Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ready, Set...Go!

Whether by day or night, whenever the cloud lifted they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in the camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out" Numbers 9:21-22 (NIV).

The Southern Baptist Convention International Missions Board's decision earlier this year raised a few eyebrows. Missionary candidates will no longer be rejected if they speak in tongues. Pentecostals, like myself, applauded the ruling. When any walls of separation within the Body of Christ come down, it is reason to rejoice.

In my opinion, the Church as a whole, finds change problematic. Adopting postures that resist new ideas and breakthroughs in science, technology and so forth has left the Church in the embarrassing position of being flat out wrong. The earth does really revolve around the sun.

The Church is also quick to dig in its heels concerning theological issues. To be very clear, it is important to know and adhere to the truth. It is just as important to be willing to consider the possibility that our present understanding of what is the truth may not be God's final say in the matter.

Not long ago Pentecostals were ostracized and even persecuted; their beliefs and practices were considered demonic. Once relegated to the other side of the tracks, Pentecostals are now front and center. What was considered heresy is now becoming mainstream and growing more and more in acceptance. What changed?

Perhaps the Church should take some clues from its Israelite forefathers; learn a lesson or two from its own book, the Bible - Cloud Following 101. In order to stay in sync with God, the Israelites could be certain of a few things:

1. They had to follow the cloud.
2. At any time, even for no apparent reason, the cloud  would move.
3. When breaking camp, the Israelites never knew their  new destination. They constantly adapted to different  circumstances, terrain, situations and so forth.
4. The cloud never checked with them to learn their  preferences nor to listen to their opinions.
5. The cloud didn't wait for stragglers or foot-draggers.

Just like the Israelites, believers individually and corporately need to maintain vigilance for God's movements. His agenda and timetable aren't open for discussion. He moves at will whether we like/understand/agree or not. We can be certain He'll lead us into virgin, unknown territory which we have no grid for. We must stay flexible and open-minded, willing to camp and not put down roots.

How about you? How have your beliefs changed overtime? How do you respond to issues deemed controversial? How much study/investigation do you give to matters outside of your comfort zone? Are you willing to move with God into the unknown?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Close Encounter of a Christmas Kind (and better than a movie)

"And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid." Luke 2:8 (emphasis mine).

Long, long ago in a Galilee far, far away a group of shepherds spent the evening minding their own business and tending their sheep. It was just another night, or so they thought. Without any advanced warning (or ticket sales) their quiet night in the field was suddenly interrupted by a heavenly visitor whose appearance set them reeling. Supernatural apparitions were for holy men and priests not lowly shepherds...or so one might suppose.

"Fear not!" the divine messenger proclaimed excitedly (easy for him to say). "I bring you good news, tidings of great joy for everyone." Good news to the shepherds would be that they'd live and not die because of this encounter. "There is born to you, in Bethlehem, a Savior who is Christ the Lord."

"A Savior? Did he really say what we thought I heard him say?" The shepherds whispered to each other daring not to interrupt the imposing creature before them. "Here's a sign for you. You'll find this baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." The angel's glow intensified as each word was spoken with increasing jubilation.

"Manger? Did he say manger? Still recovering from the shock of the angel's unexpected appearance, the men scrambled to make sense of this message. "What kind of Savior is born in a manger?" The promised Messiah was going to be royalty, not some poor peasant. The Messiah in a manger...preposterous.

Before they could completely compose themselves their lone visitor was surrounded by a host of others like himself and some more terrifying. Cherubim, burnished bronze in color, with four faces (lion, ox, eagle, man), eight hands and sixteen wings with two legs that looked like those of a calf flashed like lightning across the sky. Seraphim, who stand above the throne of God, and have the appearance of fiery, flying dragons flew through the air and joined the frenzy above. Creatures that looked like wheels within a wheel and covered with eyes followed the cherubim where they went. Other beings of various sizes, shapes and appearances joined the angel messenger's song:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!"

It looked as if the sky had opened up and all of heaven had been emptied out for the purpose of making this special announcement.

Artists throughout the ages have tried to depict what this Close Encounter looked like. Often overlooked is the detail that the shepherds were extremely frightened by what they saw. We forget that when the Bible says there was a multitude of the heavenly host that comprised the angel choir that night, some of them don't look like our concept of an angel. These creatures are way more exotic and surreal than those produced by Hollywood.

The Bible says that after the angels left the shepherds collected themselves and decided to go and find this Savior born that night. The thought occurred to me. Did they do so because they didn't want to have to face this terrifying troop of heavenly messengers again? If a Cherub told you to, "Go!" do you really want to tell him that you didn't feel like it? Looks like they had something more important to consider than the red color of a coffee cup. Sorry, just had to add that in.

This past weekend the latest edition of Star Wars hit the theaters and was wildly successful. I must admit I haven't seen any of the movies and don't plan to break my streak. What occurred in the sky over Bethlehem that night would rival anything that CGI graphics and special effects can conceive. The angels' message has reached a greater audience than the most carefully crafted movie and has left individuals with more than temporary wonder and the aftertaste of hot buttered popcorn. Movies don't save the world but a baby born in a manger did and His arrival trumped Hollywood at its best.

Normally my blog postings are written months in advance, so to compose one on the fly is a break of tradition. I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed and Prosperous New Year. Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


"Do not be contaminated through any of these;  for through all these the nations that I expel before you became contaminated. The land became contaminated and I recalled its iniquity upon it; and the land disgorged its inhabitants." Lev. 18:24 (Tanach, Hebrew/English Old Testament)

Within the rules and regulations in Leviticus are fascinating tidbits of important information. Lev. 18:24, 28 and 20:22 warn about particular behaviors now becoming socially acceptable. Failure to avoid these actually contaminates the land which, in turn, can react violently to its inhabitants.

I don't think God spoke metaphorically here. The globe is littered with the ruins of past great civilizations who indulged in these practices. Some crumbled under the excesses their societies indulged in; others were completely wiped out by forces of nature. There were some that succumbed to a combination of both. Now they're just ancient history and piles of rubble. Paul addressed creation's predicament in the book of Romans.

"For the creation was subject to frustration, not by its own choice" Rom. 8:20 (NIV).

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pain of childbirth, right up to the present time" Rom. 8:22 (NIV).

Adam's fall impacted more than our earth. Creation, the whole cosmos was affected and hasn't been right since then. God said that our behavior could become so repulsive to the land that it would vomit the inhabitants up out of it. The thought occurred to me. Could some natural disasters having nothing to do with "God's wrath" but are the land's reaction to our unacceptable lifestyles and practices?

Mature sons of God are mandated to fulfill God's original intent.

"...your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matt. 6:10 (NIV).

Much of what society is willing to give a pass to today (and even in the past) can't be found in agreement with God's Word...ever. Designed to reflect Jesus, Christians have a serious responsibility for the earth and all creation. It's important to be environmentally conscious and wise, but according to Leviticus, that will only do so much. We can consistently recycle, search out and use green solutions and work to keep the environment free from pollutants, but unless there's a corresponding change of behavior, these efforts won't solve the real problem. Our job is to bring all of the cosmos back into alignment with God's original concept. It's a huge task and we have a big God Who has all the resources needed to accomplish this. Are we willing to grow up and do our part?

How about you? What do you think creation would look like if restored to pristine condition? What things on earth (like mosquitoes, roaches, spiders and so forth) might be completely different than the way we know them now? What are you willing to do in order to come to maturity as a son of God? How can you positively impact creation?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Alien Invasion

I must admit it. I watch Ancient Aliens. Is that a collective groan I hear? No, I'm not a UFO fanatic. The show is filmed around the world in places I've never heard of, been to and will probably never visit. Their stable of experts routinely attempt to explain spiritual matters in purely natural terms. It's disappointing when a commentator with theological training and background can't honestly and biblically explain the supernatural.

None of the experts profess first hand experience with the ancient astronauts or extra-terrestrials. Would they, along with most people be surprised to learn they meet and interact with aliens on a regular, daily basis?

"Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world..."
1 Peter 2:11.

You read that right. Peter called Christians aliens (it even says so in the Greek!). The world has been subjected to a constant alien invasion and occupation for over 2000 years. Who knew? Unfortunately, there is still a substantial portion of humanity who are unaware of the presence in their midst. Some that do know are often repelled by this.

Overwhelmingly on the broadcast, individuals who claim personal encounters with aliens have nothing positive to say about their experiences. They don't ever want to re-live them and would like nothing more than to be able to forget them entirely. I don't blame them. Dealing with fallen angels bent on your destruction would not engender warm fuzzy feelings and a desire for a repeat performance. It's sad that too often Christian leave unbelievers with this same aversion.

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword"
Matt. 10:34 (NIV).

Jesus made it very clear. He was going to and would always be a point of contention. His claims at Messiah-ship placed Him at odds with the religious hierarchy and divided society all the way down to the family unit. It's still that way today.

Destined to turn the world right side up, Jesus didn't resort to pickets, protests and so forth. He did drive money changers out of the Temple, but after all, it was His Father's house. On one occasion He completely eluded a group of townspeople desiring to throw Him off of a cliff. He never advocated the overthrow of the cruel, oppressive Roman government. He even admonished the Jews to pay their taxes to Rome. That point alone can get family members fighting.

Interaction with Jesus didn't produce fear or dread, just the opposite. Most, once they met Him, couldn't get enough and clamored for more. What did Jesus do that endeared Him to people regardless of His teachings that were so controversial?

"...God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him" Acts 10:38 (NIV).

There's the secret for a successful alien invasion and occupation: do good and heal all under the devil's power through one's intimate relationship with God. Make no mistake, there will be conflict. Jesus said so. What He didn't do was go out of His way to purposely enflame people. He didn't chase them down and publicly address their sin. He dealt with it, but never let it be a barrier between Himself and an individual. They always had the final say and He accepted their decision.

How about you? As a believer how can your alien status impact your interaction with the world around you? What measures do you take to insure that your words and actions are a direct result of God being in you? What types of difficulties/challenges do you experience in your host country? How can you employ Jesus' methodology more effectively?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


"Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, 'See that you don't tell anyone...'" Matt.8:4 (NIV).

Already a dead man walking, the outcast seized what might have been his one and only chance. Slipping into the crowd unannounced, he made his way to Jesus. Kneeling before the young rabbi, he voiced his request.

"Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean." Matthew 8:2 (NIV).

A shockwave reverberated though the throng...a leper! Fear of contamination swept over the people who checked themselves for even the slightest, inadvertent contact with the unclean man. Surely the rabbi would rebuke the scofflaw for his careless, lawless actions. To their astonishment Jesus did no such thing, instead He did the unthinkable.

"Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy" Matthew 8:3 (NIV).

Here was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to not only validate His ministry but to also raise His public profile. Instead, He squashed it. Rather that instigate a major public relations campaign, Jesus told the man to tell no one but the priests about his healing.

Media outlets and the internet routinely report miracles. Ministries promote healings and other miraculous events. In light of Jesus' action, are we missing something?

It's normal to be excited when God's power is demonstrated, especially when He works through us. Surely God's willingness to use us is proof of our great spiritual stature and maturity. We have arrived. Have we?

The publicity produced by the leper's healing negatively impacted Jesus' ministry.

"As a result, Jesus could not longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places, yet the people still came to him from everywhere" Mark 1:45 (NIV).

Our Lord knew the downside of fame and notoriety.

"Jesus answered, 'Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your full..." John 6:26 (NIV).

His ministry, reduced to a meal ticket, Jesus' effectiveness was severely impaired. At His arrest in the garden, He failed to emphasis His miracles as proof of His legitimacy.

"Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me" Mark 14:49 (NIV emphasis mine).

I am pro-miracles and would love to see more. Maybe we all would if they weren't used for P.R. purposes. Are we willing to work (emphasis work) miracles if only God, ourselves and the recipients know about them? Jesus was.

The working of miracles is a gift from God, that's the key. It isn't about us at all. Part of the labor necessary to work miracles may be the self-discipline required to direct people away from us and to God. Jesus willingly, "made himself nothing," Philippians 2:7 (NIV). Are we willing to do the same?

How about you? What's your position on miracles? If they're still for today, how should we conduct ourselves when that gift operates in our life? How could a low profile on our part, direct all the attention to God? How would this focus on Him encourage individuals to seek a more intimate relationship with God and not with any other special individual? Are you willing to be a nameless, faceless tool in the hands of God?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


"If the anointed Kohen will sin, bringing guilt upon the people..." Lev. 4:3 Tanach (Hebrew/English Old Testament)

What a raw deal! It's understandable to be guilty for one's own deeds, but for some one else's? That's just not fair. The Bible never calls God fair. He is just.

"...and there is no God else beside me: a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me." Isaiah 45:21 (KJV).

"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you," Psalm 89:14 (NIV).

The truth that God is always just makes Leviticus 4:3 appear not only unfair but also, unjust. How can God violate His own character and remain God?

Throughout the Bible I find what I term the Law of Divine Opposites. My former pastor and friend, Rocky Thompson calls this Oppositeville. For example, if righteousness and justice form the foundation of God's throne, we know that the enemy's is the exact opposite. In Leviticus God wasn't looking to dump guilt on innocent people, just the opposite.

God provided the legal framework that allowed the sin of one to be transferred to all so that in Oppositeville the converse would be possible.

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross," 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV).

Applying the Law of Divine Opposites, God made it possible for the righteousness of the Kohen or High Priest to be imputed to all the people. All He needed was a someone to meet that qualification.

Paul quoted Ecclesiastes 7:20 when he wrote, "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one.'" Romans 3:10 (NIV). When the writer of Ecclesiastes penned those words there were no righteous people including the High Priest. It was B. C., Before Christ.

High priests descended from Levi. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah but that wasn't a problem for God.

"The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'" Psalm 110:4 (NIV).

Per the Law of Divine Opposites or Oppositeville, if the guilt of one could be placed on all, then the righteousness of one could remove it and reconcile them to God. Perfectly legal.

"... so that him we might become the righteousness of God" 2 Cor. 5:21. (NIV).

How about you? If you've already been reconciled to God how would you describe your righteousness in Christ? If you've not thought of yourself in this way before, how will your image of yourself change in the face of this truth? When you meditate on this, how can it re-frame your identity? If you've not received God's reconciliation, why not? Do you really want to turn down God's offer for a chance to live in Oppositeville?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No Pressure Jesus!

"For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in everyway, in order that He might  become a merciful and faithful High Priest to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people." Heb. 2:17 (NIV).

"If the anointed Kohen will sin, bringing guilt upon the people..." Lev. 4:3 (Tenach - Hebrew/English Old Testament).

Like all Jewish males Jesus was educated in the Law, the prophets and the nuances of His faith, including ceremonial rituals and requirements. He was aware of the impact of  a High Priest's sin not only on himself individually but also on the people as a whole. Guilt from the High Priest's sin was transferred to the Israelites.

Jesus understands temptation. "...tempted in every way, just as we are - yet with out sin." Heb. 4:5. Peter confirmed this, "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth." 1 Peter 2:22. John the apostle added, "...and in Him is no sin." 1 John 3:5. Jesus knew that under the Law any dalliance with sin on the part of the High Priest had far reaching consequences...NO PRESSURE JESUS!

The bible doesn't use the word sinless to describe Jesus. Heretical? Not at all. Jesus didn't commit any sin ever, however, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." 1 Cor. 5:21. Given every temptation and plenty of opportunities, Jesus didn't sin in and of His own free will, but He took on all of ours.

As He stood silently across from Pilate who tried to free Him, I wonder if Jesus smiled or chuckled when the mob called for His death.

"All the people answered, 'Let His blood be on us and on our children!'" Matt. 27:25.

Their cry for His blood had ramifications they couldn't foresee. The clamor for His death was turned into a plea for His blood to cover them and their future generations. They made Jesus an offer He couldn't refuse. After His death, "He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." Heb. 9:12. That redemption wasn't for Him. He didn't need it. We did.

How about you? What would one tiny misstep on Jesus' part have meant for you? What would life without reconciliation with God look like to you? Have you taken advantage of what Jesus did for you? If not, why not? Don't miss out on the greatest offer in your lifetime.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Levitical Nap Interruption

"Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem: from animals-from the cattle or from the flock you shall bring your offerings." 
Lev. 1:2 Tanach

My leisurely journey through the Tanach brings me to Leviticus...groan. A tough book to slug through, I hope by the end, if I make it, to discover more than a sure fire recipe for a nap. This time I read the introductory remarks and discovered a reason not to snooze.

The initial chapters deal with animal sacrifices - boring. The difference this time was the explanation of korban, a Hebrew word for sacrifice or offering. The English language doesn't properly convey the meaning of korban or korbanos. Sacrifice implies deprivation, something of value given under duress. God finds no joy in this. Offering sounds less negative but still fails to define korban.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, "I (God) have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats...stop bringing meaningless offerings." Isaiah 1:11-13. How did God benefit from sacrifices? Man's largesse doesn't enrich God one iota.

The answer is korban. The word's root meaning is to come and draw near. While offering korban the person was invited to come and draw near to God. Korban was an avenue to obtain greater intimacy with God and to achieve a higher level of spirituality. When the Torah references korban offerings they are linked to the four letter name of God Who is merciful. Person's performing korban did so in an atmosphere of safety, acceptance and an open door to God.

This explanation of korban transformed my concept of sacrifices and offerings. I see these words of Jesus now in a different light.

"But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" 
Matt. 9:13.

It always was and will be about mercy and love.

Rather than hope that people would show up at His house, Jesus hit the streets. He tracked down those without offerings and extended mercy, grace and relationship. It's not only about giving to God, but also about from receiving from Him.

How about you? What types of feelings have you wrestled with when it comes to giving? How does the definition of korban dispel any notions that giving is a means to buy God's good graces? Does the image of a merciful and not an angry God invite you to draw near when you feel the least worthy? How does korban re-define sacrifices and offerings for you?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How Big Were Those Oysters?

"Again the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he want away and sold everything he had and bought it." Matt. 13:45.

The parable's name, The Pearl of Great Price, is misleading. Jesus focused on the merchant, not the pearl. The subject of this two line story was on a quest to locate valuable pearls. This individual was willing to give all in order
acquire his heart's desire. Sound familiar?

Even before creation God was on a mission to redeem man. Jesus is, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Rev. 13:8. Man's salvation wasn't some knee jerk reaction to Adam's fall; it was the pre-determined solution to a future problem. Like the merchant, Jesus went away. He left Heaven and came to earth to treasure hunt. While here, He too gave everything He had in order to purchase the object of His affection. Because He did, man was redeemed.

Pearls are fascinating. Found in oysters their luminous exterior disguises their less than glorious origins. The oyster's perfect environment is invaded. A foreign object as small as a grain of sand enters and becomes a source of irritation. Unable to expel the unwanted intruder, the oyster sets out to fix the problem.

Over time layer upon layer of the same substance that lines the oyster's shell is secreted, entombing the irritant. What we consider a valuable gem is simply an oyster's response to a pebble in its shoe. (Ok, I know, oysters don't wear shoes, but you get the idea).

Sounds like our story. Satan entered the garden's perfect environment and man's been working to fix the mess made there ever since. Try as hard as we do, all the good things we use to mask the real source of our condition only covers it up and doesn't solve the root issue.

Like the merchant, God views man as highly valuable, so much so that He paid for our redemption with the life of His Son Jesus. Unlike the pearl, we have free will. We can say, "No!" and remain the object of God's affection...and homeless.

How about you? How does the image of the pearl change your idea of how God views and values you? Looking back, how has God, like the merchant diligently searched for you?

The thought just occurred to me. The book of Revelation describes the gates of the New Jerusalem as twelve single pearls. How big do you think those oysters were?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Great Adventure

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,” Philippians 3:13 (NLT).

The command was unmistakable. “Go!” His mind whirled with unanswered questions:

“Why? What's wrong with where I am now?”;
“Go? Go where?”;
“My support system's here. Why give it up?”;
“Is this really necessary?”

It was.

Willing to place his life and the lives of his household, his fortune, his reputation and his safety into the hands of his unseen God, Abram pulled up stakes and left Familiar. God required him to relinquish his past in order to find his future. Follow God, but to who knows where?

Abram's journey mirrors our own. Like our forefather in the faith God asks us to break with the past, leave Familiar and pursue the Glorious Great Unknown. Abram was required to surrender three things: his land, his family and his father's home in order to attain one object - “the land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1 (Tanach). Do the math. Give up three and get one in return. Lopsided trade don't you think?
A recent post In Means In delved into Acts 17:28. Abram's Great Adventure is another Old Covenant example of this New Covenant truth. Abram's land (live), his family (move) and his father's house (our being) had to shift from the realm of natural possibilities to that of supernatural supply in an unseen place (God). Abram did it.
Paul followed in Abraham's footsteps and apprehended more than he gave up. Both received new identities: Abram became Abraham, Saul became Paul. With much to lose, they took the risk and followed God. Both  men faced difficulties and challenges. It's not easy pioneering a new belief system. Abraham and Paul experienced supernatural encounters with God, angels and so forth. Many believers secretly long for such experiences. If we do what these men did, we can have what they obtained.
The fact is Christianity's no cake walk if you're serious about pursuing God. There's a price to pay. It's no fun to be pruned and have your dead wood lopped off but it is essential for new growth to appear. In the end our “land that I will show you” will be far more valuable than all we give up. It really will.
How about you? If you took drastic measure like Abraham and Paul how could your life be radically different? What would you consider too extreme and would prevent you from entering a newer, deeper relationship with God? If so...why? Is it worth it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lost That Lovin' Feeling?

"Yet I have this against you: you have forsaken your first love."       Rev. 2:4

As I scrolled Facebook's news feed I noticed a familiar recurring theme, Christians bashing other Christians. I didn't bother to click on the links to get all the juicy details. The incident reminded me of comments I'd heard recently from Dr. Ogbanaya, a UMC minister in Venice CA. While discussing the book of Revelation and the seven angels of the churches mentioned there, Dr. O focused on the church in Ephesus.

The Lord had wonderful things to say about this band of believers. The Ephesians worked hard, persevered and didn't put up with wicked men. They'd become expert heresy hunters and could sniff out a false prophet a mile away.

After an enthusiastic pat on the back, the Lord dropped this bombshell.

"Yet I have this against you: you have forsaken your first love, remember the height from which you have fallen." Rev. 2:4-5.

In their desire to maintain doctrinal correctness, the Ephesians had lost something very precious to God...their first love. Zealous for Him, their attempts to ferret out impostors had turned them into judge, jury and final authority. It cost them their love. According to Dr. O, God's view of heresy hunting is a guaranteed way to lose what He considers more valuable than being right - love.

Sound doctrine is important. It's beneficial to consider viewpoints that challenge our beliefs because we might just learn something new. Perish the thought, we just might be wrong! It's another matter to call people names and to label them as false, heretical and apostate.

Today, there are the usual popular targets. When I see negative remarks I wonder if the authors of these derogatory comments know the subjects personally or if they've ever had any contact with these individuals. Have they spoken first hand to the ones they're castigating? Do they know what's in the heart of those they criticize? Were they present when God called these people into ministry and do they know all the details of this calling?

When it comes to finances and lifestyle, do the authors have access to the subjects' personal financial information? Is it possible that the ones accused give more generously than their accusers (percentage and/or dollar wise)? I knew of a minister years ago who was vilified severely for his alleged lavish lifestyle. He wore fine clothes, drove nice cars and lived in an expensive house. What his critics didn't know was that the value of his home was equal to about a tenth of his personal giving into the work of the Lord yearly. How many believers would willingly live in or could even find a home to live in equal to a tenth of their annual giving? In this man's case his lifestyle was frugal compared to his critics. Are judgments leveled based on outward appearances and not necessarily the facts of the matter or the condition of one's heart?

The church at Colosse had challenges also. In his letter to them Paul touched briefly on the intrusion of Gnosticism. His main emphasis, however, was the truth - Jesus Christ. Paul avoided the pitfall of feeding a critical spirit, never lost his first love and equipped the believers there with what they really needed.

Many of us have failed in the area of discerning who is or isn't really God's anointed, including Samuel. Sent to Jesse's home to anoint the next king of Israel, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, "That's him! That's the one!" Fast forward one chapter and you'll find this same Eliab, along with the rest of Israel's army cowered in fear before Goliath. He even sharply criticized his younger brother David's interest in fighting the giant and we know how that turned out.

That day at Jesse's God taught Samuel and all of us a very important lesson. "...man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." 1 Sam. 16:7. Based on his behavior, David would light up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the rest of social media. He got it wrong many times and made horrible mistakes. God said this about him.

"I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do." Acts 13:22.

I wonder what kind of push back God would have received for a post like that? How many would un-friend Him for that opinion?

How about you? How do you determine what's true and avoid engaging in criticism and slander? What measures will you use to determine the validity of someone's call? How will you assess and judge the thoughts and intents of their hearts? Is being a "Defender of the Faith" worth losing your first love over?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Who Are You Listening To?

"And He (God) said, 'Who told you that you were naked?'” Genesis 3:11 (NIV) emphasis mine.

A failure of catastrophic proportion drove them to hide from their only source of help. The sound of God manifested Itself in the garden. Run. Hide. The cool evening air sent shivers through their bodies. The glory gone, any changes in the atmosphere were now felt.

“Where are you?” the familiar voice cried out.

A mistake of that magnitude hasn't been replicated, by humans at least. Satan experienced his own fall from grace before the first couple crashed and burned. In an attempt to conceal their altered status the pair traded glory for fig leaves. That didn't work.

Had an omniscient God really lost track of Adam and Eve? Not likely. He knew exactly where they were, but did they? With His perfect creation reduced to chaos one might expect God to react with anger: yell, scream, threaten, throw things and stomp around. Maybe give Adam some applied five fold ministry. He didn't. Instead He asked a simple question. “Who told you that you were naked?” Did it really matter? They were.

In the beginning God, and then Adam, had the power to create with spoken words. The bible states that the couple actually saw their condition had changed and that they were now naked. God didn't declare that over them. This left only Adam and he got what he said.

It's fascinating that God's first reaction wasn't, “What have you done?” but “What have you become?” What if instead of hiding the pair had run to Him immediately for help? What if they took full responsibility for their actions and not blamed it on others? Could things have been different? Maybe.

God asks us the same question today. “Who told you that you were....stupid, unworthy, unlovable, a failure?” Insert your own favorite brand of derogatory remarks. God didn't call Adam and Eve naked and He's not the author of many of the demeaning labels we place on ourselves. Too often we too try to hide. We already feel guilty, we don't need to face an angry, disappointed God. But is He really upset?

God never responds negatively to a “broken spirit or a contrite heart,” Psalm 51:17. These the psalmist states, “God will not despise.” He's quick to forgive and start the restoration process. He'll even endeavor to mitigate the disastrous consequences of our sins.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness." Lam. 3:22-23

He's more interested in healing and inclusion than in punishment and exclusion.

How about you? What negative labels have you taken ownership of? How does this belief system affect your life? If you knew for certain these aren't God's view of you, how would your relationship or lack of one with Him change? Why not stop hiding and find out?

P.S.the reference to the sound of God manifesting Itself in the garden is from the Hebrew. Their understanding of God is that He is formless and therefore neither male nor female in appearance.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Impartation Generation

"When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, 'Tell me what can I do for you before I'm taken from you?' 'Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,' Elisha replied." 2 Kings 2:9 (NIV).

Something was up. His mentor was on edge, fidgety. Was Elijah really trying to lose his protégé? Elisha was determined. Regardless of Elijah's erratic behavior, he would stick close by.

Elisha's friends down at the local prophetic school seemed to know more than he did. Who told them that Elijah was leaving? Was there a hint of expectation in their voices? Who wouldn't want to step into Elijah's sandals and take his place?

Impartation is a buzzword in some Christian circles today. I believe things can be imparted but I don't always agree with how this is administered. The laying on of hands isn't anything new. Maybe that's part of the problem. It has become commonplace, reduced to an expected ritual.

Paul wrote to Timothy, "Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure." 1 Tim. 5:22. Paul advised using caution when laying hands on individuals. Was Timothy willing to be responsible for the manner that a person handled an impartation? Transference works both ways. How well did Timothy know this person? Did he want what they had? Paul recognized the power of impartation and the importance that both parties understood what's involved.

I heard a speaker share a recent experience. After a session a listener approached, requested prayer and asked the speaker to lay hands on them. This person desired a double portion of the speaker's anointing.

The speaker wisely saw an educational opportunity. Laying hands on the petitioner the prayer went something like this. "Lord, give this person a double portion of the struggles, hardships, difficulties and persecutions I've endured."

Aghast, the recipient knocked the speaker's hands away and angrily demanded, "What are you doing? I didn't ask for THAT!" The truth was exposed; all the person wanted was fame and notoriety.

Elijah and Elisha shared a close bond. Elisha served Elijah, he did all the grunt work. As Elijah's Man Friday, Elisha had seen it all; the short bursts of excitement and the long haul of drudgery. If anyone was prepared to succeed Elijah, it was he.

Elisha requested the double portion only after given an open invitation by Elijah to ask for anything. This is a much different scenario than the one described above. Although the heir-apparent, Elisha wasn't a shoo-in.

"You have asked a difficult thing,' Elijah said, 'yet if you see me when I'm taken from you, it will be yours - otherwise it will not.'" 2 Kings 2:10 (NIV).

Even if Elisha was Elijah's first choice, the double portion wasn't his to give. In order to receive Elijah's mantle, Elisha need vision. He couldn't receive what he couldn't see.

It's no different today. It isn't a matter of "I'll believe it when I see it," but, "I'll believer it and then I'll see it." Faith requires belief before sight. Impartation is more than a drive-by, fast food distribution of mantles and anointing. God likes slow cookin'.

How about you? Is there someone whose shoes you'd love to walk in? What hardships did they endure for the sake of the anointing they carried? How would your life need to change in order for God and His calling to maintain top priority? What things would have to go? Are you still sure you want this?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Choices, Choices

"For now I could have sent my hand and stricken you and your people with the pestilence and you would have been obliterated from the earth. However, for this I have let you endure, in order to show you My strength and so that My name may be declared throughout the world." Ex. 9:15-16 Tanach

"And now send, gather in your livestock and everything you have in the field; all the people and animals that are found in the field that are not gathered into the house - the hail shall descend upon them and they shall die." Ex. 9:19 Tanach

The landscape looked like the aftermath of a cataclysmic holocaust. Egypt was in ruins devastated by hail and falling fire (Jewish scholars consider that a miracle in itself; fire ascends not descends). Anything living, man or beast, caught outside died. Trees, plants and grasses were gone. Momentarily Pharaoh came to his senses. "This time I have sinned" Ex. 9:27 Tanach.

Nowhere does the Bible record celebrations in Goshen. Their location kept the Israelites immune from the misfortunes that fell on the Egyptians. No fist pumping in the air and high fives. Also noteworthy is God's attitude toward His adversaries.

The plague before the hail and fire was a lethal epidemic that wiped out Egyptian livestock. God told Pharaoh that this same scourge could have been extended to him personally and to all the Egyptians. Why did God spare them? He wanted them to have another opportunity to get to know Him. Wiping them out completely wouldn't have enhanced recognition of Him as a loving God throughout the world...just the opposite would have happened. Think about this, do you know any other god which went to such extraordinary measures to warn enemies of impending calamity?

Now another plague was bearing down on Egypt. God warned Pharaoh to take preventive measures to minimize the damage. Some of Pharaoh's own servants got the memo, took God's advice and were spared the hail and fire's destructive power. Those who didn't lost everything...again.

Opposed to being ready, willing and eager to crush His enemies, God took extraordinary measures to spare the Egyptians the consequences of their actions against His people. His desire to see men saved  is greater than His need to see them punished. Don't misunderstand, the plagues still came, their impact was horrible, but a way of escape had been extended.

Today, just like then, it is all about choice. God's more eager to populate Heaven than Hell but he leaves the disposition of the matter in the hands of each individual. He'll do everything short of making the decision for us. Choose wisely. He doesn't remove the consequences if one gets it wrong.

How about you? How, if at all, does this passage of Scripture change your understanding of God's interest in the welfare of those against Him? What situation and/or people oppose you and how can you extend mercy to them? When you see your enemies receive the harvest of their actions, what should your response be?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Square Peg in a Round Hole

 “But as it is, God has placed and arranged the limbs and organs in the body, each (particular one) of them, just as He wished and saw fit and with the best adaptation.
1 Cor. 12:18 (AMP emphasis mine).

God has a funny way of doing things. The master plan for building His body is a bit quirky. He produces parts and then adapts them to fit. In our era of precise technological capabilities, this seems kind of backwards don't you think?

He must laugh a lot as we fumble around outside of our comfort zones. This isn't sadism but the joy of a parent watching their offspring experience new things. Our Father recognizes the that end result might be less than perfect. He doesn't care. His children need to learn even under difficult and uncomfortable conditions. He'll chuckle at our uncoordinated actions but wisely remain on the sidelines. Intervention isn't the answer. Left alone, we will eventually adapt and succeed.

God loves to use our weaknesses for His glory. He'll turn shy introverts into speakers and teachers; extroverts into persons of intense, personal study and contemplative prayer. The seemingly ill-fitted and disqualified become successful functioning members of His body and leave the rest of us scratching our heads and wondering, “How did He do that?”

So, maybe the wise course of action is to stop resisting. God will fit square pegs into round holes, make them work and be delighted with the outcome. Our strengths, talents and abilities aren't all He has to work with. He likes weaknesses also. In that mode we know on a moment to moment basis, it isn't us at all. This reminds me a line from an old Amy Grant song, “...when it all comes down. If anything good's gonna happen tonight it's from Jesus.” When good things happen He gets all the credit.

How about you? What areas do you feel unqualified for that God seems to be leaning on you to step into? If you resist, what opportunities and adventures will you miss out on? How can God use your shortcomings to His advantage? When it “all comes down” eternity-wise do you want to be known as a good and faithful servant or one who played it safe? Are you willing to be a square peg in a round hole?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

4 Steps to Success

 So get rid of all uncleanliness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted (in your hearts) contains the power to save your souls.” James 1:22-23 (AMP).

Tired of 10 and 12 Step Programs? Here's a shortcut. This has only 4! So, let's talk about gardening.

When I wrote this my garden was in full bloom. Winter rains kept plants hydrated and ready to blossom at the first hint of warm temperatures. New arrivals added in last fall needed to be monitored. Their immature root systems left them more vulnerable than their well-established counterparts. So, you wonder, what does this have to do with the 4 Step Program? Everything.

My heart is God's garden and residence of The Word, Jesus Christ. Want Him to feel at home there? Here are the 4 steps to successfully make this happen:
1. receive;
2. welcome;
3. implant;
4. root.

How would you feel if I invited you to my home, let you in and then promptly disappeared only to pop in on occasion to check up on you? You were received, but you definitely weren't welcomed. Any argument I'd present to the contrary would be drowned out by my gross lack of hospitality.

Christianity and a relationship with God is often condensed to, “Come to Jesus, He has a wonderful plan for your life.” To receive Him, however, is only the tiny first step. He must be welcomed, implanted and allowed to take root.

Gardeners have a saying about new plants. “First year they sleep. Second year they creep. Third year they leap.” Good, strong, healthy root systems take time to develop. When weeding, offenders can be stubborn and hard to dislodge. Often their roots encapsulate a large portion of good soil that needs to be discarded in order to prevent further contamination of the bed. This is a perfect picture of the Word in our heart. It should be so pervasive that any attempt to remove Him would rip it out.

The Word, Jesus, needs to be received, welcomed, implanted and rooted in our hearts. This takes time just like establishing new plants does naturally. Jesus applied the three year rule to his disciples and they became unstoppable.

How about you? What is the condition of the Word in your heart? If you've gone past Step One – receiving – how's your progress toward Step Four? If you've not received Him yet, can you think of a good reason why not? Is there any reason why God's Four Steps to Success Program won't work for you?

FYI. For those of you who read my post Burn Baby Burn and remember the reference to a Dead Cat bounce, if you look at a daily chart of the S&P for the past few weeks you will see sharp downdrafts followed by snapback rallies and subsequent movement back to the downside. Those are dead cat bounces. Remember, no felines were harmed in this market action.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My Two Cents

"In the Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property" Lev. 25:13

I'm taking a break from my normal routine. My blogs are written several months in advance and any correlation between subject matter and current events is a Divine set-up. This week I decided to weigh in on this matter before and not after the fact.

The hot topics in some of the Church are The Shemitah Cycle and the Blood Moons which are creating a good deal of fear and for a few, positive cash flow. For the  most part, I've kept my opinions to myself and chose not to join in the fear mongering. As we approach the final blood moon and the end of the Shemitah cycle for 2015 I'm going to add my two cents into the mix.

First, the Shemitah cycle and the Year of Jubilee were given to Israel and the purpose was two-fold. It allowed for the land to have regular periods of rest from production in order to keep nutrients and minerals from being depleted. Doing this helped ensure healthy crops and abundant harvests. Even today it is great gardening and farming advice.

Second, these laws provided a system whereby people who had lost their ancestral lands could be restored to them. In theory, it was a great idea. Unfortunately Israel never consistently followed these practices and paid the price.

So, what does the Shemitah cycle have to do with the U.S. stock and financial markets movement? Scripturally speaking - nothing. These laws applied to Israel alone and there is no biblical evidence that any other nations ever received those mandates or were punished for a failure to comply with them. Although I actively day traded the markets for about five years, I don't classify myself as an expert. I have, however, learned a great deal about market cyclicality and what makes them move in either direction.

If we want to give kudos to someone who understands these things the award goes to Tom McClelland. Tom is a market timer and the offspring of the originators of the McClelland Oscillator, a tool used to forecast market movement. McClelland correctly called August, 24th ahead of time as the day the market would turn down and it did. As far as I know his call wasn't based on either of the two popular Christian premises making the rounds but on solid technical and fundamental information and analysis. And he got it right.

Anyone can predict that our stock market will take a downturn in the fall of the year and have a good chance of being correct. There are several things that go on "under the hood" that contribute to this. Here are just a few.

Managers of large portfolios re-allocate resources. If they've hit their benchmarks for the year they sell out early in order to bank the profits and keep customers happy. If they're on the losing side, for tax purposes, they need to slowly liquidate their holdings of millions of shares in an orderly manner to avoid panic selling. What this means is that the market can continue to rise higher but on reduced volume. That is what happened in our markets over the past few months.

Corporations begin reporting earnings in October but it isn't unusual for some to give guidance ahead of time. If they do the markets can move sharply based on this news. When earnings are announced often companies will give forward guidance; where they see things going in the future. This type of information can also have a serious impact on the market, up or down. Since the financial crisis of 07-08 companies have become leaner and more efficient. This helps the bottom line but only for so long. Unless sales are generated revenues shrink and profitability falters. Many corporations based projections for growth on China's seemingly robust economy to balance out losses in the U.S. and Europe. Now that China has slowed there's no one else to pick up the slack.

For years our government poured obscene amounts of money into the equity markets and raised stock prices to artificial highs. People felt better when they saw their 401k's and investment portfolios regain the losses and go in the black. With interest rates at record lows, bank accounts were no longer a place to park money. People were forced into the stock market to receive any type of return on an investment. These aren't long term investors. This week the Fed will announce if it will raise rates and there is some speculation that they will. This type of policy change or one whiff of bad news could have short-term investors headed for the exits.

The market's bull run has been built on shaky financial underpinnings. Sooner or later it will reverse, it always does, and the results could be ugly. When that happens it will likely be the result of poor economic and financial policies, short-term investors cashing out, national and international events that can't be predicted and not on God, Shemitah cycles and blood moons.

About blood moons, Peter was very bold to declare that the events of Acts 2 were the direct fulfillment of Joel's prophecy concerning these signs in the heavens. Rather than a time of doom, this event was an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit of God on Jews and Gentiles alike. Prophecy, dreams and visions also expanded. One of my favorite ministers gave this advice concerning blood moons. Based on what Peter said he recommends that one put oneself in a position to receive dreams and visions from God. I like that idea.

Jesus repeatedly spoke out against fear in every way, shape, form and manner. Unfortunately in the Church, fear sells even in direct opposition of the Lord's teachings. Why would unbelievers want what we claim to have when some of us are acting more frightened and pessimistic than they are?

How about you? Are you fulfilling Jesus' command to occupy until He comes or are you hunkered down and hoping for The Great Escape? Has the plethora of gloom and doom promulgated by ministers and ministries caused you to be overcome with fear and dread for the future? If so, is that the type of abundant life Jesus died to give us? The bible tells us over and over that there will be difficult and hard times, challenges to overcome but through Christ we are victorious over them all. Be an overcomer.