Tuesday, April 16, 2019

When God is Our Sovereign

       Take a close look at  John 19:10-11. Pilate tells the Lord Jesus, "I have power (authority) to take your life." Jesus replied, "You would have no authority over Me at all, if it had not been given to you by God."

        In this life, we all sometimes find ourselves in situations 
where someone else holds some power or authority over us. A supervisor, a boss, a family member, a friend. Most often, those relationships are benevolent. But from time to time, we run into one these folks that just seems to have it in for us. We're working hard, trying to do what's right, keeping our noses clean, but our antagonists just keep holding their authority over our heads like a sword. It can make misery, uncertainty, and fear constant companions for us UNTIL we grasp the sovereignty of God.

       The word, sovereign, means supreme ruler possessing 
independent authority. In other words, the sovereign is the top of the food chain, the absolute ultimate authority. That's our God! So, as we seek Him and follow Him, we'll run into those folks who seek to impose their authority on us. How do we respond? Notice Jesus' confident response: "You have no authority over Me at all IF it had not been given you from 
above." Then HE submitted to that authority because it was the Father's will that He give His life to redeem those who would follow Him.  

       I am writing this to encourage you who follow Him to live life with confidence and courage. We can do that because, like Jesus, we know that nothing invades our lives without having first passed through His loving hands. Jesus abandoned Himself into​ the Father's hands because He lived to bring glory to the Father. When we live to bring glory to God, we can live with assurance, confidence, and peace. No need for hostility or vengeance or self-pity. When we trust and obey, He works His will in and through us. That's what it means to says "We know that God causes EVERYTHING  to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the Firstborn among many brothers and sisters."    Romans 8:28-29   

HE uses it all to help shape us into the perfect reflection of the Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What's the Average American Christian to Do??

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the horrific attack by Al-Qaeda.  We lost around 3,000 folks in that one attack, the worst since Pearl Harbor.  It galvanized the nation.  I know because three after the event, I was there in New York City.  Not to minimize the damages in Washington, D.C. nor the incredible heroes of United Fight 93, New York bore the brunt of the attack.  On September 11, 2001, I watched with anger and pain as I witness the fall of those monuments to American financial and architectural greatness.  I saw men and women leaping from the upper stories choosing the quick release of such a death to the terror of dying in flames or amidst the crushing weight of millions of pounds of mortar and steel.  I watched with wonder as multitudes marched away from the area, some wearing suits, others wearing jeans, some carrying briefcases and backpacks while others carried shoes and handbags.  The most intriguing thing for me was what had happened as a result of the tons of dirt and debris that blew threw Manhattan like volcanic ash.  The people leaving the area were covered in it.  Folks were not white, black, or brown.  Everyone was a shade of gray.  

When we arrived in New York City on September 14, we took a staging position at Metro Baptist Church in the Hell's Kitchen area about two blocks from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.  I worked from there for three days.  On Saturday, I went to the Lexington Armory where people had posted pictures of missing friends and relatives.  Thousands of them.  Inside the armory was a respite center and an area for the relatives of the missing to bring in anything that might provide DNA evidence to be matched with recovered remains.  I met Kevin there.  Kevin was in healthcare and worked at St. Vincent Hospital.  He appeared shell-shocked.  After pulling a shift, he was told that he was needed at the Armory, where they had set up a make-shift morgue.  He had been working and sleeping at this location for 72 hours.  His job was to photograph body parts with tattoos, scars, and birthmarks to help with identification.  I could only imagine how emotionally brutal that would be, even for a healthcare worker.  It just wasn't suppose to happen on this scale.  I helped Kevin connect with his mother in Atlanta that day.  (one of the reasons I returned to find a $700 cell phone bill.  I was out of my coverage zone)  As soon as Kevin heard his mom's voice, he broke into tears.  Moments later, when he handed the phone back to me, his mother said, "I just wish I could be there to hold him and pray for him."  I suggested that as I laid my hand on his head that she pray and then I would pray.  When I left Kevin that day, the shell-shock appearance had given way to joyful weariness knowing that his work from that point on would be God's work in behalf of the families of the missing.  

On September 17, as a Law Enforcement Chaplain and Certified Crisis Response Trainer for the National Organization for Victim Assistance, I was redeployed to the Port Authority Police Department Journal Square Precinct in Jersey City.  NYPD is a department with around 6,000 sworn officers.  They lost 27 officers that day.  PAPD is a department of around 1,200 sworn officers.  They patrolled the property on which the Towers were located.  That day, they lost 41 officers.  13 of those were from the Journal Square Precinct.  Over the next four days, I spent over 48 hours in the squad room and their respite tent at Ground Zero.  It was a humbling, gut-wrenching experience.  No one had personal time off.  If you weren't pulling a regular shift, you were at Ground Zero ready to work the bucket brigade when the horn sounded signaling that human remains had been found.  I watched with reverence when the buckets were passed along from the site to the perimeter.  From there, they would be taken one of the morgues.  

343 FDNY personnel, 68 NYPD and PAPD personnel, and thousands of civilians perished that day.  Tens of thousands of relatives and friends still mourn the losses.  BUT, the nation came together.  In NYC during that week, crime was almost non-existent.  Yes, we were focused on the enemy who perpetrated this heinous act, but we were even more focused on getting the citizens of NYC moving toward a new normal.   There were responders there from almost every state in the country.  The perimeter was lined with their respite tents.  At barriers around Ground Zero, there were thousands of civilian citizens who just came to try to help in some way.  During my week there, I had conversations and even prayers with Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and even an atheist.  

Now, I can't speak for anyone else, but I do know that for us who claim to follow the Lord Jesus, we are held to a higher standard by the Lord Jesus.  There's an expectation that our anger, bitterness, and hatred will be short-lived.  In Matthew 5:43, Jesus said, "You have heard that the law says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy."  Wait!  Where did that last part come from.  The first part comes from Leviticus 19:18.  But the Pharisees had interpreted Psalm 139:19-22 and Psalm 140:9-11 as permission to hate their enemies!  Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 5:44-45, But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. . ."

This is not to say that we must trust those who seek to do evil against us nor is it to suggest that justice should not be served.  It is to say that anger can calcify and when that happens, it blinds us to the reality that even our enemies are created in the Image of God.  Lifting a quote from Chaplain Chris Wade's blog of September 10, Seacoast Pastor Darrin Patrick said this: "In unrighteous anger, you want pain and you want punishment.  In righteous anger, you want redemption, you want restoration."  

As you recount your memories of 9/11 today, remember the families of those who died that day.  Remember those who have fallen in battle against our enemies.  Pray for their families.  Pray for our military, our first responders, and especially our government leaders.  The government is so fractured over ideological differences that both parties seem destined to move to further ideological extremes.  Our inept leadership often pushes us toward greater division rather than toward finding the things that unite us. 

Most of all, remember to obey the words of Jesus from Matthew 5 and act as true children of your Father in heaven because one day, He is going to make everything right.  One day, EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus IS Lord to the glory of the Father.  For now, our responsibility is trust,obey, and pray.   

Thursday, June 28, 2018

He Wants to Take Us Higher

Have you ever wondered why golf balls have all those little dimples?  It's simple physics, if there is such a thing.  Legend suggests that a poor young golfer couldn't afford new golf balls.  So, he scavenged the woods and roughs along courses to pick up old, scarred balls.  Playing partners soon noticed that his scarred ball traveled farther off the tee than their smooth ones.  Research followed and revealed that the scars or dimples did indeed help the ball travel higher and farther.  Now, hold that thought while we take a brief look at everyone's favorite quick-tongued disciple, Simon Peter.

Luke 22:31-34 offers a glimpse at how calculating the devil can be in seeking the downfall of those who long to follow the Lord Jesus.  He is pictured in that text as the accuser of humanity (Revelation 12:10), the one who uses his resources to erode faith and destroy the faithful.  In verse 31, the Lord Jesus told Peter, "Satan has desired to sift you like wheat."  The Greek word translated "has desired" implies a challenge like that in the Old Testament story of Job.  It's as if Satan appeared before God again and said, 'All those followers of Jesus are like chaff in the wind.  A little pressure and they will al forsake Him.'  The TEV translation says it this way:  "Simon, listen!  Satan has received permission to test all of you, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff."  At this point, the Lord Jesus calls him Simon rather than Peter.  Here, the Lord Jesus does not refer to him as a stone, a rock, or anything of substantial weight or strength.  Instead, He calls him by his old name, a reminder that Peter is still a mere human.  He is weak, frail, flawed, and unable to withstand Satanic pressure ALONE.  

The Lord Jesus warned them all of the impending danger and assured them all of His prayer for their strength.  But, in His foreknowledge, He also knew that failure was imminent.  He also knew that no one would be tougher on Peter than Peter himself.  Jesus, in His infinite love and mercy, looked beyond Peter's downfall and saw his potential as a leader of the fledgling church.  He show that faith in Peter when He commissioned him to the task of strengthening his Christian brothers and sisters.  

Peter launched a stern defense, assuring Jesus of his loyalty even if everyone else might forsake Him.  The Lord Jesus knew Peter better than he knew himself.  "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times."  Those words must have echoed in Peter's ears hours later when he heard the rooster.  With guilt and grief that was more punishing than death, he left the high priest's house weeping bitterly.  No longer considering himself a part of the apostolic group, I imagine Peter wallowed in self-pity until that third day when Mary came with a special message.  It echoes across the centuries.  "He sent me to tell you all that He is risen.  But Peter, He mentioned you by name.  he wants to see you!"

That's what Easter, the Resurrection, and the Hope of the living Lord Jesus is all about.  Second chances!!  Human nature hasn't changed.  I'm sure Peter heard whispers, endured murderous stares, and felt the vicious gossip of people who only saw his failure.  But all that really mattered was that he had been forgiven, vindicated, and commissioned by the Lord Jesus.  Fifty days later, this "flawed, scarred, failure" would be the one whom the Holy Spirit would use to preach the sermon of Pentecost and usher in the birth of the Church.  

Let me offer you some growth principles from Peter's experience.  The first is that failure is sometimes necessary to prepare us for God's use.  He will use failure to strip away pride and self-sufficiency.  Peter's upper room conversation with Jesus revealed an arrogant self-confidence.  His failure opened the way for God's mercy and grace to reshape him.  Failure humbles us and restores our focus on the Lord Jesus.  
The second principle is that failure can be the soil from which greater opportunities for service grow.  The Holy Spirit used Peter as the preacher at Pentecost because his penitent spirit, in the wake of his failure, prepared him for that task.  

Like golf balls, God's people are usually more effective when they bear the scars and marks of real life experience.  Through Peter, God has shown us that He will use our failures to make us stronger and more effective Kingdom-builders.  When we understand the tsunami of mercy and grace that God pours on us, it makes it easier to impart that mercy and grace to others.  

After all, Jesus is all about grace, transformation, and another chance.  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Waiting Is Becoming

Do you ever feel like the person in the picture??  

The Israelite king, David, writes of Yahweh as his stronghold in Psalm 27.  When we truly trust God and obey Him, we have no reason to fear anyone or anything at any time (vv. 1-3).   BUT, to have that confidence requires a deep, abiding intimacy with Him (v. 4).  That's why he has placed within every person a natural yearning to know Him (v. 8).  It's there!!  It's always been there.  We might try to subdue it or to fill it with things other than God; but nothing will ever truly satisfy that yearning until we know Him personally and intimately. 

When we yield to Him and begin to strive after Him daily to build that intimacy, we will develop a confidence, not in ourselves, but in His power, protection, and provision.  We can recklessly abandon our lives into His hands knowing that HE will never abandon us (v. 10).  

We will grow stronger and bolder as we learn to wait on God in every situation (v. 14).  That's not something that 21st century Americans are comfortable doing.  Our culture likes the instant.  With the introduction of the microwave and thirty minute television shows, we started down a slippery slope of wanting everything NOW.  The Internet and a 24 hour news cycle have only exacerbated impatience.  The result is that far too many view waiting as inactivity.  But, it is not inactivity for the follower of Jesus.  It is submission.  It is actively listening for the voice of God.  It is praying, listening, submitting to the will and direction of God.  It is trusting Him enough that when He is silent, we are still (Psalm 46:10).  Did you know that one way to translate that verse is "Stop struggling and know that I am God."  Stop worrying, stop fighting, stop wondering.  Just stop and wait because you know that I am God.  

Rather than taking situations into our own hands, we should always seek God's counsel.  The Bible is filled with well-meaning folks who rushed ahead of God. None of them turned out well.  Abraham rushed ahead of God and the result was Ishmael.  Jacob rushed ahead of God and it cost him exile from his family and seven additional years of servitude to Laban.  Moses rushed ahead of God and it resulted in 40 years of exile.  David rushed ahead of God and it resulted in three days of deadly pestilence for his people.  

Now someone is going to say, 'God had a plan and worked it to perfection.'  There's no denying that!  But that doesn't mean that Abraham dalliance with Hagar or Jacob misleading Isaac, or Moses killing of the Egyptian was a part of God's plan.  David's decision to do a census of his military  The wonderful thing about God is that He can take what we mess up and make something good come from it.  But His desire is that we seek Him first to save ourselves some pain, disappointment, and even punishment.  

So, let's get more comfortable with waiting.  In the doctor's office or the DMV line, in the grocery line or a traffic standstill, let's seize such things as opportunities to say as Samuel did, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." (I Samuel 3:10)  Always be ready to submit to God's counsel quickly and faithfully.  And remember!!  Waiting is not inactivity.  It's submission to His will, His way, in His time.  "Biblically, waiting is not just something we have to do until we get what we want. Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be."  -- John Ortberg     

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Praying For Las Vegas, But Then What?

  A few words about living in the aftermath of the Las Vegas Massacre.  I do not use that word without careful thought.  In its noun form, it massacre means the unnecessary indiscriminate killing of a large number of human beings.  In its verb form, it means to kill unnecessarily and indiscriminately, especially a large number of persons.  Massacre perfectly describes the carnage that occurred in Las Vegas at the hands of Stephen Paddock.  Most of us continue to pray for those who are grieving, those who are recovering, those who are still fighting for their lives, and those who survived but have traumatized by what happened.

But in reality, many of us are questioning what's going on in our nation.  Politicians are quick to co-opt the event as a platform for their agendas.  Some religious folks will use it as a platform for Armageddon.  Most just worry about the world, the culture, and the mess we seem to be leaving our kids and grandkids.  I write these words not to indict or criticize, but simply to offer some biblically based encouragement in the face of growing evil.  So, here a few thoughts.  

        Where was God when this was happening??  He was where He was when Cain killed Abel.  He was where He was when Moses killed the Egyptian slave supervisor and when Herod murdered the baby boys in Bethlehem.  He was where He was during the agonizing torture and crucifixion of Jesus.  HE WAS THERE!!  God is sovereign and rules over all of creation and more.  But, part of being made in His Image and after His Likeness is the freedom to choose.  In a culture that grows more secular by the day, human beings exercise the power of choice and far too often, we make bad choices.  Some seem fairly benign, but others impact scores or hundreds, or even millions
        We don't know why, Stephen Paddock made a choice on Sunday night, a choice that left 59 families and countless friends grieving, 500+ others who will carry the physical scars of his depravity for the rest of their lives, thousands who will carry the emotional scars for years to come, and a fractured nation that longs for an end to violence, injustice, and inequity.  The problem is that most of the nation rejects, outright or hypocritically, the only One Who can bring an end to those things. 
        God was there Sunday night!!  He was there in the rapid, heroic response of law enforcement, fire/rescue, and other first responders.  He was there in the scores of unnamed heroes who covered the helpless, aided the wounded, and gave comfort to the dying.  He was there in every chaplain, every counselor, and every blood donor.   HE WAS THERE!

        Why does God allow this kind of thing to happen??  See above regarding freedom of choice.  We all make choices.  Some of our choices are motivated by selflessness, sacrifice, and love.  Other choices are motivated by selfishness, self-promotion, and even hatred.  It comes with the territory known as free will.  God-given free will comes with responsibility and when we choose badly, we bear the consequences.  God is not the cause of evil, but He most certainly is the Cure.  When some folks make these terrible choices that do harm to others, God chooses to reveal Himself in the form of those who counter that evil with love, aid, and selfless sacrifice.  

        Will we ever be safe again???  What kind of world will my kids and grandkids inherit??  Unfortunately, according to the apostle Paul, it's only going to get worse.   In 2 Timothy 3:12-13, he writes, ""Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  But evil people and impostors will flourish.  They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived."  (NLT, My highlight)    But then he tells us what we should be doing in verses 14-17:  'But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught.  You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you . . . All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work."    So knowing how things will go, we must be faithful to the Lord Jesus, trust the word of God as absolute truth, let that word be the authority in our lives regarding faith and practical issues.  We must teach it to our kids, model it before our kids and be busy doing HIS work.  We must trust the future to the God Who is already there.  

        Some will say, "I'm afraid," but God doesn't want us to live in fear.  He doesn't want us to live angrily, with constant disappointment, or fear.  So what do we combat those things?

1)  When we're angry with God, that's OK as long as we don't put down roots there.  Vent your anger to Him.  When we voice our anger in prayer and then submit to His will, He will strengthen us for whatever we face.  Let you faith in Him be the victory that overcomes your anger.

2)  When we're disappointed with God, that's OK as long as we don't stay there.  In Exodus 5:22-23, Moses first encounter with Pharaoh turned out so badly that Moses actually blamed God.  God listened and then simply recommissioned because God had a plan that Moses knew nothing about.  AND it would be spectacular.  (check out Isaiah 55:8-9)    There is an old cliche that says, "If God brings you to it, He will certainly bring you through it."  Down through the ages, millions of people have realized that life or death, sickness or health, prosperity or poverty, whether embraced or rejected -- Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.  (I John 5:4b)  Let your faith be the victory that overcomes your disappointment!

3)  Some folks react to the storms of life with fear.  In Matthew 8, Jesus and his disciples got into a small boat and started across the Sea of Galilee.  Then, one of those unexpected violent storms blew down from the mountains and the boat began to take on water.  Jesus was sleeping soundly until He was awakened to the sounds of twelve grown men shouting, 'Lord, save us!  We're going to die!'  Jesus, in the midst of that storm, before He even got up, says to them, "Why are you afraid?? You have so little faith!!"  Then He spoke to the wind and the sea and the storm was calmed.  Whatever the storm, Jesus is there!  So let your faith be the victory that overcomes your fears!

Perhaps this could be our manifesto for the future:
        As a follower of Jesus, I will not live in fear nor will I be intimidated into retreating into a comfort zone.  I am a follower of Christ.  I will deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow Him.  (Luke 9:23)  I acknowledge that the Way to follow Him is narrow and difficult, but I will persevere.  (Matthew 7:13-14)  I will encourage my children to follow me as I follow Christ.  (I Corinthians 11:1)  I will nurture my children in faith and encourage them to know Jesus intimately, love Him dearly, and serve Him with a whole heart.  (Ephesians 5:4)  I will pray every day that the Holy Spirit will empower me to be the salt of my environment, creating a thirst among my family, friends, co-workers and others to know the Living Water (John 4) that flows from me.  I will pray that I will be a light (Matthew 5:16) that shines on the darkness of loneliness, isolation, hatred, racism, sexual abuse, immorality, false teaching, and injustice of every sort.  I will because the Great I AM has redeemed me equipped me, empowered me, and deployed me to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that (HE) has commanded us."  (Matthew 28:18-20).  And the greatest promise of all is this -- HE is with us ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Living Clean in a Corrupt Culture

I don't often write blogs that offend, but occasionally, it happens.  This might be one of those.  Why, you ask?  Well, this one is about holiness.  Not the holiness of God, but personal holiness that our holy God expects from His children.  
The pharisees of Jesus' day thought of themselves as holy.  In the "holy" zeal, they crucified their own Messiah. 

Over the centuries holiness has been equated with haircuts, mode of dress, the ability to speak in unknown tongues, and even belonging to certain churches or denominations.  The truth is that holiness has little to do with outward appearance or special knowledge.  Holiness is when the direction of our heart is focused toward God alone.  Andrew Murray said, "The greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us.  In humanity, humility is the one thing needed to allow God's holiness to dwell in us and through us.  The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is a LACK of humility.  The holiest will be the humblest."  

Some have sought to be holy by isolation.  But that isn't biblical because holiness cannot be adequately demonstrated in isolation.  In Philippians 2:14-15, Paul tells the church to "Do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars IN the world."  Jesus Himself prayed in John 17:14-15 - "I am NOT praying that You take them OUT of the world, but that You protect them from the evil one."  Jesus knew that the holiness His followers would develop as their relationship with Him deepened MUST be demonstrated IN a world of darkness and corruption.  

The problem we face in this great nation is a weakened church presence.  It happens when professing Christians and church folks live no differently from the lost and unchurched folks around them.  When we do that, we've embraced the world! Unfortunately, we don't hear much talk about worldliness in the church anymore and perhaps that's why we have so little impact on our culture.  Worldliness has weakened our churches from the inside out.  And now the trend is to move away from God's judgment and speak only about His grace, mercy, unconditional love and acceptance.  

What happened to us?  Why do we no longer teach our attenders about the costs of following Jesus?  Why do we no longer tell them that there is not only a Great White Throne judgment coming, but also a Bema Seat judgment where followers of Jesus will judged according to their works, not for salvation, but for rewards?  Why do we not challenge the practice of sin (I John 5:18-19) in ourselves and our fellow members and attenders?   In I Peter 1:15, we are reminded that WE are to be holy because our Father in heaven is holy.   That word, holy/hagios in the Greek, literally means to be set apart. When we repent of our sins, turn in faith to the Lord Jesus, and submit to the Father's plan for our lives, we are set apart from our previous lifestyles and set apart for His plan for our lives. To know that should motivate us to strive for moral purity in every part of our lives.  

But Peter doesn't just tell us that.  He gives us some idea as to HOW to it.

1)  He tells us to Discipline our Minds.  I Peter 1:13.  God imparts the righteousness of the Lord Jesus to us at the moment of salvation, BUT from that point on, we must guard that.   That's why Paul wrote in  Romans 12:2 - " Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God."  We can control what we feed our minds. What we read, what we watch, what we hear, WE CAN determine what goes in.  Peter also tells us to be sober-minded. That's clear thinking.  I like the phrase "discipline your thinking."  Everything we say or do begins in the mind.  So many people mess up their lives because of stinking thinking. We set our minds on the wrong things.  Some single folks think they can never have joy or fulfillment until they find the right mate, which is basically saying to God, 'You're not enough for me.'  Some folks who live paycheck to paycheck think, 'if only I had more money,' which is basically saying to God, 'You're not enough for me.'  That's stinking thinking and no one ever developed holiness or godliness with stinking thinking.  Check out Philippians 4:8.  

2)  Refuse to conform to the world around you.  v. 14   Those who live according to the senses, motivated by lusts, and have no real hope beyond THIS life -- don't be like them.  We have a living Hope in heaven.  His name is Jesus and He is at the right hand of God the Father as our Advocate as stumble and trip along this faith journey.  IF we are truly born again, God expects us to be in the process of becoming different and there are potholes and low shoulders along the road.  But the great thing is that it's NOT about us trying to do better.  It's about us submitting our lives to Him everyday so that He can live His life through us.  

3) Live Every Day with a Reverence and Awe of the God Who will one day judge the content and quality of our lives.  v. 17   There's that judgment thing.  It's coming for all of us who believe.  Standing there before Him as He reviews my life - every careless word, every missed opportunity to serve or witness or give, every hurt I've inflicted on others unjustly, every time that my actions or words or even stinking thinking brought dishonor to HIS Name.  That's why EVERY DAY, we must confess, repent, and submit to Him.

Now here's just a couple of other tips for developing a God-honoring holiness.  No one develops this Christlikeness without spending an abundant amount of time in the presence of God the Father.  This is your prayer time, your quiet time, your retreat into your war room.  To develop a godly character, you must get to know God more intimately.  It involves, first and foremost, a prayer life that involves meditation and listening as well as speaking.  
Second, no one develops this Christlikeness without spending an abundant amount of time in God's word.  This is still His primary method of speaking into our lives.  Both Old Testament and New are important.  Read it, Listen to it, memorize it, and apply it.  It will teach you, rebuke you, encourage you, challenge you, correct you, and bring your life in line with God's will and purpose.  

SO, what do you need to give up in order to pursue holiness?

What do you need to embrace in order to pursue holiness?  

True holiness is having our hearts so aligned with God that others see His Son, our Lord Jesus, in our language, our actions, and our priorities.   Romans 8:28-29

When that happens, our churches will be revived and we will become the salt and light that is needed in a corrupt culture.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Things I've Learned in 2016

We're moving quickly toward the end of 2016.  Like you, I always look forward to the challenges and opportunities that a new year brings, but I also like to reflect on some of the lessons learned during the peaks and valleys of the present year.  So here we go with a short list of 5 things I've learned this year.

1.  Satan is an imposter.   Have you ever looked closely at what the apostle Peter says about Satan in his first letter.  I Peter 5:8 says, "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."  Notice that little word "like."  That indicates that this is a simile.  A simile compares two things (often dissimilar things) using the words "as" or "like."  For instance, you might look at a weightlifter as he bench presses 300+ pounds and say, "He's as strong as a bull."  That doesn't mean he is a bull.  

In this verse, Satan is compared to a roaring lion who, in his quest for prey, will lurk in the tall grass until he can find a victim who is isolated, feeble, injured, or sick.  BUT, he is NOT a lion.  He's an imposter who uses his ability to disguise himself even as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)  Rarely will you see him as he really is.  He can approach in a way that appeals to your senses or he can sneak up on you during a moment of weakness or lack of judgment.  So in 2017, STAY ALERT!!! Satan will be seeking ways to distract you, disturb you, and destroy your witness.  

2.  Satan will use fear & intimidation to paralyze!   In I Samuel 17, Satan used a giant named Goliath to paralyze the nation of Israel.  Though they served the omnipotent God of the universe, they allowed this threat, this intimidator to render them helpless before him . . . that is until a young teenaged boy named David showed up.  

No matter how large or oppressive a problem might appear, the God we serve is ALWAYS larger and stronger.  When we, like young David, trust and obey, God becomes our warrior God. He goes before us and fights in our behalf.   In 2017, TRUST AND OBEY!  And hear the words of the angels, the words of Jesus, the words of Father Himself saying "FEAR NOT!"

3.  The Church is supposed to be on Offense!   Jesus told Peter, "Upon this rock I will build MY Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."  Matthew 16:18   Gates are for Defense. They are in place to prevent, to keep, to protect.  According to Jesus, His Church should be on the move, on offense, attacking the very gates of hell to take back everything and everyone that Satan has stolen.  But far too often, we limit our faith activity to what goes on within the walls of our church buildings.  We avoid the gates of hell where we can find those who are far from God.  When Jesus told us to GO, He didn't mean go to meetings, go to fellowships, or even go to Bible studies.  Yet that is how far too many people define their faithfulness.  Jesus told us to GO into the world and proclaim the good news.  Mark 16:15.  So WHY are we still not on the move, marching into the gates of hell to give Good News to those who are far from God? In 2017, remember that church attendance is important for corporate worship, corporate prayer, encouragement and learning.  But ALL of that is pointless if we forsake Jesus' last public command to GO and make disciples.  

4)  We can be on offense without being offensive!   When we go on the offense, we will be confronted by those who do not share our values or beliefs.  But they are people for whom the Lord Jesus died.  They are people whom God the Father loves.  So they deserve our respect and honor even if they are not honorable biblically.  Lost people do the things that lost people do.  So love them as Jesus did.  AND, when we determine to go on the offense, expect spiritual resistance.  Paul reminds that our warfare is not with people, but with demonic powers.  He also reminds us that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual.
Ephesians 6   In 2017, put on the whole armor of God daily and get out of your comfort zone and into a lost world that needs to hear about the Lord Jesus.  Show Him to them by the way you live and speak to them about what HE is doing in your life. Leave the results to the Holy Spirit.  

5)  We need to stop talking to God about the size of our problems and start telling our problems about the size of our God!   Does that sound like a cliche?  Yeah, it does, but it's true! At times, we become so overwhelmed by our problems and issues that we allow them to cloud our vision of God.  But God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  The God we serve is the same God Who spoke the world into creation.  He's the same God Who saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a fiery furnace.  He's the same God Who closed the mouths of lions as Daniel slept in their den.  He's the same God Who raised Jesus from the dead.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:11 that for those of us who trust and obey, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in us.  Jesus encouraged His apostles to have a deeper, greater faith because when they did, nothing was beyond the realm of possibility.  Matthew 17:20   In 2017, when problems and issues loom over your life, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Trust Him and obey Him even in the midst of your trials and He will give you peace and victory.