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Posts Tagged ‘lost’

Cloud of Witnesses by Jean Moore

Is it really Abraham and Isaac and Jacob? What about the disciples or maybe a few of the women who managed to get their names in the book? Or what about all the unnamed saints? Is it one cloud for all of us? Maybe they’re color coordinated.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Honestly, there are a lot of dead souls between the Old or New Testament times and now. Who are these people? And what do they see?

I would assume that most traditional Christians believe these cloud formations are all the folks in heaven, especially the long-gone relatives and extended family who are cheering them on. Big family: big cloud.

But I’m not from a big family nor have I done much in the genealogy department to scout out family members I never knew I had. I suppose the cloud could be my “church” family but then, let’s be honest, do I believe they would keep checking on me if I’m not connected to that “building” where they met me in the first place?

I know I’m being flip, but I want to challenge the concept in my own head. What have I speculated over the years? I’ve read this scripture hundreds of times. It always sounded nice, the uncountable numbers celebrating when a “lost one is found” like the lost coin of the old wife [Luke 15:8-10] or the shepherd who searched until he found his lost sheep [Luke 15:4-6].

But I’m not lost (at least I hope I’m not). Instead, I’ve been treading Christian waters for thirty years: is the cloud still around? Are they applauding or are they waiting for me to get on with it? Is the cloud “individual” or corporate (like the “hive mind” of the Borg in Star Trek)?

Or is it time to let go of the literal image and consider the essence of this verse?

Didn’t Solomon capture it: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” [Ecclesiastes 1:9] Our cloud of witnesses faced similar challenges to the ones we face today: they grieved and laughed, they grew families and lost them, they saw success and failure, they laughed and cried. Life goes on. They did it, we can do it. They lived by faith, we can live by faith. They trusted God, we can trust God.

It’s a cloud of love, a cloud of hope, a cloud of humanity that made it through and learned the deep lessons. They are part of the realm that the Holy Spirit embodies. And just as we have access to the Holy Spirit; through that same Holy Spirit, we have access to the cloud who lived and live still outside our understanding.

So, I thank you “cloud of witnesses” and I thank you Holy Spirit. Keep me running and mindful of your presence. Keep me in the race.

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Most of my understanding of the nature of God is downright murky; how much less my understanding of that opposite force/entity: the Devil? And yet, I see the consequences of evil everywhere, even prevalent. How do I still get trapped?

II Timothy 2:25-26
You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.
[The Message]

What is the trap of the devil anyway? I’d say it has more to do with a state of the mind than anything else. After all, it’s in the mind that I make decisions, that I initiate my actions. I choose inside the mind. So, I confess, some “traps” I choose. I choose to judge others; I choose to gossip; I choose to sin. Like any woman on a perpetual diet, I still eat the wrong foods and exercise little. I perpetuate my condition.

Now, that’s not to say that some traps don’t catch me off guard too. Like a mousetrap, that is laden with scrumptious cheese. It looks so good. It looks so harmless. I am presented with such snares in the media and while shopping: buy, buy, buy. I am offered credit cards with “cheap” interest. I am told I can afford a much bigger house than I thought. I am encouraged to upgrade everything and anything. Super size it!

And what about the gambit that slowly bewitches me if I am not watchful, like the little frog in the pot of water, getting hotter and hotter? Will I jump out in time? Not always. I become desensitized. I no longer notice the brutal lyrics, the foul language, the abusive behaviors. I am able to watch tsunami scenes and it’s like watching a Hollywood movie, all unreal. “How sad,” I say, “how tragic,” and then I blend up my smoothie or pour a glass of Pinot Noir and watch a DVD to get away from the news.

They say that people who are abducted actually begin to attach to their abductors. Their limited lives develop a pattern, a norm, and slowly, the whole idea of escape is numbed out of them. Isn’t this the most insidious trap of all?

And if I get trapped, so can anyone else. When I’m caught up in a web, it means so much when someone reaches out to me, tells me to “watch out” before I step on the trigger, helps me climb out of the pot of water, gives me clarity where I can no longer see, and draws me into truth with love.

No one likes being slapped across the head like an idiot and told to “wake up! You’re deluded.” No one likes to discover they’ve been fooled or tricked.

The people who have made a difference in my life are the ones who were consistent and patient; those who were authentic in their faith and transparent in their sharing of self.

This is my goal as a follower of the Christ today. This is the role that makes it possible to change a path, to walk beside, to love, to stay out of traps by walking the road corporately.

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I struggled today with the “lawless one,” false signs and miracles and, to cap it off, God willing to send a delusion to those who are determined to believe a lie. No way out for them? No hope? No mercy? Then I saw the truth of it: a tipping point exists for everyone.

II Thessalonians 2:11-12
For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point is one of my favorite books, along with a number of subsequent titles he wrote since 2000. What or who causes a tipping point? In Gladwell’s frame of reference, it has to do with “social epidemics” or how an idea or trend gains and ultimately crosses over into popularity.

I can imagine the “lawless one” being good at any one or all of Gladwell’s people types: connectors, mavens, and salesmen. Charismatic people, in the classic sense, make things happen as they scatter what they “know” and what they’ve “heard” and what is “cool.” And eventually, many are on the same bandwagon and believe.

What is truth and what is the lie? It is a critical question to put before the Holy Spirit daily.

Once that tipping point is reached and the lies are accepted for truth and doubt is cast aside as irrelevant and perhaps irreverent, then it’s possible that a way back is lost.

I don’t want to believe this is possible. I don’t want to believe or imagine the existence of an irredeemable soul.

According to Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, it is possible to reach that moment, that decisive juncture. I envisage someone backing up and with each step, getting closer and closer to a precipice. If any one of us can see the chasm, then we should be holding on, calling out, wooing him/her back to safety. Right?

Does such a calamitous journey only happen with individuals or does it also happen with people groups? I don’t know. I’m just asking. But it does seem plausible.

I cry out for truth, that none would be deceived, that none would be lost. This is another reason to prayerfully “hold back evil” so that each and every person has a real chance to experience God’s mercy, God’s provision in the Anointed One, and God’s Spirit of renewal from within.

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John 3:17 (Amplified edition)
For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.

How many of us have forgotten that the Son didn’t come just “to save” us as individuals but for the sake of the world. Just like the world in the time of Noah, we have been on a crash course for ruin. And everything has suffered: the animals, the landscape, the oceans, the weather, the children … everything. So God sent his “only Son” to make a supreme sacrifice so that the law of sowing and reaping could be nullified for anyone who believed in Him. This process is not just so you and I can go to “heaven” when we give our bodies back to the Earth. This “deal” was made for the whole world. This was a supernatural transaction.

Those of us who have believed are in the recovery business…. recovering that which has been lost.
We are in the lighting business… shining in the dark places.
We are in the food business… bringing savor (salt) to the tasteless.
We are in the hydro business… bringing streams of water to the dry places.
We are in the messenger business… bringing the good news that the Kingdom of God is near.

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Luke 19:10
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

So often when we talk about “the lost,” Christians are referring to people who have not accepted Christ. But I think there is more. Jesus came to seek the lost parts of ourselves as well and to redeem what we have lost.

I think humankind has tremendous potential. But, by the choices we make and roads we take, much is lost. We lose our giftings. We lose our talents. We lose our ability to love. We lose our ability to hear and see God.

Reintegrate me.

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Luke 19:10
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Last Christmas I watched the entire first season of “Heroes” the television series. It was great fun and a good story. One of the “gifted” characters was a little girl who was a “finder.” As I contemplated this scripture today, I thought of her and realized how I think of my Lord in a similar way. He isn’t just searching like the shepherd who looks for lost sheep or the woman for the lost coin, he is also supernaturally seeking out individuals who, when He finds them, they recognize Him right away … like Zacchaeus, and accept being found. The hidden areas of my heart and soul are the same. They are lost in a morass of memories, mistakes, and shame. Come, Lord, find those parts of me and reconcile them to you. I am ready to be found.

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