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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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The showing of proper respect is a lost art in western society. Examples abound of both active disrespect and passive failure to show respect where it is due. The sad reality is, I believe those failing to show respect do not even know that they are failing to do so. So prevalent is this behavioral trend that when we see proper respect being shown, it is shocking because it is such a break from the norm.

Alean and I enjoy curling up together on the couch, and watching Fixer Upper, a television reality program featuring the home renovations of Chip and Joanna Gaines, in Austin Texas. Frequently, we are treated to scenes wherein the couple is interacting with their children. Inevitably, Chip will ask the children a question, something like, "Are you ready to go get some ice cream?" And rather than scream out, "Yeah!" the children respond with an enthusiastic, yet respectful, "Yes, sir!"

The children's response is not given our of fear, but rather comes from a position of adoring respect for their father who clearly loves them with life itself. They do not say it with any hint of repression. Instead,it flows from them as naturally as laughter.

So it is for our interaction with God Almighty. He is the creator, and we are the created. That alone warrants our respect. From that baseline, there are a handful of phrases we need to eliminate from our vocabulary - a few truths we should embrace.

1. Jesus is not my Homeboy.

2. Yahweh is not the man upstairs.

3. The Heavenly Father is not my Daddy God.

Some will want to object, having been taught all their lives that "Abba ho pater" is best rendered "Daddy God," as the language a child would use to address their father. While adorable and heartwarming, this is an errant teaching with no linguistic support, one that originated with the German, Lutheran, New Testament scholar, Joachim Jeremias.

While Jeremias never linked Abba to the term "daddy," the "chatter of a small child" concept did begin with him, and has since been widely criticized and repudiated. He later altered his thinking on the matter in the face of the strong peer criticism.

Abba

The difficulty for English speaking persons is that we have no true English equivalent for the word Abba. What we can say, contrary to popular myth, is that Abba is not a young child's term. Rather it is an Aramaic term used by fully-grown children to address their parents later in life.

Thus, it is entirely appropriate for Jesus to use this term as the Son of God whom John 1:18 says, "dwells in the bosom of the Father." That is intimate. That is Abba - the term of intimate and respectful affection from an adult child to their parent.

More appropriate renderings might include "my dearest father," or "my beloved father." There is nothing casual or colloquial about the term Abba.

The late Georg Schelbert, historian and linguistics scholar, posthumously published a 432 page volume in 2011, addressing this very subject - Abba (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus/Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments (NTOA/StUNT)).

Laurenz Schelbert, of the Bethlehem Mission Society said of George Schelbert, "He learned the ancient languages to a high degree of competence, playing on them like a pianist on the piano."

According to professor Shelbert, "in the Aramaic language of the time of Jesus, there was absolutely no other word available if Jesus wished to speak of, or address God, as father. Naturally such speaking of and addressing thereby would lose its special character, for it is then indeed the only possible form!"

We find the term Abba only three times in scripture.

Mark 14:36 - ESV

And [Jesus] said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Romans 8:15

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"

Galatians 4:6

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"

The image of God as father, even intimate father, is found throughout the pages of scripture. But never are we to approach God with presumptive disrespect, because we also know that "our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:29)

Majestic Creator

Jesus is not only the Son of God, he is the all-powerful creator of all that exists (John 1:1-3, John 1:10, Colossians 1:16). To reduce Jesus to "my homie," while playful and cute, reduces the majesty of creator of the universe to the familiarity level of our golfing buddy from down the block.

Jesus is Messiah, Sovereign, my Lord and my King, not my homeboy. Heaven is his throne and the earth his footstool. (Acts 7:49, Isaiah 66:1-2) Indeed, he is King of all kings, and I am nowhere near on equal footing with that status.

Jesus said, in John 15:15, "I have called you friends," but he did not say, "Hey, we're 'buds.'" I read once that John, the author of Revelation, could surely be called a "friend of Jesus," but he didn't slap Jesus on the back and pal around with him when Jesus appeared to him in the Revelation! Jesus has been (and remains) exalted to the highest position and holds the name that is above every other name.

...so 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 2:10-11, ESV

Or, consider this scene when Isaiah saw the Lord on his throne, the train of his robe filling the temple, the seraphim flying and calling out to each other, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory." The foundations trembled and the temple was filled with smoke.

Then said I, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." - Isaiah 6:5, KJV

God is holy, and it is the very holiness of God that inspires our reverent fear of God, and the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Or, as Mark Batterson once said, "Our lack of fear is the beginning of foolishness."

God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. - 1 Timothy 6:15-16, NIV

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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Some speakers who bear the name of Christ are so excellent at presentation that they hold us spellbound as they speak. We are mesmerized by their eloquence, their ability to articulate complex ideas in captivating ways, moving seamlessly from one point to the next with skill and ease. So enchanting is this grandiloquence, that the orators often develop devoted followings, throngs of enthusiastic believers who hold unquestioningly to their every word.

More than once, I have seen such devotion cross the boundary that separates admiration from worship. The devotee becomes enthralled by the speaker (often a pastor) to the point that adoration transitions into veneration. Jesus, then, falls by the wayside.

Such devotion from the flock poses a very real danger for that man or woman who would serve in a position of leadership for the body of Christ. While it feels nice to be acknowledged and appreciated, the constant stroking of our ego can carry us to a state of acknowledgement and appreciation intoxication. Over time, and with repeated doses of ego-nutrition, we become dependent on our "adoration fix" from the flock.

As ambassadors of Christ, the one who was "among [us] as one who serves," we too are to be servants of those under our care rather than objects of their praise and worship. Randy Alcorn, founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries, addressed this when he said, "The greatest danger of notoriety is you start thinking about you. People then exist to serve you, exactly the opposite of what Christ modeled."

Consider the attitude of the apostle Paul when he spoke to the church at Corinth.

“...and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, NASB

We know from previous verses that the believers at Corinth had a propensity for being impressed by eloquence, and high-brow conversations. Paul invested a great deal of time in pointing out to them that man's greatest wisdom and insight is laughable when compared to God's folly (if there even is such a thing). Therefore, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:31, ESV)

As a Pharisee, and a scholar from the school of Tarsus of Cilicia, Paul could have bowled them over with his depth of learning and skillful dialectics. But he chose to come with a singular message, "Jesus Christ and him crucified," freely admitting his weakness, fear, and much trembling (vs. 3). This same apostle Paul said, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ," thus, the key is to look at and emulate Christ inasmuch as that is possible.

An incident in Acts illustrates both the problem, and the solution. Peter and John were going up to the temple for the ninth hour of prayer. As they entered the temple, a man lame from birth asked them for alms. Peter explained to the man that he had no silver or gold to offer, but what he could offer was freely given - "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." (Acts 3:6b, ESV)

When the people saw this man who had never previously walked now leaping, walking and praising God, they were astonished and rushed Peter and John, apparently giving them the same levels of adoration and borderline worship we have been discussing above. Seeing this, Peter put a quick stop to it and redirected the attention of the people to Jesus.

And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? ... And his name — by faith in his name — has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all." - Acts 3:12, 16, ESV

Similarly, when Paul and Barnabus were in Lystra, Paul instructed a lame man,"Stand upright on your feet," (Acts 14:10) and the man did so. The people responded saying, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men," calling Barnabus Zeus and Paul Hermes. The people became so enthusiastic that they brought oxen and garlands and tried to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabus. But these men of integrity, apostles of God Almighty, were having none of it.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you." - Acts 14:14-15a, ESV

By contrast, when Herod wowed the people with his eloquence, he did not reorient the people's praise away from himself and toward God. Wearing his royal apparel, Herod seated himself on the rostrum and began speaking to the crowd. Much to his enjoyment, the people cried out repeatedly, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" (Acts 12:22) Herod soaked up the praise and let it feed his ego. Thus he was struck by an angel of the Lord, because he did not give God glory, "and he was eaten of worms and died." (Acts 12:23).

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who commissioned a ninety-foot statue of himself and commanded people to worship it, later came to a reckoning with God. When his self-aggrandizement reached it's peak and he said, "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:30b, NASB)

Before the words even left his lips, a voice from heaven basically told him, "Neb, you're toast." "He was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws." (Daniel 4:33b, NASB) That's quite a fall for a king.

God alone is worthy of our worship and praise. Those who would exalt themselves, or allow others to do so, should pay heed that God will not tolerate it. Whether in this life or the life after, every man and woman will bow the knee. I will bow the knee. You will bow the knee. Donald Trump will bow the knee. Beyonce will bow the knee. The key difference is that some will do so willingly - others under compulsion. But we will all bow the knee.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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 2:9-11, ESV

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
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Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him,
'I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.'
- Genesis 17:1, NASB

God spoke this to Abram long after the covenant of the promised child was given, an as-yet-unfulfilled promise wherein Abram was told he would be the father of many nations, hence the eventual name change from Abram to Abraham.

Abram had been walking in Canaan for roughly 25 years when God spoke the words above. Abram and Sarai, in their attempt to "help" God with the promise, compromised their faith through an intimate encounter between Abram and Hagar, resulting in a world of hurt through the birth of Ishmael. Yet God affirmed his promise, and called Abram to "walk before me and be blameless."

In our age of near-instant gratification, we do well to remember that El Shaddai, God Almighty is the God of covenant, with the power and integrity to fulfill every promise, despite the objections of science, nature, or the passage of time.

There is a construct in the Hebrew phrase translated as “before me” that is a bit of an oddity, and more closely translates as "in advance of my face," or "my eyes." It is the same term God used with Moses when he said, "You shall have no other gods in advance of my face," or "before my eyes." (Exodus 20:3)

God is calling Abram, and I believe us as well, to walk before his face.

Life with God is not a passive adventure where we don sunscreen and sit drinking mimosas all day. It is an active life where we strive after holiness, because the God we serve is holy.

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. - 1 John 2:5b-6, ESV

As Christ-followers, we walk in such a way that God's face is always before us. In doing so, we strive after holiness, completeness, blamelessness. We do nothing to inhibit or corrupt our walk with the Heavenly Father.

Oh that My people would listen to me, That Israel would walk in my ways! - Psalm 81:13, ESV

From the very beginning, Genesis 3, God walked with humanity in the garden, "in the cool of the day." God has always desired our companionship, conversation, intimacy. He delights in us and we in him. Enoch "walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him." (Genesis 5:22, RSV)

Jesus frequently walked with his disciples in the same way, with companionship, dialogue, intimacy. The Holy Spirit of God indwells the believer - how can we possibly get more intimate than that?

Many years ago, while ministering to students at Kansas University, I began referring to a certain class of believer as "butt-Christians." These were those who wore the name of Christ, but the sum of their walk with Jesus was to come to the church assembly on Sundays where they sat on their butts for about 90 minutes, and then were done for the week. This is not the "walk" to which God calls us.

Regarding his walk with the Father, Jesus said, "I always do what pleases Him." (John 8:29, BSB)

Walk, but do not walk aimlessly. Rather walk in a way that pleases El Shaddai, God Almighty. Strive to leave a smile on God's face as he muses to himself, "That's my child!"

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
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Twitter - @DamonJGray


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The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead holds profound meaning for, and leaves a deep and abiding imprint on the life of a Christ-follower. In just a few days, the believing community around the world will celebrate what I hold to be the core reality of the Christian faith - the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

In writing to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul addressed the idea of a bodily resurrection to correct some there who believed and taught that there is no resurrection of the dead. In addressing the issue, Paul enumerated seven truths with which the Christ-follower must deal if there is no resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Today, we will look at that same resurrection event, but do so from a perspective 180 degrees out from that of Paul. Whereas Paul argued from the negative (what if there is no resurrection) I will argue from the positive. Because there is a resurrection, these things are true.

Truth #1: The Resurrection is a Now Reality

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. - Colossians 3:1, NIV-1973

Paul speaks of this resurrection as a historical event. It has happened. You have been raised with Christ. It is an event that has occurred in the spiritual realm.

There are realities lived out in the unseen realm that we discount or ignore to our own peril. Paul tells us to focus not on what we see, but what we do not see, because that which is unseen is what is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

It is in this unseen realm that we have moved from death to life, being dead to sin, but alive to Christ and in Christ (Romans 6:11). It is in this unseen, but very real, realm of life that we have been raised with Christ.

Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. - Romans 6:4b, ESV

Because our spiritual resurrection is a Now reality, we reckon ourselves as dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:4-6, NIV-1973

Truth #2: The Resurrection Gives Us an Eternal Perspective

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. - Colossians 3:1-4, NIV-1973

It is this eternal perspective that drives everything that happens at Long-View Living Ministries. Each Christ-follower is chronically aware that we have eternity in front of us.

The world is notoriously short-sighted, and it just as notoriously self-sighted. The latter seems to feed the former, since it is difficult to take a long view on life when the scope of my worldview does not extend beyond my own personal space, and my current moment in time. Life is viewed almost entirely through the lens of my own experience, and how events and circumstances affect me right now. This is not the case with the Long-View disciple.

Truth #3: The Resurrected Life is Inexorably Linked to Christ's Resurrection

When we are "in Christ," or linked with Christ, or baptized into Christ and thus united with his death, a startling reality comes immediately into play. We are also united with his resurrection.

If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. - Romans 6:5, NIV-1973

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. - Romans 6:8, NIV-1973

We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus... - 2 Corinthians 4:14a, NIV-1973

Truth #4: The Resurrection Connects Us With Unimaginable Power

When we consider the power of God, we are pondering the ability to speak into existence anything and everything from nothing. Ex-nihilo. Everything out of nothing.

If that does not boggle your mind, almost dizzyingly so, then you're not really thinking about it.

It is that power, creation power, that is the source of resurrection power. It is life into lifelessness. It is, "Lazarus, come out" John 11:43. It is, "Son of man, can these bones live?" Ezekiel 37:3. It is the daughter of Jairus, "Talitha koum" Mark 5:41.

It is power - dunamis - from which we get our word, dynamite. It is explosive, life-giving, resurrection power. I would put the same question to you, "Son/daughter of man, can your lifeless body live?"

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. - Ephesians 1:18-20, NIV-1973

And just so we do not misunderstand, or downplay this reality, that resurrection power is aimed directly at us - the Christ followers. Note, again, the direction of the power.

...and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. - Ephesians 1:19, ESV (Emphasis mine.)

The power we posess to serve Jesus effectively comes through his resurrection. It is a power "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the presnet age but also in the one to come" Ephesians 1:20, NIV-1973.

There is a great deal going on this coming weekend, and it is not simply about Jesus leaving behind an empty tomb. It is about the profound, life-altering implications that reality holds for all who would call him "Lord" and "Christ."

The resurrection of Jesus becomes a resurrection for me, here and now, tapping into the very power that spoke all into existence from nothing.

Have a blessed Easter weekend, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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I am about halfway through Eric Metaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is a fascinating read, one filled with tidbits of information I did not previously know, as well as fuller explanations and backstory regarding things I did know.

Metaxas is walking through Bonhoeffer's life chronologically, and I have read as far as the mid-1930s. By this time, Adolf Hitler has recovered from earlier defeats, risen to power, and has been democratically elected by the German people. He is now slowly closing his grip around the throats of those who oppose him, or who do not fit his agenda.

Metaxas is thorough in providing detail of the Nazi rise to power, in particular the back-room analysis, scheming, and political alignments, but what I have found most fascinating is Hitler's view of, and use of the Christian faith.

Hitler did not consider himself a Christian, and actually held a deeply seeded disdain for any "mystical" religious system. To him, the Christian faith was nonsensical, and "what annoyed Hitler was not that it was nonsense, but that it was nonsense that did not help him get ahead. According to Hitler, Christianity preached 'meekness and flabbiness,' and this was simply not useful to the National Socialist ideology, which preached ruthlessness and strength." (Metaxas, pg. 168)

Publically, Hitler made occasional overtures toward the German Christians, because for a time, he needed their duped support. But that need eventually waned as the democratically-elected leader morphed into an iron-fisted dictator.

Though he bristled at the characterization, Hitler was actually a Nietzschean, and the core principle of Nietzche's worldview was power and strength - the utter destruction of anything perceived to be weak - polar opposites of the message of the cross.

In stark contrast to the Nietzschean social Darwinism embraced by Hitler, the apostle Paul teaches us that our weakness is our strength.

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:10

The quote above is spoken with reference to something Paul refers to only as his "thorn in the flesh." We do not know what this thorn was, but we do know that Paul pleaded earnestly, and repeatedly with God to take it away. God's message to Paul was, "Paul, you do not need me to take away your thorn. All you need is my grace, because my strength is made complete in your weakness."

Not all translations show it, but Paul actually says twice in this passage that the thorn was given to him to "keep him from becoming conceited." We sometimes hear public speakers in the Christian community extol the blessings God has poured into their lives. "Look how good the Lord has been to me!" But have you ever heard that same person explain to you exactly what God has done to keep them humble? To keep them from becoming conceited? That is rare!

If a man like the apostle Paul needed to be kept humble, how much more do I need that same humbling?

God's strength is made complete in our weakness, and with our thorns, we are granted grace, because grace is all we need. Neither do we receive simple, meager portions of grace. No.

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. - John 1:16, ESV

Grace alone would have been more than sufficient, but this is grace upon grace.

Our society may endure fuel shortages, paper shortages, character shortages ... but there will never be a shortage of God's grace. Grace ever growing in supply, flowing toward us, upon us, and around us like a plummeting waterfall. Grace upon grace.

And just as God is gracious in our sinfulness, God is strong in our weakness. Indeed, his power is made perfect, or complete in our weakness.

Warren Wiersbe once said, "Strength that knows itself to be strength is actually weakness, but weakness that knows itself to be weakness is actually strength." And again, "He does not remove the affliction, but He gives us His grace so that the affliction works for us and not against us.

Too often we pray, asking of God that he will remove our afflictions, weaknesses and thorns, when we would be better served to ask God to use the afflictions, weaknesses and thorns to transform us, preparing us to meet the challenges that are bringing us grief.

This is where weakness becomes strength, and defeat becomes conquest. This happens, not when God removes our affliction, but rather when he infuses our distressing circumstance with his grace! In that, his power is perfected in my weakness. It is God, not me, who is adequate - no, more than adequate - triumphant!

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." - James 4:6, ESV

We are not talking about mere survival, as though God "gets us through" the tough times. No, this is about jubilant living that causes us to rise well above whatever vexing circumstance is dumped upon us. It is the grace of God flooding upon us that causes us not only to survive our struggles, not only to rise above them, but to actually glory and boast in them.

Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB

In God's grace, our troubles become our triumphs. The struggles that threaten to drown us become servants that buoy us and strengthen our character. The grace of God turns our afflictions into assets.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. - Ephesians 6:10-11, NASB

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν