Of Heavenly Things

  • Eternity [I John 5:13];
  • infinite and unconditional love and forgiveness [I John 4:18];
  • a peace that knows no threat, no anxiety, no fear [Philippians 4:7];
  • a joy with unlimited energy [I Peter 1:8];
  • a voice that never tires [Revelation 4:8];
  • a song that is ever new [Psalm 40:3]

…we have no words for these! The language of heaven cannot be translated into our current tongue. The realm of heaven bears no comparison to our present sphere: …no sun or moon and no churches, [Revelation 21:22-23] Just to be able to look upon Him, Who gave all to get us there, will become a life-changing experience. [I John 3:2]

Still it’s fun to ask questions, some ridiculous, some silly, some serious enquiries, that need not be answered.

  • If nothing dies, what will happen to the clippings when we trim the rose bushes … will there be no rose bushes or don’t they continually grow? Will we grow?
  • And what if God’s idea of human beauty is 500 pounds, wrinkled skin, and white hair?
  • I plan to gorge myself at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Are there bathrooms? or is heaven’s ambrosia fiber-free?
  • Must God wipe away “all” tears? [Revelation 7:17; 21:4] What about tears of joy!
  • Will there be flies or gnats or chiggers there? Hope not! But I think dogs and cats are fine. [Romans 8:22]
  • The Bible mentions streets of gold [Revelation 21:21] but the pavement is translucent. Is it really gold? Gold—for that matter silver, and platinum—has no value there. …not to me! I think its a reflection of God’s glory off whatever is beneath our feet.
  • Are we going to drink wine in heaven!? [Matthew 26:29] Don’t tell the evangelicals and fundamentalists—unless this is just grape juice.
  • Revelation 22:2: One tree with 12 different fruit—not exactly genetically similar to the present morphology. [Genesis 1:11]

I should be permitted to expand my imagination into regions of truth I have yet to explore or realize. I should be able to dream beyond my current reality. I have God’s permission to hope for a tomorrow that exceeds all current expectations of happiness—though the details be known only to Him. [Deuteronomy 29:29; Acts 2:28] I like to picture what I cannot put into words: a mind and a heart that no longer knows the restrictions imposed upon them by this life and its weaknesses. [Hebrews 9:26] I have a right, given of faith, to conceive of a sinless world. How will things be in a theocracy under grace ..without law? The concept of “law” or righteousness will be defined  upon the heart! [2 Corinthians 3:3]

Since ancient times no ear has heard or perceived, no eye has seen, beside You, God, what You will do for those who wait on You. — Isaiah 64:4

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him. — I Corinthians 2:9

It is mostly a place that beforehand
We imagine in the words of a song
Of a promised though never explored land,
Where we know in our souls we belong. [2 Corinthians 5:8]

We are dreamers who share in the promise
Of a beautiful world to possess—
Though for many a sad, doubting Thomas
They must see to believe it, I guess [John 20:28-29]

It might seem whenever we’re hurting
Much too fancy a thought to be true,
But “a place” our Lord is asserting
“I go and prepare for you.”[John 14:1-2]

Oh! The discourse of men can’t explain this!
What assurance of infinite grace!
Words tied to this life can’t make plain this
Gloriously incomprehensible place! [Philippians 4:7]

If we try to interpret this picture,
This world in its wondrous array,
There is little, alas, in the Scripture
To redress any mournful dismay. [1 Corinthians 15:51

So whenever our hearts sink in sorrow
Our eyes are awash with our tears,
Let us cling to a hoped for tomorrow
When God will have quelled all our fears.[1 Thessalonians 4:13]

These are glories not seen but in vision
Of joys unimagined, unheard;
God’s promise is God’s sure provision
If we will but trust in His Word. [1 Corinthians 2:9

The Spirit encouragingly whispers
Of glories outside of this realm.
For us who by faith become listeners
Of wonders that now overwhelm, [John 16:13]

Be assured,  what this life must conceal,
In that moment, that one final sigh,
A new world God’s grace will reveal,
“In the twinkling,” Paul said, “of an eye.” [1 Corinthians 15:52]

We shall enter to dancing and singing
Wearing righteousness as a white gown
With heavenly accolades ringing
And eternal life worn as a crown. [James 1:12]

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I’ve Changed my Mind

I had found it emotionally painful and stressful to watch the cable news networks where most of the argy bargy is pure bilge—rhetorical expostulations, dogmatic flapdoodle and the vituperations of popinjays not journalists …and this 24/7 because many people find a good shouting match entertaining and it’s good for ratings. (NOT ME!!!) Both sides of any issue deal with a different set of “facts” which makes the whole shouting match meaningless to me.

I wanted to discover real issues, first as a voter, and then in a serious interest in determining how close we might actually be to our Lord’s return.


When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. Luke 21:28

What things?

  • Jerusalem under siege by Israel’s enemies; (Luke 21:20)
  • wars fought—not for freedom but motivated by rampant vengeance (Luke 21:22);
  • and a ubiquitous sense of terror gripping a terrified mankind because the entire earth and sky is “roaring” (Luke 21:25-26) which could mean many things.  (I have my theories, too.)

If our Lord’s return is imminent should the cable news chatter really concern us?  I have changed my mind on this. I now find it interesting, not stressful. I am excited about the possibilities for prophetic meaning. For this reason, I accept the results of the recent election in the U.S.A. (and the Brexit battle in the U.K., etc.). I am very interested in seeing what happens if a flood of immigrants manage to crash through the border barricades.   I am very interested in who is going to be the next Speaker of the House in Congress and what they and their committee chairs plan to do (perhaps in an effort to unravel the current U.S. president’s agenda?)


Do I want them to succeed in destroying President Trump’s presidency?  Of course not, but if they do, in my opinion, we get closer to the divine Parousia.  Socialism which is their heartthrob will kill free capitalism and weaken the U.S.A. economically and militarily, taking  America out of world events as a major player.  We will no longer be a superpower if the middle class which has been the life blood of a free capitalistic society is weakened to the point of none-existence …and this is what socialism is.  (You can put lipstick on the pig and call it “democratic socialism” but it’s still a pig!)

I am reading about China, “The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower.”  China, I maintain, will play a major role in Biblical prophecy. (Revelation 9:16) They have tricks up their sleeve that alone can explain the general sense of terror that will grip the globe. All the more reason to prayer for those in authority. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)


None of this is upsetting to me while I prayerfully anticipate our Lord’s coming.  The people in power are primary sources of real information (their plans and actions)—the Truth liberates (John 8:32) while the editorial filler on the “news” is just the haphazard guesswork of pundits that cannot begin to figure things out. They are watching the chess match between political enemies being played out and can only wonder what each next move might be without having even an inkling as to why the move will be made.  (A waste of time.)

If you must watch, seek out the comedic skits and pundits on your favorite side of this isle and learn to laugh at yourself.

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A Statute of Limitation on Hate

Is there a statute of limitation on hate? Is there a law against “the smear” and character assassinations? We live in a politically charged culture that is ripping families apart because it has become all too easy to put one more ornament on the tree of our discontent. Hating gets easier and easier when even our social gatherings—and cable news—support it. If you think that the American Civil War was a flash in the pan, guess again. It took decades to eventually bring the nation to Fort Sumter. And this was most literally a war of brother against brother.



There should be a statue of limitation on our rage. What I mean by this is that our dialogue should be more reasonable: fair and moderate with a goal to reach an understanding—if not a compromise. Such speech is characterized by three qualities:

  1. Constructive: forward looking, corrective, suggesting resolutions, not a hateful refrain reminding us of how evil they ‘allegedly’ are.
  2. Conciliatory: seeking to reconcile differences which might suggest first we really talk differences. Somehow, I am asked to falsely maintain that the American who votes the opposite ticket from me is as morally and ethically debased as the name they checked on the ballot—even though, neither they nor I know what each the other really believes or why we voted the way we did. Political parties are religious commitments for some that by-pass logic and are embarrassingly ignorant of the candidates’ real views.
  3. Caring, loving, not driven by a sadistic interest in hurting someone else. Hate does hurt and we have to stop getting in someone’s face simply to get in their face. We must cease getting a passing thrill out of offending them in the name of justice or fairness. It’s never what it seems. Hurting them never assuaged our own hurt. If we feel better it is, oh, so temporary.

Deep convictions and spirited debates do not engender hate but openness, honesty, and understanding. The past has a place in dialogue when remembering is intended as part of learning. Some mistakenly think forgiveness means forgetting. Not true. How can we ever forget what pure hate does—and the destroyed lives which such evil leaves in its wake! How can we wipe a civil war from our history. We must learn from the injustices of past generations perpetrated on others who were culturally or ethnically different; we must learn to embrace one another despite these differences. Maybe there is something about our opposition worth learning. Their endearing friendship might be the beginning of a peace worth pursuing for our children’s children’s sake.



I have tuned out 90%, most, of the daily news cycle because it is not only repetitious, saying what already has been said many times over, but it is often said to stir me to anger. I am not ignorant of the device employed. [2 Corinthians 2:10-11] The goal is to bring me to a white hot rage over someone I should hate. Issues are resurrected from a forgotten past to bring old memories to the forefront in support. This attitude can destroy a nation—let alone the individual who sees no value in a statute of limitation  on past offenses.  I am talking forgiveness.



“Oh, but we are defending our values.” You say.  “We are defending the faith. We are not hateful but defending a democratic legacy for which many have fought and died.” “This is not a matter of forgiveness!” you say. “This is a democracy, which means we must, any way we can, even with half truths, a negative spin, and uncorroborated rumor, raise a populous army of voters to protect the rights we so passionately and vehemently cherish.”

Does the end justify the means?  Voters shouldn’t need to be controlled. Citizens should not be handled to become passionate about the privilege to vote. Why can’t real issues and understood differences based on meaningful dialogue be the driving force?  Why can’t I choose to vote for a candidate simply because it is my sacred right in a democracy. Why can’t we agree to disagree, if we must, for the sake of a united future. Why not proclaim a moratorium on hate, a statue of limitation on “old” offenses, old ideologies, that should not—and do not—any longer have relevance?



Is there a statute of limitation on hate? For a believer there is both the “law of the Spirit” and the “law of Christ.”  We need to expand our understand of scripture and apply these verses to embrace a few more neighbors and family members.

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you [and me] free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2.

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How Healthy is Our Economy

On October 16 the evening news for the three major networks in the Boston area gave zero minutes to the economic recovery that is underway in America, although there has been a clear update of good—great—news from the market as well as other financial indicators. If its good news and there is a hint that President Trump might be credited, the media is silent?

The president has made his campaign slogan clear to all:  a nationalism which cries, America First. But is that bad?

I would encourage my reader to read more books, study a little economics, and listen to less “news.”  I would encourage all of us to roll back time to when the only news was one hour around dinner time which we heard on our radios.  24/7 reporting is oxymoronic, if you think about it.  Most of what is said is editorial blather designed only to get “clicks” on web sites or higher ratings for networks.  It appeals to a base of listeners that accept such bloviating as gospel in their innocent ignorance. (This is true on both sides of the political coin.) …I hope I didn’t just say something terrible about the woman I love who has the news on ..  a lot….  She is smart and able to sift through the morass and find something worth hearing which she will share with me on request.

Studying both sides of an issue with an open mind encourages sanity. Here is My Review —so far. I am reading two economists: one is a conservative and one is a liberal.

How Healthy is Our Economy?

 

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The Lottery

The lottery is still out there—no winners (as of this printing).  654 million dollars with odds of wining estimated to be 1 in 302 million (according to local news).  I would like to win this to pay off my mortgage and those of our sons and provide them and the Mrs. with all they would need for life.  The extra could go into my dream foundation to support those qualified [?] who are in serious need of funds due to medical emergencies, etc.)

But for a believer, isn’t this God’s job?

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 NIV

And if I trust Him in these matters, what could be my reason for wanting a half billion (with a ‘b’) dollars!?  What would be my rationalized justification for wanting gobs of dough?  What is it about the human heart that anyone should desire more than they would ever need!? And how might I square all this with the writer’s instruction to “be content“?



The New Testament represents this idea with two different words—one, of which, is found here:  “love of money.”  The other is translated “greed” or “covetousness” [I Thessalonians 2:5].

…seek[ing] rather to grasp what one has not; the second [word, then], to retain, and, by accumulating, to multiply that which one already has – Trench

Or said another way: Wanting more, having more, wanting more, having more, wanting more… (You get the point. [Luke 12:18])  It makes sense for Jesus to warn us about “serving mammon instead of God.” [Matthew 6:24] and instruct us to seek (in our hearts and minds) our happiness in the provision and promises which are part of His kingdom by a willingness to live within whatever means God provides for us here and now. [Matthew 5:3; I Timothy 6:8]

None of this means we should not seek to better our lives but there is a line we should not cross and, contrary to our desires, we do know in our conscience where that line is.



Exactly where in the Torah, the Old Testament, did God promise this? (Oh BTW, the Hebrew word for ‘promise’ is not in the Old Testament in reference to God.  It was sufficient to remind us that this is something God said and He cannot lie [Numbers 23:19].)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

Was not Moses referencing a national security matter while His people were surrounded by enemies …and NOT an economic one? The writer to the Hebrews seemed to misplace the context of the promised presence of God.  Or can we safely conclude that God’s guaranteed security is not just His protection from physical harm but also from the effects of financial disaster. Remember the prayer Jesus encouraged us to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.…” [Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3]. A half billion dollars sounds like a life-time supply when God asked us to think “daily.”

Brother Spurgeon took God’s promise in an even more general sense:

Will not the distresses of life and the pangs of death, will not the corruptions within and the temptations without, will not the trials from above and the temptations from beneath all seem but light afflictions when we can hide ourselves behind the bulwark of “He hath said?” – Charles Spurgeon

 



What drives our interest in such outlandish sums of money? (Most people could never manage such an astronomical amount. It’s like giving the keys to the car to a five years old and then keeping your fingers crossed. I don’t want to be in that car!)

I have been reading about the history of the global economy and what might appear to be its ultimate reasons for its collapse. (It is prophesied: Revelation 18:11)  …and greed is a major driving force. Greed is—not for nothing—designated as one of the seven deadly sins.

I haven’t bought a ticket, and now you know why.  My envy, though, over the winner will be another matter for another day….

Lord, help me!!

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’ Matthew 6:13 NIV

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

 

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I Have Left Facebook

I have left Facebook which in recent days has meant increased stress as well as a degree of tension with persons I love.  Social media, to retain its innocent interests, should continue to display the meaningful and delightful movements of each day and not political explanations or strong negative feelings—as it has become.  

Taking a step back into the past, pre-facebook times, for me is a wise choice.  I can be reached by email (and snail mail for those who have the address),  or I can be text’d (if you have that number). Only serious friendships will use these media.

So much political opinion floats about on social media, none of which concerns me but character assassination (and those whose think this is not happening on the national scene are by this mindset in favor of it)—character assassination—is  something I positively disassociate from on all levels: political, social, and domestic.  I am outspoken against it.  I am best off Facebook. (I do not use my Twitter account.  It serves the Mrs.)

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I Will Be With You

My mother once told me she was holding onto a verse in the Psalms [Ps. 138:8]. She believed God gave her this verse concerning her two sons, my brother and I. She was convinced we would both become ministers of God’s Word, working together.

The LORD will perfect that which concerns me… Ps 138:8 NKJV 

This became somewhat true.  In the course of time my brother would obtain a Masters in catholic theology and enjoy ministry teaching God’s people the Word of God (perhaps, I should add: from a catholic perspective). I was a protestant pastor for almost 25 years before I changed “careers.” 


Is this realistic to believe in one’s heart that God speaks to a particular situation in a particular verse of scripture? Some claim it is not: 

  1. Not only since the Bible warns that “No prophecy is of private interpretation” [2 Peter 1:20] which some interpret to apply to all scripture. but 
  2. because the very thought of giving the average christian, without pastoral guidance, license to “read into” a verse what might not be there makes God complicit in spreading false hopes while 
  3. A wrong interpretation invariably devalues the spoken Word.

Our pastor, some years ago, wrote in his autobiography, “God’s Plan & Purpose for your Life,” that while pastoring his first church in Vermont, his wife came down with Bright’s disease but it wasn’t diagnosed until the condition was so far advanced doctor’s thought there was little they could do for her. She was dying. After the family discussed moving her to a diagnostic center in Boston, He went before the Lord in prayer asking for wisdom when God shared Psalms 46 verse 5 with him in the translation of the time [King James Version]. 

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. 

Two days later she was well enough to be discharged from the hospital—in Vermont. She was not moved. 


John Calvin called the Psalms: “The anatomy … of the soul.”

Many of “The Psalms,” Walter Brueggmann argued are

“not unlike ‘Negro spirituals’ that have no author or identifiable place or origin, but simply arise in the life and practice of the community and are found to be recurringly adequate to many different usages overtime. [Brueggmann, 313]

If this is so, how about the rest of the Scripture?  Is there a hermeneutic, a science of interpretation, that allows for the individual believer to find uncommon hope in its message?  I want to believe so. What about Isaiah 43:2:

“I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.  [Christian Standard Bible]

And to whom does God promise such protection? Does not this apply also to us, as believers!!

  • Verse 1: I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
  • Verse 4a: Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and 
  • Verse 4b: because I love you, 

Some might say verse 3 is particular to Israel: “I give Egypt for your ransom.” I argue that this is simply the validation of the real emphasis of this verse [3a] “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”  He is our Savior, too.  Is He not!


The Word of God should not be viewed as a static history of what God did but as a dynamic revelation of what God does. 

To get to the actual heart of the matter, one must know the heart of God!  One’s interpretation must somehow through a life of prayerful meditation be able to grasp the true meaning discernible in the stories, the testimonies, and the recollections of the saints of old.

Since my latest experience with cancer, I have become more aware of the pain of others who face the same disease. I believe that for all believers facing this dreaded enemy of the body that Isaiah 43:1-3 is ours for the asking (prayer). 

If God were to give me a pulpit for one hour, I would  prayerfully desire to provide faith-strengthening hope to any within the sound of my words. As a child of God we have  every right to claim this truth in our most trying and painful circumstances.


 

But we must see clearly the fulcrum point of all this in verse 2.  It has been translated “I will be with you” but perhaps the original is tighter than that.  

אִתְּךָ־אָ֔נִי

 

In the Hebrew this is 2 words connected by an elevated dash they call a “makkeph [ ־ ].”   Scholarship tells us these words together indicate “companionship”  It is perhaps better to understand that promise in a more intimate way:

When you go through such deep waters, such pain emotionally or physically you doubt you can endure it, the Lord reassures you.

“You and Me, together …we’ll make it!!”

 

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Eternal

How do we know we are eternal beings?  Jesus one day near the close of His sojourn here stood and cried out to the Jerusalem crowd:

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:51 NIV

But what does “forever” mean? 

According to Aristotle, this word means,

“Having of all time no beginning and no end.  The complete summation of … time …  is called “forever.”  According to this idea, all that encompasses the heavens, and time and infinity has  always been known to be: “without death and divine.”

Huh!?!? Okay my translation is rough. I apologize for pulling up short on my education.

According to Philo: Time is the life force of the cosmos; “forever” the life force of God. Proclus in his theology (5 AD) argued: Always is not perpetual but temporal, whereas the word “perpetual” is  “forever.”

I guess I needed just one more year of college to more fully appreciate the Classics. Kittell’s theological dictionary (Kittell volume 1 page 198) pontificated:

Only in the light of the context can it be said whether “forever” means “eternal” in the strict sense or simply “remote” or “extended” or “uninterrupted time.”

The problem, as I see it, is that we tend to think of eternity in terms of time when in fact eternity is mutually exclusive of time.  Even Aristotle’s use of “always” (which stems from the same word as our word “forever”) makes his reasoning circular and we are not sure if like the Latin term, aevum, he is referring to “life” or “life force” or “lifetime.”  

And what might the formula: “Forever AND ever” mean?  (Galatians 1:5) How can we add 1 second more unto “eternity”? (“From eternity to eternity”?) 

Kittell again concludes:

The Old Testament uses our word “forever” to translate different Hebrew terms, among which the most important always contain the idea of prolonged time, and referring only to hidden or distant time belonging to the remote inscrutable past or future from the standpoint of the present.

It is often correctly translated “days of old.”   Perhaps, the best word in English to use for “forever” is “epoch” or “ages”  (The ages to come, etc.)  So, how are we to understand  “eternity” as ascribed to God? Kittell, again,

“In the older writings of the Old Testament, there is a very simple concept of eternity. The being of God reaches back into times past. God has always been. Hence he is the “God of old,” as we are really to construe our word (Genesis 21: 33). Again He always will be. In contrast to men, who are subject to death (Genesis 6:3), he is the living God Deuteronomy 5:26.”

This is all so philosophical, so metaphysical.  I have often wondered why a God who is from eternity past waited so long to make man for companionship. [haha] We tend to leave this part, “forever past” out of our debates since, in all honesty, we cannot wrap our brains around this concept.  And that’s the rub!  In John 9:32, the NIV translators chose to drop the phrase “since the world began” (this is a translation of our word “forever”) which is correctly found in the KJV and the original. We are creatures locked in time and our language even betrays are limited ability to fathom the idea of “forever.” Even science when it hits this wall, it runs out of math.

This does not mean that forever is not for real or that God does not exist.  In fact, if God were a figment of our philosophical imaginations, the term “forever” would probably be a well-defined term to us—but it isn’t.

There is an intuitive understanding that somehow this life is not all there is and when we become believers in Christ and read John 6:51 we are almost overcome with the exciting sense and conviction that this is true. (2 Timothy 1:12)  Even though we have little idea what God is talking about or what He has in store for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9), our hope is very much alive and well.  We just need a new language to say it!

Heaven
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Being Spirit Filled

What I am about to say is not intended to be controversial much less theological. This is just a thought born out of decades of ministry and a continuing commitment to be faithful to the conviction that ministry wrought in me. Listening to the words of “I Surrender All” during a worship service, I was suddenly struck with how accurately these words represent what I have come to call the “infilling” of God’s Spirit as a second work of grace. The words are different but somehow the thought is the same.

I am acutely aware of how theology counters this revelation (if, indeed, it is a revelation that surrendering all of one’s self and being Spirit-filled must be the same thing.) I pastored both in the pentecostal faith and the baptist faith where there is not only disagreement about the role “Speaking in Tongues” plays but whether or not there is a “second” work of grace necessary after salvation. This controversy knows no limits having become the subject of the interpretation of even the grammatical phrase used by pentecostals in support of their doctrine. Dana and Mantey provide a baptist grammar in support of their position; Machen is used by the pentecostals for theirs. (And I thought grammar was neutral territory.)

Then one day on the overhead were these words by CeCe Winans

All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live

All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me, Jesus, take me now,

All to Jesus I surrender
Make me Savior wholly thine
May Thy Holy Spirit fill me
May I know Thy power divine

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all

Without pushing verses of Scripture at my reader, let me only mention:

18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:18-21

(This section is followed by exhortations to marital fidelity which may be a change of subject. I leave this to the theologians.)

My thought is somewhere in a no-man’s land of denominational teachings. But I “gave at the office” of decades of honoring denominational positions and distinctions which no longer are required of me. At the same time: I discourage anyone simply agreeing with me outright. It would be ill-advised to confuse God’s people with the rambling opinion of an old man. I encourage you to stay with your teaching on this subject. I, on the other hand, am “released” to encourage the few who, oddly, might find my thoughts a blessing.

I am glad pentecostalism still encourages “tongues-speaking” as a biblically endorsed form of worship. But no one assumes for a nano-second that Baptist people who love the Lord are not totally inside the will of God with an inspired message of Divine love—even though they have all but discarded any interest in “tongues.” My opinion is that “tongues-speaking” is an experience that should not define our theology. I also think there are times when “speaking in tongues” coincides with the “infilling.” Pentecostals call “tongues=speaking” the initial evidence of being filled with the Spirit.  As far as “evidence” goes, I would caution making “tongues” the benchmark experience. Acts 1:8 seems to say that that role belongs to the empowerment to witness.

I don’t like the word “second” as if there is not a “third” or more. “Second” in pentecostal lingo means simply “after” salvation. But what is “after” salvation (the Pentecostals are right about this)—as well as part of it (the Baptists are correct about this) is not “tongues” but the “infilling” or that place and time of total and complete surrender to the Spirit of God. As Winans penned, it is the place of giving everything we have and are to Him, of an abandoned trust in His faithfulness, regardless of circumstances, of a marked disinterest in what this world offers for happiness and pleasure, of a humble resignation to His will. Being Spirit-filled is the impassioned cry of a meek heart, “Lord, I am yours!”  As Winans summed it up:

May Thy Holy Spirit fill me/May I know Thy power divine

An old tract published by the Westminster Press out of Lancaster, PA had described this as a desire to launch out a thousand miles from everything and everyone to be lost to the world in His presence.  It is possible to drift from this sense of closeness to the Lord.  The world is too much with us.  Surrender is a constant need.

We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. – Hebrews 2:1

We tend to slip away from this position and through prayer we need to return to it. It is like lifting weights for muscle tone which we can lose when we stop lifting them for any length of time.

I enjoyed sitting in a Baptist worship service and listening to the congregation singing a pentecostal song we sang years ago.  I may be wrong about this but perhaps God is slowly taking an eraser to the line of teaching that separates us.

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The Will of God

While in prayer, my thoughts gravitated toward Romans 12:2

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

I am not going to tear this verse down using Greek words, although, that has been my modus operandi while a young man digging into the Book I love.  I wanted to learn all I could about God. Instead, here, no Greek, just the thoughts of a septuagenarian whose love for God’s Word is as excited as it was when I held that first Bible gifted to me as a child. It will be your privilege to affirm or correct my thoughts.

This verse came to me in prayer because our youngest is heading to an interview today for full-time ministry and my prayer is that not only would God’s good pleasure, His desire, His will, be done in this situation—and my son’s life—but that my son and daughter-in-law together would be able to affirm that it is so. This is never a “given” for a christian, else, Paul would not have had to say what he said here.

Many christians, dare I say it, are mentality and, consequently, in life style, too much a part of their current culture. I do not speak of culture as simply the context of a peaceful and meaningful life. I speak of the socially acceptable aspects that we would call “worldly” that endorse sinful practices which displease God. I speak of a frame of mind that God has clearly sought to correct in us. Be not conformed to this world. Be not think like this world thinks. Do not be comfortably a part of this world to the exclusion of what God wants for your life, to the exclusion of participating in His desires toward you.

But to reach this point we may need some form of mental transformation. We need to rethink, relearn, we shape our perspective on life, on our own life. From childhood into adulthood, our minds to one degree or another, have been trained to think of our experiences in a way foreign from God’s way of seeing them. We fail to appreciate what God allows and what He accomplishes in our lives because our mindset, our worldview, our perspective on things that happen to us has been in part formed by our culture, our environment, academia, or in some cases by abuse, grief, and pain.

We need to be renewed in mind. My 1 year old granddaughter does not need to be renewed. She comes “new” with, what I call, an innocent faith. She is more capable of understanding God’s will for her life as acceptable, perfect and good than we are because there are no preconceived forms of logic interfering with that understanding. The drawback for her would be knowing these words but this isn’t a matter knowledge but of faith. It isn’t the words themselves that should be our focus, but the God who spoke them. My granddaughter is showered with love and she is constantly laughing. She is a happy child. Should we be happy children of God. [Is that not what the Beatitudes are saying?].  Shouldn’t we be able to say, Lord, if you accept it for me, I accept it, too.  If you ask me to go there, I pray I shall be as excited to go.  I this is what you want of my life, I pray you help me to want it joyfully, too.

God’s “will” for us is three-fold. It is good for us. God will never lead us where His grace cannot keep us. Jeremiah reminded us [Jere 29:11]

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

His will is perfect for us, it fits our personality, our talents, our abilities, and our preparation for it. It is our virtue, our goodness, what we do best. [2 Peter 1:5]. God’s will for our life is the best thing that could happen to us in terms of our sense of achievement, success, accomplishment, fulfillment, meaningfulness, peace, to name a few.

We have to reach the place with a renewed way of thinking to say to the Lord, “Lord, I want it!” We need to learn to accept His will for us. There are many challenges to this simple fact: fear, laziness, still needing God to work on our minds. We may be scarred from an abusive past or so deeply committed to things we should never have gotten involved with in the first place to find an easy way out and back to God’s will.

Something to “think” about.

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