Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Radical Transformation

“Moses said to the Lord, “Oh Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue,” Exodus 4:10 (NIV).

“Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, for mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people... And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do his people,” Exodus 32: 12, 14 (KJV).

To some, having to speak in public is a fate worse than death. Ask someone to stand up and say a few words and many would rather die than face an audience. Glossophobia plagues many people. Jerry Seinfeld popularized the idea that people would rather be in the coffin than give the eulogy at a funeral. Statistics proved him wrong. If you grapple with glossophobia, you're in good company. Moses suffered from this same malady. When God afforded him the opportunity to fulfill his long awaited dream, Moses balked. He even looked for excuses to pass. When God rejected them Moses played his trump card.

“I have never been eloquent...I am slow of speech and tongue.”

As a young prince of Egypt, Moses tried physical force to achieve his dream. It earned him forty years as a shepherd in the backside of the desert. When it was time for him to act the Lord took a different approach. He bypassed Moses' natural skills and talents and focused on his weaknesses. From Moses' perspective, it was a recipe for disaster.

Between chapters four and thirty-two things changed dramatically. Moses went from a stammering wallflower to a man with the audacity to tell God to repent. His words were authoritative, to-the-point and effectual. God repented!

Something happened during this time frame. I suspect it was directly linked to the Who Moses associated with. Moses spent long periods of time in the Tent of Meeting and God rubbed off on this good ole' boy and transformed him.

When we hang out with God we'll change. No longer afraid of our own shadow we have boldness to approach at His invitation. We fellowship at His throne of grace. Timidity and insecurity gone, we respectfully and reverently come and make our requests. We're empowered to step out in faith. If we miss it we're confident He'll correct us and get us back on track – no fear involved.

We're impacted by those we associate with. Why not spend time with God, the genius Creator and greatest mind of all time? His door is always open. Like Moses, we may discover some long thought dead dreams are resurrected. Packaged differently than we'd originally planned, the new format may initially feel uncomfortable and the temptation to walk or run away strong. Why not learn from Moses and take one step at a time? Keep in direct, passionate fellowship with God. He'll provide all the insights, plans and strategies needed to succeed. In the process we'll be radically transformed – that's what we need the most.

How about you? What dream, vision or promise is so long overdue it appears to be dead? How would you feel if God opened that door but required you to act on your weaknesses and things most feared? What would you need from God to make that kind of leap of faith?

photo - www.levelupliving.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Curious George

There is nothing new under the sun” Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV).

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of the heavenly lights” James 1:17 (NIV).

Same old same old. The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Solomon may have chosen those words if he was wrote for today's audience. Looks as if life back in his day wasn't much different than ours. I think there's more here than what appears on the surface.

How do you know if you're under the sun? Look up! You and all earth's inhabitants qualify. What we define as new really isn't that at all. Everything existed somewhere else first outside of this natural realm.

James said the source of new things is not a place, but a who. God's creativity is the womb that produces what we consider innovative and revolutionary.

George Washington Carver was a brilliant scientist committed to helping the farmers in the South. The boll weevil infestation brought an end to the reign of cotton as king. Dr. Carver developed 105 recipes for peanuts including peanut butter. He also devised over 100 products: cosmetics, dyes, plastics, gasoline and nitroglycerin. His findings were never patented, freely available for all to use. His work gave Southern farmers markets for this new alternative crop that ultimately outstripped cotton's popularity and profitability. How did he do it?

Pastor Bill Winston of Living Word Christian Center attended Tuskegee University, founded by Dr. Carver. Pastor Winston states that the doctor's secret of success was simple. Dr. Carver took his bible into to his lab and prayed. I've yet to discover the formulas for peanut butter or nitroglycerin in the bible so how did Dr. Carver get these wonderful inventions?

Dr. Carver knew the author of the Bible, the One who created all things and upholds all things by His word. Seeing the plight of Southern farmers “Curious George” went to the originator of peanuts and tapped His knowledge. Based on what he learned Dr. Carver unlocked the hidden potential of this little legume. Through fellowship with God, Curious George brought practical solutions that changed farming and the economic status of the South. So much for the power of prayer and a personal relationship with God.

How about you? Are you facing a dilemma that appears hopeless? Have you looked at your situation and thought, “There's got to be a better way!”

Go to God and discuss the matter with Him. The Creator of the Universe is never at a loss for solutions but it may take a wild imagination to envision what He tells you. God's not tapped out when it comes to “good and perfect gifts.” Who knows, like George Washington Carver your discovery may save a region, a nation or even the whole world.

Photo - Google Images

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


“Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord it is good for us to be here. If you wish I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah'” Matthew 17:4 (NIV).

Being part of the inner circle has its perks, but on days like today I'd settle for the chance to forgo the hike. James, John and I dropped to the ground. Winded from the trek, it felt good to finally rest.

Unfamiliar voices caught my attention. There's no one here but us. Who's that talking with Master?

I blinked, then blinked again. The altitude must be playing tricks on me. Not one but three shining individuals stood just feet away engrossed in conversation. I squinted into the brilliant light and made out the form of Jesus. The other two were strangers.

I inched closer and strained to catch tidbits of their discussion. Moses! Elijah! Did I hear correctly? Unbelievable!

Overwhelmed with excitement I blurted out, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one....”

Before I could finished my sentence the atmosphere changed. Engulfed in an iridescent cloud a thundering voice spoke. Seized with terror the three of us hit the dirt.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 7:5 (NIV).

Glamping! Ever heard of it?

The newly minted catchphrase is a combination of glamor and camping. If an oxymoron can be a contraction of two words, glamping fits the bill. No devotee of roughing it, I'd need serious over-the-top luxurious accommodations to coax me away from a comfy bed in a climate controlled environment with cable or satellite TV. So, what constitutes glamping?

I first heard the term used in this scenario. Synonymous for high priced, ocean front properties, not all the residences in the Hamptons on Long Island, NY are McMansions. There are some normal homes also. Situated on beach front property is a modular home resort, a fancy name for an upscale trailer park! That's right, a trailer park in the Hamptons, hard to believe but true. The photos I've seen show a well kept facility. Some residents of the Hamptons have found a way to cash in on their home's location and still enjoy life by the beach. They sub-let their properties out for the season and glamp at the trailer park, I mean resort, and pocket a nice profit to compensate for any inconveniences.

Simon Peter wanted to glamp before the locals at the Hamptons thought it up. His version was glory camping. Can you blame him? A simple hike yielded an awesome spiritual encounter with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Who'd want to leave a manifestation of glory like that?

Peter fell prey to the same snare the church has been tripping over for – forever. God moves in an unusual way. The assumption is made that this is it – the Holy Grail of God's interaction with men. Things begin bumpy, the forerunners and visionaries pay dearly for leading the charge. Those who spear-headed the last move of God usually fight the hardest to maintain the status quo. After all, in their estimation, they already have God's Final Design. Eventually God's new plan gains wider acceptance. By the time the majority adopt it God has moved on and the cycle starts again. The last pioneers now become the new persecutors.

Society today is more mobile than ever. People move cross towns, countries and continents for a job, retirement, education and so forth. When it comes to the things of God – well, “Gimme that ole time religion!” is our mantra. Something has to stay stable – doesn't it?

We're not pleasantly surprised when the God who is supposed to never change jams a stick in the spokes of our apple cart's wheels and upsets it. We can learn valuable lessons from the Israelites' wilderness camping excursion. How would you like to live out of a suitcase for forty years? At any moment the signal sounds and you're on the move – again. Where you're headed and the length of your journey is a mystery. How long you'll stay at the new location is an unknown. God isn't telling.

As soon as the church as a whole gets a grip on what God's doing and settles in for the long haul – it's too late. God's already packed His bags and moved on. It takes a while before we realize He's left us behind. How should we respond to His new direction? We can stay put, maybe even trash talk this new thing we don't like or understand or we can adopt a more inquisitive “what if” position. Instead of digging our heels in the sand of our comfortable, indisputably correct posture we could be like the Bereans. When faced with controversial issues, they endeavored to prove these items right and not wrong. Who knows, maybe glamping isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Photo - Google Images

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bereans vs. Pharisees

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” Acts 17:11 (NIV).

How do you spell Pharisee: pompous, haughty, arrogant, rude, ingratiating, sarcastic, educated, egotistical, snob? It's unfair to paint them all with that broad brush, but many that Jesus tangled with fell into this category. The largely uneducated Jewish population were under the tutelage of these religious teachers of the law. Unlike us, the Jews had no other options. We can at least change churches.

Mark Virkler described the difference between a Pharisee and a Berean. Pharisees look to prove someone wrong; Bereans look to prove them right. What would happen if Christians as a whole took a more Berean approach toward those who threaten to tip over their personal sacred cows? Would this methodology put us in a better frame of mind to investigate challenges to our belief systems? It might.

To entertain the remote possibility that you just might be wrong can be grounds for serious heartburn and possible excommunication (just kidding...maybe not). If our foundation's not as firm as believed isn't it better to adjust as opposed to pretending our concrete footers aren't grounded in quicksand?

To clarify, there are basic non-negotiable tenets of the faith. These aren't the issues I'm talking about (although some may disagree). We all have our pet doctrines. As I look back over forty plus years of being a Christian I've revised my position on subjects I once thought were indisputable. That said, in the coming years I'll probably make even more changes as I grow in the knowledge of how ignorant I really am about God.

I've come to accept that God is so much bigger and complex than my personal theology can handle or even dream up. Daily I'm reminded how small my understanding is. He constantly challenges my shallow thinking and I've become more comfortable not being a know it all. I get lots of opportunities to grow and prove myself wrong.

If I chose to explore a different idea as opposed to defending my own (and of course correct) position, my study habits change. Rather than search for arguments to bolster my case, with fresh eyes I can look for and find things I've missed. I may come to the conclusion that my original premise is sound and intact. My attitude, however, will be very different. I can ditch the haughty I-told-you-so demeanor and experience the let down that comes when you root for the underdog who doesn't pull a “Rudy” off in the final seconds of the game. If you don't know who Rudy was, Google him. Hint: he played Notre Dame football. My heart has changed. There are no longer any quacks or adversaries, just those I agree to disagree with. No corresponding feelings of superiority are needed.

The world and the church could use a lot more Bereans and a whole lot less Pharisees. Do you think the pre-Christians would take note if we didn't name call and fight over incidentals? What if we sat down and investigated conflicting claims in an effort to prove the other guy right? Think that might garner some attention? Much of what we come to blows over has nothing to do with the key issue – salvation through Christ alone.

How about you? Has someone yanked your doctrinal chain? If so, will you react as a Berean or a Pharisee?

Photo from Google Images

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Devil Is A Liar

“...he was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar, and the father of lies. John 8:44

The shining one eased his way toward the woman, so far so good, no signs of alarm or apprehension.

A sulfuric hiss, “She's beautiiiifullll.” Black eyes narrowed to a slit, “But not as much as me. No one compares to the Anointed Cherub.”

A questioning whisper engaged her. “Has God really said...?”

Eyes flickered with doubt. Bait taken, hook set, he reeled her in for the kill.

“Easy prey,” he mumbled gleefully.

Staring intently, he studied the man who now pondered his wife's offer. Would he be as gullible? He swooned with the delight as the man ate the fruit. The earth and mankind were now his. “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.”1

How was the devil a murderer from the beginning? A liar, sure – the father of lies, that's a no-brainer.  A murderer, how did he earn that distinction?

Beginning in John 8:44 is the same word used in John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word.” Before Lucifer was created, God knew he'd rebel. Not a part of some cosmic scheme of intrigue and deception, God's original intent for this now fallen angel was glorious. God knows the end from the beginning and He's always prepared for what happens.

Satan invented the lie – the antithesis of the truth. He can't help himself; it's who he is at his core. Lies are his native tongue. Satan also understands the power of words better than most Christians.

“I killed you with the words of my mouth” Hosea 6:15.

“But that's just God,” you may say “He can do anything.”

Proverbs 18:21 reminds us, “the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Let's look at the first recorded murder to see just how words can kill.

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Genesis 2:17

Adam received explicit dietary instructions. The fruit of one particular tree was off limits. Eating it carried a death sentence. Satan desired to rule the earth. The only thing in his way was man who had dominion over the planet. The solution was straightforward; kill the man and take control. How did Satan do this? He used words - lies.

We know the story. Satan picked the weakest link – Eve, not because she was a woman but because she operated on second hand information. If her response to his question was what Adam had told her, her husband hadn't paid attention to God. Regardless, Eve bought the devil's lie, ate the fruit and promptly handed it to Adam, who stood beside her. He partook also and immediately they both dropped dead – spiritually.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends; with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

God's timetable is very different than ours Peter reminds us. One day to God is equivalent to a thousand of our years. Adam only lived 930 years. So, per God's calculation of time, Adam died the same day he disobeyed. The lie he believed was a deadly as a knife in the heart.

“...he who pours out lies shall perish,” Proverbs 19:9

What goes around comes around. God's law of sowing and reaping never fails. The devil will eventually receive a harvest for the lies he's sown. We should learn from his bad example and monitor the words that come out of our mouths. Will we speak life or death? The choice is ours – choose wisely.

P.S. For all my computer friends, according to Larry Randolph the real reason Adam and Eve fell was this...they ate the Apple and were supposed to be Word (Microsoft) people. I was tempted to put in the Apple logo for a photo insert but decided against it. Thought you'd appreciate the humor.

(Photo from Google Images)

1    Milton's Paradise Lost