“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, God have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled. and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18: 9-14
Wow, Jesus was very straightforward here, even to the point of directing this parable right at those who were acting smug and holier than thou towards others. With pinpoint accuracy Jesus called out those who were full of themselves and lacking in grace, mercy and Spiritual maturity.
The Pharisee exalted himself by comparing himself and his self righteousness to others who were obviously sinning. Then he listed his qualifications (fasting, tithing) as if he were applying for a position with God. He totally misses that the only standard we are judged by is Jesus and that nobody ever really measures up without His abundant mercy and grace.
The tax collector was totally humble in approaching God, fully knowing that he did not measure up to God’s standard. Then instead of listing his good deeds he called himself a sinner and simply asked for God’s mercy, knowing full well that his life falls way short of God’s best.
Too many times in my life I have been the self righteous Pharisee, showcasing my best attributes and minimizing my sin. Hopefully, this occurs less often as I age and mature in Christ; but it still happens at times. I can all too easily be a smug bastard and look down on others as I compare my good works to theirs. Deep in my heart though I am not that person, but in my insecurity there is so much fear and pride that I get sidetracked and focus on works instead of grace. Sometimes I think that I cannot trust God, His grace, or anyone else; and that I need to earn acceptance and forgiveness on my own. I know this is warped thinking, but I think it comes from my childhood and never being able to trust my natural father because of the way he raped, molested and abused me. Trust is a MAJOR issue for anyone who has been abused. In my heart I know I can trust Jesus, but in my mind at times I still struggle. So here I am this very deeply flawed individual very much in need of grace and healing. My only hope? God have mercy on me, a sinner?
Love and ……
Kirk Out !
P.s. On Monday I fly out to Las Vegas for four days of totally free & open, Spirit led fellowship with Ramma, (Who follows this blog and often leaves great comments here) her family and friends. I am so looking forward to meeting them face to face for the very first time. I will use this time to focus on relationships and seriously doubt I will be writing any blog posts this week. As always your prayers for safe travel and sweet fellowship will be appreciated.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12: 27-30
Today I am just full of questions. Like why can’t the answer to the seven questions regarding Spiritual gifts listed above be YES? Why does everyone always automatically assume that the answer to these questions is no? Especially when Paul usually asks a question with the answer being no, he normally spells it right out…..like “shall we continue sinning so that grace may abound?” The answer is, “by no means.” Paul never comes right out and says that the answer to these seven questions above is no and I find it very interesting that he doesn’t.
Think about it? Are all apostles? Yes, anyone can be sent by God to do a certain task among a group of people. Are all prophets? Yes, anyone can give a prophecy. Are all teachers? Yes, I believe that anyone can teach someone else about something they know in Christ. Do all work miracles? Yes, the Spirit can move in anyone to perform a miracle of sorts. Do all have gifts of healing? Yes, any believer can lay hands on someone and they can be healed. Do all speak in tongues? Yes, I believe anyone can speak in tongues as the Spirit enables them and also give an interpretation. Is this list of Spiritual gifts totally exclusive or is it possible that it is really totally inclusive? I have witnessed these gifts being used by a multitude of different people over the years and with excellent results. The truth is that with God all things are possible and HE can use anyone of us at any time He desires for anything He desires. Now, I agree that some folks tend to walk in these various gifts more often than some others, but that does not mean that the rest of the Body can’t flow that way at times also. Again the question is are these Spiritual gifts exclusive, just for a chosen few, or are they inclusive and available to the whole Body at any given moment as Christ sees fit? After all WE are the Body of Christ and “EACH one of you is a part of it”
Anyway, it is the “greater gifts” that we should be desiring above all the others. According to the passage of scripture that follows this one those greater gifts are Faith, Hope and Love, with Love being the greatest. Remember I am just asking questions here today, but I feel they are questions worth asking and investigating, Thanks for allowing me to think out loud today, and remember none of what I suggest is set in stone. However, I speak from over 35 years of experiencing the Spiritual gifts in a totally free and open relational housechurch setting. I have witnessed all of the gifts in operation at various times without title, special recognition, or pay. When we gather together relationally these gifts just flow in simple ways without fanfare for the good of the entire Body. I do not deny the gifts, but I give them room to operate in all the members of the Body as HE sees fit. It is not a big deal, but rather something I see as a normal part of simple everyday fellowship. I know my thinking is outside of the box, but this is church the way I have lived and experienced it for many years.
Love and …..
Kirk Out !
“Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13: 11-14
In Paul’s letters, his greetings and farewells are full of precious gold. Easy to skip or skim through, but by doing that you lose out on some really great stuff. His encouragements seem very heartfelt to me. They show how much Paul really loved those he was partnering with and serving.
“Aim for perfection”, there is that word again. In the original Greek it does not mean literal perfection, but rather to BE whole, complete and mature. If we could only grasp that concept from this passage, we would be far better off than we are most of the time. As we also would be if we only could put aside our differences and truly be of “one mind” with one another. Hell, most of the time we aren’t even of one mind inside our very own heads. Yet Paul still makes this plea. Living in peace with one another will never happen unless that “one mind” thing can really occur. I have experienced this with other saints and fellowships over the years and let me tell you, when it really happens it is truly divine and special. However, we can never MAKE it happen in our flesh. It is just one of those things that springs up in the process of simply BEING the church together instead of DOING things that we think might look like church.
Greeting one another with a holy kiss might seem socially awkward, but it is important enough that Paul tells us to do it in four of his letters. Me? I am a big holy kisser. I have kissed sisters and brothers in a holy way many, many, times in the last 35 years. It really helps us to let our guards down and be real with each other in an intimate, yet non-sexual way. Some folks are totally against the holy kiss, but still claim to be entirely biblical. I just don’t get where they are coming from.
Paul then closes his letter by saying that “all the saints send their greetings”, this serves to promote the fact that we are already connected to something bigger than just ourselves. Finally, Paul want us to experience the grace of Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of The Holy Spirit. Three things vital to any believer or group of believers. Grace is simply unmerited favor. It is a gift that cannot be earned, but only received directly from the hand of God. Christ’s Love is also unconditional, a true neverending gift. As I have said many times before here in this blog “fellowship” means mutual participation or partnership. God Himself partners with us via the Holy Spirit and fully equips us to then partner with one another. Yes, it is true that we can be one with The Spirit and one another here in this life. We don’t have to wait for heaven for this to occur. God desires that we BE one right in the here and now. I have experienced it and I highly recommend it. Now is the time to put aside our differences and to walk together arm in arm as ONE and praise Him with ONE unified voice. In Christ there is perfection, both individually and corporately. Together we can be whole, complete and mature. Jesus is calling, but how will we answer?
Love and …..
Kirk Out !
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” Galatians 3: 1-5
Very strong words here from Paul directed at people foolishly trying to obey and follow the law and live by human effort rather than by The Spirit. Who hasn’t been there? Regretfully I know that I have at times visited there during my walk of faith. It is a very easy place to find yourself, especially in the western world; where manifest destiny and pulling yourself up by your own boot straps is the norm. From the time we learn how to walk we are taught by society and the media that self dependence is the goal of life. Unfortunately we have been taught many lies by the powers that be.
Quite frankly many of those lies have been told from pulpits. The “church” is not immune from teaching and preaching works righteousness. It happens every Sunday, all the time. The notion that one can tithe and give their way to financial blessing and success is just warped. It manipulates people to give more money towards building funds, Clergy salaries, and institutional maintenance. It also taints ones views about God, saying that God’s blessings can be bought and earned. Which ultimately portrays God as someone who can be manipulated by people with the best financial portfolio.
Many churches also teach that we need to be led by the bible and that whoever knows the bible the best wins. This type of thinking destroys real unity because it elevates bible scholars and professional ministers over and above everyone else in the church. Learning the bible is excellent when the Spirit leads one there, but studying the bible in the flesh with the mere mind is just another form of dead works. I will say it here one more time: We need to be Spirit led and not bible led. Spirituality is always preferable over intellectualism.
So which will it be? Will we follow The Spirit or will we try and make it on human effort in our flesh? I went to a “Christian” college and studied a lot of bible, but much of my time in the scriptures was purely human effort and not much Spirit at all. Due to great human effort I did very well in school, but after school and in real life I found that I needed to hear and be led by The Voice of The Spirit and not by my knowledge of the bible. It is totally possible to do good and very Spiritual looking things in the arm of the flesh. You can write and give sermons led by mere intellect and flesh. You can tithe in the flesh by giving to get. You can read and interpret the bible in the flesh. You can observe the law in the flesh…. and the list goes on and on and on…..
Bottom line on all of this…. we need GRACE..the unmerited favor of The Lord in order to do His will. We get nowhere, or worse, by trying to do anything by mere human effort. Jesus sent The Spirit to lead us into all truth and the only way to get to the real truth is by The Holy Spirit’s leading. It requires surrender and not ANY form of human effort. It takes no effort whatsoever to surrender other than to throw your arms up and quit striving. Problem is most of the time instead of surrendering we just try to negotiate treaties with God. My friends it takes true total unconditional surrender to get to where Jesus wants us to be. The sooner we admit that, the sooner we will really get somewhere in this faith. Always remember it is all about faith and not works. Today, I choose to surrender and stop striving. I won’t know about tomorrow until it comes, but in Christ I have high hopes.
Love and …..
Kirk Out !
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 43-48
Jesus definitely holds His followers to a standard much, much, higher than the status quo. He calls us to love even our enemies. Jesus is Love and He is the standard. Jesus even makes loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us a condition of being able to be rightfully called one of The Heavenly Father’s sons.
Jesus calls us to love the unlovable and the difficult. To reach out and to love those who might disparage and oppose us. It does not matter how we are treated by others. It is all about us treating others as Jesus would treat them. Loving those who love us is easy. Extending ourselves out of love to benefit others is our highest call. We all need to live better lives than the pagans do because of the life and love He has given us so freely equips us to abundantly do so.
Finally Jesus calls us to be “perfect”. It sounds impossible because it really is. The Greek word translated as “perfect” here actually means whole, complete and mature. And those things are possible in this life, but only because Jesus grants us those attributes by abiding in Christ. If we are truly whole then it is possible to love the unlovely because then we are able to give out of our abundance and not our lack of love or compassion. If we are complete then we lack nothing at all and can give all to those who may have need. If we are mature then we can look beyond both our own shortcomings and the shortcomings of those we are seeking to love and serve.
Jesus extended Himself to the point of death on a cross. Now He is calling us to extend ourselves to others in the very same manner. Because Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. Luke 9: 23-24
Yes, Jesus has given us a very, very high call. A call that can only be accomplished by abiding in Christ. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing, but in Him our potential to love and be loved is unlimited. Today I choose to follow Him and love others regardless of my own personal comfort zone or level of difficulty. Today I fully surrender to His great and Holy Love for all people, including the dangerous and the difficult.
Kirk Out !
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15: 5-7
Unity is a familiar concept in the New Testament. Many times we are encouraged to be ONE and have unity. Unity though is not something we can MANufacture on our own. It says here that God may give us a “spirit” of unity. So then unity is actually a gift from God and not something that can be worked up in the flesh. I have witnessed the Ra Ra Ra of those trying to make unity happen in the church like cheerleaders at some kind of game. Sad to say, but it never really works that way
Unity is something that just “IS” of Christ and we need to just learn to accept it as a given fact among us. Jesus has given us unity. It is right there in front of us and we just need to choose to walk in what He has already provided. Having said that, even though it is a given thing it still needs to be accepted in order for it to be manifest in our lives, both individually and corporately. He has already given us the endurance and encouragement that is needed to walk this path together in unity and not division. Like I said it is a gift, but like all gifts we must choose to unwrap it and then put it to good use.
He wants us to glorify Him in unity with one heart and one mouth. Because together we form one Body with only Jesus as the Head. There is only one Body and together with all the other Christ followers we share one heart and one mouth. There can be no divisions in the true Body of Christ. Because of this we need to accept one another even though we may have warts, blemishes and farts that we may want to hide. Jesus accepted us even with our flaws and so we should also accept our sisters and brothers the way they are with any imperfections in flesh or doctrine.
When we are accepted we come to Him and then He is able to change and conform us to His will. This change never comes before our acceptance of Jesus, but only afterwards and it is often a process that can take many years. The fact is that we are ONE in Christ Jesus and we need to not lose heart as we seek to overcome the obstacles that seem to impede our unity. Jesus wants us to be ONE and we need to surrender to that no matter how long it takes us to bear the fruit of true unity. He takes us with all our imperfections and He works in us until we become one in Him. This process takes patience and time, but by accepting one another now, even though we may seem incomplete, we bring praise to God.
Love and …..
Kirk Out !
P.s. Just because all followers of Jesus share a common core Spiritual unity…. The Body of Christ is still an extremely diverse unit that might not always share full agreement in matters of faith and practice among its members. True Unity with diversity allows vastly different points of view within the Body of Christ. Each individual expression of a local “church” Body may look and function somewhat differently than other local expressions. The key to our unity is that we agree on what Jesus accomplished in HIs birth, life, crucifixion, death and resurrection. As long as we share those core beliefs we are indeed One Body United in Christ.