Tag Archives: Jesus

Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

Acts 5-20So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell.  They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…

*Image from Brittalafont.com

 


From Alienated to Reconciled

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation–Colossians 1:19-22 NIV

The story of the Bible starting in Genesis is that man was created to be with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening. What fellowship, what perfection.  Then sin entered, disrupting that bliss. And boom! Separation, alienation, sin, finger pointing, blame, toil and pain.  Genesis 3:15 contains a promise that one day someone from Eve’s seed would come and crush Satan’s head. It’s been a long time in waiting…

The best news in all the world is that our alienation from God is ended and we are reconciled to the King and the Judge of all of the universe and of all time. God sent His Son, His only begotten Son Jesus, the One who would contain all of the fullness of Him in bodily form to come and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  In dying on the cross, shedding His blood, Jesus made peace. The result: God is no longer against us, but for us. His wrath is satisfied. How can it be?

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.  That is what gave Jesus the authority to reconcile everything to Himself when He died on the cross.  When He shed His blood on the cross, He brought peace to everything and to everyone that was totally alienated from God.

When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it alienated humanity from God, nature from God, humanity from each other, and humanity from ourselves.  That’s why we need counseling. We can’t even get along with ourselves. Romans 8:19 says that even creation is awaiting its redemption. It was thrown off by sin too.  Jesus came to bring reconciliation to all parties by shedding His blood on the cross.

Once we were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.  That’s why people can’t stand Christians, can’t stand church, and can’t stand the name of Jesus.  It is really because they are enemies of God because of their sin. They don’t know that. John 3:19-20 tells us that men (and women) love the darkness because their deeds are evil.  That causes them to hate the light.

Some people can’t stand the idea of the Biblical God, so they just make up their own God.  They imagine God to be the way they would like Him to be, which is heavy on loving and very light on judging, except for the people that they don’t like.

But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.  Reconciliation Col 1-19involves a change in the relationship between God and man.  There has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of peace and fellowship.  2 Corinthians 5:18 says that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.  And now the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  It is all because of the blood of Jesus.  

Now we are found to be holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  In a jail Bible study, a woman said, “I am nothing but an old junkie.”  I said with a fiery determination, “You are not!” She said, “That’s what I feel like.  That’s how people treat me.” She has called out to Jesus to save her. She is earnestly attempting to leave her life of drugs behind her, but still has relapses.  

I took her and the other women to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers..nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We were all washed, sanctified and justified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit of our God.  We are not old junkies, we are not just ‘sinners saved by grace,’ or anything else that would minimize this reconciled, changed and empowered position.  We are washed and clean, friends of God, ready for action!

*Picture from Google Images

 

 

 


First things first

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  Colossians 1:15-18

When I was in college there was this cult, “The Way International,” that was sweeping the campus.  This was in the late 70’s, so it was a while ago. They would prey on vulnerable students with the pick up line, “Do you want abundant life?”  Then they would invite them to a weekend retreat for $250 and brainwash them. Their main book was “Jesus Christ is NOT God.”

Two gals on my dorm floor were getting sucked in.  They hadn’t gone to the weekend retreat because they didn’t have $250, but they went to their so called Bible studies.  I kept saying, “It’s a cult. Get away.” I was like 19, so not a fully developed brain…I went with them to one of their meetings.  Of course, people from “The Way” drove and it was a snaggly route all over the city, in the dark. They went through this programmed Bible study, so to speak, and sang a couple of strange hymns, and one of the people spoke in tongues of some sort.  As soon as the meeting part was over they broke out wine and started downing it, which I thought was strange.

The other two young women and I were the only non-groupies in this apartment.  I was sitting on the floor chatting when one of the leaders asked me what I thought about the study.  I launched into a complete monologue about why Jesus had to be God, not taking a breath because I knew they would break in and this was my only chance.  The person who asked me was standing and I was sitting. He snapped his fingers and within seconds the whole group was standing encircled around me.

I kept talking, going through Colossians 1, John 1 and Hebrews 1.  Then I went through Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8 and Romans 6:23. As soon as I finished, they nodded silently not saying a word.  No one spoke a word in response. We were there for at least another half an hour and no one talked to me, only to the other two students with me.  As I look back, I’m fortunate that we got home that night! The good news is that the two young women that came with me joined my dorm Bible study and quit going there, which was my intent.

Colossians 1 proclaims the glorious truth that Jesus Christ IS God and He is the king and Lord of the universe.  After Jesus rose from the grave, He was alive on the earth for 40 days. He then ascended into Heaven.

He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high and from there He upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).  Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, Hebrews 1:3 words it that He is the exact imprint of His (God’s) nature.  

Moving on in Colossians 1 it says For by Him all things were created.   In other words, Jesus created everything.  John 1:3 tells us the same thing: All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.  So get this “Mother Nature” thing out of your vocabulary.  It is a slap in the face to Jesus every time you say it! He made everything and is behind what takes place in nature.  In Him all things hold together.

All things were created for Him.  Everything, even Satan and demons.  They were created to bring glory to Jesus.  Have you ever thought of it that way? They are under Jesus’ authority, so whether we can wrap our minds around it–they are Jesus’ pawns.  World leaders were created for Jesus, mosquitos were, everything.

Jesus is the head of the church.  If we diss the church, then we are disrespecting the head of the church, which is Jesus.  The church is the agent which God has chosen to carry His great name and to fulfill the great commission.  It is not perfect, but it has a perfect head. Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us, God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.  

foam fingerSo that in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  You wouldn’t say to your spouse, “You’re in my top five.”  Same with Jesus. Jesus must be our number one. If you put Him first, according to Matthew 6:33, everything else will fall into place.  I’ll never forget when the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl and they stuck the microphone in front of Kurt Warner asking him how he did it.  He said, “First things first. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He now has a ministry called “First things first.”

That should be all of our taglines.  

 


I’m the One in Charge Here: Jesus

But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.  NIV  Philippians 3:20-21 

Jesus worldWe used to sing the song in music class “He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.”  I suppose today that’s not a politically correct song, so it’s on the banned list for music teachers.  Perhaps instead it would be sung, “We’ve got the whole wide world in our hands,” or something along that line.  But the good news for today is that Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand, and He is the One who brings everything under His control by His power.  He still does hold the world in His hands, and He always will.

Colossians 1:17 repeats this truth.  It is talking about Jesus: He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  Jesus holds all things together in the world.  Not Al Gore, not any man, but Jesus. Jesus is the One who keeps the sun from burning us up or from freezing us out.  He is the one to keep the disaster movies from happening. He is the fat lady who sings.

My husband and I just watched a movie, “How it Ends.”  In Acts 1:7 Jesus told the disciples, It is not for you to know times or seasons the Father has fixed by His own authority.  Don’t get sucked in.  It will end how God has fixed how it will end, not in any other way or time.  

Another verse about Jesus being in charge is Hebrews 1:3: Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.  After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  

There is no need to fear that an EMP will wipe us out, a nuclear disaster, an asteroid, or even global warming.  Jesus holds the universe under control by the word of His power. That same power will one day transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.  That’s a part of our hope in Heaven. One day we will not have the limitations of death, pain, tiredness, disabilities, and disease.

There was the beer commercial with people sitting in lawn chairs on the beach, drinking beers, with the caption: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  If you don’t know Jesus, that’s true. But if you do know Jesus, the best is yet to come. It does get WAY better than this!

 


Putting Jesus front and center

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

When I first got out of college and graduate school, I thought I was ready to take on the world.  I had a few years of schooling under my belt and God had done some pretty wild things in and through me.  They were ‘wild’ good and I was wanting to share them with anyone I could.  The funny thing was that no one seemed to care.  They weren’t running up to me asking me how much I knew, wanting to know what God had done in my life, all the places I had been…

I’ve always said that the maturity path is: in your twenties you think you know everything, in your thirties you don’t think you know anything, and then after that you have a pretty good sifting of what you do and don’t know.  BUT, I’ve missed the point.  At least according to Philippians 3:8.  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.  It never was.  Maybe somebody should have told me that back in my twenties, and maybe they tried and I couldn’t hear it.  It should have been about Jesus all along.

Paul said it in Philippians 3:  I used to brag on myself all of the time.  If anyone could do anything, I could do it better.  But now I count it as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.    I started to figure this out a few years ago after reading a cool old book called They Found the Secret by V. Raymond Edmonds (1960, Zondervan).  He was the President of Wheaton College and he compiled stories of famous Christians from the early to mid 1900’s.  They were people who knew God and who did things for Him.

There is the story of one guy that really changed my thinking about just waiting to tell people about myself and what God has done in me–and turning that around to just talking about Jesus.  His name is Ian Thomas.  He said that he learned, Only as I related situations to Jesus did I find that He undertook.  As soon as I related a situation to myself, He retired into the background…That is the secret; it is so simple!  Just to relate everything to the Lord Jesus, and take our hands off–to stand back and say, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, this is Thy situation! (page 140)

Picture it:  Jesus is with you and you’re talking about Him.  He stays front and center and He’s free to work, and stuff happens.  People are drawn to Him, lives are changed, and the things you are trying to do actually go ten times smoother than usual.  You don’t draw attention to yourself, just to others and point to Jesus whenever you can.  But then you start talking about yourself and Jesus withdraws into the background.  He isn’t free to work, and the opposite is true.  Things don’t go as smoothly, the cult of “you” is formed, and you’re the only member.

Ian Thomas had said earlier in his testimony, I tried to make up with noise what I lacked in effectiveness and power (page 137).  The less we put our confidence in Christ, and the more we put it in ourselves, the more we need the “noise.”  We may be seeking effectiveness and power, but looking for it through the noise of our personality, skills, technology, loud music, or whatever else we take pride in other than Jesus.

So I’m better than I used to be.  I don’t try to jump in with stories about myself, or ‘one garbage-can-1260832__340.jpgup’ someone else’s story.  In fact, if people ask me about myself, I’m quick to try to bring it around to what Jesus has done or to get out of the limelight.  Maybe I’m in the ‘Paul club’ now, where I count all my stuff as rubbish just so I may gain Christ and be found in Him. At least I hope so.

 


What do you want Me to do for you? I want to be healed

The blind beggar called out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, Rabbi, let me blind man.jpgrecover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.  Mark 10:48-52

Have you had weeks and months that just kind of blur together and not much big goes on, and then ‘Boom!’ big stuff happens?  Well, this last week was one of those weeks.  Let me back up.  For about the last four or five months, my left shoulder has been hurting, like bad. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even open up my car door without extreme pain kicking in.  I suppose it was a pinched nerve or a herniated disc.  For most of the last two or three weeks my arm was numb and cold when I woke up in the morning.

I began going to the chiropractor in June two to three times a week.  I knew I should have attended to it sooner, just too busy.  In early July the chiro said, “I can’t do anything more.  You’ve got to go to the doctor.  You’ve probably got to get an MRI.”  I nodded, but thought: “No way.  I’m not going to get an MRI.  I’m not going through all of that.”

Second strand of the story:  Over the last year, my husband and I have gotten to know a Christian brother better.  He’s the kind of guy that’s full of Holy Spirit energy.  He’s into dreams and interpreting them, so we like to talk about how God speaks to us.  He went on a missions trip to Haiti about a year and a half ago.  While there, whoever was leading the group told Brian to take charge of a line of locals who were there for healing. He was to pray for them to be healed.  Brian was thrown into just doing it, and God met him.  By the end of the day, almost all of the people were healed that he had prayed for.

He came back home thinking, “If God could work through me in Haiti, why can’t he work through me here to pray for people and see them healed?”  So he began to pray for people to be healed and things began to happen.  Brian began a small group Bible study in our area.  He has been inviting us to join us, but it hasn’t been until the last month or so that we have begun to go.

Another guy has been at the small group who also has the gift of healing, Barry.  And I sit there with a shoulder that hurts so much I can’t open my car door…I’ve been reading through the Gospels and ‘faith’ seems to be the thing that just keeps jumping out over and over.  So after the chiropractor said, “Yup, your shoulder is messed up,” I guess I knew it was time to actually apply faith and open my mouth.

So I did.  At the end of the small group, when it was time to pray, Brian asked if anyone needed any prayer.  Someone else said something first.  And then  I finally said, “My shoulder has been really bad lately.  I need prayer for it.”  So Brian said, “Okay, let’s pray for it.”  He prayed for God to heal it, then asked me to move it around.  “Nothing.”  He prayed for it again.  Still nothing.  Then another gal said, “Stand up.”  Then she had me raise my right arm.    She said, “I can feel and see the knot.  It’s huge.”

He prayed again.  Then he said, “Move it around.”  The loudest snap and crack sounded and the gal standing to my right yelled, “The knot is moving!  It’s gone!”  I moved my arm, and the knot and pinching and pain was gone.  That was five days ago.  It’s still gone.

There’s more to the story.  My husband struggles with anxiety a lot.  Like my shoulder pain, it has become more and more distinct and debilitating.  He has resisted going to the small group because he’s anxious about having to go to work the next day.  My reply is that we all have to go to work the next day, but that doesn’t change anything.  He wasn’t going to go this week because of it.

There were guest missionaries there from Albania.  They had become Christians through Barry.  As Brian was praying for me, the missionary wife was singing quietly over the whole while.  I thought it was pretty, but didn’t make much of it.  Wayne left as soon as prayer was over.  We drove separately so he could do that, our compromise.  When I got home, he said:  “I wished everyone would have stopped talking when that lady sang.  It was like a wave of peace washed over me.  I wanted her to sing over me for my anxiety.”

I asked why he didn’t stay then, but his anxiety had gotten the best of him.  But he called Barry’s the next day, in an act of faith, and asked if he could come and have them pray for his anxiety.  This was even bigger than my shoulder!  This anxiety has gripped him all of his life.

So Wayne went, and Barry and his wife and the missionaries prayed over him.  The wife sang.  Another miracle happened this week.  When Wayne left, it was like a load was taken off of him.  Peace that he hasn’t known swept over him.

I am not saying that this is a once and for all deal, because fear keeps knocking.  As we processed that freedom, we talked about how Jesus is the way and the truth–Satan is a liar.  Jesus is all about faith–Satan is all about fear.  James 4:7 says to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  I say he must flee from us when we take authority in Jesus’ name.  I rebuke you fear and anxiety in Jesus’ name.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


No grumbling

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received Jesus joyful.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  Luke 19:5-7

One of the things that catches me as I read through the Gospels is the different responses to Jesus.  Typically they can be boiled down to three base emotions: mad, sad and glad.

  • Mad–In Luke 4:16-30 there is the account of Jesus going back to His hometown just after His baptism.  He picked up the scroll and read the Messianic text from Isaiah 61, and then said: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  In other words, “I’m here.”  By the end of their discourse they get so enraged that they drive him out to the brow of the hill and try to throw him down the cliff.  When we try to talk to some people today about Jesus, they get that mad too.  They might not try to push us over a cliff, but they might threaten us with a lawsuit if we ever pray in public again, ending the prayer “in Jesus’ name.”  Oh, that makes them mad.
  • Sad–In Luke 18:18-24 there is the account of the ‘Rich Young Ruler.’  He came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus told him one thing that he lacked to be really good, since that was what they young man was going for, was to sell all that he had.  Verse 23 tells us “When he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”  I have seen many people walk away from Jesus sad because they love other things more than Jesus.  It’s usually men, because it’s women that I work with primarily.  They get involved in relationships that they know aren’t pleasing to Jesus, and they pick that guy over Jesus.  They would rather have a guy by their side, even if he’s not a good guy, than to wait for God’s best.  For others, they pick sports.  A friend’s son got more involved in hockey, so she quit coming to church because hockey tournaments took them away every weekend.  They drifted away from pursuing a relationship with Jesus.
  • Glad–In Luke 19:1-10, we see that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully.  He didn’t come up with excuses why Jesus couldn’t come to his house, he gladly welcomed Him in.  And then Zacc repented, telling Jesus how he was going to repay everyone that he defrauded.  What a joy it is to see someone receive the good news of the Gospel with gladness, and to see his or her life turned around by Jesus.

But there is another emotion in the Zacchaeus account that grabbed me today.  It’s in the grumbling.pngverses that are printed above.  Luke 19:7 tells us when they saw that Jesus was going to Zacchaeus’ house they grumbled.  We don’t know who the they’s are, but I can guess.  It’s the people who have resisted Jesus all along–the establishment, the Pharisees, the religious leaders.  I’m sorry it doesn’t rhyme with mad, sad and glad.

They grumbled.  Was it the whine of the self righteous, judgy, I’m so good I don’t need Jesus religious onlookers?  They are onlookers because they will never get involved, but only stand off from a distance and criticize.  Grumbling looks like it wouldn’t be as bad as the guys in Jesus’ hometown that tried to push Him off the cliff, but let’s look at Psalm 78:17-21 to see what God thought about the grumblers in the wilderness:

Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.  They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”

God’s response: Therefore, when the Lord heard, He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob, His anger rose against Israel.

We might not look at grumbling as rebelling against God, testing God in our hearts, demanding things of Him and speaking against Him, but it is.  And it stirs up His anger, which never is a good idea.

In Matthew 23 Jesus delivered a series of woes to the Pharisees and religious leaders, telling them exactly what He thought about their self righteous ways.  He said they preached but didn’t practice it, and that they shut the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.  They wouldn’t enter themselves and they weren’t allowing others to enter either.  They were full of greed and self indulgence, appearing righteous, but inside were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

I want to have the same reaction to people that Jesus has.  And I want to grumble at the things He grumbles at, not the other way around.  The way I get Jesus’ heart is to spend time with Him, lots more of it than I spend on the influence of the world.  It’s too easy to pick up that grumbly, judgy attitude about people and think things like, “They should just get a job,” or, “Who do they think they are?”

There is no end to the wrong attitudes I can have and I can end up being just like the Pharisees.  Jesus said in Matthew 7 to take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  That pretty much knocks me out of opening a speck picking business.

The people that grumbled when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house had a heart that resisted Jesus.  I don’t want a heart that resists Jesus.  Don’t you think it’s easiest to pick out other people’s faults when you’re trying to avoid your own?  That’s one way to resist Jesus–deflecting to other people’s stuff.

So, no grumbling, speck picking, or resisting Jesus’ work in my heart.  Not today, not ever.


Is that a shovel in your hand?

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13

holes shovelsOne of my favorite kids’ movies is the movie “Holes” from the book by Louis Sachar.  The kids at the juvenile detention camp, “Camp Green Lake” have to dig holes in the desert day in and day out.  The warden  is in search of a generations old treasure and the teens are the forced labor.  The song that plays as they dig has the line of “Keep digging those holes, diggin’.”

As we hew cisterns for ourselves that are broken and can hold no water, that song might has well be playing in the background.  “But wait a minute,” you cry, “I’m a Jesus lover.  I have not forsaken Him, nor have I dug my own well that can hold no water.”  Really?

I am reading a challenging book by Brad Bigney called, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols (P&R Publishing).  In it he talks about how we can give our hearts and our affections, our first love, over to something else.  That thing becomes our driving force to what we do.  Then we become idolaters.

I often read through the Old Testament and wonder how they could have altars to Baal or Asherah poles in their back yards or high hills and not connect the dots.  Like someone should have said: “Wake up!  How did we fall so far?  Get rid of these idols!”  Yet when someone looks back on our culture, they might see the things that we’ve allowed and  there will be certain idols that will be so clear to them that aren’t clear to us.

If we move away from the Bible, from Jesus, from what Romans 1:21 describes as essential: knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him–then we engage in the ‘Great Exchange.’  The ‘Great Exchange’ of Romans 1 is exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the created things instead of God the creator, exchanging  natural pleasures for unnatural ones.  Turn on the television or the computer and you see it and hear it.  Again, that’s not us!  Or is it?

I don’t have a shovel in my hands.   Or do I?  When the Israelites fashioned the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, again, I judge.  How could they?  God had just parted the Red Sea.  Do they have amnesia?  God was too slow–Moses was up on that mountain too long.  How often do I turn to something I can control, instead of waiting on God, even though it serves me poorly?  It’s a broken cistern, an idol, sin, rebellion–whatever you want to call it.  I’ve got a shovel in my hand and gold dust on my clothes.

My broken cisterns cost me.  They might be more predictable than God is, and they might keep me in the driver’s seat, but they cannot hold water.  They don’t deliver.  I might have pride if I succeeded in some plan, but there is fear lurking around the next corner about ‘what happens if I blow it next time?’ Or if I don’t get what I want and can’t conjure it up, there are things like depression and defeat to contend with.

I’m pretty good at spotting other people’s golden calves.  I can see them running around with their kids to all kinds of sporting events, or their preoccupation with keeping up with cultural norms.  I’m not so good at spotting my own.  Even if I am, I’m not so good at calling them what they are.    When I first set out in my 20’s after college, I was determined not to own any more things than what I could fit in my car.  I thought people who were tied down to mortgages, jobs and responsibilities were “sell out’s.”  It kept them from being all-in for the Kingdom.

Well, now I’m one of those sell out’s.  I stand on the edge of breaking away from it, contemplating an early retirement to go back to my radical lifestyle of my 20’s.  I didn’t know how God was going to provide then, but I knew He was.  I was ‘about my Father’s business,’ and I loved it.  Now I have much more to give up, but so much more to gain.  Is my job and  my position my broken cistern?  Is money my golden calf?  Is the control that the good salary offers, the self sufficiency, the power, and the me-time, standing in the way?

Brad Bigney:  “When you’re craving something other than God, even something good, God takes it very seriously.  In that moment, He’s coming after you.  He’s coming after you for His glory and your own good, because life for us is better without idols.  Life for us is better when we’re delighting in the gospel and living Christ as our highest treasure.  Life for us is better when we’re focused on God and free from idols.” p. 26

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139: 23-24


The Power of the Cross

the cross.pngFor Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Oh how we try to rely on everything but the simple message of the cross to get by and to get ahead in life!  We rely on eloquent wisdom, fancy words, glitzy images, good looks, muscle, craftiness, slick tricks, sometimes manipulation…anything but the simple message of the cross.  It’s a fitting Easter thought–the cross.  I need to return to it again and again.

In reading through Isaiah 53, and back through the corresponding Gospel passages, I am struck with the basic message:

  • Jesus was sinless.  Pilate said he found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:4).   Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  In other words, Jesus never sinned.  That’s why He was able to be the sacrifice for our sins.
  • The sinless one took our sins.  Back to Isaiah 53:4-5,  we find that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.  That’s the good news of Easter.  Jesus paid the price for sin so we don’t have to pay it, if we allow Him to.
  • Jesus gave up His life willing for us. Sin brings death and demands that a price be paid.  We’ve all sinned, and we all deserve death.   Isaiah 53:6 says, All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Jesus said in John 10:18 No one takes (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  Jesus willingly gave up His life to pay the price for our sin.
  • This is where true love and peace are found.  Romans 5:8 proclaims, But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the wrath satisfier (my word) for our sins.  And Romans 5:1 so marvelously declares, Since we have justified by faith, we have peace with God.  There is no other way to find peace deep down inside than to get this straight.

This is the message of the cross.  1 Corinthians 1 goes on to say that God entrusted the foolish, the weak, the low and despised to carry this message to shame the strong, the wise and the mighty so that none might boast in the presence of God.  God picked me, and for that I am eternally grateful.  And I get to tell others this simple, yet powerful message, not with eloquent words of wisdom lest I empty the cross of its power.

Jesus, use me.

*Image by ‘Faithlife Sermons’


The Heart of Darkness (My thoughts on school shootings as an Elementary Principal)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9 ESV

This is a big topic.  It has so many facets with no easy answers, otherwise we would have come up with them soon after the Columbine shootings in 1999.  This hits close to home for me as a school principal.  Sandy Hook was especially unraveling, since it was an elementary school and the principal and school psychologist were two of the victims on that dark day.  Each time there is a tragedy, school safety procedures change, and Parkland, Florida’s will bring more changes.

Our staff met for over an hour this last Friday talking through our procedures and there will be more drills in the coming weeks with students as young as four years old.  What I have been thinking about is that it seems that we have a much deeper problem than just too easy of access to guns.   I’ve been working with youth since I was one myself, so that’s almost 40 years now.  We are products of our culture, which has certainly taken a turn south in those 40 years.  I am disturbed by many things.

One is the disintegration of the family structure.   When I first began to work as a school counselor, I would have students draw out their families as a beginning point.  It showed me who they were, who was important to them, who lived in their home with them…It became such a point of confusion that I soon abandoned it.  So did our culture.  You can say it doesn’t matter if you get married or not, if you get divorced or not, who you marry, how many times, etc. but it fragments kids in a million different pieces.  And then you wonder why their mental health suffers.

Which leads to the next issue, which is mental health.  If I began to really talk about the dire mental health conditions that I really see on a daily basis in my small elementary school, you would push the red button.  I went with a group of teachers to a conference on setting a school wide behavior system a few years back.  There were probably thirty schools there from across Wisconsin.  Every school said they were there because they didn’t know what to do with their out of control mental health needs.  It is a national crisis.

We have consciously taken God out of our country in our drive toward total secular humanism, or whatever you want to call it.  Aristotle said, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” meaning that nature requires every space to filled with something.  If you take God out, that means evil takes its place.  In our area, which is not unique, drugs have taken over.  We are inundated with meth and heroine.  Alcohol seems like child’s play, a relief if that’s all that people do is to drink themselves to death.

Families, that aren’t families anymore, stop going to church, and they start going to bars. I can’t tell you how many funerals I have attended in bars over the last few years.  Fifteen to twenty years ago that would have been unthinkable.   The other place they go on Sundays instead of to church is to sporting events.  The number of youth tournaments on Sundays has taken over.  Sunday is just another day.  ‘Sport’ is the new religion.

The parents’ spiritual health, calling it what it is, is not good, so the child’s spiritual health is totally spinning.  They have suffered the affects of abuse, trauma, neglect and have added in video games that are just waiting to fill that hole in their heart.  Along comes games that are created to addict people from an early age.  “Five Nights of Freddy”  “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” are not games that seven year olds should be addicted to, but they are.

The topic I’m supposed to be on is school shootings, so I’ll get back to it.  Suppose you have a child who is: a) from a fragmented family, b) whose parent may or may not be addicted to some sort of drug and c) has either the child or the parent has mental health issues because of it,  d) the child has been addicted to some violent video game that programs his muscle memory and goes for “high kill” numbers, and e) they haven’t ever been to church (so no moral compass).  Where do you think that child is headed?

Not every family fits into this category.  But if you look at the profiles of the individuals that have been involved in shootings over the years, they usually have those above mentioned indicators in common.

What is the real solution?  Certainly not allowing automatic weapons into the hands of someone who fits that description is a beginning point, but it doesn’t end there.  How do we even begin to go “Back to the Future” on restoring our families, getting a moral compass from the absolute truth that comes from the Bible and God, and stopping the insanity of violent video games that program minds at an early age?  Revival comes to mind.

As you read through the book of Judges in the Old Testament, there are some pretty crazy things that take place.  There is a phrase that is repeated several times:  “In those days, everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”  It was the explanation to why everything was off kilter.  What will our explanation be?

We all have a heart of darkness without Jesus.  The heart if deceitful and desperately wicked.  “We all like sheep have gone astray, and have gone our own way,” as Isaiah 53:6 states.  The only answer that I know is Jesus.  My only hope is Jesus.  Your only hope is Jesus.  “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  That is the rest of Isaiah 53:6.