I long to lead people to worship God for his practical advice. All scripture gives me practical truth that will show me I’m worse than I realized, then fix the mess it has exposed, purify and perfect me and equip me to help others. God is so smart and caring, yes and kind and powerful etc. etc. Let us worship his wisdom by listening with both the spirit and the understanding then apply it and witness to other of it’s benefit. I need your questions, comments and balance so please become a follower and leave questions and comments.
All it takes for evil to triumph is for ME to do nothing!
God sought for A man to stand in the gap and he found no one, so the city fell! That is like the case in New York where a lady was murdered on the sidewalk in front of an apartment building while several people watched. Some of them yelled at the murderer to cut it out, but no one went out to help or called the police. They did not want to endanger themselves or they figured someone else would call.
I remember when I lived in inner city Detroit and watched a man being shot on the street near my house. I knew that I would have to be involved as a witness, but the idea flashed through my head. “What if the killers have a gang who tries to silence the witnesses?” Then I remembered the verse that says that if the innocent are being led to the slaughter and I do nothing, then their blood is on my head. So I offered myself as a witness. Fortunately, some police heard the shots and immediately caught the killer. I lived in a great neighborhood and there were so many witnesses that I did not even have to go to court.
However, as society abandons God and his word, you may be called upon to be the one that stands in the gap.
But what if I know that I am not capable to stand alone and stop the onslaught? I must never forget that it is not my capability that God wants, it is my availability!
Life events that God wants to impact through yielded people find an analogy in Joni Ericson Tada’s body. As you recall, she became a quadriplegic at a young age. Still, the head (her brain) manages to do impressive things even though most of her body members refuse to respond. These still want to be fed, protected and cared for but not used. She is forced to use her mouth to paint awesome Christmas cards. Now the mouth could complain that it is the fingers’ job and that mouths are clumsy at painting but if the mouth is the only part available then the head has the right to use it to paint. Most of the body of Christ does not want to listen to the head and just wants God to provide and protect. They don’t want him to work out his will through them. So I can guarantee that you and I will be asked to do that which we feel inadequate to do. But, Oh what a privilege to be the instrument Jesus uses to bless others and work out his will in this world! So what blocks me?
Half the time my cop-outs don’t hold any water. Take Moses for example, he tried to cop-out claiming that he could not talk! How many people have been referred to by the word of God in Acts 7:22 as “Mighty men of words”? Moses! He wrote Genesis–> Deuteronomy! Sorry, feeling shy does not count. If my body parts belong to the Lord and he likes to talk and I yield my members slaves to him. Guess what? I am liable to be asked to do a lot of talking!
So, dear Lord, here am, I send me and may the words of my mouth and acts of my hands and feet be acceptable in your sight and bring you joy as you are able to work your will in the lives of people around me!
WELL WHICH IS IT
HABIT or SPONTANAETY-?
-FAITH or WORKS?
FREE WILL or GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY?
I am just not as smart as God so it isn’t surprising that he does not think as I do. I guess that I’d better get used to it! I, trained in a western, Greek type of thinking, I want to know “Is it this or is it that?” God says the answer is “Yes” because two seemingly contradictory ideas can both be true at the same time.
The devil loves to get us off on one extreme or the other and then have Christians duking it out over who is more right instead of building the kingdom and fighting the enemy. We so often are satisfied turning our walk with God into habits and socially acceptable actions. “We and our ancestors have always done it this way.” We think that God loves pews and suits. Yet, if there is no heart, no spontaneity, no relationship, what is the point. Then people who realize the emptiness of habit without heart throw out habit and find themselves lacking in effectiveness.
I love the example of the early Methodist church which got it’s name from having method and habits but being full of life and relationship with God. When we get married, we have lots of heart and relationship drive but need habits of date nights and sit down after work to listen to each other and weekly teamwork meetings and saying “I love you” as we head out the door. These habits take the good intentions and bolster them and keep them going. So, yes, it’s both!
Take the question, is it all faith or all works? Now no one would argue that it is all works but they might heavily emphasize the need for works. James says show me your (useless) faith which does not result in works. Your running around saying “God bless you” to starving people and not feeding them. And I will show you that I have the (real) faith by what it drives me to do. He says that it is like being alive and breathing. Just try “living” for any length of time without breathing. Let’s try this, you “show” me your living without breathing and I will show you my living by breathing. Let’s see who lasts the longest. True the corpse on a breathing machine is not any better than the corpse that is not breathing.
Remember the definition of faith? The type of belief that forces me to act according to what I believe.
Belief that there is a God that then does not result in action is inferior to the belief of devils who at least tremble in his presence.
The analogy that I like is that of a safety net in a circus. Using a trapeze without a net is foolish and dangerous but sleeping on the safety net is pointless. The “net” of God giving me unearned worth, power and security is there so that I may do the triple backflips of obedience on the trapeze without the anxiety and fear that would impair my performance. So yes it is both!
Free will or God’s sovereignty? Yes!
The answer is in asking, what part of life is my part and what part is his? God has the lion’s share. He deals out the details of the current situation facing me. He gives me guidance, support and the grace to cry out to him for help in obeying. Ephesians 2:6 “And that not of yourself” (I can’t even take credit for having faith or having the strength to cry out)
My part is to accept the grace or to say NO I won’t. He then is in charge of the consequences, which God deals out to me and offers grace to deal with but I retain the power to say NO, and around we go. God is not mocked, that which I sew I will reap. Galatians 6:7
The analogy I use is a dam for generating electricity. God is the dam, the water, the pipes, the generator and the electric power lines. So what am I? I am the valve that can block the power but he even has to turn the valve, all that I can do is say NO I will not let you turn me.
Lord, help me to see the dynamic balance of your truth and to stop trying to squash everything into “Is it this or that” types of thinking just in order to feel superior and pick fights with others!
Everyone remembers the recommendation from President Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country”. If everyone asked this, how much better our country would be. In addition, so many people seem to seek God because of what he does for them. Sure it is awesome that he forgives our sin and conquers death for us . It is great to feel an emotional lift in church and have him come through just in time to help us with jobs and relationships and finances. Still, isn’t he worthy of worship even if he does nothing else for me than what he has already done? A truly repentant person who has been forgiven should long to give back with no expectations of more. We should be filled with grateful worship even if he calls us to be abandoned and ridiculed by family, friends, church and world. Even if we are privileged to be fellow sufferers with him. It should be natural to ask (not what more can God do for me?) but what can I do for his kingdom and glory?
The same is true with the people in my life. You see, it is just not about me and how they make me look or feel. Instead I should ask, what are their needs? what is their situation, how might they be feeling, what kind of useful truth have I been given that I might share, what help can I offer.
AGAPE love = seeking the other’s best interest no matter the cost to me.
When I was in the military, God helped me pour my efforts into helping the patients stabilize; help the staff learn, grow and advance their carreers; and make my boss look good. A year after I finished, the Lord had them mail me an Air Force commendation medal. No pomp, no cerimony just the Lord saying, “Well done you good and faithful servant.”
I do well to remember, I am saved and destined for heaven and spending all eternity with Jesus. The only reason I am here is to minister to others. Paul said that he was torn between two things. 1. Wanting to be with the Lord and 2. Wanting to stay and help others. Amazingly he decided that, for right then, staying here and helping others was even better than being with the Lord!
The devil gets us to do the percentage insanity. I’ll do 50% and you do 50% and we will have a great marriage, friendship, church etc. The problem is our math. I might wind up feeling that I have done 70% and they have done 30. But they believe that it is they who have done 70% and we have done little. Everyone winds up doing to little and feeling hurt and abused.
God asks me to do my part regardless of the other person’s participation. He asks me to give my all, not some comparison percentage. He reminds me that he is the whole source of my reward and that the entire universe is too small to describe what he has given me and plans to do for me. Put another way, I may reduce my spending and being spent for others when I finish paying my debt and catch up on all the further investing he is doing in my life.
Dear Lord, teach me to rest in the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
All, but it is unfair in my favor.
I have often asked a group of people whether they would like to live in a fair world. Many of them, foolishly, raise their hand. I then asked him to pray with me, “Dear Lord, these people want you to give them what they really deserve right now, but first let me back off. “
Fortunately we live in a world of intense infinite unfair Mercy.
I personally deserved eternity separated from God and was given immortality with God as his bride, as well as cleansing and empowerment and purpose on this earth. What God has already done for me is so great that no amount of earthly unfairness can outweigh the heavenly unfairness. Paul says Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Philippians 3:8 “yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my lord: For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung.”
Our minds often circle on the details of how we have been hurt, how we have asked for support and have been refused, of how we struggle with weakness and pain. It seems to me that our mind thinks that somehow by circling on these details somebody, somewhere will apologize and make things right.
I remember a song that goes like this “oh Jesus if I die upon a foreign field some day, t’would be no more than love demands, no less could I repay. “
I think it would make a huge difference if we all went through life remembering I owed the debt I could not pay he paid the debt he did not owe.
Another element of unfairness is the insanity of being surprised by and reviewing the details of sinners sinning. I mean, what else do you expect them to do.
Don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly okay to do what I can to set limits on sinners and the unfairness of this world but there is no point in ruminating on the details as if that would make them go away.
Too often I try to only “put up with” the insanity around me. God calls me to go way beyond putting up with it. He calls me to bless those that curse me, do good to those who treat me badly, and rejoice when I am persecuted for so persecuted they the prophets that were before me.
Thank you Lord for this crazy mixed up unfair world where you and I can do battle against evil and bring healing and comfort to the weak and even see unfair craziness bring you glory.
Why is it that, it is always the person who is messing around or plans to do so, who says, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you trust me?”
Well, frankly, if I can’t even trust myself, why would I trust you? You are the runner-up “chief of sinners” right after me.
I, however, am not asking anyone to trust me. I am asking them to trust the extent to which they see God working in me.
TRUST: GIVING THE OTHER PERSON EVIDENCE THAT SUPPORTS THEIR TAKING A RISK ON RELATIONSHIP WITH ME.
If, “trust me, I’ll be good” is evidence of the lack of humility, evidence that they do not understand what it takes to be a reasonable risk in a relationship; then what would be a healthy view of trusting and risk taking?
Well, let’s go to a truly trustworthy person, the repentant prodigal son. whom the Holy Spirit taught to say:
1.”I have sinned against God (by my attitude of ———-.”For example, greed , bitterness, judgementality, control, comparison, works etc.)
By identifying the inner problem they are a much better risk. Godly people joyfully admit lack of wisdom and tendency to mess up; then ask God for wisdom and watch for the events he brings into their life to teach.
Too many of us apologize for the surface behavior only to do another offensive behavior driven by the same inner problem.
2.”My inner problems have caused me to let you down, hurt you, say painful things, be a bad example” etc.
Too many people are vague, “Sorry for whatever you think I did.” How on earth do they think that they will be able to avoid repeating what they can’t even identify?
3. I can only try to put myself in your shoes, but my actions must have caused you to feel ——hurt, abandoned, scared, worth less, alone etc.
Too many people focus on the surface losses and even minimize that. But they do not ponder the inner cost to the other person, so wind up with less hatred of sin, less appreciation of the difficulty of taking a risk on them.
4. If I were in your shoes I would be anxious about taking a risk on relationship with me.
Too many people try to force relationship by saying, “You should forgive me because: you are not so great yourself, after all you made me do it, and really you owe me one, you have hurt me too” etc.
5.I need to grow and do better whether you take a risk on me or not so I want you to know that I am committed to the following accountability, counsel and support:—.
Too many people suggest that they can change by sheer willpower. “I promise to be good.”
6. If I could make amends in the following way I would be so grateful.”
I recall one man whom we took into our house as a homeless Christian brother. He repaid our kindness by stealing our sewing machine and pawning it for nothing. He called us a year later asking for forgiveness, but never offered to make payments on a new machine. He was still not trustworthy. God always leads us to make amends.
7.Maybe we could start to rebuild with the following baby step and if it goes well then take bigger steps.
Too many people want all limits to be removed and to “Just trust me” rather than have to earn each greater and more risky step in involvement.
8. If you would forgive me and take a risk on relationship with me, I’d be so grateful, but if not I intend to keep learning and growing.
Too many people imply that if the limits are not dropped they will just give up and that the only reason they tried to change was to avoid consequences. Such a person is not to be trusted, as they would have failed even if you had gone along with their, “change”.
Oh, it is OK to be involved with untrustworthy people, just don’t let your guard down or be surprised if they backslide. Firemen go into untrustworthy burning buildings but wear fire protection and get out of the way of collapse.
If a person seems to be walking with God then it is reasonable to take small risks and build further relationship based on demonstrated responsible actions. If they don’t like this then they are not trustworthy.
It is also OK to get a neutral third party to help you know when to take new steps of relationship, because you may be too “nice” and drop your guard too easily only to be burned again. (I am talking to myself here because I am far too trusting)
Jesus says, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you will find rest!
God’s truth is so full of paradoxes. To find relief from heavy burdens I need to take up my side of his yoke! And then learn from his response to burdens to be meek and lowly in heart. I need to remember that he does all the pulling that is beyond my ability and never gives me more than we can handle together.
It is not that the problems of life are not significant or that I might not feel great concern as I think of them; it is just that being in yoke with Jesus reminds me that it is not my job to fix everything. I remember that I carry this treasure in an earthen vessel that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of me. When I am weak, then I am strong because his power is demonstrated in what we can pull when yoked together.
Yes, I may feel deep concern. In Romans 9:2 Paul says that he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for his brethren who were unsaved. David says in Psalm 119:136 “Rivers of waters run down my eyes because they keep not thy law. In 2 Corinthians Paul says that we Christians are troubled, perplexed, persecuted, cast down, always carrying on our bodies dying. At the same time we are not distressed, or despairing or forsaken, or destroyed.
A yoke is not a commonly seen object these days. There is a group in Kalamazoo Mich called Tillers International that goes over to Africa to teach them how to make a yoke from a tree and then train their animals to work. Most rural people can not afford a tractor but they have oxen. The oxen were not trained to pull or to be in yokes so were not able to get much done. I too am pretty useless, unless yoked with Jesus.
What a privilege, Lord, to be a fellow: Soldier/servant/laborer/sufferer
Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 3:9, 7:1,2 /Timothy 2:12
To fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, in my flesh, for his body’s sake, which is the church. Colossians 1:24 I need to remember that these are not just my afflictions but his afflictions also and that going through them, with Jesus, will bless my brothers and sisters. I need to quit focusing on my heavy burden, stubbornly clinging to my misery. I need to take up his light burden and let the Holy Spirit comfort me as I go through trials. So that I may comfort them with the same comfort, (Jesus) that I found in my afflictions. 2 Corinthians 1:4
Its me! It’s me! It’s me! Dear Great Physician standing in the need of help!
Did you know that one quarter of the new testament was written by a physician? Jesus himself claimed to be a physician. In Matthew 9:12, Mark 2:17 and Luke 5:31 he says: “Don’t you realize that well people don’t need a physician but sick people do?” This was in response to his being criticized for reaching out (as a physician) to obviously needy people who admitted their own need.
Did he imply that the Pharisees were healthier and did not need a physician?
I have often suggested that there are only three types of people in this world
1. Messed up people who don’t believe that they are messed up.
2. Messed up people who admit they are messed up but have given up and feel too damaged to bother trying to change.
3. Messed up people who admit that they are messed up but have a sense of hope and dignity and reach out to the “physician” for help in changing and are a little less messed up and getting better all the time.
I found that you can ask almost anybody whether they want to grow and be happier and healthier, and they will all agree that that would be good.// However I have found that God does not help people who just want to grow and be healthier and happier. Sure when he was on earth his valuable time was constantly being eaten up by people demanding to be healed physically. He tried to avoid this by telling those he healed, not to tell anyone so that he would have time and energy to teach us about the real need: dealing with our sin.
God helps people who, number one, identify their own inner responses to life as what needs to change, people who want to change in order to help others and who are desperate for that change.
Do you often feel that you are just the worst ever, too much water under the bridge, too messed up for God to use? Then you are God’s type of guy! As a physician I take an almost perverse delight in the real tough cases that are going to stretch me and held me prove that I am a good doctor. I love to appeal to God on the basis of all the glory he will get when he fixes a mess such as I.
Do you wish that you could help the needy people around you more effectively? Then you’re gods type of guy!
Do you feel desperate that something has to change? Then you are God’s type of guy!
“Great physician, like Isaiah, (Isaiah 6:5) In your presence I see my need for I am a man of unclean lips and dwell amongst a people of unclean lips. Please cleanse me with your purifying fire and then let me go for you into this needy world to bring the healing you want to bring.”
I Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.
What are my weapons?
First: watch for the ambushes and hiding places of the devil. Remember that he can present as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 2:11
Don’t let the devil take advantage of you: for we are not ignorant of his devices. Ephesians 6;7-20
Take the whole armor of God.
How do I put them on?– Each morning remind myself that I have them.
Are they sharp?– Stay in the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to revel more and more about them.
How is my skill at wielding them? — Keep track each evening of the devil’s attacks that day and how God helped me and what I did to fight back.
Now don’t just defend–attack!–Add to my list of people to pray for and songs to sing and verses to quote.
The Bible says that the weapons of my warfare are mighty that when I attack the gates of Hell, they will crumble; then my weapons will tear down the devil’s strongholds; that, when I resist, the devil will flee!
In Revelation12:11 Overcome the devil with the word of your testimony, the blood of the lamb and not being afraid of death.
A: The word of my testimony. What is it that I need to testify to?” Hey devil, I have been saved from sin unto life eternal. . I wear the righteousness of Christ himself. I carry around with me TRUTH and I find in the word of God truth that is practical for reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, purification and ministry. I am at peace with God and can tell others how to find this peace for themselves. So Hah!”
B. The blood of the lamb. I need to remind myself and the devil to “take it up with Jesus” When he accuses me and plants doubts (part of his job description that he does especially well) doubts that I am unable and unworthy, I reply, “Yes, I see where you are coming from but Jesus does not agree with you so go argue with him! How do I know? By faith he has recently helped me (Do, minister, obey, grow, rest, learn etc.). These faith actions come from him and he has the stamina to keep it up in my yielded body. He is the author and finisher of my faith. I have been bought with his blood and belong to him. So hah!” (Shield of faith)
C. Remind myself and the devil, “You can’t scare me. What can you do? Torture me slowly to death? Well, yeah. Make me look like a fool? Block me from opportunities to minister? But then what? I go to heaven and find greater treasure awaiting me. Yes I do worry that under your torture I might betray Christ, but he promises me to never leave me nor forsake me. He promises that nothing you can do can force me to sin. So hah! Go ahead threaten me with heaven and treasure!”
D. Counter attack! “Hah! Mr. devil, just for attacking me, I am going to pray for: my pastor, family members, the church, my country, missionaries etc. I am going to call someone and encourage them in the Lord. I am going to write a letter of gratitude to someone. I am going to meditate on my favorite Bible passages. I am going to tell fellow believers what God is doing in my life. I am going to ask for their prayers and wisdom and support. And, most of all, I am going to sing and make a joyful noise to the Lord. So take that and that and that!” (Sword of the spirit)
Remember to run every verse through you emotional response to the reality it expresses.
I God see you! Everywhere and anytime–there I am watching you!
Well, how do you feel about being watched at all time? ( Ps: don’t mention this to your psychiatrist, they may freak. )
Hopefully you feel comforted that there is no place or circumstance where you might be abandoned. Frankly there are times when I forget that He is watching me both for me to reach out to for support and for me to reach out to in order to resist sin.
Men love darkness, to not be seen so that they can sin freely. They think, “What they don’t know cant hurt them or me. What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas”. But God sees them.
One court standard of accountability is , “If a policeman was standing there would you have done that?” If you would have stopped then the court considers you guilty. Even if there was no policeman, you should have refrained. Well I have a loving policeman watching all that I do and wanting to be a part of all I do. I need to act accordingly.
God often uses friends at church, family members and even enemies to remind us that we are seen, in order to help us stay on track. It seems that no matter where I am, someone comes up to me and says “Hey, you must be Dr. Bell, right?” I can tell you that that is helpful at keeping me in line.
We have a need not only to be held accountable but to have others “see” us without our cover ups; see the good and the bad, and like us anyways. I remember in the hospital when we had people go to group without all their layers of makeup and how vulnerable they were. Still we have a deep longing to be seen and loved anyways. I think this is what family is for, in part, to grant us the comfort of being seen fully and loved anyways. This helps us picture that Jesus sees and loves even me! If no one grants us the comfort of acceptance, or if they only like the surface me and reject the whole, still it is enough that Jesus sees all about me and loves me anyways.
Lord thank you for being the EL ROI who sees me and likes me anyhow and hope for my future and delights in my design.
God had a great plan A. He would make a beautiful garden and Adam and Eve would stay away from the tree and we would all live happily ever after.
Then came plan B: get thrown out of the garden and live by the sweat of your brow and have babies the hard way. He had to post a terrifying angel to guard the garden lest they try to go back to plan A. But plan B had a “HUGH” promise in it. The promise of the coming Jesus. Now all they had to do was get back on track and work hard and walk plan B with God. But No! everyone began to prey on everyone instead of everyone praying to God for everyone. So plan C Noah! But things went bad pretty soon and everyone was going bad again. So plan D: start a separate nation to teach the rest of the world about God. But No! They kept it to themselves and took up a bunch of demon gods. So plan E: have the tribe of Levi specialize in worshiping God and help the others stay in line.
Well, you get the picture. The good news is that God can take my current moment that is bent and twisted from his original plan by the millions of sin choices between then and now and he can come up with a ZZZ to the millionth plan. This plan will be awesome at proving God’s patience and love and where sin has abounded his grace will even more abound.
For the new plan to work, I must get my eye off of what could have been and embrace the new plan. Remember Lot’s wife? The new plan will have difficulties and losses calculated to teach me to hate sin and hunger for righteousness. It will also come with even more of his willingness to get “down and dirty” with me and walk the consequences with me. It will not be enough for me to “put up with the consequences that I have pulled on my head. I must rejoice in the consequences, Leviticus 26:40 for he whom the father loves//he punishes. Hebrews 12:6 Then God will meet me in the new plan and walk it with me for my benefit and his glory.
Some might even say “let me sin more abundantly because when I sin, he pours out grace to make the new plan work and gets glory from doing so. Therefore it is good to sin! God forbid! Plan A is always the best. Remember now your creator in the days of your youth.
I remember thinking that I would never make much of an evangelist because you have to have a sordid story of debauchery that is turned around by God before people will be impressed by God’s work. Trust me, all of our stories are sordid enough and impossible enough to bring God glory.
Others think that because they are so far from the original plan that God can’t use them. Too much water under the bridge. If we learn anything from the Bible it is that God is great at “making something of this mess too, if I will just let him do so.”
So Lord thank you for coming up with new plans but help me to stick with this one and revel in it together with you.