The Fog of War

My life is a swirl of contradictions. I suppose everyone may feel that about their own life from time to time; but let me explain what I mean. My name “Harvey” means “army battle.” This has been what I have known for some time and checking on the internet I find: It is of Old English and Old French origin, and the meaning of Harvey is "eager for battle; strong and worthy". Somewhere in the history of the Harvey name are those who came from Normandy at the invasion of England in 1066. At that time there was one who bore that name who was considered to be the greatest bowman in England.

In my own immediate history my uncle left the family home to serve in World War I. My brother served in the army in Vietnam. My son served in the navy in the submarine service. My nephew served in the army.

This past week my wife and I attended a showing of “American Sniper.” I have just read of another sniper who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and died at the age of 28 from an accidental overdose of pain killers. His body had been unable to metabolize the doses he had been prescribed and he died during a time he had been preparing to attend a Junior College in Florida to restart his life in another direction.

I am deeply moved by these stories of men who have experienced war and the damage these experiences have caused. But I said my life was a swirl of contradictions. Let’s look at another aspect of my life.

I began to seek God seriously at the age of 7 when invited by my neighbor to attend a small Baptist church Sunday School. Shortly thereafter my family was visited by a pastor from a Free Methodist church and my mother and three younger brothers attended faithfully for all of our childhood and teenage years. I went to Roberts Wesleyan College to study for the Free Methodist ministry. I attended McMaster Divinity College to continue those studies but decided to leave the ministry and spent time in industry. During those years I attended, joined, or visited Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, and other denominational and non-denominational churches. All during that half-century I continued to study the Bible and consider the ways of God in relationship to man and, especially, in relationship to myself.

You will notice that part of the definition of Harvey includes, "eager for battle; strong and worthy." Recently, the scripture from Joshua 1: 2 – 9 was given to me by some who said it was a message from God for me, personally, to continue my work and be “strong and courageous.” Again I am deeply moved and find my life of contradiction coming to focus because Joshua was given these words as he prepared to lead Israel into the way to take the Promised Land. The first act of invading the land was the total destruction of Jericho including every man, woman, and child. The scriptural story is clear, and the only survivors were Rahab and her family. She became a direct ancestor of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now, I have studied the Bible for years and have read and re-read the entire Bible multiple times. I have experienced many denominational, non-denominational, and individual interpretations of the Bible events; including the taking of the Promised Land and the subsequent history of Israel. I have reconciled within my own mind what was happening all during that time with the culminating event being the coming of Jesus into the world as God continued in His efforts to save us from Hell, for Himself, and from ourselves.

It can all be very confusing because mankind has a way of distorting what God is doing to its own ends. Usually, the ways of man twist what God is doing to provide prophet for the individual man or the individual group. As the saying goes, “follow the money,” and you will very quickly see the twist in what mankind does with God’s plan. Jesus spoke truly when He said, “You cannot serve both God and money.”

Where am I going with all of this? The basic point of this article is that God is doing something in the world that is based on love. When Jesus said, “When you see me you see the Father,” that becomes a central point for interpretation of all the Scriptures. I look at the entire Bible from the one viewpoint: “How does this line up with the way of love initiate by God through His Son, Jesus Christ?”

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Day by Day

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12: 1, 2 NIV)

I have read and studied and meditated upon these words many, many times. I have kept a journal of sorts through the years on my computer. The theme changes from time to time. Currently, I have called my journal “Prayers for Help,” and I can attest to the fact that as I have recorded prayers acknowledging that I need God’s help in various areas, He has helped me. Before that I would almost daily acknowledge my desire to dedicate my body to God’s service as a “living sacrifice.” My interpretation of that is simply to dedicate my physical body to carry out the plans and purposes of God for that day. This is why I have titled this article “Day by Day.”

In one sense this article is a confession of sin and failure. In another sense this article is an acknowledgement of God’s great mercy. My confession is that I often fail to have faith in what God is saying to me and fail to believe that He can do through me what He says He can do. Let me explain why this often happens and why it comes to mind for this article.

There is a promise of God spoken through His Son, Jesus Christ, that if we are faithful in little assignments we will be given bigger assignments. These promises are particularly articulated in the Parable of the Minas:

“The first one came and said, `Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

“`Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. `Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’” (Luke 19: 16, 17 NIV)

Even though I believe, generally speaking, that the promises of God are true; I sometimes find it difficult to believe that a particular promise actually applies to me. I have been going through these articles that I have posted as blogs over the year 2013 and 2014. I have posted a blog almost every day during that time. Each day I have prayed that God would help me to write what He would want me to write. Although in the midst of all of this time I have often felt that my efforts were no useful; I actually have been faithful in what God has assigned me to do. I hope you will not see this as an expression of pride. I am trying to make an illustration and encourage myself to further do what God has assigned.

In effect I am discerning God’s will according to Romans 12: 2, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

We are to dedicate ourselves daily to live according to God’s plans and purposes. As we live day by day with that dedication in mind; the result is an ever expanding responsibility in the kingdom of God. This is not accidental or arbitrary. This is the way that God works on the earth. We have been given dominion over the planet. We abrogated that responsibility when Adam sinned and gave that dominion to the evil one. Jesus won back our position of authority and assigned us to become Apostles, Prophets, Healers, Givers, Pastors, Teachers, and, in general, lovers of one another and servants to each other so that we can grow up and retake the planet from the enemy.

I am encouraging myself to believe what God has done to make me an overcomer in Christ. I am encouraging you to believe with me that as we love one another; grow into mature sons and daughters of God; and take our rightful place in the Body of Christ; it is only a matter of time before this planet is subdued under Christ and is fully the kingdom of God.

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Day by Day (2)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8: 28 – 34 NIV)

I began this series of articles yesterday with “Day by Day,” with the thought that as we dedicate our bodies as living sacrifices on a day by day basis God is able to accomplish through us His plans and purposes for the world. In that article I emphasized that as we faithfully complete the assignments God gives us He adds greater and greater responsibility as reward for our faithfulness. I used the Parable of the Minas to emphasize and give scriptural basis for that thought.

As I awoke this morning I realized that the argument, as it were, had not been completed. In the Parable of the Minas the Master goes on a long journey and leaves a mina each with his servants who remain to care for the household and the farm. One increases his mina by ten and another increases his mina by five and these are rewarded by being given authority over ten and five cities respectively. I used this parable to confirm that God increases our responsibility as we are faithful with what we have been given.

But let’s look at the situation of the parable a little more closely. Does not the parable address our current situation? Has not our Master gone on a long journey? And are we not waiting for His return? Is it not true that at the return of Christ we shall be rewarded for the faithfulness we have exhibited? Am I then using a parable that is completely and solely about the future realm of glory to prove a present reality?

Hold that thought! Let’s look at the passage quoted above from Romans 8. The first concept presented is in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We certainly consider this to be a present reality. The second concept I want to point to from the many is that the purpose of God is to conform those He foreknew into the image of his Son. This also is a present reality and not something waiting for the return of Christ.

Let’s look just a little further at what is present reality. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Please be aware of the tense of this statements. We don’t need to make long arguments or declarations about the plans and purposes of God. God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify His Son. To do that the Father’s reward to the Son is to produce many sisters and brothers just like Jesus so that He can be the firstborn among them. That process of making many like Jesus includes calling them; justifying them; and glorifying them. All of that is present reality. How does God do that?

I am glad you asked because Paul immediately answers just that question. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8: 31, 32 NIV)

God has supplied all that will be supplied in Christ Jesus! Another way of looking at it is that there is nothing God has that is greater than His Son that He can give us. Our Father has fully expressed His love to the world by giving His one and only Son.

But with Jesus God will give us everything and anything that we need in order to fulfill His purpose. Since His purpose is to supply sisters and brothers who are just like Jesus; that is what He will support when we ask for something. This supply allows us to see the realization in the physical realm what we are actually living in the realm of glory, or the heavenly realm.



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Empowered to be Sent!

“He said to them, `This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, `This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’” (Luke 24: 44 – 49 NIV)

This was Luke’s report of the event as Jesus appeared among His followers just before His ascension. Luke went on the write an account of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father:

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They say what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2: 1 – 4 NIV)

One of the most notable events for me that confirms the power supplied by the coming of the Holy Spirit was the amazing transformation of Peter. Before the coming of the Holy Spirit Peter was basically a man who loved Jesus but did not know how to express his love. His actions from his own strength were cursing, denial, using a sword without effect, unbelief, fear, and a love for fishing greater than his love for Jesus. After being filled with the Holy Spirit Peter became an articulate spokesman, a man of faith to heal others, a man of courage who could stand boldly before the Sanhedrin who had condemned Jesus to death, and the leader of the apostles and the new Church with authority.

Peter represented some of the awesome changes that took place among the followers of Jesus. There were some other signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit that are noteworthy:

  1. Signs and wonders – “Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.” (Acts 2: 43 NIV)
  2. Common possessions – “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2: 44, 45 NIV)
  3. Daily community – “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with gland and sincere hearts, . . .” (Acts 2: 46 NIV)
  4. Continual praise and favor – “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2: 47a NIV)
  5. Continual growth – “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2: 47b NIV)
  6. Bold witnessing – “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the world of God boldly.” (Acts 4: 31b NIV)
  7. Single attitude – “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” (Acts 4: 32a NIV)

We have a wonderful opportunity today to allow the Holy Spirit to empower us to carry on the work of Jesus just as the early Church did. We are under attack. We are under attack by fundamental Islam. We are under attack by those who ally themselves with Islamic State; ISIS; or ISIL, depending on the designation you give it.

Basically, we are under attack by those who have taken up the call of those who believe in the fundamental teachings of Mohammed. Their stated goal is to conquer the world for Islam and thereby bring about the end of the world.

I am stating strongly and categorically that the work of Mohammed is a direct reaction to the life and teachings of Jesus and the action of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The work of love that God revealed by giving Jesus for the salvation of the world was denied by Mohammed and is denied today by his followers. They state and define a different God than the God and Father of Jesus. They deny that Jesus is the Son of God.

The full result of the teaching of Mohammed is not revealed by the quiet Muslims who live among us. Just like so many of all religions; they do not live out the teachings of their founder but only live an outward appearance of doing so.Many followers of Jesus are the same. We dedicate an hour on Sunday to mouth the words of our confession and feel we have really done a lot to follow Jesus; after all, so many do not even go to church! We feel that by doing this we are paving our way to heaven.

I will be strong in my language here, please forgive me if you take offense. Most Christians live a surface devotion and proclaim by their actions, “To Hell with the world, God will save me out of it when it really gets bad. I kind of hope that my family and friends make it to heaven, also!”

Well, have you considered that the current events have been arranged by God to wake us up and that He won’t save you when the knife is at your throat? Our opportunity to react is now. I do not mean that we are to support the bombing and military action so that we will limit Islamic State to the Middle East. What I do mean is that we need to accept the fact that the Holy Spirit has been sent into the world to empower us to pray and to witness. We must get on our faces and pray and then get on our feet and witness!

Hassan Ammar/Associated PressThe beheading of 21 Coptic Christian men by ISIS in Libya has caused outrage in neighbouring Egypt.
ReutersFighting between rival factions in Tripoli is just one feature of the widespread chaos in Libya.
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