as a result, will never get to the place of crying out to God because the pain is being blunted, suppressed… and, therefore, the perceived need for God’s help by mercy, rescue, and light is not perceived at all, or not at a desperate enough level to cry out to God? How many people do we know, or meet everyday, who are depressed and slowly dying just below the surface of what we can see… they can’t reach out… and then they’re gone… off to the next engagement?

How many of us are living at 50% of our potential, simply because we’re living the dimly-lit, distracted, mildly-to-mediumly depressed life? Is that just where the bar is set at “normal,” and we don’t know, or feel like we deserve, or expect, any more? When there’s SO much more to life.

I often wonder, so I just ask after the other person answers “Fine.” of “Really busy.” to my, “How ya doing today?” “How are you really doing? Busy doing what? Just fine?” Nearly 80% of the time the response is, “How am I really doing? You don’t really want to know.” And left unsaid, “Do you?” Do we?

Please enjoy and employ the content below that Dr. Richard Winter and I put together for a Greentree Community Church Stephen Ministry presentation on Depression—in order to help our Stephen Ministers best assist their [potentially] depressed Care Receivers.

Akin to knowing that 100% of the people we come into contact with, or minister to, are in some state or degree of suffering from living in a broken world, most everyone won’t speak up about their pain until it’s just too dark and too much to bear. And that’s a horrible shame.

When Life Goes Dark: Finding Hope in the Midst of Depression

Richard Winter, MD, Past Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK), Psychotherapist and Professor of Practical Theology and Counseling, Covenant Theological Seminary, St Louis, MO, USA.

Depression:  Is it Sickness or Sin? Yes… It’s complicated.

We live on a spectrum of moods

  • Blues…mild depression… discouragement, despair… “major” or “clinical” depression
  • Some people have up-swings too – through enthusiasm, exuberance… hypomania, mania

Signs of “Clinical” Depression

  • Depressed mood and/or Loss of Pleasure for at least 2 weeks and almost every day + 4 of the following:
    • Appetite disturbance
    • Sleep disturbance
    • Fatigue/loss of energy/lethargy/slow movements
    • Agitation/restlessness/anxiety/irritability
    • Worthlessness/inappropriate guilt
    • Slow thinking/loss of concentration/indecisiveness
    • Suicidal ideas

Sometimes delusions, paranoia and hallucinations
+ Prayer feels useless, Bible feels meaningless
+ God feels far, far away

We are all vulnerable to depression. Some people, due to genetics, early childhood, family and social circumstances, or particular traumatic events, are more vulnerable than others.

How can we reduce vulnerability? A few pointers…

  • When you feel you are going “down” talk to self, God, friends, pastor, counselor… ASAP! Early, often.
  • Learn to identify and live with the normal full range of human emotion
  • Accept feelings of appropriate grief and sorrow after loss
  • Understand what it means to live in the shadow of The Fall (Gen 1:3; Rom 1:18-32), how we have been sinned against, and how we sin in response to the things and people that hurt us
  • Learn about mourning—mourn little losses, and big losses will be better mourned
  • Stay put and examine your expectations, longings, hopes and dreams… and shattered dreams
  • Face and deal with anger, guilt, shame, envy, bitterness, perfectionism, control, relationship problems, perfectionism, lies we believe, ways we try to dull the pain, disappointment with God… all things that can lead to depression
  • Learn to resist the devil
    • Don’t give him a foothold (Eph 4:27)
    • Put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:11)
    • Counter the liar and accuser with truth (Rev 12:10)
  • Make sure you get exercise and eat a healthy diet
  • When depression is severe have a medical exam and take medication if necessary
    • Finding right antidepressant and dose may be difficult
    • Realism about time on medication
  • Develop patience, hope and a perspective on suffering (Rom 8:18-30)
  • Learn to groan (Rom 8:23) and lament (Ps 13) well
  • Have confidence that God is for us and not against us (Ruth 1:21, 2:20…)
  • You can be “sorrowful yet always rejoicing”  (2 Cor 6:10)

Taking Care of the Depressed Care Giver: The Best Defense is a Great Offense!

Christianity is a Proactive—Not a Reactive—Faith

As a Stephen Ministry Care Giver, or the Saint saved to serve in any way, the very best way to deal with any form of depression—or symptom of sin, infirmity, or brokenness of any sort—is to steward our own faith carefully, thoroughly, urgently, and in community. In the final part of Dr. Winter’s book When Life Goes Dark he writes,

“We are all caught up in spiritual warfare every day, and the biblical weapons are prayer, discerning good from evil and truth from lies, immersion in biblical reality, putting on the whole armor of God, and living in constant obedience. As we do this, the forces of evil retreat and are restrained, and we can be confident that the spirit of God is stronger than any spirit of the evil one.” (p252)

Please enjoy and employ the “biblical weapons”, resources below. Gird yourself up! There is no darkness that can stand against God’s Light.

Prayer—“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7); “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Matthew 11:24); “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Resources: Praying Backwards, Bryan Chappell; The Heart of Prayer, Jerram Barrs; A Simple Way to Pray, Martin Luther; A Praying Life, Paul Miller; Pray With Your Eyes Open, Richard Pratt; Lifting Up Our Hearts, John Calvin (a collection of 150 of Calvin’s prayers, paired with a Scripture passage); Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Tim Keller.

Discerning Good From Evil And Truth From Lies—“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1); “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” (Philippians 1:9-10); “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Resources: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Tim Challis; Spiritual Discernment, Watchman Nee; Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey; Above All Earthly Powers, David Wells; Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview, Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew; John Piper on Discernment, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/by-this-time-you-ought-to-be-teachers

Immersion In Biblical Reality—“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12); “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17); “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11). Resources: The Mission of God’s People, Christopher Wright; The Kingdom of God, W. Tullian Tchividjian (a booklet); Why God Gave Us a Book, Gene Edward Veith (a booklet); The Four: A Survey of the Gospels, Peter Leithart; How to Study the Bible, John MacArthur; Understanding the Bible, John Stott; Knowing Scripture RC Sproul; Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, John Piper.

Putting On The Whole Armor Of God—“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore…” (Ephesians 6:10-20). Resources: Putting on the Armor of God, Stephen A. Cramer; Spiritual Warfare, LifeGuide Bible Studies, InterVarsity Press; What Is Spiritual Warfare?, Stanley Gale (a booklet); Power Encounters, David Powlison; Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks

Living In Constant Obedience—“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15); “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29); “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance…” (1 Peter 1:14); “Jesus said, ‘But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here’” (John 14:31). Resources: Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives, Dr. Alistair Begg; Putting Amazing Back into Grace, Michael Horton; Holiness by Grace, Bryan Chapell; Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges; A Life of Principled Obedience, A.N. Martin (a booklet); Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, John Calvin; Sermons on Obedience: http://resources.thegospelcoalition.org/library?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=obedience

I love this content, my fellow marathoners for Christ! I hope it blesses you and someone in your life as well. Please, oh please, don’t let any Christ-centered movement towards the light, improvement, and helping others pass you by.

It’s vitally… life-givingly… important. For a host of complicated reasons, DEPRESSION is no longer the malady of a few fish swimming in the fishbowl of life all around us: It IS the water that we ALL swim in. It’s as pervasive in the church as it is in the world. Like so many things aptly described by how frogs are unwittingly cooked in a slow-boiling pot, living under the pall of depression has slowly become more the norm than the exception… and the evil one is delighted in the dimly lit life so many of God’s Image Bearers live in, with, through, and by everyday.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12; 1:5; 1 John 1:5-9; Psalm 119:105; 27:1; Luke 11:34-35… many more)

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie-Part 8: “Time Heals All Wounds.”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Series Preface: If You’ve Not Yet, Please Take a Moment to Remember the Context of “DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

[In part, “The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact can be accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. This is why we’ve invented 10,000 different ways to distract ourselves. So, we agree with one another: let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”” (John Dozier, The Training Table, November 8, 2017)]

We’ve poked at some interesting and challenging sleeping dogs like,

“We’re All Children of God”

“God Loves Us Unconditionally”

“All Roads Lead to God”

“Don’t Judge!”

“Knock on Wood”

“The Devil Made Me Do It”

I pray that you may have been awakened in some way.

Our Feast at The Training Table Today is the Sleeping Dog, “Time Heals All Wounds.”

Purely on the level of common sense, if you or I had the unfortunate experience of a heart attack, and we found ourselves just out of the ER, after being revived, and lying on a gurney with a Cardiac Specialist nearby, how would we respond to the Doc’s recommendation,

“Let’s just give this some time.”

“Okay,” we trustingly yet sheepishly reply. “Is that it? How much time?” we inquire of the white-coat come to rescue us.

“All the time it takes to heal, correct itself, and get stronger,” the now-somewhat-suspect specialist dictates.

“So, your prescription is simply apply time to the situation?” we triple-check.

“Yes… absolutely. You don’t have to go to medical school to know that time heals all wounds!” As the Doc departs to attend to the next time-cured patient…

Right?

It’s like the time I came home from the grocery store and purposely placed a standing rib roast on the counter; my wife stuck her head into the other room where I had been reading for two hours and said, “Are we supposed to do anything to that beautiful piece of meat sitting on the counter?”

“Nope… just give it some time, dear.”

Moldy-stink meat anyone?

Here’s The Rub

Just in case any marathoner for Christ at The Training Table needs a reminder, ever since The Fall (Genesis 3) the ONLY effect TIME ALONE has on anything of any kind in the universe is entropy, DECAY, rust, maggot food, stench, and falling apart until whatever TIME is being applied to the object returns back to the dirt, and is food for worms.

What The Trinity put in place to reverse the curse of death, actually DEFEATED hell and death in time and for eternity, BUT, for the time being, the physicality of death and decay are still present—until Jesus returns to make all things new. Yes! in Christ, things are now PARTIALLY NEW—but that’s on a spiritual level; the first most fundamentally important level that exists: We must first be spiritually born again to avail ourselves to God’s plan to make all things new… in time and for eternity! 

Short of that, even though the process is slowed by God’s most merciful Common Grace, all life is rotting away, inexorably, day by day… all things fall apart.

In Christ…

Jesus Christ is The Victor over death and hell itself! “According to the Bible, Jesus was God manifest in human flesh. (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Philippians 2:5-8). When Jesus died, he died a man’s death and because he was the one and only righteous man and the one and only righteous God, “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24). Though it was impossible for God to die (Psalm 102:25-27), it was not impossible for God to take on humanity in order to die a man’s death as our substitute, propitiation (1 Timothy 2:5,6).” (Things Revealed)

NOW… Take However Much TIME We Need… And Apply THAT to Our Wounds…

And this:

Romans 5:3-5

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

1 Peter 5:10

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Romans 8:18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

James 1:2-4

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

John 16:33

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Revelation 21:4

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Is Time Really On Our Side? (Rolling Stones)

It ALL depends on how time is used. Time is fixed, and the scope of our participation is variable. And there’s only two ways to use time: For God or against God. To glorify God or glorify self. To love or to be indifferent. For truth or for falsehood. For darkness or for light. We see, in fact, it’s not that complicated. Or is it—due to the limitless ways Sin and sinning influences all of life.

Look at all the Bible-based truths above: Every jot and tittle of God’s love and truth applied to whatever time God allows us on earth is meant by Him to be REDEMPTIVEreparative, restorative, corrective, purifying, “resurrective”, and eternally bound. Time used in ways that suppress the existence of God (Romans 1:18-32), and insist on the array of humanistic approaches to restoration and healing wounds is time [very] poorly spent: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)

Time alone does nothing but lead to death. Time used to avail ourselves to God’s timeless truth and love, in His Word and by prayer and service, is time supremely well spent!

Time spent as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), being conformed to Christlikeness (Romans 8:28), made more and more joyous (James 1:2-5), suffering for Jesus’ sake (Romans 5:3-5), wounded yet redeemed and peaceful (John 16:33), increasingly mature, perfected, holy, and used of God (2 Corinthians 4:8-10), and sacrificially participating within a community of faith (Acts 2:42-47)… IS TIME WELL SPENT!

In Closing…

How do principles and practices akin to, “Time heals all wounds” come into being, vogue? The quick and uncomplicated answer is that if/when we don’t have the Bible-based, spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical wherewithal to know and wisely use time in a healing and redemptive manner, we can do nothing else EXCEPT simply apply time, separate/isolate ourselves, be silent, and let things sit and rot…

I’m afraid, deep down inside—which is where the healing and redemption is most needed and desired—both parties, “the hurting and the supposed, time-champion healer,” who are both party to the often nervous, protective, and shallow consolation, “Hey, hang in there, time heals all wounds,” … You see, both parties are left with a gaping wound of anonymity: neither party can be seen, reached, let alone consoled. Both parties are party to keeping company with time… just time: Not The Redeemer of All Things, including time (Philippians 3:13-14), but The Timeless Maker of Time (2 Peter 3:8)—done just for us to steward our time in ways that glorify God and bless others.

The plight of the heart resides on both sides, the contorted and the supposed comforter, and there are SO many hearts that are SO afraid to be deeply loved and deeply doing the loving, that the most paltry or ignominious consolation or compliment is as acceptable as pinch of artificial sweetener … When the most deep, sweet, and beautiful healing and redemption is available in Christ, by faith alone, and as part of the same supernatural family, with no more shame, and a willingness to “GoDeep!” and enter into the wounds and chaos of this heartbroken world!

Every second of time used to glorify God and bless others will be redeemed in time and for eternity. Let’s not waste our time, our tears, and the promised treasures God will bless us with if we use time as the precious commodity that it is. And please, let’s not allow our squeamishness about silence, offering real hug, being present, weeping, and listening to a broken heart to simply barf our something as untrue and self-soothing as, “Hang in there; time heals all wounds.”

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie-Part 6: “The Devil Made Me Do It!”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Series Preface: If You’ve Not Yet, Please Take a Moment to Remember the Context of “DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

[In part, “The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact can be accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. This is why we’ve invented 10,000 different ways to distract ourselves. So, we agree with one another: let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”” (John Dozier, The Training Table, November 8, 2017)]

We’ve poked at some interesting and challenging sleeping dogs like,

“We’re All Children of God”

“God Loves Us Unconditionally”

“All Roads Lead to God”

“Don’t Judge!”

“Knock on Wood”

I pray you have you been awakened in some way?

The Sleeping Dog for Today’s Feast at the Training Table: “The Devil Made Me Do It!”

First: From Within the Church

Right off, let’s dispel, for the most part, something aligned with our Sleeping Pup for today: By and large, in the way the vast majority of normal church folks, leaders in the Western Church show up every day, THE DEVIL has little cause to pay any special attention to us… let alone Full-Nelson, drag us into doing immoral, anti-God, or church, self, or people-harming things. How so?

Because, I’m afraid, so many folks in the Western Church don’t pose any particularly big, long-lasting threat to the devil, AND so much harm being done to the Christian faith, church is being done by the very folks who lead the church [by poor leadership] and attend [by being poorly led]: The devil really doesn’t have to put himself out due to the fact that so many modern-day, nominal, church-going, church leaders/consumers are doing just fine on our own—in undermining the relevancy and effectiveness of the church.

The Senior Devil said to the Junior Devil, “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” (C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters)

So much dysfunction, disunity exists in the church that it’s a problem perpetuating itself. Understandably, this is a broad and dangerous accusation. I don’t make it lightly. Even though there are many, the following is just one resource to provide an example of what I’m referring to from within the church:

FIVE CHALLENGES:  Church Leaders Share 5 Challenges and 5 Opportunities Facing the Church

The challenges facing the church and the world today are many and multifaceted, but which of them represent, from the perspective of The Gospel Coalition’s leadership, the most troubling threats to the church’s health and the most significant obstacles to the gospel’s advancement? Here are five [the details are supplied via the above www link, “Five Challenges”]:

1. Sin

2. Division in the Church

3. ‘Evangelical’ Identity Crisis

4. Poorly Formed Christians

5. Extremes of Pietism and Partisanship

Now, without going into the details of what the above threats entail, and how much they harm both the church leaders and the laity, suffice it to say they consist of  a form of “illness from within”: The worldliness of the church, whereby the devil simply has to watch the internally-driven momentum sustain itself. Again, by and large, the devil’s personal, urgent, actual involvement in many hearts has already been done; the slippery slope began to slope and get slippery decades ago:

So many churches, the folks therein, are running on their own steam of wrong-headed/hearted false doctrine and are largely-antinomian… albeit highly resistant strains of legalism, works righteousness, certainly exist as well.

If we look around the planet where really dramatic activity of The True Gospel advancement is being done… that’s where the devil is spending his time—attacking like a prowling lion those Kingdom advancers who are a real threat to the anti-Christ! Remember, the devil’s two main objectives are to keep unbelievers unbelieving, and believers ineffective. AND, even though Satan is “the prince of this world,” all of the devil’s activities are keep on the tight and trustworthy leash of God’s Sovereignty!

Here’s a humbling yet true and loving accusation, exhortation for far too many folks who might claim, “The Devil Made Me do It!”: We’re giving ourselves FAR too much credit. How so? Because most of the folks who make a claim of this kind don’t realize [or are suppressing the fact] that their own Sin nature and habitual sinning is causing them to go off the rails… NOT the devil’s direct involvement in their lives.

SO…

Next time a hint of the thought, “The Devil Made Me do It!” crosses our mind the first thing we should consider is what is the sin beneath the sin in MY OWN situation and heart? How can I know and mortify the sin? Who in my faith community will I enjoin to help, encourage, exhort, and abide with me? Yes indeed: a sustained focus on the fruitfulness AND the sinfulness of our faith-walk will eventually get us on Satan’s radar screen… which is a good sign!

We have to be radically reformed [invest in the Bible as God’s inspired doctrine of True Truth], radically revived [commit to a deep knowledge, friendship with, and obedience to the Holy Spirit], and radically committed [to the culture as a constructive revolutionary]… TO EVEN GET ON SATAN’S RADAR!

Second: From Outside the Church

This will be brief: If anyone has not been born again, and is FOR God,—reasoned by non-contradictory logic, design—he or she serves what is anti-God, or the sin nature which has yet to be propitiated by Jesus Christ in regeneration, conversion, and by faith alone. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.'” (John 14) Until any person be saved he or she is in servitude to, a) this world, b) his or her own sinful desires, and/or c) the devil.

Jesus said, “I and the Father Are One” (John 10:22-30)

“At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

I’m afraid that if anyone doesn’t know Christ, he or she can’t help but be on the side of darkness… as The Light has yet to enter into the heart.

“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

Make Your Assurance Sure Today!

And then get on with our Christian calling by means of:

Reformation… seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Loving the Trinity by means of Bible-saturated, sacrificial, evangelical service helps keep us on both extremes of the Gospel: We realize we’re MORE SINFUL and yet MORE LOVED. Short of being, staying on both extremes of the Gospel, we only have one choice: BEING IN THE MIDDLE-LUKEWARM. And the lukewarm Christian is not just a real yawner for the devil… the unbeliever AND the lukewarm Christian is actually an ally of the devil.

Amen.

JohnDoz

Additional Resource:

Religion vs. The Gospel

 

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 5: “Knock On Wood!”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Series Preface: If You’ve Not Yet, Please Take a Moment to Remember the Context of “DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

[In part, “The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact can be accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. This is why we’ve invented 10,000 different ways to distract ourselves. So, we agree with one another: let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”” (John Dozier, The Training Table, November 8, 2017)]

We’ve poked at some interesting and challenging sleeping dogs like, “We’re All Children of God”, “God Loves Us Unconditionally”, “All Roads Lead to God”. DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 4: “Don’t Judge!”

I pray you have you been awakened in some way?

The Sleeping Dog for Today’s Feast at the Training Table: “Knock On Wood!”

As a Christ-centered “Marathoner for Jesus” (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7), does this “superstitious wood-rapping” about certain things we HOPE will come to pass, and other things we WISH won’t come to pass, resonate with you at all? Or am I being too sensitive, legalistic, anal?

Just in the past month I have interacted with many people who are professing Christians—no doubt some are elect, regenerate, repentant, bona-fide, born-again disciples of Christ—and somewhere along the conversation he or she will say something like, “We’ll see how it goes… knock on wood [as they rap their knuckles on an nearby object], things will be okay.”

Is this just a benign, harmless habit that’s not worth a nickel? Or does it underlie a deeper sense of forgetfulness—or some doctrine, promise we didn’t know to begin with—about the utter, complete, down-to-the-atom sovereignty of the God Who’s Son died for our sins, and our security, sanctification, and sacrificial service?

It’s entirely understandable if an unbeliever, humanist would rely on superstition, luck, chance, hocus pocus, karma or whatever random set of dice-rolling he or she was into. But someone who has been re-made to resemble the very Son of God should have different standards of discerning life’s circumstances…

Let me remind you: God’s Sovereignty describes God’s absolute control over everything, always and forever. He is not dependent on anything outside of Himself, never has been, never will be. (Isaiah 46:10) This is why His creature, man, cannot initiate his own salvation by his, man’s choice. (John 15:16) Providence is from latin, “pro videre”, “seeing in advance”, and also means God establishes, ordains whatever comes to pass. (Colosians 1:16)

“Knocking wood”, taken as what AnyMan relies on as the main means of what determines his/her steps, is nothing but idolatry (Romans 1:18-32).

Three Things… Buckle Up.

First: If you’re a Bible-defined disciple of Christ, can you say deep in your heart, “Because of God’s I AM… I am…

COMPLETELY ACCEPTED…
John 1:12 – I am God’s child.
John 15:15 – As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 – I have been justified.
1 Corinthians 6:17 – I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 – I am a member of Christ’s body.
Ephesians 1:3-8 – I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 – I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 – I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 – I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

TOTALLY SECURE…
Romans 8:1-2 – I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8:28 – I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 – I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4 – I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 1:6 – I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
Philippians 3:20 – I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7 – I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5:18 – I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

ASTOUNDINGLY SIGNIFICANT…
John 15:5 – I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
John 15:16 – I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 – I am God’s temple.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 – I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
Ephesians 2:6 – I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 2:10 – I am God’s workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 – I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Philippians 4:13  – I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

There is not ONE piece of chance, superstition, luck, wish fulfillment… nothing but GOD’S UNASSAILABLE PROVIDENCE, PLAN, GRACE, TRUTH, AND ASSURANCE here. Are the above Bible truths about those who are in Christ rooted deep enough in your heart that knocking on wood, searching for a four-leaf clover, drumming up positive thoughts, grooving on Feng Shui, or avoiding black cats and ladders… just would not occur to you? [Again, I’m not condemning anyone’s occasional slip of the hand in surface-knocking as a sentence in hell…]

Second: If you’re a Bible-defined disciple of Christ, every pronouncement, prediction, prophecy , or the puniest word beyond our next breath should be accompanied NOT by a superstitious knuckle-knock on the nearest object, but by a heartfelt faith [and not an unduly or self-centered pietistic pronouncement,] “Deo Volente!” GOD WILLING! (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 4:13-17) God’s providence, not the toss of a coin, reigns: A growing trust in that is what marks the disciple of Christ.

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, [Deo Volente: God Willing] “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.  If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” (James 4:13-17)
Do you believe that God’s will is the be all and end all over ALL things? Will you Stand (Ephesians 6:13) for, “No amount of wood-whacking, black cat avoiding, broken mirror catastrophes, candle lighting, or any other form of ritualistic-superstitious idolatry, will suffice for our faith in the sovereignty of THE GREAT I AM!”
Third: What is your history of redeeming the suffering God has providentially orchestrated for the transformation of your heart (Ezekiel 11:19; Ephesians 4:14-15), your maturity, growth, and the deepening of your faith and Christlikeness (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 4:15-18; Hebrews 5:8; 1 Peter 5:10)?
Since this is a [way] big and complicated topic, allow me to offer one of my favorite, most polarizing and true insights about all of humankind’s suffering from a sermon by Tim Keller. Please spend some time reading, re-reading, and getting it deep into your heart. Which of the “two sufferers” best describe you? Do you have some stories that will support your self-disclosure?
There is a direct parallel, organic connection between how deeply we trust SOLELY in the Triune God of the Bible, or in luck, randomness, chance, or life’s outcomes of ANY kind based upon what we do… as opposed to what Christ has done. And, to the degree we have allowed our suffering to conform us to the likeness of Christ, suffering will make us completely trust in the sovereignty, providence of His Father… carried out and along by the Holy Spirit.

“There are only two kinds of people in the world. Both are sufferers. There are the people who build their trust on things beside God so that when suffering comes it takes away the sources of their joy so they become sadder and sadder, and madder and madder, and worse. And then there are the people who suffer, but who seek to build their trust on God, on the basis of his infinite suffering for us on the cross, so that God becomes the source of their joy. When suffering comes in their lives, it drives them into deeper joy. It drives them more into God. And so suffering makes them better and better, and more like Jesus.

There are only two kinds of people in the world! They’re both going to suffer. There’s the kind of person that suffering makes worse, because the source of their joy being taken away. And there’s the kind of person who suffering makes better because the suffering is pushing them towards the one source of joy that is not subject to circumstances. Jesus Christ suffered not so that we might not suffer, but rather when we suffer, we could become more like him!” (“The Sufferer,” sermon by Timothy Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NY, March 7, 2004.)

Breathtaking…

How about you? By way of the stewardship of your trials, has God stripped away many of the doubts in His reign over ALL things, and replaced the sands of doubt and distrust (Matthew 7:26-28) with more and more rock-solid trust in the Trinity each day?

Can’t wait to sup’ with you next week as we look at the next Sleeping Dog, “The Devil Made Me Do It!”

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 4: “Don’t Judge!”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Series Preface: If You’ve Not Yet, Please Take a Moment to Remember the Context of “DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

[In part, “The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact can be accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. This is why we’ve invented 10,000 different ways to distract ourselves. So, we agree with one another: let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”” (John Dozier, The Training Table, November 8, 2017)]

We’ve poked at some interesting and challenging sleeping dogs like, “We’re All Children of God”, “God Loves Us Unconditionally”, or “All Roads Lead to God”.

Have you been awakened in some ways?

The Sleeping Dog for Today’s Feast at the Training Table: “Don’t Judge!”

Of all the many attributes of Western culture, having “sown the wind, and reaping the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7), of abandoning the Only, One, True God of the Bible, there are three main “buckets” that come in very handy to contain the reality or our choices [sowing] and their results [reaping]. These were originally put forth by Ravi Zacharius:

a) “rampant secularization”—no God, only the here and now and “what’s under the sun” (Ecclesiastes), no shame, pleasure at any cost;

b) “rampant privatization”—what we do in our private life has no bearing on our public life, a loss of integrity and eventually meaning results; and

c) “rampant pluralization”—no transcendent, timeless Truths exists, all truth is relative, only each individual has the right, capacity to express whatever truth is to him or her

Even though the above includes lots of overlap, the sleeping dog of today is tied to the third belief and very terrible results: having sown “rampant pluralization” [all truth is relative, only each individual has the right and ability to express whatever truth is to him or her] into the hearts of a people and culture for as long as we have one terrible and destructive whirlwind we’re now reaping is this: “Don’t Judge!”

Or, by means of the footnoted version, “Don’t use your common sense or God-given knowledge, judgement, experience, redemptive wounds, or wisdom to shed light on True Truth—in the hopes of making things better in the world. Just let sleeping dogs lie; and the decay and darkness of a fallen world take its course.”

We Don’t Dare:

  • express an opinion of something that’s intended to span all time, cultures, and people groups
  • attempt to discern and detail a True Truth from a corresponding, opposite falsehood—best keep all comments very general, not polarizing

Or Don’t Put Too Fine a Point On Distinguishing:

  • love from indifference…
  • divide right from wrong…
  • good from bad…
  • light from dark…
  • respect from anonymity…
  • intimacy from exploitation…
  • knowledge from wisdom…
  • fresh from putrid…
  • sexy from salacious…
  • character from childish…
  • wisdom from foolishness…
  • moral from promiscuous…
  • fruitfulness from fallow…
  • tasteful from repulsive…
  • fair from unfair…
  • normal from deviant…
  • fidelity from licentiousness…
  • healthy from unwholesome…
  • righteous from corrupt…
  • strategic from “feels right or wrong”…
  • beauty from grotesque…
  • civil from ill-mannered…
  • integrity from deceit…
  • leadership from enabling…
  • lots more…

After All, It’s Just Your Personal, Relative, Biased Opinion!

Has the World, the Flesh, and the Devil… WON?

Is standing for and offering True Truth now entirely out of bounds? So politically incorrect that any expression of True Truth MUST—at all costs—remain UNSAID and condemned to the same sort of SILENCE Adam was guilty of? (Genesis 3:6)

Or are our infrequent interventions so surrounded by so many apologies, caveats, excuses, and shame that the merits of any True Truth Half-Well Told is rendered so moot, flaccid, or destitute that it’s just an embarrassment… to the God of Truth and Love, and to the teller, and hearer, as well.

Certainly, one of the many effects of living in a fallen world is that falsehood will trump True Truth in the everyday. As Mark Twain observed, “A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.” (Mark Twain) This is why God’s Church exists: as light and salt.

How about you? I have met far more people than not—who are very smart, experienced, competent, successful, well-paid, lauded in all sorts of ways, even people who profess to be Christ-followers—who regularly carry-out two things that help make my point:

  1. Offer some sound, healthy, commonsense, long or short, even Godly or Biblical insight about a situation or a someone… followed in the same breath by:
  2. “But I’m not judging! Don’t get me wrong… If it’s okay with them… whatever works… I’m not a Judger.”

OMG! I’m tired of that. Are you sick of it too? It’s so common and heartbreaking to see how, even in the realm of God’s SPECIAL GRACE, born-again [or maybe not] human beings meant for the betterment of the world, all of life, can be so easily neutered, silenced so that what good that might help improve things is not JUST useless, but, even worse, remains an unused portion of what God has blessed a heart with on the inside: God’s True Truth is given and meant to be lovingly released into this broken, decaying, dark and stinky world. And when it isn’t the resultant emotional ambivalence of warring contradictions in the heart is killer for one’s faith, holiness, effectiveness, and Christlikeness… even one’s humanness.

After all, what’s the difference between silenced human being and, say, an Orangutan? Except for a very poor example of naturalistic evolution? Is a knowledge-imbued yet silenced being any further along?

In so far as the COMMON GRACE side, it’s more understandable that unsaved, unredeemed people would conform to the patterns of this world (Romans 12), but we’re still losing a great deal of “common good” when “Don’t Judge!” reigns in any heart. And the good never gets sown, grown, or garnering any good.

An Important Caveat: We Don’t Know, Can’t Judge, Any Person’s Heart Like God Does

Yes, there are occasions, albeit rare in my experience, where “Don’t Judge!” is righteously meant to defer to God the most intimate things of anyone’s heart. In this case we certainly not dare to assume anything about how God may be involved in anyone’s heart, life… MOST* of the time in time… but certainly for ETERNITY. [*It’s vital we use both The Spirit’s and our good judgment when it comes to being with people who say they believe in the God of the Bible, while living in obviously UN-Biblical ways. Granted, we don’t know the ways God’s working in the heart, but we cannot remain silent [E.g., afraid of being “judgmental”] as another person self-destructs by means of being a living contradiction and stranger to him or her self. God’s love and truth is given to intercede, not remain hidden. (Matthew 5:16)]

A Christian remaining silent in the presence of a fellow Saint’s self-destruction is a living lie from the pit of hell… and a clear victory for a defeated and silenced, yet still-effective, Satanic foe… worldly way… or man-fearing heart. The Church laity, especially, exists to encourage, admonish, teach, and give thanks: in True Truth, and in Love. 

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess. 2:13)

Check out all of Ephesians 4: It is God the Spirit, speaking through Paul, exhorting, admonishing, warning, reminding, encouraging The Church. A man of God using his Godly truths, his judgment, and his loving words to help transform people and the world. A Godly apologetic. No apologies.

 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Having Lived in the Whirlwind of Relativism for a Long While…

We’ve likely never known or forgotten where the problem began:

Genesis 3:6 says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, (imah) and he ate.”

Wow! Adam was with her! I don’t know about you, but that’s shocking. We always talk about how Eve was deceived. And I think deep down, we sort of blame Eve for getting us all in this mess in the first place, even though we know somewhere inside that Adam was responsible.

But what if Adam was standing right there the whole time that Eve was talking to the serpent? I think this sheds new light on just how responsible Adam was for what happened: his silence permitted death to flourish. What does this say to us about remaining silent, not doing anything when we are not sure exactly what we should do or say? Or we know EXACTLY what to say but our heart belongs to the world and not Jesus? It sure makes inactivity, silence look more sinful to me. In fact, on the Gold Medal stand for the winningest sins!

If Adam was there, then why didn’t he say something? Why didn’t he tell the serpent to get lost? Why didn’t he correct Eve when she misquoted the command not to eat of the tree? Why didn’t he suggest they go somewhere else to talk about the situation? Why didn’t he stop Eve when she reached for the fruit?

Why Adam was silent? Why are you and I?

We have been silenced by Adam and the spirit of the age… which quenches The Spirit of the Living God in our heart! But we’ve been freed by The Second Adam, Jesus Christ, haven’t we? “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Freed to do what, exactly? Yes: speak the True Truth in Love along the journey of being co-redeemers along with the Trinity to help transform the world. That’s all.

It’s darker than ever in the world today; the manifold need for God’s unvarnished, unchanging, transforming love and truth to be released into the chaos of the heart first, and then wider culture, is greater than ever; who will go?

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go…!” (Isaiah 6)

Where and How Is God Sending You and Me? Let’s Put It This Way:

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16).  (Matthew 5:13–16)

Jesus identifies Himself with Yahweh in the Sermon on the Mount when He compares His disciples to the persecuted prophets of old (Matt. 5:11–12; Jer. 37–38). The disciples who speak for Jesus are like the prophets who spoke for the Lord of the covenant; therefore, Christ implies His divine sovereignty.

The prophets carried out their ministries in full view of the people of Israel, and so we are not surprised to see that their successors, the disciples of Jesus, do not build the kingdom of God in secret. This is the point of today’s passage. Our Savior calls His disciples the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13) and the “light of the world” (v. 14), two substances that permeate and transform the food, or the darkness, in which they are found. Like salt and light, the church is to have a transformative effect on the surrounding society.

Salt is often produced as tiny grains and is not expensive given its prevalence. Yet its value far outweighs its apparent insignificance. Christians are to be like salt and have a positive impact on the culture far beyond what is expected from the powerless. The meaning of Jesus’ metaphor is probably not limited to any single benefit we get from salt, but we will highlight its preservative quality. The church must have a preserving effect on society and by its influence prevent the world from rushing headlong toward ungodliness. Christianity has fulfilled this role historically, leading the way in the advance of human rights. But take note that we are salt only if we maintain our difference from the world around us. In the Near East, salt can be found mixed with gypsum or sand, diluting its “saltiness” and worth. The same fate can befall us if we bend over backward to show the world how much we are like them (v. 13; 1 Peter 1:14–16).

Rural communities like the one Jesus addresses in Matthew 5 well know how blinding darkness can be. Yet the glow of a city in the distance can give those living in the pitch black of night a sense of direction and bearing. Just as walking around the camp at night is dangerous without a lighted torch, Jesus calls us to be the light of the world, to live as those transformed by the Spirit so that the world will take notice and be led to glorify the Father (vv. 14–16).

Living Before the Face of God

Christ’s call for us to be salt and light is not an impossible one. In keeping with New Testament ethics, Jesus first tells us what we are and then calls us to live up to that standard. In Him we are salt and light (Matt. 5:13–16), and so we are to live out by faith what He has made us to be. If you are discouraged by your saltlessness or darkness, remember that Jesus declares you to be salt and light and press on, knowing that by the power of the Spirit you can obey His charge. (Tabletalk, Ligonier Minstries, emphasis added)

When we put our head down on the pillow, floor, mud, cardboard, rolled-up jacket… where and whatever… at night, or when we open an eye first thing in the morning, we should be asking ourselves, “In what ways have I, will I, have a God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Spirit induced transformative effect on those around me, and the world “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8)?

See you all at The Training Table next week and we’ll feast by way of poking the sleeping dog, “Knock On Wood!”

JohnDoz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 3: All Roads Lead to the Same God

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Series Preface: If You’ve Not Yet, Please Take a Moment to Remember the Context of “DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

[In part, “The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact can be accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. So let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”” (John Dozier, The Training Table, November 8, 2017)]

WE MUST BREAK THIS HABIT OF THE UNEXPLORED, VULNERABLE, FEAR-FULL, NEEDY HEART.

The Sleeping Dog for Today’s T.T. Feast: “Do All Roads [Really] Lead to the Same God?”

I’m certain you’ve discerned a pattern in the first three parts of this series by now: fallen Image Bearers, all of humankind, prefer to fashion lesser god’s out of our OWN marred, self-centered, and self-perpetuated image. Each of the awakened, now-cantankerous dogs include humankind’s hope that God would lower the bar for His acceptance of what is needed for us thoroughly stained sinners to stand before a Holy God.

Whether we will admit it or not, there’s a still-small voice emanating from our fallenness that sounds like this: “It’s my responsibility to be free to do as I please, and it’s God’s responsibility to accept and forgive me regardless of my free-will choices.” End of story. But one-sided responsibility never works… in any relationship, does it?

So, by saying, insisting, or standing on the truth of a worldview, belief, and behavior akin to, “We’re All Children of God”, “God Loves Us Unconditionally”, or “All Roads Lead to God”, what we’re really doing is reshaping God’s PERFECT-HOLY identity, attributes, character in order to make as much room as needed for our own FALLEN-UNHOLY identity, attributes, character. Or idolatry by any other name.

That’s what all 2,800++ man-made religions do: a) we fashion idols into lesser gods, and b) we construe all manner of means and bizarr-o, nonsensical systems whereby we have to earn, vie, work, scratch, claw, vie, grovel, bootlick, wheedle, compare, did I say vie?!, apple-polish, lie… MERIT… our way to God’s favor. Ergo, we must bring God down to our level so that God can’t come near and see us just the way we are… which, of course, He does anyway—indelibly stained and in dire need of a savior TO COME DOWN. Our very dangerous subjectivity within MUST be effected on an OBJECTIVE source from without.

The Timely Timelessness of Our Bumper Sticker Theology

 

 

 

You’ve likely seen it hundreds of times. Does it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling of relief, bliss, and oneness? Or does the notion of all religions boiled-down, symbolized, and smashed together provoke, “BS! That’s from the pit of hell!” in you? Too strong? Think again… please, think again. It’s the perfect icon for what we’re here to weed out: “All Religions, Roads, Worldviews [What-the-Hell-Ever] Lead to the Same God” … oh, and “Peace-Out!” of course.

Here’s the rub, Beloved of God, in Christ, and by the Spirit:

  1. In an age of rampant relativity, we abhor “exclusivity”. But every religion makes exclusive claims about God—and they CANNOT all be equally true. Even though non-contradictory logic has been thrown on the trash heap of our relativistic age, it’s still alive and well: denying it doesn’t change that; it only eats us up from the inside-out: Trying to live a life chocked full of rampant contradictions does that.
  2. To lump all religions together for the purposes of “all-road-ness”, peace, unity, brotherhood, fairness, and Kumbaya-ness—is equally insulting to ALL religions. Ever had a chat with an even remotely devout Jew about “the New Testament Jesus”? Or a “completed Jew” [born again of Christ] telling you about how his or her family is treating him or her?
  3. An easily accessible “Religion 101 course near you” will make it obvious—each religion is different and each is based upon some way, shape, or form on the shaky foundation of works-righteousness. Sin-born and habitually-sinning human beings cannot span the infinite chasm between themselves and a perfect, unblemished, and holy God. Try as we may, it’s beyond impossible… But we try, try, and try again; God is polite enough to let us indulge ourselves in this insanity; His offer of the “It is finished…” cross to span the gulf stands; but when Christ returns all bets, man-made bridges, boasts, and blasphemies will be over… forever.
  4. Wars, and wars-upon-wars, have been fought… are being fought… will be fought… because there exists DEEP DIFFERENCES between religions! Man’s meddling in God’s salvific affairs CANNOT help but lead to war: they are, by nature, COMPETITIVE. Existentially so. Man-made religions vie for supremacy as the Only Supreme God, in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit stands as the only viable Way, Truth, and Life.
  5. The God of the Bible’s Plan of Redemption is the ONLY theologically, reasonably, philosophically, and anecdotally [how one’s religion intersects with everyday life] TRUE, and the most EXCLUSIVELY INCLUSIVE way (John 3:16) to resolve the utter, thorough, and heartfelt brokenness of the universe: our works cannot work… only grace, God’s unmerited favor, works God’s manifold wonders… in all the needed detail… in time and for eternity.

Let me be really frank: do you hate religious syncretism—the blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation into a religious tradition of beliefs from unrelated traditions—motivated, carried out, and taught to avoid the living God of the Bible… as much as God does? (Rom. 1:18-32)

All roads do not, can not, lead to the same God: but the world, the flesh [our own sin], and the devil would just as soon we stay on THE BROAD ROAD which leads to hell. Please, do not allow your sin, or anyone else’s God places in your midst, to bypass THE NARROW GATE. (Matt. 7)

Celebrate and praise God every minute of your life, in word and in deed, that He has made a Way, a Truth, and a Life in Jesus Christ—no one comes to the Father except by Him. If any of us have a complaint of any kind that God has made His only way too exclusive, hard, unreasonable, narrowly defined, or unkind… well, allow me to simply say that a complaint of this kind is a reflection of our denial [based upon ignorance and/or arrogance] of the depth of our sin AND the heights of God’s love. Amen.

See you all at The Training Table next week and we’ll feast by way of poking the sleeping dog, “Don’t Judge!”

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 2: God’s Loves Us Unconditionally

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Series Preface: Please Take a Moment to Remember the Context of “DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie”

In part, “The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact can be accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. So let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”” (John Dozier, The Training Table, November 8, 2017)

WE MUST BREAK THIS HABIT OF THE UNEXPLORED, VULNERABLE, FEAR-FULL, NEEDY HEART.

Today’s sleeping dog we’re NOT going to let lie? “God Love Us Unconditionally”

“All You Need is LOVE…” [Beatles, MMT, 1967].

There’s never been a truer statement, right? But here’s the catch: Even though every human being is an Image Bearer of God, if we were in a room with 200 people, from 25 places around the globe, and were to ask each one of them privately what the definition of “LOVE” is, how many sorts of answers would we get? And could we imagine how many answers would conform to the God of the Bible’s answer to such a foundational, yet most likely elusive, answer?

My “love story?” As a 45-year-old, going on two years of intense Christian counseling, when I was asked by my effective, trusted counselor, “Do you believe you’re capable of loving someone?” It didn’t take me more than a two seconds to answer, “Absolutely not. I have no idea what love is… or how to accept it or return it…” You see, I had come far enough along knowing the details my story, and seeing the innumerable ways I had received so little God-honoring, other-centered love—as well as how thoroughly I had adulterated, perverted love, to put it nicely—myself…

Well, to say I knew anything about what love was meant to be by God would have been laughable had I answered in any other way.

So laughable, in fact, all I could do was weep: I literally had no place within my heart to look for an answer to the question, “Do you believe you’re capable of loving someone?” The question was met with a terrifying void, silence in my heart. But knowing my story, and standing face-to-face with so many ways that love has been brutalized, debauched, and degraded… How could I have possibly known what love is?

If we were more honest with ourselves I don’t imagine my story would actually… really… be all that anomalous: Most of us could stand to see the void of un-love for what it is; and then, only then, begin to fill it with The Origin, Author, and Agent of Love… The Triune God of the Bible.

And let me offer the key insight, truism into my own story that’s a very personal and yet universal reality: It is as impossible to work ourselves out of the deadly problem of not knowing what God’s love really consists of, as it is for fresh and salt water to flow out of a spigot at the same time. As it is a carrot to be a Woolly Mammoth… As it is for a worm to graduate from Stanford U. summa cum laude… It’s simply impossible.

This is why the problem is described in the Bible as being SO BIG, INSURMOUNTABLE that what? We must be born again. We absolutely must participate in God’s cosmic do-over. The utter depravity in all of our hearts requires the most radical solution… even for GOD to think of.

So my having been born again in 1983, when I was 31 years-old, I could THENhumankind can THEN… begin as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) to be delivered from darkness into His divine light (Col. 1:13)! We must be born again before we can actually, honestly, holistically reconnoiter the sublimely conditional love of God.

Over time I could begin to own such true, lofty, yet common-to-all-humanity truths like, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” (C.S. LewisThe Four Loves)

Does that hit home with anyone else? Like, maybe around 7.442 billion [2016 population of planet earth] others? All fallen, human hearts suffer from the same vestiges of shame that disfigures God’s way of love. If we had God’s insight to how many way-less-than-good decisions were made each day due to people’s treatment of the heart like, “Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.” we would be shocked into reversing the curse!

So What About God? Does He Love Us Unconditionally?

Short answer: That’s a big “No!” What was your initial, gut answer to this seminal question about God’s love? Here’s where my mind went right off the starting blocks: Have you ever personally, or as a friend, relative, or guest, listening to one of the most popular wedding ceremony passages from the Bible? The famous, yet little-understood, 1 Corinthians 13 “The Way of Love” passage… and death-until-us-part marriage commitment? Is there something fundamentally fundamental about it to you?

Yes, it’s replete with the CONDITIONS of God’s definition of love—which, notably, is the word “agape”, a WHOLE different, better, conditional way to know what self-sacrificial love is. And, it was inspired by God through its author’s heart and pen to… Get This: be a strong rebuke from earlier chapters to the Church at Corinth—because they had become idolaters and prostituted agape love so incredibly… thoroughly!

[RE-]think about it this way: “For Paul, love (agape) has a single meaning, which is defined as “putting the needs of others ahead on one’s own.” It was at the heart of the Christian experience; it shaped the Christian’s understanding of God’s own character and it was the chief expression one Christian would use toward a fellow believer and the world.

In Paul’s description of love, he leaves no room for it to be anything less than attending to the needs of others. The gifts of the Spirit [a basis for Paul’s rebuke], as useful as they were for the gathered community, were meaningless when performed for personal glory or selfish ambition. Paul’s description of the character of love begins by his mentioning two positive attributes: patience and kindness. Paul follows that by contrasting love to negative attributes; he argues that it is not “envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13:4-5). In the end, Paul states positively that love “rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:6-7). Paul makes it clear that love begins when someone else’s need supersedes one’s own.

Paul establishes the necessity of love in his opening paragraph (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Paul then follows this (1 Cor. 13:4-7) with a description of the character of love. Finally, Paul ends with the permanence of love and establishes agape love as a mark of true Christianity by asserting, “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Immediately following (1 Cor. 14:1), Paul literally challenges the Corinthians to “pursue love;” to put others’ needs before their own.” (Gordon Fee, The Love Passage, parenthesis, emphasis added)

Of course, beyond this example of the 1 Cor. 13 “Love Passage” so popular in marriage ceremonies, consider the traditional marriage vows itself: full of conditions to be met for LOVE in a God-honoring marriage. Plainly, God has placed conditions on HIS self-sacrificial, salvific love!

Is God’s Love Unconditional?

“Where in Scripture do we find this notion of the unconditional love of God? If God’s love is absolutely unconditional, why do we tell people that they have to repent and have faith in order to be saved? God sets forth clear conditions for a person to be saved. It may be true that in some sense God loves even those who fail to meet the conditions of salvation, but that subtlety is often missed by the hearer when the preacher declares the unconditional love of God. People hear that God will continue to love them and accept them, no matter what they do or how they live. We might as well declare an unabashed universalism as to declare the unconditional love of God without a clear and careful qualification of what that means.

An interesting contrast can be seen by comparing the preaching of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century evangelists with modern evangelists. The stress in earlier centuries was on the wrath of God directed toward impenitent sinners. Indeed, Jonathan Edwards’s preaching has been described as evangelistic preaching that employed a “scare theology.” That approach has given way to a more positive emphasis on God’s love. Of course, Edwards also declared the love of God, but not without reminding sinners that as long as they remained impenitent, they were exposed to the wrath of God and were in fact heaping up wrath against the day of wrath (Rom. 2:5).

Edwards warned his people that they were more repugnant to God in their sin than rebellious subjects were to their princes. This was part and parcel of proclaiming the gospel of reconciliation. There can be no talk of reconciliation without first establishing that there is some prior alienation or estrangement. Parties who are not estranged do not need reconciliation. The biblical concept of reconciliation presupposes a condition of estrangement between God and man.

Much is said of man’s hostility toward God. The Bible says we are God’s enemies by nature. This enmity is expressed in our sinful rebellion against Him. The common contemporary view of this is that we are estranged from God, but He is not estranged from us. The enmity is all one sided. The picture we get is that God goes on loving us with an unconditional love while we remain hateful toward Him.” (emphasis added)

As probably one of the most well-known ’round the world passage in the Bible states, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever is a pretty good guy or gal should not perish but have eternal life.” NOT! How about the real thing: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) All humanity is offered God’s love and truth in salvation as long as he or she repents from the heart and believers in the One Who God sent to rescue sinners, Jesus Christ.

How Has God’s Agape Love Suffered Under a Secularized, Humanized World?

It has been wisely said, “The second oldest religion is humanism.” From The Fall in Genesis 3 on, we fallen Image Bearers of God have flipped the meaning of agape love around “to be anything less than attending to the needs of MYSELF…” first, second, third, and foremost.

Net-Net: Far too many, even self-proclaimed “Christians”, insist that God’s love is unconditional: This is due, in the largest part, to ignorance or arrogance. If ignorance, then let’s wise-up by committing to get to know God by the only means He’s offered us a relationship: by repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, His Word in the Bible, baptism, committing to a community of faith, and serving orphans and widows. If arrogance, then let’s be more honest with ourselves and those in our midst: ANY attribution of God as important as this one [God’s Love is Unconditional] can only be ascribed to our sin and self-centeredness—E.g., “The ONLY conditions of love that I want placed on my life is that of NO conditions. I want to be and do whatever the hell I please. And it’s God’s responsibility to forgive and love me anyway… unconditionally!”

That’s not simply blasphemous; but it does’t make a stitch of sense theologically, logically, or anecdotally either. [And non-believers can’t be expected to know.]

Yes, God will, Beloved: He will love us so much that He will not force anyone into heaven, but, rather, He will be agape-loving, respectful, polite, and other-centered enough to let us fulfill our will for ourselves… EVEN IN HELL: a) in time estranged from God, purposeless, and in despair, and b) ultimately separated from God’s grace in eternity. [Which, by the way, will be far, far worse than some fiery place filled with red, dart-pointed devils scowling at the damned. It will be unimaginable, self-selected torture… forever. See Resources below.]

“From what has just been before us, let us note how vain is the presumptuous hope of the wicked, who, notwithstanding their continued defiance of God, nevertheless count upon His being merciful to them. How many there are who say, ‘I do not believe that God will ever cast me into Hell; He is too merciful.’ Such a hope is a viper, which if cherished in their bosoms will sting them to death. God is a God of justice as well as mercy, and He has expressly declared that He will “by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:7). Yea, He has said, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, all the nations that forget God” (Ps. 9:17).” (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, The Mercy of God)

Yes, God’s mercies even extend to that end: God’s LOVE and JUSTICE can never be pulled apart. Ultimately, God’s manifold mercies suffused within His character of justice must have an outcome of His mercy in heaven AND in hell. God’s mercies include hell and heaven.

Please begin to renew your heart, mind, soul, and strength about the conditional [Special, Common Grace] love of God today. Look closely at the above www-linked references. Pray for a change of heart. Be increasingly aware and discerning about how the flippant and unloving use of “God’s unconditional love” exists in the church. And seek to “pursue agape love;” to put others’ needs before our own.

The Trinity’s interdependent Plan of Salvation is where to begin to see His unconditionally conditional love and truth worked out: We all, each and every one of us, must first be “born again from above” (John 3:3); then we can begin the journey of unpacking, living out the amazing conditional love of God, and then neighbor, as self!

“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know and love God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.” (J.I. Packer)

See you all at The Training Table next week and we’ll feast by way of poking the sleeping dog, “All Roads Lead to God.”

JohnDoz

More Resources:

Agape Love

God Loves So Much… He Hates the Wicked

On the Reality of Hell

Posted in Training Table

DON’T Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Part 1: “We’re All Children of God”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

The Preface For Every Part of This Series:

Today, Emotional Ambivalence Rules the Day. “So What?”

The Proverbial saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” means we should avoid interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems—but might do so as a result of “interfering”, speaking up, shedding light, judging between right and wrong, or making an uncomfortable, revealing observation in any way, shape, or form.

Please spend some time chewing on this claim: a) In a culture where [radical, unresolved] emotional ambivalence—defined as “the coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings toward a person, an object, or an idea; warring, contradictory, incompatible emotions remaining unresolved in a person’s spirit; particularly complex emotions characterized by tension and conflict that is felt when someone experiences both positive and negative emotion simultaneously”—is the NORM… b) the vast majority of people make an unspoken covenant between each other to “Let sleeping dogs lie.”… Or, in other words, AVOID bringing up ANYTHING that reveals the rampant and disturbing emotional imbalance, warring in BOTH party’s spirit. Breaking this pact is usually accompanied by high relational risks.

Discomfort, dissonance is the enemy of the emotionally unintelligent, worldly, conflicted human being. So let’s not stir one another up! Rather, just let sleeping dogs lie. And yes, regarding this dilemma, the church has taken on the same attributes as the world: Don’t go bringing up “the messy stuff.”

“So what?” In reality, what are the key words, concept in the above claim? Yes… most of us tend to avoid emotional discomfort of most any kind.

That’s the cultural M.O. We hate entering into emotionally uncomfortable, disruptive situations SO much that we take the above measure of, “the disturbing situation is currently causing no problems” to the extreme: That unless the problem is threatening life as we know it… we’re NOT going to confront it. We just as soon let sleeping dogs lie.

In fact, “sleeping dogs” have displaced “elephants in the room” by the kennel-full. This is a very big problem. And, even then, when someone’s temporal and eternal life is threatened, in far too many instances, we STILL refuse to intervene. We’d rather tip-toe, pretend, deny, delay, and stay distracted… so the dead-asleep dog remains undisturbed, and we all do the same dance around him… not wanting to be on the hook for waking him up.

Too often “We let sleeping dogs lie.” until someone is dead or gone—and then we pile on the “would-a, could-a, should-a’s” until we ourselves are near-dead. And this is a crying-dying, completely unnecessary shame.

The pact goes like this, “Hey, let’s you and I admit it: since we have so little confidence in ourselves, so shallow a faith in God’s objective True Truth and Love, plus all of our self-worth is invested in man’s opinion of us, and we both HATE conflict of any kind… let’s just agree to NOT bring up anything that makes either of us emotionally UNcomfy… in the slightest way. Deal?”

This is the basis of this multi-course feast as we “poke at some sleeping dogs” beginning today, and for several feasts to come at The Training Table.

Part-Poke #1: “We’re All Children of God.”

I was confronted with this very familiar “sleeping dog” for the umpteenth time just last week. It came back at me when I made a distinction between a real and a false faith. “John”, the push-back went, “You’ve gotta chill… After all, we’re all children of God, right?”

It’s a form of universalism [that all souls will ultimately be reconciled and conformed to the image of the glorified resurrected Christ] that’s merely wishful thinking, unbiblical, and a gross denial of God’s holiness and our sinFULLness.

It may sound like we’re complimenting God by accruing to Him SO MUCH FATHERLY LOVE that He will give every sinner a free pass into heaven… as all of His kiddos; but this claim is in direct conflict with God’s other attributes—namely God’s justice. God cannot abide or turn a blind eye at sin or darkness of any kind in His presence. Either we stand covered by the blood-shed righteousness of Christ, or we stand alone before a holy God: Condemned, toast, destined for hell.

I’ve got some Good News for us all: Only by adoption are we regarded as the children of God. But the bad news, which accompanies the Good, is this: We all have to admit what we already know deep down inside—that due to the Sin we inherited (Gen. 3; Rom. 1:18-32), and the habitual sinning we incessantly commit (Jeremiah 17:9; 1 John 2:4), we’re all so infinitely separated from God, Who is utterly holy and pure in every way, that we each require the substitutionary sacrifice for all our our debt: That Jesus Christ paid on the cross… and bridged the span between our sin and the Father’s holiness.

It’s by, through the Father’s love of the Son, and our repentant faith IN HIM, that our adoption into the family of God occurs. And in NO other way. Period.

Look at it this way…

“Because of the Father’s love for Christ, the Father has adopted us into the royal family, making us joint heirs with Christ. We are beloved of the Father because He is beloved of the Father, and we ought never to forget that. He [Jesus Christ] is the eternal object of the Father’s affection, and we [sinners saved by grace] are the Father’s gifts of love to His Son. We are adopted by the Father in Christ, and the Father loves us because we are in the Son.” (R.C. Sproul, Tabletalk Magazine, October 2017, parenthesis added)

The Bible is providential, planned, plain, unequivocal, and UNmysterious in every way that matters! Only by adoption are we regarded as the children of God. And, given this promise and provision of The Trinity, it is only due to the pride of the unbeliever AND the remnants of the same in the Believer that we don’t fall on our faces in humility, gratitude, and witness each and every day.

So, please be honest: In regards to this particular “sleeping dog that we just as soon let lie”, which exactly would YOU and your loved ones prefer? A mildly irritated, awakened dog, or a prowling lion ready, willing, able, and sadly successful in destroying MANY who have placed their trust in the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil?

We are NOT all naturally children of God; we are ALL orphaned, fallen Image Bearers in need of rescue and redemption; and only by God’s plan in election (Eph. 1:4-5), regeneration (Tit. 3:5), repentance (Acts 2:38), faith (Eph. 2:8-9), justification (Gal. 2:16-17), and adoption are we regarded as the children of God. And if anyone is grumbling about such an exclusive and narrow gate, I’m afraid that’s a key indicator that we’re ignorant, hardened about BOTH sides of the Gospel: a) We know neither the darkness and depth of our sin OR b) the heights of God’s mercies and grace. And this would be what the Bible calls “lukewarm” (Rev. 3:16)… please realize and repent before being spat out by God.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Since So Many People — Even In The Church — Hear So Little of The WHOLE Truth and Counsel of God in the Bible…

Yes it’s true: Especially in the Western, mostly comfy, unchallenged church, Pastor-Leaders in the church have as much of a problem with NOT wanting to hear or tell the full truth as the world does. Too many Pastor-Leaders in the church suffer from so much unresolved emotional ambivalence that they are too wounded, confused, tentative, co-dependent, and afraid to offer the WHOLE TRUTH and counsel of God… let alone “the sleeping dogs” of small and large problems that naturally arise in all organizations. This is a hard truth… One where the world most desires we let sleeping dogs lie… dead. [And this also explains why Emotional Intelligence has risen to the top of the list of attributes that define great, effective, enduring LEADERS. Note the HBR “article headline”: Difficult Conversations]

The Bible, God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word, is clear: If any human being remains in disbelief, an orphan of this world, and not a child of God by ADOPTION, he or she is a child of darkness and perdition: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:9-10; John 3: 17-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-4; Romans 8:7)

In so far as God is concerned, there are only two races of people in the world: a) The people who believe and b) the people who do not. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

For You and Me: Make A List. Check It Twice. What Sleeping Dogs Need A Loving Yet Truthful Poke “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8)?

In closing, as referenced above, let me “put it in a reverse way”: In the past month I have spoken to numerous broken-hearted people about an unnecessary and deadly plight: “The would-a, could-a, should-a’s.”

What’s the truth and love behind this most common and despairing regret? “If I had only NOT [NOT, NOT] let sleeping dogs lie! And now it’s too late…” What things left unsaid need to be released from the captivity of your doubts, fears, and false vulnerabilities—by the love of God in our adoption—today? Make a list and share it with a Saint who God has placed in your midst. Get after it in the True Truth and Love of God… in YOU.

Why, exactly, is the following passage one of the most challenging yet redemptive in the Bible? “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15)

The heart of the matter is matter of the heart. Too many sleeping dogs. “Awake, oh sleeper.. !” (Eph. 5:14)

I’ll see you marathoners for Christ next week for Part 2 when we’ll poke the sleeping dog, “God Loves All People Unconditionally.” Don’t miss it…

All love,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

How the Holy Spirit and the Saints Work Together. “Got BOTH?”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

The Spirit’s Role Is So Amazing… But It’s Part the Equation.

It has been said by some significant theologians, Bible commentators, that Jesus Christ’s most important gift was that of imparting to the elect, regenerate, faithful, converted, born-again Body of Christ: the Holy Spirit, the third person of The Trinity (John 14:15-31), to “sanctify saved souls” (see below) until Christ returns again. Of course, it goes without saying, Christ’s blood-shed, propitiatory work of salvation on the cross was/is vital as well. But being elect; saved; sanctified; made holy; and readied for eternity are “separate yet inter-connected” parts of God’s Plan of Redemption. And every part has been secured for God’s Secured.

Respectfully speaking, if a claim about the Holy Spirit of the above-kind doesn’t make us sit up and re-consider LOTS of things, then it’s likely we either don’t know the Spirit yet or haven’t given Him His due… BY A LONG WAY. And, in the case of the Holy Spirit, “the first step of a long way” is admitting, repenting, and re-committing that most of us don’t know the third Person of the Trinity as we should.

So let’s first remind ourselves of the holistic and astounding role of the Holy Spirit—for the born-again believer, disciple of Christ: [these can be overlapping qualities]

  • Fulfills His role as Supernatural Heart-Changer and Pointer to Jesus
  • Guides, counsels us
  • Gives us spiritual gifts to be used—as light [imparting True Truth] and salt [to stem decay]
  • Promotes fruitfulness
  • Helps us understand God’s Word, Scripture
  • Convicts us of our sin
  • Comforts us—to use suffering by the Bible
  • Gives us a desire to obey Christ—promotes holiness
  • Enables us to pray
  • Empowers us for perseverance
  • Conforms us more and more into the likeness of Christ—for works of self-sacrificial service
  • Bears us up in our weaknesses
  • Supports our desire to witness, evangelize, speak the truth in love
  • Compels us to be committed to a community of faith—the church
  • Grows us in maturity, wisdom, love, and effectiveness

“So the One Who is Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, has given us this Spirit to supply all we need from first to last. He gives us life, fills our life, and points us to the One Who is life.” (Leo Schuster, New City Catechism)

But, Is This All We Need?

For arguments sake, let’s say that each and every above-aspect, gift, role of the Holy Spirit dwells WITHIN the born-again hearts of Saints [converted people]. Would that be sufficient for ACTUALIZING every one of them? Yes, the Holy Spirit brings about the above SUPERNATURALLY

BUT! there’s another crucial part that’s fulfilled by how God’s Plan of Redemption incarnationally uses His people, the Saints, disciples, followers of Christ in FELLOWSHIP with one another: How about the 100’s Bible verses that pertain to how the SUPERNATURAL is in partnership with the NATURAL [The Body, the Saints, other disciples] to effect the transformational fellowship The Trinity desires of His people—to effect a dark and decaying world?!

By God’s amazing grace and design, there is a partnership in place: a) The Holy Spirit is the engine from within; and b) the Body of Christ INCARNATE in close, intimate, transparent, intentional, abiding, and trustworthy relationship and fellowship in meant to play a vital role in SANCTIFICATION or living it out.

This is why the Bible calls God’s people “co-sanctifiers of one another.”

Now, I don’t know about YOU… okay, I lied, I actually do know about all sinners saved by grace: We ALL have huge challenges [E.g., impossible] “being our own keepers and sancifiers”, right? UNLIKE “Jiminy Cricket-theology”, new creations in Christ are not foolish enough to let our conscience be our guide: a) we are dead until born again and indwelt by the Spirit from the outside coming in; and b) we are surrounded by the Saints in order to help us KNOW, GROW, and SOW more and more like Jesus everyday!

Left alone, our conscience simply serves to be conformed to our own sinful desires. Image Bearers were not created to be alone… ever: The Trinity—three persons in one God—is our origin and our model. Isolated Christians, at least in the Western Church, are more the norm than the exception these daze. How’s this workin’ for us?

We cannot do it alone: God has provided the Spirit from within AND the Saints from without.

What aspects of your story, your wounds, your precious, tucked away, compartmentalized secrets would be greatly diminished in their power to control and condemn your life—if you only opened them up to another Saint’s co-sanctifying use of God’s Word, and his or her senses, wisdom, listening, love, and truth?

So, please, go back up to the list above; read each point again; and then consider this question: “Which Believers in my life am I close enough to so that I could talk freely, while loved, uncondemned, and ongoingly ‘interrogated’ about how each of the Spirit’s helps are being made manifest in me? Or not… and why not?” 

Do not forget: The world, the flesh, and the devil HATES details of this kind, right? And why do you think this is the case? Because, for the enemies of God, diminishing the effectiveness of the Saints is job #1. How’s the dark side’s aim working?

If we were sitting with a friend in Christ and he or she read the above list, and then turned to us and said, “How’s this workin’ for you?” How would we respond?

If you were a committed member of a Community / Cell / Small / Fellowship Group, how could you use a list like the above to INFORM, REMIND and then encourage the members to KNOW it, and ACTUALIZE it? [I’m quite certain you already know how challenging even another Christian’s level of transparency, accountability usually goes over, right? E.g., “Hey, don’t judge me!” Yes, it’s gotten that worldly in the church.]

If a leader of any kind at our church were to bring up an above-list of this kind… and simply left it at that… would it bother us… at all? Would it surprise us if there were no call or way to actualize it… even in the church? Perhaps the ministry called “DISCIPLESHIP” could help… if it weren’t so elusive.

Is there someone… anyone… in your life who is born again, mature, and has your full permission and encouragement to:

  • Know your story… well [Do you?]
  • Remind you of the supernatural nature of your faith and the centrality of Jesus Christ?
  • Loving ask you to compare your behavior to Jesus’?
  • Help to convict you of your sin, idol patterns?
  • Request you see and measure the nature of your fruitfulness?
  • Ask if you’re using your gifts to serve?
  • Help you look more deeply into the nature and effectiveness of your prayer life?
  • Etc.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

In closing, is there an opening for change and re-commitment in our hearts—instigated by the Spirit and actuated by the Saints? Let’s hope so. For my part, I’ll begin again by sending this Training Table feast to the men God has placed in my life for the purpose of co-sanctification. I’ll begin again by beginning “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8); to renew the INSIDE-OUTOUTSIDE-IN partnership between the Spirit and the Saints!

Please join me, Marathoners for Christ running the good race.

Love to all,
JohnDoz

 

 

Posted in Training Table
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