Empty Yourself of All Independence
V2 …being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind…
Throughout my time in public school I was taught to think independently. Always non-conformity was the goal in the various different writing and reading assignments that we had. On the other hand uniformity of thinking was seen as bad, and if you were found simply thinking like somebody else thought you were considered just a sheep following the crowd. As I think back to this time, I reflect on how much of the motivation was an appeal to pride, to stand out, to stick out above the crowd, to have a novel idea. Of course there is a certain kind of conformity of thinking that we should avoid, namely that of thinking a certain way because another man thinks that way. And yet the push for independence of thinking seems like a clear over-compensation as well. Are we really to be forever thinking differently–kicking against all norms and never coming to any sort of a consensus or agreement upon which we can unify? Are we to be forever fragmented more and more until we live in a world in which we are the only ones with whom we can agree? Could it be true that the presupposition “always think independently” might actually be just as conforming of an idea as that of uniformity and leave us just as sheepish? It has been said of the hipster movement of the early 2000s that hipsters are a group of young people all screaming together with one voice “non-conformity!” Is that our only option?
In the passage above we are exhorted to have a unified mind or way of thinking. We are to have “the same mind” or “one mind” (2b). Postmoderns kick against this idea due to a sense of its limitation. It would be easy for some to think God is stripping them of their independence by forcing them into a conformity of thinking, just simply making them a bunch of sheep again. The fact is, however, that we are sheep, we are not wise enough to pave our own way, and we were never created to. The sheep of the world can either follow other sheep into a pit (worldly uniformity), or scatter with the rest of the sheep that are scattering (another kind of worldly uniformity). Either way we conform and lose.
This passage gives us the answer to the conundrum of uniformity and independence by centering us on the only possible principle of uniformity–Christ. The condition of having one mind (V2) is this, that we have begun to experience the joys of Christ (V1). If we have begun to experience the joys of knowing Christ, then we are truly free to allow ourselves to be brought into a uniformity of thought with others. Why? Because of the false appeal to pride behind our desire to think independently is gone. We are no longer trying to stick out or be independent for the sake of the attention, because to think like Christ is to think completely un-ambitiously (V3). Independent thinking is no longer the goal, but rather Christ-like thinking (V5). Our concern is no longer our interest but that of others (V4). We are no longer trying to boast in that which is unique about ourselves, but rather we are emptying ourselves of all are so-called novelty and uniqueness (V7). This is called humility, and there is great freedom in humility.
One might respond, “if we allow ourselves to go down this road, then what happens to our freedom and independence?” The resistance to the idea of conforming to another’s way of thinking is that we feel we might lose our identity. The truth, however, is that our identity is established. As we follow the road that Christ took, we see that it was because of this very humility that God exalted him and gave him a NAME that is above every other name (V9). It was precisely because Jesus chose not to grasp at what was truly significant about himself in independence, his identity became established by God. How much more should we, who only have a perceived significance or independent way of thinking, release our grasp on it–relishing in the joys of knowing and bowing to Christ. Our identity too will be established in Him, even while our thinking is brought into conformity with that of our brothers.
I, even I, am He…
It is important, for the sake of our heart’s ability to respond, to know who it is who is speaking to us. We listen and believe differently when the weight of the person behind the voice bears down on our consciousness. I believe this is why, in the passages from Isaiah 40-55, the burden of communicating just who is speaking seems to be an incredible emphasis. Over and over again Isaiah breaks his flow of thought to over-emphasize just who this great God is who is speaking. Consider these verses just from Isaiah 43…
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake…Put Me in remembrance”
Who? “Even I!”
Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea And a path through the mighty waters, who brings forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power (they shall lie down together, they shall not rise; They are extinguished, they are quenched like a wick): “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing…
Who is speaking? “The one who makes a way…”
Isaiah 43:1-2 But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.”
Who is telling us we are His? “the one who created us…”
The question that arises from this way of communicating is this: What is so hard to believe about what is being said that God needs to support it with the full weight of who He is?
Consider the above promises that God makes, promises of forgiveness, hope, and a covenant love and identification—they are life giving promises full of goodness and grace to a lost and wayward people!
Are they so hard to believe? YES THEY ARE!!
Our hearts are jaded with the failure of others, the failures of the world, and above all our own personal failures. If it were anybody other than the Lord Himself who would make these promises to us, I would not believe them. Indeed I could not, what promise of hope could another failed human bring into my life? What possible promises of good could I possibly convince myself of on my own?
But now it is HE who has spoken. Is there anybody like Him? Is there anyone who has taught Him? Is there any who can decree the past and the future alike? Therefore if He is the one who has promised my covenant love, forgiveness, and hope, then I receive it, for His Word’s sake.
It would be too gracious a thing to receive unless He insisted on it.
But HE is the one who is insisting. How could I not believe and have life?
Hebrews 12:25 “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.”
A cause of sadness. A way to healing.
By: Matt Carver
Our sins cause sadness–God does this with purpose.
For the majority of our sadness we have no further to look than ourselves.
These are two conclusions that I arrive at upon reading the verse below:
Jeremiah 30:15 “Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you.”
Many would object: “But my sadness is caused by something somebody did to me. I’m a victim!” Nevertheless it is still our sin that causes the majority of our sadness. We might be in an even more dangerous place in our heart crying “victimized!” if we use it as an excuse not to admit or recognize our sin. We must never use another’s sin against us as a smokescreen of blame to cover our own sin.
You see it is in our sinful nature, when we sense that sorrow in our hearts due to affliction, to connect it mentally to “my rotten parents” or “that traitor who broke my heart” or “that dummy who hindered me from my success” or even “those ridiculous democrats.” And since those thoughts are in the forefront, we never reach the right conclusion, namely that my “sorrow is incurable because of the multitude of [my] iniquities.”
God causes our pain as a megaphone to wake us up to the reality of what sin is. By nature we do not recognize sin to be ugly, disgusting, or offensive. AND YET IT IS! How would we ever see it if we did not go through the pain? If we do something contrary to nature, then we need to learn that nature wins. The old adage, “…hand in the fire…gonna get burned.” Getting burned might be the best lesson concerning the nature of sin we will ever receive. We must learn at all costs not to fight against the true nature of things as God designed.
And yet God does not delight in burning us! Even two verses down from this one, V17, we see God “healing our wounds” —that is His aim. It is never simply for the end of causing sorrow that God causes sin to cause sorrow! We will be people of festering wounds all over our body until we believe this.
Therefore what would he have us do? I think I see an implication in this verse, namely that God wants us to agree with him concerning what sin is. He would say, “no more crying about the pain until you admit it for what it is!” This is true confession, exposing ourselves to his light. Confessing the true nature of our sin, recognizing the cause of our pain, these things need to be daily events in our lives—that we may be healed.
“It’s me, I did that.”
Believe it or not, a daily lifestyle of that kind of confession, predicated upon the fact that God’s desire is to heal us, is the only and most direct route to the healing of our wounds.
Six steps toward a finding a podcast that results in the growth of your faith
Is There Hope for Politics?
Article by Matt Carver
For the Lord is our Judge, The Lord is our Lawgiver, The Lord is our King; He will save us…Isaiah 33:22
In light of the recent wrestlings on the part of our governing authorities to find anything to agree on besides animosity toward each other, I thought it would be a good time to encourage us with the beautiful promise given above. The message of Isaiah 33:22 is that God is in character and will be in position all that our best political systems attempts to be. Therefore we look forward to a hope for politics.
How does this verse display that? Consider the three characteristics given to God that are referenced in this passage. They match exactly what, in the United States, we would call the three branches of government: the judicial (he is judge), the legislative (he is lawgiver), and the executive (he is King). To see why this is such an incredible statement, let’s consider why these three branches exist. Patrick Henry gives us an answer: “Power is the great evil with which we are contending. We have divided power between three branches of government and erected checks and balances to prevent abuse of power.” The abuse of power is an undeniable fact, it is a historical fact, it is a present observable fact, and it is a fact that was stated long ago in the Bible.
Consider what Peter implies in 1 Peter 5:1-3 concerning the abuse of power: “So I exhort the elders among you … shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” If the abuse of power is an effect of man’s sinfulness in a spiritual position, how much more in a political position? Our forefathers, fleeing from the tyranny prompted by the abuse of power, and having an understanding of man’s depravity that arose from a culture saturated with Christian ideals, anticipated man’s abuse of power with a system in which power might be checked by other power. In other words, ours is a system of wrestling—one power with another. That’s why we observe that, in a world of corrupt people, the best systems are those that infuse into them the wisdom of accountability—A church has multiple elders, families have two parents, and businesses have at least three people on their board of directors. In the light of this, then, when we turn on the news and see one branch (Trump) bickering with another (Pelosi), its not a total surprise, it is the way it is suppose to work—to a degree. But we would all agree that our system is not ideal! What are we left with then? Is resigned to a state of continual political bickering? Is there a hope for politics?
Yes—in the Lord! Considering the passage above, who must this God of ours be that He would say that He Himself can carry on his shoulders the entire weight of the three branches of government? This verse implies three things about the character of our God’s reign that will never be true of politics until he rules over the world: unity, transparency, and benevolence. First it tells us that He is not divided within Himself as our current political structure must inevitably be. There are no wrestlings within God concerning what is right or wrong, therefore there is no division of power necessary. He is righteous from beginning to end: in judgment as Judge, in writing the law as Lawgiver, and in administering the law as King. Thus He displays a unity that we will never see in current politics until He reigns. Second, this passage also implies that in God, all that makes man have to divide up his government—the abuse of power, is absent. God will never lie for the sake of selfish gain, He will never say one thing and then contradict himself, there is no shadow of turning with Him, He is what He is, behind closed doors and in the open square. Thus he displays a transparency and a consistency that we will never see in current politics until he reigns. Finally, this passage declares that He is benevolent, which means He will never abuse His people to bolster His own power, but rather His concern will always be to act on behalf His people. This we see in the very last part of the verse, “He will save us.” When He rules he will do so to serve and to save. Therefore he displays a benevolence that we will never see in current politics until He reigns. …”and the government will be on his shoulders…”
Until then politics will be a war of wrestlings between Presidents and Representatives, Republicans and Democrats, the Supreme Court and the Congress. There will continue to be complaints of lack of transparency in impeachment proceedings, questions of the wisdom of foreign policies, abuse of financial power to curb the success of certain dis-liked institutions, questionable applications of constiutional statements, a bunch of bickering, and a general sense that politicians, while saying they care for their constituents, really just care for their agenda. BUT…that’s all simply because God hasn’t come to rule yet. “Behold I am coming…”
Therefore for the Christian alone is there hope in politics.
The Will to Live
Testimony: by West Miller
God’s Word tells us the He has put eternity in all of our hearts. We know internally that ‘something’ has both been around forever and lasts forever. We can’t quite put our finger on it because it’s above our understanding, like so many things are concerning the God we worship.
Suicide seems to be on the rise these days. Primarily young men and women losing their will to go on living for reasons only they can define. My younger brother John used to tell me jokingly (though not really that funny) that I’ve had experiences that others, for lesser reasons, have taken their lives over. I suppose that was meant to make me feel better about my circumstances. Granted, I have indeed had circumstances that were difficult to get over, to say the least. My poor brother ended up taking his life in 2008. My other younger brother is no where to be found.
All three of us grew up in the military and we are all also military veterans. I was drafted right out of Oceanside High four months after graduating. The Vietnam War was hot and heavy at the time. After getting my notice I ran down and joined the Navy and chose my rate before going in as a Hospital Corpsman (f I were to go to Vietnam it would be in that capacity.) It turned out that I ended up staying stateside, more of a second responder than a first responder in the combat zone. At the time the Philadelphia Naval Hospital had turned into the largest orthopedic hospital on the planet due to all the wounded men—primarily with one, two, or all limbs missing—that advancing technology was able to save. In WWII and Korea these same men would not have made it. This is when I really got a glimpse of one’s ‘will to live’. These individuals were my age, and yes, many were losing the will to carry-on. I wrestled with this from the age of 18 to 21. I did not know the Lord as of yet and so very much struggled with how to encourage my peers to want to live on when they could not see much of a life in front of them. I understood their perspective and also myself related somewhat to their mindset.
It IS an absolute miracle that our Lord and Savior has instilled in us this will to live. But, I believe with all my heart that, unless we discover and adhere to the calling of the Holy Spirit, recognizing that ONLY in Christ Jesus is there life, that the will to live can fail us. I discovered this truth after I did my time in the Navy, still very lost and confused and questioning if there was a life worth living or pursuing. Well the answer was given for me when I did surrender my life over to Christ. Even though there were some backsliding years, I have never lost that ‘will to live’ thing since then. God created us for a reason. I believe that reason is to live and fellowship and worship Him.
Today I live with multiple health issues, very serious ones, which, for most walking through this life without the Lord, would be a death sentence. And yet, as it stands, despite those issues, I have a reason to live; I have a strong ‘will to live’ and I thank God for that. I have, and you have, an eternity that we can look forward to despite whatever life hands us in the interim. Hallelujah! We have no reason for our souls to be downcast. The ‘world’ would say that I have every reason to be depressed enough to not want to live. And yet I have every reason, in this temporary place – TO LIVE! MAY GOD BLESS – LIVE FOR JESUS! SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS!
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
Proverbs 14:27 “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, To turn one away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 18:14 “The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, But who can bear a broken spirit?”
John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Jesus our King-Priest
By: Matthew Carver
V1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!….
V4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Often when we have a prior commitment to not like another person or a group of people, we take great effort to avoid taking a good solid look at any evidence that would change our opinion. The result is a caricature of that person, a straw man, a shadow of what the person is really like. This caricature exists until the unexpected moment when they or a representative of that group bursts our bubble and does something outside our preconcieved critical box. We are then forced to admit that we only had a single faceted perspective of that person. And so one country dehumanizes another during war time, only to discover later that they might relate a lot with those people, or every politician is judged as a sell-out until we discover one making principled decisions. And in just the same way the world looks at Jesus and, not wanting to take a good solid look, caricatures him into one extreme or another. They say “he is too soft and gentle and wishy washy with love.” Or “he is too exclusive and extreme, hateful and even dangerous.”
Without doubt the most striking aspect of the passages cited above is that, in taking an unbiased look at Jesus, it presents him as the perfect combination of polar opposites—King and Priest. This means he will always be bursting our bubble, and doing something surprising to us. Neither kingliness or priestliness as characteristics appeal immediately to the modern mind, not understanding in our society either Kings or priests. However, to the one who captures the true feelings that would be appropriate toward these two titles, Jesus becomes the perfect combination of equal opposites, and therefore the only adequate object of our worship.
So what does this mean for us? How can we best approach our King Priest in his multifaceted goodness? Consider some of the applications below:
Are you tempted to do evil? Then you need a righteous King to lead you into righteousness.
Have you done evil? Then you need a priest to present a sacrifice that causes your conscience to be purified.
Are you currently rebellious? You need a King to submit to.
Are you suffering and needy? You need a priest to satisfy your need.
Are you uplifted in you heart? You need a King great enough to humble your pride.
Are you depressed in your heart? You need a Priest low enough to lift you to joy.
Are you facing some battles? Let your King give you power.
Are you weakened from battles? Let your priest refresh you.
Does the love of God seem weak, soft, or boring? God must become King to you so that you can worship him in majesty.
Does the greatness of God seem condemning, dark, and distant? God must become Priest to you so that you can draw near with confidence of acceptance.
Are you in need of correction? Your King has sufficient power to do that for you.
Will he destroy you in correction? No for your priest intercedes for you with his blood.
Have you been wronged? Your King will judge, but your priest stands forgiving you so that you can forgive.
Do you struggle to have hope that the world can be redeemed and made right? As King he can and as priest he is willing.
Our society doesn’t understand either the King or the priest. Those of the world think they’re the kings and so therefore think they don’t need a priest. But they are left uninspired, un-lead, unloved, and with guilt on their conscience. We have our God who is for us all that we need him to be, and He is revealed in Christ: our King-Priest.
5 Minutes in Heaven
Article by Bobby Narcy
“Five minutes inside eternity…I believe everyone of us will have wished that we’d have sacrificed more, prayed more, loved more, sweated more, grieved more, wept more!”
– Leonard Ravenhill
Can you imagine entering into the glorious throne and seeing the seraphim, cherubim, angels, the elders and an innumerable host worshipping The Almighty in all his holy awesomeness…and to think He has a plan that involves me. Wow, how I bear witness to the Ravenhill’s conviction in me. How many times has Holy God wanted to glorify His Son and Himself using my life to this date. But, I was to consumed with my selfish ambitions and flesh. My devotion to “other things” is the underlying reason. Oh to know the times, oh so many times I did my own thing, and yet those same character traits are still present in my life. Do I not sacrifice, love, sweat, grieve, weep and yes even pray to get my will done? Is it not because my devotion lies elsewhere than for the King of kings and Lord of lords? Oh, that I will wish less then, and cry out and ask more now.
I was reminded of Revelation 21:4 (The whole vision of this chapter is incredibly awesome and mind boggling to imagine), “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away…”
I believe that the majority of my tears on that day will be due to my lack of surrender to what God wanted to do in all circumstances in my life. The chapter that precedes the one cited above is very sobering. A great white throne judgement where men will be judged according to their works! Whoever’s name is not found in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire! They will be tortured forever with the devil the beast and the false prophet! Is my purpose now to allow God to use me to compel the lost to come and be reconciled? Will I not ask now to sacrifice, love, sweat, grieve, weep and pray more? I must say I am relieved for the ultimate outcome of our common salvation and that my tears will be wiped away. However, do I dare try to escape His revelation here—to not yield to the sanctifying work He died and rose to do in me? For the glory of the Father and His great name sake!
Galatians 2:20 comes alive to me here, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
I praise God we have today to surrender, sacrifice, pray, love, sweat, grieve and weep more! To abide with our Lord and to seek to do His will.
Lord, please forgive me for being so self-willed and self-seeking and not heavenly minded. I do repent and I want to present myself to You a living sacrifice. Father not my will, but your will be done. Revive me for Your name sake and not mine. Live Your life in me my King!
One in Him!
NEVER HAS THERE BEEN A TIME
Article by: West Miller
NEVER has there been a time in history where the call to the follower of Jesus Christ been more urgent.
NEVER in the history of the Christian Church Body of Believers has there been a time of a needing to SEPARATE & QUIT touching that which God has deemed unclean. (What’s unclean cannot be clearly known unless one is well equipped and versed in God’s Word).
NEVER has there been a time when the importance and pertinence of ‘knowing’ God’s Word been so eminent.
We are, AT THAT TIME NOW. How many more messages on the lukewarm Church do we need to hear before we take a hard look into the mirror and closely examine our own lives with a fine-tooth comb, and, along with the miraculous help of the Holy Spirit to point some difficult truths out? What is it that ‘we’ are waiting for? But more appropriately, what is it that ‘I’ am waiting for. The evidence surrounds us (me). The news and events of ‘The World’ overwhelmingly floods our homes and our very lives. We see it. We feel it. Even at times, we dive in and become a part of it.
My question (prayer) to God is, “What do You want me to do Lord?” “What is Your will for me?” “What is it that I need to disassociate with Lord that revival can begin in my own lukewarm comfort”? (Here I am! Send me!(?)
Finally, “What do I have or need to do to allow You to put Your fire in me to ‘stir’ me up?”
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.