Our Buddy the Rabbit

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I originally posted this 2 years ago, and I thought I’d re-post it today just for fun…

This little guy is my dog’s friend, you should see them play together… and this rabbit is no pet; he’s entirely wild!

The game is that when the dog needs to go out, he looks for the rabbit… When this particular one is there they race around the yard; the rabbit can’t shake the dog off his tail, but the dog won’t catch him either.  When the rabbit slows down, the dog slows down; when the rabbit speeds up so does the dog.  When the rabbit gets tired he squeezes through the fence and they take a break, then he squeezes back through the fence and they run some more.

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When I took these pictures, I didn’t even know the rabbit was out there until I was almost on top of him; he didn’t seem to care much…

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He seemed to be more interested in taking care of hygiene..

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The funny thing was that the dog was right next to me the whole time I was shooting pictures; it’s like they have an understanding between them… it’s just a game, nobody gets hurt…

The Bible says that the day will come when the lion will lay down with the lamb.  In my yard, the rabbits play with the dog!

Thank you, Lord for all of the simple ways that You bless us!

Now this is a whole new career idea: a blind wildlife photographer!

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Who am I to Judge my Neighbor?

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:11-12

The last sentence makes this paragraph come to life for at first it might seem like James is headed in a different direction. He isn’t speaking so much of slander and arguing here, he is speaking about judging others. Interesting isn’t it, that this comes where it does as the end of the whole passage, a passage that began talking about how we fight with one another.

Yes, that’s right, we started with fighting and quarrels and finish with an admonition not to judge…

In our day, many people like to complain about being “judged.” “Don’t you judge me!” they yell, while judging the other person a bigot of some sort. Very frequently, this is teamed up with another word: “tolerant” or more to the point, “intolerant.”  So we hear over and over that we must not judge therefore we must be tolerant of everything. Is James going politically correct on us?

Not a chance!

The contemporary politically correct view on ‘judging’ and ‘tolerance’ is entirely an earthly view, and what has James told us about such things just a few short verses back? James is not writing this letter to the non-Christian world, he has directed it to Christians who are supposed to know better. When he tells us not to judge others, he doesn’t imply that any one of us who is doing wrong can turn the tables to justify wrong doing. Instead, he is telling us that we need to respect God’s authority to judge.

For me to judge one of my brothers or sisters in Christ means that I have taken upon myself the authority to pass condemnation upon the other person, and that is a direct affront to God, who reserves all such decisions for Himself.  Thus, when we heap condemnation on one another, we are the ones in the wrong.

Suppose I see a brother who is engaged in sin, do I help him by calling him names or saying bad things behind his back? How can that possibly restore him in his relationship with God or with others? If, on the hand, I have invested time and effort into having a relationship of mutual trust and respect between us, I may be able to help him see his error and gently guide him back to where he should be… and perhaps in the future he will help me out when I am adrift: This is love in action. If I don’t have that kind of relationship with him, I can probably find out who does… See the difference?

Take just a moment to consider the implications of this; go back and read the text from 4:1 and ask yourself why James put this last, where the “bottom line” is usually found. Who am I to judge my neighbor? All of those quarrels, being a friend of this world, not having prayer answered,  grief and mourning… and they end up with who am I to judge others?

What is God telling you in these verses?

Submit, Resist and Lift Up

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Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James 4:7-10

Keep in mind the context of these verses, for they fall within a passage that began at 4:1 and that runs through 4:12. So far, James has talked about how we quarrel among ourselves because we have an internal conflict going on in our minds. Then he discussed how we create enmity with God by holding on to the ways of this world, and now he tells us how to “fix” the situation, to bring about a cease-fire in our own heads, stop fighting among ourselves and be reconciled to God. His solution isn’t even complicated, not that we should be surprised with a simple solution…

Submit to God; resist the devil.

Simple!

If your first thought is something like, “How can I resist the devil?”  raise your hand.  Ah yes, I thought so!

If it were impossible to resist the devil, would James tell us to do it? Look at what he said there: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. The devil is a crafty old bird and a dangerous opponent, but he is neither all-powerful nor all-present nor all-knowing, and there is no way he can stand up to the One who lives within, the Holy Spirit. Now you might think I’m just a little crazy, but I think this verse is not only a simple solution to the problem, it is also a very encouraging and empowering solution.

Look at the next verse and notice what happens when we decide to come near to God… God comes near to us:  See ya devil!

Then James goes on to a rather curious few lines about washing hands, purifying hearts, mourning and wailing, sort of apocalyptic kind of  phrasing. He also seems to address this to “sinners” and “double-minded”. Let’s be clear on this, he isn’t addressing this to the “lost” he’s addressing this to you and me. Remember, the ones who are in relationship with Christ, but still holding onto the ways of this world…? (double-minded)

The image that pops into my mind as I read this is that of a father scolding his children for their naughty behavior while the children try not to laugh, so hilarious were their antics in their own little minds and the father is warning them to wipe those smiles off their faces!

The message of course, is that we need to knock off the nonsense that results in fighting, arguing and holding back from serving God, and in humble submission seek forgiveness, and not only are we forgiven, but we are lifted up into His likeness. This should be an obvious and easy fix, but I wonder… is there something that could possibly hold us back from this simple solution to the problem?

Sounds like a “homework” question to me!

Featured Blog: Learning To Be Full Of Grace And Truth

Learning To Be Full Of Grace And Truth ” by Dan Ledwith is the kind of blog that’s fun to read because  it’s not only a good place to learn, it’s a good place to relate to life. Dan has a great knack for putting Bible truth into an everyday perspective that makes the truth so much easier to grasp, and well, it’s just fun to read.

Shining through all that he writes is Dan’s obvious heart for Jesus and His family of believers, Dan’s love for people and humanity. Yes, I’d have to say that in reading Dan’s posts, you will see examples of love in action. You might also see a spirit of humility and gentleness in the way that Dan treats his subjects, but most of all, you will see Jesus Christ.

The posts in this blog all speak to this theme, learning to be full of grace and truth, and reflect my journey as I travel down this path with Christ until He calls me home. It is my hope that in sharing what I have been learning, that you would be encouraged, challenged, and built up in your own walk with Christ, wherever you might be on that road.

If you haven’t visited Dan’s blog before, I would encourage you to visit now, I’m sure you’ll see what I mean in every post! While you are there, you might also check out the store, he has published some fine books…

Holding on to Conflict

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You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?  But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:4-6

This is a continuation of James’ discussion of things that cause us to fight amongst ourselves, in which he is getting at the root of the problem. In the previous verses (4:1-3) he pointed out that we fight because we have differing desires within us that are in conflict, now he gives us some insight as to why this is so; we are holding on to the world around us!

Right off the bat, he uses the words “adulterous people” an interesting choice, don’t you agree? Adultery happens when one covenant partner becomes involved with a third party in an inappropriate way. James is telling us that we are a covenant people who are involved inappropriately with the world we live in, when we are supposed to be faithful to God’s ways, not the world’s. Holy cow, that is why we have these competing desires within us! It would be just like having a desire to be with our spouse on the one hand, and with our “other” on the other hand. Our Lord is no more amused than our spouse would be; enmity results.

This brings us to verse 5 and your humble reporter has a judgment call to make! A thorough explanation of this would require a Bonus Post, the longest to date I would imagine, for James seems to be quoting Scripture without quoting Scripture. To keep this simple and not lose entirely the important point James is making here, I’ll use an example you might be familiar with. Billy Graham used to say “The Bible says that…” fairly often in his sermons. He was asserting a principle without cluttering up his message with citations and undue formality, and I strongly suspect that James is doing that here. I think it is safe to say that when we stray from Him, God is jealous that we return to Him; after all, one of His names is “Jealous.” This “spirit” that He caused to dwell in us” is the very essence of our being as humans, for we are spirits in bodies and thus unlike the animals. So, when we are “friends” of this world, God wants us back, and that’s why He was willing to go to extraordinary lengths to redeem us. OK, back to the text:

While God is grieved at our departure from his ways, He expresses this with grace. James quotes from Proverb 3:34 to show God’s situation: While He opposes the proud, He extends favor (mercy) to the humble. We can conclude that up to this point, James is urging us to be humble. Consider this in light of what we have found in 4:1-6. We fight among ourselves because we have conflicting desires that strive within us. We have conflicting desires because we are in relationship with God while trying to hold on to our old worldly priorities at the same time. This is grievous to God, but He responds with grace if we will adopt some modicum of humility, therefore let us be humble before God.

Next time, we’ll see if we are on the right track!

Diary of a Wayward Angel, part 2, REDUX

Exactly one year ago, i ran this post here, and since there are so many new readers I thought I’d run it again today and tomorrow. It’s a fictional story about spiritual warfare, it is not a Bible study! I hope you enjoy it, and that it gives you something to think about and ask God about..

ORIGINAL NOTE: This story is fiction, we must be clear about that.  Therefore, it is not intended to represent Biblical teaching.  Rather it is intended to convey an impression of what spiritual warfare is and what it looks like from our human point of view.  As you will see, I have taken heavenly things and put them in a human context so that they can be communicated more easily in a narrative format.  My prayer is that this story will both entertain and cause us to think about what is going on around us, that we as followers of Jesus Christ might at least be more aware of the fact that things in this world are not always what they appear to be.

If you missed it, jump to Part 1

After their meeting, word went out that a petition was being prepared.  Lucifer’s friends said that they would petition God to reconsider his having put Adam in charge on Earth, to ask him to put Lucifer in charge of the new Universe… and they circulated word that there would be some great jobs opening up in the new Universe for angels once Lucifer had control.  When I was approached with the petition, they told me that Lucifer had earned the right to rule, that he was entitled to rule.  They said that it just wasn’t fair that we all serve God for ever and he doesn’t give us what we have coming to us: authority.  Why shouldn’t Lucifer rule?  He was just as beautiful, just as brilliant and just as powerful as God!

It just wasn’t fair…

I signed the petition. Lucifer came to see me… Can you believe it?  He actually came to see me!  I couldn’t believe my eyes when he came up to me and started speaking; he even knew my name.  He told me that his friends called him Satan and said that I could call him that as well, since we were friends.  It was exhilarating!

Then the day came to present the petition.  Satan and his closest friends went to see God; surely God would relent and do the right thing, surely he would be fair.

The next thing we knew, all of us were cast out of heaven, down to the Earth.  Satan and fully a third of all the angels were kicked out, and there we were on the Earth. To say that there was grumbling in the ranks would be an understatement.  We were not happy campers, I can tell you, but in a very short time, Satan had a great idea.  All we needed to do was to get God’s little pet Adam on our side, then God would see his mistake and negotiate a fair settlement.  So we set out to find that garden where Adam and Eve lived…

I must admit that finding them was harder than you might think.  The Earth is a lot bigger than it looks from heaven, and none of us had ever been in a physical place before; getting around took some getting used to, but we figured it all out and that garden of God’s was found.  Satan went right to the task, and moved in. It didn’t take very long to get Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge; all Satan really had to do was to tell her that if she ate the fruit, she’d be just like God.  She ate, and then told Adam the same thing, and he ate; piece of cake! Immediately they camouflaged themselves with leaves and hid from God in the bushes.  He had arrived before Satan could ask for a talk, and instead of realizing his mistake, God hardened his position, throwing Adam and Eve out of the garden just like he had thrown us out of heaven.  Instead of being in charge of the Earth, now they had to fight for survival in a tough environment.  God refused our request for negotiations again…

As time moved forward, we found that men were easy to manipulate.  From time to time, there would be a goody-good who wanted to follow God, but for the most part, we had our way with them.  Satan asked God often to open negotiations, but he kept on refusing.  Whenever he would find a new pet, we would go to work, tempting and threatening in one way or another, and all of them disappointed God in some way, and each time, Satan would go to God and point out everything that his latest little pet had done wrong.  Each time he asked God to negotiate, and each time God refused.  We came to understand as the centuries rolled by that God must have some kind of plan, because anybody reasonable would have given up this silly game long ago…

God made a covenant with Abraham and gained a people.  Later he entered a covenant with Moses and gained a nation, but we always moved in to thwart him.  Always he held firm to his commitments to them, refusing to be fair with us, and our discontent grew.  All God needed to do was cut a deal with Satan, and we would let him have his little pets!

Finally, after ages had passed, God sent his Messiah to his people.  We attacked him from every possible angle.  Satan tried the direct approach when this Jesus went out into the Wilderness, but this Jesus guy was tougher than the rest of God’s little pets; fair enough, we would have to earn the right to get our just due.  We possessed people and used them to break up the ministry of Jesus as best we could, but we discovered that Jesus could force us out of the people we took over.  Turning the leaders of the people against Jesus was a cakewalk; they had been in our pockets for years, but Jesus was crafty, I’ll give him that.  He kept on teaching the people and making disciples for three long years.  Then we had our chance!

The leaders of the Jews arrested Jesus (finally!) and turned him over to the Romans, and we owned the Romans, and this Jesus was killed!  Our intelligence had reported that God’s whole purpose revolved around this Jesus guy wedging the people away from our grip, so by killing him before he could do that, we knew that we had won… and so we celebrated.  In fact, we spent the whole day throwing a big fat party.  First thing the next day, Satan and all of his leading officials would go to God and accept God’s surrender; this was better than we had dared to hope for…

…and then God cheated. How could he have done such a thing?  We had been working with men for millennia by then; we knew the rules.  When you kill them, they stay dead!

Jesus didn’t stay dead.  He rose from the grave before Satan could get to God.  That was simply not fair!  Then we found out what God’s plan was all about.  It sure would have been nice if our intelligence angels had done their job sooner. By killing this Jesus guy off, we had actually played into God’s hand.  God was going to offer Man a new covenant, only this one wasn’t just for his little pets the Israelites, no!  This was for all men, and it would take sins away.  To put it plainly, God was offering all of Mankind a separate peace, leaving us still at war; the Treachery!! Our response?

GAME ON! No more offers to negotiate, no more Mr. Nice Guy. WAR!

We went on the offensive like never before.  We attacked these disciples (now Apostles) head on.  The more we attacked, the more they succeeded to get people on God’s side.  So then we attacked the church itself.  We used brute force.  The whole power of the Roman Empire was turned on them.  They were arrested, tortured, mutilated, and murdered.  The more we killed, the more that came against us.  We soon figured out what role the Holy Spirit was playing in these people; God was playing this game for keeps, so we turned up the pressure.  The Romans made a sport of their murder, but more entered this New Covenant of theirs.  We used our power amongst the pagans in their religions, we used our influence in their philosophy, we imposed economic sanctions… and still there were more of them!

After 300 years or so, we changed our strategy.  The direct assault hadn’t worked; these people wouldn’t break the way they always had before.  We took the pressure off of the Romans, and this Christianity became accepted by them.  Cheer up!  All was not lost; it was a new turning point.  We realized that we might not be able to completely destroy God’s church all at once, but we could still harm it.  We used their bodies against them, sex, drink, lust!

We used their public institutions against them; corruption, intrigue, scandal!  We used their economics against them, their culture against them, and their learning against them…  We brought new religions out of the woodwork and engaged in great slaughters.  They even came to call a whole age the “Dark Ages” because of our success.  All of this really slowed their “gospel” down; God’s Word ended up locked in monasteries for centuries.  We were not able to kill the church, but we have had our successes corrupting it.  We even began splitting it into little pieces that loved to argue with each other.  I’ll take that, at least they aren’t adding to their numbers and strength.

As more centuries passed, their knowledge increased, their technologies grew, and this gave us new opportunities.  We found we could use their knowledge against them, and succeeded in convincing some of their wise ones to renounce our existence.  Imagine, it became unfashionable to believe that there was even a battle going on!  This gave us free reign with them, for they didn’t see what we were doing to them any more.  Then we used their wise ones to teach people that God didn’t even exist:  Beautiful.

Their science has been a tool, too.  And their culture, once a bastion of Jesus Christ became a tool for our side.  With greater advancements in science, their engines of war became more lethal, and we were able to induce massive conflicts with death in the millions!

While all of this was truly great for our side, all was not well.  After almost two thousand years of total war, there are more Christians now than ever before.

Please don’t share this, but not all of us are happy.  Do you think that after all that has happened, it hasn’t occurred to any of us that God might have the upper hand?  Some have even asked Satan to just speak the word and make a second Universe, so we can just have our own, but it turns out that he can’t do it.  Some of us are wondering if this was such a good idea after all, and I for one wish I had never signed that stupid petition, but God won’t negotiate.  What can we do but fight on?  Yes, I have had the thought that if God can speak the word and bring a whole universe into being, then he can probably speak the word and cause all of us to cease to exist.  Is that our future?  What can we do, but play for time and hope for a miracle?

Why did I sign that petition?

Fight on we must, and as more of us become embittered, our struggle is a desperate one indeed…

Beyond the Symptoms

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What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

James 4:1-3

Have you ever gone to the doctor with some sort of illness, and left with a fist full of prescriptions that only treat symptoms? Last time I had the flu, back in February of 2008, She Who Must Be Obeyed directed me to go to the doctor, a command I shockingly disobeyed.  Why? Because going to the doctor for a case of flu, barring something in the extreme, strikes me as a complete waste.  They’ll give you something for the cough and fever maybe, but they can’t treat the infection, and the infection will run its course in 3-5 days… no thanks to the doctor.  In that case, I was good as new in 2 days. James, on the other hand, doesn’t waste any time treating symptoms in this letter; he goes right for the infection itself.

These verses begin a new section, one that continues through verse 12. In this section, James will take us right to the root cause of our problems. As we go, I would suggest that we take our time and let his words soak into our minds so that we will get their maximum curative effect.

James begins with a simple question, a question we should all ask ourselves, “What  causes fights and quarrels among you?” Do you suppose James is talking about the quarrels we get into individually, or the ones we get into as a Body of believers… or both?  “Both” would be my answer, but since I don’t know what quarrels you get into, I can only comment of the “within the Body” quarrels here, but the principle applies in both cases.  Why do different groups within the larger Body of Christ quarrel, and why are certain groups more prone to quarreling with others than most? I think James has some answers for us!

He begins to answer these questions by pointing out that we have desires that battle within us. I suppose that this can be as simple as a desire to be healthy and a desire to eat potato chips; the two desires seems to strive within us and sometimes our frustration oozes to the surface. In my case when this happens, I have ice cream instead!

“You desire but you do not have so you kill.” There was a time when a group of believers might desire earnestly to follow God, and they might have believed that they had found Truth that others had missed, and thus they had a great desire that all Christians would see the Truth in just the same way they do, and when others didn’t, they were killed. Yet, I think James is really talking about something much worse here, for I think in this scenario, all too often that group with those earnest desires ends up killing the faith of other Christians by their opposition, zealotry and overbearing. Perhaps you disagree with me, but I think this goes on more than we realize, and I think the ones who do this would be shocked if they were accused, for I think they have no recognition they are doing it. For the record, I don’t have anyone in particular in mind, this is a hypothetical.

So they want, but don’t have and so they fight. Yet they don’t have because they don’t ask God, but if the do ask, they don’t receive for their motives are wrong. In my hypothetical, the motives are wrong because when it’s all said and done, they care more about being right than they do about following the Lord Jesus Christ, which is all about love.

There are 9 more verses in this section, so we’re just getting started, we haven’t heard the last of this issue, that’s for sure.