Saturday, March 30, 2013

Believe As He Did

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
-- Hebrews 4: 14-16

On Holy Saturday we could be caught up in the colorless sanctuary and the institutional encouragement within our denominational boundaries to not read any gospel passages today in order to abide in the abandonment of Christ in death and to not dare speak an Alleluia short of midnight Sunday morning.  Well, whatever brings you closer to Christ.  If it simply makes you more religious, abandon such prescribed practices.  If it brings you into a deeper encounter with the God who has not abandoned you, go for it.

I read from the Daily Office this morning Hebrews 4: 14-16.  It caught me.  Our great high priest knows what it is to experience weakness and to be tempted and to not sin.  Alleluia! (Oops)  So, approach the throne of grace boldly and find mercy and grace in our time of need.

He knows what it is to be weak and suffering and abandoned and hurting and lacking because of what it is to be human and to be dead.  He knows what it is to be tempted and did not sin.  Yea, we could reference sin as sex outside of marriage or abortion or cheating on taxes or stealing or murder, etc.  I don’t think this is the point from all of Hebrews 4.

Hebrews 4 and 5 speaks of entering rest with God by trusting him.
While the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For indeed the good news came to us just as to them; but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest . . .
-- Hebrews 1: 1-3a

We who believe enter that rest.  Jesus experienced weakness and testing but did not sin.  Jesus didn’t doubt what was to be done through him.  He said he was to be raised from the dead on the third day and all who believed in him would also know resurrection life.  The temptation was to doubt, especially knowing death on Holy Saturday.

Our temptation in light of Hebrews 4 is to doubt God, to doubt that God knows what it is to go through what you’re going through in this season.  Lay hold of the confession that he is our great high priest who knows what it is to be like us in our testing, to not believe God the Father.  He did not sin by doubting.  He now invites us to come boldly into the throne of grace trusting that a way has been made for us.  He invites us to come to the throne of grace and find help in our time of need.  This is outrageous!  This is good!  This is our God!

Great God, holy Father, we worship you wholeheartedly.  We trust you because you invite us into the throne room to receive all we need this day.  I simply say, “I thank you, and I love you.”  Alleluia!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Weep, He Hears

Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.  The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror; they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.  – Psalm 6: 8-10

Oh, there are days when they won’t leave you alone.  They’re relentless.  They complain about your voice and clothing and career choice and driving habits.  And then spring break is over and they go back to school.

Just kidding.

I read this Psalm the other morning.  The joy of a child rose up within me because my great Father was for me and not against me.  I stood in front of the bullies of the neighborhood knowing that my hero stood behind. 

“Get outta here, ya jerks!” 

There have seldom been times when my weeping was audible, but my great Defender could hear me when I cried.  He could hear me.  He could hear me when no one else could.  He could not only hear my cries, but my supplications, my petitions, my prayers.  He heard them and accepted them.  Was I to pray in certain forms or fashions?  Was I to pray only when my faith was strong and durable?  I wept.  I prayed, and he accepted my expressions.

Then there was a wonderful turn in the confrontation with the stupid bullies, those principalities, powers & rulers of this dark age.  They caught a glimpse of who stood behind me, the great & strong Defender.  Yes!  Yes!  They are ashamed!  Hurray!  And best yet, they’re godsmack with terror!  They turn around and experience shame!  This is great!

Seriously, we are blessed because our God hears our weeping and our prayers and accepts them.  The workers of evil are, at best or worst, cut flowers beginning to reek. The joy of this episode is found in the tender mercy and grace of a heavenly Father who will not abandon us to evil.  He will hear our weeping and insistence for relief regardless of our station or position in the Kingdom, regardless of our religious training or biblical knowledge or insight.  “He accepts my prayer.”  This is grace.  This is steadfast love. 

Great God, loving Father, I speak with confidence in you.  I speak in confidence in all you have done for me in love & mercy.  Great God, I love you.    Depart from us in our families and among our friends and in our church, you doers and workers of evil, because the Lord has heard the sound of our weeping.  The Lord, the God of heaven & earth, has heard our supplications.  The Lord accepts all our prayers.  Alleluia to the Lamb!

Friday, March 22, 2013

For Granted

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!  Take hold of shield and buckler, and rise up to help me!  Draw the spear and javelin
    against my pursuers; say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” – Psalm 35: 1-3

I read this Psalm this week.  It spoke to me honestly.  It’s a prayer from David.  It could be a prayer from many of us these days.  I’m not going to be one of those that emphasizes the poetry and deemphasizes the personification of an active God.  I don’t care if I say without hesitation that our cause is God’s cause.  Does that sound childish?  Excellent!  You’ve got time to log off and do something more constructive and adult-like on the internet, like checking your blessed NCAA bracket, than to read this childish dribble. Count this as a mature warning.

Great God, as you take your place as a mighty warrior for my sake and for the sake of the cause you’ve birthed in me, speak to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

Biblical history shows when God speaks things are created, change, or arise.  As David prays, he strongly desires Yahweh to speak and for circumstances to change.  Then, of course, what does David want God to say to his innermost being?

This passage reminded me of the story in the beginning of John 5.  The invalids, blind and paralyzed gathered at the pool of Bethzatha/Bethesda/Bethsaida (whatever) in Jerusalem waiting for the water to be stirred by an angel. The first one in after the stirring was made well (this could have always been a hit gameshow, if there was T.V. back then).  The really lame darlings would never make it, but hope was obviously springing up.

Jesus spoke to one man who’d been there a long time and asked him if he wanted to be well.  A conversation ensued which led to Jesus healing him.  The religious asked the man why he was carrying his mat on the sabboth.  The guy said that the man who healed him told him to carry it, and he couldn’t tell the religious who healed him.  Jesus found him later to remind him who it was that healed him.  It was Jesus.  It was this guy’s important role to remember and testify who it was that healed him.   

Great God, as you take your place as a mighty warrior for my sake and for the sake of the cause you’ve birthed in me, speak to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

Jesus’ name in Hebrew is yesh·ü'·ä.  It’s interpreted as I am your salvation, or simply salvation.  This is the word that’s used in Psalm 35:3 – “say to me, ‘I am your salvation.’”  I like the idea that David prayed for God to say to his soul, “Jesus,” to bring assurance to David as God stands as his defender. 

The healed man in John 5 didn’t know who healed him.  David knew from whence his help would come. 

In John 6, Jesus said he was the bread of life; “whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6:51)” This encouraged many to leave Jesus because this revelation was too hard to stomach.  The miracle of feeding thousands was cool and awe-inspiring earlier in John 6, but if this was suppose to lead the blessed to crave Jesus (I am your salvation) more than their next meal, that’s foolish. 

Great God, as you take your place as a mighty warrior for my sake and for the sake of the cause you’ve birthed in me, speak to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

Isn’t it the miracle we need?  Isn’t it the wellness and peace and defense we need first?  Isn’t it the full plate and sober spouse what’s most important?  And what is most true in the western church, isn’t it the work we do to show our faithfulness that’s most significant?  

If the defense comes as God promised and healing is manifested after your friends prayed for you or your church grows to mega-proportions, but you easily live your life apart from what is whispered in your soul and you take the Name for granted for any number of reasons.  Revelation may very well come to you that is rich with the Spirit, but you’ll find it too hard to swallow and you simply walk away from it all ‘cause it’s just too hard.

We must stop taking the name of Jesus for granted after we get what we want or need – however it comes.  Surprising to some (if not all), when the Name and the related attributes are an afterthought, this is evidence that we remain on the throne.

David closes out Psalm 35 with this.  Let those who desire my vindication shout for joy and be glad, and say evermore, “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant.”  Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all day long  (verses 27-28).

Great God, as you take your place as a mighty warrior for the sake of your children and for the sake of the cause you’ve birthed in us, speak to our souls, “I am your salvation.”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

From God

This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. – Psalm 118: 23

April and I just had a marvelous conversation.  It came at a time when I felt a little misguided and troubled about where we are and what we’re doing.  The conversation’s tenor and tone revealing the goodness of God for our sakes and for the sake of those who have yet to taste hoe good God is.

We found ourselves talking about the difference between working for God and working from God.  We’ve worked professionally for God for over 20 years.  There’s very little we’ve individually or collectively regret about ministry over the last two decades, but we operated in the church for God.  We presumed much from scripture, tradition, experience and reason.  It always positioned us to work for God and to his glory.  That’s not bad.  Its ok.

What has caused a significant shift in our lives is the Lord revealing to us the power of working from God, instead of for God.  Working from God is from a place of reckless pursuit of the God that loves beyond all reason.  Working from God is listening for his voice and encouragement from scripture and experience and taking steps of faith.  Working from God is resting in a trust relationship with a God who is always good and always in a good mood.  Working from God is knowing that we’re sowing seed and not every patch of ground is able to receive what is sown, but that doesn’t deter us because his steadfast love endures forever.

You may say, “I don’t see the difference between from and for.”  Ok, I’m not saying that one perspective is good and one perspective is bad.  I am, however, saying that we so often, to quote Oswald Chambers, trade the best for the good.  Working for God, taking scripture and tradition and applying it to actions of love and justice and peace because we’ve been taught so, is good.  Working from God, from a place of peace and salvation and from a life where encounters with a God (either through liturgy or free flowing worship) who loves outrageously are the norm-whether small or great.  Working from that place is not based on our own effort and insistence.  Working from that place of assurance and peace does not produce anxiety.  It produces joy.  John Wesley said the primary characteristic of a Christian is joy. 

Simply said, working for God is to please him (that’s good).  Working from God is knowing he’s already pleased with us (that’s best).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Are Ya Gonna Do?

I read this last night, and I find it still to be controversial.

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
--John 6: 28-29

I don’t find it troubling in the context of conversing with non-believers.  Non-believers aren’t shocked by the stalwart nature of Jesus’ answer to the question. The controversy is found within the church.  I’m not going to spend anytime or space talking about the varying perspectives and interpretations of these verses.  Anybody who’s read any of my posts has a lock on what I believe and value in the Christian message.  Among believers, the answer to the “what must we do” question is usually found in the words of John the Baptist in the gospel of Luke:

And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” – Luke 3:10-14

The crowd asking about the “doing” has come from the revelation that God is about to reveal the Messiah to his covenant people. So, prepare yourselves.  John the B insisted that the hearers of his message come into connection with the revelation of the coming Messiah.  With what you’ve heard, what should you do?

Jesus in the inquiry in John 6 doesn’t give quite the same answer.  He invites the hearers into a relationship in whom God has sent.  The controversy is, “How does this change this corrupted, sinful, abusive, mean, nasty, ugly world?  We’ve got a lot of believers in Jesus, but the world seems to be getting worse!” 

Well, it is debatable whether the world is truly getting worse or better. Secondly, it’s true, there are a lot of believers in Christ, but there could be a lot more repentance and changes in behaviors to affect the world at large.  I’m with ya, and that’s the controversy.   Talk is cheap, whether you’re a repenting, occupying soldier or a hand raising worshiper on Sunday.

Of course, Peter doesn’t help matters in Acts 2 on the day the church is born with the coming of the Holy Spirit in power.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.—Acts 2: 37-38

Here, Peter does mention repentance, and he mentions the name of Jesus for forgiveness and the receiving of the Holy Spirit.  But, what about the “doing” to fix the world?  I’m all for the doing, and I’m all for the believing, and not all talk is cheap.  Some talk and writing costs the speaker and the writer.  Take my word for it.

This has brought me to where April and I find ourselves. 

We’ve been worshiping and praying with a group of folks, first, in our home, and now at a building offered to us to use on Wednesdays for our gatherings.  This stems from a vision April and I have nurtured of heaven coming to earth on Sand Mountain. 

A few Wednesdays ago, one of our new friends prayed for April and me.  After she finished, April had a strong sense in the Spirit that a covering of grace was made available for everybody in the room.  Then she had an encounter with Christ.  Jesus stood in front of her and said, “I am giving you my anointing.”  She was awestruck, and then thought, of course, “What does that mean?”

About a week later, she came to understand what Christ’s anointing was.  The Holy Spirit directed her to Isaiah 61. 

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.  They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.  --Isaiah 61: 1-4

This is the anointing, the covering, the smearing of the Spirit that we’re under in these days.  We will bring good news, bind up, proclaim, comfort, provide in order that these freshly blessed will display his glory, build up, raise up and repair the devastations of many generations.  This is what the Lord has in store for us and all who join us.

Ok, smarty pants, what are ya gonna do? 

We got here by pursuing the Lord with all we have.  At key places and times, the opportunity was given to us to withdraw from the passion and settle into a conventional place of traditional ministry and be content because the risk-taking was too hard.  Fairly consistently, we choose the risk-taking and pursuing.  I particularly was confronted with renouncing my passion in the Spirit because the conventional church found me to be an agent of destruction rather than a prophetic voice.  I publicly declared that there was nothing I regretted in my words or actions.  It was the proudest I had ever been in myself!  I then took steps to withdraw from formal ministry in pursuit of the anointing under which we find ourselves.

Under this empowerment from the Spirit, it is our conviction and belief that the “doing” is and will take care of itself.  Lives are and will continue to be impacted physically and spiritually by virtue of this anointing for this season. 

We’ve come to this place because April and I have wanted more of God than anything else.  In wanting more of him, we have and will continue to be positioned and strengthened to bring healing and deliverance to many on this mountain and beyond. The “doing” takes care of itself when we pursue the One who so loves the world. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's Supposed to Be Easy

Our kids have always attended public school.  With that, we’ve always tried to address the issue of the lunchtime meal fairly with our children.  What would you like for lunch?  Did you want to eat what the cafeteria provided or to take your lunch?  If so, what would you like to eat?  Neither option was a gourmet meal.  Everyone knew that.  What would you like for us to do for you?

For our oldest, it ended up coming down to convenience for him.  For our youngest, it has come down to nutrition.  Both our kids are funny.  I guess we’ve been funny as parents, too.  The kids have proven to not be so finicky over the years which helped.  As parents, we’ve stuck to a budget while still offering options.  All of this involved conversation and negotiation, experimentation and appreciation.  What a lot of work to keep kids happy!

Last night, I read a portion of John 6.  In this portion, Jesus speaks to a crowd that followed him from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other.  This was a very intentional effort on their part.  They did not want to lose contact with him.  At the beginning of John 6 a growing crowd assembled near Jesus, and he asked Philip where they could buy bread to feed such a large crowd.  It was projected that half a year’s wages wasn’t enough to buy what would be necessary to feed such a crowd.  Then a child’s lunch was pointed out by Andrew, but what difference would that make to feed so many?  Jesus then takes it, breaks to up and distributes it in order to feed everyone.   Everyone is fed and leftovers collected.  Very cool.

These that followed him the next day to Capernaum were looking for Jesus because they had eaten their fill of bread the day before.  Jesus then speaks to them about their lives.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.
--John 6:27

It is believed that in Jesus’ day there were, what are now called, people of the land.  They were believed to be culturally, economically, and perhaps religiously, disenfranchised folks that had no land or resources of their own, and it was these particular folks that were attracted to Jesus’ work and message.  It could be said that these in John 6 could fit that description.  Hungry, disconnected, wandering people mystified by the feeding of thousands with a kid’s lunch through the blessing hands of this itinerant rabbi. 

These could be migrant workers who followed the seasons to find work, or they could be itinerant laborers who followed the rumors of where to find work.  Regardless, they worked to find him who fed them yesterday, and then he tells them today not to work for food that perishes.  How insensitive could he be?  Sorry, the food that perishes is the only food my family can eat.  They’re not finicky.  They’re just human. 

Ya know? Jesus does care about our hungers, but we’re not supposed to define ourselves by our hungers or hurts or scares.   In Mark 8, he’s confronted by the professionally religious who ask for a sign.  He tells them one won’t be given to this generation.  He gets in a boat to go across the lake and warns his friends about the yeasts of the Pharisees and Herod.  They can tell he’s upset and say to one another, “It’s because we have not bread.”  No, folks, bread is not an issue for your Lord.  He understands hunger and knows what it is.  Like he told his friends,

“Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.”
--Mark 8:17-19

The learners (disciples) of Jesus were to learn of his divinity and be witnesses of it in the world, as well as, to do as he did in this world to point to and advance the Kingdom of God.  THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE WHEN GOD REIGNS – AND HE DOES!  Feeding the hungry is supposed to be easy for us because it was easy for him.

What are your true hungers?  Jesus wanted the crowd who followed him in John 6 to know what they were truly hungry for.  In fact, as the story continues in this chapter, he tells them they will only be satisfied ultimately by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. With that, virtually everybody leaves him except for his disciples.  He asks if they’re next to leave.  Peter tells him they have no place to go (a new configuration of the people of the land).  Peter then says, as Bill Johnson puts it, “When you speak, we come alive inside.”

The physical hunger was addressed by Jesus, and, in fact, he wanted his close friends to understand and perceive that all the needs of this world can be addressed by us because they were addressed by him.  He is our source.  If the Spirit leads you in passion to feed the hungry, trust this same Jesus will provide for you or direct you to resources to feed thousands miraculously and lovingly.  Alleluia.  Lack of resources or knowledge should not impede us.  It ought to be easy for us.   

The church’s business is not to work from a place of human ingenuity (or even passion) to get the work done. For Jesus’ friends, it’ll begin and remain in relationship with him – clinging like a loincloth (Jeremiah 13:11) – to meet the needs of the world.  Feeding the hungry (whatever the hunger is) is supposed to be easy for us because it was easy for him.

Seeing the hungry fed and prisoners of all forms and fashions set free miraculously positions all the witnesses of such to confess freely and confidently, “When he speaks, we come alive inside.”  Feeding the hungry is supposed to be easy for us because it was easy for him. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

No Daylight Between

I believe it was on a Sunday night that I was leading worship and preaching at a church where I was the associate pastor.  In the message, I retold a Tony Campolo story where the climax was Tony saying, “I belong to a church that gives birthday parties to whores.”  The ecclesiological and missional significance of the statement was not what took the air out of the room.  It was the use of the word whore.  That’s what rattled the upper-middle class sensibilities of St. Mark.  I remember meeting with the senior pastor Monday morning and him telling me, “Boy, you like pushing the envelope, don’t you?”

That story came to mind while I was contemplating a prophetic parable I read this morning from Jeremiah 13.  I cannot recall reading this account before.  The prophetic image in the story is that of a linen loincloth.  With that, some of us are already retracting into a religious fetal position, and some reread the previous sentences to make sure they read it accurately.   “Loincloth?  I told my teenage son he should read this blog.  Maybe I need to rethink all that if he’s going to use the words whore or loincloth.”  Well, you ain’t read nothin’ yet, and it’s all in the Bible (so is the word whore).

The Lord tells Jeremiah to buy one (a whore? No, that’s another Bible story of a different prophet – a linen loincloth. Are you sure ya want to teach this stuff to kids?).  He was to wear it without dipping it in water (ouch!), take it to the Euphrates and hide it.  Then the Lord tells him to go back and find it.  He digs it up from where he buried it and finds it ruined, useless for anything.  Today we’d throw it in the Maytag and see if we can get it clean enough to use.  In the story, the ruined cloth symbolized what the Lord was to do to the pride of Israel and Jerusalem.

The loin cloth when dipped in water will cling to one’s loins.  I remember being a kid and taking baths.  Our mother had wash cloths available for us to use in the bathtub.  I was a kid.  I used mine as a toy whenever and however I could.  I learned early a wet cloth could adhere easily to any part of the body and any fixture in a bathroom. 

Jeremiah 13:11 reads:  For as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory.  But they would not listen.

The image of a wet loincloth cling to the loins is not a secondary, borderline irrelevant referencing in the story.  It’s everything in the story.  The NRSV uses ‘cling’ in verse 11.  The Hebrew uses the verb ‘dabaq’ (if that matters to anyone) - defined as cling, stick, stay close, cleave, keep close, stick to, stick with, follow closely, join to.  I’d put it this way – no daylight between.  A damp loincloth, so we’re to cling to the Lord.  A dry linen loincloth would not cling and, in fact, would irritate the loins. 

An idolatrous people refuse to hear his word, stubbornly follow their own way.  It’s essential to realize that the words of the prophets in the Old Testament are spoken and written to a covenantal people, bone of God’s bone, flesh of God’s flesh.  Such words were calls to repentance and faithfulness in relationship with the God of their foreparents.  The harshest words, by far, Jesus uttered were directed to the culturally and institutionally religious.  They make disciples twice as fit for hell as there themselves (Matthew 23:15).  There’s plenty of idolatry and self-seeking, self-righteousness unchecked and tenaciously defended and masked as faithfulness in the church.  Can we accurately describe the 21st century western church in its relationship with her Lord as a damp loincloth clinging to loins?  “Oh, I wouldn’t dare!  It’s so inappropriate.” 

Simply because the cloth is in the vicinity of the loins doesn’t mean it clings.  Folks, if your religious practices and doctrines and dogmas don’t lead you into a deeper walk with Jesus, clinging to loins, no daylight between, then you’re just religious, and I pray you’re not making converts and sitting them in the pew next to you. 

Clinging to our Father, Son & Holy Spirit – no daylight between – is what the Lord longs of us. 

Nothing between my soul and my Savior,
So that His blessed face may be seen;
Nothing preventing the least of His favor;
Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Path From Egypt

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119: 105)”

April had a dream recently.  She and I were walking on a bridge. We were carrying our oldest.  He was an infant in a baby carrier.  We were also accompanied by another family member who in past dreams represented the institutional church.  At the point that we had finishing crossing the bridge, April looked back and saw me helping the other family member walk along.  She looked passed us wondering where the baby was.  She saw him in the carrier behind us fussing and thrashing about trying to get out of it.  She told me, “Go get him.”  I stopped and looked at her.  She said it again more emphatically, “Go get him!”  I left the other family member and went after our son.

I knew what it was all about when she told me about the dream.  I’m slow afoot lately.  I’m expressing reluctance about going forward with what God has inspired both of us to go for.  In weak moments I’m posing the option of returning to our former way of life and ministry in the institutional church as a means of security; not as a means of following the calling of the Spirit in ministry.  That’s me caring for the slow going family member and leaving our infant, the fledgling ministry and newly embraced identity, behind.

Months ago I sensed a new understanding of what the institutional church was for us.  I believed it served as a kind of Egypt for us for a long time.  Egypt was a secure place for the patriarchs in the Old Testament when they needed protection, but then became slavery.  Then in the fullness of time, God heard the cries of the Hebrews in bondage and raised Moses up to bring his people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.  April and I were told prophetically 3 ½ years ago that we were moving out of Egypt and heading to the Promised Land.  That thrilled us.  We didn’t know what it meant, but it thrilled us.   We know what it means now.

April’s recent dream echoes for me the Hebrews wanting to return to Egypt (with me being the one abandoning the new life and vision for the sake of sticking with the old ways).  Again, as I said, in weak moments I’ve sounded like the Hebrews wanting to return to the flesh bots of Egypt because it would be more secure than walking in the wilderness, not knowing where we were headed.  God, forgive me.

“Your word is a lamp to me feet and a light to my path.” 

Feet and path denote for me walking and setting out on a journey of faith.  God’s word for us has been and continues to be a lamp & light, a guidance system.  The Word has been and will be our security.  God’s revelation to us will give us guidance as we journey the path he’s set for us and others in these days. 

I am human, but this is not an excuse to abandon the Way set before us, or, more pointedly, to return to Egypt for the sake of supposed security.  The Lamp and the Light will provide all the guidance we may need for these days. 

Great God, you are the source of our being and the life we crave.  We trust you.  You are our refuge and our fortress, my God in whom we trust.  Provide for us all we need so that we will always be position to bless your world which you love, and to declare your will boldly over this nation so that many will taste and see how outrageously good you are.  You are worthy of all praise. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Go Ahead

“I want to trust God more,” you say.  The biblical response is, “Go ahead.” 

“No, no, you don’t understand.  My faith is tiny, and I just want to trust God more.”

“Oh, well, if you’ve faith the size of a seed, you can move mountains.  Amount ain’t the deal.  Do you have any is the question.  Maybe you don’t believe God at all.”

You could believe the story of Jesus, and that he was raised from the dead.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you believe God, or that you’re even a Christian.  Seriously, that’s an o.k. place to be, for now.  It’s better to concede that you have no faith than to discount what faith you have. 

Hebrews 11: 6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  Do you believe he exists?  Bingo.  Are you aware he rewards those who diligently seek him?  Ah, that’s the deal.  This you’re not sure about.  This is why finding yourself in a church/community/family, however small or big, that believes he rewards those who seek him is significant.  It’ll help.  I guarantee, it’ll help.

It’s in a church/community/family that you’ll observe folks that have a relationship with the One who appears, at times, to be the big unknown.  They’ll tell you stories of encounters and prayers answered and questions answered and doubts minimized and wonderful moments of assurance and dreams and visions and scores of other things that can only be attributed to a God that loves.

Take a look at what I read today from Psalm 78:  “The Ephraimites, armed with the bow, turned back on the day of battle.  They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law.  They forgot what he had done, and the miracles that he had shown them (Psalm 78: 9-11).”  The Ephraim nation (the northern nation of Israel) became a community, evidently, that had forgotten how good God was and their culture was growing aimless morally.  When the day of battle came, they were cowards. 

God is good and does good (Ps. 119: 68).  He sought me out and found me, assured me of forgiveness of sin in his name, blessed me with his Spirit and abilities and callings and growing purposes so that many others might know him.  Jesus revealed the reign and kingdom of God on earth so that we’d experience life abundant, making all things new in his name and for his glory.   I am his child.  This denotes a clear understanding of relationship.  I trust him.  I don’t always understand, but I love him.  As I, or anybody else, give testimony of these things, faith comes as a seed and germinates in the hearts of the hearers.  Great things are now at hand because of what God has done and is doing.

Want to grow strong in your faith (that’s the thing – it’s the strength of faith) and trust in Daddy God? Check out Romans 4: “No distrust made (Abraham) waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  Therefore his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4: 20-22).”

To give glory to God is to worship and give praise from deep within yourself to God.  Abe’s reason to praise & worship was because he was convinced God was able to do what he promised.  Our advantage in living as believing people is found in being among those who give accounts of how good God is.  The accounts, testimonies, stories lead us to be fully convinced that our God is able to do glorious things of redemption and salvation and healing in and through us to a world and nations and families God so loves.  This denotes a clear understanding of relationship.  Alleluia!

Want to grow strong in faith?  Give glory to God.  Want to give glory to God?  Be fully convinced that God can do what God’s promised.  To be fully convinced you gotta look at what he’s done.  He has done and is doing a lot!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Anger or Passion

I’ve been angry with God these last couple days.

I recall being on a Kairos weekend at Limestone Correctional Facility in Limestone County.  At one point in the weekend, there was a snack break for everyone.  I found myself talking with one of the inmates who sat at my table.  He told me that his mother had recently died.  She told him if he returned to prison, it would kill her.  He said it did, and he said it must have been God’s will.  It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. 

I decided to approach this from a relational standpoint.  I asked him if he’d talked about this with God.  He looked at me weird.  He said no.  I asked him if held God responsible.  He did.  With that he began to tear up.  As he began to walk away from me I grabbed by the arm and told him it would be good for him to tell God he was angry.  “He’s big enough to take it, and you won’t have a sound relationship with God until you’re honest with him.  He’s big enough to take it, and he’ll still love you.”

Yesterday, I attended my orientation with a local insurance company that hired me.  I left there shaking my head.  I was a good Do-bee and did everything they asked of me and played the good soldier standing in the ranks.  As I was making my way home, I grew angry.  I was angry with myself.  I really knew what this was going to be and what they would ask of me.  It was going to be total commission, and I was going to be responsible for all my salary.  Hey, it works for some.  I was angry with me because I knew I couldn’t do this, and I should have known this from the beginning.  It’s just not how I’m wired.  It may not make sense, but I was angry with me.

By time I got home, I was angry with God.  “You know, I’m not wired this way.  This is the only door you’ve opened for me.  After all the applications I’ve filled out and interviews, sales positions are the only jobs available to me?  Dog gone you anyway!” 

I remembered earlier that day I’d prayed for the Lord to give me wisdom liberally for the day ahead.  Well, I believe now that wisdom had emerged.  This is not the job for me.  That bit of revelation didn’t help me get over the anger.  I figured I deserved a bit of anger.  It was my turn.  By time evening came, two things stuck with me.  One, I would not passionately be a team player for this company.  Second, it was the Lord’s heart to give abundantly – too much fish, too much bread, too much wine.  It was God’s turn to give us abundantly.  We need it, and it’s his turn to put out.

This morning I read from Psalm 69. “ Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.  I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God (vss. 1-3). . . But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.  With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.  Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me. (vss. 13-15)”

I’d grown tired of being angry.  I went to an old tool of mine in my devotion to Daddy.  I said, “When you pray, believe you receive it, and you shall have it. (Mark 11:24)”  I then went about believing what I will receive – saved from drowning in despair, relieved from weariness in crying, my eyes will grow dim though I wait, in abundance you will answer us, we will be rescued, delivered from the enemies of poverty and lack, the Pit will not swallow us.

I went on to more verses from Psalm 69.  I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.  Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.  For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds. (vss. 30-33)” Still using Mk. 11:24 as a tool to declare God’s will for me – I will praise you with a song, you’ll be pleased with this more than religious sacrifice, the oppressed and troubled will see this and be glad, as we seek you our hearts will be revived, you will hear us and not despise us who are bound. 

This helped me greatly, but what helped me most were April’s prayers for me.  She’d had it, and knew that God was at work and wanted me to taste of it afresh.  When she prayed, something came back to me again from Psalm 69.  Verse 9 reads, “Zeal for your house consumes me.”  Bingo!

As we sat together in the living room, I took my journal and wrote, “In Psalm 69:9 it reads, ‘Zeal for your house consumes me.’  This is the passion. This is my heart’s desire.  Your house, your presence.  You want songs of praise more than religious insistence of sacrifice.  Zeal for your house consumes me.  You’re big enough to take my anger, but it’s my passion for you and your house that consumes me.  I want nothing else.”

Anger, sometimes, does its best work by getting our juices flowing – be angry, but sin not.  A better emotional sign post is passion.  It’s important to find out what the source of the anger is so it can be recognized and addressed.  It’s also important to find out where your passion lies.  If the passion is not recognized, it will lie dormant and be labeled as insignificant.  We are passionate beings.  We were created that way.

It was important to get back in touch with my passion for God, and not label it as insignificant – “Oh, just pull it out on Sundays or Wednesdays.”  We ain’t in a season to disregard our spiritual passions.  That’s a mistake.  It’s as if I’m freed from jail.  My passion for God and his call on our lives these days consumes me.  Seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness and these other things will be given to you. 

Get over the anger so you can claim again the passion.