Thursday, August 29, 2013

PIPELINE FOR GOD

There are venues in sports where the stadium acoustics help the home team when the Fans get loud enough for the visiting team not to hear their own thoughts.  I have seen this.  I have also seen the fans support and cheer their team to what seems like a miraculous comeback.

To many this sense of control by the Fan is called The Extra Man.  For example, in basketball the Fan may be called The Sixth Man.  In American football the Fan may be called The Twelfth Man.  But besides the volume of the masses in the venue and the moral support given to the home team, it is the coaches and players that literally and figuratively - have the ball in their hands.  They are the ones that are in direct control of the outcome of the contest.  They are the ones battling it out - setting screens, blocking, passing, running, and scoring.  The Fan, well, he/she just appreciates the effort very much from the sidelines.

The message conveyed here to the Christian is a SHOUT to the Fans of Jesus to become a True Follower of Christ.  The shout is a wake-up call to get active in the world by helping others, loving on others, and spreading the Good News that Christ redeemed their relationship to God through His death and resurrection!

However, if you are a Christian, a true Believer, there is a next-level truth to be understood here.  The truth is the fight is going to be hard to stay out of because of what Scripture says about the matter.
  1. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8
  2. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. - Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
In Christianity, the field of play actually includes the stands and the rest of the world, it is just a matter of whether the Christians in those "stands" recognize this or not.  If the Christian does not recognize where the field of play is and that they are always behind enemy lines and conditions are getting worse, then victories in that Christian's life may be far-and-few-in between.  However, for the Christian that does live a "self-controlled and alert" lifestyle, the enemy is not going to take them off guard as easily and victories can be more forthcoming.

I say victories can be more forthcoming in the hopes that Christians will fight the good fight of Faith and good works by making themselves available as a pipeline of blessing to others!  Read this verse.......
  • "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness." - 2 Corinthians 9:10
Pay close attention to the words underlined - "supplies" and "sower".  The tense to both words is present active participle.  This means that "supplies" translates He who keeps on supplying and "sower" translates he who keeps on sowing.  So, if you are an effective Christian you will be like Lake Galilee that has an input and output as opposed to the Dead Sea that has an input, but no output.  If you desire to be an effective player in this spiritual and physical battle of life - become a Pipeline of Blessing to others.  Here, when God decides to pour into your life, you can immediately think and pray about how to then bless someone else with that blessing or in a similar manner.  Later, when God gets me and you good at just one pipe flowing and expanding with blessing, He will train us to open several other pipes and tell us who to direct them toward. It's time to be a continual flowing Pipeline for God!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DISCIPLE

A Disciple comes from a Discipline.  Someone who follows a certain training or teaching.  Jesus had people who followed Him learning His teaching and "soaking up" His training.  What Christians call The Twelve Disciples were not the only Followers of Christ's teaching and training.  Other men and women followed Jesus through His years of earthly ministry (Acts 1:15).  Throughout the centuries the call to live under the discipline of Jesus has continued to flow through those who have decided Jesus is their Lord and Savior.

The Discipline of Jesus was and is Love.  "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." - 1 John 4:16

Jesus ascended and then sent the Holy Spirit to aid us in being effective Disciples for Him.  Jesus was the full expression of love on earth while He was here.

  • "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him," - Colossians 1:19 
  • "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form," - Colossians 2:9

Now that He is physically at the right hand of Father God, He is present through every Believer by His Holy Spirit.

  • "...if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us." - 1 John 4:12
There it was all wrapped in one verse for us.  In the form of an "IF" statement, God can live in us and God's Discipline of Love can be fully expressed through us now.  Jesus was a man of compassion.  We should be the same.  We need to find out the ways Jesus was compassionate and mimic those ways.  In addition, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we need to find enhanced ways to help people and show the love and compassion of Christ.  Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." - John 14:12

It is not enough to be a Fan In The Stands ("Let's go Jesus, He's our man, if He can't do it, nobody can!"). That chant should not be the mantra of the Christian who desires to be a true Disciple of Jesus Christ. Christians, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, are Christ's hands, feet, words, and compassion extended to the world since Jesus ascended to the right hand of Father God.  The men and women Jesus approached He used the word Follow in the phrase and calling - "Follow me" (Matthew 4:19).  The words for Follow in Greek, Deute (dyoo-teh) and Opiso combine to convey - come out from where you are in life right now and follow me (literally and in teaching). So, let's exercise our Faith that Jesus speaks of in the John 14:12 verse above.  Let's follow through on doing what He did - exemplified a Discipline of Love and show what it is to be a true Disciple of Christ.

Monday, August 26, 2013

DO IT ANYWAY

Praise God anyway!  My two favorite Biblical stories to exemplify this charge are Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16:16-40) and the Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3).  I can hear somebody possibly saying, "Well, yeah they praised God in the Paul and Silas story, but I don't recall them praising God in the Fiery Furnace story."

  1. "Praise is not a feeling, it is an expression.  It must be expressed to be considered praise.  It must be expressed to be received by God, witnessed by the lost, and feared by hell.  You may be feeling admiration in your heart, but how are you expressing it to God and to the world?  How are you 'making it known?'  How are you 'declaring' it?  That's praise." (p.101, How To Worship A King, Zach Neese)
  2. I can well imagine, even if it is not documented, that after being pushed into a furnace that was heated seven times hotter than normal and not being burned or even the smell of fire on them - there was some vocal praising going on!!!  But even if there was not, they expressed their praise to God by trusting in His provision for their very lives and did not worship any other god.
Reasons to praise God

1.  [Acknowledgment] His Accomplishments In Your Life (Past)

"Only a grateful person can really praise the Lord, because thanksgiving is the essence of praise." (p.102)
"Praise retells the stories of God's exploits.  It is truth reviewed and the good news proclaimed.  Praise is the Gospel set to song." (p.102)

2.  [Realization] His Promises In Your Life (Present)
God's law of Sowing and Reaping comes into play here.  The more we pour out the more God pours into the Believer.  However, even while Christians pour out their lives for others,  there will be times when we experience spiritual deserts. As a Michael English song says, "There's not a crown without a cross."  The deserts in our lives are there to train, teach, and prepare Christian believers for the promises of God.  It is up to us if we learn from this time or if we have to bake a little longer.

Christians need to study the Word of God or Bible to discover God's promises for us in the here and now and walk in them. Here are a few -

  • We are co-heirs with Christ - Romans 8:17
  • We are seated with Christ in heavenly places - Ephesians 2:4-6
  • We are sons/daughters of God, not servants - John 15:15

3.  [Trust] His Provision Is Trusted (Future)

Praising the promises back to God is key here.  Thanking Him for whatever is needed for the situation disarms the enemy in a heartbeat and allows God's power to flow in your life.  "Praise is not a denial of our circumstances. Praise declares that God is faithful and trustworthy regardless of our situation." (p.103)

Just review the circumstances in the story of Jericho.  Carman has a song called "Jericho" that does a beautiful job of explaining the spiritual lesson of Praise we can take away from the story of Jericho.  He says,

Now God was putting into operation a principal of war
Setting at our disposal weaponry that drops demons to the floor
Something with tremendous power that assassinates fear and doubt
It's the high praises of victory unleashed by a shout

When David played his songs of praise, demons fled from Saul
As Paul and Silas worship God their chains began to fall
It lifts us above the circumstance, lets God's power flow
The shout of victory binds the devil with chains that won't let go

Here is the best mindset to have when going through troubles, trials, and tribulations while not understanding God - "I don't trust God because He always does what I want.  I trust Him because He has already proven that He loves me.  And even though I don't always understand Him, I know that He always has my best in mind." (p.105)  Praise God! He understands me better than I understand myself, loves me through everything, and has the best in mind for me always! What an awesome God!

This does an excellent job at getting a grip on what the Holy Spirit says through James right out of the gate in chapter one - "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4

Interesting that in the song Heart of Worship there are lyrics that portray living a life of praise beyond that of just music.

I'll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You're looking into my heart

"...praise is more than a song.  It is an expression that encompasses our entire saved being, just like worship does.  Many will see my praise and passion for Christ expressed.  Many will see me saved from the mud and standing firmly on the rock, declaring His truth and praises." (p. 121)

What is at the root of all this praising God?  Your life changed by God and your desire to tell others in many different ways.....

"That God is real.  That there is a King on the throne.  That Jesus saves.  That hell is defeated and sin is crushed.  That judgment is coming.  And that the King is worthy of more than lip service and mental assent: He is worthy to reign in each individual life.  He must be Lord of all or He is not Lord at all." (pp.121-122, How To Worship A King, Neese)

Zach Neese's last comment reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, if not my favorite quote of all time.......

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

If you call Jesus your personal Lord and Savior.  If you call Jesus the Son of God. If you agree that God is real and you cannot escape His presence.  I encourage you to magnify God and not your challenges in life. Praise Him in the thick.  Praise Him in the thin.  Praise Him on the mountaintop.  Praise Him when it is grim. (I'm a poet and don't even know it.)  But...Do It Anyway! 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

YOU GET ME

There are those in my life who know me fairly well.  Many of those people are my immediate family.  Folks like my wife, mom, dad, and brother all know me pretty well.  They have spent a good chunk of their years invested in a relationship with me.  Still, they do not know everything about me, just like I do not know everything about them.

Ever heard the phrase - "I get you" - meaning, I understand you?  In the movie Avatar, the main characters said, "I see you" as the equivalent phrase.  I was at work today and walking out to my car to go to lunch when I heard in my spirit the Holy Spirit say, "I get you!"  I about lost it (in a good way).  Of all the people in and out of this world to say, I get you, God the Holy Spirit is the one you want communicating that.

From my ugliest, private moments before God to my most glorious moments in full view of others and Him - He understands every thought, action, word, gesture, concern, ......He understands everything about me. There is nothing about me that surprises Him.  To help me with His point, the Holy Spirit pointed back to the Word as He always does.  He directed me back to my favorite Psalm - Psalm 139.  But instead of starting from the beginning of the Psalm, He said start reading and make it personal from....(verses 13-16)

you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; ... My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Then the Holy Spirit had me continue speaking what I have been trying to convey to Father God by returning to the beginning of that Psalm and communicate....(verses 1-12)

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Then the ending of the Psalm rounds out my expression of being known by God....(verses 17-18)

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

I especially like the last sentence of verse 18 - "When I awake, I am still with you." Whether I wake-up on this earth or die in my sleep and wake-up in heaven, "When I awake, I am still with you."  This kind of Faithful, Holy Presence in my life makes me want to cry out and/or pray the last part of Psalm 139 even more.  The whole Psalm is a set-up.  David points out God's Providence in our lives SO THAT we might humble ourselves and pray......(verses 23-24)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Yes Lord, because after all - You Get Me!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

PUNISHMENT vs. DISCIPLINE

In case you didn't know, there is a difference between Punishment and Discipline. I write this not only in hopes that it will benefit you but that it will crystallize it for me.

Punishment has the element of something deserved because of breaking a law, an agreement, or covenant. The rule of Cause and Effect comes into play. Payment is due by a wrong-doer.  Divine punishment is the Holy, wrathful outcome or consequence executed due to a divine judgment [Chadwick Dictionary/Concordance ;)].  Punishment itself brings with it an air of finality.  In Scripture, there are some places that mention no reprise or appeal that is given in association with punishment (Zechariah 14:19). Some punishments last for a certain period of time, like a year (Jeremiah 11:23), other punishments can last for eternity according to Matthew 25:46.

Discipline is a variable term.  When, where, and what the discipline is - is up to the giver and usually a corrective measure, not a damning one.  I found many more positives on Discipline than I did on Punishment.  Although correction within Discipline is uncomfortable and may seem like "punishment" at times, the outcome is a desired behavioral change - "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11). And when you are disciplined by God, the desired behavioral change creates you more in His image than you were before - "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Job (Job 5:17), David (Psalms 94:12), and Solomon (Proverbs 3:11-12) all said it was a blessing to be disciplined by God.  The imagery of Psalm 23, The Shepherd with a rod and staff, lends itself to the understanding that one instrument is for protecting the sheep (rod), the other for disciplining or guiding the sheep (staff).  David even went a step further and prayed/sang - "O LORD, do not...discipline me in your wrath (or while you are angry)".  David was so concerned about this he sang, prayed, or mentioned it at least twice - Psalm 6:1 and Psalm 38:1.

David's son, Solomon and the Disciple John continue the Godly Discipline theme by saying those who favor Discipline in their life...

  • "shows the way to life" (Proverbs 10:17)
  • "loves knowledge" (Proverbs 12:1)
  • are "honored" (Proverbs 13:18)
  • "loves his son" (Proverbs 13:24)
  • "shows prudence" (Proverbs 15:5)
  • "gains understanding" (Proverbs 15:32)
  • are "earnest and repent" (Revelation 3:19)
Hebrews 12:7 throws an interesting wrinkle into the this study on Discipline.  The verse reads - "Endure hardship as discipline."  Understand carefully here - not all hardship is a discipline tool sent directly from God, BUT the hardship can be used as a disciplining opportunity for personal future reference or to aid others in the future.  The key is to see it as such in the moment.  Sometimes Believers are attacked by the enemy.  In this case, they can use this moment of hardship as an opportunity for discipline in whatever is trying to be taught.  The verse Does Not say - hardship is discipline so endure.  The verse says to treat hardship like or "as discipline" - like an opportunity to grow and change from glory to glory!

Hebrews 10:31 says - It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The living God is not only Merciful and full of Grace and Love, but He is Just and Righteous in all His ways.  He is perfectly balanced. There is no error, fault, or darkness found in Him.  He has never said, "My bad!"  Trust His identity. Entrust your life to Him.  All the Punishment that was due us for eternity has been paid for by Jesus - on the cross - "the punishment that brought us peace was upon him" (Isaiah 53:5).  AND  "The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm." (Zephaniah 3:15)  When choosing between punishment and discipline...I'll take Christ's sacrificial punishment in my place and God's discipline throughout my life over doing this life on my own and in my own power and an eternal punishment for those who reject the full expression of Love.

It is good to know the difference and who makes the difference when it comes to Punishment vs. Discipline.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

LISTEN

Someone clears their throat at a dinner to say a few words, possibly a prayer over the food (Grace). Someone dings the side of a china glass before making an announcement or speech at a wedding dress rehearsal or other event.  A bullhorn is raised in front of the mouth of someone who stands before a mass of people who need instructions.  Someone steps up to a microphone on stage and the crowd grows silent in anticipation of his/her words.

All of my word-pictures portrayed here display a person about to speak and call attention to the fact that his/her words are important enough that your consideration via silence and attention are required. Father God and Jesus did this too!

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.....a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" - Matthew 17:1-2, 5

Father God says from Heaven, "Listen to Him [Jesus]!"  If your ears are not perked and your eyeballs wide open at hearing a disembodied voice all the sudden speak, something is wrong with your middle-eastern, Israeli, back-then self.  Not to mention Jesus' face shinning like the sun, his clothes white as light and a bright cloud enveloping all of them.  This sure would get my attention!  And guess what I would do?  You got it - I would obey, I would  Listen To Jesus!

When Jesus spoke about being clean and unclean in and around Mark 7:14, He thought it so important that He cleared His throat, He dinged that dinner glass, He raised the bullhorn, He stepped up to the mic (all in a manner of speaking) and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this."  Now the Son of God is also saying "Listen to me".  Get the picture that what Jesus had to say was important?  Allow me to take it up a notch.

Salvation was presented to the Jews first, but they refused Jesus as their Messiah and Christ then offered it to the rest of the world - the Gentiles.  Romans 1:16 supports this by saying, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." 

This message of Salvation through Jesus Christ is the most important message in all of history!  So, Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes about Peter addressing the Jews not listening to Jesus as their Messiah and the ramifications -  "'Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'" - Acts 3:23  That is a pretty serious consequence!  

That level of seriousness in listening to Jesus Christ, the Word of God, needs improvement within my life and in the life of every Christian.  We desperately need to develop an "ear" for God's voice.  This translates to God's Spirit and our spirit in harmony with each other and our bodies as we hear the Word of God and read the Word of God for our daily living.  The more we engage God's Word in our everyday life, the more we will be able to hear God's voice.  Then the next step, if called for, would be to deliver what God has told us to deliver - His Rhema Word (divine word for the moment that is backed-up by His Word).  However, this would all kick-off with flying colors if we would do one thing.......Listen. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

Love.  The number of songs, poems, speeches, and written dissertations on this subject is staggering.  So, I might-as-well add my two cents worth to the mix.

Perhaps you know these verses that describe God.

  1. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. - 1 John 4:8
  2. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16
Now that you know God is love, take the infamous 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 passage and replace the word "Love" with God and "it" with He.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

What a mighty and lovely God we are befriended by - "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." - John 15:15

You thought I was gonna say, "What a mighty God we serve", didn't you?  The Christian perspective, concerning our relationship with God, has got to change to a more intimate one.  Not only are we considered friends of God, but the Church, the true followers of Christ, is considered His Bride (John 3:29; Revelation 18:23; 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17).  Love is supposed to flow between a bride and her husband.  Love is suppose to flow out from a bride and her husband also.  "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" - Matthew 5:46

This leads me to three kinds of loving that I have been enlightened to recently.  I am sure there are probably more, but consider the following.
  1. Love to and from those that love you.
  2. Love unto a stranger.
  3. Love unto the unlovely. 
Number one is very important.  Once you know you are loved it is important to from time-to-time remind them of that love.  However, that love sets you up for the other two kinds of people to love.

When loving the stranger (say fixin' a flat tire), you do not have to know their background, you just show up and show God's love and if it leads to more share time then great.

When loving the unlovely it is naturally challenging.  However, all of us were the most unloveliest things imaginable, BUT GOD loved us anyway - "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8.  Now, we need to follow His example and touch those "lepers" that nobody else will touch.  Speak into the lives of those that are speaking negatively about their own life or others around them.  Hang around those who don't have The Answer because you, as a Christian, Do!  Jesus loved people's souls as well as their bodies that he healed.
  • While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"  On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." - Matthew 9:10-13
I challenge myself as well as the rest of my brothers and sisters in Christ - love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39).  Love your family and friends.  Love a stranger.  Love the unlovely.  You can have faith, you can have hope, and you can have love.  But the best one to have of these three is Love. (Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:13).

Friday, August 9, 2013

LISTEN...THEN ACT

"There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11 NASB, emphasis mine).  An angel spoke these words. Shepherds heard them first.  But what the angel said to them, God says to anyone who will listen.  'There has been born for you...'  Jesus is the gift.  Does He build a bridge and command you to cross it [for this gift]?" (p.150)  No, He builds the bridge, crosses the bridge Himself, offers Himself, and if accepted by you - places you on His shoulders and carries you back across into His kingdom, blessing you all-the-while.

Like I, or others, have said in previous blogs - "This is the gift that God gives.  A grace that grants us first the power to receive love and then the power to give it.  More verb than noun, more present tense than past tense, grace didn't just happen; it happens."  (p.150)

Interesting what happens when you listen.  I was given the opportunity recently to operate in Grace.  While returning to my car from eating lunch at a local fast food establishment, I found a F-250 pick-up truck parked so close to my long-doored Mustang that there was no way I was getting in.  And I was not crawling in from the passenger side.  So, off I went back into the restaurant.  The Holy Spirit immediately had me profiling for someone that might look construction worker oriented because on the side of the truck it read such-in-such Home Improvement.  I ended up walking right to their table.  They were not wearing uniforms, so I politely asked if they knew who the driver of the Home Improvement truck was and one of the four gents sitting there confessed.  He said, "Are you the guy with the black Mustang that I blocked in?"  I said, "That would be me."  He apologized and said, "Let me take care of that right now."

While heading out the door, he gave me all kinds of excuses, but all I heard was the Holy Spirit saying, "Keep quiet, he is doing his part, show favor, show Grace."  So, I did.  No confrontation.  I was in my car and headed back to work within seconds.

"Grace.  Let it, let him, so seep into the crusty cracks of your life that everything softens.  Then let it, let him, bubble to the surface, like a spring in the Sahara, in the words of kindness and deeds of generosity.  God will change you, my friend.  You are a trophy of his kindness, a partaker of his mission.  Not perfect by any means but closer to perfection than you've ever been.  Steadily stronger, gradually better, certainly closer." (p.151)

"Though the work of Christ is finished for the sinner, it is not yet finished in the sinner." - Donald G. Bloesch

"I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us." - Anne Lamott

Quotes:  Grace, Max Lucado

Thursday, August 8, 2013

YOUR HOPE

If no one has ever said this to you, I now say it - from henceforth you are permitted to make mistakes.  The individual has so many performance-driven influences that demand perfection it makes the head spin just thinking about it.  

God's way is different, God's way is higher (Isaiah 55:9).

  • "His faithfulness does not depend on yours. His performance is not predicated on yours.  His love is not contingent on your own.  Trust God's hold on you more than your hold on God." (p.135)  

God chose all of humanity to have fellowship.  God's Son died and rose again for the redemption of that relationship/fellowship with all humanity.  God first loved me.  Now, I willingly place all my eggs in His basket.  I place my life in His hands (it is so much better that way).  I place all my hope in Jesus Christ, my Lord, Savior, and Friend.

Yes, I have been Saved since 1979, but total trust, total hope in Christ is a continual life lesson.  I keep re-acquiring eggs out of His basket and holding on to them - even trying to improve upon them with my own touch.  I have said I place ALL my hope in Him, but then somewhere down the road I take my hope back and redirect and/or re-proportion it.

It is wonderful that true believers in Christ can say, "Of all we don't know in life, we know this:  we hold a boarding pass.  'These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you many know that you have eternal life' (1 John 5:13)." (p.134)  However, what about the rest of the Christian life that comes after Salvation.  People and things in life come and go, but God is constant.  He is the I Am. He is my Rock.  He is my sure Foundation.  As Followers of Christ we should live and move and have our being in Christ (Acts 17:28).

If your experience with Grace is genuine and your transformation authentic, then the height from which you have fallen will spur you to do good and testify of God's goodness. Said another way,

  • "Grace creates a resolve to do good, not permission to do bad.  God's kindness stirred Joseph's holiness.  God's grace does the same in us. 'For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age' (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)." (p.137)

Is your hope in Christ?  Is your present and eternal future wrapped up, suffocated, hopefully lost in Jesus Christ?  How do you complete the following sentence, "My hope is found in nothing less than _______."

Hopefully you can complete it like this.......
4-Him..."Solid Rock"
Quotes From:  Grace, Max Lucado

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A GRASP ON DEATH

I play a few video games that require me to kill.  Although these other soldiers of the other cause are virtual, if you get killed by them you can always spawn another life close to where you lost your previous one. Besides it being a stress reliever for me, it also got me thinking (which is dangerous, I know).

Death - some people flirt with it voluntarily, others involuntarily. In the real world, it takes a certain person with a certain personality to place himself at the edge of no return. It is one thing for your armed service to be forced (draft) or your will to be forced into action by defending yourself.  For example, you may defend your country against a declared/undeclared enemy or a thief in your home.  It is another thing to voluntarily sign-up for duty to serve and protect in any service that has the potential of you not returning home.

There was a time, when I was younger, that I could have seen myself in the shoes of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or local police.  I think it was glamorized and honored in my life just enough to make me respect it and consider applying.  I did look into the Navy.  I think, if I remember correctly, they said "no" because I was too tall (interested in sub duty) and I had epilepsy.  It was not meant to be.

Now, I hear stories from family and friends of wars past and present and wonder how I ever saw the allure of it all.  Don't get me wrong, "I am a lover not a fighter" (nod to MJ), but I am no wimp either.  I feel like I could do what was needed if the situation arose.  But like I said, I am not going to go looking for it to prove anything or justify my existence.

Death is coming, why rush it?  Well, somebody has got to serve and protect, right?  Right.  And I thank God for those He has wired with all the great ideas and means to execute the ideas.  Such ideas as patriotism, family, freedom, and human rights are the springboard for action many times when considering serving in the military or police force, but it takes a person wired with A Grasp On Death to do the job.

"...man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,..." - Hebrews 9:27 

Monday, August 5, 2013

BECAUSE HE LOVES US THAT MUCH

God' justice of His grace says that everyone in history - past, present, and future - must be paid for by the life's blood of God's only Son, even knowing some are going to flat-out reject His unconditional, sacrificial, gift.  Taking on their sins, for justice sake, as well as those who will decide to follow Him, is a Love and a Just God I cannot fathom yet I have a personal relationship with Him by faith.

I am adopted by God.

  • "God saw our entire lives from beginning to end, birth to hearse, and in spite of what He saw, He was still convinced 'to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  And this gave him great pleasure' (Ephesians 1:5 NLT)." [p.120, Grace, Lucado)
As Father God loves Jesus, so Father God loves me.
  • Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17)
  • And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6)
So, my identity, the identity of a true follower of Jesus, is found in Christ.  "Your identity is not in your possessions, talents, tattoos, kudos, or accomplishments.  Nor are you defined by your divorce, deficiencies, debt, or dumb choices.  You are God's child." (p.121, Grace, Lucado)  If you have read any of my other recent blogs you would know I have been emphasizing - taking God at His Word!  I take it as an awesome confirmation from God through Max Lucado as Max says,
  • "Rather than conjure up reason to feel good about yourself, trust God's verdict [take God at His Word]."  If God loves you, you must be worth loving.  If He wants to have you in His kingdom, then you must be worth having.  God's grace invites you - no, requires you - to change your attitude about yourself and take sides with God against your feelings of rejection." (p.121, Grace, Lucado)
I challenge all Followers of Christ to do as the Glad commercials say - "Don't get mad, get Glad!".  We can put whatever negative emotion in the place of the word "mad" for that phrase or a lie we have accepted, but exchange the "Glad" the commercial is speaking about with true gladness that comes from knowing and having a personal relationship with Father God because of His Son Jesus.

"To live as God's child is to know, at this very instant, that you are loved by your Maker not because you try to please him and succeed, or fail to please him and apologize, but because he wants to be your Father. Nothing more. All your efforts to win his affections are unnecessary.  All your fears of losing his affection are needless.  You can no more make him want you than you can convince him to abandon you.  The adoption is irreversible.  You have a place at his table." (p.125, Grace, Lucado)

Oh, to live like this!  To trust God at His Word!  To allow His perspective of us to reign supreme all the time.  A view of us Graced, an identity of us in Victory - Because He Loves Us That Much (and more)!

Friday, August 2, 2013

SUSTAINING GRACE

I read some material that I needed to hear for my life right now.  I want to share it with you so it bless you and encourages you also.

"You have his Spirit within you.  Heavenly hosts above you.  Jesus Christ interceding for you.  You have God's sufficient grace to sustain you." (p.97, Grace, Max Lucado)

Allow me to take 2 Corinthians 12:9 and work it backwards.  First, read the verse as is -
  • But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
Now for the backward compatibility of this verse through my paraphrase.

I get the honor and privilege of Christ's power resting on me as I boast in my weakness because that is where God's grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect. 

"Grace takes on an added dimension here.  Paul is referring to sustaining grace.  Saving grace saves us from our sins.  Sustaining grace meets us at our point of need and equips us with courage, wisdom, and strength. It surprises us in the middle of our personal transatlantic flights with ample resources of faith.  Sustaining grace promises not the absence of struggle but the presence of God." (p.98, Grace, Lucado)

"...if God permits the challenge, He will provide the grace to meet it." (p. 99, Grace, Lucado)
Which the Holy Spirit reminds me of 1 Corinthians 10:13"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Notice the Holy Spirit instructed Paul to tell the believers in Corinth and now us - "so that you can stand up under it" and not necessarily escape it in a flash.  Although God can and has worked in a flash in some situations, here Paul says that a way out has been provided - with God's help you have just got to endure and get out!  It is a sustaining grace.

"Let God's grace dethrone your fears.  Anxiety still comes, for certain.  The globe still heats up; wars still flare up; the economy acts up.  Disease, calamity, and trouble populate your world .  But they don't control it!  Grace does." (p.100, Grace, Lucado)

Allow Grace to sustain you.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

IN THE MEANTIME...

One Biblical topic I could talk your ear off about is Eschatology or End Time Events.  I get really excited speaking about seeing my Savior one day soon.  However, with all the studies I have done, with all the bending of the ear I could do about this topic I have found something else.  That something else is a charge or challenge to live a magnetic, Christian lifestyle while eagerly expecting the return of Christ for His church or bride, commonly known as The Rapture.

In a recent study I did, I found some major New Testament prophetic Books and Chapters have this charge or challenge to live out an attractive, magnetic, Christian lifestyle located right behind the prophecy of Christ's return.  The Books I studied were Matthew, 2 Thessalonians, 2 Peter, and Revelation.  The following are the verses that fell after the prophecies.

Matthew 24:44-47
So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

2 Thessalonians 2:15
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Thessalonians 3:6
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

2 Peter 3:11-12
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

2 Peter 3:14
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The instructions within these verses like standing firm, holding to teachings, avoiding idleness, living holy and Godly lives, living a life of integrity and peace with God, and listening to the Holy Spirit's voice are all great building blocks from which to build your personal ministry on this earth while waiting for the Lord's return. However, there is more to being a flavorful Christian that is spelled out in other Scripture and needs study. 

Several examples to study toward being a better Christian are all the Churches in the Book of Revelation (Chapters 2 & 3).  Read what Jesus had to say to these believers and just for a moment take it personally as a spiritual gut check (if you will).  Then after careful observation of anything that the Holy Spirit is pointing out, you can pray like David prayed - "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

It is great to have our eyes and expectations and hopes on Christ's return!  The Lord Himself told us to "keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:42)  But if this is our main focus all the time, it does not do anything for our development as Christ Followers.  As individuals, making up a body of believers, Christians have gifts and talents and specializations.  These gifts, talents, and specializations (teacher, encourager, etc.) must also not become the Christian's sole focus.  As believers in Christ we all have The Great Commission - "...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." - Matthew 28:18-20
So, it is perfectly acceptable to study, speak, get excited and eagerly await the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, BUT you have your Commission and your Calling and everything in between to develop for the benefit of yourself and others - In The Meantime.