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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No pain, no gain



I like to run. Wait, let me qualify that. I like to run in warm, dry weather. I hate being cold so running in the wet winters of Oregon has always made it a challenge to exercise during the winter months. And, I'm at an age where I don't really have the option to not exercise if I want to stay healthy into my old age. I know that my wife would kill me if I died before her and left her a single mom while I got to enjoy my "mansion on a hill" in heaven.

I've never in my life worked out at a gym. Those of you who know me personally can attest to that fact. I'm thin and wiry with no muscle tone (not that anybody but DeeDee gets to see). I have no pecs. I would never need a "bro" in Seinfeld terms. I have bad posture, which I'm told could be helped if I'd buff up those pecs a little. Sadly I've lacked the discipline and drive to do anything about it. I've also never been able to overcome inertia to do anything about the sixpack I've always wanted.

Well, the perfect storm hit and I joined a gym. I decided that since I'm there, running on the treadmill while watching Netflix (which is a totally awesome way to run on a treadmill), that I would work on my other muscular deficiencies. I mean, I might as well take advantage of the opportunity while I have it.

I ache everywhere. And because I work out three times a week...it never goes away. I don't know how people do it year in and year out. And I totally recognize that the ache means I am building muscle - which I want - but I haven't yet gotten to the point where I can see any of the results. Still no pecs. Still a two-liter instead of a six-pack.

No pain, no gain. Whoever came up with that phrase should be forced to sit through every opera ever written (unless they like opera, but I'm thinking the five people in the world who do like opera probably don't hang out at the gym much).

Of course it's a great metaphor for our spiritual lives. Our spiritual journey is a marathon that requires us to train in order to make it across the finish line. Most of our training happens in places where we don't see the results for years to come. But if we don't train we'll never make it up the hill at mile five, or across the dessert at mile 19.

We'll never have spiritual abs or pecs, but just remain flabby and out of shape.

How is your spiritual training going? Are you still on the couch watching tv? Have you given up because you don't like the ache of a good spiritual workout? Or because you don't see instant results?

Run the race to win. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Great Green Gobs of Greasy Grimy Fish Guts



I was recently reading the familiar story of Jonah. You know the one…Jonah is told by God to do something, Jonah decides to do something else, God is unhappy with Jonah.

So God sends a hurricane to the Mediterranean to capture Jonah’s attention. You see, God doesn’t really appreciate it when we choose to disobey a direct order. In the middle of this storm, Jonah gets the picture (with the help of a few sailors) and surrenders himself to the purposes of God. Then the sailors throw him overboard…to die.

Think about it from Jonah’s perspective. He had no way of knowing that God wasn’t finished with him yet. From Jonah’s perspective he was being rightfully punished for his disobedience by sinking to his death.

Of course, we know that God had other plans. He sends a big fish to rescue Jonah. Hmm…can you imagine what that experience was really like? We’ve seen the cartoons. From Pinocchio to Veggie Tales, we have this image of a big, cave-like room. There are pieces of shipwrecks around…if not full ships. There’s lots of air, even a fire to keep warm. Really?

The temperature at the bottom of the ocean is just above freezing. The air would have been recycled through the fish’s system (think of airplane air…before it takes off!). He’d be surrounded by fish guts, seaweed, stomach bile, his own digestive junk (the most un-offensive way I can think to say it), not much room to move (talk about claustrophobic). Clearly he wasn’t staying at the Four Seasons Hotel. 

What would you do in that moment? What would your attitude be? Me…I’d be complaining, whining, shivering. My thought would be, “You’re King of the Universe and this is all you can send to save me?” Not very sanctified on my part.

Jonah worshiped. Chapter two of the book of Jonah captures the worship of Jonah’s heart. He was thankful. Given the death sentence he had just eluded, he was grateful that any lifeboat had shown up…not picky that it didn’t look the way he wanted it to.

How many times in our lives does God come to our rescue and we complain that he sends a fish and not a yacht? How many times do we complain in the face of challenging situations, instead of worshiping with grateful hearts that he loves us enough to rescue us at all?

Whatever challenge you face right now…will you worship?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Feasting in the Desert

Exodus 16:3 - "If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt," they moaned. "There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death."

God had promised the Israelites that He would free them from slavery and deliver them to the Promised Land, a land filled with milk and honey. On paper that sounds great. Notice how He didn't give them the road map ahead of time?

So here they are, one month into the journey. Thirty short days. Where is this Promised Land anyway? I'm ready for milk and honey. My feet are tired and if I have to sleep one more night on the ground my back is going to rebel. On and on and on, complaint after complaint. So God answers. In verse four we read, "Look, I'm going to rain down food from heaven for you."

Rock on. Turkey with all the fixings - stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie. Or, maybe steak and baked potatoes. I'd even settle for a Big Mac! Whatever was coming...and I know that I'd build it up in my head...the King of the Universe, who has chosen my people to make into a nation, is going to provide in a miraculous way (think about the Red Sea, the Angel of Death, frogs, gnats, hail). Clearly this is a God who knows how to do it right. It's going to be awwwesommme!

The next day comes and what do we get...wings and crackers. You heard it right. Wings and crackers. Really God? Not even peanut butter for those Ritz crackers?

Have you ever wondered why God seems to under deliver? Don't get me wrong, a miracle is a miracle. But if we've been promised the Promised Land, why not turkey instead of hot wings? Why not an instantly healed marriage instead of one you have to keep working at? Why not a job we love instead of a crazy boss who steals all our joy? Why not a million bucks instead of just enough to pay the mortgage? A BMW instead of a Yugo?

Maybe it's because God knows our tendency to slide toward the comfortable. If we got turkey in the desert we'd never want to leave the desert. Like the Israelites we'd forget that freedom with crackers is better than slavery with a big ole' slab of meat. We'd forget that we're on His journey, not our own. His care for us keeps us longing for our arrival at the Promised Land.

So the next time you're tempted to complain that God hasn't pushed the easy button and given you what you want, remember that He's given you what you need; which is just enough to remind you tomorrow that what you need is Him!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rebuilding Jerusalem

I've been working with a young man who is trying to kick an addiction. He has been working very hard, trying to do things the right way. For several months he's made the right choices. Today he failed.

The good news is that he is discouraged with himself. If his heart was hardened, and there was no hope for change, he wouldn't be discouraged.

I wouldn't be writing this if I were only talking about this one young man. Addictions come in all sorts of flavors, and I work with multiple addicts. In fact, to be honest, I was born with an addiction to sin, that I have been fighting all my life. And, since the flesh never gets better, I'd guess I'll be fighting it for some time to come.

Jesus died knowing that we would spend our earthly lives as recovering addicts - drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, gossip, anger, self, self-righteousness, judgmentalism - you name it, the list goes on and on. We all struggle.

Good news can be found throughout the Bible, but today, Psalm 147:2 seem appropriate. It says, "The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem and bringing the exiles back to Israel."

Obviously this was written for the nation of Israel. BUT, if Jerusalem is significant because God has chosen to dwell there, then it could be said that since God has chosen to dwell in our hearts that they also represent a Jerusalem of sorts. AND, if Israel is the Promised Land, blessed by the Almighty God, THEN: "The Lord is rebuilding my heart and bringing me out of exile and back into the Promised Land of right living with Him." It doesn't say He is done, just that He is rebuilding.

Jesus did the hardest part on the cross. His work is complete. We are in right standing with God if we have believed in Jesus. But our sanctification (the process of becoming righteous as we learn to live life God's way) won't be complete until we cross the finish line and enter Heaven.

A step in the wrong direction doesn't have to be an about face, it can just be a step backwards. Yes, setbacks can be disappointing, but they do not have to define you. Character is not living life perfectly. Character is what is built when you mess up. Don't give up the fight. He is calling you forward. Take a step that direction today!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Psalm 136 Redux

Sometimes as I read the Psalms it feels like the difference in time and culture rob the rich words of David, Asaph and others of the meaning behind their poetry. For example, whenever David talks about his enemies trying to kill him, I think, "I've got it good. I don't think I have any enemies and even if I do I'm not running for my life because they are trying to kill me." So every now and then I work through a Psalm line-by-line, re-interpreting the meaning (at least what I think was meant) behind the words, and translating them into my life.

Psalm 136 is a great Psalm on its own. As I read it a few days ago I got to verses 19 and 20, where the author talks about Sihon and Og, and thought this is one I should redo for myself. Maybe it will encourage you as well.

1.  Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. He is on my side and in Him there is no darkness.
     His faithful love endures forever.
2.  Give thanks to the only God there is, was or ever will be.
     His faithful love endures forever.
3.  Give thanks to the God over our other gods - power, fame, money, sex, self.
     His faithful love endures forever.

4.  Give thanks to Him who parted the clouds - like He parted the Red Sea - over the stadium in Arzano, Italy as we were starting the last night of the crusade (insert your own miracle here).
     His faithful love endures forever.
5.  Give thanks to Him who already knew about the 'new' galaxy scientists just found - because He made it in the first place.
     His faithful love endures forever.
6.  Give thanks to Him who gave us the oceans, which remind us of His infinite power and love for us.
     His faithful love endures forever.
7.  Give thanks to Him who made the Big Dipper, which is the only constellation I can ever find,
     His faithful love endures forever.
8.  the sunshine which we don't get to see enough of here in Oregon and so appreciate ever more,
     His faithful love endures forever.
9.  and the full moon on a clear night which reflects the majesty of the sun, reminding us to reflect the majesty of THE SON.
     His faithful love endures forever.

10. Give thanks to Him who killed my innate self-focus,
      His faithful love endures forever.
11. and because of it brought me out of my slavery in the Egypt of my life,
      His faithful love endures forever.
12. and continues to show His strong hand and powerful arm as He guides my life along the straight and narrow path.
      His faithful love endures forever.
13. Give thanks to Him who continues to clear the path in front of me when I face obstacles,
      His faithful love endures forever.
14. and leads me through challenging times,
      His faithful love endures forever.
15. and protects me from the enemy from behind (and before and beside).
      His faithful love endures forever.
16. Give thanks to Him who leads me through the deserts I periodically find myself journeying
       through.
      His faithful love endures forever.

17. Give thanks to Him who has struck down so many of the "kings" of my life that steal my
      faithfulness and focus.
      His faithful love endures forever.
18. and they were strong and plenty as He cleaned house in my life...
      His faithful love endures forever.
19. the abuse I had experienced,
      His faithful love endures forever.
20. my insecurity and low self-worth.
      His faithful love endures forever.
21. God gave me emotional and spiritual health as an inheritance,
      His faithful love endures forever.
22. and they are a treasure to be valued and kept safe.
      His faithful love endures forever.

23. He remembers I am a puny human who still messes up,
      His faithful love endures forever.
24. so He continues to beat down my inner enemies.
      His faithful love endures forever.
25. He meets all of my needs - emotional, spiritual, financial, relational.
      His faithful love endures forever.
26. Give thanks to the God of Heaven who is never to big for my smallness and decided long before the beginning of time to notice me.
      His faithful love endures forever.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Art of Disregarding the Expectations of Others

I had the privilege of teaching this past weekend in our services at Dayspring Fellowship. We are in a series from the book of Acts, and my assignment was chapter 13. With the help of a friend, who courageously told her incredible story (you can download it from the church website), I shared some principles about evangelism. Among many other things, I said that every Christian should know how to lead somebody to the Cross. And, if you can't, you should get a tract, memorize the verses and principles and practice.

I also talked about the importance of our personal faith stories (including, but not limited to our salvation story), and how God uses them in the lives of others. In this section I shared that all good stories have three parts (a beginning, middle and end). With regards to our faith stories they should include conflict/tension (why you needed Jesus to show up), resolution (how He showed up) and transformation (how you were different because He showed up). 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us to be prepared to share the hope of our salvation. Get that: be prepared.

I got some incredible feedback. God was clearly in the house. Val's testimony rocked!

But there's always a naysayer in the house...in this case two.

We hosted a couple who were visiting with their friend, who was just coming back to the Lord. After the service this couple decided that they needed to share their thoughts with me. After making sure I knew that they were very involved in their own church, in which he was a deacon, they proceeded to let me know how they wept as I preached because I was so inaccurately representing scripture. They told me that no where in scripture does it say to use a tract to lead people to Jesus. Nor does it say that a story should have a beginning, middle and end. And, in practicing our stories we relegate the telling to a performance.

My bad. They are right. No where in the Bible does it say to use a tract to lead someone to Christ. No where does it say that a story has a beginning, middle and end. For the record I never said it did.

Let me pause, and say that I assume they were well intentioned. Their delivery wasn't hurtful. Their concern was real. In no way do I wish to bad mouth them. I prayed in that moment, as I continue to pray, that God's glorious grace would wash over them and give them understanding...both of scripture and the effect of their words.

I tell this three part story because we have all been on the receiving end of other people's expectations. Generally we only realize it because we let them down in some way, and they make sure that we know we've done so. How do you respond in this moment? Does anger overtake you? Does the unfairness make your back straighten? Do you feel pity? Do you want to use your own words to make sure they understand your point?

Would that really help?

When I am faced with these moments (and since I live my life on stage I have the privilege of facing them relatively often), I always search for any truth that God has for me in their words...regardless of the delivery. If he can use Balaam's donkey to speak truth, he can use a couple like I've described (in no way am I saying they are donkeys, just that God's truth can be found in unexpected places).

But note...it's about the truth that God has for me. Not their truth. Many years ago a mentor taught me some beautiful words, "I'm sorry. You have expectations for me that I won't be able to meet." How very freeing...and God honoring.

This weekend I said to them, "I'm sorry I disappointed you." And, truthfully, I was. But I wouldn't change a thing. I serve a Higher Power and I know He wasn't disappointed. They'll can have it out with Him. He takes all my complaint calls. God's truth for me in that moment was to laugh (inside voice...not outside voice) at the absolute insanity of what they were saying. And then I walked away free. No regrets.

How would you have responded? Words matter. Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Cost of a Lost Opportunity

Hebrews 13:16 - "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

Galatians 6:10 - "Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers."

1 Corinthians 10:24 - "No one should see their own good, but the good of others."

_____________________________________________

I was talking with a good friend this week about regret. He related a personal story that went something like this: when his son was old enough to hunt, they went on a father-son hunting trip. They waited through the day and eventually a buck wandered into the line of sight. In the words of my friend, "I got greedy and took the shot."

Later that night, he realized that he had missed an opportunity to bless his son by allowing him to take the shot. He wept. He wept because he recognized that in the grand scheme of life, another deer killed by him would never be remembered, but his son's first kill would make a memory that would be treasured for a lifetime. And, even though his son shot his first deer the next day, my friend still wishes he could CTRL-Z the event and UNDO the moment to bless his son with that particular shot.

How many times in our lives have we done something similar...we had he opportunity to bless someone and we botched it. We neglected the expectations or feelings of others in favor of our own. We demanded our own way (or cajoled or was even friendly about it) rather than considering someone else's idea. It could be an encouragement left unspoken, a lunch where you didn't pick up the tab, a win you could have given credit for, a momentous occasion where you made the world revolve around you. In most cases we aren't talking about sin...just the lack of "good." It may be something that we had every right to have our own way. But is that really how we are called to live?

The verses above talk about a different kind of life. A life that does good. A life that sacrifices to bless others. The world is filled with people who don't look any farther than end of their nose. What should distinguish us, from people of the world, is the vision to see past our own junk. And love puts others first. Love gives opportunities.

In most cases the other person will never think about, or know that the opportunity was missed. This is very different from hurting someone. This isn't what these verses are talking about. The cost of the lost opportunity is only paid by our foolish selves. We live with the regret that there is no CTRL-Z in life. I'm sure it's not regret that will put us in bondage (hopefully), but who wants any regret at all?

Every now and then I sense the spirit telling me to bless someone by sending them a card. (Yes, actual snail mail...imagine anyone's surprise when they get something other than a bill or junk mail!) This past week I obeyed the call and sent a card to a dear older couple at church. The love that the husband exhibits for his wife with her failing health inspires me to be a better husband. So I told them that. It was a simple - though completely true sentiment - that cost me very little to convey. I could have just thought nice thoughts about them and prayed for her health and his patience. They would never have known that I missed the mark. But his watery eyes spoke more than his words as he tracked me down to thank me for the blessing they felt because of my simple gesture. No regret there...

Now it's your turn. Send a card. Buy a lunch. Give a gift card. Let someone else have an opportunity to shine. DO GOOD!

The best part...read the end of Hebrews 13:16...God is pleased (i.e., he's blessed)...which puts it in the category of worship. Go figure.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Shrinking Hearts

We watched "Machine Gun Preacher" this week, a movie I can't say I really recommend because there is too much foul language. Nonetheless, it was very interesting.

The Chris Voigt short version: An convict is released from prison to find his family has gotten religious. Though he rejects their change at first, he too becomes saved. He goes to Africa and upon seeing the tragic, criminal treatment of the children (slavery, forced conscription into the rebel army, etc, hunger, homelessness...) he decides to build an orphanage.

The movie finds him going back and forth between Africa and his home in the US. As he sees more devastation, his diatribes at home, including preaching at a church he built, becomes more angry. As the title of the movie indicates he carries a gun and isn't afraid to use it when saving children in Africa. His heart is shrinking. His family is breaking. Even in Africa he loses the trust of his team as they sense a hardening of his heart.

Of course, there is a turning point, found in the tender words of an orphan forced to kill his own mother at the hand of the rebels.

Philippians 1:9-10 says, "I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return."

In real life, all around me I see shrinking hearts. I have a friend who is anti- everything. He doesn't like the president, the congress, churches who don't preach politics, liberals of any type...and most conservatives. He's bought a generator, stocked his home with MREs, bought gold to use as currency when the dollar fails, purchased weapons (legally with a license to carry) and who knows what else. The world is coming to an end as we know it and he and his wife will be survivors. From his perspective he is being prudent. As I see it his heart is shrinking.

A shrinking heart squeezes out God. Anything that God is involved in will grow your heart. Your love will abound. When we do anything on our own strength our heart will shrink. We'll get cynical, burned out, angry, judgmental, impatient...

If you want to know if you're on the right track spiritually, track your love. If you love more...God is at work.

Read Paul's words again. He wants us to understand what really matters so that we may live pure and blameless until the world ends Christ's way. For that to happen love must overflow. It is one-third of the equation...love...knowledge...understanding.

Where is your heart?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ruthless Christianity

I hate un-health. It makes no difference to me whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual. Un-health is sickness and I hate it.

Please note, for the record, that I do not hate the un-healthy person, just the un-health. If someone has physical cancer, I don't hate them...just the cancer. The same principle is true with emotional and spiritual sickness. Also, please note that I hate un-health in me as much as anyone else.

And while I'm being honest, it drives me nuts that people choose to stay unhealthy. Why would anyone choose to stay sick? If your friend came to you and said, "I've just broken my leg (see that bone sticking through the skin), and I've decided not to go to the doctor," you'd call them on the carpet. You'd make them get into your car and you'd drive them to the ER yourself. Why do we just put up with emotional and spiritual broken legs?

For the purposes of this blog entry, let's set aside sickness in the physical sense and focus on emotional and spiritual un-health.

I know people who used to be unhealthy and refused to stay stuck there. Over years they've applied the principles of scripture (which is the best place to find healing) to their lives. They've done the hard work of scrubbing out the dark areas of their souls, inviting the Master Soul Cleaner to disinfect and deodorize. I'd like to think that I am one of them. (Though like everyone else, this is a lifetime process...you'd be surprised at how many cracks and crevices there are in your soul!) But freedom, hard won, is sweet...and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

On the other hand, I've known people who have been "healthy" (or have they?) and slipped slowly - sometimes quickly - into the sea of unhealthiness. Their thinking slowly shifts away from the truth of God's Word, and they seem to lose their way. Why? Why would anyone give up freedom and health, and exchange it for sickness and bondage?


Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" The human condition never gets better. The flesh never gets better. There is no cure for our hearts which have mastered the ability to be deceitful.


We have an incredible capacity to lie to ourselves about ourselves. Pause and think about that statement for a moment. Don't miss the point.


Because there is no cure for the heart, we must be constantly working to keep the heart healthy. It will always move toward sickness. People get unhealthy when they either stop trying to stay healthy OR they stop using the Word of God - which is unchanging - to measure their health.


In an orchestra, the concert master (usually the first chair violin) tunes their instrument to a standard pitch (440-A I'm told...I've never been in an orchestra). The oboe (which is the only instrument that is never out of tune) usually provides the pitch. Then, the orchestra tunes to the concert master.


The Word of God is our concert master. We must constantly adjust our instrument (heart) - which has trouble holding its pitch - to the pitch of the concert master. When we use any other standard, we get sick...infected by the siren lure of sin. And any thought or pattern that doesn't align itself with scripture is ultimately sin.


I believe God calls us to be RUTHLESS CHRISTIANS. We are called to ruthlessly - relentlessly -  attack the un-health in our lives. The enemy is constantly on the prowl, deceiving...usually a pretty easy job because according to Jeremiah we have a natural bent toward self-deception.


It is a constant battle and too many Christians have given up...or are lying to themselves (that danged deceiving heart) about their spiritual health.


What about you? Can you take a moment to be ruthlessly honest with yourself?


But don't stop there. Do something about it.



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Psalm 101:3 - I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.

"Can I watch 21 Jump Street?" asked my 15-year-old son. Hmm. We have a general rule that rated R movies aren't appropriate for under 18 year old children (and most adults). I say general because, I must admit that I do have some R-rated films (for action violence) that rank in my favorites list.

I had my suspicions about the film's content. So I looked up a movie review from Focus on the Family's pluggedin.com. To say the least, there are about 125 f-bombs and more than 70 s-words (and much, much more. How could one f-bomb per minute ever be beneficial to one's soul.

Sadly (for him), we had to decline our son's request. Though he'd argue that the words don't affect him, we know that to be false. His argument is common to man, Christians included. We live the lie that we can compartmentalize our lives and swim in the mud and not get dirty. Every decision we make moves us toward Christ or away.

I was reminded of a book I recently read, Soul Detox: Clean Living in a Contaminated World, by Craig Groeschel. In it he addresses this issue and asks how many f-words would be appropriate in one of his sermons? Where do we draw the line?

We live in a culture that makes it increasingly hard to avoid, as David says in Psalm 101, "anything that is vile." Like the fog in a horror flick, vile is seeping into the cracks and crevices of our soul and mind everyday. It warps our view of right and wrong, and blurs the line between the holy and the profane. It contaminates us and pushes out the Holy God we love and follow.

Then we wonder why we feel so distant from God.

Shouldn't we be more like David? What would our worship look like in our churches if all of our worship teams and the worshipers they lead refused to take part in that which is vile during the week? Why should we expect God to find his way through the mud just to touch our spirits when we take a few minutes away from the evils of this world on Sunday morning? Would you?

May we live by verse 4b: "I will have nothing to do with what is evil."

Amen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Mooing of Our Culture

I was visiting someone in jail recently. He told me he had been reading some of the Bible...the gospels, Acts. Then he went into, and read, some of the Old Testament and decided that it was all bull* (his word not mine). I was thinking, "You're in jail for making stupid decisions, and you are rejecting the one thing that could change the trajectory of your life." He will stay stuck in the life he has built for a bit longer it seems.

I am reading a book that talks about the signs of judgment falling on the United States of America. It seems that our slide into immorality has caught the attention of our Divine Creator, and beginning with 9/11 we have been given warnings and judgment for our errant ways. (It may seem like I disagree...though I'd like to, I'm afraid the author may be right).

Apparently my friend in jail isn't the only one who thinks that living life God's Way is bull. All around us we see the consequences of a culture that is rejecting the One who gave them the blessed life they have and are so quick to discard for the lure of the dark side. Whether we are coming under judgment from the Almighty or not, our culture has been fraying at the edges for some time, and is now unraveling faster than we can imagine. The lines between what is true and right have become blurred beyond the point of recognition.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Psalm 91:1-3 says, "Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare of the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from the fatal plague."

I love the thought that he will protect me from the fatal plague. The Message Bible says "deadly hazards." The King James Version says "noisome pestilence." In the original language, pestilence refers to a cattle disease.

Our culture is stampeding like cattle to a certain death.

He will protect me from the fatal plague. I just need to live int he shelter of the Most High. I need to live a life of everyday worship. All for my King. He is my refuge and safety.

How will you live? Will you moo with the rest of them?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I'm not a really big fan of olives. Maybe black olives, but probably more for the nostalgia of olives on fingers than the actual taste. As for green, yuck. And what's a pimento anyway, and why would someone want to eat one?!

I was reading through Psalm 58 the other day and came upon this in verse about those who trust in God: But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever.  [verse 8]

For someone who doesn't like olives this is a mixed blessing. Who wants to be like an olive tree?

So I did a little research. The olive tree has played a prominent role in the life of Israel for thousands of years. According to www.pray4zion.org, the olive tree is a source for "food, light, hygiene and healing." It's oil was used to light the night, for cooking and for anointing.

Olive trees grow in almost any condition, whether in rocky terrain or fertile farm land. They are incredibly hardy trees that are virtually indestructible. It was an olive branch that a dove, released by Noah after the flood, returned to the ark. Which means that at least one olive tree survived the flood.

To extend an olive branch is to offer peace. It is symbolic of the covenant relationship that we share with God through Jesus Christ. The Prince of Peace has offered peace.

I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I am virtually indestructible. I can handle any trial that comes my way. I bless others. Not because of myself, of course, but because I trust in the unfailing love of God forever.

I still don't like olives.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I had lunch this week with a friend who leads worship at another church. He and his wife have been on an incredible journey this year as they've been in the process of discovering the funds to adopt twin 1-year-old girls from Africa. Their story was inspiring to me because God was so evident in the journey.

Jeff shared with me that early on, a prayer warrior from their church approached them and told them that he believed they should pray that God would surprise them. And man did He!

I got to thinking of all of the great stories in the Bible. Every time God showed up in an amazing way he surprised the people of God.

Think of the great "battle" of Jericho. God gives His battle plan to Joshua: walk around the city one time for six days, then seven times on the seventh day. And the walls fall down. David and Goliath. Saul on the road to Damascus. Jonathan and the Philistines. Gideon and his 300 men.

In every case (and there are so many more), God showed up in a surprising way and saved the day, or changed the course of someone's life, in a way that doesn't make sense from our human perspective.

What would happen if we all prayed that God would surprise us when He answers our prayers. I don't know about you, but when I talk about God, I love a good story. I love a story that can't be attributed to my strength or wisdom. The more glory He gets the better the story.

God surprised me last week, before I started thinking and praying that He would. He met a big financial need using some of His people who knew nothing of our need. There's something cool about opening a card with a surprise in it, but it's even cooler when God gets the glory. Now that's a story.

How will you pray? Send me your story!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Habakkuk 3:17-18
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
Even though our economy is stressed, and there are people without work; even though the family unit nationwide is falling apart, and children are rejecting the values of their parents; even though people are losing their houses and their hope, yet I will rejoice in the LORD!

I will choose to worship the Almighty God of the Universe because I know that He is still in control, and has plans and purposes - beyond my understanding - that will not be thwarted by the folly of man.

I will choose to worship, because in the midst of the storms of our lives, He "is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety." (Psalm 18:2)