Saturday, April 30, 2011

All Together Now

The following contains all three parts of a series
that were published separately before.

Some Confessions From The Prodigal Son's Brother
And He said, "A man had two sons.  "The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them.  And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.  Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished.  "So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.  "And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.  "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!  'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."'  "So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'  "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.  "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.  "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.  "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.'  "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.  "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.'  "And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.  'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'" [Luke 15:11-32 NAS]

As I have said many times before, part of my calling is to be as honest about myself as I can possibly be.  Therefore, I must confess that there are times when I feel like the prodigal son’s brother.

No, it has nothing to do with having a problem with our Heavenly Father’s immeasurable grace.  For it has been made abundantly clear to me that I am as desperately in need of it as anyone ever has been.

There are times, however, when I do have a problem with the way our Heavenly Father is doing things.  For there is so much that seems so unnecessary when I am in one of those moods.

No, I wouldn’t mind so much if the circumstances of my own life were better.  For being in such poor health for as long as I have been does have a tendency to dampen my joy somewhat.

Hence, another confession that needs to be made.  For my periods of belligerence are rooted in selfishness.

No, as a matter of fact, making such a confession is not doing much good for my soul right now.  For all I feel is a deep sense of shame.

You see, I know, which goes far beyond merely having faith in a belief, that there is absolutely nothing unnecessary about anything our Heavenly Father has done, is doing or will do forever and ever.  AMEN!

Alas, my deep sense of shame will ease soon enough.  It always has in the past, and I know that it is all part of this relationship between a loving Father and His wayward son.  For it wouldn’t do for me to get to thinking too highly of myself.

Superficially His
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. [1 Corinthians 2:2 KJV]

Not very long after our Heavenly Father started making Himself real to me, I came across a truckstop minister in Weedpatch, which is an actual suburb of Bakersfield, CA.  At first, all was going well.  For he allowed me to tell him about what I had been experiencing for the last few months.  In fact, he even told me that he had also heard our Heavenly Father’s audible voice when He called him to start his ministry while he was out working in the family garden several years before.

I left there with a feeling of great sorrow, however.  For his final response to all of the things that I had been shown so far was 1 Corinthians 2:2, and I did not know how to counter that yet.
Be assured that I have not been kidding when I have said that I have felt much more like a spiritual crash-test dummy than any sort of conquering hero of the faith for most of my truly “born-again” life.  Granted, some of it has been my fault.  For I have rushed into battle without a plan far too many times, but most of it has just been giving me a taste of what our Heavenly Father has felt since the Garden of Eden.

No, this is not to suggest that believing that Christ Jesus paid the price in full for our sins is not enough.  For it truly is as it is written: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [John 3:16 KJV]

Ah, but just what does it mean to “believeth in Him,” and if there is more to know and understand past the most elemental aspects, should we not want to learn?  For it is written: We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so. [Hebrews 5:11-6:3 NAS]

Yes, having a child-like faith is good, but if you have had the blessing of becoming best-friends with one (or both) of your parents after you matured enough, it should be easy to understand how much you are missing by refusing to grow-up in Him.  Moreover, you are cheating our Heavenly Father out of the full measure of the glory that He could receive from you [John 15:14-16].

No, this is not necessarily about being in danger of eternal damnation, nor should it be.  For we should be seeking to love Him with all of our hearts, minds and souls instead of hoping to avoid being cast into the Lake of Fire, come Judgment Day.

On the other hand, if any of this is giving you an uneasy feeling, you need to respond.  For you are being called to come closer, and not all who openly profess to call Him Lord in this world will be welcome to spend all of eternity with Him in His Kingdom of Heaven as an heir to all this is His glory [Matthew 7:21-27]; [Luke 9:23-26].

Oh how I wish He would do more.  For it grieves me deeply to feel like such a leper in the Christian community.

Hence, the tie-in with [Some Confessions From The Prodigal Son’s Brother].  For I know that our Heavenly Father is doing all that He can without costing Him more than He is willing to pay at this time.

If you have any romantic sentiments to you at all, it should not be hard for you to understand what this is about.  For it is like your beloved wanting you to notice something without them having to resort to actually showing you, which would make it far less special.

Alas, far too many have been led to believe that our Heavenly Father has no such feelings.  For His only interest is in saving us from our sins.

So, why are we not taken from this world immediately after we come to accept His only begotten Son as being our own personal Lord and Savior?  If your answer to that is that He needs us to finish His work in His absence, be assured that you know not as you should [John 16:8-11].

Again, this is not necessarily about being truly saved or not, but who can honestly say that one truly belongs to another when they keep them at arm’s length?  Besides, why would you want to spend all of eternity with the One you did not want all that much to do with now?

Being Judgmental

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. [Romans 14:4 NIV]

Back when I was still able to get out and about without a great deal of trouble, I would visit different churches in the area and seek face-to-face meetings with the leaders.  One of those involved an audience with the leaders of a Free Will Baptist church that my wife had attended, and her mother is still a member of.

The first question I asked was why they were Free Will Baptists, and the associate pastor quickly responded that Free Will Baptists followed the teachings of Christ Jesus, according to the Holy Scriptures, closer than any other Christian denomination that he was aware of.  When I asked if this was not what members of other Christian denominations also claim, the meeting went downhill in a hurry.  Suffice to say, they were not impressed in the least with what I had been given to say, and all of my efforts to reason with them fell on very deaf ears.

Our parting serves as a perfect example of that.  For when I said that either I or them may be in some serious trouble, come Judgment Day, unless some drastic changes of heart takes place, they both just shrugged.

No, neither one of those ministers invoked Romans 14:4 or a similar verse, but I have encountered many who have over the years.  On face value, it sure looks like I am the one who has been in the wrong—doesn’t it?

Ah, but wasn’t the Apostle Paul also the one who placed 1st Timothy into written form?  For it is written: Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.  Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. [1 Timothy 1:18-20 NIV]

Alas, there are still far too many in the Christian community who absolutely refuse to accept that what is contained in our Heavenly Father’s Holy Bible came directly from Him, and that the ones who were chosen to place His Holy Scriptures into written form had nothing to do with what they are meant to express [2 Peter 1:20-21].  In fact, there appears to be more now than there were back then [2 Peter 2:1-3], but this may very well be just a result of there being more ways of communicating these days.

Nonetheless, it would be good to see what Christ Jesus had to say about being judgmental, and I appear to be in trouble again.  For it is written: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” [Matthew 7:1-5 NIV]

The very next verse in that passage is rather interesting, however.  For it is written: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” [Matthew 7:6 NIV]

Yes, it could be argued that He was really was referring to dogs and pigs, but that is clearly not the case with this next passage.  For it is written: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  So you must be careful to do everything they tell you.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.  They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.  Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.  But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.  Woe to you, blind guides!  You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’  You blind fools!  Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?  You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’  You blind men!  Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.  And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.  And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin.  But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.  You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.  And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’  So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.  Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!  You snakes!  You brood of vipers!  How will you escape being condemned to hell?  Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers.  Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.  And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.  Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate.  For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” [Matthew 23:1-39 NIV]

There is a big difference between someone like myself and the Lord Jesus Christ, of course.  For He is THe Judge over the quick and the dead [2 Timothy 4:1], and I am nothing more than one of His chosen servants.

Therein lies the crux of the matter, however.  For woe be it unto me if “I” pass judgment on another, and woe be it unto me if I fail to speak of what I have been given to say by our Heavenly Father [Luke 12:47-48].

How can you tell the difference?  Well, that requires truly hearing our Heavenly Father’s voice, which is something that far too many want nothing to do with.

Oh how I wish He would deal with them as He did with the Apostle Paul [Acts 9:1-22].  Hence, the tie-in with [Some Confessions From The Prodigal Son’s Brother] and [Superficially His].

Quite frankly, I would much rather He turn me loose, but He keeps reminding me that my anger will not bring about the changes of heart that He desires [James 1:20].  Along with: And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. [2 Timothy 2:24-26 NIV]

No, I really don’t understand why so many are so resistant to His call to become all that they can be in Him.  For it encompasses every aspect of our daily lives, and can they really be so arrogant to believe that our Heavenly Father loves them more than the ones who will be cast into the Lake of Fire, come Judgment Day?

By the way, if you are sitting there thinking that none of this has anything to do with you, here is something else to think about.  For it is written: Why is my language not clear to you?  Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!  Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?  If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?  Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.  The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” [John 8:43-47 NIV]

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