Friday, December 24, 2010
One statement I have noticed of late in the Christmas story is: "...because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7). It occurred to me that Jesus was intended to be born in a specific place identified as 'the' inn but because the owners didn't make room for Him, his birth happened in another place, a stable. That speaks of God's intentions for one person being deflected to another. He intended one person to bear Him in a certain manner but that person wasn't open, so God went to the next one. He intended one church to have a certain deposit of glory in it but there was no room so He went to another location. I have often wondered how much of God I have missed by being too closed, too full, too busy, too smart, too religious, too distracted...
How much have you missed? How much of Him do you want? How open are you? All of these questions we should ask ourselves and answer as honestly as possible so that we can be ready next time.
Who are you now, inn or stable?
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Humility, the remarkable characteristic of the God who has every reason and right not to be, is embedded in the details of the birth of Christ Jesus. He was born in a stable! Much of what C.S. Lewis communicated resonates with me. He wrote in The Last Battle, "In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world". He also said of the Lord, "God is not proud...He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him." As I consider obscure scripture not often read or considered but just as authoritative as John 3:16 I marvel at the God who would take up residence, not just visit, but take up residence in a burning desert thorn bush. Moses blessed the offspring of Joseph with these words:
"Blessed...with the precious things of the earth and its fullness, and the favor of Him who dwelt in the bush. Let the blessing come on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers."'Dwelt' does not mean to visit temporarily, but is defined in just the opposite way -'to lodge', 'to reside or permanently stay'. You may think that God got to the bush 15 minutes before Moses did that day, but that is not the case. He dwelt there! All of us want, yea even need, the favor of God, but how many of us are willing to receive the 'favor of Him who dwelt in the bush'? That kind of favor helped deliver 2,000,000 Jews from terrible bondage under the control of the most ruthless despot of their generation. But that kind of favor comes in the context of foolishness and humility. A talking bush? A burning talking bush who claims to be the uncreated God? Try explaining that kind of blessing to those who are so tied to the realm of the earth, so tied to their own reason and religious concepts that they would consider such an encounter as coming from 'the dark side'.
Jesus was born in a stable which was likely just a cave, a room carved into the side of a hill. Animals lived there. It was dirty. The bible records it this way,
"And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).You could translate this verse another way,
"And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in rags and used a feed trough for his bed, because there was no room for them anywhere else".The Christmas story has been so gilded with religious sentiment that sometimes it is difficult to grasp the profundity of what happened. The One who created everything became a man and was born in a dirty place and first slept in a trough from which animals fed. The most stable person in the universe was born in a stable...this play on words has within it a wonderful truth. True stability in life comes from true humility. But many shy away from the kind of foolishness that can deposit that kind of true humility. That is another one of God's paradoxes. He uses foolish even unstable situations to create stability within us and to impart His glory to us. God is serious about revealing His glory and imparting His glory, but how many of us will embrace the odd way in which God does so?
God still resides in a burning bush. That means that even until this day our God reveals Himself in unusual ways, ways easy to disregard, ways that offend our religious sensibilities, ways that we would never choose. Why? God is humble. Men are proud. He does it to help us change. We need to.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
C.S. Lewis reflected on the Psalms this way, "The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance."
I love -the presence of God, the wonderful emotional responses that God invokes in my heart, the colors I find in creation, the joy of the Lord that renders a man speechless, the kind of joyful infusion the Holy Spirit can bring that causes a man to laugh repeatedly-ridiculously-hilariously-unashamedly-loudly-obnoxiously, the profound hope-fullness the gospel brings when fully believed and unhesitatingly trusted, the tears that flow and the melting of the heart kind pathos of seeing the mercy of God and the redemptive sufferings of Jesus, my children enjoying 'their' God, the presence of God, my wife when she looks at me a certain way and when she talks baby talk to her grandchildren, the fragrance of the early days of spring, the 'fresh aired' first days of fall, the changing colors of the leaves on Carolina trees, hitting a home run in Little League, a Five Guys bacon cheese burger, Thanksgiving dinner, losing weight, preaching when anointed, seeing sick people healed, riding my bike, printing a mysterious picture I have photographed, the presence of God, talking with friends about God, corporate high-level worship, the God who so delights in us that when we see Him as He is it makes old, fat, out of shape, men in suits and ties want to dance in public even with their bosses watching. Those are just a few of the things I like, not in any particular order and written for no particular reason other than I wanted to, this is my blog after all, and so that others could think about theirs and praise God so long and loud and hard that they pulled a muscle or popped a blood vessel in one of their eyes or got hoarse...just because Jesus is Wonderful.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Many people struggle with bitterness. It is one of the most pervasive problems in the American church. Bitterness is often the result of un-forgiveness. Many who are bitter are long term believers, probably because they have been around the church long enough to suffer some of the inevitable consequences of living in relationship with other flawed folks. Someone once told me they weren't going to church any more because the church was filled with hypocrites. That's a classic conclusion of a bitter person. I responded, "Well, the Super WalMart is filled with hypocrites too but you go down there twice a week!". My personal opinion is that everyone is a hypocrite, maybe not a practicing one, but at least a former one and very potentially, a future one as well. We should treat our own hypocrisy like alcoholics treat alcoholism. "Hello. My name is Robin. I am a hypocrite!" Actually it may be true that the only people who emerge from hypocrisy are those who own their own hypocritical ways. That means then that I'm not a hypocrite! (...oops. I think maybe I fell back into it again. Oh well.)
How do you forgive and overcome bitterness? We know we should forgive, Jesus said so:
"And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive your trespasses."
We know God won't forgive us, to some degree, if we don't forgive others:
"...but if you don't forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses"...(Mt. 11:25).We know we will be subject to torment if we don't forgive others (see Mt. 18:34-35); but how do you do it? To the best of my knowledge Jesus revealed only one 'how to' when it came to forgiving someone when He said,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).His statement reveals a hidden key: Getting free from un-forgiveness lies in not assigning intent to another person's actions. If people don't know why they do what they do, then we should stop assuming we know as well. Think about it. How many of us truly understand why we do what we do? So, if we don't understand why we act as we do, and we know ourselves much better than we could possibly know anyone else, then why should we assume we know the motives of other people. Judging other people's motives is rooted in pride and that is exactly what God resists...even in us. That assigning of intent locks us into our judgment of them and the bitterness that follows.
Here is a great idea. Realize that people don't know what they are doing and stop taking life so personally. You may find that you get a 'get out of jail free' card as a result.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I was up in the early hours one Sunday a.m. praying, thinking, wondering about what to speak later that morning at a local Presbyterian Church when the Lord whispered to me (in only the way He can) that it was time for a 'New Bush Administration'. At first I wasn't sure about the meaning of what I had heard from the Lord. I wondered if He was talking about our current political situation, then it dawned on me that He was not talking about George Herbert or George W Bush, our two former presidents, or of their style or persuasion of government. He was speaking of the encounter Moses had with God at the burning bush, and the administration of power and glory that was released to the people of God from that encounter.
Yes. It is time for a new 'Bush Administration', a time when the foolishness of God puts to shame the so called wise of our age and their wisdom! A time when the weak things of the world put to shame the things which are mighty (see I Corinthians 1:26-31). A time when we enjoy the 'favor of Him who dwelt in the bush', as Moses prayed for the heritage of Joseph in Deuteronomy 33:16.
Consider the conversation Moses had with the elders of Israel as he attempted to convince them that he was the man to deliver them from their bondage. Perhaps they asked him, "How was it that God spoke to you? What is this God's name?"
Moses may have responded; "Well...uh...you see...I was following my sheep on the backside of the desert...and there was this bush...it was on fire and...and it didn't go out...and then the bush spoke to me...".
"The bush spoke to you?!?" they responded.
"Uh, yes...and then He told me that His name ..."I Am That I Am!"...
Well, you get the picture. God's foolishness is much wiser than man's wisdom. The encounter Moses had at that burning bush enabled him to dislodge from cruel bondage, two million Hebrew slaves. By knowing God in that unique way Moses withstood the anger and authority of the most powerful government of his day. We need just such a divine administration now, for whenever the church leaves the supernatural power of God it loses it's influence and authority to effect change in our culture.
Just this week I was visiting a brand new 21st century multi-million dollar seeker friendly multi-media facility type church that the Lord is using to touch many in my city. I am truly grateful for the blessing and effectiveness of that ministry. While I was there I met one of the staff members who said to me, "Just imagine how much more effective the apostles could have been in the book of Acts if they had access to all of this technology!" Later I thought, "Just imagine how much more effective we would be if we walked in the same level of raw power, authority, and anointing that they had!". They turned the world upside down. Ours is still right side up.
It is time for a new "Bush Administration!".
Saturday, November 6, 2010
When looking at a tree one does not normally consider its roots although they are vitally important. Without them the tree would not flourish, not bear fruit, and not even survive. Some trees have as many large roots under ground as they do primary limbs above ground, like a mirror image of the visible part of the tree.
Our lives follow a similar pattern. It's the hidden life, the spiritual disciplines and relationship with God that sustain and nurture the visible aspects of our lives.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Jeremiah 17:7:
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear (lit. 'see') when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit."Trusting God, an essential yet invisible function of our spiritual lives is like our spiritual root structure. Without it we will neither flourish nor survive as Christians.
In Jeremiah 17:5-6 the prophet also identifies what happens when we don't have this trust in God:
"Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited."Jeremiah concluded that when a man does not trust the Lord he does not 'see good when it comes'. God is so good that He tries to help those who don't trust Him but when He sends good their way they are in no condition to recognize it. When the rains come that person has no root system to draw up any water. How sad!
Develop a good root system and sink your roots deeply into God. "How?", you may ask. By the normal simple ways: If you want something to live, feed it. If you want something to die, starve it. Develop your spiritual life by feeding your faith, by feeding on the faithfulness of God, and by focusing on what the Bible says about Him, about us, and and about every other important thing in our lives. Pray. Ask Him questions and wait for the answers to come in unusual ways. Be thankful as a life style, and forgive those who sin against you. These simple things will serve you well in building your spiritual root system.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The old ones were pretty fragile because they were made of a silver coated glass bottle inside the metal outer shell. You screwed off the top and could use it for a cup.
As he made the rounds picking up his friends one of them asked him about his thermos: "What you got there Johnny?"
My dad said, "Its something new...they call it a thermos."
His friend said, "What does it do?"
Dad responded, "It makes your lunch time better 'cause it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold!"
His friend said, "Man, I'm gonna get me one of those by tomorrow."
On Friday Dad first showed his friend his thermos. By Monday morning both of them had 'em. Dads was green, his friends was red.
When dad saw his friend's thermos he said, "Hey Burt, great! You got a thermos too! What you got in yours?"
With great excitement he exclaimed, "A cup of coffee and two popsickles!"
(Sometimes you just need to laugh, even if the joke's not funny...)
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Today is my 34th wedding anniversary. As a result of my poor planning I am in a hotel room in south Florida preparing for the next service in a friend's church in the midst of a small outpouring of the Spirit. People are getting healed and happy and I am thrilled anytime I see God do such wonderful things. I am happy to be here and wish I were home with Donna, all at the same conflicted time. As anniversaries sometimes promote, I find myself contemplative, looking back and looking forward at the same time.
Sitting here in the Marriott, one thing I have been considering is that the church has been enduring a terrible plague, not just the cancer one, or the immoral one, but the one called bitterness. Years back I realized that in Jesus' very small circle of intimate friends five or six of them had the same name, Mary. How unnatural to have so many close close friends with the same name and how significant must it be when it is the Son of God who does!
I once asked the Lord, "Why so many Mary's". The answer I got takes a full hour to preach to explain all I saw and understood. Suffice it to say that Mary's name is rooted in an ancient word for 'bitterness' -Mara. You may remember from the book of Ruth that when Naomi bitterly returned home to Bethlehem Judah, after losing her husband, her children, and her wealth, she said "Call me not Naomi (meaning 'pleasant') but call me Mara ('bitter'): for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me (Ruth 1:20)." The multiple Mary's surrounded Jesus as a prophetic picture of the proliferation of the bitterness problem among His people, and of His ability to heal people just like that. In Naomi's case the Lord sovereignly put in her life Ruth, a daughter in law, and Boaz, a wealthy landowner. They married and had a child that healed Naomi's broken heart.Their child was in the lineage of Jesus, the one who heals the broken hearted. All of this points to how Jesus can heal bitter people, but often bitter people don't want to be healed, they want to be right!
The scripture gives us a sober warning in Hebrews 12:15; "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;" I understand this verse two ways; (1) roots of bitterness defile many people, and (2) one root in an influential person defiles many other people. Both are true. I lived in a Christian community for over eight years. I was young, headstrong, and barely married six months when Donna and I moved into it with some other great zealous folks. It started grandly. It ended poorly. Everyone was to blame. No one understood how things fell apart the way they did. We all tried to determine whose fault it was. I left bitter.
In my long 7 year trip through that bitterness the Lord eventually revealed to me that everyone who desires to be truly spiritual will at some point need to choose to follow one of two pathways: the way of bitterness or the way of brokenness. If you want to be healed you can break, admit your wrong, refuse to demand personal vindication, even allow your good to be evil spoken of, allow the cross to work deeply to yield a greater resurrection, or stay in your bitterness and defile those around you, even the ones you love. True brokenness makes you a kind person, one who is gracious to all. Its up to you. What do you choose?
C.S. Lewis concluded that 'tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless'. As unambitious and small as it may seem, one of my chief aspirations in life is to end my spiritual race as a joyful person. So many seem to fall into the dangerous trap of bitterness and it breaks my heart. How about you? What are you?
Friday, August 13, 2010
What is something worth? Determining an object's value is an important process and is determined by a number of factors; rarity, condition, potential for increase, place in history, authenticity, and the price one is willing to pay. For instance, this picture of Willie Mays shows him at the genesis of his remarkable career, wearing a Minneapolis Millers minor league uniform from the 1951 season. Mays was arguably the greatest baseball player of all time, therefore his minor league uniform became highly valued by collectors of baseball memorabilia. Not knowing its historic value a gentleman bought this uniform for $50.00. He later verified it to be May's actual uniform when he found a photograph of it showing the same tear on the jersey's right sleeve that his had. Being able to verify this uniform as being the actual one in the photograph made it worth much more than $50.00. It is currently valued at between $60,000.00 and $80,000.00. That is what collectors are willing to pay for it.
That thought leads us to this question: "What are we worth?". It can be answered solely by what God was willing to pay for us.
In the previous blog, "A PERSON'S VALUE Part 1", we saw that a slave owner found no value in a 65 year old man named Ben. Nothing could be further from the truth, that someone might have no value! Our planet could be the only inhabited one in the vast un-ending sea of space. Consider the possibility that those of us on planet earth are the only people in all the universe. If that is so then each one of us, even the most supposed insignificant one of us, is extraordinarily rare. But whether that is true or not here is one thing we know; our value has been forever established by what our Father was willing to pay for us: His only Son, His shed blood.
C.S. Lewis said, "He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less". Have you determined your value the same way the Lord did? It will change your life.
Honestly. What are you worth?
Thursday, August 5, 2010
While preaching in Tulsa, Oklahoma my wife and I visited the Gilcrease Museum. Advertised as 'one of the country's best facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history', it houses over 100,000 books, manuscripts, documents, and maps, some dating back to 1494, two years after Christopher Columbus landed on our shores. Among many rare and historic documents and paintings I viewed copies, not photo-copies, but original hand made copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, both signed by Benjamin Franklin.
To write that I was impressed is a huge understatement, but a small one page handwritten document affected me the most. It was a two column inventory roll entitled the "Complete listing of the slaves of the Robert M. Compton estate with age, name, and their value Madison County Tenn. 1848".
On it a six year old boy named Cos was valued at $275.00. A twenty five year old male named Stephen was valued at $650.00, a young woman, Sylvia - $425.00. As I read this list my heart began to ache. But the most heart breaking record of all was this one, (and I record it here just as it appeared on the original inventory): "Old Ben, age 65, no value, -0-".
How much is a person worth?
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Before falling asleep one night I decided to quote a Bible verse and meditate on it as a spiritual exercise. Several times I quoted Galatians 2:20:
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me".
Something very unusual happened as I quoted '...who loved me and gave Himself for me'. Although lying in bed in the dark, I suddenly found myself under a huge green and yellow wide striped tent that completely overshadowed me. As I quoted the verse several more times it happened twice more and I fell asleep. I didn't understand what it meant and completely forgot about it by the next day. On the way to work, the Lord reminded me of what happened the night before and asked me what I thought about it. When I told Him I didn't understand it He asked me to describe what had happened and exactly when the tent emerged.
I said, "when I quoted Paul's words about Jesus loving him, ('who loved me and gave Himself for me'), this large green and yellow 'John Deere' tent looking thing appeared over my head".
The Lord said, "yes, John's dear to me!" When the Lord said that, I immediately thought of the relationship the Apostle John had with Jesus. He referred to himself four times as the 'disciple whom Jesus loved'. No one else called John that and that phrase doesn't appear in the other gospels, just his.
The Lord was using the experience, the colors, and a play on words to show me in a unique, personal, and unforgettable way that He loved me like He loved John and that I had the same kind of connection to Him that John did. I too abide under His love, just like John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Another morning as I was waking up the Lord whispered into my consciousness, "Each of my children is My favorite!". I perked up and thought about how wonderful the Lord is and how only He could truly relate to everyone that way. Then He said, "But, few people realize it!". Imagine being God's favorite person and not knowing it! How sad.
Do you believe that you are God's favorite person?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Warren Spahn, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves, was once asked by a sportswriter if he ever felt more pressure than when he pitched in the World Series. Spahn said 'well there was the Battle of the Bulge'. That was the largest and bloodiest battle America fought in World War II. It was a major German counter attack against the Allied forces in Europe. 800,000+ men participated and over 19,000 Americans died. Warren was there.
He was the winningest pitcher in his era of baseball, but pitching in the the World Series, the goal of every hurler who ever threw the ball, was just another game when compared to the horrors of war that Warren Spahn knew. I like his answer. It keeps things in perspective. We need to remember to do the same.
What are you going through today? So much of what we worry about is of little eternal consequence. It might just be time to lighten up.
Monday, April 19, 2010
How important is it to be on track, to be in the right place at the right time? Very important! A friend of mine has often said; "The wrong road never does become the right road." You need to be where you are supposed to be.
My mother's family owned a railroad in South Carolina. Before you assume I come from money realize that our R.R. was only 4 miles long, went forwards to Due West and backwards to Donalds. My grandfather went to the big RR conventions and once told the owner of Southern Railway, who had many miles of track, "Your RR may be longer but mine is just as wide". Once a cow got on my grandfather's track, but the loud high pitched whistle couldn't chase him off in time. Naturally the farmer complained to my grandfather about the loss of his cow who in turn chewed out the engineer. Ole Charley Hawthorne, the engineer, responded very apologetically but then said to my grandfather, "But Mr. Bob, I didn't chase that cow down through the woods and run over him!".
Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can cost us a lot. The moral of the story is if the cow hadn't been on the track he wouldn't have gotten hit. He may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but we need to be in the right place at the right time so that the good thing we are supposed to find will find us!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Often folks who should experience and enjoy the presence of the Lord don't and don't know why. Many times it is because they are living in the 'presence of men' instead of in the presence of God.
Notice this Psalm:
"Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which You have prepared for those who trust in You In the presence of the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence From the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion From the strife of tongues" (Psalms 31:19-20).God consciousness is something that must be cultivated to have on a continual basis. Down through the ages men and women have cloistered themselves away from society, attempting to live in the presence of God, but that doesn't usually work. The reason is that 'you' are still there even when cloistered away. Just because many people aren't close by to make you angry or jealous or resentful, doesn't mean that you aren't still 'angry, jealous, or resentful'! The real challenge is to live before Him while living with and/or around 'them'. As the Psalmist wrote:
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over" (Psalms 23:5).
Interestingly enough, Psalm 23 describes the goodness of our Shepherd who provides us with all we need, (I shall not want), give us rest in places of beauty and bounty, (makes me lie down in green pastures), provides us with true refreshment, (leads me besides still waters), recovers our vitality, (restores my soul), also, has revealed that the place where we are anointed and where our cup runs over is at a table prepared for us "in the presence of our enemies".
The challenging arena where we cultivate His presence is in the presence of the sons of men as we learn to trust God and become more concerned about what He thinks then what men think. It is time to stop being inhibited and become inhabited.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
C.S. Lewis once complemented a friend by describing him this way: "You saw at once he was the sort of man who welcomed attacks on his own favourite beliefs and who was ready to give his whole attention to what you said without any irrelevant consideration of who you were. He was very fair and patient in discussion and talked for truth not victory."
Love for the truth is essential to anyone who aspires to greatness regardless of what side of the argument one lands on. Truth is blind in a sense and should be. It doesn't have one eye open to adjust to a political persuasion, a particular ethnic group, a person's pride, position, or any thing else. In the profound words of Carolina Panthers head football coach John Fox, "It is what it is!".
Truth has a life of its own and cannot die. Philosophies, opinions, ideas, ideologies, dogmas, positions, arguments, come and go. Some of them, like Communism, appear to prevail but eventually they crumble because ultimately, as the Apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 13:8, you can do nothing against the truth.
Sir Winston Churchill said, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened". Do you have a love for the truth, or do you have to win? If you win at the expense of the truth you could lose more than you know. You could lose your very soul.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Although being tall and looking unstable on their long spindly legs, they are very stable and extremely hard to bring down. They can kill a lion with a single powerful kick and he is the king of the jungle! If you run across a stray Giraffa Camelopardalis somewhere, wisdom dictates, don't mess with him! Anything that makes a lion nervous should be given a wide berth.
Years ago I heard that the word 'giraffe' comes from the Arabic language meaning 'creature of grace', perhaps from the graceful way it walks and runs, or maybe from the graceful contours of its neck. As the tallest living land animal, reaching 17-20 feet in height, it has to stoop the farthest to drink and live. That is a prophetic picture of all who are 'of grace', they must humble themselves to receive vital spiritual life.
In the parable of the wheat and the tares Jesus warned the laborers not to gather the tares out of the field until harvest time or they would damage the crop. The reason is that wheat and tares closely resemble each other until they reach maturity, when the wheat bows low while the tares remain erect. The real ones bow, the false ones don't. Remember that.
Jesus was the last person on earth that the Samaritan woman would have chosen to change her life. Jesus told her, "If any man is thirsty let him come unto me and drink!" Some would rather make excuses for their lack of vitality and live in misery than admit they are wrong. You may be thirsty. You may be dry. If you are, stoop low, humble yourself. That stooping may mean asking for forgiveness from someone, or asking someone for help you don't particularly like or even disagree with. Never mind your reasoning. Just do it. You'll feel better for it and the Lord will think better of you for it.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Be careful not to become discouraged when you find yourself in a dormant state, or after having been pruned. You could even feel cold, like these snow frosted trees. One characteristic of those times is that you may look and feel your worst. But if you don't go through the process, you will never truly 'look your best'!
The theme of my blog is 'Waking Up'. That is exactly what fruit trees start doing just about this time of year. They can go from apparent barrenness to bearing maximum fruit in a very short time. Jeremiah had a very interesting and encouraging conversation with the Lord along these lines:
"Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, "Jeremiah, what do you see?" And I said, "I see a branch of an almond tree. Then the Lord said to me, "You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word" (Jeremiah 1:11-12).At first glance the exchange between the prophet and the Lord doesn't seem to make much sense, until you realize that the Hebrew word for 'almond' and the word translated 'ready to perform', are similar in sound and spelling in the Hebrew. God is using a play on words to say that just as the almond (shaaqeed) awakens first in the spring, flowering in January, so is the Lord 'awake' (shoqeed) alert, on the lookout, over His promised word to perform it.
Our faith can stay awake because He is always awake to watch over us and fulfill his word. Remember His promises and trust that He is watching over them to fulfill each one for those who believe.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
"Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7).The Matthew version of the same parable gives a little more insight:
"Are not two little sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's leave (consent) and notice.The coins spoken of here are worth less than 1/4 cent...not much, huh? Our Father does not allow even one sparrow to perish whose 'market value' is approx. 1/8th of a cent! That little bird does not die without, #1 -the Father's notice, and #2 (maybe more importantly) -the Father's notice. He doesn't forget even one. Then Jesus said that each hair on someone's head is numbered!?! What kind of God numbers the hairs on the heads of every living soul? Our God. Let me say once again, what kind of God keeps a constant running total of the hairs on the head of every living person? The kind of God who is a loving Father. This is the way Jesus chose to show us how interested and in love with His creation our God is. He is a tremendous Father.
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." (Matthew 10:29 AMP).
Lets awaken to His goodness.
Monday, February 1, 2010
"I have plenty of milk. If you want some in the morning to go with your breakfast, come on by. I'll give you all you want".The next morning Arthur remembered the generous offer, picked up a coffee cup, climbed out of his caravan, and found the dairy farmer in the barn with the cows. When my preacher friend walked up holding his little cup, the farmer looked at Arthur, looked at the cup, looked at his cows, and then looked back at Arthur with disgust.
"Bucket or nothing!" he said.
"What?!" Arthur said.
"Bucket or nothing! I'm not going to waste my time filling up that little cup. If you want some of my milk, bring me a bucket... bucket or nothing!"Arthur scratched his head, then ran off to get a bucket. Every morning the farmer filled it up. Here is the moral of the story. Arthur frequently remembered the dairy farmer over the years as he was asking God for things. He discovered over and again that God wanted to do more for him than he wanted Him to. Often we go to Him with a coffee cup when He wants us to bring a bucket. Our lack of faith reminds me of this verse: "Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel" (Psalms 78:41).
II Kings 4 records the story of the poverty struck widow woman whose sons were about to become slaves to pay off a debt. When she appealed for help to Elisha the prophet, he asked her what she had in her house. She said,
"Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil. Then he said, 'Go borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors, empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones'" (I Kings 4:2-4).This story has a happy ending. When she ran out of the empty pots the oil stopped flowing. Then, and only then did it cease! She had more than enough to pay off her debts and live on the rest. By faith, the widow woman tapped into the fullness of God.
The Lord didn't determine the amount of oil she got, she did. He never runs out. We just need to learn how to access heaven's bounty. It is time to stop limiting God.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I picked this rendering of Jesus because He is laughing. (I don't know who drew it and apologize for using it without permission.) Most historic religious imagery of the Lord shows Him serene, serious, ethereal, other worldly, in agony, or sad. I know that He was the suffering Savior but he was also 'anointed with the oil of joy above his companions' (Hebrews 1:8-9). People need to see a laughing, joyful, happy Jesus to round out their understanding of God!
Jesus is the source of our joy and as King of the universe, is seated on a throne having been anointed with joy. "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions" (Psalms 45:6-7).
In Acts 2:15-21 Peter defends the behavior of the 120 gathered in the upper room at Pentecost when Holy Spirit came. "For these are not drunk as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day, but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:...'I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh'". Peter also identified the source; "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear" (Acts 2:32-33). Therefore, in Acts 2, what was seen and heard and callled drunkenness, was poured out in a form that we could call the oil of joy. Jesus Himself poured it out and it came directly from His throne. Go figure!
Do you have room in your theology for a laughing Jesus? Laughing because "He that sits in the heavens shall laugh' (Psalm 2:4)...laughing because "He endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy set before Him" (Heb. 12:2)...laughing because the One who knows the end from the beginning, who has infinite wisdom and power, who proclaimed 'It is finished' while dying on the cross, who overcame death and was raised from the dead, can laugh in the face of any problem, because He is Lord of all, and He is the answer...to everything.
Once again let me ask you, "Do you have room in your theology for a laughing Jesus?" I hope so. Knowing Him this way will change your life.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
I remember back in my College days in the late 60's early 70's that being Southern was not popular. Racism had marked our history and Southerners were often depicted as ignorant backwoods red necks. In my generation during the 60's and 70's it became popular to express what was considered to be a new kind of freedom. Those who did became known as hippies, grew their hair long, and did drugs and tried to talk differently. I did some of that myself. It was considered hip. Many of my college friends even began speaking with a Northern affectation, as though that made them more intelligent, more sophisticated. Being Southern was not cool.
Many of my college friends were from New Jersey, were great guys, and took me home with them one time. One of their fathers delighted in calling me 'Little Abner', the stereotypical Southern bumpkin. He congratulated himself for making such an astute and humorous observation. I was not amused. Over the years I noticed something about my northern friends. Almost none of them moved back home after graduation. They liked it too much down here. Makes you wonder...don't it!
A number of years ago my mom and dad moved from Charlotte, NC into a retirement golf community situated on Lake Wylie across the border in South Carolina. When some of the residents transplanted from places like New York, Chicago, and other parts up north, questioned her very Southern drawl she reminded them where they were now living, that she was born and raised in the great state of South Carolina, and spoke that way all her life. She informed her imported friends, "I'm not the one with the accent. Y'all are!" That went over well.
Peter and most of the original 12 apostles were Galileans and spoke with an accent that the metropolitan Pharisee elitists despised. Interestingly enough, to the Jerusalem crowd the Galileans were Northern redneck fishermen. Even a servant girl could identify Peter as one of Jesus' followers because of his accent: ..."And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, "Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it (Mark 14:70)." Every generation faces the same issues. How will you estimate the worth of a person and will you live a genuine life.
I am not a racist, not backwoods, not a supporter of restoring the Confederate flag, not a Christian because I was born in the Bible belt, never been a member of the KKK, do like grits and biscuits, like to go the beach in the summer, wear buttoned down collared shirts, khaki pants, and shoes without socks, but speak with a distinctly Southern accent, and have no thought of trying to change it. As for me and my house we are Southern and being Southern is cool, ...if you are Southern.
This brings me to the real point I want to make. It is essential for each of us to discover who we are and to live authentic lives. Now, no one should defend poor behavior or boorish activity and claim that it is part of living authentically. Bad manners should be identified for what it is, disrespect and poor breeding. But, affectations adapted for fear of being criticized and changing who we are to please people is a fruitless endeavor. It is living to men at its core, -seeking their honor. Jesus said He did not receive honor from men and that those who do would not have functional faith (J0hn 5:41-44). He sought honor from His Father and His Father honored Him, with the ability to help, heal, deliver, and transform people's lives. We need to do the same.
Enjoy who you are, where you come from, and who God has uniquely made you. It is one of the fundamental keys to power.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Jesus used the idea of drinking from a cup as a type of having an experience as He did when responding to the request to have the chief seats in the eternal kingdom made by the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Mark 10:38 records, "But Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink'...?"
There are cups to drink -life changing experiences to have. Psalm 116:23 says, " I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord". Taking up the cup of salvation speaks of one practical way to experience salvation. You drink it! Jesus Himself used the idea of drinking as a way to experience the life of God. He said; "If any man is thirsty let him come unto Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive..." (John 7:37-39).
Living water is like a spiritual wine, and something any thirsty person can obtain from Jesus. Outside witnesses concluded that the recipients of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost were drunk. They weren't but had partaken of what Jesus had promised. Peter determined that those who were acting drunk were under the influence of the Holy Spirit...'these are not drunk as you suppose...but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel...I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh..." (Acts 2:15-17).
Where does this leave you. It is time for you to drink. Psalm 23:5 tells us that our cup runs over. Drink from the cup the Lord has provided. He will fill you, intoxicate you, and change you.