The Trip So Far


What Friends Do

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 09:15

And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?”
[Genesis 18:17-18; NKJV]

“Are You not our God, Who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? [2Chronicles 20:7; NKJV]

I understand now just how God values ‘little children’, for they are so beautifully uncomplicated. Trust for them is not an issue, for they naturally trust until and unless they are taught out of it.
For a short time when I was in grade school I got into a lot of fights. I picked the fights, which gave me a perceived advantage. My career as a bully came to a halt the day I picked a fight with Rusty. I ran up to him in order to punch him, but he punched me first. Shocked, I found myself looking up at him from the pavement. Then he reached out his hand and said, “Do you want to be friends?” I said, “Yes”, and he pulled me to my feet. Then we walked home to his house for lunch. Oh, to be a child again!
Rusty and I never hung out much together after that, but we never gave up our friendship. I finally lost track of Rusty after high school, but I know if I met him again today, we would still be friends. Children are so beautifully uncomplicated. Looking back on those times now, and my friendship with Rusty, I see such a beautiful picture of God, for just like Rusty extending his hand to me in friendship, that’s just what God did to me.
Abraham was God’s friend. On His way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (in Genesis 18), God stopped and turned around to tell Abraham what He was going to do. And in doing that, He gave Abraham the authority to have input into the divine counsel. That is what friends do. Abraham was God’s friend because He was in covenant with Him, related in Genesis 17. Being in covenant with God, Abraham became a friend with God, and was granted the privileges of friendship. And that’s how it should be for those of us who believe.
Friendship is a two-way street. Even though God sought us out while we were still His enemies, when we entered into the covenant with Him through the blood of Jesus, we in effect, offered Him all of us in exchange for all of Him, and in doing so, we also become the friends of God, just like Abraham.
The weakness is not in the covenant, it is in us. Often, in our extreme self-focus we want all of God while we give Him very little to none of ourselves. We pray ‘in Jesus’ Name’, but do not receive, we get angry when it appears God doesn’t show up for us when we are in need, and we just can’t seem to understand why bad things happen to good (covenant) people like us. Can it be that we are consistently falling short in meeting our obligations to be and remain friends with God? I think the answer is obvious.
Going back to my memory of Rusty, I could have pretended to accept his offer of friendship while remaining secretly non-compliant in return. I could have put a smile on my face, have been helped to my feet, only to come up swinging….do we sometimes do that with God? God offers us terms of eternal friendship, but as I said, it is a two-way street. While we expect friendship from Him, He has every right to expect friendship from us.
In Matthew 7 and Matthew 25 God says “I never knew you.” I believe the “knowing” is an intimate knowing, as in covenant friendship. While we’ve devalued friendship to mean liking someone, it never meant that to God. Friendship to God is something that can only be expressed within the bounds of intimacy, and failing that, it is not friendship, no matter what we may think, because true friendship, true covenant, operates as both parties to it have separate responsibilities, and as we fulfill those responsibilities, love naturally results.
God has promised to be my friend (John 15:15), and to provide certain things for me. My responsibilities are to trust Him unflinchingly and keep sacred my faith in Him and to obey Him. And as long as I don’t quit trying, and remain grateful for His mercy and grace, He’ll see to it I never hear Him say, “I never knew you.”
The entire idea of friendship was first His idea – all I had to do was respond, and as long as I honor my promise, some day I’ll go home with Him and we’ll have lunch together.




The Melchizedekian Controversy

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 10:10

Here mortal men receive tithes, but there (Genesis 14) he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. (italics: mine) [Hebrews 7:8; NKJV]

And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest (Jesus) who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. (italics: mine) [Hebrews 7:15-16; NKJV]

One of the stated “jobs” of the Holy Spirit is to ‘lead us into all truth’. Nothing particularly difficult about that, (until educated men get involved). I’ve always loved reading about Melchizedek, a mystery character who only appears in Genesis 14, Psalm 110 and Hebrews 5, 6 and 7. The mystery revolves around whether Melchizedek was a divine person, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, called a theophany, or whether he was merely a human about whom we know almost nothing.
As a young Christian, when I first read about Melchizedek, I was convinced he was in fact the pre-incarnate Son of God, who appeared to Abraham and received tithes; it seemed abundantly obvious from the text in Hebrews 7. But then years later my pastor taught me that Melchizedek was only a human who must have had a human lineage which was just never mentioned in the Bible. For awhile I was disappointed, and tempted to feel under educated.
As the years progressed, and I re-read about Melchizedek, I could not escape the feeling that my old pastor friend had been wrong, and in fact, a victim of his seminary training; today I’m convinced of it. I now feel fully able to make a good case for Melchizedek being God, visible to Abraham in a human body. And why not? He created the earth and should be able to visit it in any way He pleases.
Please read Genesis 14:18 where Melchizedek is first introduced, and then all of Hebrews chapter 7, where the only other details of this person are recorded. Then consider this:
• Melchizedek never had a father or mother and yet lives, without ever dying.
• In Hebrews 7:8, the Bible text clearly contrasts the Levitical, human priests receiving tithes with Melchizedek receiving them, and clearly states that (on earth) ‘mortal men receive tithes’, contrasted with Melchizedek, Who yet lives.
• In Hebrews 7:15 and 16, Christ is presented as having a priesthood descending not from human Levites, but from Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4), Who has ‘the power of an endless life’.

I think it’s pretty clear that if Christ’s priesthood had descended from anyone or anything less than a divine person, He would yet be presenting sacrifices for our sins because He wouldn’t be a once-for-all good enough sacrifice Himself, making the cross of Calvary of no account, and requiring a recurring sacrifice.
Jesus was incarnated into a human body at a specific time and place because in order to be a fully adequate sacrifice in our place, He had to die a human death for us. This was the divine exchange, and our salvation totally depends upon it.
This necessitated He have a human, completely mortal body to sacrifice. If He had instead appeared only in His divinity, He could not have been put to death, and we would be left to die without a Savior.
And for me, the Bible text itself makes it clear Who Melchizedek (is) was. It states in Hebrews 7:8 that He did NOT have a ‘mortal’ body. Then it goes on to reiterate that Melchizedek has ‘the power of an endless life’, and since this was a pre-Resurrection event, I’d say His eternal life was His by nature, not by covenant sacrifice.
Admittedly, I’ve tried to encapsulate several books worth of apologetics into one page, and I don’t really know how well I’ve done it, but for me it’s quite clear: In spite of the learned doctrines of the brilliant minds in some of our seminaries, the teaching of the Holy Spirit will always dim shelves of commentaries and brilliant, educated minds.
The Holy Spirit is The Truth, and it’s simply a waste of time to make Him conform to our own theologies.
And it’s time we are running out of….



The Motion of Obedience

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 10:23

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, [even] to the end of the age.”
[Matthew 28:19-20; NKJV]

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; “they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
[Mark 16:15-18; NKJV]

The most exciting part of being a Christian is living as one. Unfortunately, many Christians are missing out on the excitement. Derek Prince used to say, “God can’t steer a parked car.”, and we’ve all been parked at times.
When God gave us what is called “The Great Commission”, noted above out of Matthew and Mark, notice how the command (yes, it is a command), begins at the general, then moves into the specific. Guidance works like that, but all too often we remain parked at the curb, waiting for more specific instructions while doing nothing to put ourselves in motion.
Last year, we thought God told us sell our house and move. We dithered about it for months, thinking perhaps we weren’t really hearing from God. Then we figured perhaps if we really were hearing from God, He meant us to move locally, because that made sense to us at the time, but nothing really got moving until we made the decision to simply begin.
And as we began to look for houses locally, and had the familiar “closed door” experiences with house after house, other circumstances unveiled more of God’s plans. The point is, we began the process of obedience by putting ourselves in motion. Now a year later, in another house, state, job and church, we are amazed at all that has happened, but we first had to respond to the general instructions we had already heard before we were given the specific instructions that followed.
There are patterns in Scripture that are discoverable by design. If we miss the patterns, we often miss the instructions. Instructions for ministry often work according to the general-to-specific pattern too. You may have a heart that burns for the lost, or you may yearn to preach the gospel, but if you acknowledge that desire and pray for God to make a way while staying metaphorically parked at the curb, very often you’ll be frustrated as God gives your commission to others who will put themselves in motion. All obedience begins with the first step, no matter how small or relatively insignificant it may seem.
Another potential error can occur with those who do begin to obey. Often, they will begin to obey the general instructions but then they create their own programs on how to accomplish the specifics. I suppose it’s better than remaining on the couch, but the end result is usually the same. A good beginning never assures us of a good ending, and good ends should be left in God’s hands. If I pray for someone’s healing, I’ve begun a good work, but it is not my responsibility to make sure the person gets healed; that’s God’s job, and when they do get healed, only He should get the credit. He will perform His word – if I let Him and don’t cobber up the Holy Spirit with my own notions.
A third error potentially awaits the ones willing to obey, and that is the hindrance of themselves. That can explain why Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” If I allow my God given love for the lost to gush out of me without control or direction, or if I think that I can simply “hug the hell out of them”, I set myself up for a hard lesson. Perhaps what Jesus had in mind was more in line with allowing the pressure of that love to motivate me to get moving, and then allow Him to channel it into practical, Kingdom expanding ways. Love may ‘cover a multitude of sins’, but even love requires discernment.
Several years ago, we began to visit another church out of state. Frankly, that church was so good that it ruined us for any other. Of course, we meant well when we returned home and gushed all over the members of our home church about our new spiritual oasis. I suppose we figured they’d all be excited and want what we had found, but instead, the more we talked about our discovery, the more enemies we made. Someone finally turned the light on by saying, “They might not want what you have.” Wow, was that ever true! As it finally worked out, we chose the oasis, they chose the desert, and choice always trumps. But we could just as well have chosen to re-conform ourselves to the desert, for the sake of maintaining our friendships.
I once knew a preacher like that. He was set on fire by the Holy Spirit and was filled with excitement at his discovery, but the old, staid members of his congregation reminded him they paid the bills, and he gave into their pressure. In a matter of months he quit his job, moved to another state and dropped into the dustbin of those called but not chosen. In my opinion, he was relegated to obscurity, and now awaits the end of his life a sick and infirm man. Once you begin to plow for God, don’t stop and look back. Remember Lot’s wife.
I had a dream once about a small sailboat. As the dream began I was looking at the sailboat from a distance, and could see it was tethered to the bank by a rope. Then an invisible hand untied the rope and the little boat began to move away from the land. A few seconds later a small breeze filled the sail and it began to move. And I heard someone say, “You are the boat, and the breeze is the Holy Spirit. He will take you where you need to go.”
None of us know where God will take us, but we can be sure of this: He will take us there if we allow it and make room for Him to do it.



The Eternality of God

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 09:33

Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. [Colossians 2:15; NKJV]

It is a profound truth that whether we know it or not, everything for us is in motion, and our physical lives are trapped within time. However, the Bible says that when we were created, God put ‘eternity in our hearts’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That is our only legitimate bridge to the supernatural. It is important that we understand this concept, for without it, we tend to limit the abilities, authority, purposes and the very nature of God by mentally trapping Him within our time.
This morning, I was listening to my wife read out of Colossians, and as she read the 15th verse of chapter 2, I was struck by the two time frames hidden in the verse. Looking at the verse, which refers to what Jesus accomplished in the eternal realms at His death and resurrection, my first frame of reference was that this was done almost 2000 years ago, about 33 A.D. But then I thought, “That is only applicable to my sense of time; my body is trapped in that frame.”
So just when did all this occur? Almost 2000 years ago to me, but right now for the principalities and powers He put to open shame. Do you see the significance? Those very same principalities and powers still exist today outside of my time, and they aren’t a day older than when it happened. Their evil influence invades my time, and if I remain trapped in my time, I have difficulty fighting them in theirs.
Eternal things are timeless, as I know time. That’s why they are so difficult for me to imagine, because while I depend on linear time, and cannot bodily escape it, what Jesus accomplished in my linear time 2000 years ago, occurred outside of time to God. In other words, all that has ever happened in the history of this creation is always “right now” to God, and the disarming of the principalities and powers that Jesus accomplished 2000 years ago in my time frame, is right now to them. In God’s mind, that disarmament is a current, continual event, and always has been. To Him, it is an “is”, not a “was”.
When I pray and ask God to forgive my sins, His forgiveness is to Him, eternal, which is why when He chooses to forget, which only God can do, they totally cease to exist, for Him. In my time frame, the forgiveness of those sins occurred past tense, and every time the devil can get me to re-address the shame of them, they resurrect themselves in the present tense, and torment me afresh. But His forgiveness of our sins is current to Him, and we can be free of even the painful memories if we can see it from His timeless viewpoint. It must grieve Him to hear us re-address sins that He chose to forget. In fact, to some degree, it makes what Jesus accomplished by His sacrifice of little account as we re-live them.
When we pray for someone to be healed, the authority to pray and be able for us to expect healing to occur, is based on our current position in God’s eyes. To God the Father, His Son’s sacrifice is still current news, and always will be, and our authority to ‘pray in His Name’ is just as current when we pray now, as it was when Jesus gave us the right to do so. It is not a 2000 year old delegation of authority, for it was given to us as an eternal entrustment, and based on our eternal position with God. It is always right now for God, and is effective right now as we pray. Our authority, once given and once received, remains ageless.
The faces of the principalities and powers still sting from the slap of Jesus, and the pain will never, cannot ever diminish for them, and it is our honor and our duty to remind them of their pain. The ‘sting of death’ still clings to the face of death, for those who believe.
When the Bible says that Jesus came ‘at just the right time’, it is referring to God’s choice within our time frame, for it was always current to God, for He is timeless and external to it, as its Creator.
Much as the potter is not physically a part of his pot, God remains external to His creation, with the important exception of Jesus Christ, and that’s why only Jesus is Salvation, and the only way to God. Jesus was chosen outside of time, to become part of time, so He could deliver us from it, and its deadly consequence. And with that deliverance, Jesus the perfect man, entrusted us with His Spirit, that we might have the manifestation of eternity in our hearts, and be living examples of Him on the earth.
Simple huh? Simply complex, I’d say..
“Now Lord, I ask that I might be empowered by Your Spirit to live and function in Your eternity and demonstrate Your eternal authority and power, while I physically live out my allotted days on the earth.”



Scepter Of Mercy

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 07:46

“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, [he has] but one law: put [all] to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.” [Esther 4:11; NKJV]

So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, [that] she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that [was] in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. [Esther 5:2; NKJV]

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. [John 14:6; NKJV]

The Bible book of Esther is easy and fun to read. It’s not too long, and frankly, it reads like a good movie script. In the end, the bad guys fall into the trap they set for the innocent, and everyone lives happily ever after. The difference between these events and movie scripts are that these events are historically true and accurate. But the book of Esther is more than entertaining, for like all bible texts, much gold is hidden within, waiting to be discovered and available to any who want to dig it out.
One such nugget is easily seen when we realize that the physical scepter of the king in Esther, is an obvious foreshadowing of the cross of Christ. In Esther, the extended scepter granted life to the one approaching the king, and without it being extended, any such approach became a death penalty. How is the cross of Christ any different?
In Esther, the Jews had been condemned to die by the decree of the king. It was an unchangeable decree and could not be appealed or repealed. In the same way, Christ came to earth to extend life to those who would avail themselves of the chance to avoid the sure, coming judgment, for without the mercy of the Cross of Christ, all are already condemned to die (see: John 3:17,18).
Like many people alive on the earth today, Esther could have done nothing. She was the duly appointed queen of the kingdom, and the bride of the king of the kingdom. She was riding high, but as Mordecai pointed out, if she did nothing, the law already in effect would cause her to be an outlaw, and she would eventually die by it (Esther 4:13,14).
In the exact same way, those who reject God today, cast their votes for eternal death. God has extended the Scepter of His mercy to all who would take it, and cling to it, and it is extended by and through Jesus Christ and no one else.
The Son of God is always and has always been God, but He became a man named Jesus at His advent in Bethlehem. He was ‘brought forth’ as such, and will forever be all God and all man for the rest of eternity. It is the very substance of His life that will cause those who believe in Him now, to live on forever, for His life is indestructible.
The difficult part of this outwardly simple equation for life is caused by our pride. It is just too simple, and we want to find a way to work for it. We want to get the credit for all our hard work; we want to show by our works how we’re worthy of salvation. We want to show to all how we’ve earned it by all the good things we’ve done. All too often, that is the implied salvation of many believers, but it is the highway to hell for those blinded by pride. If it were possible to work our way into earning eternal life, why did Jesus have to die?
This is the most basic of Christian messages, and probably most of us already know all about it, but I’m writing this today in case there might be a reader who is lost, and wants to be found. Perhaps there’s someone who will glance at this and see the light of true life at the end of the tunnel, instead of darkness and uncertainty.
The really great news is that for those who find this Scepter, and cling to it now, eternal life begins today. We don’t have to wait until we die. We can have the down payment for it placed into our accounts as we yet live this earthly life.
God left us here as a witness to Himself for the lost and dying world we live in, for God has always left Himself witnesses. We may as well grab the extended Scepter of His mercy and grace, and join that great throng.



The Hidden War

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 09:24

It seems ironic to me that we have spent millions of dollars to intercept and recover messages from outer space, yet we do not have a clue about the origins of the messages we receive every day, almost every minute of every day, in our heads. It really must be entertaining to the source! We rankle at the media for their ongoing, brazen attempts at brainwashing us under the thin guise of “news”, but we glibly listen to the chatter in our heads without any attempt at discernment.
I’ve heard preachers talk about the “voices” we hear in our heads, and at first I was amused and skeptical, but they haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the issue. The ongoing, never ending attempt at controlling us, comes at all of us as voices in our heads, and we are blind and deaf to the attack. It is an attack and nothing less.
Doubt me? Think about it. Have you ever thought of doing something you liked to do, while knowing that “technically” it was a sin? The voices would give you justification by saying something like this, “Well, God knows you ‘are but dust’…” Or, “He is quick to forgive, and all you have to do is ask Him to forgive you. He knows you are weak..” Or, “Well He knows I didn’t mean it.” Ever heard stuff like that? Bet you have. Allow me to introduce you to the hidden war going on twenty-four hours a day in your head.
We all sin by omission and by ignorance, and I’m not talking about that. Those sins fall under the purview of the Holy Spirit; He’s in charge of those revelations. I’m talking about the little (or big), but mostly little sins we justify. It is not legalism for me to say when we justify sinning, we are taking the name and sacrifice, the very blood of Jesus and our covenant with Him, in vain.
Yes, there is forgiveness, thank you God! But the danger is found in the changes that occur secretly within us as we knowingly choose against God, and for ourselves. It incrementally hardens us against Him, and over time we could indeed find ourselves on the outside of the covenant, looking in. It is serious business disguised as harmless, forgivable little choices, and we all make them, don’t we?
Believe me, I’m not excluding myself to any degree! This battle is common to all who have chosen to follow Jesus. When Peter denied even knowing Jesus, immediately preceding the denial and during it, it probably made perfect sense to him. It was only after the fact that the truth came crashing in on him, and he realized he was guilty and had been duped.
I’ve always thought that Peter would not have denied Jesus if he could have a do-over. The battle and condemnation in his head afterwards must have put D-Day to shame! But after being restored by the risen Christ, he never did it again. I don’t envy the way Peter died, but it is what he chose over ever again denying Christ. I think he learned the lesson…and paid the ultimate price to receive the diploma of his choice.
I’m not an overly brave person, and I’m not naïve enough to think I’ll never be tested. If I excel at anything, I excel at being average. I am the wallpaper, and the one with no real discernable skills. I can’t sing and I’d make a fool of myself, drunk or sober, attempting to dance (I’ve tried it both ways, and I’m telling the truth!). I am not musical to any degree; all I can do with music is enjoy it. I can do basic home repairs as long as I don’t electrocute myself in the process, or fall off the ladder I’m using. I’ve searched high and low to find something exceptional about myself, and I can find only this:
I can choose to love and follow Jesus, and with His aid, I can love Him better than He’s ever been loved. And the war in my head always gets a lot louder and a lot more insistent with that declaration.
This is serious business. Being a Christian is not for the cowardly, the weaklings or the Easter and Christmas, sort-of-committed. There is no “test drive”.
This is serious business, and if you can’t or won’t commit to being serious about it, you should probably forget it. No one is sort of pregnant, and just like that, no one is sort of a Christian. You can’t have it both ways, and you aren’t authorized to make or change the rules of engagement.
We can, and will win this hidden war, if we consistently, and persistently choose to fight it. We can leave this earth winners; we don’t have to comply with the enemy.
We have a choice, and it comes to us new every day…so does His mercy.



The Primacy of God

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 15:30

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity;
[Jeremiah 29:11-14A; NKJV]

I didn’t climb out of bed this morning knowing I was going to write something important; something that actually might make a difference in the cosmos…but now I think I just might…
I came from a little church where praying for the last, greatest revival was nearly the only thing we did. We even had a log of the prophetic declarations given to us over the years attesting that revival would come. We wanted revival desperately, or so we confessed. However, we didn’t want it desperately enough to be willing to be radically changed and transformed as a necessary consequence. I’m no longer part of that congregation. I sincerely hope they get their revival, even if it’s only for a day.
Now I’m in a much bigger, more vibrant congregation, and I love it. We are a family, and we are a family hungry for revival. Our church has some history with revival, so for the veteran members, revival is like home ground…or so we think.
So here’s what I’m going to say that may be very important: REVIVAL IS NOT GOD. Revival is about God, with God, alongside of God, in partnership with Him, etc. – but it is NOT God. Only God is God.
If you read no further, that’s the message, right there. Only God is God. And while nowhere are we admonished to seek Revival, we are hammered in and by Scripture to seek God…just Him, but to have Him, we have to put away ourselves. God does not share Himself with those who persist in clinging to themselves. For His glory to rise, we must diminish.
I want to be clear here: I am not being critical of any church or any congregation, but hear me, if we make Revival our focus, we may get fortunate enough to get a brief visitation or a few days of His grace, but if we seek God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, He will have little recourse but to come down in our midst, and that’s revival.
And if seeking Him, rather than what He brings, results in a dynamic revival, know the dynamic is primarily fueled by how radically we seek Him, and continue in our seeking. It will be proportional to our heart’s cry for Him. Revival is relationship with God expressed in time and space, and He wants to send it more than we want it, but primarily, we must seek Him and only Him.
Revival is not a destination; it is a consequence. We should know this.
And as long as our cry for Him fuels up the heavens, we will be changed, transformed and able to host the thing that He sends.
His Kingdom lives in His presence, and as long as we seek Him, not His things, He will be pleased to send His things.
We have His promise.



A Question of Perspective

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 09:04

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan? [Jeremiah 12:5; NKJV]

It’s been financially tough lately here on Happiness Island! Thinking back on it, the beginning of the concerted attack was at 5:00 am on June 22nd, when I awakened with only one eye working. Wow, now that was a day I’d rather forget!! And on, and on. No, I’m not asking or seeking sympathy or donations, and in the context of this piece, that would be embarrassing.
This month I replaced a sump pump (critical equipment on Happiness Island!), back in early June I replaced the boundary fence (very expensive!), and then I recently found out that both A/C units had leaked Freon and needed to be refilled ($100 per gallon!). Yesterday I learned that one of the A/C units was on the fritz again…O I forgot, several weeks ago I fell off a ladder and crashed and smashed a toilet (how often have you heard that one?!). Last night, the kitchen sink became unusable, along with the garbage disposal that shares the same drain pipe (hidden back behind the wall where it’s unreachable to replace!). Add the simple routine maintenance on the car this month, which was supposed to be focused on an oil change, ended up with a total hit of $652, and I just couldn’t be happier, here on Happiness Island…..
After recently learning that my trees have leaves, not money, I was praying this morning about my sad circumstances and the above verse came to mind. I’ve always loved the verse, so I looked it up and meditated on it…. You know what? I don’t have it so bad, and I’m a real baby to have entertained the idea that I did.
First, I have a covenant relationship with Almighty God. That’s a great place to begin, for it is in fact, my foundation for every other good thing, hope and all faith. It all begins there, for without that covenanted relationship, I am dead meat! And by the way, without the covenant relationship with God, so are you. Perhaps your number hasn’t been called yet, but it will. It’s just like the old Draft days.
Second, I have the promises of my covenant God to rely on. He’s promised me to ‘be with me in trouble, and deliver me’. Sounds good, but of course He wouldn’t be able to keep that promise unless I was actually ‘in trouble’. Not cool, but good. I can count on Him, but only if I choose to do so. I can also throw in the towel, have myself a good cry, and relapse into the morass of pity. I tried that…never works. It is a ‘morass’ after all, which is like mental and spiritual quicksand – as long as you’re in it, you can only sink deeper.
Third, after listening to a sermon CD I received in the mail several days ago (“A Righteous Relationship”, by Pastor Steve Gray), I learned that I am more than simply “accepted” by God, and loved by Him because ‘God is love’ and hence, He has no choice…rather, I am WANTED. I’m starting to get happy right about now!
Fourth, just what have I lost that can’t be replaced? Nothing. The perception of “loss” is baloney. It’s all His stuff anyway, and I know this because I gave it all to Him before I even moved into Happiness Island. It belongs to Him, and He just lets me use it because He loves me. Well, really! Where is the complaint?
Now I’m not only getting happy, I’m starting to feel silly on top of it! I asked God some months ago to reveal Himself to me in new ways and increase my ability to use the faith He bestowed upon me. And while I’m tempted to think I maybe rushed in where angels fear to tread, all this is nothing more than His answer to that prayer. I’ve noticed that God answers some prayers with incredible consistency and speed (i.e.: ask Him for Patience!!).
Fifth, unlike many thousands in Florida today, I DO have a house to live in, even if some of it is currently rebelling. If it had rained last night, I would have stayed dry, and as long as I’m not a vegetable, that’s good!
Sixth, I remembered my old range instructor used to always say, “Before you run out of ammunition, you’ll run out of time.” In my current circumstances, I would append that to: “There will always be more money; it’s time you’re running out of.”
Seventh, and I’ll close with this because seven is such a magical, biblical number: If my love and trust in God can’t remain healthy in these little attacks, how will they ever be strong enough to endure to the end?
And there I am, and there we are…back to Jeremiah 12:5. I think I’m on to something..



First Things First

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 12:29

“Just remember, you’ll meet the same people on your way down that you trampled on your way up.” [my editorial revision of a word given to me by Alan Krupski, c-1965]

Humility is tough on us. None of us come by it naturally, and frankly, it’s difficult to acquire, perhaps because so much of us has to die to obtain it. If we persist in wanting to serve God with our lives, with regard to humility we have two choices: we can humble ourselves, or God will see to it. Given those options, I’d rather not fall into God’s hands.
From 2005 to 2016, my wife and I were members in good standing in two different churches. In both, we sought to serve in some way, rather than just punch the time clock on Sunday mornings. And in both we performed generally simple tasks that were a critical part of the life of those churches. We weren’t on the front row, didn’t share the stage or hog microphones, but we performed important functions for both churches. I’m not bragging; that’s just the facts.
I know a lot of folks who feel like we do, that it is important to enter in, in some way, to the life of our church. I think it honors God, and I would encourage any who are growing tired of pew sitting – get involved. But a warning must also be said, and it is the point of this short piece: No matter how important the things you do for your church, you’ll never be more important than your relationships.
All or our service “for the church” must spring primarily from our relationship with Christ. That’s always in the irreplaceable first place. I suspect we all would say, “Well duh! I know that already.” Probably so, but what we know most always needs to be re-learned from time to time, and those who think otherwise will generally need to re-learn it more often. Humility is tough on us, and I guess it was meant to be.
Like many I know, I’m not a quick learner when it comes to altering my habits or my life choices, and I need all the help I can get. I began this piece with a paraphrased quote from a person I knew during my freshman year in college. He was an ardent bookworm, and as such, most of us movers-and-shakers tormented him in many creative ways. He learned the hard way not to study his books with his back to the door of his room, at least not while we had access to lighter fluid! Just harmless fun, we thought, but my participation came to an abrupt halt when he said what I quoted. I learned a valuable lesson that day, and I’m still re-learning it these many decades later.
Consequently, I’ve found it more interesting to seek out the overlooked people, or the ones “a bit odd”, those that don’t fit in, and I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the glitzy ones at center stage. From what I read of the ministry of Jesus, He seemed to always find the overlooked ones too, and He valued relationship over service.
Our horizontal relationships should thrive as a consequence of our primary relationship, that relationship we all think we already know about. But all too often, we order our relationships in real life, backwards from the order we know they should take. It is truly, naturally backwards for us to actually consider others more important than ourselves, and few of us get it right very often, and our unregenerate selves quite naturally take center stage until and unless Jesus gets the hook and pulls us off it. For proof, I reference Romans, chapter 7, and as Paul taught, our condition apart from the Holy Spirit is quite hopeless.
When I was growing up, my aunt had a job in a church office. I think she was the secretary. Normally a cheerful person to be around, she would quickly get verbally vicious whenever she felt her “Christianity” was being challenged. I remember trying to tell her about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and I was excited that I even had a personal testimony. I was lashed and re-lashed by her tongue without mercy and without let up! She felt I was trying to correct her theology, when in fact, the thought never entered my mind. I honestly thought she would be excited for me, and want for herself what I had received. She was certainly excited, but not in the way I had envisioned. She taught me this lesson: Arrogance makes one unteachable, and that’s as true today as it was in 1972.
I’m not pontificating with this piece; believe me, I’m speaking to myself first. The devil is incredibly patient, and unrelenting, and that’s a toxic mix for humans who think they know it all.
Let’s serve from our relationship(s), rather than relate through our service.



Are We Delusional?

Filed under: Real Life Christianity — John Miltenberger @ 08:14

I had a conversation with a friend recently and he postulated that most, perhaps all humans are delusional. I forget the exact context of the theory, but I think it came from a book he’s been reading. I’ve been pondering the theory ever since, and this morning I think I’ve settled the issue in my mind: We are all delusional to the degree we think delusional the reality of Christ, because apart from Him, there is no basis for reality.
Secular thinkers are living delusionally as long as they remain convinced Christ, and the fact of His reality, is based on myth or wishful thinking. In fact, they are delusional to even postulate the theory that He never lived, died and was resurrected. They remain in an ultimately self-destructive bubble of their own fictional reality.
You can take this to the bank: apart from Christ, the Creator, there is no basis for existence in the present, and no hope for it in the future. Without the absolute, bedrock reality of an historical Christ, we are all now and ever will be – lost, and we are trapped in a life of delusion. Without Him, there is no Life, Truth, or Way home for any of us. Dirt and dust is all we have in our future without Him, and we would be kidding ourselves to think differently.
If Christ, to any extent, is mythical or fictional, then so is the God He told us about, and we are blindly delusional as we muddle through our days on earth, only to cease to exist at the end of them. Where’s the hope in that?
I was up most of the night with a new arrival next door…a barking dog. So much for the neighborhood! Without God being the ultimate reality in our lives, what would be the impropriety of my going next door and simply shooting the little barker? Who could say I was morally wrong to do so? It might be “illegal”, but it could not be judged on a moral scale. I would probably go to jail, or be inconvenienced in some way, but so what? If life is delusional, then there is no meaning to it, but to even use the word presupposes it hangs on a contrasting comparison. If there is no right, how can there be any wrong? To say we are delusional begs the question of who is not, and as Pilot asked, “What is truth?”
Jesus said He was the Son of God, and if that’s not absolutely crazy, it can only be absolutely true. I think the jury was out during his tenure on earth, but the indisputable fact of His resurrection brought in the verdict! Putting Him on trial again can only hurt us, not Him. He did what He came to do, and when it was done He proclaimed, “It is finished.” And these things were not done in a dark corner, but right in our faces as a raw, public example.
This old earth seems to be aging more poorly as time goes by. I would indeed be delusional to deny that, and every day I realize that the only real light in the world is the light Christ brought with Him, and placed within His brothers and sisters.
If I am delusional to believe totally in Jesus as my personal Savior, and you are not delusional to believe He never was more than only just another human (maybe), which of us would be better prepared for an eternal future, if there is one?
I’d rather be ready to translate into the future Jesus promised, than only be ready to die another skeptic. Better, I can live now in the promises of God, if I will…but can the skeptic?
I’d rather be packed for the trip I can’t avoid, than wait too late to see what I need for it, and if it’s true we’re all delusional, I’d still choose Jesus as mine.


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