The Essence of You as the Essence of Me

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“For this reason, make every effort…”  2 Peter 1:5

I’m not Aladdin and God is not a genie that I can rub the jar and he just poofs whatever I want.  God is God, the God above all gods, the One True God, the Almighty, the I AM.  I can’t fully or even most partially really explain You God.  I can’t really grasp the fullness of Your Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ.  I do know that the apostle John said, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”  And I know that the “word” he was speaking about is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is also more than a son, and who is somehow God as well.  I also know that Jesus Christ said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father but by me.”  I also know that when I put my trust in Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life; in other words, the way to a relationship in fullness with God again, that Jesus, by the power of God vested in Him, deposits His Holy Spirit in me to teach me and to enable me to do the will of God.  As a matter of fact, He even gives me the desire to do the will of God.

That’s a little nut-shell of it all.  But I don’t get to just lay back and continue life as usual.  I can’t be a couch potato Christian.  I can’t sit on my duff (my bum, my rear end) and do nothing and expect the Holy Spirit to poof me into some super believer or any kind of a real believer.   That’s like burying my money in a can in the ground instead of at least putting it in the bank to earn a little interest.  A faith not invested in by me will have as little growth as the money buried in the ground.  I am expected to do my part to build the “good deposit entrusted” to me.  (2 Timothy 1:14)

I’m not left on my own to do it.  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3,4)  Sometimes, I don’t feel like a partaker.  I want to feel like that, but sometimes, the feeling evades me.  Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’ve escaped the corruption.  But the truth is, the full escape, the full partaking isn’t finished, isn’t completed here.  That will be the day I am with the Lord.  But His promises still hold true for now, and they don’t get to be determined by my feelings.  No matter how I feel, His promises are greater, and only by clinging to them with all of my life and not letting go will I understand the fullness of His promises.  Yes, You have made wonderful promises to me, but I must fulfil my part.  My part is to hang tight and continue in those promises.  My part is to walk in that belief.  After all, I’m a believer, right?  I ought to live like one then.

Peter says, “For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”  In other words, because God has placed a deposit in us, through His Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to work these things into our lives that He enables us for.  They aren’t easy.  Look at all the stories online about leaders in the church turning from their faith.  All of a sudden the hard stuff isn’t making sense?  Is it hitting too close to home?  When the hard stuff doesn’t effect me, is it easier to have faith?  When did God not promise these hard things would come in our lives?  Jesus warned us already.  It’s not a surprise.  All I have to do is look into Your word, and it explains the nature of every evil.  It also tells me how to deal with it, how to respond.  Faith is choosing to respond according to Your word, according to You and trusting that You, despite the present evil, have already mapped out the good ending for us with You.  There is purpose in the pain even when I don’t see it.

So if faith is believing, and that is part of the deposit, another deposit is virtue or excellence.  My responses should come out in a way that reflect Your excellence.  I wasn’t created to respond with mediocre faith, or to be “wishy-washy.”  Excellence is the deposit because God is excellent.  As Joyce Meyer says, “when I drop some item on the floor at a store, I pick it up; I don’t leave it there.  I even go the extra mile and pick up the other things other people have dropped and left behind.   I don’t just do for the sake of doing; I do for the sake of glorifying You.  I give it my best and ask God’s Holy Spirit to help me to do even better for His sake so what people see is Him in my life.”

I add knowledge.  What does that mean. How do I practice knowledge?  How do I increase it?  I read and study Your word.  I apply it.  I meditate on it.  I talk to others about it who are practicing their deposit.  I ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand and apply it.   I make sure I’m not interpreting according to my heart but according to Your intent.  I read it, I meditate on it, I do it, and I make it a part of my life.  Now, I can share it with others.

Temperance is another word for self-control.  Sometimes, I just don’t feel like doing something.  Or maybe I do feel like doing something, but it’s not the excellent thing I should.  You have deposited in me self-control.  I can control my eating.  I can control my words.  I can control my foot on the gas pedal.  I can treat others with respect.  I can take time to really listen to the needs of others.  I can refrain from acting on my anger.  I can forgive.  I can because God has placed that deposit in me.  Yes, it may be hard.  It may take time on my part.  It will take prayer and discipline.  And it will take wanting to love God as much as He loves me.  If I remember my faith and the precious promises of God, if I practice Your excellence, and think on You continually, I will be able to exert self-control over any area of my life that “haunts” me whether it be compulsive eating or to the extreme of pornography.  I will take the steps I need to take.  I will forcefully resist and flee from the one who is trying to devour me, into the arms of the One who loves me and cares for me.

I love this one, cheerful endurance or patience.  Imagine, I have a deposit in me of cheerful endurance.  Oh, anyone can endure pain and discomfort.  But who can endure it cheerfully?  Because of You, I can.  But am I?  Am I forgetting everything else You have deposited in me and setting it all aside to complain and murmur and meditate on the pain or sorrow?  That’s self-defeating.  But if I draw closer to You and Your promises and Your word, I can endure with hope, not despair.  I can walk to the stake to be burned and know You will be with me and I will be with You soon.  I can survive the cancer even if I lose my life.  I can be free from bitterness because I can forgive even in the most terrible of circumstances like Cory Ten Boom.

Another deposit is godliness.  The original Greek word came to mean “a respectful attitude toward God directly and the living of a correct lifestyle in respect to Him.” (www.studylight.org) Maybe I should think about what a really respectful attitude toward God looks like?  I mean, I wonder if my idea of respect and Your idea are far different from each other?  How often do I take off my shoes because I realize I’m standing on holy ground, so to speak?  How often do I treat You too familiarly?  If I corrected my attitude toward You, then my lifestyle would correct itself as well.

How true and dear is my brother love?  I mean, is it like that of a dysfunctional family?  Or is it like that of real brothers, who take care of each other no matter the cost?  Does it reflect the brotherly love that You, Jesus, show to us?  Or is it a mere reflection of some form of man’s brotherly love?  There’s a big difference.  One comes naturally and easy.  The deposit, takes tending and nurturing.  It’s not natural, but it’s of so much deeper value for all involved.

And then there is something deeper than brotherly love, there is agape love..  Agape love is at the heart of the nature of God.  If you want to know what God is like, this is at the center of His being.  You love, not because I’m loveable by nature, not because I’m excellent or deserving, but because it’s Your nature and it’s who You are.  Your love flows out to me despite my unloveliness!   This is love that is acted out, demonstrated.  It’s the kind of love that even though we were “dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:5)  This kind of love doesn’t come naturally.  It’s “goodwill, benevolence, and wilful delight in the object of love” (gotanswers.org) despite our friendship, or standing, or loveliness or likeableness.  It’s full of giving.  It’s full of sacrifice and selflessness.  Face it, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)  Jesus wasn’t drawn to me because of my attractiveness to Him.  He was drawn to me by His love for us.  So much so that He gave up His glory and even His life for us to see and experience the depth of His love as He purchased us back, we who had sold ourselves into slavery.  Www.ezion.com shares this definition, “Unconditional love that is always giving and impossible to take or be a taker.  It devotes total commitment to seek your highest best no matter how anyone may respond.  This form of love is totally selfless and does not change whether the love given is returned or not.”  If You love me like that Lord, and You do, am I loving others like that?

Why does all of this or any of this matter?  “For if these qualities (the same qualities that Jesus exhibits to us) are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”  2 Peter 1:8,9)  I want to be effective, not ineffective.  I want to be fruitful, not unfruitful.  I want to really know You, not be aloof.  I want to walk with vision, not blindness.  I want these qualities to be mine because they are Yours and I am in You and You are in me.  I want these qualities to be “proof of the pudding.”  And I want them to increase because I will always have room for growth to become more and more like You each day.  I will do my part at working on this so that You can fulfil Your part.  I am so grateful for Peter’s reminder.  May these qualities be established in me.  I don’t just want to know them.  I want them to be a part of me, from the essence of me, just as they are in You.

Drawn in to the Excellence of You

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“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence…” 2 Peter 1:3

When I was a baby, I couldn’t walk on my own.  I needed the help of parents to get me started walking, to even help my legs to get strengthened, to start learning balance, and everything else.  I needed people who taught me how to write and read and do math.  I needed someone to teach me about God, real truth, not just my ideas. 

As an adult, I still need help in areas of my life.  Sometimes I’m not physically strong enough for a task.  Sometimes I have to learn a new skill I didn’t know before.  Sometimes my body’s metabolism changes and I have to relearn how to handle my feelings or the new changes in me.  I’m not always enough for me.  I need outside help.

I mean, I could struggle through it all on my own, but it’s not going to come out as well.  But God didn’t design me to struggle through life on my own.  He didn’t bring me into this world to live on my own without the help of others and without the help of Him.  That’s the good news in 2nd Peter.  As a matter of fact, I wasn’t brought in to this world just for the sake of me either.  I was brought into this world to glorify God.

For the person who has put their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires.” (1 Peter 1:3,4)  Listen to that truth again, part by part. 

This is better than the help of my mom and dad.  This is better than the help of my spouse.  This is better than the help of a teacher or all my friends and family put together.  Why?  Their help is not divine.  Their help does not naturally come with divine power.  But You, Lord, give Your divine power to help me and enable me to do not just some things, but all things that pertain to life and godliness.  All things!  You’re the One that enables me to be able to glorify You, to fulfil my purpose in life!

Now, if it doesn’t pertain to life that leads to You, to real and eternal life, You won’t help me with those things.  I get that.  And sometimes I might not like that or agree with You on that, but if I’m on target with my thinking and lined up with You, I know that’s the way it should be and I’m wanting the wrong thing for me.  Why should You, who love me, give me what would harm me, right?  But if I set my heart and mind on those things, whatever they are that are all about life, eternal life, real-now-living-life-in-and-with-You stuff, and godliness, walking-talking-living-thinking-breathing-feeling-like-and-with-and-in-You stuff, that’s exactly what You want to enable me to do more.  And You do.

But I have a responsibility.  If this is what I want, I only get there through really knowing You.  The good news about that is that is exactly where You have called us to be, in the middle of knowing You by being in Your Word and getting to experience Your own glory and excellence in my life and around mr as I walk and live according to Your promises and what I learn about You.  You become more real, more alive, more involved, more of everything every day I spend getting to know You more.  It doesn’t mean that I know all the answers.  That’s never going to happen!  Why?  Because, God, You are so much more than I can contain, but even knowing the part of You I can, is overwhelming and wonderful!

And when You call us to Your own glory, it’s not just about seeing Your glory and excellence.  It includes having that glory and excellence rub off on us.  How do I know that?  Look at Moses.  He asked to see Your glory.  Since he couldn’t handle the fullness of Your glory, You hid him in a cleft of the rock, shaded his face with Your hand, and as You walked by, You allowed him to see some of the glory of just Your back.  When he walked back down to the people, they couldn’t handle seeing him because he shone with Your glory.  They made him wear a veil to tone it down.  If people don’t see Your glory and excellence in us, Your people, how can they know that You are God of our lives?  You are a God of transformation, it has to show in me.  Knowing You isn’t just an affiliation, it’s transformation; Your person must shine through me.

You call us and enable us to live a life of excellence.  What is this excellence? (Like we don’t know what excellence is?)  Isaiah 35:2 says, “They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.”  Some translations use excellence for that idea of majesty.  But I see that it is equated with Your glory, Lord.  Isaiah 12:5 says, “Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously [excellently]; let this be made known in all the earth.”  So, You ARE excellent and You DO excellence!  Moses sang of the greatness of Your excellence, that by that excellence You overthrow your adversaries, and by Your excellence You care for Your children. (Exodus 15)  Your excellence is everything You are and do.  It’s Your holiness and glory.  So what?

Well, as a believer, I am called to that holiness and glory, that excellence that You are and display.  At least four times in Leviticus God says, “be holy, for I am holy.”  Peter reiterated that In 1 Peter 1:15,16 when he reminded us, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”  I don’t get to just conduct myself any way I want.  I don’t get to let my feelings rule me.  Look at Cain.  That’s not the way I want to go.  I was created by an excellent, holy God who created me to represent Him.  I was created to be excellent and holy as well.  How am I conducting my life?

So I’m called to God’s glory and excellence in my life as well.  What does that translate into?  What does that look like?  A lot of grandeur?  Actually, it starts with the little things.  If I can’t be excellent in the little things, how can I be excellent in the big things?  I mean, look at Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, who left heaven and came to earth as a baby and lived the life of a mere man, a mere human even though He was God.  And what did He do to show His excellence?  Sometimes He performed miracles only God could do and demonstrated that kind of excellent, glorious power.  But what about most of the time during Your 30 years of life?

He obeyed his mom and dad.  He learned his trade.  He noticed people other people didn’t notice.  He cared for the little things.  He did the stuff of everyday life even though He was God.  He did His chores.  He studied in school.  He obeyed His authorities.  He spent time with his friends.  He picked things up.  He straightened things up.  He ate and made sure others were fed.  God did the little stuff of day to day life.  And how did He do it?  With glory and excellence, as God does what God does because God is who God is.

So who am I?  You have given me thousands of promises in Your Word and by Your Word.  Do I walk in them?  Do I listen to Your still small voice as I walk through each day, because You are with me?  Am I excellent in every step?  Do I even think about reflecting Your excellence in every step?  Joyce Meyer talks about being in a store and dropping an item on the floor and hearing that still, small voice say, “Pick it up and put it back.”  Excellence is picking it up, listening to the Holy Spirit’s gentle prompt.  Excellence actually goes beyond that and picks up other people’s messes too.  Am I listening to You as You prompt me to excellence or am I ignoring Your promptings?  Am I too busy shooting for grandeur and glory and missing it because I don’t know how to humbly be excellent in my “real” life?

Do I want to attain to Your glory without partaking of Your divine nature?  I can’t.  I have to deal with excellence in the little, daily things of life first, just like Jesus did.  Thirty years You dealt with humility, exhibiting self-control and discipline in that kind of stuff.  Thirty years of humility by choice before God’s time for You to show Yourself for who You are.  So, why would my route to You be any different?  I’m just human.  I would think, in comparison, I need to learn self-control and discipline even more.  I need Your divine nature even more, because I struggle with sinful desires.  But I don’t have to.  If only I would learn to be excellent in the little things, every day, for all of my life.  Then I would be resting and living in Your divine power all the time. 

I don’t have to live big for my life to be divine.  You can take little things, little excellence, and build it up into something great and glorious.  That’s Your prerogative.  I just get to exhibit Your excellence, Your way, in everything, and then that opens the door for You to take me where You will in that excellence of You.  My goal and desire is to live in that excellence, with self-control and discipline, and allow You to do the rest with what You bring out of me.  I want to love You like that, like Jesus did, not just with the bigness of my heart, but with the littleness of the things around me.  I will trust in Your promise of Your divine power to lead me in Your way of excellence that others will see the excellence of You and be drawn into that excellence to know You.

The Source of Faith, Grace, and Peace

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Photo credit to Brittany Cunningham.

“…to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…” 2 Peter 1:1

Where does faith come from?  How do I find grace?  How do I find peace in my life?  Those are good questions, important questions, aren’t they?  That’s what the letter of 2 Peter is trying to help us with, to be able to understand how we can find those things and how they can be the things that shape our lives.

Whether this letter was written by Peter himself or Jude wrote it with Peter’s blessing, I don’t know.  It’s evident that if so, he did it on behalf of Peter and with his blessing and under his authority.  But isn’t that even aligning with everything here?  I mean, here Peter is introduced as a servant and apostle of Jesus.  He’s an authority as an apostle but that isn’t the first thing in his introduction.  First comes servant.  Now, doesn’t that mirror the image of Christ who came to serve and not be served?  It seems that Peter learned from Jesus that “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25,26)

So right from the start, I see that humility is the foundation of my authority in Christ.  This is true for the design for every believer.  And what is a believer?  One who has obtained a faith of equal standing by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  That tells me two things.  For one thing, it tells me that faith puts all believers on equal standing.  Remember when the disciples were all excited because even demons were listening to them and they were healing people?  But Jesus said, “Behold, I have given you authority . . . Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this . . . but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19,20)  John Piper shares, “No matter how much authority a believer is given by Christ, he should never forget that the great joy of his life should simply be that he is saved by faith like all the other saints.”  Therefore, I don’t have to compare myself to any other believer.  I can be who God created me to be.  I can rejoice in what God has done and is doing in and through me.  I can serve and faithfully walk in the authority he has given me, whatever that is.

But why can I do that?  How do I obtain that faith, that same faith that changed Paul’s life and every believer who walks in it?  I allow our God and Savior Jesus Christ to exchange my unrighteousness for His righteousness.  I put my trust in Him alone.  I hand my life over to Him.  I hand my thoughts over to Him.  I hand it all over, humble myself before Him, and allow Him to have control and be my everything.  I let Him have His way in me.

How do I know how to do that?  Let’s go to 2 Peter verse 2,  “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”  I get to know God and Jesus.  I get to know God as my God, as GOD.  And I get to know Jesus as my LORD.  I get to know the Word of God by reading the Bible and believing it and living it and honoring it and loving it, not because they are in a book like it’s law, but because these are the words of the God I love who loves me even more!  As I fill my life with the knowledge of God and of Jesus, I really get to know Him more and more every day.  I experience His grace and peace more and more every day.

It’s like adding 1+1.  It’s simple addition.  You can’t know Him if you run away.  You won’t experience His grace and peace if you keep fighting Him.  If you think you can handle it all on your own, you can’t.  Not even our goodness compares to Him; it’s like filthy rags.  It’s His righteousness that blesses us in Him.  Jesus + Me leads to the answer I’m searching for:  faith, grace, and peace.  It’s that easy. 

But surrender isn’t easy, is it?  Yet, surrender is necessary.  Unless I can humble myself under God’s mighty hand first, I won’t obtain faith, and grace and peace.  They will continue to evade me because they are only found in God through Christ Jesus. 

The truth is that we don’t have a savior who doesn’t understand us.  He gets us.  He left heaven and was born to a virgin, and lived the life as a human, as a man, even while being God at the same time.  Yet, he didn’t exert his authority as God.  We saw a little of it, but not even close to a lot of it.  Because when he went to the cross, by His choice, He didn’t have the angels remove Him.  He didn’t wipe out humankind, or at least those crucifying Him and ridiculing Him.  He humbled Himself, and took on the penalty for our sin, for each one of us, you and me.  He chose to obey God’s will and die, no matter how it felt.  Why?  Because he knew God’s word was true.  He would rise.  Sin would be defeated.  We would be released from its power, if we could only humble ourselves to have faith.  We would be reconciled to Him and in Him forever.  It’s why He died and why He rose again.  It’s why I can have faith and why I can be humble even though I have authority too.  It’s why, in that faith in Him, I have grace and peace multiplied to me.  And so can you.  Surrender might not be easy, but it’s the only way to faith, grace, and peace.  I choose it.  How about you?

Where Are You?

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“Where art thou?”  Genesis 3:9

In taking time to pray this morning, it brought me back to Genesis 3.  Why do we need to do things our own way?  Why do kids “push our buttons?”  Why do they live on the edge, trying to get away with things, seeing what they can do that mom and dad won’t know?  Why do husbands, so often, disregard actual wisdom and cautions from their wives?  Why do wives feel so much pain sometimes, and feel like a devalued helper rather than a treasure?  Then again, why do wives treasure their ways above others sometimes?

Sin screwed everything up.  Sin was Satan’s fault.  But not just his.  It was Eve’s fault too.  But it wasn’t just Satan and Eve’s fault.  It was Adam’s fault as well.  But it’s not just their fault.  It’s the fault of each one of us.  They may have introduced sin into the world, but if we are transparent, we each would admit that we are just as guilty.  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23)

If we read Romans 5:12 it says, “…wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…”  It wasn’t because Adam and Eve thought about the tree and it’s fruit and what it would be like to eat it.  That would only be temptation.  God always gives us a way of escape from temptation.(1 Corinthians 10:13)  The problem comes when we don’t choose to flee, to run from completing those thoughts, when we don’t turn away and back to what is right.  The problem is when I keep thinking those thoughts until I can’t let go of them.  That’s when I discard what God has told me and reach out and take the bite.  And when I discard You, God, that’s when my whole world is turned upside down.

Sin changes everything.  It takes a perfectly balanced relationship between a husband and wife and throws it all askew.  It’s no longer balanced because the husband doesn’t trust that the wife is looking out for his good and the wife doesn’t trust that the husband is looking out for her good.  Marriage is less of a mutuality, less of a unity, and more of a “me”ity and “you”ity.  And what God does, what God brings in, isn’t because this is His plan of what’s best, is it?  It’s because You, Lord, want us to see how wrong this new “way” is and long for what we had before the fall. 

Here is Your judgment, Lord, on this situation of choosing sin.  “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’  Unto the woman He said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.’ And to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’” Genesis 3:14-19

This is what sin, defiance, rebellion against God brought in to our lives.  Before sin, it wasn’t so.  Maybe childbearing would have been somewhat painful, maybe not, but now the pain is multiplied.  Is that a weird punishment?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a good reminder.  “Sin causes pain.  It effects you and it effects your children.  Remember that.  Don’t forget the effects of sin.”  Husbands and wives don’t always see “eye to eye” any more.  Instead of balancing the scale, the scale is off balance.  And maybe there’s some different ways to think about that statement where husbands and wives desires are contrary and “he shall rule over you.”  Maybe it does mean that he’s in charge and that feels like a problem.  Maybe it means that you have desires toward him that just aren’t met.  Maybe it’s a matter that the husband, because of sin, rules in ways that aren’t always thinking about what is most beneficial for his wife as though she were his own body.  Tell me that won’t cause grief for the husband as well as the wife, as it increases the friction of their relationship.  And the husband, the traditional bread-winner, will work hard now.  It won’t always be a joyful thing like it was before.  He’ll sweat, he’ll feel muscle pain if it’s hard work.  Work itself won’t be satisfying the way it was before.  And then there is death.  Death will come instead of life.

Well how depressing is that!  But don’t leave off the punishment of the serpent.  “Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  So what?  This is the punishment of the snake, right?  People hate snakes and try to kill them and snakes bite people.  So what?

No, this is the Gospel being preached already from the beginning!  Maybe some modern people are arguing this now-a-days but these two verses are prophetic.  That means that they tell of the coming Messiah, the one who is now called Jesus because He came.  But this prophesy hasn’t been fully fulfilled yet.  But this prophesy gives hope to Adam and Eve and us that sin doesn’t have to win.  Right here, “[a]fter Adam’s fall, God shared the seeds of a plan He had already worked out before time began.” (Dr. William C. Varner)

These 15 words, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel,” are profound Hebrew words that theologians call “the protoevengelium.”  That big word (which I just learned!) means “the first (proto-) announcement of the good news of the gospel (evangelium).”  It wasn’t just addressed to a serpent; it was addressed to the satanic power behind the serpent.

If we go back in history, we see that even Jewish rabbis believed this to be prophetic of the coming Messiah.  Here is what Bereshit Rabba 23 states as commentary on these verses: “Eve had respect to that seed which is coming from another place.  And who is this?  This is the Messiah the King.”  These words in Genesis put forth the idea of a suffering Messiah, just like the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:5.  Listen to Isaiah’s words, “He was bruised for our iniquities.”  And in Isaiah 53:10, listen again as he says, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him.”

Remember what has happened.  If you don’t know, go and read Genesis 1-3 for yourself.  God place the first man and woman in this wonderful, ideal place called the Garden of Eden upon a wonderful and ideal earth.  There weren’t a lot of rules; only one restriction.  Of everything in the garden, including these two special trees, the one tree of life and the other tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were only restricted from eating from that one tree, the one of the knowledge of good and evil.  They could have eaten of life or anything else.  “Don’t eat from that tree, that one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Adam heard that first.  Adam knew that.  He was actually supposed to communicate God’s words and intent correctly to Eve, his wife.  Then we have the rest of the story.  What happened?

In a nutshell, the beauty is suddenly ripped apart in one bite of a forbidden fruit.  The serpent, under Satan’s influence speaks with Eve.  She listens to his words instead of God’s and commits the sin.  Adam doesn’t stop her, nor does he refuse.  He commits the sin.  Then they both become aware of their sin and sin itself.  God comes and confronts them on their sin.  Then the consequences follow.  And in that first judgment on the serpent, God pronounces “irredeemable judgment” on the serpent but not for man and woman.  The seed of the woman becomes our redemption.

“So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field: on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesisi 3:14-15)  Here is the hope of Adam and Eve and the rest of mankind.  It’s not in ourselves.  In ourselves we attain to what Adam and Eve attained to.  The hope is in this seed of the woman that was to come in God’s time.  The hope is this Seed,  our Deliverer, our Saviour, the Messiah.  It’s a promise of One who will come in the midst of warfare, not peace.  It’s a promise of One coming in the midst of great conflict.  And all those from Adam and Eve on, who are looking toward their redemption through this Messiah, must understand this conflict, and not give up in it.

Jesus, the Messiah, is the only One who can defeat the serpent.  The serpent can only bruise Him, but Jesus will one day give the crushing blow to Satan.  Jesus has begun what was promised.  At the cross, he began what would end up as a fatal blow to Satan that will be completed at the Great White Throne Judgment.  Satan is a defeated foe just awaiting his final demise.

So how does all this help me with all the relational problems that sin has created?  How does this help me with my spouse or my kids or my parents?  How do I not stay in the rut that Adam and Eve fell into?  I actually trust, place all my weight in, Jesus, the one who was unique of all men, born of woman, not of man, truly the seed of the woman, just as God said.  I trust in Jesus, the Messiah, who is not only unique, but supernatural.  He is undefeatable. He can make things possible in me that are impossible without Him.  He can change my life, my attitude, my heart, my actions.  He can make me like Him, and change how I relate to others.  He can return the original intent of His plans into my heart and mind so I don’t have to live like a sinner.  I can be free to live as one who has been redeemed!  He is God and man and therefore can be my judge and my helper all at the same time.  He can be above me and in me all at the same time.  He can be over me and through me.  He can line my life up as it was intended to be from the start.  That’s the good news in Genesis.  Even though it may be harder to hear Your voice Lord, with everything else competing to be heard, You are there, and You can redirect me, if only I would want and commit to Your redirection.

Refusing to Line Up

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“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17

Why would judgment come to those in the house of God first? If I’m a believer, I thought I escaped judgment? What does this mean?

Remember where we are coming from with Peter. We’re looking at living from this perspective: living in the will of God, not according to our “flesh” or our own lusts and desires. So, there’s kind of one judgment that’s already taken place, but a second that should be ongoing.

There are actually a couple words translated as judgment in Scripture. One is krisis and the other is krima.  Krisis is talking about a tribunal kind of thing, that kind of judgment. That’s the weighing of God where our name is either in the Lamb’s Book of Life or not, whether we are Yours or not, whether we enter Your kingdom or not. This is where we stand before a judge and are found guilty or acquitted. (In all truth, none of us are innocent. So thank God, Jesus paid the price for us so we can be released from our guilt!)

But the word in 1 Peter 4:17 isn’t krisis. It’s krima. Like our word for crime. It’s about what we do. This is how we take our life and thoughts and decide with it. Do I decide to hurt or do I decide to love? Do I decide to obey or go my own way?  Now that I know the ways of God, what do I do with them.  Do I live in Him and His “law” or do I go against it? Krima is looking at my life and discerning my choices and lining them up with God. Otherwise, Lord, You will come in and adjust my life for me.

Think of the Israelites when the Lord delivered them from Egypt. Think of all they saw of You and then how often they didn’t live by that but fell back to the “crimes” of Egypt, lusting after something else other than You. And instead of arriving in the promised land in a matter of days, You kept them in the wilderness 40 years. They were still Yours, but since they didn’t “judge” themselves with Your judgment and discernment, You had to.
This is why Jesus came into our world. Listen, “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’” (John 9:39)

At first, maybe this sounds unfair. If someone sees, why wouldn’t that be good? Why would they be punished? Do these words of Yours help me understand, Lord? “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)  Read on in that chapter if you need to. No one can see unless Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father opens their eyes in the first place. I may think I see something or know something, like the Pharisees, but if it’s not the truth that God is showing me through Jesus Christ, then I am blind, I really am not seeing. I can not understand the truth like the sinners and tax collectors were able to, but when I hear the truth of Jesus and believe, God opens my eyes to know Him fully, to understand His ways, to see the magnitude of what Christ has done for me and who He is.

Jesus is everything we need to process and apply to understand and know God. Am I processing appropriately? That would be me bringing myself under judgment. That’s good. It’s how I check myself and make sure my thinking is correct. It’s like when the Jews in Berea heard Christ preached and they didn’t just decide for themselves, according to their own thinking, but they went to the word of God to determine if it was truth. That’s discernment. That’s right judgment of this sort. That’s how God opens our eyes versus clouding them over. That’s where judging ourselves rightly brings us to the throne of God.

If you really think about it, it’s a scary thing. Felix trembled and ignored it as Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” (Acts 24:25) That’s that same word krima, but look what it’s associated with: rightousness, self-control, and lining your judgment up with the judgment of God. That’s serious stuff and Felix knew he wasn’t lining up but rather than line up, he chose to avoid the whole thing. What about me?

Paul continues to warn us as well. “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man— you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:2,3) The truth is, we know. We can point our fingers at others and say, “That’s wrong!” But we don’t want to point our fingers at ourselves, and say, “That’s wrong!” and correct it! That’s flawed judgment. And God’s judgment is not flawed. How much better to turn my finger to myself and correct the wrong in me before someone else has to point it out or before You, God, have to correct me when I should already be able to see it in myself.

Judging my daily walk and attitude every day according to Your ways, Lord, does not negate the fact of Your eternal judgment. It, instead, is a constant reminder of the undeserved gift of grace that You have bestowed upon me. Paul put it, “And the free gift is not like the results of that one man’s sin [Adam]. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass [Adam], death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:16,17) The choice is mine. I can let death and sin reign in me. It’s just a matter of who I surrender to and who I follow. Or I can let life reign in me through Jesus Christ. I can choose grace, righteousness, self-control, and learn how to judge myself rightly on this earth so that Jesus can reign in me in life now and forever, or I can walk away from lining myself up with You like Felix. I won’t let fear of seeing my faults drive me away. Lord, I want to be who You see me as, so let me not be afraid of correcting myself.

To Suffer As A Christian

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“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” 1 Peter 4:16 (ESV)

It’s sad but true, suffering affects everyone.  Just look at the mass shootings in Ohio, Texas, or anywhere else.  It’s not confined to one race.  It’s not confined to Christians or non-Christians.  It’s not confined to age.  It’s not confined to sexual preference.  In this instance, it’s not even confined to the ones who died from the bullet wounds.  There’s a baby without a mom.  There are parents, siblings, spouses, friends, who are suffering loss.  Suffering shows no favouritism.  Even the shooters suffer, albeit, as murderers and who knows if they were suffering from other things before it lead to murder.

“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian…”  What does that mean, “to suffer as a Christian?”  When have I stopped to see if I really understand what You and Peter wanted us to understand here?  I mean, what does it mean to be a Christian?  Does it mean I have Jesus in my heart and I go to church?  Does it mean I’ve been baptised and am a member of a church?  Does it mean I just need to know who Jesus is and believe it, therefore I’m a Christian?  Or is there something more to being a Christian?

The first century believers weren’t always called Christians.  They got that name because of their attachment to Jesus.  Society knew they were followers of Jesus, that they were disciples, believers.  The word “Christians” is only used once in the New Testament.  What it meant was that these people belonged  to “the party of Christos.”  The believers didn’t come up with this title, it was the community in Antioch’s way to ridicule them, just like the Jews ridiculed the people of Nazareth by calling them Nazarenos.  Only, the believers understood that this ridicule of who they were, actually signified that they were really living out who they were and the world could see it.  Their persecution became a pat on the back that they were walking in the way of Jesus, following His path, setting His example.  It wasn’t a badge of honor, but it was like people saying, “They’re a chip off the old block,” meaning, they are just like the One they follow.  And for believers, that’s exactly where we want to be.

Those who were being mocked by being called Christians were not just people who knew about the Messiah, Jesus.  They were not just witnesses who had seen him and been with him.  The majority had never seen him or been with him.  So what were they?  People who believed that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jewish Scriptures; that Jesus was the Son of God who had fulfilled God’s plan for our redemption.  They believed that Jesus alone was the way, the truth and the life and that no man, woman, or child can come unto the Heavenly Father without going through him, without faith and trust in his life, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection.  Christians were followers of a risen Saviour, a Saviour who had been crucified and rose again, proving he was who God said he was.  A Christian was someone who put all their “weight”, all their life in to Jesus. 

They invested their whole being, not just Sundays, not just 10%, not just as long as they could keep their job.  Not just as long as it didn’t effect their kid’s lives.  Not just as long as it didn’t cause conflict.  They discovered that Jesus was the truth, the way, and the life, and he became their truth, their way, and their life.  What have we done with the word “Christian” today?  Have we changed it into some foreign word unlike that of the original?

Believers were first called Christians at Antioch.  You can read about it in Acts 11.  Because of persecution in Jerusalem, believers spread out to other areas, including Antioch.  At first, they were preaching to the Jews only.  Then some other believers coming in started preaching to the Greek speaking Jews there.  When we come to Acts 15, we see that the Gentiles became part of the brethren as well.  The more God grew His kingdom through His disciples discipling others, the more race, culture and language barriers were broken down as people became brethren, unified by faith in Christ, unified by the living word of God.

Christianity is just a title.  It actually means to be anointed.  A believer is one who has been anointed by God, by the Holy Spirit that dwells within, to go and make more disciples, to help others come to know Jesus, the way, truth, and the life.  You don’t do that by staying in a church building.  You go.  You go to where people are who don’t know.  Isn’t it funny how sometimes God has to allow persecution in our lives so that we take those steps?  Funny how blind we can be sometimes when left in our comfort zone.

A Christian or one who belonged to Christ also held the connotation for some people of being a slave of Christ.  Being a servant or in a position of servitude was looked down upon.  But believers are taught by Jesus to treasure being a servant to God, that servanthood and humility are qualities that God honors.  After all, Jesus himself said he came to serve, not be served.  Can I say that about myself?  Would others say that about me?  That’s how the early Christians were being identified. 

The believers in Antioch were taught and encouraged “that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” (Acts 11:23)  That means to remain no matter what, to stick like glue.  Am I cleaving to You, Lord?  Am I so grounded in You, so dependent on You, do I so love You that I would never, no matter what, let go?

Everybody is going to meet with suffering.  There are murderers like those in Ohio and Texas.  But then there are men and women, boys and girls like the believers in Antioch.  And sometime or sometimes in their lives, they will also meet with suffering, not necessarily because they are a Christian, although sometimes it will be because we are.  But sometimes, we may just suffer as Christians, maybe because we were at Walmart in Texas at just that moment, or walking by on that day in Dayton.  Peter’s point is for me not to lose heart.  God hasn’t forgotten me, just as he didn’t forget Stephen as he was being stoned to death.  Neither have You forgotten those who lose their lives in floods or earthquakes or tornados or fires; in crimes or drug induced violence or drunk driver accidents. 

If you are suffering and you are a believer, a Christian, one identified with Christ as Your all in all, Your saviour, don’t be ashamed.  Don’t lose heart.  Jesus already told you things like this would happen.  This is part of our sin-filled, imperfect world.  Glorify God instead.  Esteem God.  Magnify Him.  On what behalf?  Because of what?  Why?

Because of what we believe!  Because we know the truth!  This life isn’t the end!  Our faithful Creator will raise us to be with Him!  Our goal is to be in the presence of Jesus Himself, worshipping before the throne of God, fully satisfied in eternity with Him!  We know the way to Jesus!  And if I want to be fully with Him, there is no other way than to walk through death at His appointed time!  But death doesn’t last because He is LIFE!  Because Jesus rose from the dead, I will too, because I have placed myself in Him, as my ark of salvation, my ark of life, my ark of everything!  On behalf of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, because of who You are and what You have done and do, I can glorify God in all of this!  I am not without hope!  No matter what, I’m better than o.k.  I am Yours forever.

I can suffer pain now because I know that “…God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)  So, let me live like I believe this.  Let me live so that others, though they mock me, mark me as one of those Christians.  And let me live so that others can believe and have life eternal as well.

Persecution by Neglect?

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“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”  1 Peter 4:15

Peter is preparing me for suffering in this world and not just the regular suffering, but suffering because I believe in Jesus and follow You with my life.  His whole point is that I can expect ill treatment, unfair treatment simply based on the fact that my life is being lived in accord with You, Lord.  I will be insulted and more because of the way Your Holy Spirit leads me, because You are so different than the rest of the world and Your glory is foreign and scary to those who live according to the ways of self and the world.

But suffering because of my walk and relationship with You isn’t the only kind of suffering in this world.  There is suffering I can bring on myself, by defying Your will and by breaking man’s laws.  So Peter warns me.  “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”  Come on now, aren’t those extremes?  How do we get from murderer to a meddler as though they are all as bad?  But sin is sin.  Peter knew what Jesus had spoken on the topic.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)  So at first, maybe I read Peter’s words and I say, “Oh, I’m o.k. here.  I won’t ever murder anyone.  But what if I examine that according to Your interpretation, Lord?  How do I handle my anger?  Do I allow it to “kill” my love for someone?  Do I allow it to “kill” how I see a person, that I might judge them wrongly in other ways?  Does it “kill” my desire to lift them up and encourage them and instead I insult them?  Have I “killed’ their image in my eyes and traded them for a “fool” and “kill” them before others as I share that image?  Murder comes closer to home thinking of it this way, doesn’t it?

Wait, I’m a believer, I’m born-again, I’m saved, I’m a Christian.  I don’t steal any more.  I’m not a thief.  Maybe when I was 5 and I walked out of the store with that “For Sale” sign in my hand and my parents realized I still had it and they hadn’t payed for it by accident.  I’m careful now.  But am I?

Don’t suffer as a thief.  “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)  It’s one of the ten commandments.  And by easiest terms, it was thought of as stuff.  So we could simply understand, we thought don’t steal stuff, don’t take for yourself what belongs to someone else.  But is it just about stuff?  Can I be guilty of stealing other things that don’t belong to me?  Could I steal someone else’s glory by not giving them credit but accepting the credit as my own?  Could I steal someone else’s dignity by my actions toward them or words to or about them?  Really, I know this is true because You, Lord, said of the prophets, “Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbour.” (Jeremiah 23:30)

What does that mean?  How could a prophet steal Your words, Lord?  They would say what they want to say and attach it to the phrase, “thus sayeth the Lord” or “the burden of Jehovah.”  Those were what the true prophets would use to signify that what they were saying were words coming from God and not their own.  But these prophets were stealing God’s “authority” and making up their own words as though they were Yours.  They were misleading the people they should have been shepherding.  They were lying because they were saying they were Your words, when really they were just teaching what they wanted and not Your truth at all.  They waggled their own tongues the way they wanted to waggle them to deliver their own messages to people and pretended it came from God.  In so doing, they robbed the people of the truth.  They robbed the people of knowing and living in God.  They robbed God of His authority and His mercy.  I mean, Your authority and mercy are always Yours, Lord, and no one can take that away, but they robbed many people of knowing it. 

So, if that is an example of stealing, could I be guilty of stealing another person’s glory, or chance for mercy, or words, or something more?  Am I guilty of robbing You, God, of Your glory, authority, mercy, because I overstep my boundaries?  Do I steal from You by stepping in where You should be? 

And hey, me, an evildoer?  What?  You gotta be kidding!  Me, a bad doer?  Me, a criminal?  Me, a malefactor?  I don’t commit crimes, do I?  Am I guilty of violating laws?  Have I put myself in a place where I have to come under public prosecution or punishment?  Wait a minute!  Have I ever been issued a speeding ticket?  That’s breaking the law, isn’t it?  Am I supposed to think nothing of that?  Am I supposed to lessen any “bad” thing?  If I lessen certain “bad things” according to man’s law, am I liable to lessen those things deemed “bad” by You more easily?  If bad is bad, do I have the right to make any bad good?

And then we come to being a meddler, or in other terms “a busybody in other men’s matters.”  At first that seems a far cry from murder, but now not so far after all.  It’s actually based on a really big Greed word allotriepiskopos.  It’s a compound word too.  This is the only place in scripture where we find it.  Peter maybe even made up this word to get across what he wanted to say and wanted us to understand.  It means, “not one’s own overseer.”  It’s part of the same word translated sometimes as “shepherd.”  Think of it as a steward of an estate.  They are assigned to take care of another persons things or matters, right?  But this is a negative word and implies the person isn’t doing the job they were authorized to do, but they were taking it upon themselves to interfere in ways above their “calling.” 

It’s like when James asks, “Who are you to judge another?”  Yes, stewards are to judge but final judgment is not theirs.  Final judgment belongs to the master.  A steward can step out of his boundaries of authority and meddle in too much. 

It’s like a busybody.  The words in Greek mean to “work about, or to work around.”  You get busy with trifles.  Like you have a job mowing the property but you keep stopping and running off puttering around with this or that and you don’t finish the mowing.  We can be too busy with other people’s lives, other people’s faults to be taking care of our own life, our own walk.  I can be so busy watching over others I don’t watch over myself.  I don’t grow.  I don’t change.  I lose joy.  I miss out on You because I’m too busy stewarding what I’m not supposed to be stewarding.  I step out of my province into the authority of another and act as though I’m the authority.  I can be just too concerned with the affairs of others so that I don’t look at the affairs of my own heart.  I piddle with everything but my own lawn.  I attempt to fix the problems of others but my own yard stays in shambles, only partially mown.  Hey, but everybody else’s stuff looks great and I did that, right?  Only, my real responsibility is left wanting, growing weeds, left in need. 

I can’t help think that this is about wrong judgment.  Not like judging someone wrongly, but like judging your own self and responsibilities wrongly.  I think it still has to do with seeing that splinter in someone else’s eye and running to get it out when you’ve got a log in your own eye that you don’t take care of because you are too busy running after other people’s splinters.  Then you become a hypocrite and maybe no one else knows it, because you’ve become so skilled at taking care of other people’s business and avoiding the real business you should be taking care of. 

Yeah, it’s like avoiding the issues at home because it’s easier to help other people than to make the necessary changes for peace and unity at home.  It’s like throwing yourself into ministry because it’s easier than investing in the problems at home.  It’s a habit that’s been going on for so long that the neglected grass at home is so overgrown, you no longer even know where to begin.

When my daughter was young, she would let her bedroom get out of control like that.  And as she was cleaning, she would let herself get distracted by a book or something as she was going along.  It made the job so much harder and longer to finish and the heart just wasn’t in it.  So, I would help her focus on one area at a time, and together we would get the job done.  The problem wasn’t on the day she cleaned.  The problem was that she didn’t keep up her room.  There were other things that held her attention more and she let the problem build and build.  But now she’s an adult and married.  Now, because she loves her husband, she doesn’t let the rooms get like that any more.  And if, because of her little ones, she doesn’t get to it, it still doesn’t get to that overwhelming point.  Her husband is there to pitch in as well.  They don’t run over to clean other people’s houses first.  They don’t look at it and leave to clean elsewhere.  They take care of their own dirt first.  Then they are better equipped to help others rightly.

I need to know that I am taking care of the real things You have placed under my authority and not just making up my own agenda.  I need to know that I am being the steward you’ve called me to be of my home and family, without ignoring it and running to pitch in elsewhere.  And if I find that I’m ignoring the hard stuff, the real stuff you’ve given me, the grass I want to avoid, then I pray that I would  make the commitment to do a be what and who You created me to be to the people I ought to be caring for. 

Sometimes, the problem is that the grass is greener elsewhere.  But it’s really not, except for the fact that we’ve ignored our own grass for so long that it’s overgrown with weeds and hard to get back in shape.  And who’s fault is that?  But it’s fixable.  It’s just going to take wholehearted, undistracted attention and love.  See, this isn’t persecution.  This was caused by choice.  That’s why it’s lumped in with murder, stealing, and evildoing.  You chose this act.  You chose this path.  But you don’t have to stay here.  You can choose to be the steward of what God called you to steward first.  And you don’t have to do it alone.  “Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”  (Psalm 37:5)  Remember, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)  Maybe it’s time we made sure our “persecution” wasn’t coming from our own neglect, brought on by our own choices.