When Stories Collide
11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
Happy stories collide with sad stories for a reason
Jesus had traveled with the disciples and many others with him about 25 miles from Capernium, where he had previously healed a centurion's servant. He then travelled to a town called Nain. The name Nain means lovely or pleasant and Jesus is now making this 25 mile journey in a processional or with a parade of people with him. There is no doubt in my mind that this procession was one of celebration and anticipation of what the Lord might do in Nain that next day. Smiles on faces, songs perhaps being sung. It truly was a joyous storyline that had been unfolding. But when He got to the gate of the city and there was another procession of people. It was a different Story line altogether where they were carrying a dead body wrapped up in a basket, a basket for the purpose of transporting a person to their place of burial. It was the son of a widow and that procession was that of a funeral procession. Not a procession of rejoicing, celebration and anticipation but a procession of tension, distress, anxiety, desperation and death. Ring any bells in your story?Here in this story, I see a divine collision happening as the procession of Jesus and many people with him are traveling into the city when at the same time there is also a simultaneous procession of many people going out of the city. This collision of story if you look closely demonstrates that there are always two or more unique and very different story lines happening at any given moment.
There are many with stories of celebration and anticipation and at the same time there are many with stories of death, consternation, loss and desperation going on at the same time. Jesus sees this precision along with this Mother who had lost her husband and now only living son and it says in this passage that Jesus not only saw her but he had compassion on her. He had compassion on her in the way that he has always had compassion on everyone of us in that he took her pain in his heart. This was a realization for Jesus because it wouldn’t be very long before his mother Mary who was a widow at that point, Joseph having died when Jesus was yet a teenager Mary would encounter her own son, the only begotten son being led out of the city, as she wept. He could see no doubt that this was the desperation and consternation of this woman's situation. He sees the anguish, confusion, depression, and realizes prophetically no doubt that this is the same thing that his very own mother will be experiencing in the not so distant future.
Now watch what Jesus does coming from a story of anticipation and celebration as he collides with a story of pain and tension here in Nain. It says that He had compassion on her and tells her “weep not.” How is that compassionate you ask? It sounds crazy! How is what you are asking compassionate the mother might say. We are burying my son, there is loss, I have nothing left! We are carrying him to the tomb where He will be laid to rest and you say weep not! But Jesus knew what he was about to do not just in this circumstance but on behalf of you and me. It was in anticipation and celebration of the Joy that was set before him. It was for us who have been ravished by sin and death that he proclaims weep not and resurrects this young man in the same way that after having been laid to rest himself, He would provide life for all of us who have been sentenced to death, ravished by sin, experienced loss, despair, disdain and the inane.
The story of our life is short! We can simultaneously experience joy and celebration in one moment and at the same time experience loss, and despair. The real key to seeing the plot of our story have a glorious ending is by having our stories collide in a place that is altogether lovely and pleasant. His name is Jesus and he is the reason that our stories collide simultaneously! Weep not! Let not your heart be troubled!
The Divine collision of scripture
I would like to give you just a couple of examples of how stories, types, and names collide across the span of scripture and then leave you to your own discoveries of how they unfold throughout the bible and even in your own story.
The Name Game
These guys were important not merely for who they were but by what their stories tell and what there names meant.
Peter - His name means "Rock". Not The Rock, as in Petra. That is in reference to God but Peter’s name references a small stone. You remember how dogmatic Peter had a tendency to be. Oft remembered for lopping off the ear of the centurion in the presence of Jesus. Peter is a picture of the Stone tablets that the Law of God or Ten Commandments were written on.
James - His name is Jacob in the Hebrew. In both cases, James or Jacob both mean “Supplanter" or “Replace”.
John - His name means "Jehovah has Grace" in both Greek and Hebrew.
Combine the stories of these three guys together and you will realize why that when they were called apart by Jesus from the other twelve that it is always in the order of Peter, James, and John. No exception!
The “Stone” or Law has been “Replaced” by “Grace”.
The Law has been superseded by grace and these three men knew it more than anyone else!
Propitiation and the Mercy Seat
One of my favorite collisions in scripture is the correlation of the Mercy Seat of Exodus 26:34 and the work of Propitiation that is mentioned in Romans 3:25. If you are not one who goes deep into the stories of the Bible then this is a huge collision that is frequently missed in our churches unless you are in a place of fellowship that meets frequently for the purpose of the exegetical study of God's Word. I say this because I firmly believe that this kind of study is of the highest priority in the day and age we live in. I went through much of my life and most of my ministerial training without ever hearing about the connections that cover the whole span of scripture so, allow me to explain to the best of my ability the story of how Jesus put a lid on it!
Jesus Put a Lid On It!
As you may very well may know, God Himself became a Man and absorbed the wrath of His own indignation. The mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of propitiation is
that God actually inflicted death on a cross upon Himself.
Now we won’t go into the deep theological perspectives of grace, justification, and propitiation here. Let’s not forget, I too am a commoner, and a sinner. That being said, the custom of many is to dissect Romans in such a way that we will get bogged down in theological debate rather than simple application. So, allow me at this point to throw out this one big word for a moment and define propitiation so it is simple to apply to a common pinhead such as myself.
The word Hilasterion, or “propitiation”—A word we don’t hear much today—is used only five times in the entire New Testament: Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1–2; 1 John 4:10; and Hebrews 9 are four of them. The Hebrews reference is really cool because it gives us insight and understanding. You see, in describing the mercy seat, the author of Hebrews uses the word hilasterion. The mercy seat, or hilasterion, covered the ark of the covenant. It was like a lid. The ark of the covenant contained the law. Now, this is where it gets interesting because, through the mercy seat, God says, I know you’ve broken the law. I know you deserve to be consumed because of it. But I’m going to put a lid on it through the sacrifice of My Son. He is the helasmos, the mercy seat, the propitiation. It’s not something He gives. It’s who He is!
Whoa!… This is Melting My Brain!
If you are getting what I’m laying down then you now understand that Jesus has come between you and the broken law. The wrath that the Father should have vented on me and you was instead placed upon His Son, who died in your place.
The fifth use of the word “propitiation” is found in Luke 18:10–14. It is a brief illustration, concerning the prayers of a Pharisee and a tax collector. If you look at verse 13: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” It begins with “God” and ends with “sinner.” The middle phrase, “be merciful”—the verb form of hilasterion stands between God and sin. Every one of us is in one of two categories. You’re either the self-righteous Pharisee, or you’re the tax collector, grateful that Jesus is standing between God and your sin.
When I first began to understand the work of propitiation I finally gave in and gave up on the idea that something I was doing would appease the wrath of a Righteous Judge. Wow! Talk about a game changer and major impact on how my personal story plays out!
Propitiation adds an entirely different dimension to what Paul calls “so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). It’s not just the Father saying, “I’m going to settle mankind’s problem judicially.” No, He deals with it personally. That God would love me so much He would actually become the object of His own wrath frees me up in a profound way. Not only did He put a lid on it, He became the lid!
I know I’m a sinner. But because He absorbed the anger that should have been poured out upon me, I can walk throughout the rest of my days, weeks, and years because the story of God is being perfectly planned and played out in my life personally and for the first time in my life I can recognize the divine collision of God’s Story with my story and the Old Testament Pictures with their New Testament Truths and counterparts. Furthermore! I recognize that the tensions and difficulties that come into my story are there by divine providence!
LET'ER BUCK! THE ROGUE HEART.
Discovering Your Heart
A Rogue Heart serves for great purpose!
We had a horse growing up. His name was Thunder. Thunder was a Mustang that came out of an adopt a horse program through the BLM. He was not what you would consider to be your typical equine flesh. In fact, this horse was unique from every horse my father ever owned in that he had a what I would describe as a rogue heart. He didn’t do anything in the ways that a normal horse did. At 14 hands, Thunder was short, he had a passion for eating purple thistles and poison oak, he did not fancy a bit in his mouth so was hackamore trained… (A hackamore is a type of headgear which does not have a bit). This horse that nobody really wanted not only came full of heart, but he would not be out walked by horses that were of fairer breed or longer legs. Even on a bad day when other things might interest him, he could outpace a horse 17 hands tall, and always wanted the lead. My brother and I rode him bareback most everywhere we went and he would pull us up the most difficult terrain just by grabbing him by the tail and saying “Lets go!’ Thunder was afraid of his shadow and would always stop to analyze water crossings. In my hometown, he would often stop on the bridge that spans the Rogue River at every structural expansion joint to view the river below through the crack, reassuring himself that he wouldn’t fall through!. He was inquisitive, gentle, always allowed to respond to his own rare, rogue style of doing things. As long as Thunder was allowed to do life outside of the box and in his own way, he served for more fun and purpose than any other horse you would expect to rival him. Once he was jumped by a Mountain Lion while being ridden in the backcountry. The death of the said cougar ensued as it was shot from the little horses saddle. Once the cat was latched to the rear of Thunder’s saddle, this little rogue mustang packed the feline out of the wilderness on his own back. Very rare for a horse!
I have shared all of this to establish that anything with a heart can be used for God’s purposes, but the ones with a heart and tendency to be a little rogue can do mighty things! This kind of heart is a diamond in the ruff! It can and should be cultivated in relationship and likeness to the way it was created to be. It is the same with a human heart and that heart should be cultivated in a relationship with the very one who created it to begin with. If you are a person who has been described as “a little rogue” throughout your life, It’s okay to not like the bit, it’s okay to go bareback, it’s okay to think a little differently than the other horses, and most importantly it’s okay to out walk, out ride, and out run, the other horses. Find your heart, give it to God, and discover the great purpose of a rogue heart! You may just be a Mustang!
God Doesn't Call The Qualified, He Qualifies The Called
“Jacob was a cheater, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Martha was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Abraham was old,… and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!”
No matter where you are in your life with God, HE is qualifying you for his service because you are called. He can help you overcome the mistakes you have made, and even use them to help others. Just allow Him to use you.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
Eliminate the Disqualifications
And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.
Why couldn’t Judah drive out the inhabitants of the valley? Because their eyes were fixed on the iron chariots rather than on Almighty God. If your eyes are fixed on the Lord, I care not how formidable your foe might be, it can be overcome. But if your eyes are on the obstacle - if you’re focused on the problem, if you’re in bondage to your past - you will not drive out your enemy no matter how small it is. You’ve got to lift your eyes higher and fix them on the Father. Yes, the enemies of Judah had chariots of iron, but if Judah had lifted their eyes higher and focused upon the One who has twenty thousand chariots at His command (Psalm 68:17), they would have been victorious.
Judah had successful campaigns when they were high up on the mountain tops, but they got their tail whipped in the valley. We have tendencies to live on in the story of our past. This is most prevalent when the message of grace we teach, lacks the components of mercy that was also provided with the new covenant. Unfortunately, this allows grace to be doled out on the terms of others and has cultivated a false perception that leads God’s loved ones to think that because we’ve had problems with iron chariots previously, we need always be fearful whenever we see them on the horizon. This perception is just not true! We need to be a people who put the past behind us - past defeats, past discouragements, past wounds, past failures, past sins have all been covered by Christ our mercy seat and propitiation.
“This one thing I do,” said our brother, Paul, “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). We need to put the past away and lift our eyes higher - beyond the failure of the past, beyond the chariots of the present - to the high calling of God Who enables us to do all that He asks of us. SO... LET'ER BUCK!
A Heart After God
“David was a real pinhead! How could David be considered a man after God’s own heart?"
To understand why David was a man after God’s own heart, we need to see what characteristics he had to qualify for such what seems to be a rather lofty description. In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul speaks of God’s feelings about King David:
“After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”
My observation as to why David was considered to be a man after God’s own heart is found right in the verse: David did whatever God wanted him to do. But an even more obvious question is how could God still call David a man after His own heart when David committed such terrible sins, including adultery and murder?
A Pointed Heart
We learn much of David’s character in the book of Psalms as he opened up his life for all to examine. David’s life was both a portrait of success and failure, and the biblical record highlights the fact that David was far from perfect. But what made David a cut above the rest was that his heart was pointed toward God. He had a deep desire to follow God’s will and do “everything” God wanted him to do. He was a man after God’s own heart. Let’s look at some characteristics of David’s life to discover what that entails:
Part of why David is called a man after God’s own heart is that he had absolute faith in God. Nowhere in Scripture is this point better illustrated than in 1 Samuel 17 where David as a young shepherd boy fearlessly slew the Philistine, Goliath. Shortly before the duel, we see direct evidence of David’s faith when David says, “‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’” (verse 37). David was fully aware that God was in control of his life, and he had faith that God would deliver him from impending danger. How else would one venture into a potentially fatal situation with such calm and confidence? David knew early on in life that God was to be trusted and obeyed. As we see in the Word, David’s simple faith pleased God, and God rewards David for his faithfulness.
He Loved the Word
Another reason David was a man after God’s own heart is that he absolutely loved God’s Law. Of the 150 psalms in the Bible, David is credited for writing over half of them. It seems to me that David wrote mostly while in various and often troubling times in his life, David repeatedly mentioned how much he loved God’s perfect Word. We find a beautiful example of this in Psalm 119:47–48: “For I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.” It is not hard to see his complete adoration for God’s Word. Also notice how David “meditates” on God’s statutes. God granted David understanding and wisdom through daily meditation. We would do well to not only read God’s Word but also think about it throughout the day, for God loves us to think about Him. “Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways” (Psalm 119:2–3).
David was a man after God’s own heart in that he was truly thankful. “I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O Lord, proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 26:6–7). David’s life was marked by seasons of great peace and prosperity as well as times of fear and despair. But through all of the seasons in his life, he never forgot to thank the Lord for everything that he had. It is truly one of David’s finest characteristics. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4, ESV). As followers of Jesus Christ, we would do well to follow David’s lead of offering praise through thanksgiving to our Lord. After he sinned, David was truly repentant. David’s sin with Bathsheba is recorded in 2 Samuel 11:2–5.
The mighty fall hard, and David’s fall included adultery, lying, and murder. He had sinned against God, and he admits it in 2 Samuel 12:13: “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’” But admitting our sin and asking for forgiveness is only half of the equation. The other half is repentance, and David did that as well. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance to God: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!" (Psalm 51:1–2).
David was a man after God’s own heart because he demonstrated his faith and was committed to following the Lord. Yes, his faith was tested on a grand scale, and he failed at times. But after his sin he sought and received the Lord’s forgiveness. In the final analysis, David loved God’s Law and sought to follow it exactly. As a man after God’s own heart, David is a role model for all of us.
Rogue Love for The Rogue Heart
This passage stands alone and on its own merit concerning the wild, passionate, unbridled, rogue love that the Lord has for you. And you thought you were unlovable!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night," Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand When I awake, I am still with You. O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed. For they speak against You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
Rogue Heart/New heart Same thing!
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
This passage of Scripture has come up over and over again and it is often used by those who are fatally Calvinistic in their interpretation of scripture. It is most often used to characterize the depravity of the believer and in my opinion has kept believers all over the world stuck in their story, stuck in their sin and unable to enjoy the new heart, nature, spirit, along with the new creation that we have become. Scripture is very clear that the issues of the depraved heart are directed to the heart condition of the unbeliever. It has been my personal and humbling experience that any heart that is not submitted to God is a depraved heart. This type of heart can reside in the worst of us in the same way that it can in the self-righteous, or religious. Depravity is an equal offender in the hearts of those who will not access The Work of Grace under the New Covenant through Christ.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
That deceitful and incurable heart is that stony heart that is taken away and is replaced by a heart of flesh! The Holy Spirit gives His people a new heart and causes them to walk in obedience! And not only is the heart new, everything is made is new. The regenerated person is a new creation and no longer possesses a lifeless heart of stone.
2 Corinthians 5:17
So that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
When this verse talks about old things, it includes the old heart. It is gone! The Holy Spirit makes a person new again! There is a total metamorphosis that has taken place and to say that the heart of a believer remains deceitful and incurably wicked is to deny the transforming work of the Holy Spirit!
Does the Christian still sin? Yep! He most certainly does. The presence of sin is still constantly with him. It will harass him, make him do what he does not want to do, to the point of making him cry out that he is afflicted, distressed, grieved, and even vexed (Rom. 7:14-24). But there is a stark contrast between the depraved unbelieving heart and what I call a new rogue heart. You see, the sin of the old, unbelieving heart is cultivated by not allowing God to do His work in the heart. This type of heart does not understand the Story of God nor is it allowed to be impacted by the plan of redemption. In contrast, the sin of believers, or the new rogue heart understands that sin is still very much with them but believers hate their sin (Rom. 7:15). They have died to sin, don’t want to live in sin, purpose to no longer serve sin, they are no longer under the dominion of sin, have been set free from sin, do not walk according to the flesh, they are free from the law of sin, and are not in the flesh (Rom. 6:2, 6:6, 6:11, 6:14, 6:22; 8:1-9).
Which do you believe? Has God worked a great change in you by making you a new creation with a new heart, or is your heart still vile and deceitful? One thing is for sure: if you believe that your heart is vile and deceitful, then it most certainly is. Why would God write His will on the heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked?
It is time to click your heels Dorothy! Burn the script on this horror story, because the witch is dead, you are not the Tin-man, and you are not in Oz, Ding-Dong! If you have been stuck in this kind of story, If you have been held hostage by an old heart, If you want a new story and a new heart. Consider what the lord can do with a Rogue Heart!
33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it ton their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
The old covenant failed because it depended upon man's faithfulness to God. The new covenant cannot fail because it depends upon God's faithfulness to man. Without going into all of the theological detail, under the new covenant, we are now hidden in Christ. I know that many would try to derail this line of thinking but for you who are students of the Work of Propitiation that Romans speaks about, if we are hidden in Christ… What heart is being looked at? Whose faithfulness is being looked at? I hope that you will take time to discover more as it relates to your story and LET'ER BUCK!
Ooops! I forgave the wrong person.
I have been hovering on the meaning of this powerful verse and had the opportunity to sit down with someone who really is becoming a good, trustworthy friend, and someone who I really enjoy being transparent with. This morning we began to hash through some of the dynamics and tension that comes from this line of thinking.
Galatians 6:1-2 KJV  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
I think there is more to bearing one another's burdens then has traditionally met the eye!
Would you be free from the burden of sin? We sing it In our churches regularly. Is there a link though? Is there a part for us to play in the bearing of the burdens of one another? We all know that the provisions for the forgiveness of sins is only accomplished through the work of Christ Jesus on the Cross and the power in His blood but was the model we were given through this glorious work intended to be lived out practically through us? Was the example by Christ set so that we would forgive, bear, forget, restore, and do life with one another without the expectation of any consequences that could come culturally on the chance that we were to forgive the wrong person? (Can that even happen?) Did it include bearing the burdens of the sins of those who have wounded us! Finally, does this fulfill the law of Christ?
I would venture to say that we all believe that the list of our sins, shortcomings, and stupidity are blotted out in totality by the blood of the Son of God. But I also think that many Christians aren’t healthy because they fail to understand this foundational and profoundly simple truth in its totality.
For example, many know they’re forgiven—but they have a hard time believing the one who hurt them is. “You can’t ignore the abuse, the trauma, and the anxiety that has been inflicted upon you,” they are told. “It must be dealt with.” But wait a minute! It has been dealt with by Jesus’ blood on the Cross. He hung on the Cross of Calvary dying for the very sin that bugs us in others. Therefore, for us to say, “We must dig it up and talk it through,” or, to not allow forgiveness and bear the weight and burdens for those who have offended us the most, makes a mockery of what Christ did on Calvary. It basically diminishes a work that was done for all and now becomes selective in scope. We all hurt Him, and we all have offended Him! He cried, “It is finished,” It’s done! It’s paid for. And that means for those who are offenders and also for those who have been offended. So be forgiven and forgive one another. Fact of the matter is, I was the person in the wrong and He bore my burdens anyway and without any regret or even saying Ooops!
Is this too dangerous to teach in today’s church? I know it may sound risky to some but to me, there is only one question of any importance and that is... Did Christ take that kind of risk on me? If the answer for you is yes then, it may just radically reform your perspectives on grace therefore fulfilling the Law of Christ.
Food for thought! When we are under the load and the heavy burden of sin, my prayer is that as believers we would carry one another though, even when we’ve been hurt, even when it is an inconvenience, or an imposition. Even when our reputation is at risk, or those around us think it abuses the some law of grace. With grace the laws have been done away with! By bearing one another’s burdens in this way we fulfill the law of Christ.
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
So many Questions to ask ourselves...
I'm just saying!
I know these are hard questions but, I have been contemplating them and I think they are all important to ask if I am to see the law of Christ fulfilled in the way it was intended for me. Let this challenge your thinking and root out any signs of religion, legalism, or hurts that we place on one another. And more than anything may it change the way we respond to one another, causing us to see each other through the lens of Jesus who lavished us with His love and compassion while we were the biggest risk He could have ever taken.
Food for thought!
Chapter 3 "A Rogue Story"
Hero’s, Villain’s, or Both?
As you take a look at some of these random characters, notice that there is a plot that has been designed by God and that each story has one or sometimes all of the characteristics and roll’s that play out in the story of God, some stories have characters that played multiple roles. Most had both Hero and Villain characteristics while a few had just one, or the other. They all were randomly chosen for the purpose of showing that all of their lives and stories demonstrate that God see’s the big picture, He knows the plot from beginning to end and that in most cases there is a plan being worked out in their story that encourages us in our walk with God or illustrates the consequences of not following Him as was the case with Saul. Suffice it to say, everything is being played our to an expected end and for the pleasure of our Creator.
King Saul - Bad Apple, Nemesis, unknowingly fosters a Noble hero and a giant killer.
The very first king of Israel, a head taller than any of his contemporaries, the predecessor, mentor and nemesis of King David, the father of Jonathan. His son, Jonathan, was a noble hero, but Saul was not.
Saul started off okay, but his relationship with God was so thin that God didn’t have any room to work with him and so he kind of let himself go and went downhill fast. He was the fraidy-cat of the Philistines, Goliath in particular, and became a deranged mad man who slaughtered God’s priests. He attempted to kill his own son twice, and hounded his best follower, David, for years until Saul finally met his death after consulting with a witch because he was so out of touch with God.
Read about him in 1 Samuel 8-31. It is one of the richest portions of the Bible in terms of story, character and lessons for real life.
Job - A Story about When you’ve been good but now you have it bad!
Job is the original good guy in the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Job was about as close to perfect as you could get and still be human. He loved God. He loved people. He used his great wealth and wisdom to help people. Then disaster struck. His wealth, his ten children and his health were all taken away. Left with nothing but suffering, his friends come to comfort him. But, instead of encouraging him, they start accusing him, and add insult to injury. Finally, he has a “face-to-face” meeting with God. God answers with a set of unexpected questions of His own. Job’s story is told in the Biblical book bearing his name.
Abel - and His Brother and Murderer Cain. A Story of Sibling Rivalry
Abel found favor with God and Cain did not. Read about it in the book of Genesis. Abel is listed as a hero of the faith here. first child born to the human race,
Cain, grows up to become a murderer, killing his own brother in a fit of jealousy. Made bad decisions and even worse sacrifices.
I am drawn to this story because it Correlates well with my own failure in that if I believe that my works, sacrifice, and self-righteousness are sufficient offerings to the Lord that it will ultimately be my demise. Only the Lamb of God should ever be my offering.
Samuel - A Story of What God does when we give everything to Him.
The great prophet, son of Hannah, the childless woman who prayed for a son and promised to give that child to God. She did after he was weaned; she dropped him off at the temple where Eli the priest and his evil sons were the religious leaders of the day. Samuel was still a boy when God started talking to him. Eli and his sons were killed, but Samuel grew up to be the leader of Israel, and the one who selected both Saul and David to become Israel’s future kings. Samuel’s story is told in 1 Samuel and he was a guy who often performed the hard tasks that Saul was not able to perform. For instance He hewed Ahaz, an enemy king, into a 1000 pieces. He was able to do this because He frequented the Altar of the Lord in Gilgal.
He appointed his sons to judge over Israel but they were deemed unfit and God Appointed a King. Sammy didn’t make an issue of it, I think he just had a fleeting moment where his radio got all staticy! The main theme throughout Samuel’s life is that God alone should receive the glory and honor. Read about him In 1 Samuel.
Esther - From Harem to Queen and saving a Nation.
A number of women come to mind as important Bible personalities including Eve, Mary, Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth, Miriam, Mary Magdelene, Deborah, Ruth and so on. But Esther stands alone in the category of saving an entire nation by her courage. Chosen to join the harem of Persian King Xerxes, she rises to the position of queen in time to uncover a plot to destroy the Jewish people. She might have the power and influence to stop the plot, but only if she risks her own life to do so. The book that bears her name is unique in that God is not mentioned once in the book, but His fingerprints are all over the events.
Although God is never mentioned in the book of Esther we can see His acts in the background. Nothing gets past God! His timing is always best but we need to wait for Him before we act and realize that it’s dangerous to jump out before it’s time Your background does not hinder your future with God. Esther was an orphan. God still exalted her and used her. Some of Jesus’s disciples where fishermen, tax collectors, and one was a Doctor. Your background does not determine what God can do with you but your simple faith does! A powerful story!
Samson - Buff guy with a thing for bad girls. Ends up blind guy with bad haircut but finishes well!
This guy very well may have been bipolar! He could go from Hero to Villain in 3 seconds flat. Famous for his great strength, he was an individual fighter rather than a leader of men. Dedicated at birth as a Nazirite, he never had his hair cut. He believed this was the reason for his prowess in harassing his enemies, particularly the Philistines.
Not good at interpersonal relationships, he picked the wrong women and had a propensity for making many enemies. This long-haired strong man once picked up the jaw bone of a donkey and killed a thousand Philistine soldiers on the battlefield. He is still the UFC Belt holder of all time in my book! If Samson were alive today, he would probably spend some of his life in jail–let’s just say he was no choir boy. But he had a job to do, and he did it well, that is until his woman friend, Delilah gave him a bad hair-cut and sold him out to the Philistines for 140 pounds of silver. Now Samson wasn’t opposed to getting back in the ring even though the Philistines had blinded him and put him in prison. He had one last appearance on stage where he finally retrieved his honor, and got back his belt, by killing thousands of Philistines before the curtain fell. Samson’s story is told in Judges 13-16. He was both a Hero and a Villain in the plot and his story warrants exploration and comparison of our own!
Keep your vows and stay away from bad girls. When you feel like you are blind to what God is doing in your story, realize that even though you are a pinhead, God is not finished with you yet!
Jonah - God can use a person even though there is something fishy about them!
Famous for being swallowed by a “great fish,” he had a knack for going the wrong direction. Ring any bells? Ever felt like you’ve thrown overboard? Jonah’s real contribution is presiding over the greatest mass conversion of all time meanwhile learning a few things about human prejudice, what complaining gets you, how storms in life can move you, and how God’s love is at work in you at the same time.
Elijah - Prophet, Part Rain Man, Part Trash Talker and Disposer of False Prophets. Good with fire too!
The great prophet who stared down an entire nation and didn’t blink. After King David, Israel split into two nations. The northern kingdom went from bad to worse until they were ruled by a truly depraved couple, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Elijah walks onto the scene and announces that rain won’t fall without his own personal okay. Then he disappears. For the next three years a bone-dry nation searches for Elijah, but he’s nowhere to be found, until one day he shows up again and offers a showdown on Mount Carmel: your god vs. my God. Elijah was a Prophet on Steroids. His successor Elisha was noted for receiving a double portion of the Elijah stuff and didn’t like having his bald head made fun of! Elijah got a little whiny at the Brook of Cherith when it ran dry and briefly thought God’s provision was for the birds!
Peter - A smart fisherman with a propensity to cause trouble! Freaks out around Little Girls!
Originally known as Simon, his name was changed to Peter by Jesus, and he became a leader of the early church. Hanging out with Jesus will make a smart man out of anyone! Peter had listened to, eaten with, and traveled alongside Jesus for three years. The result was obvious. He was also noted as being impetuous, bull headed, a fisherman, a sword wielding ear lopper, and I’m afraid little girls around burn barrels put him right into a state of denial. Still He stuck with Jesus and that is important because as we spend time hanging out with with Jesus, we will take on His characteristics just as noticeably, as readily, as wonderfully as did the fisherman-turned-scholar: the apostle Peter.
John the Apostle - Can’t you hear that Thunder?
Among Jesus’ twelve disciples, Peter, James and John formed an inner circle. Out of them, John appeared to be Jesus’ closest friend here on earth. He wrote one of the Gospels, three important letters (which are recorded in the Bible) and the powerful book of Revelation. John mentioned himself as the one Jesus loved.
John was initially a walking powder keg whom Jesus called a “son of thunder” (Mark 3:17). John was upset because someone outside the circle of disciples was using the name of Jesus to see people released from demons. “We told him to stop because he’s not part of our denomination,” he said. “He doesn’t share our doctrinal understandings. He’s not one of us.” We do this as well. People can be saved, blessed, helped, and strengthened—but because we might not have doctrinal agreement, we put them down. Because they might worship differently from us, we find fault. Such is not the way of love.
John went through an incredible transformation himself. You see, John is known as the “apostle of love” because more than anyone else in Scripture, John both preaches and personifies love. Another result of being impacted by the work of Jesus.
Paul - Once a poacher of Christians, Goes to work for The Save the Christian’s Foundation!
He was originally Saul (not the king, but the persecutor of Christians who lived a thousand years later). This guy started out as a orange vested, one-man, hunting machine, with a no bag limit tag fresh out of a Sportsman's Warehouse. He became Paul the Apostle after having a powerful encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. First Barnabas, and then Silas were his ministry partners. Most of the books of the New Testament were written by Paul who became a powerhouse leader in the early church. go figure! He is responsible for much of our understanding of Christianity. Paul first bridged the gap between Jews and Gentiles by demonstrating that the way of Jesus was open to anyone, regardless of ancestry. Such a stark contrast in his story! There is hope for you and me!
David - Shepherd, Giant Killer, Worship leader, Womanizer, Murderer, King, Huh?
Best known for facing the giant Goliath and beating him with a sling and a stone, David was the most famous king of Israel, one of the greatest men who ever lived. Author of most of the Psalms, his story is told in 1 & 2 Samuel. He was a shepherd, a worshiper, He had a heart after God and sadly, he is also often remembered for his greatest failure, his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, who later became the mother of wise and wealthy King Solomon. There is much we can relate to in the life of David.
Abraham - Father of many generations, Simple faith, accounted unto Righteousness! Gets ahead of things!
The father of faith and ancestor of nations. In reality, If it were not for some of his major mistakes, Israel would have deign in a great famine! God made His promise to make Abraham the Father of many generations while Abe was still worshiping idols like a Moon goddess. He had a propensity for taking things into his own hands and got ahead of things with his handmaiden because he and Sarah thought that they were too old to cut the mustard! His son Isaac was born to him at age 100 when his wife, Sarah, was 90. Isaac became the father of Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and his descendants became the nation of Israel. One of Jacob’s sons was Joseph (not the husband of Mary mother of Jesus) who was sold into slavery by his brothers, but, in a great turn of events, he was delivered to Egypt by Ishmaelite's or the direct descendants of Ishmael. (Ishmael was the byproduct of Abraham's sexual relations with Hagar who was Sarah’s handmaiden). Joseph ended up becoming second-in-command in Egypt, and in that position he saved his family, providing food for them during a terrible famine. Abraham trusted God and it was accounted unto him as righteousness!
Jabez - The Lord hears you!
Jabez is only mentioned in a few verses of scripture and is known for his famous “Prayer of Jabez” mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:10: Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!’ And God granted what he asked.
It is a simple prayer prayed in faith and serves as a powerful example of answered prayer and receiving blessing from the Lord.
The Thief - On the Cross, Saved by the Bell!
We do not know much more about the thief on the cross other than he was: A criminal, crucified next to Jesus, and brought into paradise at his death. His powerful story is told in Luke 23:32-43, that describes the conversation between Christ and the two criminals crucified alongside of him.
The first criminal mentioned mocked Christ, “Save yourself and us!” (23:29). The other criminal, of whom we are writing, defended Jesus in a humble manner, acknowledging the justice of God and the innocence of Christ. His response to the mocker was, Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. Then in verses 40-41 he pleaded with Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This desperate and humble cry for mercy is all that God needed to welcome him into the family of God. Jesus answered, vs 43. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
What an incredible story! A man who presumably led his entire life in opposition to God, by the great mercies of God, was able to be saved in his dying moments. This demonstrates that a humble heart that cries out to God for salvation will be heard!
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Ehud - An uncouth lefty Gets used by God!
The story of Ehud comes right out of Judges 3, but would fit in nicely into the plot of a James Bond movie.
Israel was under the oppressive rule of Eglon the king of Moab so they cried out to the Lord for deliverance. The Moabites were idol worshipers who did evil in the sight of the Lord. God sent Ehud a left handed man who would have been considered unfit along with his cubit-long (about a foot and a half) sword to assassinate the king and liberate God’s people from his rule.
Ehud must have been a smooth talker, because when he told the servants of the king that he had a “secret message” for him (Judges 3:19), they left Ehud all alone with the king who was built like Jabba the Hutt. Ehud’s “secret message” was the sword that he brought and a stab to the belly Eglon as he was sitting on the pot, which killed him!
Then Ehud quietly locked the doors to the roof to keep the guards out and made a quick getaway. When Ehud returned to the people of Israel, he led Israel in conquering their enemies the Moabites.
It is a great picture and story of how when the Word of God (the Sword) is thrust to the core of our lives, how that the Dirt comes out!
Jesus - Author, Savior, Super Hero, and oh let’s not forget God!
The whole Bible is centered around Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, Savior, the God Man, the solution to the problems caused by our own waywardness and the only Way to living a great Story! Jesus is the center of it all! If you place Him as Lord of all in your life, you will be able to see your story through the lens of The Creator of the Universe, Author and Finisher of our Faith!
The Long Shots and Making the Bad Bets.
Chapter 2: from "A Rogue Story."
I’ve always been a long-shot. For most of my life I have tried to be a leader and the Hero of my story but for the most part, I always felt like I might be the guy who was the last one to be picked on the playground so I would always seek to promote my own character or abilities. I was a man with many gifting’s but trapped like a prisoner in my own self fashioned perspectives of self. Spiritual pride first puffed me up, then it subtly lied to me, and then it left me spiritually bankrupt. I had become stuck there in my own story, un-touchable, un-reachable by the walls that I had erected through spiritual prowess, while devoid of an understanding of my own depravity and need for Jesus to be the Lord of all in my story. I had become a Villain!
What could the Lord possibly do with a man like that? As someone who had become so centered on themselves, I had lost hope, living in fear of the exposure that would ensue if the depth of my depravity were discovered. I was now convinced that I was alone and that everything that I had strived for would soon be lost. There on the edge of my bed, influenced by lies, depression and medication for chronic pain, I had decided that it wasn’t worth it so, with a gun in my hand and in what could have been the last few minutes of my story, I cried out… “Why can’t You pick me for once?” I will never forget the immediate answer — “I did.” “What are you waiting for?” As if being awakened from a childhood dream of playing Red-Rover on the playground, it was if the Lord was standing directly across from me yelling “Send Johnny on over!” Motioning me to run with everything I could muster, I sat my pistol in the dirt of that playground story and dream, but I had no strength to move or stand beyond that. When I looked up, the Heavenly Father had ran across that gap with open arms and with a warm embrace that instantly brought justification. Not self-justification but His Justification. He had not only elected to have me but He had come the full distance that was seemingly so impossible for me to make and was inadequate to travel. He did a work at my core that day and I have not been the same since!
Pick Me, pick Me!!!
1 Peter 1:2…
…Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…
To often we worry more about being the Elect of the people around us than we do being the Elect of God. We perpetually strive for the “People's Choice Award” rather than resting in the knowledge that we are already chosen as God’s glorified one’s! You see, because God elected us before the world began, He sees us as already glorified. People often look at us and they say, “Glorified? Them?” The Father, however, knows better than those around you!
Suppose you could suddenly travel back in time and you wind up in a place where you realize that you haven’t made any of the mistakes of your past yet. There you are and nobody has seen you mess up or make the mistakes that will eventually become part of your story. So, you think to yourself; “Hey, my approval rating is much better now with folks than it will ever be in the future. So with the new found members of your incredible posse and a new approval rating, you find a bookie, and against unbelievably high odds, and even the marvelous expectations that your peeps have for you in life, you place a bet that you are going to have some major shortcomings and that you will fail along the way. Or, maybe you bet against yourself, that you’re going to get beat in some way. Now stay with me!Because, you would walk away rich from your winnings because you would have made these bets with foreknowledge. You would have put your money down not as a gamble, but with certainty because you would have known the outcome despite the fact that you failed, despite the fact that it looked like a bad bet!
Here is the kicker! You see, the Father knows a good bet even before it looks like a bad bet. He sees the end from the beginning. He understands what no other person can comprehend. He knows we are going to struggle and mess up but He also knows that we’re going to make it. As bad a bet as we might seem to ourselves or to others, as steep as the odds against us may be, He calls us already glorified. Therefore, we can approach Him boldly. We can enjoy Him intimately. We can ask of Him expectantly because we have been elected eternally.
Our Father takes an incredible chance on us even when people don’t, even when other christians, family, friends and the crowd around us won’t. Quit seeing yourselves as the good bet, gone bad and start seeing yourself as the bad bet, gone good!
So what, if you are a long shot! The word of God is chucked full of stories about the Long-Shot. Jesus Himself was viewed by His own disciples as a long-shot. This next part of A Rogue Story takes a brief look at the bad bets, the longshot, and the real characters, who were all heroes and villains alike!
Have you ever felt stuck in your story?
A Rogue Story
The Author, The Hero, and The Villain?
All good stories begin with someone who who plays the ultimate character or hero. In developing an understanding of our own story we must first go directly to the author. Now I know this may sound odd because most of us (If you are anything like me) feel like we have been the authors of our own confusion, loss, and failures. Our stories read like a book pre-judged by it’s cover, or one tossed away for some other more practical use like starting a fire in the wood stove. This is the result of a mis-understanding of who the real author really is and what His purpose is for you. You wouldn’t toss aside a novel by Hemingway or Tolkien. You see, we like to think that we are the hero in our own story, but if we take the time to search the roots or ancestry of our stories, we can better understand why things unfold the way they have and ultimately free ourselves from having to be the Author, the Hero, or the Villain! How is this possible you may ask? It is because our Author has experienced every role there is to play and He in fact knew me before I was formed in the Womb..
Jeremiah 1:5 (KJV)
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
It takes very little understanding about our Author to come to the conclusion that He not only knows our story but is orchestrating each roll that plays out in our lives with perfect execution. Every scene is played out perfectly with all of His nature, personalities, and attributes being directed by and in the fulness of the Godhead. When we come to grips with the understanding that the author really knows what He is doing then we must change our perspectives about His plan and purpose for us while accepting that our story has been written by Him. This is the point that can transform our understanding of our story because it is here that we become free to see ourselves through the creative lens of Jesus.
So, how do we view our lives, our story? Is it possible that my story has been hijacked throughout my lifetime? How do we view others around us, our family, our friends, most importantly those who have gone through difficulty whether it is adversity or the consequences of sin. How do we view others who have different life experiences and persuasions? Is it our part to distance ourselves from those who have a different theological perspective? Should we allow ourselves to see others through the lens of past failures or mistrust? Should the view of myself be substantiated by the report of others who have not walked with me, but who know about my past? Or, does Jesus model a whole different perspective for us to follow where none of these questions come into play? These are all important questions to ask as we approach them through the simplistic lens of Jesus, giving us the right view of our story.
Through the lens of Jesus and because I have spent time getting to know the Author, something wonderful has happened in my own story. I have fallen in love with the author of my story and I am certain that on my behalf, Jesus comes to me and He is only motivated by His love for me. It is this passionate attraction for me that is packaged in such a way that it demonstrates itself by being relational with me, speaking with me, and lavishing me with the full provisions of His mercy and grace. He never puts me in a time out; He does not withdraw Himself from me, analyze my actions, and prequalify whether or not I am worthy of love. The Good News is that He is your Author too!
Jesus said “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” This story and lens of Jesus corrects our theology and understanding of the story of God, It makes it relational and not religious! I like how the Story of Christ and seeing things through the lens of Christ drastically impacted the lives of guys like Peter and Paul in the most profound but simplistic ways.
Peter gives me the hope that those who are religious in their theological perspectives can, not only be used by the Lord but, that they can change their perspectives radically. You remember the story when Peter had to go with a bunch of Gentiles to the house of Cornelius. He must have been totally freaked out! Good religious Jews especially Apostles didn’t roll with Gentiles. They were considered to be fodder for the fires of hell. (I have been on both ends of this perspective. I have felt that way about others because of my own religious pride and I have also been on the receiving end of those who are non relational and religious in their theology). Needless to say, Peter is placed in a position where if he is going to develop into the simplistic model of how Jesus showed us to live, then there is going to have to be a change in how he views others and it can only happen through the loving lens of Jesus. Read the story in Acts 10 to see how the Lord lovingly does this as Peter moves along through what could be considered as a very uncomfortable journey into the world of the Gentiles. In the story, Peter becomes what we call a relational theologian, not an academic theologian. I believe that God wants all of us to be relational theologians because they are the best kind of theologians. Why? A relational theologian tracks everything in scripture through the nature and Heart of God. The goal of God is to make all of us into His image. That is why Jesus was so relational In fact that is why we can so easily identify that His attraction was for the sinner and not the religious who thought that they were without sin. One of the first things that God reveals to peter is…
where Is this instruction. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
I used to think that I was a commoner! Now I believe that I am not so common. God has captivated my heart, cleansed me from my sin and pride and filled me with His Holy Spirit. It was a process and a part of my story! Some will be skeptical of my story, others will hear it and relate, and my heart is that they be restored in their relationship with Christ and those around them. The great news is that all of this happens in people prone to fail in their own stories, people who do horrible things like lopping of ears, freaking out over little girls who call them out around burn barrels, those who deny over and over again that they ever knew Him or that He even exists. That is the Story line that Jesus, The Author and Finisher of our faith likes to use. Those are the folks that He makes relational but, not so common!
All that being said, our theology must be relational and in line with His primary purpose if we are truly to become living epistles. Note however that if you are like Peter, this position may get you a reputation of being unlearned but, it might also help the religious folk and sinners alike, identify that you have actually been with Jesus as was the case of Peter. Peter spoke from a level of relationship that the religious leaders never had.
One of the reasons I don’t get systematic theology is because there is no pathway through the heart and nature of God and it mostly ends up as rules somewhere.
When we study the Bible, we are studying the one who wrote it. If all you are doing is studying the principles of scripture then you are missing the heart of love that Jesus had for us while we were yet sinners. The Bible is a love story that causes us to fall in love with the author. When we believe on Him and embrace the simple faithfulness of Jesus towards us, He puts His Spirit in us and hides us in Him. Then begins the glorious process of sanctification where we go from glory to greater glory in His presence!
Paul on the other hand was and academic theologian. He had no understanding of the presence, He had totally missed the visitation of Jesus, and was convinced that he was serving the purposes of God in persecuting the church while breathing death threats to the disciples in the name of Jesus. This is what he said about himself…
I was educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the laws of our fathers. I’m a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee, Circumcised on the eighth day, of Isreal, of the tribe of Benjamin, as to Law a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to legalism, blameless. I lived according to the strictest sect of our religion.
Here is the cool thing about the model of Jesus and seeing things through the lens of God. Christ will reveal Himself and love even the most religious!
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord?
There is Hope for the religious who say “Who are you Lord”? It’s sad to have all that pedigree, all of that learning, to have followed all of the principles and procedures without having an encounter with Jesus in the development of your theology.
The Good news is that Jesus loves the religious and the sinner alike! He sacrificed Himself for all of us. The sinner, the hypocrite, the religious, and the broken hearted alike. Paul exhibited all of these attributes and Jesus identifies Himself to him and shows His love and forgiveness to him, radically opening Paul's’ eyes to what relational theology has the ability to do.
If he can do it in train wrecks like Peter, persecutors like Paul, and guys like me who have been on both ends of the spectrum, then He is able to show himself, and lavish us with His love no matter who you are.
Just ask Him, Who are You?
So Who is Who?
One central character with the ability to assume multiple roles in any story is at the very nature of who God is. We were created for His pleasure and nothing gives him more pleasure than a story that glorifies Him. In order to break our stories down to a very simplistic understanding of the plot behind them, we must also have a simple understanding of what comprises the very make up of who God is. In order to do that, let’s look briefly at the Trinity or the sum total of who God is.
I like to wrap my brain around this Idea by viewing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as… Me, Myself, and I. These are the three distinct person’s of the Trinity where Jesus is depicted as eternally, The One True God.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Whenever the beginning was, wherever it was, whatever it might have been, Jesus—the Word—was already there. He had no beginning and He has no end. He is eternally God. Jesus is also equally God. …and the Word was with God… Jesus, the Word, was with God—equal to the Father and the Spirit.
Now I know what you might be thinking… “I thought there was only one God?” There is. “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,” Deuteronomy 6:4 says. But the word used for “one” is the word echad, which refers to a compound unity, like one people, or one cluster of grapes. And so, God is a synthesis, a “tri-unity.” One plus one plus one does not equal one. But one times one, times one, equals one! And that is the mystery of the Trinity.
Allow me to introduce myself! Author, “I Am.”
“My name is I AM,” answered the Lord (Exodus 3:14).
In this particular story, Moses must have scratching his head in confusion and thought, You are… what You see, not realizing that what God really is would only be fully and completely revealed when Jesus Christ came on the scene.
At the end of His ministry, Jesus could say, “I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou hast given Me. (John 17:6). Because of this, He filled in the blank completely and perfectly.
Jesus in His great “Ego-Eimi” statements showed us how that He was fully God and the Author of our Story. He doesn’t tell us the way. He is the Way. “Whom seek ye?” He asked of the soldiers who had come to arrest Him. “Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “Ego Eimi,” said Jesus. “I AM.” And the soldiers—most likely several hundred in number—fell over backward (John 18:4–6), knocked down not by anything Jesus did, but by the sheer power of who He is. So, too, once you grab this, once you see it’s not something Jesus gives to you, but who He is for you, you’ll be knocked out. You’ll say, “Lord, I’ve been asking for clarity in my story and looking for the answers to my plot. But in reality it’s all wrapped up in You personally. And if I rest in Your arms, My story will have the right ending. If I stay close to You, I’ll be protected. If I cling to You, I’ll feel whole. If I allow You into my life, I’ll feel satisfied at last?” “That’s right,” Jesus answers. “I am the Way. I am the Door. I am the Vine. I am the Bread.” The Story starts with Him and ends with Him!
But there is even more to this Jesus, fully God in the flesh, who has come to be the central figure of our story!
One person plays multiple parts!
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
The Super Hero
Colossians 1 reads like the identification of the Super Hero, Jesus Christ: Creator of the speeding bullet, His Spirit more powerful than dynamite, not just a leaper over problems but a fixer of any problem. Born a carpenter’s son, Jesus learned his father’s trade and, more than likely, he was good at it. His expertise in the art of carpentry isn’t what makes him memorable; it’s his unique knowledge of intimate details related to God. Jesus demonstrated that he was God by performing miracles, resisting great temptations, and teaching life-changing lessons despite his age or lack of education. His business practices are legendary, using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. So attractive is the story of Jesus that the multitudes were drawn to Him and if you introduce Jesus as the real hero of your story, He becomes one who is simple for everyone to believe in and look up to. That’s because Jesus is God. Because of who he is, he has the ultimate power.
Not only is He the One True God, and our Hero, He is the Ghost!
The Ghost Story
As a child, while on camping excursions, we would take turns conjuring up ghost stories to pass the time late into the twilight hours, around campfires or huddled in our sleeping bags, usually with the comfort of a flashlight in hand to shed light on the fears that were now becoming our realities.
The Holy Ghost Story here is much different than the spook tales of old. His work is explosive and His presence is comforting. He goes about His business drawing no attention to Himself perpetually leading, guiding, comforting and revealing the central character of our story. Let’s let the Word of God Speak for itself!
But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
1 Corinthians 2:9-13 (KJV)
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty.
[Even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto him].
For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
This is one Ghost Story that is vital to having a great story of our own!
Not only is He the Author and Finisher, the Hero, Comforter, and the Ghost in the Story but He is the Villain too!
John 3:14-16 (KJV)
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 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.
Jesus Christ became the Villain, or the Snake if you will in the story! How, you may ask did He do that? Simple! He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) in order that the wrath of the Father over the sin of the world would be appeased. Instead of smashing a world that is full of snake’s and villain’s, He turned to His innocent Son and laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.
Not only did Jesus know what this meant going into it, He did it anyway, all while knowing that I was the worst villain of them all. I can only assume that this is why in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed with such intensity, and sweat drops of blood. “Father, if possible, don’t let Me drink of this cup” (Matthew 26:39). But, it wasn’t physical death Jesus feared; it was the wrath of His Father that caused Him to break out in a bloody sweat (Luke 22:44). Jesus knew what it meant to be the total satisfaction of my debt, the appeasement of Gods wrath that I had alone deserved.
God Himself became a Man, His name was Jesus. Jesus being fully God, absorbed the wrath of His own indignation. He died, arose again to be seated at the right hand of the Father and sent His Spirit to guide and Comfort me. It is The mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of Jesus covering me, It is the Story of God as my Author, Finisher, Hero, Comforter, Ghost, Snake and Villain who was able to be all of this for me while wielding all of the wrath that I deserved upon Himself. The Ultimate Story!
Hopefully by now, You're beginning to understand why Jesus is not only the best Author of our story but that He is the perfect Finisher of our story!
I Like Action Adventure Stories.
You ever feel like you thought you had a character figured out in a story only to find out that there was another side to them. That is the beauty of having Jesus as the main Character of our story! It makes for a great Adventure!
When I hear the Story of God, when I understand my roots, and believe in His plan for my story, My outlook on the plot changes. There is hope! Life becomes an adventure and the thought of exploring the storybook of my life now becomes one of interest. It as if I have just landed the supporting role in a good Action/Adventure movie and the movies director has just yelled… Action!
Simplifying the Plot of Your Story
Now that we understand Jesus’ part and role in our story, we can warm up to the idea that in order to really live and tell a good story, it all boils down to Jesus being lived out in and through our story!
Hebrews 1:9 says, Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness “more than any of His fellows.” That is, He had a gladness about Him that was unparalleled in any other person. Truly, whoever looks at the Lord cannot help but be impressed with Him. One would think however, that the secret to such attractiveness, effectiveness, and joy would be very complex. One would think that Jesus must have understood esoteric mysteries and implemented difficult methodology. But such is not the case, for throughout the scriptures, we see the simplicity of the secret Jesus understood that produced in Him the life that was so successful and so beautiful. What was this secret? The very foundational principle that governed His entire life was His relationship with His Father. If I were to question you about the defining principle of your life, you might say, “It’s my ministry,” or “It’s my family,” or, “It’s this vision,” or, “It’s this attempt to see the kingdom grow.” You might on the other hand, define your story as one that is full of tragedy, fear, rejection, failure, and disappointment. Regardless of your personal triumph or despair and as valid as those things might be, they are insignificant in comparison to your relationship with the Father. That’s all there is—no other agenda, no other failure, no other ministry, no other disappointment, no other vision, no other attempts to right all of the wrongs, and no other priority. By comparison to what had at one time been my own personal tendencies, Jesus was so focused on His relationship with His Father that nothing else mattered. As a result, everything else fell into place beautifully. His life was fruitful. His relationships were special. His ministry was bountiful, and His Story is amazing! A simple walk of faith in Him is the only thing that will get your story moving in the right direction! It is my hope to share His story, how it has impacted my story, and how every story, every path you are on, has been ransomed through Christ!
The chapters that follow in "A Rogue Story" are all about characters in the bible, characters in my story, a rogue sense of adventure, and how we can go about living out the story of Jesus in in our own lives.
1 Thess 5:16 Rejoice evermore!
In order to rejoice, I must know whose hands I’m in!
The Psalmist proclaimed, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. That means that the hands of the Lord are what forms every day, good or bad and that in order to rejoice I must know who’s hands I’m in!
A basketball in my hands is worth about $19.
A basketball in Michael Jordan's hands is worth about $33 million.
It depends whose hands it's in.
A baseball in my hands is worth about $6. And is good for deterring would be thieves.
A baseball in Mark Mcguire's hands is worth $19 million.
It depends whose hands it's in.
A tennis racket is useless in my hands. More like a big boys fly swatter!
A tennis racket in Pete Sampras' hands is a Wimbledon Championship.
It depends whose hands it's in.
A rod in my hands will keep away a wild animal or poke me in the eye!
A rod in Moses' hands will part the mighty sea.
It depends whose hands it's in.
A slingshot in my hands is! a kid's toy and a good way to break a window!
A slingshot in David's hand is a mighty weapon.
It depends whose hands it's in.
Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches and a lunch I’m probably not going to share. Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in God's hands will feed thousands. It depends whose hands it's in.
Nails in my hands might produce a couple of framed walls But,
Nails in Jesus Christ's hands will produce salvation for the entire world.
It depends whose hands it's in.
As you can see now, it all depends on whose hands it's in. And all you have to do today is put your concerns, your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your families and your relationships in God's hands because...
It all depends whose hands it's in!
Heard it from an Old Cowboy!
You are holy and unblameable and unre-proveable in His sight!
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unre-proveable in his sight:
The world believes that reproof is the way of reconciling things. This philosophy plays out in our everyday life and even in some circles of Christianity. We think that if we can reprove those who have hurt us that it will bring resolve and closure to the circumstances that hurt us to begin with. In many cases related to reconciliation amongst the religious it can become awards based on the performance of the individual who needs reconciliation and is often based on merit before it is provided. Contrast these philosophies with the models in scripture for reconciliation and you will discover polar opposites to what we see in the Kingdom of this world.
The Kingdom Cowboy Perspective that we are given in scripture implies that reconciliation has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Christ and the work of the Cross.
I love western settings and the ranching way of life. I have always wanted more of it and there is much less of it in my life than I have aspired to achieve., However, recently I have discovered that my story is actually the epitome of one of the oldest wrangler functions of all time… Roping!
Have you ever wondered or strayed like a calf or young steer? I would venture to say that we all have. All of us have been wounded, estranged, alienated, distanced, or have felt perpetually reproved by the herd. It is not only part of our story but it can leave us stuck in a mud hole or hobbled like we just threw a shoe. Anytime we have a wrong perspective on what reconciliation truly is, we will look first for reproof and resolve, never becoming truly satisfied through the reconciliation provided by Christ on the Cross of Calvary.
So what is the Wrangler way of reconciliation? Simply put, it is Col 1:19-22.
First, All things are reconciled to Him, through Him, and by Him. There is no mention of you or I anywhere in the text. No rules, steps, pre-qualifications, and nobody else involved in the peace process except for Christ and the blood he shed on the Old Rugged Cross. I didn’t even have to convince Christ that I needed to be reconciled. It’s like He already knew!
Christ is the ultimate wrangler and roper!
The Greek Wrangler word for Reconcile is “apokatallasso.” The first part of this Western style word is “apo” meaning any kind of separation of one thing from another by which union or fellowship is destroyed. It is physical distance of time and place. I guess my best example of it would be like a stray steer or heifer!
The second part of this Wrangler word is “katallasso” it would be the equivalent of lassoing a stray back into the favor of the herd, literally at the expense of trading one life for another. Let that sink for a minute!
This is what Christ does as the greatest Wrangler of all time. He didn’t just wrangle us in, He exchanged His life for ours. He paid the ultimate price to rope me in! Furthermore, He did it for the stray steer not the prize bull! Talk about a love knot in the lariat!
We have been completely returned to favor with God through the work of Christ. When we were away from Him, caught in the snare of the enemy, and wandering away, Jesus saddled up and with lasso in hand, He pulled us back into the fold when we were shut out from fellowship and intimacy. he loved us while we were yet wandering steer's!
So here is is this Cowboy's two cents about reconciliation. You are no longer reproved. You are reconciled into the body of His flesh. You wear the brand that came by the Cross, through His death, and He presents you now as holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight! Quite the Roper isn't He?
You who was once separated, allow yourself be roped back into perfect fellowship with Him! Wear the brand that nobody can remove from you, the brand that nobody else can provide for you. Reconciliation by Christ cost Him everything but He roped you anyway!
But Maybe That’s A Good Thing!
Day three of my recuperation from knee surgery has me contemplating many different things. (It’s not the drugs Just for the record!). The Lord has a way of bringing clarity to those who position themselves to wait on Him especially if you have desire for a work of the Spirit and you are becoming a person who anticipates the fullness of His Spirit as you walk in simple faith with Him. Regardless of whether or not this kind of pause and positioning in life are intentional and purposed or they are imposed like the recuperation process I am presently going through, God is faithful to teach us and grow us up through either posture or process but, that doesn’t mean you are going to always get what you want! One thing that I am learning is that all too often; pain, setbacks, weakness, inability to see what is ahead, are all the venues that the Lord has a tendency to show Himself strong in while at the same time He shapes us to be a perfect fit into the valleys that we go through so that we can be salt and light in difficult times. Post- Surgery I was optimistic that I was going to be breaking all the records for recovery. Raising the bar for other potential candidates of knee surgery! Day 3 has come and my resurrection has been postponed! What the Lord is teaching me in all of this is that He died and was resurrected so that I wouldn’t have to and so that none of us would be able to take any credit for what only He alone could do!
It’s funny how the Lord can position us in such a way so that when we are in our deepest need or things are toughest, He can turn the light on so to speak and reveal to us what His desires are for our life, along with what He wants us to learn, and what is important for us to understand in the process of shewing forth His Manifest Glory, and not ours! I have been able to reflect on how I view the world and how sometimes what I want is in conflict with what I need. I thought about how much stress I often create for myself by fixating on what I think I want instead of focusing on the things my mind, body and spirit need. I realized that if I stop chasing the things that I feel I should have, I won’t set myself up for disappointment when I don’t get them. It is becoming my belief that if I stop believing that something ought to be a certain way, I won’t be unfulfilled if it turns out differently than what I expected. Maybe the things that God has for me are better than the things I want anyway,! Maybe, building a sense of entitlement only hinders me from recognizing it.
Have you ever said to yourself. “I can’t just not go after the things I want in life because isn’t that what drive is all about anyway. If I don’t have drive, I won’t accomplish anything; if I don’t accomplish anything in life, I won’t be happy.” Thankfully, the more I grow in the Lord, those moments of panic become more brief and I realize that kind of thinking is incorrect. The Holy Spirit is faithful to bring a rush of calm when I am postured to tune in to Him. As it falls over me it is as if the God of this universe is gently telling me, “relax, I’ve got this!” He tells me to let go, and to trust that everything will be okay just rest in Me! Your personal drive and ambition may have gotten you far in life but, “how often have you tried to force a square peg in a round hole because you went after something you wanted just to say you achieved it? “ Or, “How often have you come up empty when I wasn’t the Author and Finisher of the direction you were going?”
Those thoughts sink in deeper as I consider how my actions can impact my kids, grandchildren, wife, family and those the Lord has given me. We can all remember experiences where If we look back there are situations where we wanted something for ourselves or someone else and the results were not what we expected. Or, we had a goal to make something happen because we wanted it, not because others did. That really makes us stop and think about whether or not our motives are in sync with His!
Wet can all understand the feeling when moments we thought were going our direction, build up and then fall flat on their face. Much like the process with my knee. Will I have a closer relationship with Christ if I stop worrying about the things I want and instead focus on what I really need and long for which is Him and the work that He has done?” The answer is a resounding… Yes!
All I know right now is that the Lord has given me the down time to try this on. In the process I will be learning to be better satisfied with His timing, His Flow, His perfect rest, and trust that He that is doing the work in me and for me because, when it comes down to it, the work is done! It is Finished! And although the finished results may look different in each of us, It still has the look of the Finished work of the Cross and the look of 3 days and a resurrection for those who walk in simple faith and who simply abide in what he is doing!
Allow me to give you the simple equation again! The work is done so, rest in it, and wait for it. This is the Simple walk of Faith that manifests his glorious resurrection in our lives.
Food for Thought!
Such tremendous power in restoration!
Galatians 6:1-2 (KJV)
1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
After having gone through this process personally, because of my own need for restoration along with the almost 7 years It has taken to see it play out. I have learned many things from my personal story and by the grace of God have a completely different perspective on matters of restoration.
First let me state my personal perspectives on what restoration should never look like.
Don’t Ignore the “lest thou also be tempted,” part!
Here are some of the good things I have seen in the process of my personal restoration. They have forever changed my thinking.
Food for Fought!