Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On Earth As It Is In Heaven

For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8b

From the beginning, God’s plan was to destroy satan’s handiwork. This wasn’t only Jesus’ purpose, but also Adam and Eve’s and ours. The literal First Family was responsible to take dominion over the earth and replenish it. In order to replenish something, it must first be depleted. God’s garden Eden was perfect but the rest of the world was in need of restoration. Creation wasn’t a sloppy or haphazard job. Something, no someone made a mess of it. That someone is satan.

God’s initial directive to mankind hasn’t changed, take dominion and replenish the earth. What does that mean? What does that look like? Simply stated and profound in nature, God wants earth to mirror Heaven. To understand how earth should function take a glance at Heaven’s S.O.P. (Standing Operating Procedures). Here are a few.

Heaven is a place:
-         of unending praise and worship to God, and Him alone;
-         where the supernatural is the rule, not the exception;
-         where ministering spirits and angels reside;
-         of unrestricted and unhindered fellowship with God;
-         of love, joy, peace, creativity, beauty, wonder, surprise;
-         where sickness, dis-ease, death, lack, poverty, greed, malice, hatred,
  anger and such do not exist;
-         of no fear because perfect love has cast it out;
-         devoid of all sin and its negative consequences.

Imagine how exciting life will be as God works through and with us to make Heaven’s reality earth’s new norm. I’m a thrill ride junkie. I like speed, heights and adrenaline rushes. The fastest vehicles and the tallest, wildest roller coasters pale in comparison to the experience of God working through me. This is the kind of life I want.

It’s time to discard worthless feelings of inferiority and helplessness. God knew what He was doing when He made us. We’re here at this place and this junction in time for a specific purpose. We’re an integral part of His plan, significant and necessary. Everyone’s needed. All hands on deck.

The devil’s run roughshod over humanity long enough. It’s time to pull the plug on his reign of deception, destruction and fear. As we pray for God’s kingdom to manifest AND do what He commands, we’ll see real positive change. Let’s make God’s miraculous and supernatural earth’s new S.O.P. Working hand and hand with Him, the world will work the same way Heaven does. What a huge improvement that will be over the mess we have right now.

Monday, December 23, 2013

With Heartfelt Thanks

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you’ve prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory for your people IsraelLuke 2:30-32

Simeon, an elderly Jewish man patiently waited for years to see the Messiah. While he held the infant Jesus in his arms he uttered this prayer of thanksgiving. He could die in peace having seen his heart’s desire. God’s promise was fulfilled.

I’d like to thank the Jewish people. Without you, there’d be no Christmas. I’m not talking about Santa Claus, shopping frenzies, decorations, carols, stuffed stomachs and emptied wallets. Christmas is really all about Jesus and not the ancillary noise that attempts to drown Him out. I mean no disrespect in doing this but wish to express my heartfelt thanks.

From early on it would have been easier politically, socially and financially to abandon your faith and assimilate into the surrounding cultures. God knows the pressures were there to do so. Instead you’ve suffered ostracism, anti-Semitism and horrific persecution, sometimes at the hands of those claiming to be Christians. For this I am truly sorry. Still you’ve persevered, confident that God is true to His word. You’ve had your share of missteps but the truth embedded in your DNA never dies and always sprouts again.

The term Judeo-Christian gives appropriate first place honor and recognition to the group who laid the foundation for so many aspects of our lives. Your laws provide a framework for people to build a strong, stable society. The Ten Commandments encapsulate guidelines for living. Thank you for giving us and our nation a base to build upon.

As a group you excel in all venues and indeed you should. You have always been and will always be the apple of God’s eye and His chosen people. The world has benefited from your outstanding contributions in business, science, finances, education, medicine, the arts and so forth. Without you we’d be a pretty sorry lot.

Thank you for never surrendering your dream for a homeland. The nation of Israel must survive and thrive. If our nation is wise it will continue to stand and defend its right to exist. Please, hold on to the land God gave you, every square inch. God’s positioned Israel in a strategic place, so hold your ground.

I’d like to close with a blessing from the Chumash.
May Hashem bless you and safeguard you.
May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you.
              May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish peace for you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Shut Up!

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.
Exodus 14:14

“Shut up!” God didn’t use those exact words but it’s what He meant. On one side was the Red Sea and on the other was the Egyptian army. Caught in the middle, without an escape plan were the Israelites. God wasn’t alarmed; from His perspective everything was going according to plan. He would fight and protect His people. What He needed from them was one tiny little thing - keep their mouths firmly shut. No whining, complaining or “poor me” please. Negative words, confessions of fear, doubt and unbelief would destroy the victory God planned. They’ll also do the same to us.

“Hold your peace.” The people were instructed to remain in the peace they’d entered when they left Egypt. Peace is God’s blessing according to Psalm 23:9. God’s strategic objective for them in this situation was to retain what they already had. To accomplish this required a guard over their mouths.

Faithless words hinder God’s work. Jesus experienced this at the home of Jairus. In order to heal the man’s daughter He first removed the scoffers and doubters. An atmosphere of unbelief would’ve hindered His ability to minister life to the little girl. A key to the capture of Jericho was the silence maintained during the march around the city’s wall.

Nothing’s changed; words still have creative power both positive and negative. When we declare God’s Word we partner with Him to manifest the victory He’s already won. Faithless words tie His hands; He won’t override our free wills. Our words reveal our motives, intents, beliefs and desires.

We can be assured that God is always for us. He does maintain His own time table and His methodology may appear unorthodox at times. He’s God, He’s entitled to as much. Equipped with more solutions than we have problems, God never hurries or panics. Always in control, God intervenes on our behalf with His plans for our victory. For now, we can “help Him out”. If we can’t speak words of faith we can shut up, hold our peace and watch Him perform the impossible.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Tale of Three Men

Yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
Luke 11:8

This is a tale of three men in need:
-a late arriving traveler in need of food and shelter;
-the traveler's host in need of provisions;
-the host's neighbor in need of a good night's sleep.
Jesus used these three to teach us how to pray effectively.

I'll assume that the traveler's visit caught his host by surprise. Unless this man was desperately poor he was a completely unprepared for his guest's arrival. At this time the 24-7 convenience store on the corner didn't exist. The host had only his neighbor to turn to for help.

It wasn't the food that got the third man out of bed. It was his neighbor's persistence. The second man refused to go away empty-handed. This is the same attitude we need to adopt when we pray.

Jesus assured us that God really does know how to answer our prayers. If we need fish and eggs, He won't give us snakes and scorpions. Both creatures can inflict pain, even death. God's answers to our prayers are neither harmful nor deadly. He doesn't play mean tricks on us, or on our enemies (much to our dismay). Why does it seem that things backfire when we pray? If God's doesn't play practical jokes, who's messing with us?

There are demonic forces at work to hinder our prayers and make our lives a living hell. The tenth chapter of Daniel describes this type of interference. Daniel had a problem. For three weeks he prayed, fasted and sought God's help. A heavenly being appeared to Daniel and explained the reason his response was delayed. En route from God's throne room to earth this messenger encountered fierce opposition from demonic forces. The battle was so intense that Michael, one of the chief princes had to step in and assist. After twenty-one days of warfare in heaven, Daniel got his answer. His persistence in prayer was the key that enabled him to receive the help he sought.

When you don't get immediate results, or if things appear to get worse, don't quit. If you're confident you've prayed according to God's will, stick with it. Put pressure on the interference in the unseen realm. Jesus has already won the battle; our part is to enforce the victory and maintain all ground taken. Be bold and persistent in prayer and you'll see great results. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Forget It!

All of us who are mature should take such a view of these things. Philippians 3:15 (emphasis mine)

As a child, I couldn’t wait to grow up. My parents encouraged me to enjoy where I was; they knew what lay ahead. Now, with perfect 20/20 hindsight, I realize how right they were. God however, encourages us to return to the state of unencumbered wonder and belief in the impossible. I can’t seem to find my way back there easily.

Now I’m older (I didn’t say old). I’m supposed to be wise, act my age (whatever that means) and be mature. How does one do those things and still be child like?

Children have the ability to believe that despite previous circumstances and situations, this time things really can turn out differently. How can they do this? What’s their secret? They know how to forget.

Paul learned that when he let go and forgot his past accomplishments he was free to discover newer and better things. Always being right wasn’t that important. When he gave himself permission to not have all the answers it opened him up to possibilities that were, well, impossible.

Paul rediscovered wonderment; the ability to be amazed. Even simple things could be profound. For him the mature, grown up approach was, forget it! Hmm. Easier said than done, but an overlooked key to living out the life Christ died to give us.

This doesn’t mean we discard valuable lessons; that's foolishness. Make a mistake and we learn how not to do something. With that issue settled we’re free to explore new venues to solve our problems or reach our goals. What often hinders us from moving forward and trying something different? Fear. We hate to lose. Those who won’t quit are more likely to succeed. In our instant society success usually doesn’t happen overnight. It may take longer than we planned, cost more than we budgeted and be harder than we ever imagined. The end result will be worth the energy and resources expended to see things though to completion.

Paul didn’t advocate a quick fix. He used words such as forgetting, straining (verse 13) and press (verse 14). These indicate continuous, labor-intensive activity. Time alone won’t produce wise, smart people. Sweat equity is also involved. The challenge is to grow up and still maintain that child-like innocence.

It seems counter-intuitive to our sensible, adult brains to revert to child-like wonder. We understand what life’s really all about, or do we? Jesus said if we didn’t become like little children we’d miss the Kingdom of God. Are our sophisticated, logical and mature thought processes worth holding onto if it means we’ll miss out on God’s way of doing things? Forget it! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Mercedes and a Bicycle That Changed The World

Who despises the day of small beginnings. Zechariah 4:10

Luiz Graf, a German born American, was transformed during the Azuza Street Revival. After World War I he returned to Germany to share his experience. Traveling through East Prussia, an area hard hit by the war, Luiz’s Mercedes touring car, complete with a sign “Jesus is Coming Soon, Are You Ready?” readily captured people’s attention.

On the unfamiliar roads, Luiz became lost. The hour drew late and he happened upon a small village. Perhaps he’d find something to eat and a place to stay the night. He pulled to a halt in front of a bakery. The owner quickly emerged, intrigued to see such a fancy car. The baker confirmed Luiz’s suspicions, he was indeed lost. This wasn’t a problem. The residents of Trunz needed to hear the Good News Luiz had to share. The baker’s initial response was, “I told you, we’re all Lutherans.”

Luiz sensed resistance and tried another approach. He believed in healing. Did the baker know of anyone in the village who was sick? If the baker saw someone healed, would he listen to Luiz’s message? The baker smiled and nodded yes.

While the two men conversed a young boy on a bicycle stopped to admire the Mercedes. The baker instructed the lad to take Luiz home with him in order to pray for the boy’s sick father. When they arrived, Luiz found the man in excruciating pain. He laid hands on the invalid and healing came. The man was made completely whole.

As a result of this miracle, the boy’s parents received Christ as their Savior. Despite this documented wonder, no one else in the village responded to Luiz’s message. That’s not the end of the story; it’s just the beginning.

Herman, the young boy with the bicycle, became a pastor after the Second World War. He and his wife had several children and Herman’s dream was for his eldest son to follow his footsteps into the ministry. The boy had very different plans for a career and he resisted all attempts to steer him in that direction. The youngest son did demonstrate a desire and heart to serve God, but Herman was determined the eldest would be his successor.

Finally it was painfully apparent that Herman’s wishes were not to be. Reluctantly he agreed to allow his youngest boy to study for the ministry. Over the years this son attained a measure of success. He became known for his evangelistic zeal and held crusades under a large tent. At times his father ministered along side him. They often joked between themselves about Herman’s misgivings concerning his youngest child’s call to preach. Herman’s son is Reinhard Bonnke who now ministers to crowds so large there isn’t a tent big enough to contain all the people.

Sometimes it’s those little, seemingly insignificant episodes of our lives that produce the greatest results. Could Luiz Graf ever have guessed the end result of making a wrong turn? Because he got lost, millions of people around the world have heard the Good News of salvation and have a relationship with God. The Word of God reminds us to never despise small beginnings; they can be the seeds of bigger and better things. Start planting!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cloud Storage

Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”
2 Chronicles 6:1-2

The buzzword in technology today is cloud storage. Companies no longer need to maintain servers to store data. Now they can rent space on a server farm from businesses that specializes in this service. You can shop online at Amazon and secure your important information in their cloud. It’s about time we caught up with God. He’s been into cloud storage for a long time.

Clouds contain moisture that turns into rain which refreshes and replenishes the earth. There are irrigation systems but nothing beats rain water. How appropriate that the One who created and sustains all things resides in a cloud which acts as tangible representation of His presence. Clouds provide needed shade from the intense heat of the sun and warmth as they blanket the earth in cold weather. These two aspects depict the nature and character of God.

Solomon is considered one of the wisest men to have lived, but even he didn’t get it right all the time. He believed a temple would be the best place for God to reside as opposed to some ominous dark cloud. “Solomon, did you really think you could build a structure big enough to contain God?” In the entire temple complex there wasn’t one item created that didn’t use God’s own materials. What kind of a present is giving someone a home built entirely out of their resources – not much!

God said He resides in a dark cloud, and He’s free to live where He wants. His dwelling is a place not made by human hands. God is too big to fit into anything constructed by man’s endeavors, regardless of the purity of motive and sincerity of heart. God doesn’t live in buildings. He lives in people; something we can only reproduce but not build from scratch.

God’s cloud’s not dark because He can’t pay His electric bill. God is light. Everything around Him is darkness. He is brilliant and pure. No devise we manufacture can produce enough candle power to match His radiance. When we’re groping around in the dark, we need to get with God; He’s got the light source to help us find our way.

It’s a good thing God didn’t give up His cloud in favor of the temple. Contrary to Solomon’s intentions, his workmanship didn’t last forever. Invading armies destroyed his masterpiece and carried away anything not nailed down. Had He depended on Solomon’s temple for a home sweet home, God would’ve been homeless. No one can take God's cloud from him.

God understands cloud storage on a level we can’t comprehend. Although He has His cloud, God desires a home in each and every one of us; one made by divine and not human hands. When we open up our hearts and lives and invite Him to enter, we become part of His version of cloud storage - the great cloud of witnesses.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

God's Pipeliine

And glory has come to me through them. John 17:10( emphasis mine)

Jesus said some people brought Him glory. Who were they and what did they do? In context, Jesus was with His disciples. He’d prayed for them and now they were confused. They learned He planned to leave them behind for a short time and couldn’t grasp the thought of life without Him.

At that point in time, I wouldn't have considered the disciples as those who brought Jesus glory. It’s true when on assignment they preached and worked miracles. They also fought about who would be greatest and accused Jesus of disregarding their safety during a storm at sea. Who takes a nap when one can be in the throes of a good panic attack? They often misunderstood or flat out didn’t get the lessons Jesus taught. Constantly exposed to supernatural solutions, their feet were firmly rooted in logical answers to problems that arose. At times they were a mess AND Jesus said they brought Him glory.

I equate Jesus as the glory giver not the receiver, but He has a different viewpoint. He doesn't look for perfect people to fill that role so there’s hope for you and me!

Under the Old Covenant, the disciples didn’t have Holy Spirit indwelling them. Despite that limitation, they brought glory to the Lord. Holy Spirit's arrival at Pentecost gave us the same power they had, but before He came, how did they pull this off?

“For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” John 17:8 (emphasis mine)

One thing the disciples got right, they believed what they heard. They made plenty of mistakes and at times failed miserably. However, they grabbed onto Jesus’ words, held on for dear life and refused to let go. No matter what, they wouldn’t quit. Their dogged determination to remain steadfast brought glory to their Lord.

We grossly underestimate the impact that the unity of the disciples around the Lordship of Jesus had on them, their world and Jesus Himself. Our Lord said in John 17:26 that unity is what will capture the attention of the world. For all their personality differences and agendas, the disciples agreed on the key issue – Jesus was Lord.

They did this and so can we. Being united doesn’t mean we become clones and all fall in line. Jesus never attempted to make the disciples a cookie cutter group of followers. He taught them to work together and still preserved their individuality. The central theme, Jesus is Lord, was and still is all that matters. Much of what divides the Church as a whole is theological fluff. It’s time to join ranks with our brothers and sisters based on the Lordship of Jesus and put our differences and preferences aside. Our unity will speak volumes and will be much louder than our individual voices in capturing the world’s attention. It’s what they're waiting for.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shame on Me? No Thanks, I'll Pass.

Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.
Romans 10:11 (emphasis mine)

Am I the only believer who sometimes experiences feelings of inadequacy, frustration, disappointment and a nagging suspicion that I don’t measure up to God’s standards? Do others have those persistent voices that remind them of their failures, defeats and less than shining moments?

            “If you really were a Christian you would or wouldn’t do...”;
            “If you really believe, you wouldn’t have any questions or doubts”;
            “If you really had faith that person would have been healed; that mountain                    would’ve moved and you wouldn’t still have this problem.”

For all the super Christians who fly above the fray you can skip this post. This is for those of us not in your league. We’re still “working out our salvation.”

God’s made a very strong commitment to anyone who trusts Him. They will NEVER be put to shame which means to dishonor, humiliate or disappoint.

“God, if it wasn’t for that little word never I could relate to this verse. My problem is this, I’ve been shamed. I’ve experienced first hand dishonor and humiliation. At times I've even been disappointed with You. Your Word tells me that You don’t lie (Titus 1:2) and Your Word is truth. Reality sometimes tells me something different. What gives?”

The answer lies in the root and source of those negative feelings and critical voices that dog us repeatedly. They never are, nor will they ever be from God. Before He created us, God knew what a mess we’d make of things. Adam’s sin and fall from grace didn’t force Him into panic mode to scramble for a Plan B. God had a solution in place before we had the opportunity to foul things up.

Can you picture the Father browbeating Jesus? Why not? “Well,” you respond, “Jesus is perfect. He never makes mistakes, but I do.” Instead of seeing all our faults and failures, God views us through the lenses of his special glasses, the righteousness of His Son Jesus. God’s eyesight is perfect. When He uses His glasses His vision of us is enhanced to where we look just like His Son. What He sees in us is “the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:22. There’s no reason for Him to degrade or debase us.

Why do we still experience shame? Go back to the source, which isn’t God. It comes from our selves, others and our arch enemy satan, never from God.

In the big picture, God’s opinion is the only one that really matters. Those who trust in the Lord can rest because they really are “accepted in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

Shame on me? No thanks, I'll pass.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Go To The Moon

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Psalm 37:3

Many years ago, recording artists Geoff Moore and the Distance released Go To The Moon. The song dealt with an attitude Christians sometimes harbor, and may be reluctant to admit. They’d like to be in Heaven. If not possible, these saints would prefer to be sequestered away from all those stinkin’ sinners! If unbelievers won’t join us, avoid them at any cost. Afraid of falling victim to negative influences, these Christians forget it should be the other way around. Rather than strategically position themselves in places of influence, they retreat to enclaves to hope and pray that Jesus returns quickly. I’m happy those types of Christians weren’t around when I needed to know about Jesus.

The approach to life in Psalm 37:3 is very different that the one described above. David knew the difficulties of life in a hostile environment. His solution - dwell, settle down and set up camp in the war zone. His mindset was, “I’m putting down roots and I’m here for the long haul. Like it or not, I’m not leaving.” He admits that to live God’s way doesn’t always appear as profitable as wickedness; but don’t be fooled. Everyone reaps what they sow, the good and the bad. Sometimes the best thing to do is to pray  for a major crop failure.

Jesus spoke about a similar scenario in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). As a gardener, I understand this analogy. Weeds are prolific and grow effortlessly; better than the plants I feed and nurse along. In the parable the tares represent the wicked; people like you and me before we came to know Christ as Savior. The owner of the field discovered the enemy’s attempt to destroy his wheat harvest. The man’s servants wanted to uproot the tares, but the owner wouldn’t permit it. He recognized that at this stage of development, the wheat would be damaged if the tares were forcibly removed. How can the elimination of wicked people be detrimental to believers?

In the effort to “come out from among them and be separate,” many Christians have “gone to the moon,” so to speak. They’ve adopted a hands off attitude toward government, education, business, arts, media and so forth. In the vacuum, unbelievers assumed the reins and now control most aspects of the global economy and decision making processes. If the recent economic downturn was bad, what would’ve happened if all ungodly people had been instantaneous removed? What type of hit would the world’s economic, social and political systems have taken? Would there be qualified, competent believers ready to step up and take charge? I would hope so, but I’m not so sure.

The answer isn’t to get rid of them or hide out in a corner but to engage the world around us.  Psalm 37:3 states that safety comes through occupation not isolation. Jesus reinforced this idea in Luke 19. The man’s servants were to occupy until he returned.

For either group to head to the moon to avoid the other isn’t the solution. Every moment we’re together we’ve a chance to share the hope that so many desperately need. Put down roots and dwell in your land. The giants aren’t going to turn tail and run; they must be confronted and defeated. What we build should reflect the Kingdom of God. This will create an atmosphere as alien as the moon’s but it will provide a close encounter of the real kind.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stopped Dead In Their Tracks

Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God2 Chronicles 5:13-14

David desired to build a house for God; a permanent abode for the Ark of the Covenant. When on earth, God could have a proper residence. David’s son Solomon was tasked with the project and the temple he built was magnificent. The ceremony that celebrated this event was over the top. The highlight was the return of the Ark and its establishment in the Holy of Holies. So many animal sacrifices were offered they couldn’t be counted (verse 6). All the Levitical musicians played their cymbals, harps, lyres and other instruments (verse 12). Accompanied by one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets, this may be the largest praise and worship band ever assembled. They sang and played with such enthusiasm and devotion that God couldn’t resist. He joined the party.

When His presence manifested in the form of a cloud, the priests were immobilized; stopped dead in their tracks. They could not (emphasis mine) perform their service because of the cloud.” They had God-given responsibilities and duties. When He showed up, all activity ceased. Without any effort on their part, they praised and worshiped their way into the rest of God.

I’ve never seen God’s presence tangibly manifest in a cloud, but I look for it. If, however, I spend all my time and energy in pursuit of physical experiences, I’ll miss Him completely. Why? He’s already inside me and with me every moment. I don’t need to strive or work harder and smarter. He’s here to stay.

God was limited to outward demonstrations before the cross because He couldn’t dwell inside men. While it was an extraordinary experience for the presence of God to paralyze the priests and it still is, when the cloud lifted, only memories and wishes for the good old days remained. Now God literally resides in every believer. Our spirits are drawn to Him and we control how much, or how little interaction we have.

My take away lesson is this. Quit trying to make something happen. Tapping into the presence of God requires us to be still, not busy. Our lives are filled with “to do lists.” There’s not enough time accomplish everything on them. Stopping dead in our tracks in order to experience God can feel down right irresponsible. It is, however, the key to enjoying fellowship with Him.

So, are you ready to turn off the noise, throw out your schedule and be still before Him? He doesn’t need for you to do anything, just receive rest and refreshment. Why not suspend what you’re doing right now for a few moments, quiet yourself and enjoy time with your Maker. Stopping dead in your tracks could become the high point of your day. Who knows, you just might see Him or His cloud…sweet!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Get “Stonewalled”

…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus
1 Peter 2:5

I enjoy driving country roads. When we lived in the Northeast it wasn’t unusual to see stone walls that marked property lines. Some over one hundred years old are as strong and stable as the day they were built. These are testimonies to the composition of the material and the skill of the builder.

Stone walls have more character than ones constructed from bricks or other uniform materials. Each stone’s unique make-up is considered throughout the building process. Unlike bricks with a consistent shape and size, stones are non-conformists; no two are alike. Finding those that fit together takes time and effort.

God prefers building with stones, men prefer bricks. Easier to work with, bricks fit snugly together quickly with minimal effort. For physical structures, bricks are acceptable; for building “the church” they’re faulty at best. Left to our own devices, we opt for the fast, easy method. We want everyone on the same page, thinking the same way and lining up perfectly. Give us uniformity and we can whip up a church into existence in record time. If it takes clones to produce a harmonious body, bring them on. God, however, has a different approach.

God loves individuality. Look at His creation; it’s neither boring nor static. When He builds He takes His time; He’s in no rush. God fits stones in their proper place that preserves their integrity. He optimizes their differences in order to create a strong structure. He’ll search far and wide for just the right one. Together they won’t make a sleek, smooth finish, but that doesn’t faze Him one bit. Their one-of-a-kind shapes and composition complement each other and are perfect for His design.

Unfortunately, God has to deal with our “help” while He builds His church. Finding the right combination takes too much time, so we opt for conformity. It’s easier to relocate when we can plug in anywhere we choose. We minor on what we see and feel; God majors on the spiritual; what’s invisible to our naked eyes. We're not designed to fit just anywhere. He has a specific place that only we can fill.

Sometimes it feels like an uncomfortable balancing act, and it is; just ask any master stone mason. God’s perspective is much different than ours. We see only our immediate surroundings. He sees the whole building and it’s a magnificent edifice. He likes the personality and distinction each stone contributes. They add beauty and character not found in bricks. Let’s allow the Master Builder to place us where He sees fit. Let’s get "stonewalled".

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Made In The Shade

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand. Isaiah 51:16

“I’ve got it made in the shade! I’ve got a sure thing; a can’t miss, real deal.At least as far as God’s concerned I do. He should know. He’s the shade maker.

I’m a firm believer in global warming but not the type purportedly connected to greenhouse gases. Someone’s turning up the heat on planet earth and it feels like a pressure cooker that could explode at any time. Global finances are in shambles. Our economy can’t escape the effects of reckless spending abroad and here at home. For now we appear to be the best house in a bad neighborhood. Our stock market has risen to giddy heights on fumes of low volume and Federal Reserve manipulation; not a sure foundation by any stretch of one’s imagination.

Political correctness has let us down a path that stifles discussions covering all sides and opinions of an issue. Take the opposite stance and you’re labeled a hatemonger, not just someone who disagrees. We’ve seemed to have lost the ability to distinguish prejudice from preference. In addition, what you said or did twenty or thirty years ago can be used against you. Speaking for myself, no one needs to look back even that far in my life to find mistakes.  I do dumb stuff now.

We’ve so many contradictory laws on our books that the average citizen can easily break several without realizing what they’ve done. If you live in Kennesaw, GA and don’t own a gun, you’re a lawbreaker. There are many others just like this one.

Technology accelerates at a rapid pace. What is state-of-the-art today is passé tomorrow. The workforce is challenged as never before to keep up with the newest, most improved methods of production, only to be replaced by machines that work round the clock for less money.

It feels like every facet of our lives is being turned upside down. Each time we attain a measure of equilibrium, the tables are flipped over on us again. Someone stop the world, I’d like to get off.

God offers us a place to beat the heat and find rest and refreshment. He provides the shade with the shadow of His hand. He stepped in between us and the perpetrator of global warming, satan, and provided a buffer from the onslaught of pressures our enemy exerts. The solution is found in our mouths. God placed His words in us, but it’s our responsibility to speak them out loud and unleash their creative power. Can you use some shade today? Speak God’s Word.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Chance Worth Taking

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him). John 6:70-71

The day before, the disciples and the crowds enjoyed a miraculous meal; five loaves of bread and two small fishes fed a multitude. Later that evening, caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples saw Jesus and one of their own, Peter, walk on water. Now, once again Jesus and the disciples found themselves surrounded by a crowd of thrill seekers in search of another miracle. When pressed to produce another spectacular sign, Jesus delivered a bone chilling discourse. Anyone wishing to follow Him had to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Those who came for a happy meal got a stomach turner. Many, including some of His own called it quits that day and left. He then questioned the Twelve’s commitment to stick with Him and in verse seventy Jesus made this startling statement, “Yet one of you is a devil!”

It’s curious that the same disciples who’d argue about which one of them would be the greatest in the kingdom were strangely silent on this issue. Why would Jesus tolerate a devil in His close circle of friends? Why allow a traitor to handle the ministry finances? To my way of thinking, Judas shouldn’t have been in the group; but then, I don’t always think the way Jesus does.

Jesus said He had hand picked each of the Twelve. Was Judas a devil from the beginning or was this a more recent development? The Bible doesn’t say. Still the question remains. Why would Jesus keep a traitor as a friend and confident? The answer may be in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.

A man planted wheat in his field and later discovered that an enemy crept in and planted tares also. When this was discovered, the owner of the field instructed his servants to do nothing. If the tares were uprooted, the wheat would be damaged and the harvest diminished. Jesus must have realized that to remove Judas would have been detrimental to the other eleven.

Although Jesus knew Judas’ true allegiance, He permitted him to remain. If Jesus said the man was a devil, then he was. Jesus wasn’t afraid; He demonstrated no fear with His enemy in close proximity. As far as He was concerned, satan was already defeated. It was all over except the crying. Now He had an opportunity to drive satan crazy.

I wonder if Jesus could literally see the devil cringe every time He spoke the truth. Could He see satan squirm and writhe in agony as He systematically dismantled sickness, disease and death? What fun! Any devil who lived that close to Jesus was in his own version of hell on earth- sweet! Besides, Jesus was unwilling to give up on any one, including Judas.

We’ll find ourselves in this same predicament. There will always be those influenced by demonic forces around us. This is no reason to run and hide. It’s an opportunity to stand our ground and face them head on. They’re the losing team that showed up, not us. There’s always the possibility they may choose to switch and join the winning side. That’s a chance worth taking.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Enjoy Your New Digs

Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us; we know it by the Spirit He gives us.
1 John 3:24

At first glance this looks like another set up for a performance trap. If I don’t do things perfectly all the time, I’m not in Christ. If I’m not in Christ, I’m not saved. If I’m not saved I am up an unsanitary tributary without a means of propulsion (you know that place). This is going downhill fast, time to apply the brakes.

“Therefore, is anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Paul describes a new species of being that comes into existence when one enters into a relationship with God. Perhaps your experience was like mine. When I got up the next morning and looked in the mirror, I saw the same old same old. I didn’t look new and improved on the outside, but inside my spirit was alive and well for the first time. When I didn’t see any radical difference I doubted my experience was real. My problem was I used the wrong yardstick.

1 John reveals the measure to employ to assess your relationship, or lack of one, with God. It isn’t determined with an appraisal of your outward actions or appearances; it is spiritually discerned. To understand and evaluate from a spiritual perspective takes a new skill set every believer must develop. Before we came into fellowship with Christ we depended on logic that was influenced and driven by our flesh. The spirit-we didn’t even know we had one, let alone have a clue how to be directed by it. Our souls (minds, wills and emotions) and our bodies controlled our decision making processes. Neither voluntarily relinquishes that control. The war is on! What is disconcerting about our spirit is, it knows our true motives. It won’t hesitate to reveal our real intentions which aren’t always pretty or selfless. We can do all the right things for the wrong reasons and fool everyone, except God. How do we get off the treadmill that gets us nowhere fast?

Here’s an exercise to do. Imagine for a few minutes that you are literally in Christ and that He is in you. What does that look and feel like to you? When you’re in Christ, are you concerned about sinning? If not, why not? Christ doesn’t do anything that violates God’s laws. You may protest, “This is just my imagination, it’s not reality.” Not according to the apostles John and Peter. They taught that this is our position right now. Use your imagination to develop a picture of your new environment. Ask Holy Spirit to literally help you see this truth. I’m not an expert in quantum physics, but according to those who are, we are only here in this realm about fifty percent of the time. We move between dimensions so fast our natural senses cannot discern the difference. The more highly developed our sensitivity to the spiritual realm is, the easier it will be to see our new environment. Old behaviors and thought patterns will fade away. They don’t fit our new lifestyle any longer.

This is a process. Our souls and our flesh won’t take the back seat without a fight. Knowing this, we can extend grace to others in the developmental process. Don’t expect perfection from them or even from yourself. I’m not saying that “anything goes.” What I am saying is cut others and even yourselves some slack. When we recognize the reality of where we are in Christ it changes the dynamics of our thoughts and actions. In Him the struggle is over because He has already overcome the world, the flesh and the devil. Enjoy your new digs!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Chocolate Cake For My Brain Please

For we walk by faith, not by
2 Corinthians 5:7

I recently read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus in Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He also won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics. The book described how our brains process information and draw conclusions. Kahneman defined two different modes of thinking used to analyze data and circumstances in order to formulate reasonable expectations. System One, the intuitive side, thinks quickly and develops opinions with minimal facts and information. System Two involves cognitive thought to help us dig past the surface and get to the heart of the matter. This is hard work and System Two tends toward laziness. Prone to shift as much of our thought processing back on to System One, System Two also has a bit of a sweet tooth. When overworked it prefers chocolate cake over a healthy fruit snack almost every time. I can relate to this.

Our world gets chaotic and unpredictable; an atmosphere our brains abhor. They dislike uncertainty and will search for answers even when none exist. Quick to form solid opinions on shreds of evidence the brain, when confronted with the fallacy of its rationale, will soldier on in error. Media, advertisers and politicians all know it's easy to fool most of the people most of the time.

Our proclivity to think fast with System One underscores our need for a sure foundation of truth. When we study, meditate and establish God’s Word as the final authority, our brains have clear boundaries to operate within. Faith positions us in places of uncertainty, the scenario our brains struggle to avoid. While the brain works to understand our situation, God’s Word provides answers and comfort. There won’t always be solutions and understanding this side of eternity. Armed with this truth we’re free from attempts to draw conclusions that may make us feel better but are based on fallacies.

Scriptures teaches us that our brains need to be trained to use God’s Word to screen our thoughts. System Two needs to get up off the couch and get to work. If it feels like a struggle at times, it is. This part of our brain needs to be prodded along. To be mentally fit is as taxing as being physically fit, and a good reason to maintain a supply of chocolate cake. If you’ll excuse me, after this work out I need a piece of cake.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Can You Lose What You Never Had?

Therefore, consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; who ever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him” 
Luke 8:18 (emphasis mine)

How can you lose what you never had? Luke states this happens when you only think you’ve got some thing. Sounds confusing, but it’s quite simple. The context of this verse deals with what occurs when people hear God’s Word. Like seeds, God’s Word is scattered about. At any given time, in many places, His Word goes out over the air waves, through spoken words and printed materials. Many of us are bombarded with opportunities to hear about God from a wide variety of sources.

Have you learned something new only to realize that almost instantly, you forgot it? You thought you had it, but you lost it. When it comes to God’s Word the devil works hard to make sure this happens. We’ll hear something, agree, implement it and have a measure of success. Things get tough, our belief gets challenged and we tell ourselves, “This doesn’t work.” We give up and quit. We thought we had it but we lost it.

Circumstances toy with our thought processes. Worries about life, money or a lack thereof, pleasures and so forth side track us and divert our attention. We lose what we thought we had because we never really possessed it.  Things aren’t hopeless however. Luke 8:15 shows the power of God’s Word when heard and retained. Adversity came, but with perseverance it was overcome and the bumper crop arrived. Success!  

How do we really “get it?” Verse eighteen gives us the answer. “Consider carefully how you listen.” Our subconscious minds pick up things our conscious minds miss. We need to monitor the surroundings and situations that can negatively influence us. We can’t avoid everything and everyone but we can be vigilant and wise. What we listen to is as important as how well we listen. There are many voices opposed to God competing for our attention. Their persuasive, forceful arguments can easily move us off God Word if we let them influence our thinking. Faced with ongoing challenges we must go past mental assent into unshakable faith. With God’s Word as final authority and the benchmark we measure all things against, we progress from head knowledge to heart faith.

         It would be nice if life was always smooth sailing, but reality includes storms and rough seas. God’s Word contains the truths we need to navigate our ship through the tempest and not sink. When opportunity to partake of His Word arises from the wide variety of sources available, let’s be diligent to really listen. We can go from just thinking we've got it to grasping and implementing what we’ve heard. We won’t lose it because we really have it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Getting It Straight

If you had responded to my rebuke; I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.   Proverbs 1:23

I’ve come to the place where I ask God for correction and appreciate when He responds. It hasn’t always been like this. For years I confused my own self talk with God’s words of reproof. I knew He was supposed to be a loving Father but He struck me more as a stern taskmaster. I expected His discipline to be administered with a heavy hand and cruel, angry words. I got enough of that from myself so I didn’t need any additional helpings from the Creator of the Universe.

I can’t exactly pinpoint when my ideas about God’s nature began to change and I allowed myself to entertain the notion that He wasn’t an ogre after all. Maybe the lack of lightning bolt strikes finally registered. I discovered that God doesn’t use sickness, disease, disasters or calamities to teach me lessons. God’s words of correction smart sometimes and I so dislike being wrong. However, I don’t suffer wounds from words spoken with unconditional love.

According to Proverbs, God’s method of correction differs from what many of us have experienced in life. “Because I say so,” isn’t His standard response to our question “Why?” Although He is the ultimate authority with the final say, that’s not His style. The verse in Proverbs assures us that when we respond to His rebuke, He’ll “splain” things to us. We’ll get the correct perspective to our situation. He’ll share His heart with us through words of encouragement laced with correction not condemnation and sarcasm. He likes to help us get it straight and He does this with words that build up, and not with a smack down.
          Now I voluntarily ask God to straighten me out. I don’t do such a good job when left to my own devices so I consult with the Ultimate Expert. There are things He’ll reveal that aren’t pretty; they’re outright ugly. Truth hurts, but it’s still the truth. Living a lie is too expensive a proposition. The older I’ve become the more I’ve realized there may not be time to wait for a more opportune occasion. It may never come.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Thanks For Nothing

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:39

“Thanks for nothing!” I’ve said this before and my tone and attitude didn’t ooze gratitude. Romans 8:39 provides a fresh perspective for this phrase. There is no-thing, nothing that separates me from God’s love. On my worst days, amid my greatest failures and defeats, God still loves me. I need to know this when I’m tempted to give up on myself. There is One whose love never quits.

“So God, thanks for nothing!” When it came to my salvation it cost me nothing. You paid for it in full with the life of your Son, Jesus. When I need healing, it costs me nothing. Jesus bought that for me by the stripes on his back. There is nothing, no-thing that separates me from Your love. My whiny, snot brat attitude doesn’t deter Your affection for me. When I lose my temper and act more like the devil than Jesus, You’re still madly in love with me. I’m amazed. During those times I don’t even like me. When I’m ready to give up on myself, You refuse to follow suit.

Nothing ever comes between us and God’s love. Paul had his own version of a most excellent adventure when he came face to face with the Lord on the road to Damascus. He went from prominent, powerful member of the Jewish religious community who championed the persecution of the early church, to a man rejected by the Jews and viewed with suspicion by Christians. From the limelight to the backside of the desert overnight, this educated Pharisee returned to elementary school for re-education. Paul often worked to support his ministry and suffered rounds of abuse from those who rejected his message. He worked miracles, spoke before rulers and authorities and single-handedly wrote most of the New Testament, compliments of an extended stay while under arrest by the Roman government. He learned that during the very best and the very worst of times God’s love remained constant and unconditional. He could truly say, “God, thanks for nothing!”

To be grateful for nothing seems odd. Love and appreciation are a response to something we’ve received or experienced. Nothing now takes on new significance. There are no barriers, no impediments, no circumstances, no-things that can come between us and His love.

           Like the Energizer Bunny, God’s love, “keeps going and going and going!” Hey God, thanks for nothing!”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Take a Break

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. Hebrews 4:1 (emphasis mine)

Well what do you know…it’s not all about me! That’s what the apostle Paul thought. Don’t you hate to be knocked off of center stage and out of the limelight? “Look Paul, I’ve got my hands full keeping myself straight. Why am I responsible for others to enter God’s rest? Gimme a break!”

When I read that verse with a focus on me, I didn't like it and I missed the whole point. Jesus is the head of the body (singular) not bodies. We the church, believers, whatever title you attach to yourself, are not Lone Rangers for the Lord. We’re meant to work together as a cohesive unit the same way our physical bodies operate. When I work in my yard my hands don’t go outside and my feet stay indoors propped up on my footstool relaxed. All of me gets involved in the project. This also applies when we rest. To be refreshed and renewed every part needs to participate and take some down time.

Usually my “to do list” outweighs reality but that doesn’t suppress my attempted pursuit of the absurd. I push myself to exhaustion and end up too tired to rest. Had I heeded the signals my body sent I wouldn’t be worn out and depleted. Accomplishments can be addictive and to chase them sends my life out of balance. In the end I’m too tired to enjoy the pleasures of life or respond to emergencies or unexpected surprises.

As Christ’s body, we need to watch out for each other. Great emphasis is placed on spurring each other on to good works and we should. It’s equally important to encourage and facilitate one another to be human beings and not human doings. We need to help other body parts avoid the performance trap. Let’s remember that to “be still and know that I am God” in important to maintain health. To make this happen we should lower our expectations of each other and shoulder their load so they can rest. The standard formula that 20% of the people do 80% of the work won’t cut it if we want to see the kingdom of God manifested here on earth. When we all work together, no one carries an inordinately large load. Those in need of a break can take it and the wheels won’t fall off the wagon.
          God never intended for a few to do all the work anymore than He designed our hands to do everything while the rest of us chill out. In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, author Daniel Kahnemen offers this thought. “Indeed there is evidence that people are more likely to be influenced by empty persuasive messages, such as commercials, when they are tired and depleted.” Could fatigue cause us to miss God’s truth? It’s in times of stillness, when we're quiet, that we hear His voice clearly. We need His directions and instructions to find the best path from A to B. Notice I didn’t say the shortest. When we work as a unit. the Body will be strong and healthy because it receives the rest it needs to recharge. If you’re presently disengaged, get back in the flow so that those carrying the load can finally take a break.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

School Days

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions. Titus 2:11-12

“School days, school days.
Dear old rules for fools days.
Reading and writing
and ‘rithmatic. 
Each one selected to
make you sick!"

For a child, nothing is as liberating as the last day of school and breaking free from the confines of classrooms and homework. We’ve all had teachers who made our educational experience a joy. Then there were the teachers from hell…you know the rest of that story. To our astonishment, Graduation Day didn’t end the cycle of learning. We moved to a different venue with a more self-directed approach. Failure here can be catastrophic and makes the F in biology or any other subject look like a cake walk.

A similar phenomenon occurs when we embark on a relationship with God. The stakes are even higher and the results last eternally. We have two instructors, Law and Grace. 

I consider Law our teacher from hell so to speak, and absolutely essential for our growth and development. The Law provides the entrance exam we need to pass in order to be in right relationship with God. Quickly from the Law we learn this important lesson.

So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. Galatians 3:24-25

Honestly, we need someone or something to jerk the slack out of our chains. Harbor delusions of grandeur about your goodness and the Law sets you straight. Here are the rules and regs. Break even one and you’re disqualified. Guess what? The bar is set so high we all fail the entrance exam. And that’s ok.

The Law’s done its job and taught us what we needed to know. In and of ourselves we miss the mark by more than a country mile. We all know how long they can be. Fortunately, we have a Savior who took the test for us and aced it. When we accept what He did on our behalf we enter the school of Grace.

Back in the 90’s the Christian group Jacob’s Trouble recorded a song, Church of Do As You Want To. The catchy tune’s chorus went:
“It’s at the church of do what you want to,
the church of do what you please.
The church of do what feels good baby,
and believe what you want to believe.
No absolutes, no wrong or right, just ambiguity.”
Though not the original intent of the song, this is a widely held misconception about life under grace. Grace doesn’t hand out licenses to sin, as if they're needed. Titus tells us that grace teaches us a new way of living. I had a pastor who used to say, “I can drink (or whatever, you fill in the blank) as much as I want to. I just don’t want to.” That’s the finished work of grace. We’re in a re-education process not a pixie-dust factory where “a little dab will do ya” and presto, instant transformation. There are those times when we experience an immediate radical change but more often we find ourselves back in school for a refresher course. Grace leads us to the place where we can do whatever we want to, we just don’t want to do it anymore. What a relief!
         The ability to “do all things though Christ, which strengthens me” Philippians 4:13 comes in steps. Grace empowers us to do what we normally wouldn’t or couldn’t do because our desires now are aligned with God’s. This portion of our education will last for the rest of our lives. Get out your paper and pencils boys and girls. School’s in session now!