Tuesday, April 30, 2013


No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4

Recently I recalled an incident from my childhood (back in the Stone Age). I don’t remember what prompted this action, but I vividly remember sitting and rocking to and fro while I sang, “I want. I never get anything.” My little ditty wasn’t well received by my mother at the time, but years later it provided ample opportunities for laughter in our family. I’ve not used those exact words but I’ve sung a version of that song, on occasion, to God. It hasn’t worked with Him either.

At different times I’ve offered God my suggestions about how He could upgrade His parenting skills. With myself as an example, I’ve reminded Him what a diligent job I did to provide my daughter’s needs in a timely manner. I hoped He’d take a page from my playbook. For now, He’s still on His game plan. During one of our re-education sessions, the Father gently interrupted my diatribe with this thought. His goal is to raise mature sons and daughters, not spoiled brats. Spoiled brats! I hadn’t thought of that. Would it disrupt His grand cosmic scheme if for a short time I could be spoiled to my heart’s content? I liked the sound of this.

One Saturday morning, at o’dark hundred, when I should’ve been asleep, I was wide awake. My mind buzzed with thoughts to process for this post. I remembered a guy I knew in the very early days of my relationship with God. I’ll call him Tony. Tony was an only child raised in a fairly affluent family. By his own admission, he was a spoiled brat. When we met, Tony was in his early twenties, married and about to be a first-time father. His life was in shambles. Why? He was undisciplined. Accustomed to having his way, his adjustment to responsible adulthood was rocky. He recognized his problem and reached out for help. When given sought after advice, he couldn’t act on it. He was so programmed to a life that fit his desires and parameters, any and all deviations from that norm were unacceptable. Tony’s marriage fell apart and he disappeared from the church. Occasionally I’ve thought of him and wondered if he ever got his act together.

As much as I think being spoiled would be wonderful, it’s probably not all grand. Tony’s is an excellent example. To our advantage, God dotes on us endlessly. He generously lavishes us with discipline. His goal is to raise stable, mature individuals, not blithering idiots.

I think I’ve got the picture, although it’s not the one I would paint. God won’t spoil me, despite my attempts to the contrary. His plan to develop me into a disciplined grown-up has no room from such nonsense. As I go through the process, I’ll have to trust that His design will produce something of eternal value, not just temporary enjoyment or ease. Am I going to change my tune? I think I need to.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmadruga/6560566525/">carolinamadruga</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Law of Diminishing Returns

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ. Philippians 4:19
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. Psalm 24:1
Our earth contains vast but finite resources. Were it possible to harness all the collective wealth and distribute it, the Law of Diminishing Returns would come into play. The amount to share is fixed. The more recipients there are, the less each one receives. There is only so much to go around.

“In this respect, we see how greatly God’s power differs from that of a mortal king. If the latter were to find all of his subjects deserving, he could not possibly reward them all even he is were fabulously wealthy. Any reward he allocated would be miniscule if he divided his fortune among everyone. Furthermore, he can reward only those subjects who are alive; those who have died are beyond his realm of reward. On the other hand, God has infinite capacity to reward, even if the whole world  were righteous…and even after the righteous have died, God continues to reward them in the hereafter.” Mishlei, commentary on Proverbs 8:21

The sixth chapter of John’s gospel contains one account of five thousand people miraculously fed. The large crowd listened to Jesus for a full day. The hour was late, the location was remote and the people were hungry. The disciples’ solution; send the people out to fend for themselves. Jesus had another plan in mind. The disciples scrounged around and found a boy with a sack lunch; five loaves and two fish. Sufficient for the child, the amount of food wouldn’t begin to feed all the people. To the disciples, the situation was impossible; to Jesus, this was a job for El Shaddai. Jesus gave thanks and instructed the men to distribute the food. God’s power caused the elements to supernaturally reproduce exponentially; problem solved. Everyone ate heartily with an abundance left over.

Sometimes we hear or even make statements like: “Come Holy Spirit” or “If you want to meet with God, come down front”. Unconsciously the impression given is that God is either absent or confined to a specific geographic location. God is omnipresent, in His totality all the time. He is as real on the back row and in the balcony as He is on the platform and the front pew. He’s here; He’s just not always welcomed or acknowledged. How sad that the Owner of all things finds himself unwelcome in His own creation. The question is not, “Is God present?” but, “Are we sensitive to His presence?” When we recognize His omnipresence it reinforces our faith that all we or anyone else needs is available right now.

God’s power and resources are limitless. If forced to meet every need of every person simultaneously, the cost wouldn’t put a dent in His coffers. It’s hard to grasp but it’s true. With that in mind, dare to dream and believe big. God can back you up without denying anyone else equal support. Step out when He directs, confident that He can meet any need easily. Supernaturally He’ll over ride the Law of Diminishing Returns with plenty for this request and have more in store to meet the next one that will surely come His way.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Blank Check

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it. John 14:13-14

With these words Jesus gave us carte blanche, a blank check, to ask Him for anything. For the longest time I didn’t believe He really meant anything, but that’s exactly what He said. Jesus explained to the disciples that anyone with faith in Him could do the things He did. That’s powerful. He then reinforced this claim by telling the men that the sky was the limit when it came to making requests of Him. Who could refuse such an offer? Most of the church.

The most frequently offered excuse is, “Jesus is God, and we’re not.” This is true; however, Jesus took off His divinity when He came to earth. He was a man just like me and you. He didn’t operate in His Godly power. He needed to believe and walk in faith the same way we do. He totally depended on His Father for direction and then went out on a limb when the Father said, “Do it this way.” Per His Father’s instructions, Jesus did some crazy things in order to get results. Would you spit in some dirt, make mud and then put it on the eyes of a blind man so he would be able to see? When the tax bill is due and the IRS is breathing down your neck, would you tell your friend to go catch a fish and retrieve the money in its mouth? Those are just two of the unusual things Jesus did in order to work a miracle. John’s gospel closes with this comment. “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” John 21:25.

No wonder Jesus said we could ask Him for anything. We don’t know everything He accomplished in that intense three year period. What does anything look like to you? Does this wide open, no holds barred invitation make you nervous? If anything is REALLY anything, could I possibly ask for the wrong thing? Absolutely! But that’s no reason for concern; God’s already addressed that issue. “You have not because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives…” James 4:2-3. Jesus said there isn’t a prayer He can’t answer but our motives determine His response to our request. If we ask for the wrong thing God is willing to wait until we get it right before He acts on our behalf. He’s got us covered.

What does anything mean to you? We are free to ask for it and if we have faith and believe we receive, we’ve got it. How and when God answers our prayer is His business. Stay tuned to His voice for instructions and directions that will lead you to ask for the right things. You’ve got a blank check…use it!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

If I Were A Rich Man

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
Psalm 119:14

Recently I enjoyed watching Fiddler on the Roof again. It reminded me that movies with good story lines, outstanding cinematography and musical scores can captivate an audience without profanity or gratuitous sex scenes. My favorite part is Reb Tevye singing If I Were A Rich Man. How different his life would be. On one hand he would live in a big, ostentatious home. He wouldn’t have to work hard. His wife would be dressed in fine clothes and have servants to scream at, not him. People would seek his advice; hang on his every word even if he was clueless. On the other hand, wealth would provide him the one thing he really desired.

“If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray,
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I’d discuss the Holy Book with the learned men
Seven hours everyday.
And that would be the sweetest thing of all.”

To Reb Tevye, having unlimited time to spend studying God’s Word was the greatest thing money could buy. How that idea was promoted by Hollywood is a miracle in itself.

Imagine if someone like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet showed up at your house unannounced (I’ll send them explicit direction; GPS won’t locate me). Upon their arrival they presented you with a checkbook with an unlimited balance, drawn on their funds, to be use at your discretion. How would you feel? I get excited just thinking about the possibility! Now, do you experience the same rush when you read about tithing 10% of your income, gross not net? How about loving your enemies and doing good to those who mistreat you? Do these generate the same euphoria as the first scenario? According to the Psalmist they did. I admit it's not always like that for me.

Why not? What did David know that we don’t? If we had his attitude our lives would be more fulfilled. David wasn’t perfect; he made more than his share of mistakes. What he had was a passion for God. This desire enabled him to see past the surface of God’s Word into its hidden treasures. David grasped New Testament principles and appropriated them before their time. He continually mined God’s word for the riches buried in it. Whatever he learned he put into practice.

Would our lives be richer if we were as excited about following God as we would be about winning the lottery or receiving a blank check from one of the world’s richest men? I know mine would be. Would we pursue His commands without fear of failure and loss? Probably. There isn’t a game of chance or an individual whose wealth compares to God’s. As His children, all He has is available to us; not because we’re anyone special. He is generous. God’s not trying to take anything from us. He trying to add value back into our lives, but He needs our co-operation.

God gave us His Word. It’s our responsibility to know what it says and then obey. Our logic and reasoning may cry, “Foul! This doesn’t make any sense.” And it doesn’t make sense, it makes faith. Things won’t always feel good or comfortable. If like David, we see past the letter of the law and into the Spirit of it, we’ll have reasons to rejoice. Like Reb Tevye we’ll sing and dance because we are very wealthy men.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Enemy Territory

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your mind (emphasis mine) because of your evil behavior. Colossians 1:21

Speaker and author Joyce Meyer popularized the saying Battlefield of the Mind. Most people daily engage in hand to hand combat, deep in enemy territory, with toxic thinking. “God can never forgive me for what I’ve done.” Has that thought ever crossed your mind? It sounds noble, brutally honest, even religious and it is a lie. The only thing preventing anyone from experiencing God’s forgiveness is their unwillingness to believe and receive it. If we think we don’t deserve a “free pass” we’re absolutely correct. We don’t. That didn’t stop God from doing the unthinkable on our behalf.

Colossians pinpoints the root of our problem. To quote the comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It’s all in our heads, we have stinkin’ thinkin'. Either we’re unaware of salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection or we refuse to accept God’s gift based on our behavior. We disqualify ourselves. The truth that God can forgive anything is hard to grasp. Man’s inhumanity to man is often cruel, too over the top to warrant forgiveness; for us yes, for God, no.

Reality is every sin we have or will commit was forgiven before we did it. As far as I know there isn’t anyone alive today who personally witnessed the crucifixion. We weren’t even a thought in anyone’s mind on that day. Every wrong thing we would do on some future date was forgiven then. As far as God’s concerned, we were never His enemy. We didn’t even get the chance to be. Our thinking, however, can make this seem possible.

Endowed with a free will, we’re never forced to believe the truth. Our mindsets either foster a vibrant relationship with God or impede and possibly prevent us from enjoying His friendship. If we’re convinced in our mind that we’re unforgivable, we are. We won’t receive what is freely ours already and continue in the delusion that we’re not good enough.

The decision to think differently is ours alone to make. Salvation really is too good to be true. We aren’t God’s enemies. He isn’t mad at us and we’re already forgiven. Venture into enemy territory and confront the beliefs that block receiving God’s forgiveness and love. Embrace the truth; we are reconciled with God when we receive what Jesus accomplished for us.

Cartoon copyright 1971, Walt Kelly