contact@damonjgray.org   P.O. Box 281, Lynden, WA 98264   @damonjgray  


Blog

Weekly Observations and Commentary

Long-View Living in a Short-View World

Blog Image
© 2019 Robert Metz. All Rights Reserved. Unsplash
Used by permission.

Our worship leader at Victory Christian Fellowship is a deeply talented young man, able to play multiple musical instruments, and equally able to draw the gathering of worshipers reverently before the throne of God.

While I appreciate these qualities in him, I appreciate even more his sensitivity to the fact that, as Christ-followers, we have a rich heritage of God-honoring music on which to draw, when the current trend is to feed the congregation a diet of what is on the radio this week. It is incumbent upon us to find the richness of worship both in what the Newsboys have to say, and in "Great is Thy Faithfulness."

Anchors and Cornerstones

Consider the truth of this 1800s hymn from Priscilla Owens and William Kirkpatrick.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'Whoever believes will not be in haste.'" - Isaiah 28:16, ESV

Isaiah 28:16 is another of the great Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures. It promises a Savior, one who is steadfast, unmoving, one from whom we can draw sure direction, a solid, tested, cornerstone. The cornerstone is that first foundation stone that is placed, and it is laid as precisely as possible so that the entirety of the remaining construction project can be trued-up to that one, perfect stone.

Jesus is that promised cornerstone. One telling reality about this prophecy is that once it was delivered, God waited 700 years to fulfill it. Clearly God was not "in haste."

In Crisis Mode

Contemporary society is always in a hurry, and seemingly in non-stop "crisis mode." When I was in elementary school, I recall being terrified of freezing to death because we were taught of the global cooling "crisis" and the looming ice age. We had to do something right away to avert the crisis that was bearing down on us. It never arrived.

Conversely, today, social media is rife with nasty word-wars over the new "crisis" of global-warming. The polar ice is going to melt, and Manhattan Island was supposed to be underwater five or ten years ago.

In my lifetime, I have lived through a paper-shortage crisis, an electricity crisis, a gasoline shortage crisis, an ongoing morality crisis, an AIDS crisis, multiple hurricane/tornado/earthquake crises, a housing crisis - well, you get the idea. When everything is a crisis, nothing is a crisis.

A crisis well-presented generates an atmosphere of urgency, and elevates the chances of capturing your target's responsiveness and sense of obligation. In the workplace, this has become known as "Time Panic."

Did you see my email with the big red exclamation point? Yeah, I need that spreadsheet by noon!

Really? Or what? The company goes bankrupt? We all die? My cat will bite my leg? What is the applicable crisis here?

Our obsession with immediacy has led to work atmospheres in which individual needs trump group goals. In this, my need outweighs your focus and overrides the inappropriateness of me interrupting you. This practice has led to the new workplace specialization - "Interruption Management."

To combat interruptions, and the corresponding drops in quality and productivity, some companies are implementing mandated "Quiet Times" in which no one is allowed to interrupt anyone else for any reason. For example, we may set a Quiet Time from 8:00 am to 11:00 am and another from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

God, Crisis Mode, and Time Management

I can think of no crisis, true crisis, greater than humanity's need for salvation from sin, salvation from ourselves. Yet from the time Adam and Eve bit the forbidden fruit to the arrival of Jesus, we have literally thousands of years to account for.

Crisis? Did God not understand the immediacy of the need?

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law. - Galatians 4:4, NASB

God did not "make haste," yet we know that God always keeps his promises. His watch just ticks differently than ours does. There was a time when the world was not ready for a Savior, and there was a time when we were. God knew that the "fullness of time" had come. We were ready.

If we ignore this reality, we run the risk of dashing out in "crisis mode" and leaving God in the dust, rather than waiting for him to lead his people. Zeal is commendable. Zeal, however, not tempered by the leading of God's Holy Spirit, and oriented to the Cornerstone of Jesus Christ, is a shotgun in the hands of an infant.

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. - Isaiah 30:18, NASB

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! - Psalm 27:14, ESV

Jesus, the Cornerstone, the Anchor is risen and governing from the right hand of the throne of God Almighty. There is no crisis, no crisis whatsoever, but that he is still in control.

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. [and hang on to this truth -->] And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. - Colossians 1:15-17, ESV
Jesus is holding it all together. Indeed, he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). Nothing is going to fully fly apart at the seams until Jesus lets go. And nothing is going to hold together once he does!

We have an Anchor, a Cornerstone. The sky is not falling. Rest in the Lord, my friends. Rest confidently in Jesus.

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Minds - @DamonJGray
Bible Gateway Blogger Grid
YouTube Channel


Comments

Add Comment:

Please note: Long-View Living Administration reserves the right to delete any and all comments that are deemed to be snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy here.

        




Blog Image
© 2019 anna-m. w. All Rights Reserved. Pexels
Used by permission.

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Randy Alcorn, the founder of Eternal Perspective ministries. Speaking of popular or notorious leaders, Randy said, "The greatest danger of notoriety is you start thinking about you. People, then, exist to serve you, exactly the opposite of what Christ modeled."

Succinct and powerful.

Aside from the personal ego that under-girds such a mentality, the problem is further exacerbated by the tendency of the flock at large to place human beings on thrones or altars. Oh, we would never characterize it in such a way because that denotes worship, and we would never even contemplate worshiping another human being.

Or would we?

Idolatry

Contemporary Christian society abounds with examples of throngs of disciples gazing reverently as their favorite pastor preaches powerfully from the podium, or their favorite author orates at a book signing, a conference or a workshop. Worshipers scream wildly as members of their favorite band have just taken the stage and are about to strike the first chord. Multitudes crowd around the keynote speaker at a conference or lectureship, hungry for a signature, a photo-op or just a handshake.

A few years back, I knew a woman who was completely taken with the pastor of a large church. She attended all five weekend services, sitting in the first two or three rows listening to the same sermon over and over just so she could adore the pastor. It was idol worship, without question.

Similarly, I have been to a number of Christian concerts where members of the audience can barely contain their enthusiasm for the band members, and in truth, the band members often feed on that and encourage it. I have also been to concerts where the band functioned within a worship-leader model, and those were beautiful experiences.

When I worked in full-time ministry, I made an annual pilgrimage to a week-long lectureship in southern California. Every year a number of recognizable names would be on the speaking docket. Without fail at the close of each keynote address, a horde of people would crowd around the poor keynoter to have their brush with celebrity. It was idolatry.

Pride

Satan appealed to Eve's pride in the garden (Genesis 3:6), telling her she would be just like God. He made a similar appeal to Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:6), offering him authority and glory. Satan makes similar offers to our egos today. Be on your guard! "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6).

In the book of Acts, Chapter 14, we read of an incident involving Paul and Barnabus in the city of Lystra as they preached the gospel of Jesus. While there, Paul had occasion to speak healing into a man who had never walked. Well, suffice it to say, this blew the people's minds. They concluded that Paul and Barnabus were Hermes and Zeus come down in the flesh, and they began worshiping them as such.

What do you do when the people respond to you more forcefully than is warranted? Paul and Banabus became alarmed, tore their garments and rushed into the crow shouting, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men, of like nature with you." Even then Paul and Barnabus had a difficult time preventing the people from sacrificing to them.

Caution

Caution is warranted on both sides of this equation. On one side we have pride and ego, which may be one of Satan's favorite and most effective tools, while on the other side, we have idolatry, something so subtle and nefarious we may not even realize how deeply we have slipped into it.

The apostle Paul teaches us to honor those to whom our care is given, the shepherds of the flock. There is a healthy manner in which this can be carried out, just as there is a manner in which it can be abused, and again, from both sides. It is easy for those given charge of the flock to get an inflated opinion of themselves, just as it is easy for the flock to become so impressed with the pastor, author, musician, keynoter, that we ascribe to them honor that morphs into worship.

Keep your eyes of adoration fixed on Jesus, the Chief Shepherd.

One Body

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. - Romans 12:3-5, NIV-1973

Every member of the body of Christ is essential, and no one member is to be exalted above the other (1 Corinthians 12:16-20). And no part of the body can say to any other part/member "I really don't need you" (1 Corinthians 12:21-26).

Not only is each of us an absolutely essential part of the whole, we are (every one of us) mutually dependent on one another. Once we understand that reality, there is room left for neither idol worship nor personal pride. Furthermore, we are all equal in relation to Christ, and we have no basis for telling Jesus that one part of His body is of less valuable than any other part of the body.

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? - 1 Corinthians 4:7

Look around you this weekend. See the wild diversity in your corporate worship assembly, and as you do so, say to yourself, "I need these people."

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Bible Gateway Blogger Grid
YouTube Channel


Comments

Add Comment:

Please note: Long-View Living Administration reserves the right to delete any and all comments that are deemed to be snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy here.

        




Blog Image
© 2019 Wyron A. All Rights Reserved. Unsplash
Used by permission.

Those of you who know who Deputy Barney Fife is, know that Barney could not keep a secret if his life depended on his doing so. Barney enjoyed proving that he was "in the know."

Sometimes things need to be held in confidence. In my work, I have access to all of the data for every employee in the company, and much of that data is sensitive, not for public knowledge. It has to be treated with the utmost confidence.

The ability to keep a confidence is a mark of maturity. "He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets. Therefore do not associate with a gossip." (Proverbs 20:19, NASB).

Sometimes it is not so much an issue of confidence, but just need to know. There are things we cannot know, things we should not know, and things we simply do not need to know.

Following the resurrection, but prior to ascending to heaven, Jesus was spending time with his disciples. The disciples did not yet understand the nature of the kingdom Jesus was going to establish. They were still fixated on a military overthrow of the Roman occupation under which the Jews were living. Throw 'em out of here Jesus. Get that Roman boot off of our necks!

So the disciples asked Jesus, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6b, ESV)

Jesus did not answer the disciples' question, but used the occasion as a teachable moment.

He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority." - Acts 1:6, ESV

Similarly, Jesus addressed the time of his return, saying that no one knows, though almost 250 failed predictions have been made by various "in the know" crackpots and religious groups since the day Jesus ascended. What is somewhat surprising is that Jesus, himself, does not know when that will occur.

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only ... Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." - Matthew 24:36, 42, ESV

Some information is reserved for God alone, and really, in our finiteness, we will be astonished in that day when we finally realize just how much we do not know and do not understand.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
- Psalm 139:6, ESV
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
- Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV

God has graciously revealed to us as much as we need to know, and that should suffice. The Psalmist says "My times are in your hand," and there is no other hand I want to be in. The Alpha and Omega knows the future and controls it. He is the inventor of time, and as such has all authority over it.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. - James 4:14, NIV-1973
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matthew 6:34, NIV-1973

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Bible Gateway Blogger Grid
YouTube Channel


Comments

Add Comment:

Please note: Long-View Living Administration reserves the right to delete any and all comments that are deemed to be snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy here.

        




Blog Image
© 2019 Igor Rodrigues. All Rights Reserved. Unsplash
Used by permission.

Those of you who follow my writings know that I have a quirky manner of self-reference, and it is entirely deliberate. I rarely use the term "Christian," choosing instead to say "follower after Christ," or on other occasions, simply, "Christ-follower."

The term "Christian" is found only three times in Scripture, the first reference being Acts 11:26b, "and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." As a young believer, I was taught that this application of "Christian" to the disciples was something of a disparagement, a slight. The truth is, there is nothing in the text to indicate that. It was just a descriptive term that fit their allegiance, so that's what they were called, much the same way those who lived in Parthia were called Parthians, or those who lived in Ephesus were Ephesians.

Over time, however, the term Christian took on an increasingly negative tone, and it does appear to be used as a term of reproach. The second time we come across the term "Christian" was a several years following the Antioch reference above, and by this time, I believe the appellation was widely used and understood by the general populace.

In this second reference, the apostle Paul was on trial, and being bounced between Caesarean Governors Felix and Festus, and King Aggrippa. In this case, Festus, trying to impress and score points with Aggrippa, threw what was essentially a party, and there invited Paul to plead his case to the king.

As Paul made his defense before King Aggrippa, his presentation elicited two reactions, the first from Festus in which he shouted, "Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind" (Acts 26:24b), and the second from King Aggrippa:

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?" - Acts 26:28, ESV

The response of Aggrippa does indicate even the slightest tone of arrogance or superiority. Perhaps even incredulity. "It's going to take a lot more than that, Paul, to persuade me!"

More time passed, and oppression escalated against those who wore the name of Christ. Persecution was widespread, and the term "Christian" was indeed a term of contempt and disgust. It is in this vein that the apostle Peter proclaimed that none should be ashamed to wear the name of Christ.

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 is difficult to imagine that Peter does not recall his own denial of Christ during Jesus' mock trial, or the time the Sanhedrin had council had the apostles beaten for preaching in Jesus' name, commanding them to speak no further in this man's name (Acts 5:40-42).

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. - 1 Peter 4:16, ESV

In much the same way, Jesus cautioned us against being ashamed of him.

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. - Mark 8:38, ESV

I do not self-reference using the term Christian, but it is not out of a sense of shame. There is scarcely anyone who is even loosely affiliated with me that does not know I am a follower after Christ. No, I do not use the term Christian because in today's western society the word is so bastardized that it is essentially devoid of meaning.

Some of the most godless celebrities of our day wear the Christian label, and sport gaudy cross jewelry and tattoos, not out of any love for the cross or the crucified and resurrected Lord, but because it is fashionable to do so. Others, equally clueless regarding what the life of a disciple entails, identify as Christian simply on the basis of where they were born.

I choose to self-reference as a Christ-follower, or follower after Christ, because it is a deliberate, chosen, disciplined practice. A disciple is a follower, and following involves choice and commitment. There is nothing passive about my faith.

When others attempt to disgrace your for wearing the name of Christ, deliberately hold your head higher and rejoice that you are counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name.

One last word from Peter:

...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect - 1 Peter 3:15, ESV

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Bible Gateway Blogger Grid
YouTube Channel


Comments

Add Comment:

Please note: Long-View Living Administration reserves the right to delete any and all comments that are deemed to be snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy here.

        




Blog Image
© 2019 falco. All Rights Reserved. Pixabay
Used by permission.

I have long believed that Thomas got/gets a bad rap. You know to whom I am referring, right? - "Doubting Thomas."

In case you're not familiar with the backstory, Thomas was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, sometimes referred to as Didymus. Thomas is the poor sap who, through the uttering one brief statement, redefined his identity for centuries to follow.

Jesus rose from the grave and appeared in his resurrected form to just about everyone except Thomas. Later when Thomas was with the old gang, and they told Thomas, "Hey, we have seen Jesus. He is alive," Thomas said, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side I will not believe it" (John 20:25b, NIV-1973).

From that day forward, every sermon, every Bible study, every piece of devotional literature has referred to Thomas not as "Thomas," but as "Doubting Thomas." Today, we are going to set that record straight. Thomas was no more a doubter than you, me, or any of the rest of the disciples.

Doubting Disciples

Following the resurrection on the first day of the week, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. Mary reported this appearance to the rest of the disciples, but the disciples refused to believe her.

"What?" you ask! "How can this be?"

Yes, I'm sorry to have to say that every one of the disciples was a "Doubting, Disbelieving Disciple." But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it" (Mark 16:11, ESV). Doubting Matthew. Doubting Barnabus. Doubting Peter. et al.

Now, let's go one step deeper. Jesus was none too happy about the disciples' reaction to Mary's report.

Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. - Mark 16:14, ESV
Augh! Those doubting scoundrels!

Investigating Thomas

Scripture never says that Thomas touched the nail prints, or the sword-pierced side of Jesus, though Jesus invited him to do so. What scripture does tell us, however, is that Thomas gave us the first proclamation from human lips that Jesus is God.

Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' - John 20:27-28, NIV-1973

Yes, Jesus told Thomas to stop doubting and to believe, but what Jesus did not do was rebuke Thomas for hardness of heart as he did the rest of the disciples.

The Berean Jews will always be considered noble because, unlike the Thessalonians, they examined the scriptures on a daily basis to confirm that what the apostle Paul was telling them was the truth (Acts 17:11). They, like Thomas, did not want to be fooled or deceived. They wanted confirmation. Once Thomas had confirmation, he proclaimed a status for Jesus (My Lord and my God!) that none before him had proclaimed.

Universally Hard Hearts

Beginning with Egypt's Pharaoh, scripture is replete with references to those who harden their (our) hearts toward Yahweh. Having escaped Pharaoh's clutches, the children of Israel became hardened toward the God who set them free, whining and moaning and accusing God of bringing them out of slavery only to let them die in the desert.

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? - Exodus 14:11, ESV

God called it a hardened heart. "Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work" (Psalm 95:8-9, NASB).

Jews and Gentiles ... disciples and common folks ... rulers and common citizens ... Christians and non-Christians. Every one of us suffers from 'sklerokardia' - hardness of heart.

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. - Hebrews 3:12-13, NASB.

With this directive from Hebrews, I have a double responsibility: 1) guard against my own potentially unbelieving heart, and 2) encourage you day after day so that your heart does not harden in the face of sin's deceitfulness.

Any one of us could be a hard-hearted doubter - "Doubting Damon." Soften your heart. Allow God to remove any heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). Do not be one about whom God says, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Romans 10:21b, NIV-1973).

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Bible Gateway Blogger Grid
YouTube Channel


Comments

Add Comment:

Please note: Long-View Living Administration reserves the right to delete any and all comments that are deemed to be snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy here.

        




  Previous 5 Next 5  
Blog Image


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