Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Politics and Religion

"I tell you No! But unless you repent you will all likewise perish"      Luke 13:5.

Two topics guaranteed to cause contention from minor disagreements to all out war are religion and politics. Jesus knew the volatility that either or both could bring to a situation. When pressed to take a stand, Jesus bypassed the surface issue and dealt with the more serious one at hand.

In context, Jesus was approached by an un-named group bearing unsolicited news. Pilate had killed a group of Galileans. Even worse, this act took place while the individuals were in the process of making an offering.

Now fortunately for us today the rumor mill is dead and buried. We have media sources committed to reporting "the truth, the whole truth and noting but the truth...so help them God." A simple Google search eliminates the possibility of falling for fake news because everything on the internet is the gospel truth.

People in Jesus' time had to rely on word of mouth for news transmissions and we know how inaccurate and biased less than professional sources can be. The incident in question here has no historical basis. Suffice to say an incident of civil unrest is prone to spark creative interpretations of the event. While living in Haiti in the final days of the Duvalier regime, the evening news from Chicago would report demonstrations and instances of violence that never happened.

What motive did the atrocity storytellers have? Was this a sincere attempt to gauge Jesus' nationalistic fervor (very important when some wanted to make Him king by force). Were these individuals on a fishing expedition backed by the Jewish authorities with the goal of catching Jesus making anti-government statements that could be reported to Pilate?

If the former, such a story as reported should have aroused an intense emotional response that could be channeled into retaliatory measures. In that kind of atmosphere it was dangerous for the person who asks, "Have you checked your sources?" Even worse is the fate of the brave soul, like Jesus, who suggests, "Our hands aren't exactly clean you know."

If the latter, Jesus provided no evidence to use against Him with the Roman authorities. On the other hand, He wasn't silent. Space doesn't permit a full overview of this scenario but, Jesus took a story designed to elicit condemnation of the political system and turned it into a religious discussion of sin, suffering and repentance. Politically charged individuals with firm convictions of justice don't take kindly to such talk.

Equating the fate of the alleged slaughtered Galileans with the victims killed in the Siloam tower collapse took great courage. This also helped pave the way for Jesus' ultimate rejection by the Jewish community. Why He wasn't physically attacked on the spot is remarkable.

Why? Political persecution (real or imagined) clouds one's judgment and can lead to the erroneous belief that this type of suffering trumps all others. Consequently, a total disregard to the plight of others, especially if their situation differs can develop.

Those convinced they're oppressed can slip into an us vs. them mentality - angels vs. devils. The oft made mistake is the belief that the struggle for one's cause makes one righteous. The more intense the conflict, the more entrenched the feelings of superiority and self-righteousness become. This heightened sense of self-importance can express itself in an arrogant refusal of any criticism.

Jesus didn't suggest that Pilate was innocent of any wrong doing. He wasn't acquiescing to Roman oppression. He did express deep concern for those who'd ultimately be destroyed if they didn't repent. He knew the danger of being so focused on the perceived evil in Pilate's heart would blind people to real deal lodged in their own. Any movement willing to heed a courageous voice of correction that reminds them that there's angels in the opposition and devils in their own camp is blessed.

The shooting at the ball field last week highlighted the polarity our nation's experiencing. Unless all are willing to take a step back, tone down the rhetoric and do some genuine self examination, things will only get worse. And the real problems that need to be solved, they'll go untouched.

The only thing the shooter accomplished was to increase fear and animosity. Going down in a blaze of glory didn't enhance his cause one iota. It produced no significant change toward his positions in the hearts of the opposition. His actions did, however, leave in their wake a lot of innocent victims wondering, "Why?" These are left to pick up the pieces and attempt to rebuild shattered lives, just because someone took the righteousness of their cause to the extreme.

How about you? How, if at all, has the last presidential election impacted you? Did it strengthen your resolve that all those on the other side are wrong, even evil? How may of your relationships have devolved into an us vs. them standoff? Are your heart, mind and ears closed to the possibility that there are angels who disagree wholeheartedly with you and devils whose positions you'd applaud? If so, without a change of mind, which is what repentance means, you might wind up losing everything that really matters.
            

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

99 out of 100 Got It Wrong

"Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep! Count on it-there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue" Luke 15:7.

In a crowd composed of the religious authorities and their supposed counterparts the riff-raff, Jesus launched into story telling mode. First up, the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

Unlike the rest of the flock, graduates of The School of Excellent Sheep Behavior, this little nitwit was in trouble. Determined to go its own way, the scofflaw lamb wandered off into dangerous territory. The other ninety-nine played by the rules and never colored outside the lines. So confident in their ability to hold down the fort alone none of them flinched when the shepherd, their only protection, took off after the woolly rascal. "Who needs a shepherd?' they mused. "We're graduates. We've got the sheepskins to prove it. We can handle this on our own."

Now, what shepherd in his right mind endangers the life of ninety-nine line-towing, law-abiding, sheep in order to track down one willfully disobedient renegade? Grazed in open country, sheep are susceptible to predators who can quickly disseminate the flock. What was the shepherd thinking?

How did the shepherd react when he'd found his lost charge? Did he give it a stern talking to or brow beat it for its reckless behavior? Did he apply some corporal punishment to knock some sense into its head and teach it a lesson? No. Overjoyed to find the wanderer, he hoisted it up on his shoulders and gave it a ride home. Once there he threw a party in the lost lamb's honor and invited all to come celebrate. So much for teaching the renegade a lesson.

On it's part the lost lamb did nothing. Zero. Nada. No apology, penance or promise to never do that again. Nothing. He's Ubered home via the shepherd personally and then feted. Life was grand.

If the story's about shepherding, our boy's a blooming idiot. But it isn't. The religious leaders were put off, offended by the low-lifers Jesus attracted. Even worse, He welcomed and embraced them instead of demanding they either clean up their acts or worse, enroll in The School of Excellent Sheep Behavior that the leaders just happened to run. Jesus knew this was the last thing needed.

The message of His story wasn't lost to the Pharisees and scholars. It hit the mark and stung. Heaven is more ecstatic over some loser who knows it and gets found than ninety-nine others who are as lost as a ball in high grass and are convinced they're just fine.

Despite attempts to save themselves via the Law, the other 99 sheep were in need of the Good Shepherd as much as the lamb who purposely went off track. They were blind to the Law's true purpose of being their schoolmaster (Gal. 3:24) whose bar was set so high no one would measure up. That was the point. The religious leaders, however, opted for repeated attempts of reaching that goal than accepting their need of a Savior. Jesus, like the shepherd in the story, pursued the lost. He loved the religious folks just the same, but you can't save a drowning man who won't relax and trust his rescuer but fights him.

How about you? Are you the sheep in need of a rescue operation? Does the idea that the lost lamb didn't contribute one iota to its salvation bother you? If so, why? Are you enrolled in or a graduate of The School of Excellent Sheep Behavior? Can you handle life on your own without a shepherd? If you're part of the flock, are you content to let the stragglers fend for themselves, because after all it is their choice? We all need the Shepherd, all of the time. Let's celebrate with Heaven when a lost one is found.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Good Cop Bad Cop

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" James 1:17.

Recently a friend described a commonly held church view concerning Jesus, God the Father and their dealings with humanity as "Good Cop, Bad Cop."

Jesus is the "Good Cop". He runs interference between us and the mercurial Father ("Bad Cop") Who loves us... but is prone to angry outbursts of rage and wrath. Without Jesus as the buffer we'd all be toast. Is that how it really is?

Jesus made some theologically shaking statements while He was here. First, He called God his Father. No Jew ever made that claim before. Next, while teaching His disciples how to pray, He instructed them to address God as "Abba" (our equivalent of Dada). So much for rigid formality.

Jesus unashamedly confessed the truth that "I and the father are one" John 14:9. He claimed to be the exact representation of the Father (John 14:9) so, where is "Bad Cop Jesus"?

One might quickly point to Christ's encounter with the money-changers in the temple.

"Of all the places in the world that should have stood witness to grace and truth, the temple was that place; but the world had infected it, and there is nothing to be done with such a ship of fools but to pronounce upon it the judgment it deserves."[1]

It was after all His Father's house, and they had camped out there turning in to a commercial venue. At the most He interrupted business for part of a day. Jesus didn't call down fire from Heaven or have the earth swallow the vendors and bankers up. That would have really sent a clear message. He probably no sooner left the area that the crew righted their tables, rearranged their stock, conducted business as usual while grumbling about the audacity of that young man. If that's the extent of God's wrath, it's pretty tame.

To define God as a fickle, capricious figure with a short fuse invalidates James 1:17 and as the Lord's half-brother, James knew Jesus better than most. For his assessment of the character and nature of God, and Jesus' pronouncement of being the Father's mirror image to be true (and it is) there can only be: "Good Cop, Good Cop," or "Bad Cop, Bad Cop" but never "Good Cop, Bad Cop." They have to be identical.

The model of "Good Cop, Bad Cop" when applied to Jesus and God the Father is flat out wrong. God is good all the time. I do believe that God and Jesus do get angry at the things that destroy our lives or that distort our image of Who He really is. Those I believe He goes after with a vengeance, and I welcome His wrath in that respect. He looks to eliminate anything that's incongruent with His destiny for us as mature sons of God.

How about you? How would you describe God? Is He more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll or some combination of the two? Is He so unstable and unpredictable that you never know Whom you'll encounter, so staying away is safer? If the Father doesn't look just like Jesus to you, where did you get your image of Him? Can you live with a Father who is always in a good mood?



[1] Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus, pg.436

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Out of the Loop

"But your iniquities have hidden you from God; your sins have hidden His face from you; so that He will not hear" Isaiah 59:2.

For as long as I've been a Christian I've heard this taught. God can't tolerate sin...at all. He's so holy and pure that He can't abide even a hint of sin in His presence. Therefore, Jesus is the man in the middle, the protective element between man and God. When the Father looks at us, it has to be through the blood of Jesus. We are too despicable otherwise. The blood hides our sins, even though the Bible says that God has already chosen to forget them. Without the blood God can't be around us. How that's possible since Jesus and the Father are one escapes me, but hey, I've taught this too.

Phooey!

If we look at this verse in Isaiah carefully we need to determine who is separating from whom? Contrary to popular teaching, it doesn't say God separates Himself from us. It does say that sin's impact on us is that we feel separated from Him.

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior." Col. 1:21.

Paul sees eye-to-eye with Isaiah on this. Sin clouds our judgment and distorts our perception of God causing us to believe He is now our enemy.

"For as he thinks of himself, so he is." Prov. 23:7.

We become who we believe we are. To put to rest the concept that God can't endure contact with sinful man look no further than the first few chapters of Genesis.

God already knew what Adam and Eve had done. However, that wasn't enough to make Him cancel his customary rendezvous with the pair. My Bible says they were the ones hiding from God and not the other way around. When He asked, "Where are you?" He didn't think He'd misplaced them or that they were somehow lost. When Adam and Eve finally emerged from their hideout the trio had a face-to-face conversation. They did have to leave the garden ultimately, but it was to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life, not to sever their contact with God.

To confirm this wasn't a special exception to God's rule, keep reading. God cared enough about Cain to step in and try to keep him from killing his brother. He even intervened after the deed was done to protect Cain's life. He recruited idol-worshiping Abram, who twice tried to peddle his wife as his sister to save his own skin, to be the blood line for the Messiah. Moses was a murderer but God still made him Israel's deliverer and spoke with him face-to-face. God interrupted Saul of Tarsus' trip to round up Christians for extinction, and transformed him to Paul the Apostle who then went on to write most of the New Testament and evangelize the Gentiles. Finally, twice in the book of Job we see God conversing with the Devil, the inventor of sin and God doesn't have an apoplectic fit. If sin was no barrier then, why would it be one now?

The good news of the Gospel is that God and man aren't enemies, and this is the message that He wants us to share.

"That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." 2 Cor. 5:19.

The only thing separating us from God are the imaginary walls we've mentally constructed. The solution is simply repentance, or-have another thought (that's what the word means).

How about you? Is it possible that God really does love you and not just tolerate you because of what Jesus has done? How does the truth that the only thing that's ever  separated you from God has been the mindsets that convinced you that a barrier existed? Isn't the news that we're not on the outs with Him at all the best thing we can share with the world?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What Are You After?

"...and Jesus looked over His shoulder and said to them, 'What are you after?'" John 1:38.

If Jesus asked you this question, how would you reply? Throughout His ministry Jesus encountered all sorts of people with one thing in mind-what He could do for them.

Jesus didn't disappoint. The sick were healed, the dead were raised and the hungry fed. Those seeking a religious or intellectual discourse heard authoritative teaching like they'd never experienced before. Jesus gave liberally except...those looking for a legalistic warrior king always left empty-handed.

However, there was one thing God wanted and is still in short supply of even today -relationship. Those pursuing Jesus then and now too often want something, not Someone.

"Not so!" you protest. "I made Jesus Lord of my life." (Hint: He already is Lord. We don't make Him anything, we just finally wake up to this fact). I agree that accepting His Lordship is very important, but what exactly does this mean?

Is Jesus your get-out-of-hell card? Some evangelism portrays Him as such. Is His purpose to fix life's problems, a divine handyman of sorts? When things are going well, He's the go-to guy. No, wait a minute, when life is swell we usually don't need Him. But when things are disintegrating around us, we run to Him. However, what does He want?

Relationship, intimacy, the restoration of fellowship with man that was God's original intent. He wants us. We want stuff.

In the cool of the evening of the Fall God went looking for his good friends Adam and Eve. He sought relationship with them still, however, He knew things on their part had changed dramatically. His question wasn't an angry, "What have you done?" (like mine would have been). Their physical location wasn't a concern. Where their with Him relationship was. How had sin warped their thinking?

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in you minds because of your evil behavior." Col. 1:21.

God's attitude toward Adam and Eve hadn't changed, but in their minds things were radically different. Sin didn't separate God from them, their thinking did. God wasn't hiding, they were.

Patient and relentless, God pushes to establish relationship with us. Despite our resistance, He'll take a toe hold anywhere He can and work from there. Why do we have to make it so hard?

We still feel like we're His enemy. Mentally we check off our "I am not..." list, realize we come up short and hide from God like Adam and Eve. So afraid of an angry, "What did you do?" we miss His loving, "Where are you?" He knows, but do we...really?

How about you? What's your relationship with God like? Is it a two-way conversation or do you quickly hand Him a to-do list and move on? If you asked Jesus, "What do You want?" how do You think He'd respond? Are you afraid of what He might say? If so, why? What if all He wants is time for you to get to know Him better?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Under Their Thumb

"and was obedient to them" Luke 2:51.

Have you wondered what Joseph and Mary were like as individuals? As a couple? What were Jesus' siblings like? How was His relationship with them?

The Bible is largely silent about His early years and family life. Were they a scriptural version of a perfect blended family? Joseph wasn't Jesus' natural father...remember?

It's easy to assume that life in the original First Family was completely homogenous. Everyone got alone swimmingly all the time. No conflicts, no fights, no sibling rivalry...yeah right. I bet they were just like the rest of us.

We know from Scripture that Jesus submitted to his parents' authority. He was under their thumb. Do you recall how much you enjoyed your parents micro-managing your life? Didn't you just love being told, "NO!" when you wanted to go out and play? When Mom and Dad acted like referees, didn't you applaud their good judgment when they ruled in favor of your sibling? Didn't you welcome their insights as they scrutinized your friends or endlessly obsessed over where you'd been and what you'd been up to? Sure you did.

Was Jesus the John Boy of the Nazareth's version of the Waltons? Did his brothers and sisters with dewy eyes, look up to their older brother in rapt adoration? Or was He just one of the family, no better or no worse? Since Jesus was tempted in every way we can be, He had to have had skirmishes with His siblings. That's typical family dynamics.

Were Joseph and Mary laid back and easy going or strongly opinionated personalities, even hot heads? We don't know. Surely God wouldn't subject His Son to people like us. He'd give him perfect parents. Wouldn't He?

I'm not suggesting that Jesus was raised in a totally dysfunctional family, but to think His life at home was a complete G-rated script is far-fetched. Mary, Joseph and their kids were real people with issues that weren't always handled properly. Did the kids fight? Did Mary and Joseph lose their tempers? As parents did they make what in retrospect would be called bad decisions? Probably. We all do.

Jesus could have a real heart for humanity because He wasn't shielded from the worst we can dish out. I'm not inferring that His home life was abusive, just typical, which at times can be painful.

Like the rest of us, Jesus had to learn submission to authority as a child. Looking at His life, Mary and Joseph did a good job. Raising any child is no small feat. Being responsible for training up God's Son is in a class by itself.

How about you? How has your viewpoint of your parents and how you were raised changed as you've matured? Can you think of specifics that look much different now, viewed through the eyes of an adult, then they did when you were a child?

Parenting isn't for cowards. It is a tough job that entails times of being unappreciated for your efforts and having your motives and intentions misunderstood by your young charges. No parent is perfect, but with God's help, a strong foundation can be laid for a child to build a life upon...just like Jesus had.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Gates of Hell

"You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church expansive with energy that not even the gates of Hell can keep it out" Matt. 16:18 (emphasis mine).

"will not continue overpowering or prevail in resisting it" Matt. 16:18 Mitchell translation.

I did a double take as I read that verse. Could it really mean what it says? Both versions depict the church on the offense not the defense. The gates of hell aren't strong enough to resist its attack and there's only one reason to mount an assault...people.

This is one of those "what if" moments when I allow myself to think outside my typical Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelical, Fundamental, what-ever box and ponder. "What if I've got it all wrong?" Are we missing out on something Jesus has empowered us to do?

To be clear, I am not a universalist. I don't believe all roads lead to God. As a Christian I fully believe Jesus' claim of exclusivity as the only way to God found in John 14:6. It is non-negotiable. Period.

So, since Jesus can't lie and Matt. 16:18 is true, how does this work? How do we the church invade hell and release the captives (they're the only thing there worth taking). After His death, Jesus invaded hell, preached to those there and staged a prison break. Awesome. Jews and gentiles alike heard the good news and took advantage of a get out of jail card now opportunity.

What about those who died one nano-second after Jesus cleaned house? I struggle with this. Is it so-sad-too-bad that you didn't die fast enough and now you've missed the bus to heaven? Romans 2:11 is clear that God doesn't show favoritism. So, what about those who arrived too late?

Jesus made a very bold statement in John 14:12 that still makes me squirm a lot because I haven't seen it fulfilled in my life.

"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father."

To date, being open and honest, I've not turned water into wine. I haven't feed the masses with a sack lunch, raised any dead people or even walked on water. I have on a few occasions prayed and people were healed, but I'm far from batting 1000 in the do what Jesus did department. What are the "greater things" that He was referring to?

It is preferable that a person never go to hell in the first place. Sharing with others a relationship with Jesus is important but not the only thing God accomplished in His grand scheme of salvation. What if,just like Jesus, believers can enter hell also and raid it? The people there aren't dead. This is a radical thought but if I am to take Jesus' words at face value then according to the Bible it is possible.

If this is true, there is still the all important element of man's free will. God never overrides anyone's ability to make bad decisions even when their spiritual future depends on it. If He gave those born before Christ the opportunity to hear the Gospel and then the chance to decide after physical death, what about the billions who've died since then and never heard?

How about you? As a believer, if it is possible to actually invade hell and free captives there, would you do it? If it is possible and God commissions you to preach to those you think deserve to be there would you go?

I realize this is very unconventional and my purpose isn't to be controversial. I am posing a questions based on scriptures I'd rather skip over because they challenge me and make me uncomfortable. They make me wonder, "What if?"

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Getting Crushed

"He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God" Rev. 19:15.

What's the purpose of a winepress? The answer is simplel-to make wine. Therefore, the goal isn't to destroy the grapes but to extract the sweet liquid trapped inside them. Winepresses in ancient Israel were a two part system, the upper press and the lower vat.

"The press is full; the vats overflow" Joel 3:13.

Each portion of the press was hewn from a solid rock...sound familiar? So, what is John describing here? I doubt it was Jesus' wine-making methodology. Is it the image of an angry God destroying humanity or of a loving God focused on working with man to release streams of living water? I'll take the latter.

Believers refer to Christ as the Solid Rock. The Bible and Jesus Himself do this also (Deut. 32: 4,15,18 and Matt. 21:44). In this scripture from Revelation, the grapes traditionally represent mankind, specifically unbelievers.

Contrary to popular belief no one is ever separated from God because, "For in Him all things were created" Col. 1:16 (emphasis mine). Paul emphasizes this in Romans 8:39 also. "No-thing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (emphasis mine).

Since pre-Christians qualify as created beings and not separated from God, why are they getting stomped in the press?

Its a matter of perspective. What's the intended purpose? Is treading grapes punishing fruit or making wine? Vineyard owners don't throw just any old grapes in the press, unless they're making junk (which God never does). They carefully tend and cultivate their vines in order to produce the best grapes possible. Jesus said that rivers of living water are inside of us just waiting to be released. Christians know this normally occurs under pressure, so what about the unbelieving grapes?

How many people do you know surrendered to Christ's lordship because everything was going great and they were at the top of their game? Believers don't cherish the "dying daily" that removes blockages hindering the flow of living waters. Does God only reserve this process for Christians?

What if the wrath of God isn't designed to destroy individuals but the things in their lives preventing them from being all He's planned them to be which is sons of God? What if the fury of His wrath isn't a display of intense anger and hatred for the person but is His single-minded focus to eliminate in them anything that's not of Him?

If I told you that I was tackling this writing assignment with a vengeance, would you expect to see me storming around the house in a furious frenzy? It I told you I was hitting the books to prepare for a class, do I mean I am physically pounding on my laptop (my textbooks are electronic) in order to absorb the material? I hope not. These are just expressions describing concentrated effort at the task at hand.

"For God didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that by Him the world may be saved, John 3:17.

This doesn't sound like the heart or actions of an angry God at all. It's the picture of the Creator reclaiming his creation.

How about you? When you read verses such as Rev. 19:15, what images pop up in your mind? How do they mesh with John 3:17 or even the portrayal of the Father of the Prodigal Son? How would it feel to discover that God isn't angry...at all...at anyone? Would you feel more comfortable around your Heavenly Father if you knew He wasn't mad at you or anyone else or would you be disappointed?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kidstuff

"...I'm telling you, once for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child will rank high in God's kingdom" Matt. 18:3-4.

Have you ever been engaged by a child in a circular discussion? They ask a question and you give your best kid-friendly response. Situation resolved. Not so fast.

"Why?" your inquisitor asks. You attempt to satisfy their curiosity but once again you fail.

"Why?" they demand. Now you're hopelessly stuck in a loop.

The conversation could go on forever fueled by the child's inquisitive nature. It's how they learn. They explore the world relentlessly, often without fear of the unknown. Once verbal skills develop the onslaught of questions begins. Rather then shut them down, adults usually will do their best to accommodate their quest to understand. However the time often comes when the only answers are: "Because I said so." or "You'll understand when you get older."

The subject of a recent lecture was C. S. Lewis' fascination with the imagination and his use of it in his writing. People have erroneously attributed his works of fiction to veiled presentations of the gospel; sort of a way to sneak it in when no one's suspecting. The presenter, however, said Lewis' purpose was the exact opposite. He wrote to engage his reader's imagination and somehow the gospel would slip in by accident.

Those familiar with the Narnia series remember the saga starts with the forced evacuation of some children to their elderly relative's country manor. Once there the siblings found it the perfect place for exploration. Systematically they combed through the house which ultimately led them to the wardrobe. Once inside they discovered the portal to Narnia and like true adventurers, they entered in.

Asking lots of questions, taking chances without thought of danger is what kids do naturally. The lecturer believes that if Lewis were asked for his interpretation of childlikeness in Matthew 8, he would say it was to be inquisitive, curious and imaginative.

This isn't always appreciated. Another speaker told of being one of those kids who constantly was thinking and asking questions. His grandmother was convinced that he was the family idiot and would be dependent on the largesse of his family for support. He now has a Ph.D.

Once, at the close of a mid-week service, this boy did the unthinkable. The minister customarily closed with the rhetorical statement, "Well if there aren't any questions..."

Quickly the boy's hand shot up. "You could have heard a pin drop," he said. "The air was sucked out of the room." Everyone knew this was their cue to leave and not an invitation to quiz the pastor. By the way, he never did get to ask what was on his mind.

Too often in Christian circles questions are discouraged. Doing so could make you lose your faith you know. Even worse, you could reject some dearly held doctrine that may or may not be scripturally sound. Perish that thought.

To Jesus, when it came to sincere seekers of truth, there was no such thing as a stupid question. If Lewis is correct, being childlike is permission to ask questions, investigate and explore what to believe for ourselves. If we believe God's power to keep us from getting off into a ditch is greater than satan's to deceive, we should be like kids. Ask away.


How about you? When was the last time, if ever, you asked God to weigh in on what you believe about Him, how He works, what He likes/dislikes? Have you felt conflicted when your reading or studying turns up something that contradicts conventional beliefs? How do you resolve the dissonance? Do you think God prefers we blindly conform with out question or have a face-to-face discussion with Him? Are you willing to explore being a kid again?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Not On Stage

"Be especially careful when you're trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater but the God who made you won't be applauding" Matt. 6:1.

Can you imagine if Jesus, like some people today, insisted on His name being attached to public edifices. The Pool of Bethesda could be re-branded to the Jesus Miracle Healing Waters Pool. On the road to Jairus' house there could be a star in the street like those in Hollywood. "Jesus, Healer of Female Infirmities." Let's not forget the cliff in the Gadarenes area, the famous "Jesus' Pig Drop Zone." A good portion of Israel and the surrounding area could have sported His moniker if He were so inclined.

I appreciate the practice of honoring generous benefactors, but I wonder. Would some give so liberally if they weren't recognized and lauded now and into perpetuity? With time, the name on the facade becomes just that...a name. The significance gets lost.

Jesus believed it important that we know His kingdom operates differently. Our underlying motives are more important than our outward actions. To drive home the point, Jesus focused on the hot buttons favored by the religious folks of His day: giving, praying and fasting.

The Babylon Bee is this generation's version of The Wittenberg Door; a great source of Christian satire. No one is immune, they poke fun across all denominational lines. Read it long enough and you'll wince.

Recently their "news" article centered around the angst associated with electronic contributing. An un-identified male took advantage of his church's online giving option. However, he began to experience paranoia when the collection plate was passed. He perceived his fellow parishioners noticed that he didn't put anything in and feared he was garnering a reputation for stinginess. He felt the penetrating glares of disapproval from the folks plunking their money in the basket. Who knew giving online in the privacy of one's home could be so stressful?

The story is a complete fabrication, but it depicts the point that Jesus made. Putting money in the plate at church, and even online, strictly for the purpose of being recognized is giving with the wrong motive. Most people really don't care. If they do, they're the ones with a problem. Only One needs to know and He doesn't miss anything.

People are the same. Jesus' society applauded the success stories, hero-worshipped celebrities and left the average person scrambling for a scrap of the limelight. Some in Judaism emulated popular culture. With demonstrative public acts of generosity, prayer and fasting they competed for the title of "Most Righteous Person." Jesus, however, already had sole ownership of that designation and refused to play along with their game. He wants His followers to do the same.

We like to feel appreciated, especially if we've sacrificed. Receiving heart-felt thanks is perfectly acceptable. Turning something into a self-promotional event is another matter. The Kingdom of God shouldn't be filled with super-star attention grabbers, just ordinary people under the radar doing extraordinary things by the power of God. Just like Jesus.

How about you? How do the perceptions of others affect your actions. When it comes to what you do, how do you deal with the urge for notoriety? What self-imposed boundaries keep your ego in check? How much and what, if anything, would you change if God didn't care about our motives?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Perfect Recall

"And like a good neighbor..." How many can instantly finish this State Farm jingle that's been burned into their brain? Advertisers exploit the power of memory to bring products to mind effortlessly.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Psalm 22:1.

Most Jews didn't own Torah scrolls. Individually handcrafted they were wickedly expensive. Perhaps they may have owned a small fragment to two. To compensate they employed memorization. Speak a line of familiar scripture and the brain kicked in gear filling in the blanks from stored memory. For those standing around Calvary or who heard the story in detail later, Jesus' words were jaw dropping. The picture Psalm 22 paints was being acted out before their eyes. 

Popular Christian doctrine teaches that while on the cross, Christ, because of taking on all the sin of the world, became abhorrent to God the Father. Jesus was now so offensive, God couldn't even look at Him. I don't believe that's the case at all.

"For he [God] has not despised nor disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help" Psalm 22:24.

By taking on all of men's sins Jesus experienced the estrangement from God that sin produces in the mind. Paul explains this in Col. 1:21. Our evil behavior (sin) causes us to think we're God's enemies and alienated from Him. In that condition, we're tempted to do lots of foolish things. As our "perfect High Priest" Jesus had to experience how this separation felt, otherwise we could look Him in the eye and honestly say, "You don't know what it's like." But He does.

"...But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me alone. Yet I am never alone, for my Father is with me" John 16:32 (emphasis mine).

Never means never. This was part of Christ's Last Supper discourse with the apostles. Because He is one with the Father (John 10:30), Jesus couldn't be forsaken. Knowing this was true He had to, like the rest of us, resist the temptation to give into His feelings of being deserted by God in His greatest time of need. And He did.

His physical condition prohibited Jesus from reciting this psalm in full. He only had to repeat the first verse and those with it stored in resident memory remembered. Standing there they saw the familiar words acted out before their eyes. There wasn't anyway that Jesus could have orchestrated this. He didn't arrange His arrest, and crucifixion meant sure death. No one knew in advance that His mother would be there, that the soldiers would gamble for his clothes or that He would be chided by onlookers to come down from the cross. Where was this Father that He talked so much about? Why wasn't He coming to the rescue?

OMG. The Messiah had come and they missed Him. Now it was too late to undo their actions. This was depressing, but Jesus had the remedy for this also.

"Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing" Luke 23:34.

No need to take an extended guilt trip-all was forgiven.

How about you? How does it feel to have all your sins (past, present and future) already forgiven? How does the knowledge that you are "in Christ" right now help you resist the temptation to believe that God's abandoned you? Jesus knows exactly what that's like because He's experienced the same thing. Just like Him, we're never alone. We can count on that.



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Light Is On But Is Anyone Home?

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" John 8:12.

Jesus drew a sharp distinction. He is the Light of the world, not the sun.

No one experiences unending daylight. Northern climes that have extended periods of almost 24 hours of daylight have off-setting seasons of near to total darkness. That's how our planet works.

Jesus is the Energizer Bunny of Light. "He keeps shining and shining and shining." How does He do it? A look into deep space reveals an ever increasing expanse of darkness punctuated by stars, moon, planets, galaxies. Where's the single prevailing source of light?

Paul addressed this in Col. 1:17. "And himself is before all, and all things in him have consisted" (Youngs). All of our ever expanding cosmos is in Him, therefore, it is completely encased in light. The Psalmist knew this. "if I go up to Heaven, you are there..." Psalm 139:8. Did he know how accurate his words really are? Were it possible to travel to the very edges of space, we'd find light.

Good news. Light isn't diminished by one iota of any form of darkness. Once you know it's there, you can't miss it. It's a matter of perception.

How can those who know the Light personally and consciously live in it help those in darkness find their way home? Many use the cover of darkness to hide things they don't wish to be seen or as a place to hide when they don't want to be found. The best way to help them move into the realization that they're already in the light is simple. Inform them that there's an easy solution...change their thinking.

"Your indifferent mind-set alienated you from God into a lifestyle of annoyances, hardships and labors. Yet he has now reconciled and restored you to your original designs" Col. 1:20 (Mirror Bible).

The darkness they think hides and protects them is just a figment of their imagination. From God's perspective, it's non-existent. He's already brought them back in line with His original intent; all they need to do is believe and receive. Jesus is the door that's always open. Once inside, they'll see the light's been on all along.

For those of us already in a relationship with Christ what may feel like a season of darkness is never the absence of light. Unlike the sun that sometimes you see and sometimes you don't, Jesus keeps shining and shining and shining.

How about you? Which sounds more like good news to you? "Turn or Burn" or "Do you realize that as far as God is concerned, you're not His enemy?" It's great news to let those in the dark know that the light is on and they're already home. All they have to do is believe, receive and walk on in.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance

"But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of a sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does" James 1:6-8.

Years ago a friend invited me to a lecture, and the topic was cognitive dissonance. I had no idea what this exotic term meant, but I was intrigued. Besides, going meant dinner and a night out with a good friend. I needed little arm twisting.

Individuals experience cognitive dissonance when caught between two competing views. It's as simple as a love/hate relationship with work. "I love what I do but I hate: the commute, the crazy long hours, the boss..." Fill in the blank. Until something changes I'll experience cognitive dissonance.

Harder to resolve is learning one's spouse is unfaithful. The mental gymnastics of grappling with conflicting beliefs: the faithful partner you thought you had as opposed to the traitor now revealed is exhausting. As long as competing notions are at war, cognitive dissonance reigns.

In modern parlance, Jesus was a disrupter, spreading cognitive dissonance around like free candy. Holding the Messiah's pedigree, this miracle working rabbi captivated hearts with His unusual teaching style. He ministered healing to both the sick and the dead, and on occasion threw in a free meal. He called the religious leaders on the carpet. Zacchaeus, the greedy tax collector was transformed into an honest man. What's not to like?

As far as Messiah's go, Jesus wasn't very choosy about the company He kept, preferring lowlifes to highbrows. Despite kingdom rhetoric, He repeatedly avoided attempts to be forcibly made king. He stressed loving the enemy, not overthrowing them. The Messiah...really?

Calling God His father was disturbing. No one had ever made that claim before.  The unseen God has a flesh and blood son? When pressed to show His father to Philip, Jesus answered: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" John 14:9. Cognitive dissonance reared its ugly head again.

The Jews had no concept of God as a father, let alone addressing Him as "Abba" (Da Da for us). God's name was only spoken once a year by the High Priest. If Jesus was the spitting image of His father, and His father was God...He sure didn't act or talk like God to them.

Their God drew a sharp distinction between who was and wasn't acceptable. Jesus had no boundaries. Their God didn't soil Himself with sinners, riff-raff and Gentiles. Jesus embraced everyone. Their God could only be accessed via an intermediary, the priests. Jesus was approachable, touchable. In addition, Jesus handed out words of correction,  not harsh judgments. He had love and compassion for all, including those who rejected Him. His door was always open should they change their minds, something Peter experienced first-hand.

Unresolved cognitive dissonance creates continuous mounting pressure. The longer it simmers, the more violent the eruption. Judas chose betrayal over loyalty and friendship. The religious leaders opted to maintain the status quo as opposed to embracing a new revolutionary approach to God. The people voted for death instead of life. The handful that saw hope die on Friday were just as shocked at His resurrection on Sunday. With that, for them, all cognitive dissonance was erased. With minds firmly made up they changed the world.

How about you? When it comes to God, and Who He is, do you experience cognitive dissonance? If He's my healer, then why am I sick? Intellectually I know He loves me, but I am painfully aware of who I really am so how's that possible?

No one has a complete understanding of Who God is. Conflicting opinions, beliefs and feelings render one unstable as James described. Getting to know Jesus personally will force any misconceptions of Him to the surface. Intimacy with Him can easily challenge cherished "traditions of men that nullify the Word of God (who is Jesus because there was no Bible back then)" Matt. 15:36. God's desire for us is not cognitive dissonance. He's up to the task of helping us find resolution and peace. Trust Him, and enjoy the journey.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Christian Olympics

"But it's obvious by now, isn't it, that Christ's church is a complete Body and not a gigantic unidimensional Part? It's not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for the 'so-called' important parts..." 
1 Cor 12:28-30 Message.

They're nothing new. The Christian Olympics are the offshoot of their parent, The Religious Olympics. That storied organization's roots trace back to those words spoken long ago. "I am like the most High," Isa. 14:14 Youngs. No surprise the first murder was the result of a fight over whose sacrifice was correct. The pressure to perform has been non-stop ever since.

Competition is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. Kids compete for good grades to gain entrance into better schools than their peers, in order to get really good jobs. Adults attempt to outwork each other for promotions, pay raises and corner offices. These finance another level of competition. Who has the biggest house, newest car and more toys than their co-workers and neighbors? Those unwilling to join the hamster wheel lifestyle are labeled slackers. Unfortunately, these same behavioral patterns carried over and took root in the Church.

Pastors compare numbers determining who has largest congregation and the most programs with willing participants. Kids square off in Bible drills and scripture memory contests. Not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, the danger comes when genuine love of God and spiritual service is confused with Christian competition. When numbers and physical manifestations of growth/development mask one-upmanship and shallowness there's a problem.

Today, we're in good company. The disciples squabbled about who would be tops in the Kingdom. James and John's mother lobbied the Lord on their behalf. Paul's letter here indicates that this same jockeying for position and notoriety was evident in the early church. Just like us, they struggled to keep an intimate relationship with God from devolving into a cut-throat race to the top.

How much of what we do is fueled by an overactive sense of duty? We just have to do something to please God...right? Intimacy is so private and invisible; nobody notices. One step further, how much of our action is really an effort to see who winds up with biggest mansion, the most crowns, and the loudest "atta boy!" from God. Stardom here is fleeting, in Heaven it's eternal. Or so we may think.

Like their brothers the Corinthians, the Ephesians had this same problem. Paul addressed it head-on.

"He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christian in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's son, full mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ." Eph. 4:11-15. Message.(emphasis mine)

Paul did wish the Ephesians would exert themselves, in this aspect.

"And I ask Him that with both feet firmly planted on love, you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God." Eph. 3:20-21 Message.

If we insist on knocking ourselves out for anything, this would be well worth our efforts.

How about you? Would you describe your Christian experience as a hamster wheel run or restful abiding? Are the things you do for God either consciously or subconsciously rooted in a spirit of competition with other believers? How can you determine when your actions are genuinely divinely inspired or just part of the Christian Olympics? Be encouraged to believe and receive. God's love for you is never tied to performance. It is His gift of love to you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Enemy Territory

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior." Col. 1:21

Mindsets can be deadly, determining if we flourish or fail regardless of our circumstances. Paul reminded the Colossians that the only separation they ever experienced between themselves and God was all in their heads. Alienation from God is the result of faulty thinking.

In his book, Saint in the Hands of a Happy God, author Jeff Turner discusses the debilitating effect fear has on our thought processes. "Fight or Flight Syndrome" is a direct response to scary situations. Pertaining to one's concept of God, those who are afraid of Him respond in one of two ways; either they rebel against the God they perceive Him to be (fight), or they run from Him (flight).

God in the Old Testament gets a bad rap as an angry, capricious deity despite comments such as:

"I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them...I will rejoice in doing them good" Jer. 32: 40-41 (emphasis mine).

God made this promise to Israel personally, but due to their erroneous thinking they failed to believe and receive His words. Israel repeatedly ran away from or rebelled against God, all out of fear. Still, He never abandoned them to their distorted understanding of His character and personality. He continually pursued a relationship with them. He does the same for all of us.

Jesus came and demonstrated the true nature of God the Father. Because he contradicted their well entrenched beliefs, the Jews couldn't accept Him. It was alright when Jesus did things for His fellow Israelites, the good ones at least. When he lavished that same love on sinners, and even worse heathens, they drew the line. Their God wouldn't possibly act this way. He did, however, and still does.

In one respect we're a tiny step ahead of our Jewish brethren. They did and still do very little outreach to invite Gentiles into a relationship with God. Christians as a whole are more apt to share their faith. Sometimes our approach, however, only feeds the fear of God those who don't know Him personally already have. This causes them to either push back harder, or run even further away.

God's never been separated from man. Yes I said never. Sin does not separate man from God. If it could, God would never have been looking to fellowship with Adam in the garden after the fall. God wasn't hiding, Adam was. Sin was dealt with before the foundation of the earth before mankind was ever created. Christ's crucifixion was the temporal demonstration of the Lamb's sacrifice already done in eternity.

God solved the sin problem before it existed. Paul reminds us that the only way we are enemies of God is through sin which makes us feel separated from Him. It is, however, all in our minds. God will work to bring correction to our misconceptions  of who He is and our relationship with Him, but He won't force us to think differently.

How about you? Is the news that any perceived separation you may be feeling from God is just wrong thinking and not reality? This was true before salvation and will always be that way going forward. How do you think those who are afraid of God might respond when they're told that any notions of enmity with God they're experiencing are just that...notions? Isn't that the Good News we need to tell them?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Shallows

"Study to show yourself approved..." 2 Cor. 2:15.

A recent Wall Street Journal article penned by columnist Peggy Noonan described her discouragement concerning a perceived superficiality in young politicians and journalists today.

"...They're bright and ambitious, but they've seen the movie and not read the book. They've heard the sound bite but not read the speech...They learn through sensations, not through books which demand something deeper from your brain...If you can't read deeply you will not be able to think deeply."

In her piece I saw parallels with the Church today. Research shows most Christians don't read the Bible. In addition, most high school seniors never read another book after graduation.

I'm a voracious reader so this is difficult for me to comprehend. However, I realize we're all hard-wired differently. You won't find me spending countless hours exploring the beauty and intricacies of math.

Christians  are admonished to know first-hand what they believe. We're not to just take someone else's word for it, but we're to weigh the evidence and decide for ourselves.

My purpose isn't to guilt trip people into reading the Bible, but to encourage believers to go deeper than sound bite Christianity. It's possible to take a single scripture, camp out on it for several months and mine a treasure trove of riches from it. What you discover there is yours, not another person's revelation.

Maturing in the faith is more than just knowing what and why you believe. It is the progression of seeing the Bible not just as a rule book of do's and don'ts, but as the unfolding revelation of who God is. It is intimately engaging with the Word of God, Jesus.

The Corinthian church's spiritual foundation was what Paul taught them. They didn't have a Bible because it didn't exist. They, like other New Testament believers, were dependent primarily on their relationship with Christ personally for guidance and direction. We're inundated with resources they'd love to have had. Still, we're not necessarily appreciably wiser in the things of God than they.

Regarding our country (and this piece isn't about politics), Ms. Noonan quipped, "What ails American Democracy? Too much information and too little thought." This could also apply to the Church today; we just don't think. As a side note to Ms. Noonan, America is a republic, not a democracy.

How about you? Do you ever dissect a portion of scripture or study a theme and arrive at a different understanding than what's popularly taught? What are the benefits of drawing your own conclusions after careful thought and study? How, if at all, has the information age enhanced/detracted your relationship with God? What practical things can you do to avoid the shallows and experience a deeper relationship with God personally?
 The Politics of the Shallows, Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal, 1-2 October 2016

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Key Ingredient

"Jesus looked at them and said..."with God all things are possible" Matt. 19:26.

Now for a boring grammar lesson. We all should know (unless we slept through English class) what with means. With is: to be accompanied by, to be in association with, to have or to possess. Simply stated it is someone/something PLUS someone/something.

Most expositions I've heard on Matt. 19:26 follow this general track. Men are hopeless basket cases, unable to accomplish anything redeemable on their own. However, with God, and by that what is meant is God all by His lonesome, all things are possible. The problem with that understanding is the pesky four letter word with.

According to Jesus, God doesn't do the possible all by Himself. He's not the ultimate spiritual Lone Ranger arriving on scene atop his faithful charger Silver. Who then does He work in tandem with? God has His Tonto. In case you didn't realize it Paleface, Tonto is us!

Not off floating on a cloud somewhere in heaven listening to harp music God, Who is the Key Ingredient, resides in every believer. There's only one way for Him to get from Point A to Point B. We take Him there. All He performs is done through His people who make up the Body of Christ.

God does everything through you and me. What we deem impossible may sound intimidating, even daunting.  That's true if we take into account only our abilities and strengths, and not God's. He is already aware of our capabilities, and just calmly waits for us to finally "be still and know that I am God."

Possibilities are co-operative ventures; 100% God and 100% man. Perhaps the reason we don't see these happen as much as we'd like to is that we've removed ourselves from the equation. Doing so never produces the correct answer because we've left God with no one to work through. Sans a willing partner, God takes to the sidelines and waits patiently.

It's time to remove the false mindset that we can ever be separated from God and His love. Christ is in us right now, and vice versa. We're inseparable. Scripture attempts to repeatedly hammer this truth into our thick little skulls. However, when wrapped in feelings of inadequacy and failure our minds are renewed, but with the wrong information. We wind up living in an altered reality that God never designed for us.

How about you? Based on your strengths, abilities and resources what possibilities (not to mention impossibilities) seem unattainable? Which would you prefer: 1) God shows up and single-handedly makes things happen, 2) you and God work together to perform things you never imagined you could do? Which do you think He'll opt for? Next time you quote Matt. 19:26 are you willing to keep yourself in the equation? With Christ in and working through you, can you ever really fail?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Slacker!

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

The secret to knowing God is simple...be a slacker!

Marty McFly in Back to the Future couldn't catch a break, especially from Mr. Strickland, Hill Valley High's self-proclaimed Border Patrol. Mr. Strickland berated his students mercilessly, culminating his diatribe with "Slacker!" According to the psalmist, God on the other hand has a soft spot for slackers.

The word still in Hebrew is raphah (pronounced raw-faw). A primitive root, raphah  means to slacken, literally and figuratively. Additional definitions are: fail, faint, be (wax) feeble, idle, be slothful, be weakened, consume. These aren't terms we readily ascribe to in our can do culture.

The psalmist notes that stillness isn't something we do, it's what we become and are. Some interpretations of what a victorious Christian walk looks like don't embrace the concept of stillness. Perhaps this is the reason we expend so much energy running ourselves ragged to the point of exhaustion. Once there, with all resources and strength depleted, and all avenues of escape blocked, we have some of our greatest encounters with God.

The psalmist places his seal of approval on the careless lifestyle. Instead of berating ourselves to do more, and at a higher degree of performance, why not slacken the reins a bit? In stillness, experience God (who lives inside of us) on a deeper, richer level. Rather than play it safe all the time, attempt the impossible knowing that failure will only open up new doors to intimacy with God? It's really alright to not perpetually being doing something for God. Being still is just fine with Him.

To know is the Hebrew word yada (made famous by Seinfield, "yada, yada, yada"). This is to perceive, distinguish, to know by experience. In addition it's to have sexual intercourse, and you can't get any more personal than that. Head knowledge comes by doing, intimacy by being. For those who enjoy a more hands-on, boots-on-the-ground, "git 'er done" approach, lack of activity makes them squirm. Why waste time doing nothing when there's so much that needs to be done?

Psalm 46:10 is God's recipe for getting back on track when our plans and programs implode. We all get tripped up by life's speed bumps. Paul was one who knew this well and shares advice his all-wise God gave him, "...my power is made perfect in weakness" 2 Cor. 12:9.

Spending time with God for the sole purpose of being with Him is never a waste. Doing so can keep us out of trouble, getting side-tracked on bunny trails and burning-out. Also, when we really know God, we're in a better position to introduce Him to others.

How about you? How does being a slacker conflict with your concept of a vibrant Christian life? How will being still in order to know that He is God benefit you? Note the important conjunction and. To know God requires stillness on our part. How would you define the difference between doing and being? Which appeals to you more? Are you willing to develop a knowing relationship with God on His terms?