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Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. – Jude 5-7

Leaning Flower | Mercer Botanical Gardens | June 2018

Many years ago I read a very enlightening article about the dangerous impact of television. This was written just as cable TV was beginning to become an option for more people. I thought the writer would focus on the dangers of inviting R-rated content into our living rooms through HBO or other providers. He didn’t. Although he mentioned that danger, the main focus of the article was the danger in the unspoken assumptions that TV writers and programming brought into our minds. Ideas that ranged from a godless universe to the ability to solve even the worst problems in 60 minutes. Assumptions are a powerful thing.

Jude has two very powerful assumptions under which he works: Jesus is God in the flesh and was active throughout the history of God’s people – from earlier than 1500 years before his incarnation through the ages to come. Jude assumes it. He speaks about how Jesus(!) brought God’s people out of Egypt, and how he meeted out judgment on those who had been saved from Pharaoh but did not remain faithful. Assumption: Jesus has the authority to save and to judge.

Jude’s second assumption (Jesus’ authority) brings with it a comfort and a warning for us. Just as the people of Moses’ day, the people of Jude’s day would be protected from even those who troubled them (mentioned in the preceding verses to these quoted above). We can be confident of Jesus’ protective care for us. He will save and protect us who believe in him.

The warning should be self-evident: we dare not turn away from the salvation Jesus has won for us, for fear of his judgment. This warning all too often falls on deaf ears of those who need to heed it, and shakes the hearts of Jesus’ true followers. Those who need to hear it – those who presume upon Jesus’ grace, assuming that they have a right to it – will often ignore this warning. Those who recognize their utter need for God’s grace and mercy (cf. Jude 2) too easily fear a loss of salvation and the blessings of mercy, peace, and love which is Jesus’ gift to all who believe.

To that we say, keep the faith!

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1-4

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Dragonfly | Mercer Botanical Gardens | June 2018

Perhaps you’ve had to be the heavy in a conversation with a family member or co-worker – though you would rather not. There are some people who thrive on being the heavy it seems. They bring challenge at every turn. They relish the idea of telling others what they should do that they are not doing. I do not like to do that. I’m much more a catch flies with honey than a drive ’em away with vinegar kind of guy.

That seems to be Jude’s approach as well. He begins with a word of grace, blessing, and assurance: they are called and loved. They are to be enriched by mercy, peace, and love. But there is, apparently, an issue that must be addressed. While he would hope simply to celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness, there was a danger lurking of which they needed to be aware.

These Christians apparently had let down their guard. People had infiltrated their fellowship and brought with them a destructive teaching that threatened the eternal wellbeing of God’s people. These false teachers were champions of cheap grace to the extreme. They not only sought to take advantage of the grace of God by sinning more (cf. Romans 6:1-4), they seemed to be championing a lifestyle of self-indulgence and sensuality that took the focus away from Jesus’ true call.

There is a danger in every age that we compromise the grace of God, making it a license for sin of various kinds. That’s why we must always look to Jesus as not only Savior, but as a manifestation of a true life of faith. In him we have grace and peace. We also have a calling to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him (Matthew 16:24-26). The promise of Jesus to those who do follow him is life – a life built on the mercy, peace and love of God.

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

13 I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name. – 3 John 11-15

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Impressionistic Imitation | Mercer Botanical Gardens | June 2018

One of the assignments of our photo club in the coming month is to imitate the work of impressionists. We are to take a photo and work with various software tools to make it look like some sort of impressionistic artist. I look forward to that assignment. It will require some intentional work on my part to produce such an image. The photo above is an example of one such attempt on my part.

In the case of John and the people of Gaius’ church there is a call to intentional imitation of good, not of evil. They should make a choice not to follow the evil ways of Demetrius – with his strong-arm tactics, arrogant pride, and judgmental spirit. They should seek to imitate the good of Gaius as testified by John.

The essence of goodness they were to imitate is centered in the One who is the way, the truth and the life: Jesus Christ himself. He is truly good. Truly Good.

Jesus is true, never wavering from that which really is, or abandoning the path of life which is laid out in God’s word. He is also good, supremely committed to the welfare of others and desiring only that which is in alignment with the goodness of God and God’s will.

We may be tempted to imitate the strong, successful, slick, or powerful, and hope to attain the degree of success or prestige they achieve in the eyes of the world. That may or may not be good. Only those who seek to imitate Jesus in his demeanor, faithfulness, love, and kindness, are being true to John’s call.

To those who seek to follow in that way John’s wish is a blessing of peace and the blessing of fellowship of other followers of Jesus.

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. – 3 John 9-10

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Another Miksang Image | Mercer Botanical Gardens | June 2018

Have you ever experienced a tyrant at work, in your family, at school, or even in your church? Today’s term for such a person is “bully.” I’ve been theologically-bullied, and it isn’t fun. Judgmental, holier-than-thou pseudo-authorities tell it like (they think) it is – with little or no room for conversation or discussion. Gaius was such a bully. There was little mercy, gentleness, kindness, or respect in his attitude or approach to members of his own church! Of him, Gill says,

It is very likely he was more than a private member in the church, and that he was an officer, and it may be the pastor; and though there is a preeminence, which of right belongs to such an officer, as to preside over the church, to govern, guide, and direct, according to the laws of Christ, he being set over the church, as a ruler, governor, and guide; yet this may be carried too far, as it was by this man, who coveted more than was his due, and lorded it over God’s heritage, ruled the flock with force and cruelty, and usurped a tyrannical power over them; whereas every thing in a church ought to be done, by pastor and people, in love, meekness, and with mutual consent. And it may be also, that he sought to have the preeminence over the rest of the elders of the church, for in those large churches there were oftentimes more elders and pastors than one…

Boice, speaking of Diotrephes’ desire for preeminence, observes: “This is the original and greatest of all sins. It is the sin of Satan, who was unwilling to be what God had created him to be and who desired rather to be ‘like the Most High’ (Isa. 14:14). It is the opposite of the nature of Christ ‘who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.’”

The clear instruction of Scripture is to correct with gentleness and respect, but there are times when evil must be called what it is. There is a time to prevent others from holding sway in a church. There is a time to call someone out.

It is noteworthy that John takes this action against the one who was not acting in gentleness and respect toward the members of his own church. Jesus said, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.” Some take that as a warning against sharing the gospel with those who are unworthy. How can that be? We’re all unworthy. I take it to mean not to throw a brother (pearl) out of the fellowship – unless he has shown himself to be no longer a brother. Let mercy prevail!

I wrote in today’s post about Amanda Roensch who serves as a self-funded worker for Reach Global. If you want to learn more you can contact her directly. Here is her most recent email.

As I finish packing the last of my things and head to one of my last Texas goodbyes, I keep thinking of all of the things I will not have around me in a few days. I am packing my Honda Civic with all that I can and have given away everything else. I’ve never even stepped foot in Arizona and know approximately four people in my new city. My entire family other than my sister have lived less than three hours from me my entire life, and the majority of my friends as well. (Did I mention Arizona does not have HEB??) Needless to say, the thought of moving has been daunting. 

Many people hear my concerns and with the best intentions try to talk me out of it, saying all of the wonderful things they would help me do instead. Even I look back and see the incredible job and community that I am saying goodbye to and often think about what staying could have looked like. However, one single verse rings through my mind and shuts it all down quickly – Matthew 13:44 says “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” 

I know that I am by no means showing up to this new job empty-handed, but in my (embarrassingly often) dramatic moments my flesh tells me that I should cling to what is comfortable and familiar and “normal”. I am not promised to love Phoenix and I am not promised to be blown away by all that I see there, but I am promised that God is with me and that my joy is found in the presence of the Lord. When I stop focusing on what I am leaving behind and consider all the promises that will never be taken from me, I see why the man joyfully sold all that he had. This parable is not implying that we can earn or pay for salvation, because it is given freely to us, yet we see that much must be given for the sake of it. 

My prayer is that this week and in the months to come, I would remember that all of these things I am mourning are a worthy price to pay to be obedient to what the Lord has joyfully called me to. Most importantly, I pray that I never grow apathetic the second lesson in this parable – that we are God’s treasure and He gave up His son, His everything for us. If my crying in the aisle of HEB did not seem silly before, it sure does when I remember that.
This squad kept me on my toes all year and I am not sure any future neighbors will live up to their level of sass
My dad and I delivered one of my couches to Lisa, helping answer one of the prayers on her board behind us!
When I moved into my apartment last August, I dreamed about the day that I would get to move out and it is shocking how emotional it has been saying goodbyes. I have learned many lessons in this complex (many of them involve how to kill bugs) but the Lord has also taught me in very real ways how to love my neighbors. There were many days that I was frustrated by what people would say or do, but it is humbling to think about how difficult I can be at times too. The people God puts around you have lives that are waiting to be transformed by the Gospel, and I am so thankful that He used this apartment and these people to be a part of mine.
Prayer Requests

Tuesday morning, my dad and I will leave for Phoenix! I would love prayers for the following:

  • Pray for safe travels and energy during the move
  • Pray for the remaining 6% of my support goal so that I may start my ministry ASAP!
  • Pray for the people of Phoenix and opportunities to share and make friends
  • Pray for emotional processing as I transition to a new community
Please let me know how I can be praying for you! I would love to spend time during the drive in prayer for each of you – respond to this email with anything and everything. If you have any podcast suggestions, conversation topics, Spotify playlists or book suggestions send them my way – I will have 16 HOURS to kill!

Talk to me:
832-233-1739
amandaroensch1@gmail.com

If you want to know more about joining my support team, let me know!

To give: bit.ly/ALRTeam

Let me know if you’d like to change the email address that my monthly newsletters are sent to!

 

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.  – 3 John 5-8

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Golden Blossom Miksang | Mercer Botanical Gardens | June 2018

A young woman from the church I serve is leaving this week for Phoenix. She will live there as she serves Launch Global, a missionary sending and support agency for Christian missionary work in the 10/40 Window. Wikipedia says of the 10/40 Window:

The concept behind the 10/40 Window highlights these three elements (as of data available in 1990): an area of the world with great poverty and low quality of life, combined with lack of access to Christian resources. The Window forms a band encompassing Saharan and Northern Africa, as well as almost all of Asia (West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and much of Southeast Asia). Roughly two-thirds of the world population lived in the 10/40 Window, and it is predominantly Muslim,
Hindu, BuddhistanimistJewish, or atheist. Many governments in the 10/40 Window are officially or unofficially opposed to Christian work of any kind within their borders.

Two things about Amanda’s missional ministry impress me. She speaks of her own personal commitment to evangelism, and even how Launch Global will send a person for missionary work only after he or she has exhibited success in personal evangelism. She also speaks passionately about the great number of people in the 10/40 window who do not give Jesus the glory he deserves. That touched my heart. Jesus deserves our praise for what he has done, and she wants to see that happen in the lives of more and more people around the world.

John says that we ought to support those who have gone out for the sake of Jesus. Diane and I are happy to support Amanda in her missionary work. It is one small way we can honor Jesus, and encourage others in similar pursuits. As a result, we hope that Jesus will be ever more exalted and that he will receive the glory that he deserves.

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. – 3 John 1-4

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Dragonfly | Mercer Botanical Gardens | June 2018

Perhaps you’ve said, “Have a good day,” to people as a general expression of well wishes. John’s message to Gaius is more than a good wish. His words express a deeper desire than a kind word that may be sincere, but lacks substance or context. In this case John prays for a wholistic wellness: that all may go well, that he may experience good health, and spiritual wellness. This would be like offering to pray for someone to experience that which is called in Hebrew, “shalom”, peace.

God desires “our best and plans only good for us” (Enduring Word Commentary). That may mean material wealth, physical health, emotional balance, and spiritual wellbeing. It may also be, however, that in his wisdom and goodness he uses lack of these things for our greater good and deeper blessing. It is also sadly true that some lack these things because they do not seek God or live wise and sensible lives.

John’s ability here to express unconditionally his prayer for Gaius’ health, wealth, and spiritual wholeness, is based on Gaius’ commitment to the Truth of God. He knows Gaius does not need to be taken down a notch or two because of a failure to hold to the truth. He knew that Gaius was not living foolishly. His wish, therefore, could be wholehearted and unqualified.

Love of the truth, commitment to the truth, living in truth amounts to abiding in Jesus who is truth embodied. It means letting the Spirit of Truth hold sway in our hearts and minds. It makes the grace of God more precious, and our world more sure.

When we are grounded in the Truth we can embrace wishes for good health, spiritual wholeness and prosperity with a pure heart and clear conscience. It allows us to have a truly good journey through life.