Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Still the Best News Ever

British novelist and playwright David Lodge slipped into the darkened theater unnoticed. On stage, Between These Four Walls, a satire he co-wrote was in progress. An actor, assuming the role of a job applicant, appeared on stage with a transistor radio plastered to his ear. The audience giggled at the character's cavalier attitude and lack of decorum in this serious moment.

Placing the radio down, the actor tuned it to a live, local station. The broadcast provided background music and chatter throughout the scene. Suddenly, a special bulletin interrupted the regular scheduled program.

"Today, the American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated..."

Quickly the actor shut the radio off - too late. Some patron's caught the announcer's words and chuckled nervously at what they thought was part of the script. If this was supposed to be a joke, it was a very poor one indeed. At intermission the rest of theater-goers learned the truth and the second half of the play fell flat.

Unseen events, Black Swans, define history and on various levels individual lives. Most memorable are those that spread fear and sorrow. I know exactly where I was the day President Kennedy was shot and killed. Of more recent vintage, I clearly remember the events of September 11th. During these times it is easy to be swept up by the bad news and allow the negativity to color our lives. Wouldn't it be a relief to have a good, no a great earth-shaking incident that changed the world for the better?

Without TV, radio, phones, internet and other social media the news that day in Jerusalem 33AD disseminated quickly. One hundred and twenty people stumbled out of an upper room and three thousand people responded to the best news they'd ever heard. That day Jerusalem became the epicenter for a world transforming movement.

The story that broke then still circles the globe and brings hope, restoration, redemption, love and joy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest news ever. Wherever it takes root individuals, families, neighborhoods, cities, states and nations improve dramatically.

Sharing the Gospel was never meant to be a means to acquire notches on one's bible belt or to earn brownie points with God. Evangelism is extending an invitation to all to participate in life's biggest game changer. Filled with challenges, Christianity's no cake walk. When has anything worthwhile come easily?

How about you? Can you remember the day you said, "Yes" and entered into a genuine relationship with God? If not, what prevents you from completing the most important transaction you'll ever make, The Salvation Transaction? Everyone can experience what those 3000 in Jerusalem did so long ago. Why wait another minute? 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Motown Memories

"For as he thinks within himself, so he is..." Proverbs 23:7 (NASB).

It was a perfect 4th of July in Boston. Around the corner from my daughter's apartment, a group of families gathered for a holiday cookout. The older generation controlled the music selections that afternoon and songs I grew up with and danced to drifted through the open windows

The Temptations' Eddie Kendricks' soothing falsetto, set to a sumptuous orchestral score drew me in. The melody is beautiful, but melancholic – a love song hinting of something amiss. A young man daily awaits his beloved's arrival. The sight of her fills his heart with joy and his mind with images of their future: marriage, children and a home. 

Momentarily, life is wonderful, holds great meaning and promise. Every day, however, ends the same. His love goes unreturned. She never notices him and doesn't know he exists. The love affair is one dimensional, existing only in the eye of the beholder. Nightly he prays for one more chance to catch her attention before someone else captures her heart and she's gone forever. Soulfully he laments, “But it was just my imagination running away with me.”

Some of us have traveled this route. We too have loved, one-sided, from a distance. Imagination gave shape to our secret longing, at least for a short time. Usually those images were only that, pictures in an exhibition of what might have been.

In the beginning, man received dominion over everything on the earth, except other men. There is a nation that God entrusts to each individual. We're responsible for and exert complete autonomy over this realm. How well we govern it determines the outcome of our lives. So important, Jesus addressed this matter in Matthew 5:28. That nation is our imagination.

Imagination – we've been warned about it. Parents, teachers, friends, even enemies have extolled its dangers.

“Don't let your imagination run away with you.”

“It's all in your head!”

That last statement is only partially true. Science is discovering that our brains are more of a storage unit, a hard drive of sorts to store thoughts originated from the heart. The Temptations' song graphically depicts Jesus' teaching. Create a scenario, positive or negative, and it's as good as done. To the man in the song the relationship was real. Emotions fully invested, he rode the highs and lows associated with a couple in love; a price he willingly paid to live out his fantasy.

Imagination is a gift from God for our benefit. It has a higher purpose than fueling one-sided love affairs, criminal activity and other sorts of illegal, illicit or even silly behaviors. God operates in the dimension of “...exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think...” Eph 3:20  (KJV).

Imagination is the fertile soil where seeds of Heaven-sent thoughts and dreams take root and blossom. It acts as an incubator that allows God's creative ideas to grow up and surpass our natural, logical capabilities. Only when we're willing to push the limits and stretch will we ever come anywhere near the full extent of God's imagination. Is it better to overshoot and trust that He'll reel us back in before we go too far? I think so. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The Bible is full of stories and pictures that we can feed into our imaginations. These become stepping stones to deeper encounters with God when we give Him something to work with. Will He get upset if our interpretation of what we find in scripture isn't spot-on with Heaven's reality? I doubt it. Remember, He already told us that He operates on a much higher plane than what we're accustomed to. There's plenty of room to dream big. If I let my imagination run away with me, I may find myself in the sphere of “exceeding, abundantly.” That's a destination worth exploring.

How about you? Can your pursuit of God benefit from a serious upgrade? How can your imagination further enhance your relationship with Him? What scriptures will give you a place to start this new, exciting journey? How do you think God will keep you from getting off track when you venture into new, uncharted territory? How do you think He'll react if you try to imagine Him and the Heavenly realms?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lessons from Lot

And just as dawn was breaking, the angels urged Lot on saying: “Get up – take your wife and your daughters who are present, lest you be swept away because of the sin of the city.” Still he lingered.
Genesis 19:15-16 Tanach

The strangers' arrival didn't go undetected. Positioned at the city gates a resident rose to greet them, then bowed face down on the ground.

“Spend the night at my home,” he entreated the visitors.

“No, we prefer to stay out here in the square overnight.”

“Not so my lords.” The man's chest tightened and the quiver in his voice exposed the fear he felt. Their plan was foolhardy and dangerous. “You must accept my hospitality.”

And they did.

How would you react if strangers arrived at your town with an important message: “Get outta town...now!” Ok, they may not have said it exactly that way, but you get the point. It's possible to entertain angels unaware of who they are. Lot did. As the evening progressed and events unfurled, who they were and the purpose of their visit became painfully apparent. Now it was decision time.

Lot understandably was overwhelmed. Can you blame him? Unable to persuade his sons-in-law nor the betrothed of the two daughters still under his roof, he froze. Finally the angels could wait no longer and forcibly removed the family out of harm's way.

God's instructions were specific: flee to the mountain, don't stop on the plain and don't look back. Again Lot balked. Mountains aren't conducive for grazing livestock. A herdsman by trade his livelihood was found on the rich pasture lands surrounding the city. There was a town close by - would that do? Pressed for time, the angels agreed. On the trip out of Sodom, Lot's wife sneaked a peak. Big mistake.

When God gives directions we can negotiate concessions but at our own peril. Things usually don't work out as planned. Although he eventually obeyed and went to the mountain the delay was costly. While they may have temporarily lost their home, the destruction wasn't wide spread like the flood had been. The family could have relocated at God's instruction and begun anew. Instead the widower parented children by his daughters, future thorns in Israel's side.

Mountains in Scripture symbolize governmental authority. God wasn't just planning a physical relocation. Lot needed to come up to a higher perspective spiritually. God wants the same for us. He desires that we come up to loftier levels in the spirit. Mountains provide a view that eye level can't. Up high we can see the forest for the trees.

Lot's only escape from the impending holocaust was to leave before it began. Failure would result in the family being trapped when the maelstrom commenced. We also need to be sensitive to the times that we have to disassociate ourselves from a situation. This doesn't mean we live in a cocoon and avoid contact with the outside world. We do need to listen to the warnings God gives to flee harmful circumstances.

Finally, no one was permitted to watch the destruction when it fell. Failure to obey God on this point cost Lot's wife her life. True they'd left everything behind including family. That had to be difficult. Whether to rejoice and gloat over the demise of the wicked or to mourn the loss of what once was, looking back isn't an option. It can be fatal.

Our world isn't much different than Lot's. In order to avoid being swept up into a destructive lifestyle we need to heed God's directions implicitly. They may go across the grain of our logic and understanding. Tailors and seamstresses understand this principle and apply it regularly. Fabric cut across and not parallel to the grain is much more flexible and easy to manipulate. As we go against the grain God can maneuver us into more advantageous position not normally possible.

How about you? What out of the ordinary type of instructions have you received from God? How would you feel if God's directions would cost you everything – your livelihood, even your family? What kinds of concessions would you press for? Would that be wise?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


But our citizenship is in Heaven, Philippians 3:20 NIV.

Life is filled with dreams deferred and for each one the list is different. What's tucked away in my heart may not resonate with anyone else. That's ok. We're individuals.

A dream close to many believer's hearts is Heaven, the Sweet Bye and Bye. Relegated to some time off in the future we miss out on what is ours right now. What a mistake. Philippians describes our Heavenly citizenship in the present tense. Since this is true, what does that look like?

I lived in Haiti for three years. My experience there gave me some insight into our posture as citizens of Heaven.

I was a legal, resident alien with all the proper documentation. Although I had some of the same rights as a citizen, which didn't say much, I wasn't a citizen. As a resident alien of earth, our physical bodies permit us to legally operate here in the natural realm. There are scores of spiritual illegal aliens in search of bodies to squat in. We call it demonic possession.

During my tenure in Haiti the idea of relinquishing my U.S. citizenship was never even a passing fancy. The thought was ludicrous. Why forfeit all my homeland afforded me for life in a primitive, third-world country (no offense to Haiti). Wasn't happening.

Compared to Heaven, earth is less than third world quality. Should we surrender all our Heavenly nation of origin provides for a substandard system here? No thanks.

My white skin wasn't the only dead giveaway that I wasn't a Haitian. My composure, behavior, speech, dress and mannerisms identified me as a foreigner. I wasn't better than any Haitian, just different. I didn't try to hide my nationality, but I didn't flaunt it either. Haitians strive to emulate those from cultures more advanced than their own. They desire to improve.

As a citizen of Heaven we don't need to dumb down and blend in. Jesus never hid who He was and people gravitated to Him in droves. We need to learn from Him.

In Haiti the resources used to fund our mission came from lot boa, Creole for “the other side,” primarily the U.S. We used these to help improve the lot of the Haitian people.

“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10 NIV.

On earth our mission is simple. Retrieve the things needed from “the other side,” and bring Heaven to earth. We are to complete God's original mandate given to Adam.

Our work in Haiti didn't depend on resources or funding from our host country. They were never our source. Here on earth, God is our source, not our jobs, bank accounts, talents, gifts or abilities. We won't find what's needed here; we have to go home for them.

Finally, Haiti was never home. When things got crazy as they often did, I closed my eyes, remembered the States and gave thanks for my citizenship there. I'd process the challenges I faced through my American filter to find creative solutions or I'd just escape in my memories of home.

“set you minds on things above, not on earthly things,” Colossians 3:2 NIV.

Earth isn't our home either. Inside the bible we can find descriptions of our country of origin. We can imagine what it is like and we can view our circumstances from that perspective.

How about you? How would consciousness of Heavenly citizenship change your life here now? What images of Jesus, His ministry, Heaven and those who reside there appeal to you? How can you train your spiritual senses to get in touch with your homeland?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Smack Dab in the Middle

From there he (Abram) relocated to the mountain east of Beth-el and pitched his tent, with Beth-el on the west and Ai on the east; and he built there an altar to Hashem and invoked Hashem by name. Then Abram journeyed on, journeying steadily to the south”
Genesis 12:8-9 (Tanach).

Fresh off the good news of impending fatherhood personally delivered by God, Abram was on the move. To get a new perspective the plainsman moved up a mountain. To his left was Beth-el, the House of God (a Rock) and to his right, Ai the heap of ruins (a hard place). Directly ahead lay the land promised to him and his offspring. Like his descendants the Israelites, Abram's land was occupied territory. Would the inhabitants gladly pack up and leave – not likely.

View a problem from a higher elevation and something remarkable occurs. Obstacles and giants so large and formidable shrink dramatically. Seeing the terrain through God's eyes produces insights we'd miss at ground level. Abram was smack dab in the middle. He could go forward or retreat.

We find ourselves in similar predicaments. An escape from our Egypt leads us the to brink of our Promised Land. Like  Abram and later the Israelites we have to decide what to do. Percentage wise the Israelites had a higher probability of success than their forefather. They numbered in the millions and were led by Moses a former Egyptian army commander. Abram's army consisted of his household servants. God, however, cares little about numbers. He accomplishes great things with small amounts:

1.One sacrifice redeemed all of mankind and it only took a weekend;
2.Gideon, plus three hundred men defeated the whole Midianite army, Judges 7:7;
3.God used four lepers unafraid to die to drive away the Arameans and end the siege of Samaria, 2 Kings 7:3-7;
4.Jesus trained twelve disciples and eleven of them revolutionized the whole world.

Maybe we need to view our situations from a higher, Heavenly vantage point. We're in Christ so we're unstoppable. The first time around may not produce the desire result. Unlike Greek linear thinking, Point A leads to Point B, Hebraic thinking is cyclical. Miss it this time and another opportunity always lies ahead. Keep going. Either we make the goal or end our journey in faith.

How about you? What God-given dream or promise has eluded you or has died on the vine? If our walk with God is cyclical, how can you prepare now for your next date with destiny? When you find yourself like Abram, smack dab in the middle, between a rock and a hard place, change your perspective. View your circumstance from a higher elevation through God's eyes and don't turn back. Move forward.