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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain." - 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV
The word "gospel" is an English tweak of an old Anglo-Saxon term "godspel," which loosely translated means "a God story." Thus, when we "preach the gospel," we are telling God's story to the hearers. If what we are speaking is not God's story, then we cannot rightfully maintain that we are speaking the gospel. Simply labeling our words as gospel does not make it so that they are.

From a New Testament perspective, what we translate as "gospel" is the Greek word euangellion. It is from this term that we derive the English word "evangel" or "evangelist." Euangellion simply means "good news," or "good message." God's story is a message of good news.

You may recall the angel (angellion) in Luke chapter two who came to the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth. He came with a good message - glad tidings of great joy. That is the emphasis of our first Attribute of God's Story.

It is Good News


There is an indistinct line of demarcation between those who inspire hope with their gospel message and those who inspire fear with a somewhat different message. To assess the message of the gospel by listening to some of these latter preachers, one could quickly conclude that there is no good news. The message is that I am bad, dirty, valueless. Where is the good news? Where is the grace? Where is the love? I have exited some of these presentations having heard, "You're going straight to hell, son, and I'm glad to hold the door for you!" It is a message of despair and fear.

I understand the necessity of conviction as it relates to my sinfulness before God, but it is not the task of a hellfire and brimstone preacher to bring about that conviction. Jesus said in John 16:8 that it is the Holy Spirit who will convict the world regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment.

The good news is that we have a redeemer, one who bought us out of the desperate state we were in. The good news is that there is love, love so deep and extensive that it made that redemptive purchase at the price of blood.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." - John 3:16, NRSV

That is very good news! That is the "glorious gospel." (2 Corinthians 4:4)

It is Declared


The gospel is something that must be spoken before those who need to hear it. This task of speaking is not relegated to some special class of believer - pastors, evangelists, and the like. It is my task, as it is yours. It is the responsibility of those to whom the gospel has been entrusted, those of us with that gospel treasure in earthen vessels. (2 Corinthians 4:7). The apostle Paul told the church in Rome:

"For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" - Romans 10:13-14

Likewise, Jesus charged us with this same task in Matthew 28 when delivering the self-perpetuating command.

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." - Matthew 28:18b-20a

It is Received


The gospel is not merely heard. James tells us to be doers of what we hear. (James 1:22) It is not even merely believed. Even the demons believe, and they tremble! (James 2:19) The gospel is received. It is accepted and taken in. It is embraced and owned. It is active and effective in the life of the one who has received it.

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." - John 1:12-13

It is Bedrock


Paul describes the gospel as that upon which we stand (1 Corinthians 15:1). It is a bedrock, a firm foundation.

"For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 3:11, ESV

The foundation of the gospel has been laid, and it is there that we take our stand. The Psalmist says God is our rock and our salvation, and from that truth we will not be moved! (Psalm 62:6) God said, through Isaiah, that he was laying a foundation stone in Zion, a tested and precious cornerstone, a sure foundation. (Isaiah 28:16)

It is Saving


Given that the gospel is the bedrock, the foundation, if we hold fast to it, it is the gospel by which we are saved! (1 Corinthians 15:1) To the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul described it as "the gospel of our salvation." (Ephesians 1:13)

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." - John 3:17

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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Late last evening, following the completion of a tiring "garage project" I relaxed with some cheese and crackers, and an episode of the retro series, Gunsmoke. This particular episode featured a family working its way toward California. There was no mother; just a nasty, selfish, hard father with his two cowering sons and terrified daughter.

This beastly man was fully self-indulgent, mean to the core, and willing to whore out his daughter in order to line his own pockets. He commanded absolute obedience from his three children. Life was lived the way it was lived, "...because I said so." Obedience was unquestioned, else one meet with the back of the father's hand.

This man was the antithesis of our Heavenly Father, whom the Bible describes as the very essence of love. It is not that God is "loving," but rather that love is the very core of God's character. It is in that verity that David can say:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
- Psalm 1:1-2, NASB

We delight in God's Law, that which many (even Christ-followers) find harsh and burdensome. The Law of our gracious God is a source of joy and contentment to those of us who love him. The apostle Paul, a man who taught, loved, and lived grace said of the Law that he delighted in it (Romans 7:22), that it was "holy, just, and good." (Romans 7:12)

King David described the Law of God in anything but harsh and oppressive terminology. His attitude toward God's Law could not have been more glowing.

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.


The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.


The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.


They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
- Psalm 19:7-10, NASB

The 119th Psalm lists more than two dozen beneficial attributes of God's Law. There we see such things as "blessed," "great peace," "delight," "wonderous," all referring to God's Law and those who walk in it. Through walking in obedience, I experience God's goodness firsthand. I "taste and see that the Lord is good," and I am blessed for taking refuge in him (Psalm 34:8).

Jesus, himself, said that he came not to destroy, but rather to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17-18), and to redeem us from its curse (Galatians 3:13). We also know from Exodus 12:49 that the Law was not for the Jews alone, but also for those Gentiles who sojourned among them.

We know the Law cannot save us. That was never its intent. Neither do we become "more acceptable" in God's eyes through our obedient behavior. Our Father in Heaven loves us regardless, and he bathes us in grace through all of our stumbles and failures.

We cross a threshold in understanding, however, when we shift from seeing obedience as a burden or a duty, to seeing it as a joy. The mature Christ-follower is one who delights in walking obediently with the Lord (Psalm 37:4). Indeed, how can we not rejoice unendingly when our loving and merciful God of is the treasure of our heart?

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?"
- Micah 6:8, ESV


Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Twitter - @DamonJGray


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In 1984, I listened as a missionary described a conversation he had with a cab driver from a country that views Christianity with great skepticism. The missionary hoped to learn what it is about the Christian faith that the man found so difficult to believe. He asked about belief in a supreme being. He asked about miracles. He asked about scripture, and more. Finally, the missionary asked outright, "What is it about Christianity that is so difficult for you to accept?" Without hesitation the cab driver replied, "Gods do not become humans."

The Son of Man


The most prominent way Jesus referred to himself, was as the Son of Man, doing so eighty-one times in the gospel accounts. This seems to be a reference back to something the prophet Daniel said long before the birth of Jesus:

"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed." - Daniel 7:13-14, ESV
Following the resurrection, John saw Jesus once again, and he described him standing among the lampstands as "one like a son of man." (Revelation 1:13)

Jesus is undeniably the Son of God, but he seems to want us to know him as the Son of Man. It is as though he knew that it would be easier for us to accept him as Immanuel, God with us, but that it would be difficult for us to accept him as fully human, just like us. It is tempting to look at Jesus and see him as a man with an inside edge, a deity card up his sleeve that he could pull out any time he needed it. The writer of Hebrews, recognizing this difficulty, addressed it in this way:

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:15-16, ESV
And again, in this way:

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same... - Hebrews 1:13a, NASB
"Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted." - Hebrews 1:17-18, NASB
Jesus experienced pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue, sorrow, anger, temptation. He knows what it means to experience extreme stress. When he ascended to heaven, he did so in a human body. And to this day, he retains his identity with us, as the Son, being forever subjected to the Father who put all things under his feet.

The apostle Paul states very clearly to the church in Philippi that God took on flesh, being made in the likeness of men, and allowed himself to be put to death on a cross, thus confirming what is said in John’s gospel that the creator God became flesh and dwelt (literally "pitched his tent") among us. Thus, Jesus is God, and Jesus is man.

So What?


What difference does any of this make one way or the other? It must make some difference or have some level of importance if Jesus used that phrase so many times to refer to himself. For example:

"And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'" - Matthew 8:20, ESV
We first see this phrase in Psalm 8:4 where David asks, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?" Seemingly, David has in mind all descendants of Adam, but the writer of Hebrews specifically applies this passage to Jesus (Hebrews 2:6), saying that this had to be the case in order for him to taste death for every man and woman. Only then, as the perfect, sinless man, could Jesus be our representative before God.

Consider this - many times we have record of Satan or his demons recognizing and acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God. Not once do they ever refer to him as the Son of Man. Now, that has to capture our attention! Carry that forward to today. No other faith on the planet, including occult, pantheistic religions, even "New Age" philosophy will confess that Jesus is the Son of Man, God incarnate. They simply cannot go there.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God." - 1 John 4:2-3a
The Son of God and Son of Man he is. And we shall one day see him as such in all his glory in eternity - as one like unto a Son of Man. (Revelation 1:13, 14:14).

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Twitter - @DamonJGray


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In the opening of the Gospel of John we have a beautiful description of God incarnate, coming to "pitch his tent" among humanity. In the midst of that description is this beautiful, poetic line:

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." - John 1:16, ESV
As though grace were not enough, we, the followers of the Christ, have received grace upon grace, abundant grace, grace flowing out of grace, overwhelming grace. It is a gift of immeasurable worth, one Jesus described as a treasure hidden in a field that a man sold everything he had in order to secure. (Matthew 13:44)

We frequently refer to the "gift of God's grace," (Ephesians 2:8) but rarely look at how closely those two words and concepts are related. Paul told the church at Ephesus:

"Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power." - Ephesians 3:7, ESV
We are pressing through Thanksgiving, and into the full-on Christmas season very soon. There will be much gift-giving. As English speakers, we do not see any natural correlation between gifts and grace. It does not occur to me to think of the gift-giving Christmas event in terms of grace, but to the Greek mind, that relationship is embedded in the very language used to describe the two concepts.

To the Greek, charis (kah - rees) is grace, and the gift, is charisma. The link between the gift and the grace is unmistakable!

The apostle Peter teaches us that every believer has received a gift that is to be used in serving as stewards of God's grace.

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace." - 1 Peter 4:10
The greatest gift we have is the gift of grace, the charisma of charis that was poured into our lives through the calling of God's spirit to the gospel of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. This same gift of grace was proclaimed boldly by Peter on the day of Pentecost, and the days following, when men and women by the thousands were coming to saving faith in Jesus, and we are told that "great grace was upon them all." Acts 4:33 The gift, grace, and message combine in a powerful way to change men and women, pulling us from death to life.

Ultimately, grace is all we need, yet we have received grace upon grace. The apostle Paul pleaded with God repeatedly to remove a specific affliction that he referred to only as a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). This thorn made him "weak" and prevented him from falling victim to conceit. When he pleaded with God to remove this affliction, God explained to him that its removal was not necessary.

"But [God] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" 2 Corinthians 12:9a, ESV
You don't need the thorn removed Paul. All you need is my grace, the gift of the grace. Read it from the paraphrase, "The Message."

"and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:9, MSG
If you stand in the grace of God, everything else is serendipitous. It is grace upon grace, because the gift of God's grace is truly all we need. Perhaps not all that we want, but certainly all we need.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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I first heard the phrase in the 1970s when I was investigating the Christian religious system. I am now 56, and it makes no more sense to me today than it did when I was 14.

The scenario will run something like this: Someone in a leadership capacity will ask if there are any requests for prayer, meaning "group" prayer. As members of the group are sharing praises or concerns that they would like the others in the room to share in, or to pray over, someone will offer a response along the lines of, "I have an unspoken prayer request." There is an oxymoron if I ever saw or heard one - "unspoken request."

In some cases, the the unspoken request practice is so deeply encultured that requesters can use a verbal shorthand and say, "I have 'an unspoken,'" or even shorter hand - a single word - "unspoken." With the younger crowd, this typically unchains a volley of "me-too" requests that are likewise unspoken. So we end up with five fully-vocalized requests for prayer regarding specific, articulated needs, and thirteen "unspokens."

The idea behind "the unspoken" is that person X has something they want to ask of God, and they want me to ask it as well on their behalf, but in some sense they want the request to remain just between them and God, but they really don't want that because they want me to pray with them and/or on behalf of them, but I can't know what it is I am supposed to be praying about. At this point, I do not know who the request is for, what it is about, or what the expected outcome is. I really know nothing at all, yet I am being asked to petition God for some sort of intervention. It is an absurdity! I cannot "pray in faith" about an issue of which I know nothing.

Trust

The unspoken aspect of a prayer request says, "I do not trust you with my issue, but I want you to indulge me by praying for it anyway." It is not possible for me to intercede on your behalf, to petition the heavenly Father regarding your need, when I do not have any idea what I am wrestling over in prayer. I am resigned to "God, I really like Tom. He's got a problem. Help him." There you go. Done.

I understand that there may be valid reasons for not sharing specifics with the body of Christ as a whole. Sometimes it involves pain, fear, embarrassment. If you are not comfortable sharing whatever is the content of the unspoken request with the group as a whole, then the setting in which you are making the request for that specific issue is not the proper setting for the request. When the request cannot be spoken in this context, it is best to hold it for a context in which it can be spoken. Better to pull aside a trusted brother or sister in Christ, and take the request to God in a private room, or a quiet corner in the room we currently occupy.

Furthermore, if the environment in which the unspoken is spoken really is that unsafe, it says something rather unflattering about the lack of unconditional love and the judgmental posture of that body of believers. It may be time to find a new group with which to identify, one that can nurture and encourage your faith; one you trust with no fear.

Transparency

If your unspoken issue is about unconfessed sin, know that it is all going to come out at some future point anyway. It is better to just put your rock on the table now.

"Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops." - Luke 12:3, NASB

Refusing transparency and vulnerability places walls between fellow believers. It makes true friendship, trust, and brotherhood nearly impossible. Prayer, at its core, is a vulnerable practice. Consider the extreme vulnerability of James 5:16.

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed." - James 5:16, NASB

Judgment

But if I confess real sin, I'll be judged.

Maybe. But if so, that is an indictment of the people around you more than it is an indictment of you. Again, you may need to find a different gathering of Christ-followers with which to identify. In a healthy body of believers, what is more likely to happen is that people will nod their heads in agreement, thinking, Yep. I've been down that road, and even worse roads than that. Then, not only can they support you in prayer, but they can also offer practical guidance to help get you off the bad road and onto a good one.

Burdens

I cannot bear your burden when I do not know what that burden is.

"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2, ESV

It is not possible for me to ease your burden when I am completely in the dark regarding what is troubling you. By refusing to reveal the subject matter of the request for prayer, you are essentially refusing to offload any of the burden. You have kept the entire load on your own shoulders rather than surrendering it to God.

Sometimes a request for prayer reveals a need that can be met by God through someone in the group before which you lay the request. Let's say your washing machine is broken, you cannot afford to fix it, and now you're laundering your children's clothing in the bathtub. The ability to resolve that situation may exist right there in your church family. If not, there may be finances available for you to hire the repair. But none of this is possible because you are unwilling to reveal the true nature of the issue.

Rejoicing

If a request for prayer is "unspoken," then it follows that neither can the answer to that prayer be revealed. Let's hypothesize that you are wanting prayers from the believing community because you are battling a heroin addiction. You're embarrassed by and ashamed of the addiction, so you offer up "an unspoken." Let's further hypothesize that God mercifully grants you freedom from the addiction. No one will ever know, and no one can rejoice with you.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." - Romans 12:15, ESV

The believing community has now been robbed of a very powerful testimony - victory over a cruel addiction.

Accountability

Sometimes a request for prayer lacks detail because revealing the truth of my situation opens me up to accountability. If you know of my heroin addiction, not only will you pour yourself out in prayer, agonizing on my behalf, but you will also hold me accountable to myself and to God - to deny the demands of my flesh, to break the pattern of addiction.

Or, let's say I am in a really bad place emotionally.

Suppose I have just had a blow-out argument with my neighbor, I am exceedingly angry and want God to rain down fire on his house, burning it to the ground. I may have even prayed for that in the car on the way to the meeting. And when I make this prayer need/request known to the group, not only are they going to refuse to join me in that prayer, they are going to talk to me about anger control, and may pray that prayer instead.

But - what if I offer that up as "an unspoken?" Now, what is the group going to do? Well, God is not going to burn down my neighbor's house, so we are good to go there, but what about the accountability? The group cannot help me with my anger management, because I unspoke my issue! The group cannot minister to me. They cannot help me. I have robbed them of that opportunity.



It is true that God hears what we have no words for, and that he knows needs in our lives when we may yet be unaware of them. It is true that Holy Spirit intervenes on our behalf with "groanings that cannot be uttered." (Romans 8:26) None of that, however, is identified with the group experience of corporate prayer. When I ask for prayer from the body, I am asking for the community to agree with me on the specifics of my request.

"Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven." - Matthew 18:18-19, ESV

The reality is, there should be no need for the unspoken request among Christ-followers. The body of Christ must be the safest place on earth to share the most painful truths, knowing we will be instantly surrounded by the supporting love of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is the one place we can be real, and truly unburden ourselves.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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


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