Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Infinite Value of the Other.

In John 15:12 Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you;” in John 15:17, This is My command: Love each other.”  Five times in this section of Scripture, in John 13-17, Jesus speaks of what He commands for His Apprentices in the Life of the Spirit, and each time it relates to obedience in the arena of relationships within His Body— John 13:34-35; 14:15; 15:12, 14, and 17.

The question of how we love one another as Sons and Daughters of God, or if we love one another— which is the condition for the world’s recognizing us as His Disciples in John 13:34-35— is nearly identical with what Jesus has said on several other occasions in the Gospels, that we are to love {agapao} the Lord and those around us as ourselves.  There is no fundamental difference between the two in their outworking and application.  Why do I make this point?  Because the theological system I was trained in seems eager on almost every hand to write off the words of Jesus, even concerning the “greatest commandment” {‘loving God and loving others’}.  When the command is given to love one’s neighbor as oneself, the most common viewpoint of said system has been, “Oh, the caveat is if you hate yourself, it’s perfectly acceptable to hate your neighbor.  If you _____ ” then fill in the blank with how one feels about himself {despise yourself, condemn yourself, shame yourself, blame yourself} and under Law one can get away with it because, well, that’s what the Law says.  And Law is Law; it’s immovable, unchangeable, inflexible.

Here’s an historical note which might shed some light in a different direction.  The belief of the ancient Hebrew, intrinsic in Judaism and setting it apart from Hinduism and Buddhism {which actively seek out the dissolution of self and self-awareness and the integration of one’s self into a ‘cosmic consciousness’}, is that the individual is uniquely valued because he or she was uniquely created by God.  I.e., their soul endowed with the ‘breath’ or spark ‘of life’ by His own hand.  Thus, the individual is of great importance to God {which means you are of great importance to God}, enough so that we can boldly say He gave His Life and His Son to save each and every one of us.  Here’s what I’m getting at: the basic and bedrock belief of Judaism was no man in his right mind {the key}, or woman, would mistreat himself, starve himself to death {fasting exempted}, beat himself, steal from himself, abuse himself verbally, mentally, emotionally, etc.  The point is not that we’re not capable of these things, the point is there is value in a single human life created by God …and love respects this, seeks to nourish this, encourage this and doesn’t abuse this.

In The Weight of Glory C.S. Lewis reminds us of something very important: you have never seen an “ordinary person.”  If you were to see this individual as they were meant to be by God {that is, in the glory God intended before the Fall}, or in the case of a believer, as they will be in God, you would be tempted to fall down in either fear or worship.  Whooaahhh.  G.K. Chesterton says the hardest thing to believe in Christianity is the infinite value it places upon the worth of the individual person.  But the magnitude of our eternal destiny depends on this worth, and demonstrates this worth for the Universe— at the Cross.

HJC
Ric Webb  |  Shepherd
Heart’s Journey Community
9621 Tall Timber Blvd. |  Little Rock, AR 72204
t +1.501.455.0296
hjcommunity.org
Heart’s Journey – Live Generously and Love Graciously




Friday, June 16, 2017

Living Generously and Loving Graciously

It’s the Holy Spirit alone who can inject into our hearts the love which is essential to generosity.  As Paul said in Romans 5:5, our “hope does not disappoint us [Why?  Because it’s centred in the Son of God and resting on the rock of His promises!  Our souls are confident and secure:], because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

Living generously and loving graciously does something amazing for three different sets of individuals.

 I.  For others.  [a] It relieves their need.  [b] It can restore their faith: in God and man, in the Father of mercies and those made in His image.  A gift of graciousness and generosity at precisely the right moment can show another human heart that kindness and compassion are not dead after all.  [c] It can result in thanksgiving; it can move them to gratitude.  “This service ...is not only supplying the needs of God’s People but is overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God,” 2 Corinthians 9:12.  As we bring the love of God to bear on the lives of others, it just might spark the fire of love for God in their souls!

II.  For ourselves.  Here’s what living generously and graciously does for us.  It puts the stamp of authenticity on our apprenticeship to Jesus.  In the case of the Achaians, this was especially important.  No doubt the Jerusalem Church, the mother from which all these congregations had been birthed, was still predominantly Hebrew, and they might still be looking at Gentiles with suspicion, they might still be wondering if they were as solid a part of the Body as themselves.  The “gracious gift” of the Achaians and Macedonians, their “service to the Saints” in Jerusalem, must have been a marvelous thing in the eyes of the Jewish believers.

When men and women are generous it allows others to see their Faith has been translated into action!  This alone may win us the passion and prayer of other believers.  “Because of the service by which you have proven yourselves, your faith, and your love, men will praise God for the obedience which accompanies your confession of the Gospel ...and for your generosity in sharing with them....,” 2 Corinthians 9:13.  There is nothing in this world as valuable as community, and generosity is a major step on the Path to genuine connection between human beings made in Abba’s image.

III  For Abba.  Graciousness and generosity result in prayers of gratitude ascending to Him.  And what a beautiful, beautiful thing!  “In their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you,” 2 Corinthians 9:14.  Others benefit from our good deeds and glorify the God of Heaven.  Those who have benefitted from the riches of God’s grace should not hesitate to benefit others with the blessings of His grace.  Because we’ve received by grace the spiritual, we should give by grace the material.

Paul closes this section of Scripture with a reference to the greatest Gift ever given, the Son of God Himself!  He say’s, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!,” v. 15.  The word Paul uses here means- ‘unspeakable, unable to recount or to tell fully.’  The Gift of Abba’s only Son, the Gift of Redemption which He purchased by His sacrifice on the Cross, the Gift of Life which He secured by His Resurrection from the grave, the Gift of Authority and Eternity which He offers by His Ascension to the Throne, are unspeakable, indescribable.”  They are unable to be recounted in their completeness.  No one will ever tell of His glory and greatness fully.  No one.

Jesus Messiah, the Redeemer, Savior of our souls and Lover of our lives, is the Gift whose wonders will never be exhausted and whose Story will take an Eternity to tell.  How can we who have been so generously given by God, who have been so ‘graced’ by God, be anything else but generous and gracious with our fellow Men?

HJC
Ric Webb  |  Shepherd
Heart’s Journey Community
9621 Tall Timber Blvd. |  Little Rock, AR 72204
t +1.501.455.0296
hjcommunity.org
Heart’s Journey – Live Generously and Love Graciously


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Grace Adds and Love Multiplies.

In 1 Corinthians 9:12 Paul speaks of, “This service that you perform,” saying “not only” is it “supplying the needs of God’s People [Impoverished Hebrew believers in Palestine, the Roman province of Judea.] but” it “is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”  And here is the ultimate aim: that the service of His Saints to the world, and especially to one another, would overflow in many forms of gratitude to God!  V. 13, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves [‘by which you’ve been put through the fire, tested and tried {from dokime}, and come out purified, proven’], men will praise God [i] for the obedience which accompanies your confession of the Gospel of Christ, and [ii] for your generosity in sharing with them, and with everyone else.  And” what will they do in addition to praising Abba for the obedience and generosity of His Gentile Children?  “In their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”  Then he ends with this word, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!,” vv. 14-15.

Here’s a little lesson on addition vs. multiplication.  Abba provides His Children with a job, a vocation, a trade or a calling as a source of income so He can provide for us and for our families, for the Cause of His Kingdom, and for the needs of the world.  These are not necessarily exclusive of each other, though sometimes they might be.  The vast ocean of need in the world can consume resources which could be multiplied in the Kingdom of Grace, used to magnify the Word of Grace.

My point?  Truth sets the soul free.  And the truth in question here is the difference between addition and multiplication.  Multiplication is what takes place when we provide for others’ needs.  Addition is what takes place when we use our resources for our own needs.  In this case, whether you ‘add’ or whether you ‘multiply’ is not an ethical decision.  It’s neither right nor wrong, it simply is.  Am I going to use this to add in Abba’s plan of grace or am I going to use this to multiply in Abba’s plan of grace?  I will say this though: children and adolescents in the Faith are still self-centred, still ego-centric; adult Sons and Daughters are Jesus-centred, Christo-centric.  The focus of their lives is fixed on Jesus, their hearts, minds, and strengths are riveted on the Son of God {Heb. 12:2}.  Now, let me give you three things here.

 I.  Money spent on self adds things to our care.  As Jesus was explaining to His Apprentices the Parable of the Good Soil in Mark 4, the ‘good soil’ being a willing soul, a humble heart ready to receive the rich seed of the Word, He said: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the Word.  But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things, come in and choke the Word, making it unfruitful,” vv. 18-19.  The apostle Paul, following closely on the heels of Jesus, said in 1 Timothy 6:9, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction [This is some pretty powerful language.  ‘Oh, well it’s just figures of speech, poetic imagery.’  Is it?  Cause he follows up with this beauty:].  For the love of money is a root [a fountainhead, the ‘source spring’] of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the Faith and pierced themselves with many griefs,” v. 10.

II.  Money spent on others multiplies to our joy.  Giving to Abba and to ministry and to Missions multiplies the number of souls saved and Disciples taught.  Buying for ourselves is ‘grace addition;’ giving to or for others is ‘grace multiplication.’

III  The one thing hammered home in 1 Corinthians 9:12-13 is this— Giving is a sacred service in the Cause of Christ.  It’s a privilege and it’s an honor as a believer-priest, a royal priest of the Most High God {1 Pet. 2:5-9}, to have a stake in the outworking of His perfect plan.  May we never forget it.



HJC
Ric Webb  |  Shepherd
Heart’s Journey Community
9621 Tall Timber Blvd. |  Little Rock, AR 72204
t +1.501.455.0296
hjcommunity.org
Heart’s Journey – Live Generously and Love Graciously

Saturday, June 3, 2017

In Jesus Christ, Truth Is Balanced By Grace.

For those in our culture honest about the existence of a spiritual world, an immaterial realm, the loss of God so eagerly embraced by the West leaves us leaning in one of two directions: legalism or superstition.  Let me begin with the latter.  Superstition, at its core, is the subtle lack of faith— or for some, the loss of faith— in a good and righteous God.  If there is no righteous God, no loving Creator in control of all things, we wind up trying to appease the world of unseen powers.  This is at the heart of all animism, pantheism, and paganism: ‘I must appease the powers to protect my person, no matter how capricious or malicious they may be.’  Whenever Abba is displaced but belief in the spirit realm remains, the placation of superstition will dominate man’s efforts.  We good here?

On the flip side of the coin, but born of a different mother, is legalism.  When grace is evicted from the scene, legalism steps in and dominates.  Ceremony and ritual, without a corresponding reality {this being relationship}, become the focal points.  Do you see what’s happened to Jesus’ generation in the Gospels?  Do you see what’s happened to the Jews— even those from outside Judea— who’ve taken their stand against Stephen in Acts 6-7?  Do you see what’s happened to the ritualists and the legalists today who gnash their teeth and claw their own skin at the ideas of Freedom and Life being exactly what Jesus came to bring, or at those who teach the ‘security of the Saints’ for all Eternity?  There are many, many preachers of insecurity in the bounds of Christendom today.  Where are those who will ground the souls of their sheep in the glory of grace?

What does it say in John 1:17?  “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.”  My personal and profession opinion is there ought to be a triple exclamation point after this statement.  Grace and Truth— and these in perfect balance— in the Person of Jesus Christ.  TLB says, “For Moses gave us only the Law with its rigid demands and merciless justice, while Jesus Christ brought us loving forgiveness as well.”

When the absolute nature of Truth is not balanced by the forgiving nature of grace, in an individual and especially an institution, power-seekers take over.  Those who profit the most always do the greatest damage to those who can resist them the least: the bruised and battered, the hurting and heart-broken, those in slavery to their sinful selves and dying for freedom!

One of these two dynamics— or some vicious combination of both— will rush in to fill the vacuum of a heart devoid of the God of mercy and grace.  Believe it.

HJC
Ric Webb  |  Shepherd
Heart’s Journey Community
9621 Tall Timber Blvd. |  Little Rock, AR 72204
t +1.501.455.0296
hjcommunity.org
Heart’s Journey – Live Generously and Love Graciously

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Power of Our Decisions.

As a finale to our Words of Life over the past few weeks, I want us to see the power of our decisions.  Because decisions are not made in a vacuum; nor are the consequences which accrue.  Our attitude {arrogance or humility} determines our priorities; our priorities {what is critically important to us in life} determine our decisions.  Good or evil, the consequence of a decision we make will always be consistent with the decision itself!  Call it the ‘Universal Law,’ if you like {Gal. 6:7}.  Those decisions can be spiritual or carnal, sacrificial or selfish; it’s our choice.

Joshua set before the elders of Israel an amazing challenge in Joshua 24:15.  He said, “If serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve: whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”  This was a real man in the sight of God: a man of character, a man of conviction, a man of courage, a Warrior among warriors, one of only two men in the Old Testament who were said to have “followed the LORD fully,” meaning wholeheartedly:” Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.  This is a unique phrase in the Hebrew found only five times in Scripture, three of these in the Book of Joshua.

Of these two men the Lord said to Moses in Numbers 32:11-12, “Because they have not followed Me wholeheartedly, not one of the men twenty years old or more who came up out of Egypt will see the Land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob— not one except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite….”  Notice something here.  He wasn’t even an Israelite; he was one of the ‘mixed multitude’ who joined up with this nation of nomads in their wilderness wanderings.  The “Kenizzites” were part of the Canaanite peoples living in the land according to Genesis 15:19.  They were to be dispossessed by the Israelites.  And yet this man’s rank in the Heraldry of Heroes stands head and shoulders above the Jews of his generation.

“And” who else?  “Joshua son of Nun.”  Why?  “For they followed the LORD wholeheartedly.”  There it is.  They did not stray from the course; by faith they exercised endurance, by faith they practiced perseverance on the trail which leads from the Cross to the Crown.  Their commendation came in Time {they were allowed to enter the land when no one else from their generation was}, and it will come again in Eternity, only on a much, much greater scale.

The natural outcome of our decisions is our actions.  The actions of our lives reveal the attitude of our hearts {pretty major lesson for life}.  We can boil action down to right or wrong {not always motivation, however: only God knows all the circumstances surrounding why we do what we do, or why we don’t do what we don’t do!}.  How’s that for simplicity?

Finally, we come to the eagerly ignored but impossible to avoid, consequences.  Remember this: To every action belongs a result; to every decision a consequence {Hos. 8:7b}.  Our actions bring either blessing or cursing for ourselves and for those around us.  No man is an isolated island, no woman is unrelated to the rest of the world!  And you cannot change cursing into blessing until you humble yourself in the presence of AbbaAnd that is all in the attitude.

HJC
Ric Webb  |  Shepherd
Heart’s Journey Community
9621 Tall Timber Blvd. |  Little Rock, AR 72204
t +1.501.455.0296
hjcommunity.org
Heart’s Journey – Live Generously and Love Graciously


Saturday, May 13, 2017

What Is Most Important to You In Life?

Our priorities represent our scale of values, what’s most important to us in life.  They’re either going to be temporal or eternal, but they won’t be both.  Jesus in Matthew 6:33 said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” i.e., ‘everything else you need, I will provide.’  This brings out a priority point: The main thing in life is to keep the main thing the main thing!  And the ‘Main Thing’ is Jesus Christ.

In Colossians 3:1 the Apostle said, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” {v. 2}, meaning not on the distractions and deceptions of the satanic system around us.  Phroneo refers to our ‘thinking,’ and the present imperative means- ‘be constantly thinking about what draws our gaze to the Master.’  To “set your minds on things above,” where your great King currently resides, is to take an eternal perspective, day after day after day, so that your priorities are aligned with Eternity.  And with a Kingdom lasting for all Eternity.

The author of Hebrews in 3:1 said, “Therefore, holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling [meaning the Royal Family of Faith], fix your thoughts on Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest whom we confess.”  The compound katanoeo means- ‘bear down with the mind, concentrate, think carefully, examine closely.’  We bear down with our minds upon the Living Word.  And one of the ways we do this is by concentrating, by thinking carefully and examining closely the written Word.  Which is another way of saying we live with a passion for Truth.

In Hebrews 12:2 he writes, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our Faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, scorning its shame....”  To “fix” the “eyes” of the soul “on Jesus” and keep them there is from the present participle of aphorao meaning- ‘view with undivided attention, fix one’s eyes by looking away from every other object.’  You know what the formula for successful running in the Life of Faith is?  To look away from everything on the horizon, all the sinful encumbrances and entanglements, all the distractions and deceptions of the world, and to concentrate our upward gaze on one thing— the Lord Jesus Christ!  This is a faith-filled, Scripture-formed focus on the Son of God.  Get this.  Clarity and objectivity come from taking an eternal perspective, from putting the Word into practice in the circumstances of life.  They come from recognizing and embracing: [i] this world is not all there is; and [ii] a far greater World awaits.

V. 3, Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men....”  Analogizomai is a command meaning- ‘think over, ponder, consider by comparison.’  Why?  Why ‘think through’ the Life and Death of our Lord at length, why should we ‘consider by comparison’ with our own pain the incredible “opposition” Jesus endured from a hate-filled enemy embodied in the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the teachers of the Law?  “So that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  I’m going to let you in on a little secret to divine endurance.  You will grow weary in the Race; but you don’t have to lose heart while it’s happening.  You can find rest in the shadow of His wings, in the secret place of the Most High.  And you will need to— again and again and again.

I want you to know this and to remember it.  It is possible to live with faith, to live with courage, to live with conviction, by constantly comparing the treasure of knowing Christ Jesus to the trash of far lesser priorities!  By fixing the eyes of our faith on Jesus, it is possible to lay aside the distractions, deceptions, and destructions of this world.  It is, and we should.


HJC
Ric Webb  |  Shepherd
Heart’s Journey Community
9621 Tall Timber Blvd. |  Little Rock, AR 72204
t +1.501.455.0296
hjcommunity.org
Heart’s Journey – Live Generously and Love Graciously

Friday, May 5, 2017

Humility Is the Missing Element.

There are two basic attitudes in life: arrogance and humility.  The former is self-centered {that’s just the nature of the beast}, the latter is Jesus-centered, Christ-consumed, you might say.  You and I approach life from one of these two perspectives every day.  We know which one the Scriptures enjoin.  In Psalm 138:6 David said, “Though the LORD is on high, He looks upon the lowly [‘the humble’], but the proud He knows from afar.”  See this?  There will never be closeness, camaraderie, companionship between the arrogant and Abba“Before her downfall a woman’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor” {Prov. 18:12}.

The missing element in the lives of so many of Abba’s post-modern Children is humility.  There’s an old saying, ‘Plan wisely, and hold the reins loosely.’  You know why?  Because God could change those plans at any given moment!  As long as we’ve got our plans all figured out, God withdraws His presence and therefore His power.  But the minute you cry out, “Have mercy on me, Lord; I need You desperately,” the minute you humble yourself He comes close, He draws near in your time of need.  What did James tell his hearers in 4:8?  “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  This was a word used in the Original Testament for priests entering the Tabernacle and the Temple to offer sacrifices and to minister before the Lord; it means- ‘approach for worship.’  “This very moment, this very second, come near to the Holy One; and you will experience this deeply relational reality: He will most certainly come near to you!” {RRExp}.  Promise.

You want to make a fashion statement in the spiritual realm?  Here’s what ‘fashionable attire’ for a Follower of Jesus looks like.  “Therefore,” Paul wrote in Colossians 3:12, “as God’s chosen People, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  The Family of Faith upon whom grace will pour down like a River of Living Water is one which maintains a humble attitude before God and man, one which stays low and trusts in their Abba.  If you’re a leader, listen up.  Leaders who get this will never fail to find the Path of Life, as David said in Psalm 25:9, “He guides the humble in what it right and teaches them His way.”  The secret to receiving divine guidance is humility.

Didn’t Peter tell us in 1 Peter 5, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another”?  Why?  Because “God makes war on the proud but gives grace to the humble,” v. 5.  I don’t know about you, but I want to be on the “humble” side of this equation, on the “grace” end of this stick and not the other!  Rather than scrambling for prominence and position— just like the world— humble Disciples will serve one another in love.  And that’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.  Just so we understand each other: the Greek word tapeinos means- ‘in the dust, never rising far from the ground.’  It describes the Child of God who follows her Lord down the path of humility— which, ironically, is the only path to promotion in the Kingdom of Grace.

James say’s in 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord….”  The result?  “And He will lift you up,” He will exalt you.  And why would we “humble” ourselves before the Lord?  Didn’t Jesus teach His Apprentices, that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” {Lk. 14:11}?  Indeed, He did.  “If you plan to build a tall house of virtues,” wrote the 4th century father Augustine, “you must first lay deep foundations of humility.”  A French archbishop {Francois Fenelon} from the 17th century said, “Nothing will make us so tender to the faults of others as, by self-examination, thoroughly to know our own.”  It’s been said, “Life is ten percent what happens to you, and ninety percent how you choose to respond to it.”  This, my friends, comes down to one thing— attitude.

HJC
Ric Webb  |  Shepherd
Heart’s Journey Community
9621 Tall Timber Blvd. |  Little Rock, AR 72204
t +1.501.455.0296
hjcommunity.org
Heart’s Journey – Live Generously and Love Graciously