Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Remember what Christmas looked like through a child's eyes? I do. I remember being totally swept up in the sights and sounds of the most wonderful time of the year. I would lay for hours on the floor watching our silver tinsel revolving Christmas tree slowly turn. The shiny blue balls would glow in the dim light and I would dream of Christmas goodies, gifts, and all the fun that was sure to come.
We always attended the Christmas Eve service at our church. I loved the candlelight, the poinsettias, everyone bundled in their winter coats, and the hush that came over the congregation as we ended the evening with "Silent Night". It was at those times that I first noticed it. There was a noticeable feeling deep inside. Something unexplainable. I call it wonder.
The dictionary defines wonder as: a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.
There is something mysterious, epic, and yes wonder-ful that calls to us from deep within during this season. Though we are celebrating a birth that happened some 2000 years ago, the enormity of what occurred must not be overlooked. Everything in Heaven and on Earth shifted the moment Jesus was born. You can almost hear the rumbling and shaking of all of Heaven as the ancient doors open to reveal the King of Glory. The unexplainable love in the Father's heart for all of His children was poured out that night in this gift from Heaven to Earth called 'Jesus'.
All of the Heavenly Host were waiting and watching for this day....the day when the Father's plan would finally be set in motion. You can literally feel the excitement in their proclamation to the terrified group of shepherds as they joyfully shouted, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. Whose favor were they shouting about? The Father's favor! Jesus came to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10), and in doing so, He made a way for us to be fully restored back to the Father. He positioned us for favor and set us on a path that goes from glory to glory.
Though this whole Christmas story unfolded long ago, my story with the Father is still unfolding. Your story with Him is still unfolding, too. I have an amazing story because the Father gave His Son that I would be restored back to His family. That for me is beautiful, mysterious, and inexplicable. That is the wonder of Christmas.
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Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. - Hamilton Wright Mabie
Monday, November 11, 2013
You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:13
One of the greatest gifts we can carry as believers is hunger. In the natural, our hunger drives us. We were created with an appetite and the need to find food to satisfy that appetite is one of the most basic of human needs.
Yet, this thing called spiritual hunger is often more elusive. Complacency in the life of a believer can be a dangerous place. In fact, the enemy wants to lull us into this place where we feel neither hot nor cold. We can become like those members of the Laodicean church who no longer needed a thing. They had lost the ability to accurately assess the fact that they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. They should have been hungry, but they didn't feel a thing, or see that they needed anything.
I've been in that place before of not feeling hungry. We don't usually set out to be in that satisfied, complacent state, but inattention to our own heart can easily cause us to end up there. It can slowly creep up on you, and before you know it, you find yourself with little or no appetite for the things of God.
I have always looked in amazement at the life of David. Though I believe the hand of God was resting on His life, David did not have the Spirit of God dwelling in him as we do now. Yet, David's life models for us such an example of intimacy and communion with God. So, I'm listing below some of the lessons we can learn from David's life as to how to maintain a heart that is hungry for God:
David understood that hunger and gratefulness are linked together. This is one of the keys that made David the great man that he became. If we are not careful, our hunger can subtly lead us into self pity, or even worse, anger at God if He should choose to delay our encounter. God often works through delay, and it is in this place of delay where we choose whether we will manifest faith, hope, and love, or move into self pity or anger at God. David was constantly crying out to God, but he would always bring things back into perspective by thanking and praising God and declaring who he knew Him to be in his life. His choice to be grateful set his heart on a course to encounter God and attract His favor.
David didn't settle for counterfeit experiences to fill His hunger. Over and over again David declares that God is His source and strength. He wasn't willing to compromise and accept a cheap substitute for His relationship with God. He knew what it was to encounter the Living God, and He would not settle for less.
David knew how to watch over his own heart and life. Though we know that David fell later in his life, the principles and wisdom that he walked in throughout much of his life are not negated by his failure. Psalm 101 reveals the kind of 'self talk' that David used in dealing with his own life. David makes declarations declaring his intent to lead a blameless life. It was this practice that caused His spirit to continually be strengthened and stay open to God.
David was honest before God. A read through the Psalms that David authored feels like reading a friend's journal. The pages are filled with intimate moments expressed in raw language depicting every emotion imaginable. David held nothing back in his exchanges with God. Even when he failed so miserably, he eventually found his way back home when he humbly confessed, Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.-Ps. 54:1. David's willingness to be real with God created a climate where God would be real with him.
David fed his hunger. In the natural realm we stop being hungry when we eat, but in the spiritual realm the more we dine on the things of God the more our hunger increases. David's early years tending his father's sheep paid off as he developed a healthy appetite of spending lots of time alone with God. Then later when he found himself in the desert of Judah he cried out in hunger, O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. David knew what it was like to feast on God, and his hunger drove him to continually pursue more of God.
Father, give us hungry hearts. Instead of running from the void that aches within, cause us to embrace this friend called hunger. You are worth the cost, the search, the wait. No good thing do you withhold.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Recently I was watching a facebook youtube video of a march of veterans and others in Washington, D.C. They were there to protest the barricading of the WWII monument, a previously open-air monument that honors those who gave their lives. As I watched the video(below), I felt something stirring inside, but then in my busyness I forgot about it. Yesterday morning as I was getting ready for the day, the Lord brought the scenario from the video to mind where I saw common people bravely picking up the barricades that blocked them from accessing the monument, and then marching them away.
As I recalled what I had watched, I felt I heard Him say, barricades are being removed. Something about the quietness of the march and the purposeful strides of the group reminded me of another group that marched a long, long time ago, this time around a city called Jericho. God had given Joshua specific plans for this march, and it, too, was all about removing the barricades or walls surrounding the city.
Things were tightly shut up (Josh. 6:1), a phrase that aptly describes where some find themselves in life at this very moment. The Joshua passage goes on to say, No one went out and no one came in. It's the enemy's plan to box us in. He enjoys taking away our incentive and causing us to feel trapped and without options. But, God has other plans!
Our God enjoys the challenge and it's in this place of reduced options that He loves to display His glory. He doesn't enjoy our pain, or our frustration and discouragement, but He knows that it is in this very crucible, this tight place, that we encounter Him in a way that we could not elsewhere. This bittersweet place of encounter, and the victory of overcoming, quickly replaces the pressure that we felt in this barricaded place.
You may have noticed that the story of Joshua 6 is full of sevens. Seven priests with seven trumpets marched around the wall seven times, and on the seventh day they circled the city seven times before giving the shout that brought the walls tumbling down. So why all the sevens? In scripture, seven means fullness, completion, and perfection. God has a time of completion. He is shouting from this story that his timing, method and ways are complete and perfect. Likewise, He has an appointed time for you to cross into your land, and He has an appointed time for you to defeat your enemies. As we obey His voice and follow His lead, we step into the fullness of time concerning our own destiny. He is setting the stage for a great and glorious victory!
So, as we ready ourselves to move past the barricades in our lives, what things are important to acknowledge so that we are fully positioned to move forward? Below are some things that will set you in place to move forward:
- Get the word of the Lord. The Lord spoke clearly to Joshua when He said, "See I have delivered Jericho into your hands..." He not only gave Joshua the command, but He also gave Him the plan. We will need faith to move forward, but faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of the Lord. Our faith must rest on what God has said. Those who move in presumption will often be disappointed. They often move forward without hearing the word of the Lord over their lives and situations, creating heartache and problems as a result. This is not to say that you have to have a word for everything you do. But, there are many times where we must seek God for His plans and strategies for our lives.
- Remember what God has done. It's interesting that God had given instructions for the Israelites to create 'memory stones' after crossing the Jordan into their land. The stones were to be a sign to them and future generations telling of the miraculous things that God had done on their behalf. These stones were faith-builders. Create the memorial stones in your own life. I write my history with Him in journals and pick them up to read when my faith needs a boost.
- Follow the Presence. The priests carrying the Ark of God's Presence were the first to enter the Jordan and as they did the waters flowing downstream were cut off allowing the nation to cross over. We will never cross over into our land apart from following His Presence. Look for the mark and hand of God on your situations and circumstances. Be like Moses who determinedly said, If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. (Ex. 33:15) God's plan to bring down the walls of Jericho seemed like total foolishness to many I'm sure, but Joshua chose to follow the word and Presence of the Lord.
- Be set apart and healed. Setting the stage for the Jericho march, God required that Joshua circumcise those who had not yet been circumcised. The entire nation of men were then circumcised, and God said to Joshua, today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. Egypt represents slavery, and it was necessary that this act of circumcision was completed before they could fully conquer their giants and step into all that God had for them. Verse 8 says ....They remained where they were in camp until they were healed. Many times we are not moving past our barricades because we are not yet healed. Redeem the waiting time and pursue healing and allow God to rid you of the shame and reproach of your past. He wants to replace the old wineskins and mindsets that formed while you were still in bondage. You will need a renewed mind to take your land. The land will not be taken by slaves, but by sons.
- Receive the new land He is giving you. Many times we are our own worst enemy. Our beliefs about ourselves can cause us to feel unworthy to receive the land He is giving us. As our mind is renewed and we come to see Him in all of His goodness, then we will also start to see ourselves as He sees us. Just believing that He has a 'land' for you is not enough. You must receive and step into it. What land has He delivered into your hands?
Thank you Father that it is your good pleasure to give your children the kingdom. Equip, establish, and empower us for this season of moving past the barricades that have blocked us from taking the lands marked out for us. May we be a generation of courageous sons and daughters, awakened by your love, who conquer lands and kingdoms for Your glory.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
The clouds have really caught my attention lately. After years of drought in our region it is especially good to see the sky full of big fluffy clouds. I had never really thought much about it before, but clouds have been causing me to think about God's promises and even more than that, about faith.
There is a type of scientific weather modification practice known as seeding the clouds where scientists are actually able to enhance a cloud's ability to produce precipitation. Likewise, when we allow faith to have it's full place in our lives, then we partner with the Spirit of God to sow into the clouds of heaven the very promises that have been spoken to us. In doing this we are co-laboring in faith with God who Himself, calls things that are not as though they were. We are seeding the clouds of our own promises.
We often forget that our life here on earth is more than anything else, a faith journey. God is very partial to faith. In fact, He goes so far as to say, Without faith it is impossible to please Him.
Take a look at the Old Testament prophet, Elijah. Now there's a man of faith. Just like us, the land was in a terrible drought. Then the Lord told Elijah to present himself to Ahab and then he would send rain on the land. This was no easy task for Elijah as he had been a hunted man every since Jezebel, Ahab's wife, had decided to systematically kill off the prophets of God. But, Elijah would not be deterred by the threat of death. He valued obedience over his own safety.
What follows is an amazing display of raw faith at it's finest. Elijah set up a very public challenge on Mt. Carmel where he invited Ahab to assemble the 450 prophets of Baal and the 450 prophets of Asherah. They then each prepared a bull sacrifice, but neither was to set fire to it. Instead, Elijah suggested that they call upon their god, and He would call upon His God to set fire to the sacrifices. Then comes my favorite line of the story......the god who answers by fire --He is God.
And the Lord God did answer by fire, and lots of it! And the prophets of Baal? Not even a spark.
After all of this excitement, you would think that Elijah might have even forgotten God's promise to bring rain on the land after he had presented himself to Ahab. But, Elijah was holding on to his promise. He boldly declared to Ahab, Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain. Now, there was no sound of a heavy rain yet, but Elijah was partnering with God and calling that which is not, as though it were. He was prophesying what would be, before it was.
That was all Elijah needed to hear. The tiny cloud was as good as a flood to him, because He was operating from a realm of faith. All along the way, Elijah's obedience, faith, and declarations had helped to seed the clouds that would then release a heavy rain on their land.
So, I'm humbled, challenged, and stirred by this glimpse into Elijah's life. I can't help but think of the promises of outpouring that have been released over our region and the responsibility that has been entrusted to us as His people. May we, like Elijah, assume the position of prayer that seeds the clouds with the heart and desire of our Father in Heaven. And may we, like the servant, have eyes to see the cloud as small as a man's fist rising over our own land.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Not too long ago I heard the elderly and well-known prophet, Bob Jones, tell of a time in his life when he actually died and was allowed to see a glimpse of heaven. After waiting his turn, he found himself before Jesus who asked him this question, "Did you learn to love?"
Life is a lot of things, but more and more I'm seeing that it is mostly about learning to love. Our pop culture has so cheapened the meaning of love with songs that contain confusing lyrics like found in Tina Turner's song "What's Love Got to Do with It?"
The journey to love is one that each one of us must travel and the bends and turns in the road are as different as the people who travel on them. But some things remain the same, and that is that a heart that can respond with love is a whole and healthy heart, and a heart that can't needs the healing touch of our loving Papa God.
So, how do you know if your heart is healthy? When you find yourself reacting to people instead of responding to people, you know you may need a heart check-up. Reacting usually looks like that list of behaviors you find in the New Testament where Paul is telling you what you shouldn't be doing. Galatians 5:19 has such a list,..."idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like."
Responding to situations and people calls for us to draw from that deep place within called our "spirit". Gal. 5: 16 says, "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature". When we take time to "respond" instead of "react" we draw from our spirit which has been renewed and is inhabited by the Holy Spirit who always produces fruit. We know we are responding from our spirit when what flows out from us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.....the fruit of the Spirit.
Another sign that love has become difficult because of a wounded and hurting heart, is that you find it very difficult to trust. In Tina Turner's song "What's Love got to Do with It?", the following lyrics portray very well where a hurting heart is headed:
I've been taking on a new direction
But I have to say
I've been thinking about my own protection
It scares me to feel this way
What's love got to do, got to do with it
What's love but a sweet old fashioned notion
What's love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken
When we cease to trust in relationships it is like we have set aside a portion of our heart and put up a "No Trespassing" sign. We adopt a "wait and see" attitude. The problem with this is that a heart that isn't fully engaged is always attached to a lonely and isolated person who longs for intimacy but never can seem to find it. They may present a "portion" of themselves and on the surface it can look pretty good. But, a closer look leaves you with the feeling that they're not all there.....and they're not. A "halfhearted" way of living is where many people find themselves because their wounded hearts fear the risk of trying to love and be loved again.
I am convinced that it is very difficult for an unhealthy heart to truly love. The person may try, but again and again will experience frustration through repeated episodes of failure to love.
So, what is the journey to a healthy heart? I believe it begins with forgiveness. Forgiveness first of all for yourself, and then forgiveness for others. Unforgiveness binds us and ultimately puts us in a place of torment. As we receive the Father's forgiveness, love, and grace for our sinful patterns, we experience a lightness and freedom that is liberating.
Sometimes the difficult work is forgiving those offenses against us, especially those of abuse and violence. We need to understand the high price we are paying if we hold on to unforgiveness against those who have hurt us. Many are trapped in mental anguish, physical infirmities and dysfunctional relationship skills because of their refusal or unawareness of the necessity of forgiveness. Many will live in denial for years, stubbornly refusing to face the humbling truth, and all the while they leave a wake of destruction to those in their path as well as to themselves.
The process of forgiveness may be simple for some and complex for others. Father may reveal layers of pain/unforgiveness patterns going back to childhood. But, in order to be fully free, the work must be done and the more thoroughly, the better. As you begin to forgive and taste the sweetness of being "out of prison", you will long for more freedom and the process gains momentum.
Another step in the journey to a healthy heart is learning to trust again. Actually, you begin to learn to trust again the moment you are willing to forgive. But, Jesus is calling us to a deeper place in this thing called love. The difficult person to love may be trapped in a cycle that is offensive and we are presented with a choice. Will we love? How will we love?
We, of course, cannot love the sin, and I am not suggesting that a person stay in a place of emotional or spiritual abuse, but I am suggesting that sometimes we are asked to be courageous enough to break our destructive "reactive" cycle by first forgiving and then beginning to love the offensive person by coming to see how Father sees them. Can we be unselfish enough to look past our own brokenness to see theirs? Can we give our whole heart to come into agreement with what Father intended for them to become? Can we join with Him in calling out the treasure? Can our heart be healthy enough to respond and not react to their sin?
When we begin to partner with the heart of God for the other person I believe a shift takes place in the atmosphere. Instead of perpetually stating the obvious and spotlighting their sin, we begin to hear from our spirit and state something entirely different. Love "always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres." This is love by a different definition. This is I Corinthians 13 love.
And love must walk hand in hand with trust. Not trust in ourselves, or in the other person, but trust in God who is big enough to change all of our hearts.
So, in answer to Tina's haunting question, "What's love got to do with it?", the answer is everything. Absolutely everything.
Monday, August 26, 2013
I get a kick out of reading instructions for things......especially instructions for appliances. Take for example a curling iron I bought recently. Tucked somewhere between how to turn it on/off and how to plug it in were the careful instructions, "Do not use while sleeping".
Some other favorites would be "Do not use while showering" found on my hairdryer cord label, or "Do not drive with sun shield in place" found on the cardboard sun shield that keeps the sun off the dashboard of my car.
If the Bible came with instructions, what would they say? Could Heb. 4:12 be God's way of giving us some useful instructions for using His word? A playful paraphrase might read, Warning: The substance you are about to injest is living and active. Caution! It can be sharp like a sword. Once injested it goes deep inside you forever and is able to judge the thoughts and attitudes of your heart. Prepare to be changed.
I'm so thankful that the word of God is alive and active. I'm not sure what that means to you, but to me it makes the scriptures a one-of-a-kind phenomenon. I've had the benefit of having a life-long relationship with the word of God. I grew up memorizing scripture, playing Bible games, and doing 'sword' drills. What I didn't understand as a child, and still don't completely, is that the word of God is alive. Once inside you, it goes to work. The words on the page are not just ink but the spoken words of God. 2 Tim. 3:16 says that all Scripture is God-breathed. We know that His words are powerful. Very powerful. In fact, the very universe was set into place and now sustained by His words.
But, we can't help but remember the Pharisees. Here were some guys who knew the word. And yet, they did not experience the life-changing benefits that many of us experience today. The reason? They knew the word, but not The Word.
It's always been interesting to me and kind of mind boggling, that Jesus is called, "The Word". Surely there could have been a better description of our Savior? But, a closer more thoughtful look reveals that 'The Word' is an absolutely marvelous and fitting title. Words convey thoughts and a message. Jesus coming and His very life and death here was His message, but even more, it was the Father's message. It was in the Father's thoughts to send His only Son as the perfect sacrifice to redeem His lost children. Set in full motion, those thoughts became words. Not just any words, but THE WORD.
Though I've been taught that I'm to value the written word of God, I've also been taught that my real relationship is with the Author of the book. But, I'm finding sometimes that the lines get a little blurry. This is no ordinary book, the words are 'active and living'. When we read it and partner with The Word, allowing Him through the Holy Spirit to interpret His message and thoughts to us, the results are explosive. The Word empowering the word in us. Amazing!
The word of God. Warning: Live contents enclosed. May cause radical change in anyone who comes in contact. Use with extreme anticipation and excitement.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14
Thursday, August 15, 2013
I remember the first prophetic word I ever received. A young, single, college student at the time, I was attending a John Denver concert. Not sure exactly how I developed a love for this mountain loving minstrel, but it may have had something to do with a guy friend I had at the time. That's another story and has nothing to do with this one.
We had sat spellbound through the first hour of music and intermission was underway. I found myself in the crowded lobby waiting in line to look at Denver memorabilia when a woman approached me. Her message was simple but I remember it well to this day, "God wants you to know that He loves you very much". Then she walked away.
I had never had anything like that happen to me before, so I wasn't sure what to think or how to act. I didn't have a charismatic background and was part of a church where people didn't do things like that. I remember feeling a combination of embarrassment, fear, and wonder.
I made my way back to my seat and though I'm sure 'John-boy' was just as amazing in the 2nd half of the concert, my mind was very distracted. "Was that really God speaking to me?", "Does He really care about me enough to find me at a John Denver concert?", and "What if it's true?", were just a few of the questions bombarding my mind. But, my spirit was doing something entirely different. My spirit was feeling good. Really good. It was the first 'heaven-touch' aimed right at my heart that I remember receiving and I desperately needed to hear it. Though I had felt embarrassed and a little afraid of the messenger delivering the word, wonder began to overtake my inhibitions.
After the last chorus of 'Rocky Mountain High' was sung, we left and made our way back to the college dorms. As I lay in my bed that night trying to relax enough to sleep, it wasn't the folksy music of the evening that kept running through my mind, but the simple message of love given by an unknown woman.
This was the first of many times that God would interrupt my world with His. I liked it very much.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. Habakkuk 2:1-2
Habakkuk stationed himself at the highest point, a place used for watching, in order to hear the revealed word of the Lord.
Expectation is part of the journey into greater revelation. If revelation is 'lifting the veil' on truth, then a life of eager expectation acknowledges that there is 'veiled truth' waiting to be discovered. Part of the Father's joy I believe is in watching His children enter into this journey of discovery and delight. If we are not looking for or expecting the Father to reveal anything to us, we will be much less likely to see or experience it when He does. Our paradigm and experience of revelation is greatly influenced by our expectation.
When we are together with our kids, we tell them secrets that we wouldn't tell anyone else. Our not-so-frequent times together are usually full of each of us sharing our journeys and 'inside info' that only family would share. Their relationship to us positions them and gives them access to our family secrets. As sons and daughters of the Father we, too, are already positioned for access to Him and the secrets of His heart.
With revelation comes an invitation, "come up higher". Revelation sheds light on what was previously in darkness and we choose whether or not we will step into that light. Revelation always requires a shift. The new revelation brings an enlargement of our thinking that often feels uncomfortable at first. We struggle to find our footing. The temptation is to go back to the old and familiar. We often delight in the discovery of revelation, but not always the process. New revelation must be received, worked out, and stepped into. Our careful handling of the revelation we receive positions us for more and advancement.
Testing comes in the areas where we have received revelation. We must demonstrate that we have laid hold of the truth through our tests. We move upward and onward as revelation is worked out in the day to day realities of our life.
Much of the modern day church is starved for revelation. Like gaunt holocaust-like dwellers existing on yesterday's bread, they live unaware of the abundant supply available for them. Proverbs 29:18 tells us that 'Where there is no vision(revelation), the people perish'.
The Children of Israel lived off the daily manna given to them with strict instructions not to store it for another day. Exodus 16:4 says that the 'manna rained down like bread from heaven'. They were totally dependent on this other worldly supply. Jesus told us that 'man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'. Our life source is the word that comes from His mouth. Without it we perish. Without it we stumble in the dark. Without it we resort to man's wisdom and man's best attempts to live in the light.
Man's attempts will always fall short. Man's attempts leave a hollow void. A void always cries out to be filled and the temptation is to make up what is lacking with day old manna.
Our insistence on living on yesterday's manna produces an effect similar to the rotting smell of the Israelites attempt to store the manna(Ex. 16:19-20). There's just something stinky about it.
The mark of revelation is the light and life it brings. Our spirit leaps and responds to revelation because it is the nourishment we are wired to need. As believers, it is written into our DNA. Receiving new revelation is one of the greatest joys and privileges we can experience. Like Habakkuk, I want to position my self to look, watch, and expect revelation.
Friday, July 19, 2013
I love the book of Proverbs. It's like stepping into a warm bath of wisdom, and I love letting the ancient words wash over me.
It's no small coincidence that there are 31 Proverbs.....just enough to read one chapter every day of the month, and then start over again. This has been my practice off and on for many years.
More than ever before, I am feeling the need to know and walk in true wisdom. It feels to me like life in general has become so complex. So many different standards, different belief systems, and blurring of ethical lines can leave us feeling a little lost. The words of Proverbs are like 'coming home' for me. Reading, I can be refreshed, challenged, and inspired all at the same time. But, more than that, Proverbs is like a plumb line. As the Holy Spirit breathes on the words, I find myself pulled back to center and timeless truth.
Many scholars believe that the 'Wisdom' talked about in Prov. 8: 22-36 is actually Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Verse 30-31 says that He was 'the craftsman at His side and was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence. Then in I Cor. 1:30, Paul describes Jesus as 'the wisdom from God'.
We know that Jesus was the exact representation of the Father, and in His own words said, 'If you've seen me, you've seen the Father.' (John 14:7) True wisdom comes from God. Anytime we veer away from truth, or anytime we start isolating ourselves from God or hiding from relationship with other believers, we have begun a journey away from wisdom.
Wisdom is portrayed to us in Proverbs as more precious than rubies. We are told that when we find wisdom we find life and receive favor from the Lord. Those who resist wisdom are portrayed as harming themselves and loving death.
So how can we pursue after Wisdom and run after this most precious gift?
First, is to realize that Wisdom is a person. When we encounter God, we encounter Wisdom. Hidden in Prov. 8 are some instructions for pursuing, valuing, and growing in wisdom. My favorite is in vs. 34, where Wisdom tells us, "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors. Waiting at my doorway." We are to listen, watch daily, and wait for Him. We've all been taught the value of having time with Him, but there is a lot to be said for the day in and day out faithfulness of listening, watching, and waiting on Him that cultivates and produces wisdom in our lives. In fact, we won't have true wisdom without it. The degree to which we have pursued this lifestyle is the degree to which wisdom will be present in our lives.
It's so easy to lower our standards of integrity and character, especially if others around us are lowering their standards. The growing popularity of 'loosey goosey' Christianity is a good sign that even our Christian culture has wandered from the lifestyle of listening, watching, and waiting in pursuit of Wisdom.
The other extreme would be to somehow interchange true wisdom with a list of rules and regulations. True wisdom is not about keeping the rules, but about a relationship with the one who is Wisdom. Godliness, character, and the fruit of the Spirit are all by-products of our intimate relationship with Him.
What is the hallmark of true wisdom? How can we recognize His mark on people, things, and events in our lives? James 3:17 gives us a standard by which we can know if wisdom is coming to us from heaven or not. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. This is the wisdom litmus test.
"Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." - Prov. 8:10-11
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Likewise, the very nature of faith is that it must be tested. Nothing like a good trial (is there such a thing?) to reveal what areas in our life still need the light of the kingdom. But, it's often during these trials that we lose our footing and find ourselves reeling from the blow and wondering what we did to deserve such treatment.
James, in James 1:2, even has the gall to tell us to 'count it all joy whenever you face trials of many kinds'. This is a tall order and in fact can seem almost impossible at times. We're supposed to be encouraged when he goes on to tell us that 'the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must finish its work'. Feel like partying yet? Me neither.
But, there is something profound hidden in James 1:4, that can help us in the 'count it all joy' process. James says that perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything'.
It is our Father's desire that we be mature and complete.....not lacking anything. I don't think that Jesus is the author of all our trials or that He delights in sending hardships our way, but I do know that He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is a master at taking what the enemy has intended for our demise and turning it around to strengthen, mature, and complete us.
A crawling baby is urged by its parents to begin taking steps. Time and again the baby may tumble, bumping its head, or scraping its knees. The parents endure the agony of this awkward phase because they have a goal in sight. They know without a doubt that one day their child will stand strong and walk confidently. What parent would keep their child crawling on the floor to avoid the risks of walking?
Our Father longs to partner and parent us through our trials, not as an unfeeling, sinister God, but as a wise and loving Daddy who is willing to help us withstand our current pain so that one day we can exchange it for something much bigger and greater.
When we signed up for Christianity we excitedly signed up for Warriors 101, and Overcomers 201. Why are we so surprised that overcomers need something to overcome and warriors need a battle to fight? It's fortunate that we're not allowed to drop our classes, but as Graham Cooke says, "we just get to take them over, and over, and over....."
So, how will we know when we have passed a test? There is lots of mystery surrounding that question, but I will share a few things I have learned on my journey:
- God isn't looking for perfection, but did my response mostly reveal my belief in Him, or did it mostly reveal my unbelief?
- Did my response include questioning the character and goodness of God?
- Did my response cause my heart to harden and my stance to be withdrawal, or did it produce a softening of my heart and a determined advancement?
- Did I play the 'blame game', or did I allow my heart to be changed?
Passing our tests is much bigger than just getting through the trial and alleviating our current pain. God is building something within us. He has to know who He can trust and who will represent Him well. He doesn't get upset or even disappointed with us when we fail. He is so ready to meet us where we are and help us make the necessary 'anchor point' adjustments so we can try again. He is very patient.
I've always been challenged by 9 little words found in Job 13:15; "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him". Oswald Chambers says that this is 'the most sublime utterance of faith in all of the Bible', and I think I agree. Many times our trials feel like He is 'slaying' us, but the only thing He wants to slay is our flesh. He wants the real you to live, and live maturely, completely, abundantly.....not lacking anything.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Have you ever felt swallowed up by love? Have you ever known what it is like to be fought for, defended by, and pursued after by God's fierce love?
Fierce might seem a strange word to describe love, but it is a fitting word to describe the love of God. Fierce, in the Merriam-Webster dictionary means 'marked by unrestrained zeal or vehemence'. That's it. God's love is marked by unrestrained zeal. He holds nothing back. And vehemence denotes intensity. He is unrestrained and He is intense in the measure of His love. He does nothing halfheartedly. Fierce love looks like the father of the prodigal son, running full speed to embrace his wayward son, throwing a robe around him, and giving a party on his behalf. Our Father doesn't have to count the cost of his lavish love because the cost has already been paid. Fierce love looked like His one and only Son dying on a cruel cross.
It's Father's desire, and Paul prays this for us in Ephesians, 'that we might be rooted and established in love'. Have you ever seen a tree that didn't develop a strong root system? The first strong wind that comes along, and it is likely to topple. We're the same way, but our root system is nurtured by love. Love is the thing that settles us in place and allows us to grow deeply and securely where God places us. His love establishes us. Without His love, we are like the roots of an unwatered tree. We will always be searching for the thing that we need and many times looking for it in all the wrong places.
The greatest delight of our journey is this unfolding discovery of the love of God. Paul continues in his prayer in Ephesians 3, asking that we 'may have power, together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge....' . It sounds like a funny play on words when Paul says that we can know this love that surpasses knowledge. But, I don't think he meant that we can know it in it's entirety, for that would take all of eternity. I do think he meant that we are to experience God's love, and know it intimately. Love is not meant to be reasoned, analyzed or studied from afar, but it is meant to be felt and known.
Many times when we have been hurt in this life, we tend to put up walls and numb our emotions. It's a normal response to pain. But, in order to experience God's love, it will be necessary to be willing for the walls to come down. It will also be necessary to admit the deepness of our hurt. Being honest about our hurt and receiving His healing for our hearts sets us up for a love encounter. It's in this place of vulnerability and honesty that we can experience His love.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Faces etched with worry and our hearts full of concern, we found ourselves as young parents on the way to the emergency room with our 6 month old son Jared. Just the day before we had visited the pediatrician's office and left armed with multiple prescriptions to fight the double ear infection, pinkeye, fever, and sore throat. We had done the ear infection, pinkeye thing many times with our 2 year old daughter, so we knew the routine. But, this would prove to be anything but routine.
Within 24 hours, Jared's symptoms worsened. His fever rose and he became lethargic, crying frequently, and his eyes were now almost swollen shut. We called our pediatrician and in a serious tone he said, 'Meet me at the ER.'
After we arrived at the ER words like Spinal Tap and Spinal Meningitis were being thrown at us and I felt like I was living in a nightmare. The Spinal Tap was done only to be followed by more sessions of poking and sticking with needles to try and insert an IV in his tiny veins. This was more than either of us could bear and we were told to take a walk while persistent nurses did their work.
After the Spinal Tap, Spinal Meningitis was ruled out, but the doctors admitted they had no answers for why he was so sick. The course of treatment would be high powered intravenous antibiotics to fight whatever enemy this was that had invaded his tiny body.
I was allowed to sleep on a cot in his room and settled down for what would be the first of a week of nights in this cold sterile room. But, sleep wouldn't come as my thoughts were filled with scary scenarios and my heart was aching with the agony of fear and uncertainty. Where was my faith? Where was the peace that I knew a Christian should feel at a time like this? Certainly any parent would experience a degree of anxiousness in such a situation, but what I felt was over the top. I was terrified.
I had hurriedly tossed a few things in a bag as we quickly left for the hospital and grabbed a book that I was reading, Ordering Your Private World by Gordon McDonald. As I read, the author talked about a phenomenon that had happened in Florida where streets, sidewalks, and apartment buildings had been built on ground that once had a stream flowing underneath. Now, years of drought and the unthinkable had happened. The ground was no longer stable, and a slight shifting of the earth, brought cars, lawn chairs, streets, sidewalks, and ultimately the apartment building tumbling into the chasm called a sinkhole. The illustration revealed that our lives can be built on faulty ground as well, and the troubles that we inevitably encounter in life will reveal how firm our foundation really is and what lies beneath the surface.
With a deep conviction, and tears of remorse and pain, I cried out to God at that moment. I knew that my foundation was faulty and that my inner world was operating from a deficit. I did not understand at the time, but I was living out of some incorrect beliefs about God and how He works in our lives. I had no solid idea of what my true identity was at the time, and as a result I was vulnerable to the lies of the enemy. I had a fear based mentality and and had no foundation of love from which I could draw strength.
But, God in His grace gave me the strength to make it through that week long ordeal and we left the hospital with a happy 6 month old in our arms. Though I still did not have revelation of the truth that my heart needed, I had experienced the sober reality that my heart had been tested and found lacking. I don't believe that God caused the sickness or had some elaborate plan to reveal my heart. But, instead He lovingly revealed to me the source of my pain and then comforted me right in the midst of it.
I left the hospital at the end of that week realizing that my private world was very much in need of ordering. I had found myself falling into a sinkhole and didn't want to go back there again. That experience was a defining moment in my life and through the years since then God has been so faithful to nurture, restore, and replenish the broken places of my heart. He's taken my blank slate of identity and written on it who He says that I am, and He's taught me truth upon truth so that I can more easily recognize the lies of my adversary. And now I know that I have a river of His very life, love, and presence within that I can draw from at any time and any place.
If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength. - Prov. 24:10
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
For years I struggled with fear. Fear is one of the earliest emotions I remember feeling. As a child, I don't remember many days without feeling some measure of fear. It would seem as if I had come from some terrible situation producing this continuous geyser of emotion, but quite the contrary is true. In many ways I had an idyllic childhood. My neighborhood, school, church, and community were 'Norman Rockwall' like and life in many ways was very good. I was not abused as a child and my basic needs and wants were met.
So, I have no horrible story depicting the 'why' of my fear, but just the memory of this dark shadow that weaves it's way throughout much of my early and teen years.
It would be many years later while doing a Bible study called "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby that I read a statement that shook me to my core. 'If you have a fear problem, you have a love problem'. Though I didn't have full understanding of why this was so, this marked the beginning of a journey into freedom for me.
I would like to tell you that the healing happened quickly, but instead it was layer upon layer as God worked His way into the innermost workings of my heart. I think it important to mention that before God began His process, I first tried dealing with fear on my own. I memorized scripture, I repented, I read books, but none of these dealt the death blow to my enemy called fear.
It was not until God Himself began to reveal to me the wrong perceptions in my mind and heart concerning His nature and His goodness, that I began to understand what had kept my heart so bound. I had seen Him as disinterested, uninvolved, and busy, and I had stinky theology in some areas concerning His sovereignty and judgments. I had no concept of what it meant to snuggle up on a father's lap and receive affirmation, comfort, and protection, so I developed my own futile ways of receiving these things.
But, God in His goodness entered into my world to dismantle the false system that I had built, and then began to build a foundation of identity, security, and love that flowed directly from His heart to mine. I learned to enjoy and look forward to my times in His presence as He always spoke into my heart just what I needed to hear.
It's been many years now that I began this journey to know and experience His love. Do I ever still struggle with fear? Yes...occasionally. But, it no longer has a hold on me, and it's unwelcome visits are usually short as I know where I need to go to send fear packing.
I learned that the only antidote to fear is His perfect love. Thank you God that fear cannot co-exist with Your love.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But, perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. - I Jn. 4: 16-18
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Can you imagine the stories that must have circulated from generation to generation among the children of Israel? The parting of the Red Sea, the manna that fell from heaven, and the pillar of fire and cloud that followed them, were just a few of the highlights. But, one that must have been told with a holy hush was the story of Moses returning from his visit with God, his face glowing so much that he had to cover it.
This reality, that someone who encounters God comes away radically transformed, became part of their cultural DNA. Moses had a hunger to meet with God and he had a burning desire to see His glory. After his encounter with God, where God lovingly shielded him from too much glory, his face shone with a light that must have amazed those who saw him.
It is this scenario that makes the language of Psalm 80:3 much more understandable. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. The Psalmist understood what those who walked with Moses must have known; it is impossible to encounter God's glory and not be changed. Throughout the Psalm he repeatedly cries out for restoration, but it is equally important to note that he has an understanding that it would be God's shining face or His glory that would bring about the depth of salvation and deliverance he so longed for.
It's these thoughts, and a burning desire to see more of His glory, that fill my heart and mind as we enter 2013. I'm so thankful for how He came in 2012, and the increase that we have seen in His presence. But, as one who has been in some type of ministry for over 30 years, I know that I know, that in order to see the dreams of my heart, or the great harvest prophesied by so many, I need a greater encounter with the God of glory.
In much the same way as Elijah when he faced the prophets of Baal, our backs are to the wall. We are facing a Godless culture who desperately need to see a demonstration of His power and glory. It will require the type of radical faith that Elijah had when he stood alone to face 450 prophets of Baal. As he gave the orders and prepared a place for God to come, he was walking in a steady, deep confidence that His God would come.
My favorite line from the story is set against this very backdrop of wood and sacrifice, 'The God who answers by fire-He is God'. Though I doubt that we will see a physical display such as Elijah saw in this incredible encounter, I can't help thinking that He is still the God who answers by fire. Isn't this what we need? We need a radical encounter with the God of Fire. We need to encounter the fire of His glory.
This is my prayer for 2013....that we will have the type of encounters with God that Moses had, that God's face would shine upon us in unprecedented measure, and that we would experience the God of demonstration and power such as Elijah saw. May He give us all the faith, tenacity, and courage to pursue Him until He answers by fire.