September 4, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2.1-11)
So, as we watch the drama of the world unfold in the days ahead as I pray we have been watching in the most recent days or years, let us do so with the wisdom which comes from above. The Deceiver, the false leadership, will blame others and proclaim Himself/Herself/Themselves as the solution. Little do we know, mighty ones of God, believers in the way of Jesus, the Christ of God, His Only Begotten Son, the prophetic revelation of such import is being shown to us. While I will not say these days are those which indicate “the close of the Age of the Church” and the ushering in of the season of Tribulation, I will repeat the admonition of scripture, “Let those with eyes to see- perceive, and with ears to hear- comprehend.” We are living in dangerous times for both flesh and spirit. It is all the more important to me that we ramp up our discipleship obedience, training and commissioning and, following the prescription of Paul for such preparation, “put on the whole armor of God.” My friends, there is but one solution and resolution to these days and that is “believing in the One whom God has sent.” And we will know this One to be true because all that He says and does will glorify God and not Himself. Interesting then, as we considered Friday, that the people ask of Jesus, even demand of Him, “Moses did “this” [provide manna by day and quail by night as well as living water] so what will You do?” Jesus answers simply “I will do the will of My Father in Heaven who sent Me.” If God is in Heaven and sent Jesus to the world then what comes down must go up. I even suggested we consider the following “ups” as the evidence of Jesus’ ministry and His call to us to seek the truth, pursue righteousness and trust God:
- He lifted up the bread and fish asking for God’s blessing.
- He lifted up His eyes to the heavens and prayed.
- He lifted up the bread and cup of the Last Supper.
- He was lifted up on the cross.
- He was raised up from the grave.
- He ascended, rose up, from their presence to take His seat at the right hand of God.
Following the sixth example, I stated yesterday there were other examples that we know of which could be added to the list. Little did I know, especially in the light of recent events such as President Biden’s “Red Speech: A Call to Arms,” how vital it is to know of these other examples. As we draw near to another time of political decision-making with critical mid-term elections, we must be spiritually wise and scripturally sound. We must know the difference between that which is “right, true and good” and that which is “incorrect, disillusioned and false.” Yes, I have attempted to align the words in the stated sequence just mentioned to parallel each other so that we can consider the spiritual opposition of each pair. Thus, “right, true and good” represent the Kingdom of God affirmations and “incorrect, disillusioned and false” as the vocabulary drawn from the Kingdom of humanity. We are able to see how both sets of terms can be “vilified” in the minds and heart of humanity and used to persuade the listening audience into believing such things about the Church, the Christ and the Godhead that simply are not real. Thus, the call to verify and validate the truth is dependent on the “divine purpose and intention of the words and their associated calls to action.” And while the “sets” present opposites as to the intentions and their actions, let me stand them individually together for an even greater emphasis:
right versus incorrect;
true versus disillusioned; and,
good versus false.
How these terms are best understood and thus pronounced into the consciousness of the hearing (I would pray a “listening”) audience will most certainly determine the “rising up versus an uprising” of those individuals singularly and collectively. So, as a point of clarification as to my reflection and the suggestion of it, let me cite a common event which is of current debate- “The January 6th Uprising.” At this point in time and in history, it matters little who designed it, empowered it, promoted it and executed it. The fact of the matter which is of no debate is that 1) it happened and 2) it was incorrect, disillusioned and false. To be even more clear, I will categorically state such uprising was not of God and therefore serves no “good, true or right” purpose. Further, it matters less to me at this point in time whether you agree with me or not. It matters more that you will give consideration to what I am suggesting as you adjudicate in your own heart, mind and spirit your own “next steps.” Any decision made in a vacuum is a bad, unhealthy and contrary decision which ultimately serves no positive, constructive and/or beneficial purpose. And that “vacuum” does include “based on your own thinking and understanding without fact, proof, example, data or wisdom.” Whether it is a “contentious 2020 election,” a “January 6th Uprising” or a “Red Speech: Call to Arms” the determination of “right or wrong” cannot be a humanly-based discernment of the truth. We must seek out the spirit of the matter and depend on the wisdom of a higher authority to understand it and respond appropriately to it.
How I wish this could be so much more easily embraced and implemented. You see, the world loves to complicate itself with contradistinctions, convolutions, contradictions and contrariness. For Christ followers, it is complicated because we know we must embrace the spiritual axiom “walk by faith and not by sight” but to do so requires we stand against the world in which we live in but are called to not be of. Bottomline, appearances can be deceiving. So, the best decisions must be determined by what is the heart, soul and intent of the matter. A “word” given to me yesterday by God has generated a considerable scripture study. That study led me to connections back to what we have been reflecting on as “being clothed by righteousness,” “being those committed to good works,” and “pursuing authentic discipleship.” Here is the word that was given to me:
“We are not called to be the Church of twirling thumbs.”
Consider this: it is only because of our muscular and skeletal make-up that we can “twirl” our thumbs. That is, we are of the few creatures in the plethora of God’s creation who possess “opposable thumbs.” Having this distinction allows us to “grasp” on to things in a particular way. Because of this created opportunity, we are able to walk “upright” as no other creature on earth. I pray you see the indicated by quotation marks connection between “grasp” and “upright.” Even now, as the Spirit pours through me and my human intellect with a “desire to know,” my mind is spinning all across the spectrum of scripture with denotations and applications of the consequence of both the positive and negative impacts of this pairing. I am joining the Elder John who wrote “if all the things that Jesus Christ did could be written down for posterity, there would never be enough libraries to hold all the works.” So, I have chosen to start with the words of Paul the apostle written to the community of faith in Philippi presented at the start of this reflection. With a focus on verse six Paul says, “…Who [being Jesus Christ], existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped….” The word Paul uses for “to be grasped” is “harpagmos.” It literally points us in the direction of “seizing or taking by force apart from a respect for higher principles.” This word is used only once in the New Testament Greek and only in connection with the purposes and thoughts of Jesus Christ. Of course, as followers of Christ, we should also emulate His decision to act in such a way as befits a “walk by faith and not by sight” mentality and spirituality. To gain some depth of understanding, we can refer to a more common word derived from the same root which is “harmazo.” Its meaning is clear because it refers directly to “stealing or storming a stronghold.” I guess you can see why I am not a fan of the decision to enact the “January 6th Uprising.” Let me be clear,then, that we must determine the “root cause, purpose and intent” of such an activity. Conspiracy theorists abound! But, regardless of who is truly responsible for the activities and thus the consequences of those activities, I will say “there had to be, has to be and must be” a better way to get a “grasp” on the situation. We can neither “twirl our thumbs” and do nothing nor hope it either “goes away” or “Jesus comes soon.” We are those “clothed with righteousness, identified as members of the royal priesthood of all believers in Christ as the Head, called to be disciples to make disciples engaged in the upbuilding, instruction and support of one another to and for both the glory of God and the benefit of humanity.” We are also called to “right, true and good” action. We are not called to “incorrect, disillusioned and false” action nor spiritual nomads lost in the wilderness of sin. But, even that, according to Jesus is far better than “twirling thumbs, fence sitting and tepidity.” We are, at whatever stage of “The Age” we are in, called to action. We must be for or against, hot or cold, moving up or moving down in the ways of faith, hope and love. We do not get to decide better than God, in the place of God or apart from God. “Equality with God” as Paul spoke of the decision of Jesus as the Christ, “is not something to be stolen, taken by force or enacted apart from literally higher principles.” Harmony with God and unison as in “one body, one mind, one spirit, one birth, one faith and one Lord” is who and what we are intended to be. In others words, there is a better way to mitigate problems, troubles, inequities, injustices and brokenness. That way is none other than the word of God made known perfectly in Jesus as the Christ of God. Its testimony is consistent in that the use of force to gain the advantage over an enemy or perceived enemy without obedience to the word of God results in chaos and tragedy with long-lasting and eternal impacts. Therefore, when Paul writes about putting on the “whole armor of God” it is with the caveat of understanding that we are not battling with flesh and blood opponents but those who are in opposition to the “higher authority” in spirit and in truth who is and which is above us all. Their intent against the “higher authority” may well be manifested in the realm of flesh and blood but it does not originate with it. Thus, sin does not “come into the world” because of flesh and blood but because of the one who is rising up against the higher authority: Satan versus God.
We are in difficult times which require greater wisdom than we may well possess. This is why we must be disciples of Christ in order to best understand the wiles and ways of the enemy and discern with accuracy what is “right, true and good” over and against what is “incorrect, disillusioned and false.” We have some serious reflecting to do, mighty ones of God, let’s do so together and press forward and upward to grasp that which is rightfully ours according to the ways and purposes of God. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture! We are not sheeple!
You are high and lifted up, O Lord. You are our tower of strength and our word of wisdom. We set our eyes, ears, hearts, mind and soul on You. You alone are who we can depend. You have demonstrated this capacity and fulfillment of promise and provision through the gift of Your Son who though in the very nature of self was God did not dare take the more of the Kingdom for Himself as if a thief, a usurper or a rebel. And neither shall we. We accept that which You have given and provided and promised. We will do with it all that is wise, good and true in the name of Jesus the Christ, Your Son and our Lord and Savior. AMEN.