Posted in Different Scriptures

1 John 4:1-6

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.

Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (NRSV)

Here is how we know a false prophet
Or if in the mirror, one be
If they would speak not of Jesus
Or aim not His Kingdom to see

If they come saying “look toward this worry”
Or even “look here at this peace”
If such things have nothing of Jesus
Let all that is said, be released

If someone has a spirit denying
Jesus or the Kingdom He brings
Such a spirit, you’ve already conquered
Worry not, of such earthly things

For the One who is in you is greater
For in Christ, what you say comes from God
The world will to the world listen
The deceived will find the Truth odd

Yet before we start pointing fingers
May we listen to what words we live
Is our life being shaped by this Jesus
Or is it lip service we give?

Easily we could become a false prophet
The spirit of error so followed
Lord help us today, to live by the Love
Of Your body and blood we have swallowed

Posted in Different Scriptures, Uncategorized

submitting to Freedom

In reading of Paul and Silas in jail recently (from Acts 16), I was drawn to pay attention to part of the story happening in the background. The narrative we often celebrate are Paul and Silas, in chains and imprisoned right after being stripped/beaten/flogged. In the midst of singing hymns to God (v. 25), a violent earthquake shakes the foundations so that all the doors are opened and chains unfastened. What a miracle! The jailer enters the scene assuming the worst, and is thankful to discover Paul and Silas and the others are all still there! He’s drawn to Jesus, becomes a believer, and his entire family is baptized as they enter this new community of “The Way”. The story continues forward after that.

Mamertine Prison, Rome – Just one of the places Paul spent time imprisoned

But looking back over those moments there’s a story within, we often overlook. There in that prison were other prisoners, even though we’re not sure their number or the crimes they committed. We can assume there are some in the prison who deserve to be there. Yet when the earthquake happens and the chains and doors are unfastened – everyone remains. Why might that be?

For that answer, we look back to verse 25, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

I remember sitting in the waiting area of a doctor’s office on our honeymoon (we both had tonsillitis, yuck). As I waited for Sarah, I met an older man and we began to talk. He had served the country in combat, and was telling me a story of his escape from a POW camp in Germany. I didn’t know him that well, but I was riveted. I would have listened for hours.

I imagine the fellow prisoners surrounding Paul and Silas, seeing them beaten and suffering. I imagine their countenance as they entered the prison – genuinely thankful for new witnesses to share the good news with. The compassion they may have looked upon the other inmates with, even through swollen eyes. The whispers of “Have you heard??…” as rumors swirled about all the things these followers of Jesus had seen and experienced. Stories were shared, no doubt: Paul’s vision of Jesus, and work with so many churches. Silas’ prophetic words for those in the prison. The conversion of the local woman, Lydia. The other prisoners would have been transformed in hearing about Jesus, and in listening to the worship being offered in such a low place of pain and suffering. It’s a testimony to the the Holy Spirit we believe is active in these moments.

I believe the other prisoners were transformed by the witness of Paul and Silas, in ways that made them so aware of freedom in Christ, the chains and doors being unfastened seemed to make little difference to their present condition. They had already been set free in Jesus.

We’re reminded by all of these things – to be those who are willing to share our stories of God working in our lives. Speak of the hope and the peace you have, even as one who is looking honestly at our world; as one who has wounds from being hurt by it. Those around you today may have chains of bondage you’re completely unaware of, and you are able to offer freedom simply by sharing the living presence and Love of Jesus in Your words.

We’re also reminded – the story of who becomes transformed by our words may never be shared. Our world often celebrates the most compelling (or most profitable) narratives, but leaves many to be known only by those who live them. That doesn’t make such stories less important to the Kingdom. Every one of those prisoners who came to know Jesus is just as precious to God as the jailer, or Paul and Silas themselves. In fact, in the stories written down or passed on to their families and loved ones – the fact that they remained in prison that night instead of escaping -offered powerful testimony that revealed the absolute freedom Jesus offers.

Maybe that’s the message you need today also – even more than other aspects of the story. You need reminded of the Freedom we have when we come and submit all of our identity, our story, our shame, our hurts, and our joys to Jesus. It’s a freedom that transcends the momentary/temporal experiences we face. The peace of full submission to His Loving Freedom is so much more powerful than the temptation to run when we see an open door.

May we be challenged by all of this today in healthy ways. In a world that counts pageviews, book deals, and followers/subscribers, may we humbly and gladly submit our stories to being “His” story, revealing and responding to Love wherever and however we can. May we relate to all others today understanding that in life there are no “major/minor characters”, as all have become part of His redemptive narrative of Love.

Posted in Spoken Word

A Pause (selah)

https://youtu.be/dJ-y0CXVWHo

Turning off the screen, we pause,
For we’ve seen far too much obscene for one life to handle
One more event where God’s beloved scramble

Away from danger, crying out and wondering if they’re heard
All while conversations remain in the realm of the absurd
So oft’ distracted by the rights of the many as if they negate the plight
Of those underfoot, under feet planted firmly
Proclaiming solid ground – because it’s easier than hearing the sound

Of lament
Of our discontent
Of lives spent wondering if there’s room for them at the table
Wondering if they’ll ever be able to face another day
Wondering what they might say to children looking for answers
Because for some cancers there are no cures, only treatment
And mistreatment is all they’ve so far known
A world that’s shown them more shadow than anyone deserves
Throwing curves every time they step up to the plate
Or simply telling them to wait

Wait until it’s your turn
Wait to get what you have earned
Wait until the resources you needed have been burned
to fuel the fires – meeting the desires of those who were heard first
But there is hope for those who thirst

And the heavens burst with the glory of One who has revealed
An existence healed of all that once has bound
A resounding call for Freedom and reconciliation
But to hear, we may need to change the station

Because we’ve been arguing with straw men for far too long
Assuming the strong voices and the ones who offer the choices
spoke with authority, assuming those with seniority
have always done it right, siding with those who win the fight.

But there is a redemption arriving, a New Life thriving
That embraces every color
Protects every student seeking to discover
Embraces every adjective we might uncover
And covers all with “BE LOVED”.
Whether you’ve been shoved, or your arms are extended
The old ways of living have ended, as God has befriended humanity
When we couldn’t be doing worse
Breaking the curse

Offering Life Anew
Not just to wait here in the Pew, forgiven to get out there and do
To proclaim that me and you, we’re New Creation
Salvation in Jesus is not just something that happens in our hearts
It happens between them as well. Not just heaven and hell
But living Word for worlds in pain. For those moments you can’t explain
Where suffering pours like rain on soggy ground
We declare that peace can still abound.

This is not by a cheap grace found in false pretending
Not by sending hallmark sentiments while remaining on our own
Jesus. left. His. throne.
We don’t respond alone, but united in His mission
No more wishing things would change
No more living estranged, but joining Jesus as He goes
Nurturing as He sows for harvests already begun
Laying down guns for gloves and spade
Seeking to bring light where there is shade

In a world of those fighting to win,
While some are waiting for it to be rid of sin
We hear Jesus inviting us to begin

Listen to the hurt, see the unseen,
Suffer with those in pain
Love others beyond learning name
And in all of this – proclaim…
Jesus.