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Posts Tagged ‘life’

I have put off reading John’s account of the Revelation, because quite frankly, there is just so much that I have never been able to understand. He is writing to show us “what must soon take place”, and with all that is taking place today, I thought it would be good to give it another try. I had hoped this time, I would understand more.

Well, after reading through it twice and now beginning my third time, I have concluded that there is still a lot that I may never understand, and I’ve had to adjust my thinking. Jesus told John to “write what he saw”, so I have decided to do the same – to not worry about what I don’t see – to write about what I do see.

Though John is writing this to the ‘seven churches’, we can read it today as it is to us. I like one of his introductory comments; “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins”. In times past, I would have interpreted the word “freed” as forgiven. It is one thing to believe that we have and will be forgiven for conduct that stems from our sin nature – quite another to understand that he has freed us from the power of that nature.

That is not to say that there will never be a slip now and then . . . but slipping now and then is a far cry from being bound. When Jesus cursed the fig tree . . . was that not a bit of a slip? He was hungry. The tree had no fruit. It wasn’t supposed to have fruit because it wasn’t the time of year for it to have fruit. Nevertheless He got agitated and cursed it.

When you’ve been bound by evil desires as long as I was bound by them, it is not a stretch for me to see that Jesus could have a flicker of anger without losing His sinless status. But that is just me. You may disagree; and that is fine. But like I said earlier, I will write what I see.

I had one other thought from this first chapter. John referred to himself as a “companion” to those to whom he was writing. He was a “companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus”. He was stuck on the island of Patmos. No tropical drinks by the beach there; it was a desolate, rocky place. And yet somehow, while he was suffering in this hard place, we find him “in the spirit”.

As I write this, Israel is in the beginning stages of what could escalate into an all out war. In our own nation, we are wrestling out our differences. Hard places are plentiful these days. It is more important than ever that we make sure that we are “in the spirit” as John was.

In this kingdom that is ours, we shouldn’t have the misconception that we are promised protection from suffering. We are promised the gift of patient endurance in our suffering. There is no promise of protection from the hard places in life; just the promise of peace in them. Lord give us peace in these hard places.

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I will start with a thought I had yesterday:

While Jesus was hanging on the cross, onlookers watched. “He saved others, but can He save Himself.” Our nation is hanging on a cross today. Onlookers are watching. “They saved others, but can they save themselves.”

My prayer this morning is that the right group of people will come out in droves to vote to signify the first shot fired at a government that is out of control. That we would send Romney to Washington with the clear sense that ‘We the People’ have had enough. That it would be the first shout of our voices that will not be able to be ignored. And then . . . that we would keep shouting so that we might save our great nation while there is still a chance.

(This is a portion of my most recent article which I have posted on my new blog site.)

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When Tina sang that, she was saying she could do without it. I wonder how many people, influenced by the words of this song, have come to the same conclusion – have hardened themselves with this same belief. It’s easier to just quit trying than to work until you find it.

And that really is what we do, if we haven’t quit. We work ourselves to the bone to love and win the love of others. It’s disappointing when it doesn’t work, but because of the value we place on it, we try and try and try. It’s cool when it pays off, when the motives are right and the labor is rewarded. It makes it all worth it.

I wonder how many times God, tried and tried and tried with me. What’s love got to do with it . . . I’d hate to think of where I’d be if it weren’t for it. I think of all the things I tried to do to win it and all the miserable failures along the way when my enemy convinced me that I didn’t have it. Mark Hall (Casting Crowns) has a line in one of his songs that says, “I feel I am just one mistake away from seeing You walk away”. If it weren’t for love, wouldn’t He have?

I know when Paul wrote this line that he wrote it as a statement of something that had literally just happened. But think of it in relation to you right now – I did this morning. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for us”. “God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners (while we were on miserable failure number ____), Christ died for us.” At just the right time, while we were still powerless, God demonstrated His love for us.

If we quit and walk away, we miss what could’ve been. I could have quit and walked away. God could have quit and walked away. But love, because it has everything to do with it, endures all things. God, the perfect example of love, endured all things with me; and at just the right time, when I was still powerless, He demonstrated it. That kind of love transforms. What does that kind of love not have to do with it?

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I work with guys who, as a result of some bad decisions, have ended up in jail. One is in for the first time because he didn’t control his drinking. Another is in for making and selling meth. Some are in for a short time while others await longer sentences.

I get to work with the ones who have turned to God. One who was in for drinking commented that he couldn’t believe how far off track he had gotten. He was a new person. Soon after getting out though, he is back to uncontrolled drinking.

The one who was in for selling meth, was in at least once before for 2 months. He said while he was in he was on fire for God. Within 4 hours of his release he was making meth again. So here he was, in again, telling his story.

I realize as they tell their stories, that they are not unique. We all struggle to keep from going astray; they just have more trouble with it than some of us who have gained in the fight. They have dug some deep holes for themselves and it will take resolve like never before to break the cycle that grips them.

God is doing His best to help them break it. Psalm 78 says, “Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. But then they would flatter him with their mouths.” I can relate to that.

Is there not that same cycle with all of us to one extent or the other? We forget God; He slays us; we turn back to Him; He helps us. Then we start the cycle over by forgetting Him again.

I’ve been reading Paul’s letters lately. I’m amazed at the going astray he dealt with. His entire ministry was about sharing the gospel, people coming to God with sincere devotion, then falling away after he moved on. His letters addressed the issues.

I like the way he puts in 2 Corinthians 11:3. It reflects not only the potential for the Corinthian people to go astray, but Paul’s concern for it. “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

It troubles me when I see the guys sincere and pure devotion to God, knowing they will soon be thrown to the wolves and be deceived by the serpent’s cunning. Most of them don’t have the roots to stand strong. I have struggled enough in my own life to know the cycle very well. I tell the guys this one thing that has helped me.

Jesus was getting ready to leave His disciples. He was getting ready to pass the baton off to them. The gospel would be on their shoulders. He knew they would need what He was getting ready to give them. Even He depended on it.

At the beginning of John 16, Jesus makes this statement. “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.” The ‘all this’ was the importance of ‘staying connected’ that He spent most of John 15 telling them about. When I look back on my walk with God, I see times I was connected and times that I was not. When I was, I was on fire for God. When I wasn’t, I went astray. This will be true if you’re in jail or out, if behind the pulpit or in the pew; there is no easy road. Staying connected is the only way I’ve found to break the cycle of going astray.

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I read where Paul referred to himself as the least of all the apostles and didn’t even deserve to be called an apostle because . . . He had a good reason, and I will get to it, but what really struck me is when I reworded the verse. I am the least of all Christians and do not even deserve to be called a Christian because . . .

Like Paul, I didn’t have trouble coming up with my ‘because’. For Paul, “I persecuted the church of God.” For me, my problem was not that blatant. I was just inconsistent. For 30 years I was up and down – hot and cold.

I recently read a book that closed with this quote:
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth,
not going all the way, and not starting.”

Paul hadn’t started; but me, I stopped short of going all the way. Both miss the mark. But in 30 years I never quit trying. I might have fell 100 times, but I got up 101. God could have justly walked away. He could’ve with Paul. I like the line Paul adds after saying why he didn’t deserved to be called an apostle.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” God could have left Paul in his lostness. He could have left me to hobble the rest of my Christian life. But He didn’t. He allowed me to get up that 101st time and that gracious gesture was not without effect.

The effect on Paul was that he worked as hard for God as he had worked against Him. “What he learned he preached”. In an effort to persuade others to believe the same truth he had come to believe, he worked. Seven years later, I am working. That is the effect. What I’ve learned, I use to persuade others.

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Are there any wordpress bloggers out there that attended this years Summit; either from Willow Creek or from one of the many satelite locations around the world. This was my first year. My son and I went.

There’s a lot to process, but the Lord has me thinking about the man, the message, the faith of Stephen Furtick, and a comment that was made about him by one of the other speakers. If you heard Furtick’s message, you know about digging trenches.

The other speaker who commented had been digging trenches for 35 years to alleviate hunger around the world. His comment about Furtick was the assurance that his (Furtick’s) generation, because of their great faith in God to do the impossible, would eradicate it.

When I started my latest series, A Journey of Faith, I didn’t have it all laid out. It is litterally a journey. As I learn, I write. As the Lord shows me things I wrestle them out and then I write.

Is it possible that while we want to see miracles, God is wanting to see the hungry fed? Has God just brought me to a major intersection in my journey, giving me the opportunity to get on the same road He is on? I would expect that I’ll be wrestling this out over the next little while.

Anyway, GLS attendees, if your out there I would especially like to hear from you. But also to any, if this strikes a chord with you, I would like to know your thoughts.

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I was tempted to leave this out. This is a series that I have labeled ‘A Journey of Faith’. The stories in this series were to be a record of the things I learn in relation to believing God and seeing God size things happen.

I wanted to write about it but it didn’t seem to fit. I started to pass it up for one just a few chapters away and write about this one another day; but I couldn’t. It kept pulling me back. The truth of it was so exactly where I have lived. It expresses it so simply and clearly.

And then I thought . . . it could be the very thing responsible for my being on this journey. And so I saw that it ‘did’ fit. I ‘didn’t’ have to pass by it.

There’s really nothing I can say about it or add to it to make it say anything more than it says all by itself; so I will simply close with it.

Psalm 119:67 “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.”

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In need of Your light Lord;
my life is such a mess.
Without it there’s no hope Lord;
of this I must confess.

Show me what to do Lord;
I’m ready to listen now.
My way didn’t work Lord;
would you please show me how?

Didn’t intend to forsake You Lord,
but I guess that’s what I’ve done;
one thing then another Lord,
till there’s little of the One.

Forgive me of my wrong Lord;
come and light my way.
Show me what to do Lord;
hear these words I pray.

Help me as I start Lord;
often please remind.
Show me everyday Lord;
life as You designed.

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You expect to see results quickly when you bring a dozer in to move a pile of dirt. But what if you bring a shovel and wheelbarrow? The results will still come; they just come a little slower.

And so it is with our believing. If we’re not taking a dozer into a situation we are believing for – if we’re just taking a shovel and wheelbarrow – we can still have results . . . it will just take a little longer to see them and to get the job done.

In the story of the centurion servant who was suffering from seizures (the one that the disciples could not heal) Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

We expect the mountain to move all at once, like it did for Jesus. But Jesus had faith the size of a dozer. We on the other hand come with a shovel and wheelbarrow? Our faith is small in comparison to His; but . . . we can still move the mountain if we stay with it. The evidence may be a little slower to come and a little harder to see, but nevertheless there will be evidence if we stay with it.

We need to see evidence when we pray. Evidence says ‘You are on the right track. Just stay with it.’ We are bad to quit when the whole mountain does not move at once. That is what the disciples did. They couldn’t drive the seizures out with one try so they quit. But faith, even if it is small, it can be sure. Faith, because it knows something, refuses to quit until there is evidence; and then once there is evidence, faith continues to press until the mountain is moved.

Prayer is work. And like with any work, we need to see that the effort of our labor is accomplishing something. It is no different with prayer. We need to see that the effort of our praying is accomplishing something. We need to see evidence. Lately I have seen just enough to know that I am on the right track and that if I will just stay with it – wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow – I will see this mountain moved.

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Maybe the disciples had hoped that Jesus wouldn’t know that they had not been able to heal the boy of his seizures. Maybe they were a little like us, not understanding why, and just deciding to let it go.

Oh He knew. He didn’t say anything, but He knew. When the father of the boy spilled the beans, I can see the disciples head drop a little – maybe positioning themselves behind someone hoping to not be seen. Jesus is not happy; and after a little scolding, they finally ask Him what they have wondered to themselves, “Why couldn’t we drive it out”?

It is clear that Jesus expected them to be able to. He had told them to. I wonder when He stirs us to do the same – to believe for the same – if He doesn’t expect us to be able to. Somewhere along the line we have given in to the belief that He doesn’t. Surely Jesus wouldn’t say to us, “O unbelieving and perverse generation” – would He? . . . surely not! . . . would He?

We console ourselves by thinking He wouldn’t – by thinking it must not have been His will. I believe there is more to it than that. With the disciples, if it had not been His will, what reason would He have had to be frustrated with them? The reason He was frustrated is that they had the ability themselves and didn’t know it.

And so He makes the point; ‘Hey, I know you don’t know all that I know – that you are not as sure of things as I am; but even if you just understand it a little, you can do the same things that I do’. Because of all that He knows and understands, He walks up like a wrecking ball and says ‘Satan, hit the road’ . . . and he hits it. We tell him to hit the road and he just stands there with his arms crossed; ‘Make me’ he says.

And that’s the deal. It’s not so much praying and asking God, as it is telling Satan. When he stands with arms crossed, it’s standing right back at him. That’s what Jesus meant. ‘Even if you have faith the size of a sledgehammer, you can stand there delivering blow after repeated blow until he moves on.’

Faith is not hoping he will leave. It is not hoping God will make him leave. When God has initiated the faith, it is knowing and understanding that he has to leave. We have given in to him not leaving so long and his heals are dug in so deep that it will take quite a stand – a much needed stand – to drive him out. He really has no option . . . unless we give him one.

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