‘Cause I’ve got friends in low places and high places

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all making life and breath and everything.  And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him…He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.  Acts 17:24-31

I’ve been going to our County jail for some 18 years now, leading Bible studies with any interested women on Sunday nights.  I first went to meet with one Native American young lady who came in late one night and was intent on killing herself in any way she possibly could.  The jailer, a friend of mine, asked her if she had ever read the Bible.  She said, “Oh no, we’re not allowed to believe in Jesus.”

He asked if she would be willing to talk to a friend of his, and she said yes.  He got permission for me to come see her during visiting hours, and I talked through the plexiglass the first couple of visits.  That was highly ineffective and I asked if there was any way to meet face to face.  We were able to secure the room used to meet with attorneys, and from there, I was able to tell her about what she began to coin as the ‘Jesus Way.’  She soon began to invite the whole cell and I just kept coming back.

I used to think they just came to get out of their cell.  Though it is probably partially true, there is still something more that draws them.  There is a boomerang effect with many of the women.  They are back in again and again.  I like it, giving me the chance to speak truth into their lives for a longer stretch.  Once they get out, they fall so quickly back into their life of drugs and alcohol.

This Acts passage is one of my favorites to proclaim to them.  Paul spoke to the Greeks that were so polytheistic that they even had an altar to the ‘unknown god.’  Today we call our unknown god our ‘higher power.’  Our rock can give us the strength we need to get us through treatment, even though we’ve been here eight times before.  “I am here to tell you about a God you can know.  He has a name, and He knows your name…”

The truths that I get to present in jail are the ones I want to tell my nonChristian friends and coworkers.  They are ones I would put on a billboard in Hollywood or in Washington DC. If I could summarize them from Acts 17, they would look like this:

  1. God is the origin of all things and the Lord of all things.
  2. He is  unchanging (not relative).
  3. God has a name.  He has revealed Himself through His Son Jesus, the name that is above every name.
  4. Human life is sacred and important because He has created us for a purpose.  He gave us a purpose, a destiny, and He has a plan and a purpose for our lives.
  5. One day Jesus is going to return and judge the world in righteousness.

Acts 17.jpgThese are our reference points, fixed and unchanging.  You can call them ‘absolute truths.’  Just like Sir Isaac Newton named physical laws that governed the universe, these would be like the spiritual ones that govern us.  I’m sure there are more, like the ones Campus Crusades, or ‘Cru’, use.  Or others like “sin has consequences,” and “somebody has to pay the price for sin.”

What Paul proclaimed on Mars Hill says it.  He didn’t use Jesus’ name.  He referred to Him at the end when he said, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead. in verse 31.

The struggle today is over so many things.  We’ve tossed God out as our ultimate reality and our ultimate truth.  We’ve made truth relative and individual.  We have tried to teach kids self esteem and morality without a basis of a having a loving God who has created us for a purpose–someone who knows the number of hairs on our head, who gave us a plan and a destiny, and has a plan and a purpose for our lives.

Instead, we have taught a secular humanistic version of where we came from, described by Frank Peretti in The Chair: stripped down we’re really saying, “Kids, you’re an accident, with no reason for being here.  You are a meaningless conglomeration of molecules strung together purely by chance billions and billions of years ago.  All of the dust and the gas in the galaxy floated around and bumped into each other and said, ‘Let’s be organic.’  You have no reason for being here.  Your existence is pointless; the universe won’t mind when you die; you’ll just become compost…Now for self esteem class: You’re an accident, but a good accident.  You can do things–but what if you can’t?  Because people appreciate you–but what if they don’t? (This is a wonderful video series if you ever get time to watch it–do!)

The good news is that Jesus came to die on the cross for you and for me.  One day He is going to return and set the wrong right.  We will give account to Him.  Last night I got to sit with three delightful women in jail and shared the good news once again with them.  We laughed and prayed and had a great time in the Word of God.  They might be in low places now, but they get to hook up with my Friend Jesus who is in the Highest of High places…

 

 

 


Your Fifteen Minutes of Fame

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end…I perceived that whatever God does endures forever, nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it.  God has done it, so that people fear before Him.  I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.  Ecclesiastes 3:11,14,18

There are three ‘so that’s’ or ‘that’s’ in these verses.  The first one is: God has put eternity in our hearts yet so that we can’t find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  In other words, God has put a longing in our hearts for the infinite, or the eternal, but He has rigged it so that we can really only know the finite.

We have a longing for eternity but yet we can’t figure it all out because we’re limited in time and space.  We  have a yearning for something more, because we have souls that are eternal.  We are really made for a relationship with God almighty.  We all have a God sized hole in our hearts that is only filled with Him.  Some people figure it out, some never do.  Those that don’t spin around in all different sorts of directions, filling that hole with a variety of things.

The second ‘so that’ is that God is eternal and His works last forever.  God has made it that way so that we would fear Him.  Solomon doesn’t embellish this fact much, he just states it.  God is infinite, and we’re not, so we ought to fear Him.

The final ‘that’ is in verse 18: I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they are but beasts.  In other words, God is God and we are not.  He wants us to know how much we need Him.  The thing we all have in common is that in a hundred years we’ll all be dead.  In that way, we are like the beasts of the fields.  There has to be a meaning to the life we are given, because one day we will die.

There is a classic little book, A Confession, by Leo Tolstoy.  He wrote it in 1882.  It’s an Tolstoyinteresting read, not very long, and although he was a Russian intellectual, it’s very easy to follow his logic and his journey toward God.  I highly recommend it.  In his search for God, he read Ecclesiastes, as well as Buddha and Schopenhauer (a German philosopher).

Tolstoy’s real faith was in himself and in his own perfect will, to be better in the eyes of other people.  But he found it all meaningless.  He realized that he was paid well to be a teacher, but he really didn’t know much of anything.  By the age of 50 he was obsessed with suicide, keeping loose ropes away from himself lest he hang himself on a beam.

His question was, “Why do I live?”  His answer up that point was, “In infinite space, in infinite time, infinitely small particles change their forms in infinite complexity, and when you understood the laws of those mutations of form you will understand why you live on the earth.”  ( From Chapter 5)

Another way of saying it: “You are an accidentally united little lump of something that ferments and become life.  Then one day it disintegrates and there will be an end of the fermenting and of all the questions.”  If that’s true, then why do we cry out for our ’15 minutes of fame,’ as Andy Warhol first tagged it?  Or, as Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy, (pg. 9) why did ever people want to be ‘The Oscar Meyer Wiener’ where everyone will be in love with me?

Tolstoy eventually moved from having faith in himself and in only the rational knowledge, which brought futility to having a faith in irrational knowledge which was found in admitting that there was a God.  He didn’t find this faith by being with the other rich intellectuals.  In his search for meaning, he found it by spending time with the peasants.  They worked in heavy labor but were content in life.  He spent the rest of his days living a simple life with them, sorting out a faith in God.

Tolstoy discovered in his late fifties what Solomon wrote about.  Our hunger for meaning in life and significance is a signal of what God planted in us.  It’s who we are and why we are here.  We were made by an infinite, eternal God.  We bear His image.  We were meant to count, just like water is made to run downhill.  God has placed eternity in our hearts, with souls that live on after we die.  That’s what makes us different than animals.  One day we will all stand and give an account to our Creator.

So if you get an urge to try out for ‘American Idol’ or to  do something to make a mark, know it is because God has placed eternity in your heart.  You were made to count because you’re more than just an accidental lump of something that evolved from some primordial goo.  You were made by a God who loves you, knows you by name, and has a plan for your life.  You don’t have to worry about having loose ropes laying around, and that’s good news.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Great Exchange

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God…but they became futile in their thinking…Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for stuff (me)…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  Romans 1:21-25

I used to think this was the progression that idol worshipers in places like Papua New Guinea followed–some remote island.  But not me.  I’m not an idol worshiper!  I don’t have carved images in my backyard or on my mantel.  And I’m not like the pagans in my community who go golfing on Sunday mornings while I’m up early for prayer meeting, Sunday school and church.  They have idols, but not me.

Think again.  I’ve been slowly working through Brad Bigney’s  book, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols with a great group of women.  We’re just in the second chapter, so the best is yet to come in this archaeological dig of the heart.  I’m just in the first layer of unearthing my own heart.  I’m seeing that, though I might cloak my idols in a different veneer, they are there.

Anything I exchange for the one true God is an idol.  I can exchange the glory of God for stuff, materialistic things that I can hold on to.  And I can exchange the truth of God for any lie that I cling to that I think is easier to hold on to than to really believe what He has promised.  That’s my great exchange.

idol-7Back in Exodus when the Israelites were waiting for Moses to come back down from the mountain they had Aaron make a golden calf.  That seemed so silly to me.  They had just seen God part the Red Sea and drown the Egyptian army and all.  Now they have to wait 40 days and it’s too long?  But God has given us front row seats to His glory too and when He’s not on our timetable we go running off to something or someone else all too easily.  We turn to something we can control because we lose the faith or patience or the toughness that it takes to wait it out just a little longer until God delivers.

I remember working at an all girls’ camp and being over a dozen counselors and about 50 teenage girls.  The tricky part was that there was a boys camp across the lake and around the bend.  So my sleep was disrupted regularly by trying to catch the occasional interlopers.  The one that sticks in my mind was a twenty something counselor that was busted hooking up with a guy counselor at chapel point, (of all places) to have sex.  Her justification was, “in case she never gets a chance again.”  Really?  So like the golden calf crowd.

We get jumpy and stay in the drivers seat and exchange the truth of God for a lie.  The lie might be that trusting in money is better than trusting in God.  Isn’t it funny that we have “In God we trust” on our money (when we really trust in money)?  A friend from college stopped in about ten years after and I asked him how he was doing spiritually.  He was an engineer in a glass company and was doing quite well.  He was shockingly honest and said that he wasn’t doing well spiritually.  He said he had the same attitude he used to have when he smoked pot, but now it was money that he was smoking.  I looked at him funny, and he said that he was embedded in materialism.  No one at church bothered him about it. He said it wasn’t like when he smoked pot, but it was the same rebellion.  The good news was when I saw him about five years later and asked him if he was still smoking money, he said he wasn’t.  I could tell he was much healthier spiritually.

 God isn’t always on our timetable so we get take matters into our own hands, just like the golden calf crowd and we turn to something we can control, says Bigney–even though idols serve us so poorly, and hurt us and cost us.  But we think they’re more predictable than God is, and they keep us in the driver’s seat.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that “We walk by faith, not by sight,” but I think at core we wrestle with that most of the time.  The first thing Martha said to Jesus in John 11 was “You’re late,” when she had sent word to him that Lazarus was sick.  Jesus didn’t come right away and now he was dead.  Don’t we tell God He’s late a lot?    Jesus told Martha it was for the glory of God that He waited.  In chapter 2 of his book, Bigney says that “God is good, but He’s not safe. He will mess with your life–not just to be messing with it, but to conform you to the image of Christ.”

Jesus came late to mess with Martha and Mary because He had something so much bigger up His sleeve than just healing their brother.  He wanted to prove that He was the resurrection and the life and to give them a sneak preview of a huge coming attraction–His own resurrection.  And they got front row seats.  Wow.  Follow Jesus and that’s what He’ll do with you.  Put your life on the line and He’ll take your clean little life and turn it into a big, messy one.  Is it safe?  NO.  But like Mr. Beaver told Susan in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: “Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course He isn’t safe.  But He’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Still in chapter 2, Bigney quotes Richard Keyes, from “The Idol Factory,” in No One but God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age.  Keyes says that, paraphrased, we make idols because we don’t want to face God himself and His holiness.  So rather than to deal with His lordship, we orient ourselves towards ‘creations,’ and kind of make up our own rules.

In other words, we have the evidence of God within ourselves and in the world, but it’s too demanding to play life by God’s rules.  So then we make up our own religion that looks kind of like God’s, but we’re the ones in control.  It’s too difficult to really draw near to God, because if you’re entertaining unconfessed sin, or flat out rebelling, you can’t be in the same zip code with God.  His holiness will consume you.  You’ll go nuts.

Keyes goes on to say, “Since we were made to relate to God, but do not want to face Him, we forever inflate things in this world to religious proportions to fill the vacuum left by God’s exclusion.”  That’s why we have elevated sports to such an over the top status, even in Christian families.  Bigney words it so well: “As Christians–lovers of Jesus Christ–we have a higher calling.”

As soon as we drift away from Christ and the centrality of the gospel, we start erecting substitutes for God.  That’s why our culture is so desperate to make heroes and celebrities our everything and everybody–because of our innate yearning for God and the freedom of His gospel, both of which we as a people have rejected.  And we try to fill the void with hero and celebrity worship.

The antidote?  Shine a light on your heart, but quickly turn it to Jesus.  Read the Gospels, delight in grace and what Jesus has done.  Don’t drift.  In Sunday School we decided to ask ourselves the question about what we needed to fast from that might have a foothold where it ought not have.  Bigney’s question in identifying idols is “Am I willing to sin to get it?”

Where have I exchanged God’s best for a lie, a cheap substitute?  Where have I caved to something that is easier than to walk by faith and have chosen instead to walk by sight?

We’re going on an archaeological dig straight into our hearts.  I’ll tell you what I find.


Let’s go Fishing

fishing with a net

Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’  And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!  But at Your word I will let down the nets.’  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking…They were all astonished at the catch of fish they had taken…’Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’  Luke 5:1-11

This caught my attention today.  It was our fishing opener last weekend.  Our lake country is flooded with trucks pulling boats.  So I can picture it.  The guys had been fishing all night.  No luck.  I’ve had those days of fishing.  I’m a fair weather fisher.  My husband always says, “A bad day of fishing is better than a day at work,” but I still gauge my day of fishing on how many fish we come home with.  I’m with Peter, “We toiled all night and took nothing!”

The disciples still aren’t sure of who this Jesus was.  “But at Your word we’ll give it another try.”  And, boom!  There are so many fish both boats start to sink.  My thought would be, “I’m sticking with this guy, he knows where the fish are.”  But then Jesus says, From now on you’ll be catching men.

Catching men?  They were still in awe about the huge catch of fish that just wasn’t there.  And now this guy tosses in that they will be catching men?  Jesus must have hooked them, because verse 11 tells us, And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.  

Jesus knew where the fish were.  He could take them to depths or catches that they couldn’t humanly do.  Stick with Him and this could be the norm.  Peter caught the bigness of the moment.  He sunk to his knees and cried, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.  He knew that not just anyone could fill empty nets.  Just wait Peter, I am going to fill those nets with people.

I am left with two thoughts spinning around in my head to mull over:

  1. Only Jesus can take me to the depths of life.  If I listen to Him, He’ll tell me where to cast my net and I’ll catch fish where there weren’t fish before.  Fish=people.  Fish are temporal, people are eternal.  I can fish all night on my own, but it’s not until He speaks and puts prompts on my heart to tell me who to go to and where that I am effective.  That’s the gist of the abiding life described in John 15:5, Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  Take me out into the deep God!  I need you to lead me.  Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Places You’ll Go” is nothing compared to the places Peter went, and we go, led out by the Spirit.  Where do you want me to drop my nets today?
  2. From now on we’ll be catching people.  That word ‘catching’ is zogreo in the Greek.  Try to use that word in a sentence today at work to impress people (just kidding).  It means to entrap or catch alive.  It can mean to make a prisoner of war, like Satan does when used in 2 Timothy 2:26, that they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.  Or it can mean to set people free from the trap they have been in.  In other words, “From now on you will be catching people out of Satan’s trap, setting them free for God’s kingdom.”  Some of those people that I know that are caught in traps are Christians. They aren’t free to do God’s will because they are stuck and aren’t running free.  They have what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 calls a stronghold (or two or three) in their life and it needs to be brought down.  Others are nonChristians and they don’t know Jesus yet and need to call on His name first and foremost to get free.  Who do you want me to help get out of a trap today?

Now, let’s go fishing!


God is ‘The King of the World’ and the King of Me

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.  Isaiah 40:21-23

 Do you remember that scene in ‘Titanic’ where Leonardo DiCaprio is on the bow of that great ship and cries out, “I’m the king of the world”? Or, Shirley MacLaine in the movie, “Out On a Limb” when she stood on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and sang, “I am God, I am God, I am God.” (see Fatheralexander.org)

What do you suppose God thinks of that? Frank Peretti humorously imagines in his video, “The Chair,”  from Compass International, God hearing this little squeal while Shirley MacLaine is beating her chest and declaring loudly that she’s God, and says, “Hey, Peter, get a load of this,” as He hears a little squeak.  In other words, He is God and we’re not. He is the true King of the World.

king-world-concept-25324632God sits above the circle of the earth and we are like grasshoppers. He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and brings princes to rulers to nothing. Isaiah 40 goes on to say that scarcely have the kings and princes established themselves when God blows on them and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

Proverbs 21:1 tells us that, The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.  God controls the rulers of the world, even the evil dictators. They do His bidding. So when it looks like the world is falling apart, with a variety of situations that threaten to spin out of control—know that God establishes leaders and He brings them down.

We don’t need to fret when we turn on the news. We do need to entrust ourselves into the hands of a God who sits above the circle of the earth, whose Ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts, as Isaiah 55:8 declares.

The personal application of Isaiah 40 is coming to the conclusion that there is a God who sits on the throne and that this God of the universe if worthy of all of your praise.  I was reading about what Steven Hawking believed.  He was one of the smartest guys on the planet, yet before his death in March of 2018, he still claimed to be an atheist.  He believed that there was a grand design to the universe, but it had nothing to do with God.

 Throughout the years, Hawking has made many statements in opposition to religious beliefs. A few are listed below.  These quotes are taken from owlcation.com:

  • “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
  • “There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
  • “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is; there is no God. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.“ This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

I look at the contrast between his life and mine.  I am not as smart, by a long stretch, but I do know, to borrow the line of a hymn, “that at God’s right hand stands the One who is my Savior.”  The same power that enables Jesus to hold the universe together (Colossians 1:17) is the same power that holds me together.

 

 


No longer a drama queen

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  Isaiah 32:17

 Are you ever around certain people and all they do is stir up drama? And you wonder why it is that there is a trail of divisiveness, arguing, disputes, and intensity wherever that person goes? It takes a lot of energy to have that person in your life, at your family get together, or as a coworker. You might find yourself avoiding him or her, even subconsciously, because you just don’t want to play along.

Isaiah tells us of the opposite–that the effect of righteousness, of God’s righteousness, will be peace, quietness and trust. That is true of a life where God invades, compared to a life that is not surrendered to God. James 3:13-18 gives us that contrast:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

That’s a mouthful. Hopefully you can see the contrast between the life of righteousness that comes from God, and the life that is characterized by bitterness and selfish ambition, that is full of disorder and every vile practice.  You are gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits and sincere.   And you will plant seeds of peace and righteousness, and hence, get peace and righteousness in return.

That’s such a contrast to those who aren’t ruled by peace.  James 3:15 goes as far as calling those driven by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition demonic.  Call it what it is. Titus 3:10-11 tells us, As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

The best thing that person can do is to stop and to figure out what root sin is driving that drama. Chaos and divisiveness is a characteristic of this. If you see someone whose life is filled with disorder, look for unresolved bitterness.   There are some people whose slogan could be, “There’s always something.” They think it’s funny, but it could be because of jealousy, selfish ambition or bitterness driving them.  If you have the opportunity, help the divisive person see the bitterness that might be driving the drama.

I’ve been thinking about that lately with a co-worker who tends to lean toward being passive aggressive. I’ve thought about telling her the verses from Titus about warning someone once and then twice and then having nothing to do with her, so as to let her know that she can’t keep being divisive. It isn’t okay.

So we can’t call someone a drama queen and just move on. If it isn’t okay to be like that, then we shouldn’t let that person continue to operate like that. Instead of just steering around him or her, taking a stand would be to do what Titus says, to be direct and warn him/her and then to not have anything to do with him/her anymore.

peaceable

Back to the positive side of being ruled by God’s righteousness—the outcome is peace is a quiet spirit, and a harvest of righteousness. That’s so much better. When you walk into someone’s home that this is the prevailing theme, there is order, calmness, and just plain peace. There doesn’t have to be drama or self-advancement—in fact, it is out of place. You want to be around those people, and that’s who you should want to be.

The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  May it mark your life.  May drama, jealousy, divisiveness, selfish ambition be far from you.

*Image from slideshare.net

 


Spiritual Grit

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.  Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.  Micah 7:7-8

This is like the Christian version of “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten. The chorus cries out “This is my fight song, take back my life song…”  I can almost hear it playing in the background as I read today’s verses.  When you feel like you are under attack and you’ve been buried under a load of defeat, this is your fight song.  I will look to the Lord, my God will hear me, when I fall down I will get up again, the Lord will light my darkness…

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul describes the armor of God that we are to pray over ourselves to stand firm in the day of evil.  One of the pieces of the armor is the shield of faith.  We are to pick up this shield daily and stand on God’s promises.  There are days that I picture myself picking up the shield in my left hand and I quote verses out loud that declare my faith in the God who hears me and will save me.  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” and “with God all things are possible,” and “by my God I can leap a high wall and bend a bow of bronze.”  That is my fight song.

Commit fighter verses to memory and call them out loud.  Pray them over yourself and others who you know that are struggling.  James 4:7 tells us to Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  2 Corinthians 10:4 declares that we have weapons of warfare that are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Quoting Scripture out loud is one of those weapons. So is calling on the name of Jesus, prayer and singing praise and worship songs out loud when necessary.

In my position as principal, it is a convenient place for bashers to pop up on Facebook. It is almost always for unfair reasons and truth usually doesn’t have to be told in the posts. It’s kind of like a Jerry Springer show, where drama is daytime entertainment.  I’m not on Facebook for a variety of reasons, but one is that it is too tempting to enter into the fray and war according to the flesh. Instead, I claim Psalm 31:20, In the cover of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men. You store them in Your shelter from the strife of tongues. I also remember Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

gritMicah called out: “When I fall, I shall rise.”  This is Christian grit.  Researcher Angela Duckworth says on Ted Talks that people who are successful didn’t get to be that way from having family money, or good looks, IQ, or anything else.  She reports that the biggest determining factor is grit.   Grit is resilience, an attitude that will not give up, look back or turn away.  You might not have much bounce left, but with God empowering and equipping you, you can do anything.

Even if your fall was the result of your own stupidity or sin, God forgives. Confess what you’ve done, don’t repeat it and get right back on the horse. Though you sit in the darkness, the Lord will be a light to you.

To quote Dr. Seuss, from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990, Dr. Seuss Enterprises)

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.  Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.  A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!

Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?  How much can you lose? How much can you win?  And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…

or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?  Or go around back and sneak in from behind?  Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,  for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.”

There will be dark times and dark places, but never forget that even in them—God will be with you and He will be a light for you. And that is something worth hanging on to.


How to please God

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8

The prophet Micah was asking about how to please God in Micah 6.  He asked if he should come before God with thousands of animals for burnt offerings or ten thousands of rivers of oil to burn incense as a fragrant offering.   In today’s terms we might ask if Micah 6-8we should go to church three times a week, become a missionary, or give all of your money to a good cause.

No, the answer is still the same.   God gives a picture of His true heart for how we should live in a way that pleases Him.  We should pursue justice, to love kindness and to be humble.  God’s answer to Israel and to us is today’s verse:  pursue justice, love kindness and be humble before God and others.

We find a similar response in Isaiah 58.  In that chapter, God told the people of Israel that even though they sought Him daily and even fasted to be religious, it didn’t amount to much.  God told them if they really wanted to please Him they should end wickedness, oppression, and injustice, to feed the hungry and take in the homeless.

The justice that we are to pursue isn’t just for ourselves; it is for those who have no voice.  It might be for those who don’t have the financial resources to get a good lawyer, or for children and the unborn.   God wants us to see others that are not as well off as we are and find ways to help them.

We are not to get confused and to think that ‘social justice’ is the Gospel, as some movements do.   But if I live a grace and truth filled, joyful and Jesus centered life–that should make me different. It should make me incredibly generous, and quick to embrace the messy people who have more needs than I can meet. I should be looking for ways to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

My eyes should always be looking outward, not in at my own safe little heterogeneous group or navel gazing at myself. One of my capstone verses is John 10:16 where Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice.”

Micah 6:8 mentions both justice and kindness. Synonyms for kindness are: gentleness, affection, warmth, concern and care.   This is a fruit of the Spirit, so as I am walking in the Spirit, kindness should be front and center. That slogan about practicing ‘random acts of kindness’ is kind of funny. Really, we should be practicing ‘intentional and well thought out acts of kindness on a regular basis.’ But that doesn’t make for a good t-shirt slogan.

Finally, God wants us to be humble.  It is easier to think about the opposite trait, which is pride.  James 4:6 tells us, “God oppose the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  And in Philippians 2:3 Paul writes, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  As Tim Keller said in The Art of Self Forgetfulness, “It’s not that you think less of yourself, it’s that you think of yourself less.” That’s what God is looking for. The thing about humility is that when you achieve it, no one will notice!

If you want to know how to please God, here it is: stand up for someone who can’t speak for him or herself, do an intentional and well thought out act of kindness daily, and make sure you don’t get the credit for it.

 


Know God, Be Strong, Take Action

daniel knew his GodBut the people who know their God shall stand firm (be strong KJV; rise up) and take action (do exploits). Daniel 11:32b

This verse is in the context of Daniel foretelling what is going to happen in the “end times,” which is a period of turmoil before Israel will be restored to its former glory and Jesus will sit on the throne in Jerusalem.  In the middle of much conflict and extreme evil there is a big “but.”  It is a light in the middle of the darkness: “BUT the people who know their God will stand firm and take action.”

David knew it when he rose up as a shepherd boy and took on Goliath.  He said in 1 Samuel 17:37: The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.  Then in verses 45-47 You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…I will strike you down that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord save not with sword and spear.  For the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hand.

We need this same moxy today!  I am encouraged when I read headlines where people are in perilous situations or do big things and give glory to God.  One such example was this last week when Tammie Jo Shults landed the Southwest Airlines flight April 17 safely after an engine blew midair.  Though one passenger was sadly lost on the flight, the other 144 faced the same plight, but she safely landed the plane.  Tammie Jo was quoted as saying that “God sent His angels to watch over us,” in a Charisma News article of April 18.    A Christian, Tammie Jo reports that she gets opportunities to witness for Christ on almost every flight.  This time she got an opportunity to stand firm and take action.  The biggest thing that the news reports commented on was her calmness.

The idea is being ready for action, ready to be used by God.  There are three characteristics that I want to highlight about those who know God and are ready for action:

  1. They  understand the times and know what to do.  In 1 Chronicles 12:32 that is how the men of Issachar are described: Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs , and all their kinsmen under their command.  This takes discernment.  It takes watching the news and current events, sifting through all of the political bickering, posturing and flat out garbage–and then knowing what to do.  Discernment comes through prayer and Bible study more than through watching TV and being on the Internet.  In Habakkuk 2:1 he declares, I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He (God) will say to me.
  2. They have boldness and an undying energy in the Lord.  In 1 Chronicles 12 there is a description of David’s mighty men.  It details the mighty men who helped him in war.  They were bowmen who could shoot arrows and could sling stones with either the right or the left hand.  They were experts with the shield and the spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were a swift as gazelles upon the mountains.  They crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it was overflowing all its banks and put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west.  Now those are exploits!  God isn’t looking for an army of physical warriors today, but He is looking people with that same boldness and spunk.   He has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of boldness, courage, and ‘Go ahead punk, make my day’ mentality.  If we can have that kind of attitude for the things of the world, let’s have it for God.  Don’t let the enemy wear you down!
  3. They dream big dreams, and then do it.  Those are the kind of people I like to be around.  Paul declared, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, in Philippians 4:13.   I’m trying to catch myself every time I tell God that I can’t do something, including “I can’t take this anymore.”  No–I can do all things if He gives me strength.  And God will if that is what He wants me to do.  David stepped forward when no one else would.  He was in the right place at the right time, and it was God’s place for him and God’s time.  God, give me Your dreams.  Put them on my heart.  Place me around dreamers.  Keep the ‘no’ people far from me.

May you know God, be strong, rise up and take action.  And may you impact our generation for Him.

*Image from zh-cn.facebook.com

 


A Tale of Two Destinies

Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, and in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”   Jeremiah 9:23-24

 I had this male friend in high school that was very much into money and also into girls. Both were the driving forces of his life and he let everyone know about it. He knew I was a Christian and deep down it bothered him. When he got drunk, he would take very two pathshurtful stabs at me. When he was in college he would talk about how he was going to make all kinds of money. He knew that I wanted to either be a missionary or do full time Christian work and he would dig at how worthless that was.

I maybe saw him three or four times after high school and this was the repeated theme of our talks that would turn into arguments, because he would be sadly drunk and gloating over the wrong things. The last time I saw him was at our twenty-year class reunion. He was already retired as a millionaire but was not happy, though he tried to rub his money in my face.

About ten years ago I had a dream that he had built a big structure back in our hometown and threw a big party.  He had invited 230 people to it and served exotic food and served free drinks. I refused to go. In my dream, he had rigged the building with bombs and had killed all of the people. In the next clip of my dream I went to visit him on death row and spoke to him about Heaven and Hell. It was as if I was really speaking to him.

I found out from my sister a day or two after the dream that this friend had been found dead and that he had died the same night I had the dream.   I went to the online condolences and put Jeremiah 9:23-24 with my sympathy message to his family. I don’t know if he ever turned his life’s ambition around, but my prayer is that he called out to Jesus before he died.

That is an extreme example of the message that we each need to take to heart. Some trust in riches, others trust in their strength, others in their brains or wisdom. Each of those things will only take you so far. Without Jesus, it will not take you beyond the grave.

If you do know Jesus, it is still tempting to try to trust in your own strength, money or wisdom. I Corinthians 1:27-31 flies in the face of that. Paul writes that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak to shame the strong; the low and despised to shame the highly esteemed. In other words, God is looking for a few weak people.

If we’re going to boast, boast in the Lord. Jeremiah said to boast that we know and understand the Lord, that He practices love, justice and righteousness. Paul said to boast in the cross.  In the end, the one who dies with the most toys dies. Sadly, they go to Hell if they don’t know Jesus. The one who boasts in Jesus Christ, in His cross, and in the God who practices love, justice and righteousness, will inherit eternal life.

boast 44 8

 

*Images from shutter stock and steemit.com