TWO THINGS: 2

“So how are things going for you?”

Some form of that question is asked on any given day as we pass people, come to work, show up at the coffee shop; it is a greeting that suggests familiarity, pretends some sort of compassion and empathy, but is lived out in apathy. What if you actually answered it for yourself today?
It the midst of life, Jeremiah, the prophet, TELLS us how things are going rather than asking us how they are going. (Well he does for Israel thousands of years ago any way.)

Jeremiah that prophet

Jeremiah is just not a happy guy. He is a downer. You just want to say, “Come on man, say something encouraging!” I’m reading Jeremiah right now and it has the same appeal as reading the actual contents on the side of a tube of Preparation H. Just a lot of scientific words I don’t know, and lacking in encouragement; right now at least. As I’m beginning this book I find myself with Facebook open in front of me and I’m reading Jeremiah 2 at the same time. There is a lot of looking from screen to page, from screen to page over and over. Not because I need to see what is happening in the digital social construct we call our world, but because there is so much correlation between what I am seeing and what Jeremiah is saying.

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jolly Rancher

It is some pretty relevant scripture right there. Our souls would do well to take time to ponder this. Think of “pondering” like putting a Jolly Rancher in your mouth and just swirling it around and around. (it may be true that I have a raspberry Jolly Rancher in my mouth at this moment; don’t judge me) Explore the reality of your relationship to God in heaven for a while and your relationship to this passage. Fight against the human machine and the social extreme by grabbing the brake and giving it a YANK!! Slow down today for a moment. Let’s just be with God and hear this word from yesteryear.

TWO THINGS: #1

There are two things that God needed to tell Israel about. The first one is that they have forsaken God. There is a lot of this world that is attacking your heart and your desires as you go through life: things, attention, popularity, fame, love, sex, and a whole host of material possessions. God is calling us to not allow anything to take his place of priority in our lives. Clearly the Israelites had decided that the other “gods” (that are actually not gods at all); gods of various immoral worship practices; sexual as well as infanticide would be more fun. God is calling them out for walking away from him. He is GOD and he will not be ignored, cast aside or get off the throne. So, God allowed them to receive the consequences of not remaining under his protection. People talk about where is God when things go south, or go wrong, and the answer is always the same: You rejected God and pushed him away, now you are reaping the consequences of this choice.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What about you? Are you confessing being a theological Christian or Christ -follower, yet you are living like a practical Atheist? You read what Jesus said but you don’t do what Jesus said unless you like it. Don’t rise up in angst or feigned umbrage, (there’s a word for ya! It means, “offence or annoyance”) you know this happens all the time. For some reason we are “selling” Jesus like he is a club, or a group to join, when truly he is God to whom we surrender. God is not a Sunday morning checklist item. He is not a daily Bible reading chore to fulfill. He is not a good work that will earn you a right standing “in the end.” God is our father: he is a relationship to rejoice in above all others. He wants to walk with you. It does start in the Bible but it continues on as we learn to walk in the Spirit. But be honest, there are a lot of people that claim to follow Jesus, but they live in rejection of his teachings because the teachings don’t make personal sense to them. So they rationalize a whole new God that cannot be supported without serious hermeneutical calisthenics: TWISTING OF THE SCRIPTURES. Doing what Jesus said to do is costly and doesn’t always, or often, make sense; do it anyway. God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” Is 55:8.

TWO THINGS #2

The second thing is that Israel is digging it’s own cisterns. (a cistern is an underground tank or reservoir for storing rainwater) God contrasts cisterns with a spring of constant cisternconsistent fresh water. What God offers in our relationship to him is good, it is fresh and it is eternal. Cistern water is stored water. It can get algae in it. It can become stagnant and putrid. Spring water is always being refreshed, it is moving through. God wants what is best for us. God is good, God is love, God gives eternal life. But we are a people that want what we want for some of the dumbest reasons at times. Even Israel in her early days rejected God being their leader for a King so they could be like every other nation around them. We want to be like everyone else. We want to keep up with the Joneses. We want more than everyone else so we can be impressive and important. We want to be a people that can “do it ourselves.” We want to brag about what we have accomplished. We want to leave out God and his part in our lives; he won’t stand for that though. The world we live in says, “Look what I did,” and even when we become Christians, we tend to revert to “Ok I got this God thanks, leave me alone now, I’ll do it myself.” But we are dependent upon God even when we don’t know it. We don’t make the sun run its course. We don’t keep the world spinning on its precarious axis of 23 degrees. We do not determine how much rain will fall and where or when it will fall. We don’t create the droughts. As humans we cannot even tell people where existence came from. The fool has said in his heart there is no God.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Back to the same question, “What about you?” Are you living your life on your terms, by your own created, rationalized, standards, or are you in a living relationship with God? In Matthew 7 Jesus said not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those people did good, religious, and spiritually powerful things, but apparently it wasn’t what God was telling them to do, it was what they wanted to do. They were digging their own cisterns and asking God to bless it.

We serve a God that still speaks today. Through the Bible, through circumstances, through other people, through music, through prayer and through community: God wants us to listen and obey.

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God, What happened in Florida?

You might want to buckle up for this one. It’s worth the read, it’s a little longer than usual, but then ask yourself, “Where do I fit in?”

Go Social Media

I saw a meme on FB the other day that said,

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“We need preachers that will preach that Hell is still hot, Heaven is real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the only way of Salvation, Amen.”

Another one says,

“Share if you think we need to put prayer, or God, or the Bible, back in School.”

All of this implying that, God in School curriculum, or prayer in school, or Preachers preaching someone’s idea of “The right Christianity,” can solve this problem, as a Pastor for the last almost 25 years, nothing could be further from the truth. I haven’t seen this kind of really poor understanding of theology from people that claim to be Christians in quite a while. But hey, social media gives us this platform to screw up Jesus’ teachings and call it truth; and you wonder why things are the way they are.

Florida is evidence of a problem

What happened in Florida last week was a horrifically evil event that did not happen without forethought and some serious planning. It would “appear” that the government was in fact told of this individual, his words, and ideologies, his social media posts, and to some degree, his intent, and he slipped right through the cracks. This is not a gun problem. I’m not a big raging fan of guns and I’m not raging against people having guns. I finished 12 years of school in the public school system and then a couple in the college level; guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Should people have access to this kind of gun? I don’t care. I won’t own one myself. But that’s not the point of this post.

Oh the ignorance of people

I’m interested in the question, “How did our world, our country, our state, our community, come to this kind of place?”

I do not believe the awful things happening to our children or in our nation is because,

“We need preachers that will preach that Hell is still hot, Heaven is real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the only way of Salvation, Amen.”

This just strikes me as ignorant: just plain, straight up, hillbilly ignorant. Just because a person preaches that something is sin doesn’t stop the people that claim to follow God from doing it. If that were the case, divorce would simply stop, adult people (not even talking about high schoolers: ADULTS) would stop having sex before they are married, would actually tithe to their local church, would serve in the children’s area, would raise their children IN CHURCH instead of chasing every traveling league and teaching their children to skip church, but don’t skip the team. The church would be diversified instead of segregated: FROM BOTH SIDES not just one. People would realize that women should make as much as men if they do the same job with the same level of productivity. (This can go on and on and on.) Preachers preach that Porn is wrong but church folks like it. Preachers preach that “50 Shades of Grey,” “Game of Thrones” and such, isn’t healthy for Christian people and they get emails about not judging. Hahaha are you kidding me? “Preachers need to preach that Hell is real?” REALLY?

The people posting these memes cheat on their taxes, lie to their spouses, ignore their children, and look down their noses at people that are a different color than they are. People posting these memes don’t share their faith, or the love of God in Jesus with their neighbors, or their co-workers and you want me to believe that the preacher isn’t doing their “real” job?

What are you actually teaching your children?

People that teach their little children to hate people they are mad with post these memes; they have no sense of local church loyalty or accountability at all. Preachers say something they need to hear, they cut and run. Preachers won’t let them do what ever they want; they cut and run. Preachers say something they disagree with; they cut and run. Preachers hold them accountable for their sin, i.e. creating division, sowing discord, immorality, lack of compassion or not getting involved in ministry, they cut and run.

Tell me again the preacher isn’t preaching the right message and I will show you a NATION of people that barely know who lives next door. I will show you a nation of people that underpay teachers and EXPECT them to raise their little bundles of sunshine. I will show you a nation that will do more to protect the drug dealer than the police officer sent to arrest him. I will show you a nation of people joyfully led around by the nose by entertainers, and corrupt politicians, and media moguls instead of their supposed “Christian Values.”

What did Jesus do? Then what should you do?

We live in a world of sinners according to what the Bible says. And Like Paul, I have not lost sight of the fact that I am the worst. But these same people do not have to believe what I believe and I do not believe that shoving my belief system down their throats is what Jesus said to do. The Gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ is and always will be, an invitation, not a HAMMER! People said “No” to Jesus all the time and he didn’t cuss them, meme them to death, slander them, or ignore them, he loved them, served them and then died for them while they were yet sinners. He wasn’t trying to create a “Christian Nation” at all. He didn’t get involved in the affairs of local politics. He even went so far as to say “Father, forgive these men that just did this to me because they don’t even know what they are doing.” Live your life like this and you will change the world.

The problem isn’t that Preachers aren’t preaching right, the problem from my perspective is that Christian people want to be in the “FUN Church Club” but don’t want to DO what Jesus said to DO. You solve that one problem, just that one problem, and you will turn this nation upside down for the good. You want God in charge? Then get off your own throne and put him in charge of you first. When was the last time you had some new people into your home for dinner? Just asking.

Finally, you want prayer back in school? You want reading the Bible back in school? I don’t. I don’t want a non-Christian, atheist, pagan, or apathetic humans or even nominal Christians, leading my grandchildren in prayer, and interpreting the Bible for them. That is the parent’s job. You want your children following the teachings of Jesus? Then teach them at home with some small modicum of integrity and example instead of twisting the scripture to fit your idolatry.

Well now, that’s pretty heavy stuff, but it is the stuff pastors and preachers put up with everyday of the week. The solutions to the horrors of our lives is never simple, never easy, and never cheap enough to simply put on a meme. LifeWay says in their poll, 250 pastors quit each month. I wonder why? I’m not writing this because I’m perfect or even sinless. I wish I could get through one day without having to go to Jesus and confess and ask forgiveness; I need my savior. But, I love that I get to lead a group of people that want to be like Jesus, want to love, and serve, and get involved on a personal, one-to-one level, I love that. They put their rocks down, we have no right to stone people, we have been called to love them and stick to the truth, and introduce them to Jesus of the Bible.

You want to solve this “Problem,” (pick one problem to focus on) then stop talking about who should do it and you be the one to go do it. Yeah, it’s like that.

BLESSED ARE YOU …

I’m reading through Matthew 5, 6, 7, as a discipline as I continue to preach through this teaching in anticipation of going deeper spiritually and taking people deeper spiritually. Jesus was with a great crowd of people and he and his disciples, (don’t think just 12), went over to a mountainside. (The hill region) The mountainside acts as a natural amphitheater. Jesus understood this and fully expected that he needed a place where he could speak to many, many people. So he sits down and begins to unfold the very core offeet of Jesus his teaching: this constitutes his “yoke.” From a teacher-student relationship a “yoke” is the burden of understanding or interpretation of, a given teacher in relationship to the subject at hand. So when Jesus says, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he is speaking of people buying into his interpretation of something; in this case the Law of Moses.

Jesus begins with the word “Blessed.” Blessed is “Makarios” in the Greek and it is translated 44 times as blessed, 4 times as good, 1 time as fortunate and 1 time as happier. (in the NIV 1984) So as Jesus unfolds his interpretation of life and the Law at the beginning, he starts with the fact that your life is favored, good, and happier, when and if … these things apply to you. There seems to carry in this word the understanding that the face of God seems to be attuned to, or turned toward the person that is poor, that is mourning, that walks humbly, who longs to do right by others, that is merciful to those around them, that is focused upon one thing, who choose to make peace in peaceful ways and means, and even find themselves persecuted because of their desire to do what is right for everyone.

“Blessed are” does not seem to “inclinate” that these people go through life without any problems or getting everything they ask God for. It appears more right to understand this is a list of people that are giving their lives away; that live in contentment in their circumstances and focus a little more outward.

Jesus was teaching in the presence of a military state. The Roman army and culture that was trying to push into their existence occupied them. Everywhere they turned their lives and subsequently their religion was bumping into the laws and expectations of Rome.

In the midst of all of this Jesus begins what we call the “Beatitudes”, the list of blessings. This is in direct relationship to Isaiah 61, which Jesus reads in the synagogue (Luke 4) as he launches his ministry.

1“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV)

The Kingdom of God has broken through into a dark world. The focus of God is upon this world and specifically all the people of this world. All of this teaching has an eschatological focus: The Kingdom is here but the Kingdom is coming as well. As children of the Kingdom our transformation will be evident to all when we can find our peace and relationship to God the father in being content that God is with us in all of this. Whether in the “now or the not yet,” we WILL find relief and salvation from God.

Blessed are you today in your present circumstance, your desired circumstance and your eventual/ eternal circumstance, for the gaze of God is upon you. Find your contentment today in his shadow.

Peace

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:17-18 NIV

peace2Are you experiencing peace today? Peace in your soul, peace in your heart, peace in your health, maybe peace in your everyday life? Jesus came and preached peace. To us that were far from God, Jesus brought peace. Stewing in the fog of chaos and sin, Jesus offered peace. He offered me the peace that begins with being right with God. I don’t owe him.

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I have a motorcycle. I put down a significant amount of money but I still owe the bank. There is a very real bondage that comes with owing someone something. Knowing the consequences of a debt not paid off. I found the same thing when I owed someone personally. Afraid of what this person could do. Afraid of the feeling that I could never pay it off. Not only was I struggling to reduce the principal, I found myself actually compounding the principal, not just the interest, in my attempts to fight my way out.

You see I was born a sinner. I was not born innocent as some well meaning but totally misinformed and/or delusional people would tell you. No, I was born with the nature to sin in my heart already there. Much like an apple is formed with an apple seed alreadyApple seeds in it. GUILTY BY BIRTH! My capacity to sin only grew as I grew. The more I sinned the more I became aware of sin. The debt I owed God couldn’t be offset or paid for by my good works or acts of kindness. I could never be good enough, or nice enough, or even give enough, to make up for the attitudes of my heart, the filth I was immersed in, or the sins I acted upon. Like a man cast into a raging sea, overwhelmed by the waves, drowning, I needed a rescuer: a savior.
I owed God!
In the midst of the ocean, as death threatened to swallow me and drag me down to the depths of the sea, God sent his son to do the one thing nobody else could do; save me from myself; my humanity.
I don’t know the actual or intrinsic value of the blood and body of a man that did in fact live a perfect life. The price for my life, the salvation of my soul for eternity, the peace that I need was found in having my debt to God cancelled. This is the “person” I owed: I was in ever increasing debt to God almighty.
Somehow, for some reason, he chose to love me enough to send his son to earth to be bloodied, beaten and viciously crucified for my debt. As a result I owe God nothing. passion-of-the-christ-nailNothing except the ever increasing love that I have for my savior. Nothing except the desire for intimacy and presence of the king of the universe. Though I have not seen him he has been very obvious and present in my life. Though I have not touched him, I have very clearly heard his voice and obedience is my act of reciprocal love. How can I not love him that endured so much for me?
His one request of me? Love.
Love my creator.
Love my enemy.
Love my family.
Love my friends.
Love those in need.
Love.
It isn’t easy, it isn’t always fruitful, but it is always the call from my savior. I fail, but thankfully his invitation is to get back up and try again. “Press on,” he said, “your going forth is sure.”
Do you have peace in your life? I mean is there peace when you wake up?
“Sin” in your life robs you of peace.
“Unsettled relationships” rob you of peace.
“Debt” robs you of peace
“Not knowing” steals your peace
Having faith that life has purpose and meaning, knowing that you can trust your future to God who is infinitely bigger than you, brings peace.
That peace is waiting on you through the free gift of God in the sacrifice of Jesus. He who had no sin became sin for all of us. Repent (stop doing things with the worlds wisdom, stop living for your own pleasure) and give God your life. (Read the Bible and then do the Bible as literally as possible) then watch things change as your life takes a new shape, the shape of peace.

 

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Yesterday’s Manna

Manna

There’s a story reported thousands of years ago, of a tribe of enslaved people numbering over a million and a half, that were set free and found themselves wandering in themanna1 desert. They ended up wandering for 40 years. In the course of that time they supposedly were fed each day by their deity with a flaky, coriander sized, substance they called “Manna.”

Manna, who knows what it looked like and what it was. The report says that it showed up each day on the ground and they just gathered what they needed for that day. In the beginning some people gathered more than they needed for that day and it went bad. It soured. Actually it became worm infested and rotted: it stank! The whole process was a test. It was a test to see whether or not they could or would follow the rules, the Law. Sure enough, they failed. There is always that one group, that one person, or family that has to push the limits and do the very thing they were told not to do. It was no different then, still the same today; we still all fail.

In our human nature it is always a temptation to hoard up more than we need. Call it hoarding or call it greed, like in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected journey,” Bilbo the Hobbit shows up in the halls of Erebor and finds a great hoard of dragon and dwarf gold. Both dragons and Dwarves are hoarders: greedy to a mortal fault.Smaugs-Gold-e1462824043518

This whole story from the Bible is about how God provided for the Israelites as they spent 40 years in the wilderness, as they came up out of Egyptian enslavement. This food was there for them day in and day out. Was it the food of angels, the food of heaven? Maybe, but in any case it was God’s daily provision for them.

Many times in our lives we point to God doing wonderful or great things in the past. Sooner or later, like an aged out, fading high school quarterback, we point to “That one time,” or “That one play.” We look back to God saving us and yet, we don’t have anything else since then to testify about. We remember a healing from the Lord, a restoration of a wayward child, a saved marriage, freedom from drugs or alcohol. The point being that we are always looking way back.

Even when God blesses me, like with the manna, I don’t want to waste my time trying to live in yesterday’s blessings. Think of it like the test of whether or not we will follow God and trust him to continue to provide for us. God wants to provide for you every day. It is appropriate to remember what all God has done for us, but it is not ok for us to continue to wave that one blessing like it is all God has done for us. God wants to touch your life in so many new and more significant ways. God wants you to look for him everyday. God is taking you on an adventure. An adventure of bringing the Kingdom of God to bear upon your life, your influences, and your circles of friends.

Amazing highs

This past weekend at our church was pretty amazing. The worship was so very “transcendent.” (Can I use that word if I haven’t used any other big words like that yet? Lol) We prayed that God would open our eyes and our hearts to his presence. We repented of our own sins. We thanked God for what he had done in our lives. We invited God to touch us again. We didn’t want yesterday’s manna, we had already thanked him for that and enjoyed that. We wanted to spend new time with him. 23 people got baptized that day: it was overwhelming. 10 year olds through 40 some year olds stepped up, let go of their pasts, and received new manna from God. But even now, that was yesterday, I want today’s time with God.

God wants to walk with you

When you think about what it means to “Be” a Christian, do you still point to yesterday’s manna, or do you have a vibrant, passionate relationship to God that continues to put you in his presence? God wants to walk with you; he doesn’t want to have walked with you. Make sense?

I want to encourage you to look for God’s blessing and presence everyday. I’m not suggesting that he isn’t enough; I’m suggesting that he wants to be a bigger part of your existence now; in the moment, not in the memory.

Acts 14:17
Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

 

 

Stop struggling, stop striving today!

Joseph's Pictures 219Psalm 29:10-11 (NIV)

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 

Today I want to share a moment of serendipity with you, a moment that occurred as I was reading my Bible. I opened up to a passage and as I prepared my heart I saw a passage above that I had marked previously. As I gazed upon my marks and read the words, God poked my heart and said, “Good morning Joe.” So I pass this on that God may also poke your heart and let you know that he is here. Now matter what it is that you are about to face, big or small, he is here. No matter how loud the noise, how dark the night, how evil the valley, he is here. He knows your name. He loves you. He prepared a place for you near him. Like the swallow that builds her nest near the altar, God has a place for you as well. It is in his blessing.

“The Lord sits…”

Notice that with everything that is going on in your world and mine. With all the false media, the lies, the hate, the wars, the hurt, the rejection, and all the meaningless activity of the mass of humanity, God sits. He isn’t running around threatening, shaking his fist. God is not scared or worried. No, God sits. He is relaxed and watching his children. For some he is sad, for some he rejoices but for all he sits and is working for our good. The scripture says he sits enthroned OVER the flood. He is not worried about the turbulent waters that are crashing down and destroying the earth that time he “started over” with Noah. God is not spazzed or even remotely worried about that flood will do anything other than what he will allow. No, in all our worry, and as we try so hard to get God all wound up in our drama, he sits above the threats. Close your eyes and look at how peaceful he sits on the throne. God is at peace always.

“The lord is …”

I cannot make you believe that God is. I know he is. I cannot prove it to you any more than you can prove he isn’t. I entered this world as a self-absorbed narcissist and until I realized that I am the one that is responsible for my sin, I had no hope. When I saw the God sent his son to die for my sins so that I do not own them, so that I do not suffer the consequence of them nor will they keep me from the throne room any longer, when I surrendered to that truth, my life began to change. You see, In my life, “The Lord IS …” Not only is it true that God is, he is enthroned as the King of the universe. I do not have to be able to answer all the “Why’s” and all the “How’s” or anything else, to know that I am created. The cake doesn’t have to thoroughly know the baker to know there is a baker and the cake is not it. God is too grand, to beautiful, too wonder-full for me to comprehend. Any one that says otherwise is a liar and the truth is not in them. I cannot fathom the depths of God other than to try to understand what he has revealed and reveals to human kind. The lord is King over all that he has made, he is alone is judge, not me.

“The Lord gives …”

Of all the “deities” in this world that have been made up, the God of the Bible is hands down the most generously giving and the most loving. The Lord gives. God wants to give. It is his love language. He gives life, he gives a place with him in heaven, he gives forgiveness when we slander and crucify him. He gives when we need help, he gives when we need knowledge, he gives when we need love, he gives when we need a family, he gives, and gives, and gives. We on the other hand take, and take, and take, and take. It’s our humanity. It’s our sin. You cannot out give God, but you do not want to understand how stingy he can be. When God asks for us to give back to him, he is serious. To ignore obedience to the Word is to prove that we esteem God as nothing more than a spiritual vending machine. It only proves the depth of our self-centered depravity; shame on us. Sometimes what God gives is the strength to face giants, kill lions, strike down serpents, overcome disasters and face adversity with grace and hope. That’s more than any other clay figurine on a shelf is going to give you. My God says he will give you the gift of his presence; You will not be alone. The Lord gives.

“The Lord blesses …”

As we consider “The Lord gives,” what ever the Lord gives is a blessing to you and I. We may always know why he allows the pain and struggle, and it certainly was not his initial plan for humanity, but he come-follow-mecan work it out for our good. The blessing of God is gold in the hands of the righteous. The joy of knowing that the favor of the King of the universe rests upon you brings peace. It doesn’t mean there are no problems in your life. It isn’t a reflection of the absence of struggle and hurt, no, it is the knowledge that he is your father, and he is doing what is best for you at every turn of the sun. It I knowing that though you are outside in the playground called earth, he is intimately aware of what you are doing and going through. Not only is he watching you, but he is “standing” right here while you are preoccupied with all that is going on. His blessing is his gift to you. It is for eternity, but you need to take it. You need to receive it and open it. Know this peace that in the face of death, carries you through all the darkness you may face and all the joy you may encounter.

Today, as you go through this day, remember,

“The Lord sits …”

“The Lord is …”

“The Lord gives …”

“The Lord blesses …”

and YOU are the object of all this love today.

 

 

 

IT COULD BE ME?

Lion roaring1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

I want to go HOME

I sit here in my favorite coffee shop looking out at the world and I struggle to even want to be here. When I say “here” I mean, “on the planet,” not here in the coffee shop. The coffee shop feels safe, it feels friendly, it feels comfortable. It is small and for whatever reason I feel protected, like I do in my home. My home is safe, my wife makes it a refuge. When I am here or there the “ugly” is far away. There is no hate allowed here at the coffee shop. Everyone is welcome to come here. They will love you and serve you and make you a coffee that will rock your world.

But I cannot live here in this oasis and last week was terrible in our hemisphere. I don’t think it compares to things going on in other parts of the world: the starvation, wars, kidnapping, mutilations and the bombings and genocide. But that doesn’t make it less real.

I CAN FEEL IT

I feel the evil affecting my soul again and I have to reach deep to shake myself. Then today I woke up to a pastor falling to alcoholism and it just touched me hard. I don’t idolize him. I have been to his church conference and it was good. I don’t care for some of his theologies, (surely the kingdom of God is not about punching people in the throat or shooting them if they enter his home) but hey, I like his preaching and I like that he is sold out to the kingdom work in a large, get off your butt and do it big, sort of way. I love that he appears to spell faith, “RISK.” I appreciate that he gave and gave and gave. I really appreciate that he inspired me at one point in my own ministry. But, my heart hurts for him and I feel afraid, and yes, I know this fear is not from God.

There have been times

This pastor IS still a leader; as pastors we are all leaders. Leaders in a war we can barely see, but we see better than the average church go-er. The battle worn, the mutilated, the broken, the chewed upon, they walk into our offices every day. At times we can jump to it and bind up the weary and the broken hearted, comfort and bless, and at times we have no clue what to do or how to help. Sometimes we watch people switch sides in the battle and at times we watch people walk away wondering, “What could I have done better?” Beating ourselves up believing we failed, or thinking we “could have, should have,” and yet, we aren’t God. And If I can be honest without being needy, at times I have envied those that could throw up their hands and walk away. I would dare say there are times I have longed to be able to do that.

As I think about this man and his ministry to so many, I am aware of Peter warning us all that Satan, a very personal accuser, is a roaring lion, but he is not just running around or laying around making noise, no, he is seeking some to devour, to destroy.

Could that be me?

I cannot help but glance around and wonder when and how he will come after me. For I know my calling is to give him reason. Will he wreck my life today? Can I remain focused through the negativity thrown at our local leadership, the world attacking our local church and the hate being spewed across all the news venues, as well as standing against my own temptations? Will he sneak up when I least suspect it and destroy everything God has allowed me to be a part of? And if he were to succeed, then what of the church (the people), what of those that work here and have their income here? The weight, the fear, it can be incredibly unbearable at times.
This is the fear that haunts me daily as I hear King David saying,

                   “5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
                      sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
                       6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
                      you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
                      7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
                      wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
                                                      Psalm 51

He has given me a hope

What is our hope then? Who can be called his son or his daughter that is born of this world? There is none, no not one, that is righteous enough in and of themselves to enter heaven; to dwell with God. We all stand condemned whether it is in thought or deed; we all were born evil, sinful and lost. We all need a rescuer, a savior and I for one am grateful that God sent one.

I am in need as well

I have not yet preached a sermon, done a deed, planned an outreach, sacrificed, given or paid for something, nor led a person to Christ, or any other thing that would even catch God’s attention, let alone impress him to allow me to enter his presence. My good “things” will never outweigh the dirt on my soul, the selfish intent of my heart nor the greed in my spirit. I need a savior. I need Jesus more than anyone else on this planet.

lion in the grassSo today I look around and tentatively, with great fear, I stare into the tall grass of this world, looking for a telltale sign of a lion. Is that a shadow of something prowling? Is that the swish of grass, dragging down the side of my soul’s predator, as he moves closer for the pounce? Today will I be the focused attention of such a vile spirit? Is it greed, or lust, pride, or idolatry about to break forth from the grass and kill me?

Of the tribe of Judah

My hope is in the Lion next to me: The Lion of the tribe of Judah in whose shadow I run. In whose name I have life. Praise God his love was sacrificial and daily transforming. Praise God almighty that his name is

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

Praise God he knows my name, and though the enemy may wound me, he cannot take my life, for I have given it freely to my Lord, it belongs to him. But I still fear the wound the enemy may cause; so I watch.

Cry with me, pray with me

Today my souls cries in pain for this pastor that I love, that does not know me. Today I know, there but for the grace of God go I. Today I do not get haughty or take any joy, for that could just as quickly be me.
Today I am aware that I need your prayers just like this pastor does.