Monday, February 25, 2013

Serious Confidence

I heard fairly recently that a church authority said that he found charismatic Christians to act superior and overbearing.  In my contact with this authority, I found myself exchanging with him intensely when he expressed that I thought people we mutually knew were spiritually immature, and not even Christian, because I didn’t agree with them.   Honestly, my confidence in the Lord and in our relationship looks like spiritual superiority to some.  I don’t care.  I love God, and I love my neighbor, and I love what God has done and is doing in this world, and I want Christians to live out their destinies. 

I want to share a little about the confidence, I believe, we need to have in this season.  This comes from a recent conversation I had with April about a dream that was disturbing.  From Psalm 91, I read, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust (vss. 1 & 2).'” I encourage you to say out loud, “Lord, you are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 

We’re in a season in the Spirit where being a Christian who wants to be led by the Spirit and to live out of a divine destiny is serious business.  It’s always been serious, but because of what is in the wind these days, the enemy (which is not flesh and blood - love your neighbor) wants you stifled in your faith and in your growth. In many cases, the enemy just wants you dead because of what authority you live out of as a Spirit-filled lover of God and a lover of what God loves.  It’s serious!  Get serious about saying out loud in confidence, “Lord, you are my refuge and my fortress in whom I trust.” 

Look at the rest of Psalm 91 on your own.  David says the Lord will save you from pestilence, and in Him you’ll find refuge.  Particularly, he says, “You will not fear.”  If the enemy convinces you to be afraid, you won’t believe.  If you don’t trust in the One who has promised to be your refuge, fear will motivate your commitments and decisions.  Simply, you won’t live out of confidence in God, and YOU WON’T TAKE RISKS TO BRING ABOUT DELIVERANCE & HEALING FOR THOSE YOU LOVE.

Do not fear.  Be confident!  Be confident in God.  Be confident in the Spirit of God dwelling in you as you confess Christ as your savior & Lord.  Be confident that you can live empowered by the Spirit to be a conduit of grace, mercy, power & love.  Be confident.  Yes, it would be appropriate to live outwardly in a manner that is humble, but if your confidence in God splashes over into the laps of the religious . . . oh, well.

Finally, with confidence, read verses 9-16.  Focus your spirit on trusting the Lord as your refuge and confess your love for Him because He’s good to you.  See, all this is born of relationship – confidence and love for God & God’s protection, deliverance, honor and long life granted to us. 

We ain’t playin’ no mo.  There are too many people dying, too many sick, too many lost, too many broken and hopeless.  Just too many who don’t know how good & loving God really is.  And we got too many churches who ain’t doin’ what they been created to do – set the captives free!  Baby, this is serious business, and the Devil wants you hopeless, fearful, sick or dead.  This ain’t the life for the faint hearted.  But, the good news is, you’re created to do this stuff, and to be a conduit of love and power in Jesus’ name.  Put on your armor and confess loudly for the demons to hear, “The Lord is my refuge and my fortress in whom I trust.  I love Him and all that He loves!”  Alleluia!

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Nic Kind of Faith

I’ve worn glasses since I was in junior high.  I remember being told by the optometrist that I should just wear them to watch TV.  Once I started wearing them, I didn’t want to take them off because I could see perfectly.  I liked that.  I liked recognizing people from a distance.  I liked being able to judge a fly ball in addition to watching TV uninhibited by my imperfect eyesight.  So much for eyesight.  Here’s an observation . . .

John 3: 1-3 reads thusly, “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’  Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’”

Nic and his peeps knew Jesus was from God, but his observation is not on par with Peter’s confession or Martha’s declaration at her brother’s graveside that Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:27).  Yet, it’s close.  Despite this, we ain’t gonna talk theological semantics.  That’s a waste of time. 

What I do see in John 3 is Jesus’ imperative insistence that “yous can’t see nutin’” without the Holy Spirit.  No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above/anew.  Believing in divine revelation as truly coming from God is what God honors and, as was true for Abraham, it’s accredited to the believer as righteousness.  In this ion of time, the definitive divine revelation is Jesus is Lord.  Alleluia.  We don’t see this unless the Spirit reveals it, and we don’t see the Kingdom (the reign of God most magnificently manifested in Jesus) unless we’re born of the Spirit.  Trusting in God is our relationship with God, but it’s God who starts the ball rolling and ultimately honors our trust.  It’s our heavenly Daddy who wants our relationship with him reconciled and made whole.

I think if not for the Holy Spirit, the only divine presence on the earth and in our sphere of existence, we would be left with convincing nonbelievers and skeptics of the Jesus story by virtue of our own apologetic devices and advanced education.  When this doesn’t work, which it seldom does, we retreat to performance oriented activities to woo the same publics to our enclaves of like minded people.  After a generation of such attempts, we stop and become content with like minded and like generational “sisters and brothers” and wait for the designated authorities to come and tell the folks that remain that it’s time to close and lock the doors of our churches for the last time.  Oh, well.

We must be born of the Spirit, born again, born anew if we are to see who Jesus really is.  Giving accounts of what has happened and saying God must have done it does not reveal a faith born of the Spirit.  It’s simply observing and accounting for what has happened.  Jesus’ words to Nic in John 3:3 reveal where Nic really finds himself and what the mission of Jesus ultimately is – to open the door for a new creation of people born of “God stuff” that see and participate in the reign of God in this world. 

It’s been said often that confession of faith in Jesus as Lord will secure our eternal destiny.  Heck, I just said it.  Alleluia.  Heaven is our home.  I believe heaven will be running over with believers.  It’ll be great; however, the demons believe and tremble. 

Shoot, if you ain’t got nutin’ else goin’ on but faith in Jesus, run wit it.  I, however, believe that a Nic kind of faith based on story or observation isn’t enough.  Our destinies have more to do with living filled up with God in and through us to impact everyone and everything in this world.  The redemptive work of God in Christ isn’t finished in Biblical story form with Easter morning.  The redeeming work continued with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and will ultimately be completed in the New Heaven and New Earth. 

Being born of the Spirit isn’t merely saying my marriage was my wedding ceremony or sacrament.  A marriage is an on-going relationship.  Our life in God is not encapsulated by a salvation moment.  Our life in God is an on-going relationship with God in Christ as revealed to us regularly by the Spirit.  When we discount the Holy Spirit as too mysterious to be grasped or simply irrelevant or associated with behavior that unbecoming for dignified folk, we’re content with a confession that secures our eternal destiny, but we really don’t know, or care to know God revealed to us in Jesus. 

At the end of the encounter of Jesus and Nic, John does not give us a happy ending.  We’re left to wonder what Nic’s reaction was.  So it is with the Spirit.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Plenty Left Over

Not too long ago we cooked supper for our daughter’s friends.  They all gathered in our house to study together and watch movies after supper.  April had already planned to make spaghetti.  Anna wasn’t sure how many of the friends were coming.  She finally firmed up a number and told her mom.  April said to me that we needed to get more spaghetti.  She doubled the recipe for the sauce and the amount of pasta.  The girls ended up eating their fill, and, of course there was plenty left over.  One pot full that we normally cook would’ve been enough.  We’re still eating leftover spaghetti.  Hey, no complaints from me.

Plenty left over.  I read from John 2 recently about the wedding feast in Cana.  They were about to run out of wine, and Mary went to Jesus and told him.  He was reluctant to do anything, but she went to the servants nearby and told them to do whatever he told him.  You know the story, water jars, fill them up, best wine when everyone’s tipsy, first of his signs, disciples believed in him.  Great story!  And, yes, there’s plenty of Eucharistic imagery in the purification reference, water, wine.  I know, and that’s great, too.

Plenty left over.  That’s the thing to me today, and I really believe we don’t want to dwell on this part of the story.  I actually believe we’re hesitant to openly discuss God’s heart to give abundantly out of grace.  We’re more inclined to talk about what we’re supposed to do first and God’ll give back in response. Anyway, I’m not going to talk about giving today.  This abundance thing is the deal today.

Plenty left over.  It was the responsibility of the groom’s family to make sure the food and wine lasted long enough to satisfy everyone who came to the wedding banquet.  That’s what prompted Mary to seek out Jesus to do something.  “They have no wine,” she said.  His response, “My hour has not yet come,” is clearly a referencing to his pending redemptive crucifixion and resurrection and the wine being an allegory for his precious blood.  I’m cool with that.  Mary misses his prophetic metaphor and tells the servants to stay on their toes for what he’ll tell them.  Her insistent behavior is worthy talking about later, but, again, that’s not where I’m going.

Plenty left over.   From Jesus’ directions, they fill up six water jars used for a purification ritual (it’s like going to into the sacristy and taking the communion trays and glasses and using them for a party) – 20 to 30 gallons in each.  Here’s the deal, one would be enough.  He can make his point with one.  He can make his point without 12 baskets of bread left over after feeding thousands many days later.  Why so much left over?  Ya know, some of that’s going to be wasted.  The steward tells the bridegroom who was responsible to keep the bar supplied and buffet filled and said that most pull out the lousy wine to drink after everyone’s drunk, “but you kept the good wine until now.”

“No, Jeff, don’t go on some tangent that get’s us away from the primary purpose of the Christ, to cleanse and redeem.”  Hey, I’m with ya, and there’s plenty left over!

120-180 gallons of wine.  That’s nuts.  That’s crazy!  That’s God!

This is God’s heart.  Pressed down, shaken together, running over shall men heap into your bosom.  This is God’s heart, to give until you can’t take anymore.  I honestly believe we don’t look at God this way.  We think God will give only enough, grace, blessing, provision so we can prove to God we can handle more.  There’s probably some truth in that, but when we translate that into lowering our expectations of grace and invest our passions into what we can do first, we miss God. 

Hey, you Protestants!  It's amazing grace! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Yellow Hat

Oh, I was involved in the last throws of moving, relocating, the last steps of transition.  It amounted to carrying the last of our bulk garbage to the city dump.  To take this stuff that couldn’t fit in our garbage can to the dumb reluctantly seemed to symbolize the season we were leaving – just too much crap to easily dispose of so you have to live with it for too long.

Anyway, with the seats out of the back of the minivan, I load it up with the aforementioned garbage and head across down.  I put the CD player on and listened to a Bethel Live cut that made me laugh and cry as I drove across town and thanked God fervently for his grace and mercy for this season and for all that glory and power and love that was coming to set so many free.  Oh, yeah!

It began to rain.  I stopped at a stop sign.  A gentleman with a backpack crossed in front of me walking quickly in the rain.  I’ve come to the place where if someone gets my attention because they catch my eye or pass by me, I’ll check my spirit to see if there was a degree of compassion that had arisen in my heart for that heart.  If there was a connection, I’ll try to follow the Spirit to minister accordingly in deed or word.

There was a heart connection.  As I made it through the stop sign and turned left, I shouted to my new friend, “Hey, you need a hat! You want one?”  Now, when I was turning, the connection and deed amounted to a desire to give the guy my yellow hat I was wearing because it was raining.  He stopped and said, “Yeah.”  He ran quickly to the car with a smile.  I said, “Here. God bless.”  He responded with, “Thank you.” 

Psalm 41: 1-3 reads, “Blessed is he who has regard for the poor; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.  The Lord will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The Lord will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”

Dare I make a link between a selfless act and a passage of scripture I’m about to interpret selfishly?  Hey, don’t like the blog?  Don’t waste your time.  See ya.

Blessed or happy are those who have regard for the poor.  I wasn’t looking to act.  I found myself acting in connection with the Spirit.  I found myself regarding one who didn’t have and I gave. 

From a place of hearing and following the Spirit and acting accordingly, I stand in relationship with the One who simply wants partners in this world who will co-labor with him.  And, ya know what?  The King of kings will honor your obedience and love selflessly shared.  Even by using a yellow hat on a rainy day.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Stupid Score Card

I don't like golf.  I'm not against it.  I just don't like it.  I hear that when you're serious about it, you keep score (another reason I don't like it).  You're given a score card to record your score per hole, and when you're finished, you add up your score, and you're given a prize or something.  Its odd.  Its just odd.

It is pretty remarkable how determined we are as Christians to satisfy the religious rules that the Bible refers to as the Law while we would never, in any circumstance, say we need to do the right things to win God’s approval (Would we?).  We may assert freely the power of grace, and grace alone, to save and deliver, but we fall back into doing what we think needs to be done to satisfy an angry God that taps his foot with a scowl of his face because we’re suppose to do so much better than we do. 

OK, before you click off this post (you can if you want), or comment that my previous musings are the reason why the church appears to be so compromising in this era, let me share what I found in that rather radical volume of teachings entitled Holy Bible.

Galatians 5:16-18 reads, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For what flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.” 

What the Spirit of God does in and through us when we surrender to him is life giving and enhancing.  What the flesh does is selfish and greedy and compromises every relationship we have for the sake of greed and lust.  Paul writes elsewhere in the New Testament that the Law (Old Testament rules and regulations) exists merely to point out sin.  If we live in such a manner as to keep a score card – more rules kept than rules broken gets us in heaven to appease an angry, pissed off God – than Jesus died for nothing.  Sorry, Jesus died for everything! He died so we can not live to seek God’s favor, but to live from God’s favor.  He’s an outrageously good Daddy!

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  Living by the Spirit and producing fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22, 23) is truly living.  All the dos and don’ts are addressed.  All the law and the words of prophets in the Old Testament are summed up in loving God and loving your neighbor (Matthew 22: 37-40). 

If we’re led by the Spirit, we are not under the law.  Living and being led by the Holy Spirit will do all the doing we’re suppose to do in this world.  The Spirit of God will lead us as the Holy Spirit led Jesus.  His crucifixion and resurrection cleaned us up and, as we believe in what he’s done for us by dying in our place and then rising victoriously, the Spirit of God himself wants live in us freely and lead us powerfully.  This is the ultimate desire of God Almighty – to live in and through us as his children and to be just like his Son and bring heaven to earth.

See, God is love, and God wants his love to flow freely in and through us, and it happens when we’re more prone to seek the infilling of his Spirit rather than keeping a stupid score card.  Throw the stupid score card away, and usher the grotesque, 800 lb. primate out of your house.  GOD ISN’T ANGRY.  “Oh, yeah, he is!”  Oh, no, you’re wrong.  God sent his Son to die as a sinner in your place so that you can be just like Jesus in this world and bring heaven to earth.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Silent or Raw

She sits quietly and says nothing.  He walks in and can’t keep his mouth shut.  Your friend can’t help but share her heart.  Your neighbor always keeps to himself even when you initiate the conversation.  We’re all just a little bit different.

I read this morning from Psalm 62.  “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He alone is my rock & my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (vss. 1 & 2).  Then verses 5-7, “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my deliverance & my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.”

My soul waits in silence; then, “trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” – Ps. 62:8.  One part of me waits in silence for my salvation.  Another part of me, in trust, pours out my heart to him.  Yes, that’s right.  “Well, which should I do?”  Yes.  Wait in silence and pour out your heart.  Cheese & crackers, you’re a complicated being.

We could be silent and not waiting, not hoping in much at all.  There could be the pouring out of one’s heart w/o trust but just unceasing expressions that fills the environment with raw emotion.

Wait in silence for God alone.  See, John the Baptist’s father should have known this prior to his open, expressed doubt that God was actually going to do a great work in him and his wife.  Gabriel shut his mouth until John was born.  “Zach, it was better for you to wait in silence.  The Lord has spoken.  Wait in silence.  He’s your salvation, rock and fortress.  Woohoo!” 

The Lord alone is my salvation.  I ain’t tossed about with quivering and shaking.  He’s it.  I’m his and He is mine.

At all times, I’m trusting in Him & pouring out myself to Him whom I trust.  He’s a refuge for all of us.  I’m safe to pour out myself to Him.  Why? Because He’s my refuge.  God’s a place TO BE.  In him, I trust.  Neither waiting nor expressing is done outside of relationship with Him.  He meets us where we are and how we are.  Silent or raw, it’s all good.  Love the Lord dearly.