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Phil Joel

Posted on by Laura Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April Newsletter- Above Ability

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

C.S. Lewis once said: ‘If we consider the unblushing promises of rewards in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite Joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.’ I suppose we could express it as the need to evaluate what the world offers and compare those to love, peace, joy, freedom, and everlasting life. You can’t get those just anywhere; they’re only available in knowing Christ. That knowing is personal, not simply a logical opinion thing, but absorption has to take place. What exists about God externally needs to be applied inside us.

It’s been said that we are souls carrying around a body, emphasizing the priority of our souls over the flesh. If we are willing, it is our souls that are changed day by day and reflect the image of Christ we all hope for. It’s our souls that must become unsatisfied with the present life and seek a change. It’s our souls that long for something to fill the holes in our lives. Matthew 5:48 refers to being perfect. How many of us are going to pass that test? Actually, that scripture actually focuses on the process of saving the soul to the point of moving into completeness of God’s divine purpose in each of our lives. The Christian journey is about discovering the path that permits us to express the Spirit of Christ into other people’s lives. Bottom line, it’s our insides that can know God, our hearts. Once Christ is absorbed then the Life inside a believer can be expressed externally as Christ to those around us.

It’s not a rational, mental argument that takes place in our lives that creates Faith in Christ. I have seen the logical presented expertly and I’ve seen very intelligent and mature people, kind people, just walk away from that. The Spirit doesn’t change our minds, the Spirit changes our hearts. John 8:32 refers to a Truth that will be known and make us free, but it’s not an intellectual conversion, it’s an intimate, personal experience. It’s a bit more than just seeing a billboard and saying I agree with that. The Gospel is meant to be consumed–more about that later in this letter. It’s Jesus’ words finding a dwelling place. That requires that our hearts be open to and penetrated by the Holy Spirit of God. Belief cannot be willed; it must come from the heart. (Gal. 2:20, Eph 3:16, 1Cor. 3:16) Love and Faith are not logically attainable, they’re heart driven. When we accept Christ into our lives The Spirit dwells in our heart, not our brain. A relationship with Christ is personal; it’s much more than a cultural movement. (I’ve often wondered in my brain, which is greater- a culture that passes laws and gets the people to follow those or is the greater wonder the Spirit’s ability to change a heart. One forces behavior to change, the other changes the whole person: body, soul and spirit.)

It’s interesting reading scriptures that refer to the Pharisees’ behavior during crucifixion week. Those verses show people witnessing great deeds and powerful words. Jesus attempted to convince them of the presence of their long awaited Messiah, yet they opposed Him. They, like so much of the world today, couldn’t see or hear the obvious. Messiah giving wise advice and doing things no other man had ever done, and yet the Pharisees’ brains simply could not comprehend. Their eyes and ears were working, but they were blind and deaf in their hearts.

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world,” in another verse, “I am the resurrection.” He stated that he was the Way, the Truth and the Life. He’s referred to as the True Vine. He’s the Bread of Life. He’s described as the Door and uniquely called ‘the Good Shepherd’. In John 8:12, he’s declared the Light of Life. He is Living Water. Even simplifying it further, when asked by the women at the well if he was the Messiah, he tells us, ‘I am he.’ (We should always notice that the article ‘the’ used in biblical text always sets the expression as unique and exclusive to the subject of that conversation. It’s associated to the English word absolute. When ‘the’ is used it emphatically means he is the only one that is ‘the’.)

I wrote earlier of the necessity of having to consume the Gospel, not just observe and intellectually agree with it. Jesus tried to make that a pretty simple, natural process for us. As referenced above, he talked of being the bread, light, living water, and a communion of bread and wine; all are pretty common understandable examples of the necessity of Christ in our lives. We need daily bread to survive, we thirst, and we hunger. Eating of, drinking in, consuming Jesus’ Life was one of his best ways to illustrate the significance of choosing his teachings and burying them in our heart. All the above references require that the external has to be consumed internally to receive its benefit. The Gospel is the same. Christ lives within us, not simply around us.

Life is made up and explained in scripture using two Greek words: bio (we refer to that as biology) and zoe (life to the full, God-filled life). All bio life needs light. Plants die without it, men stumble like a blind man without it. Adam and Eve’s dying referenced in Genesis was not a physical death but a soulish one. Their dying occurred when they stepped into the darkness or simply the ignorance of God’s Love and Care. They believed a lie, stepped into foolishness about the Father and began a journey that man still takes today. Jesus came to bring Light to that ignorance and show the Truth to God’s creation once again. He came to up-root the Garden of Eden mistake.

Today, as with the Pharisees, opposition to Christ brings about a crisis. Proverbs 8:35, ‘those who find me find Life.’ (The reciprocal of that is simply the opposite of that scripture, without Jesus we will not find Life.) How do we do that Life? The closest thing I’ve been able to say that expresses the answer is simply to develop an attitude that we can’t do that, only the Spirit can do that. I have some friends and acquaintances that are not convinced the Spirit will do that. And some are afraid that He might. It’s similar to giving up control. Since we were crying in our cribs, we’ve been enticed to remain in control of every detail of our lives. The Gospel, to be experienced to the full, requires leaving a gap in our life for God to fill that gap. Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing. Sometimes we can ask for God to do things that might not be wise or appropriate, and we do that ‘in Jesus name’ but in our hearts it’s really asking in our name. Our prayers sometimes can be an architectural blue print of our plans and purpose rather than His. The promises of God for rest, freedom, joy, and peace are found in His plans, His reality more than in our own. My Prayer is to live life above my ability; to experience things that I cannot find on my own without God’s fingerprints on them.

It boils down to, can we know God? Jesus answered that in a conversation with Phillip. (John 14:8-9) The word for know that Phillip used was a Greek word related to seeing God. Jesus answered using the Greek word ginosko, meaning experiencing Him. According to Jesus words, The Father actually can be made known to us by seeing Christ Jesus, and experiencing Christ Life. Jesus indicated that he and the Father were One. To see one was to see the other. Jesus was the exact image of God. Observe his life, consume his words, and we experience the Father. Jesus came to do a remodel. He came to re-do the effect Adam had on our world. His effort to accomplish that is recorded in the way we express his purpose: re-deem, re-new, re-birth, re-create, doing that in our hearts.


March Newsletter-Missed God

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

I recently had someone talking to me about how they were discouraged that they had ‘missed God’ because of some of their selfish decisions. Seems her Christian journey had many unexpected, unwanted, unfair and sad turns along the way, and she really felt that she no longer had a chance to get back on the road ‘as the Father leads’ and experience life as the Father would have it for her. My first response was natural and easy, ‘I’m not sure that’s possible with God.’ Our God never leaves us, does not condemn; from God’s perspective I’m not sure He ever gives up on us. His characteristic is to wait for any opportunity to bless, share His Life with us. To me, the Gospel appears to always be in rescue mode, healing mode, compassion mode. It is true we can walk away from Him, we can say no but that walk is on us not Him. True, our road can be rocky, have some hills to climb, but the Gospel of Jesus appeared specifically to straighten that road out, level it. Simply put, God’s sole purpose is to help you find His purpose for you. His dream is for us to catch a glimpse of a Life with Him. I think we can be assured that instead of missing God, our Father, His Son and Spirit are more interested in not missing an opportunity to miss you. God is always ready, always present and any time is a perfect time to step into our lives. Jesus came for people and to gather people into a new and better life. He ministered for 3 years and never declared anything but Love-of-God for people the whole time. He didn’t come to prove deity, did not come to seek His own praise, He came to save!

A big part of having that kind of confidence in our Father is simply knowing that Jesus came for one purpose: to reveal the Father, Son, Spirit to us. Jesus came to reveal, to redeem, to set us free. There was no other agenda. He healed to show the Trinity’s compassion for us. He didn’t come to be praised but to share with us what praising God could do for our hearts, not His. Remember, He does not seek His own. (1Cor. 13) Jesus came to embrace us as much as anything else. To express how much He valued you, Jesus shed His blood, gave up His very breath, to make sure you considered what kind of price he was willing to give so that you might find Life as the Father would have it for you. Jesus did not come to bring a how-to-book, did not come only to establish another moral or ethical system, and did not come to start a new religion. Jesus came to reveal the heart of God so that we might come to know Him. Know Him so personally we could say and believe that the Spirit of Christ lives in us. Now stop right there. That’s a pretty heavy, serious statement for any person to say. Can you, do you believe that? It’s like Gospel 101. It’s one of the first things to learn in order for Christ to be experienced in our lives. Again, Christ lives in our hearts! Christ co-habits there accompanied by our mind-will-emotions. But given the chance, He can and desires to dominate the others. This is an important feature of our Faith: I’m not asking all the time does it feel likes that’s true, not asking does your ‘thinker’ always think that. The question that needs answering is not either one of those, instead, simply is that true no matter what I might feel like, or what I might be thinking. Christ in you should dominate whatever our mind-will-emotion might whisper to us.

Creation was the gift of life (bio), Grace and Mercy is the Gift of well living (zoe)… God’s Grace and Mercy bless believers with a Life that is better than Creation alone can give. (Remember, Mercy is not getting what we do deserve; Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.) The Gospel is more than biology; it’s zoe Life to the full; simply, completeness of body, soul and spirit. The Gospel is not progressive, moving toward to a new, never experienced life; actually it’s much more about going back. Jesus is the way back to the original relationships of God and Man in the Garden of Eden, doing that through the blood stains of the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a Gospel not toward a more complex understanding of Life as the Father would have it for you, but actually toward simplicity, coming to it described by Jesus as a child. We are to be re-deemed, re-stored, re-birthed, re-surrected back to relationship.

That Garden brought Peace. That’s not a humanly defined peace without sadness, conflicts or violence, but is God’s Peace based upon knowing we are redeemed. It’s a calm created by knowing God’s purpose for your life. In Eden, Man turned their vision from God’s Life into one where they thought the best future was by becoming gods of their own lives. That’s still Man’s emphasis today. God’s vision in Eden was that Man would know Him, it was not that Man would be Him. Most of today’s troubles are created by Man trying to set up their little kingdoms; ruling and reigning as king over all. In reality, the Peace we need is found in Christ’s promises rather than the promises the world keeps offering.

It’s always been interesting to me, and wonderful to think about, but in the first of The Book, Genesis 15:1, in the middle of The Book, in Luke 2:10 and at the end of The Book, Revelation 1:17, God’s word to us is ‘Fear not’. It reminds me that Christ is the first and the last; He is the beginning and the end. I’ve done some reading on the Greek words in those scriptures and it’s important to their understanding to note that the word ‘not’ found there is more emphasized than just being a suggestion not to fear. It’s a word that comes with a command in it. It’s not simply a ‘hope this helps’ kind of word it’s an affirmative ‘do not!’ Its emphasis is ‘to be in awe of.’ Paraphrased, maybe it would be like this: ‘do not fear, but be so amazed in God because He and He alone, casts out fear.’ Consequently, the daily observance of the world around me, a world seemingly defined by Man, should not frighten us.

So, here we are; many of us looking for Jesus’ return, some fervently praying come quickly Lord. Absolutely, we should pray for our re-union, that’s for sure. However, I do want to go back a few paragraphs and re-emphasize ‘Christ in us.’ That Spirit, the Comforter, has come, lives inside believer’s hearts. That Spirit can be depended on to Lead and to be Present right now, today, at any moment. Romans (10:8) preaches of Christ now, close, and personal. In James 2:23, the author describes God Himself as the friend of Abram. One reason I write a letter such as this letter is because of a very early ‘favorite’ scripture found in Isa. 42:3. ‘A bruised reed He shall not break, smoking flax He shall not quench.’ That scripture changed a whole lot of my life years ago. I had come to believe that was the heart of God toward His people. At the time, I certainly qualified as broken and bruised back then, or even now, and it took awhile before that ember in my heart for Christ became a flaming fire.

In closing, be kind to me and let me finish the letter with this. I need your kindness because I’m going to use a secular song to make a point. Back in 1971, when I was just a pup, James Taylor’s song ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ won the Grammy Award as the song of the year. I’m sure, not too many (probably not even James, or Carol King who wrote it), heard it how I heard it, but to me I could hear the Gospel in it. That song back then and even today conjures up Jesus thoughts in me. So here we go; my apologies (but with a smile)…

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some lovin’ care
And nothin’, nothin’ is goin’ right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night
You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin’
To see you again
If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knockin’ at your door
You just call out my name
And you know, wherever I am
I’ll come runnin’, runnin’, yeah, yeah
To see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there, yes, I will
Now, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend