Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Our Rock & Our Endurance

I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It’s a trustworthy statement:

If we died with Him, we’ll also live with him;
If we endure, we’ll also reign with him;
If we deny him, he’ll also deny us;
If we’re faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:10-13

Sometimes people ‘feel’ far from God – distant, and alienated.  For those of us who have given our lives to him in trust and obedience … feeling far from God is the only time we really feel lonely.  It’s a dark, awful loneliness for us, because we are the people who have give up everything to be His, exclusively.  And when we then feel far from even Him (the only One we have left) – it’s bleak, indeed.

This passage in Paul’s second letter to the young preacher makes me understand something about our relationship with God.  So long as we are enduring and faithful, we have hope that we’ll “live with Him,” “reign with Him,” and that we are ‘those who are chosen,’ and obtaining salvation and eternal glory!  That’s not just good news, it’s great news.

But notice that the promises are conditional.  How many times in the section above do you see the word: “If”?

We must endure and be faithful.  But then pay attention to that last line about God: “He remains faithful.”  No matter what we do … He is the same.  So if that’s true, the times we “feel” far from God, it’s not God who has left, it’s we who have wandered away from Him.  He is the Rock.  He’s stationary, never moving – in fact, He is unmovable!

Isaiah wrote: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but Yahweh has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Jesus.” (53.6)

Feeling far from God?

Come home.

You will find Him right here, waiting for you – waiting to welcome you and forgive you.

Just come home – and then stay, endure, resist the call of the wild

Friday, July 27, 2012

Great Re-Birthday Thanks

I'm so thankful to God!  I have struggled for quite a few hours, and just can't find the words to say 'thank you.'  He has been so generous to me.  Have you ever noticed how much "thanks" there is in the bible, especially in the NT?  Almost every letter in the NT starts with a prayer of thanksgiving.  Contrariwise, the spiral into spiritual blackness & decay in Romans 1.21-32 begins by them not honoring God or giving Him thanks.

Today I'm especially grateful as I look back on yesterday, my REbirthday.  It was, without a doubt, my best rebirthday so far.  I have had a hard time getting others to understand the value of such a celebration.  The day angels rejoiced in heaven ... the day when the Prodigal's Dad invited everyone to come celebrate with him, and many other examples in the bible ... but people in our culture are having none of it.  And along comes people like you, and especially my three girlfriends: Berklie, London & Lindsey.  Thanks, ladies, for making the day so special.

Like a normal, inferior, physical birthday; a rebirthday is a celebration and a memorial of the original event itself: being born - or born again.  I'll write more about being born again in future blogs.  But for now, I just want to say thank you to God and to all of you for a great day.  The cards, gifts, emails and texts were VERY meaningful to me, and now bringing even more glory to our Father.  Thank you, my family!
Someone said to Him,
“Behold, Your mother and your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to you.”

But Jesus answered the one who was telling him and said:
“Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
“Behold My mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Matthew 12:47-50

Monday, July 23, 2012

Keep seeking things above

If you’ve been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above (where Christ is, seated at God’s right hand).  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth; for you’ve died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is our life) is revealed, then you’ll also be revealed with Him in glory.  - Paul

I don’t know about you, but I have to be constantly reminded of this.  It seems like there are so many constant reminders of earthly dramas, it’s easy to be completely focused on earthly stuff.  In the constant daily struggle of life I sometimes forget to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and lay up treasures for myself in heaven and things like that.

RE-birthdays are great reminders for me - a real blessing, because they force me to remember that life is about much more than just this silly world.

 Thank you for being such a blessing to me!

All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of Yahweh blows upon it; surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.

Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion (bearer of good news),
Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem (bearer of good news);
Lift up, don’t fear.
- Yahweh (through Isaiah)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Faith is here, D’Anna is well, and God is Good!

I’ll give You thanks with all my heart;
I’ll sing praises to You before the gods.
I’ll bow down toward Your holy temple & give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness.  On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.  They will sing of the ways of Yahweh, for great is the glory of Yahweh. Though Yahweh is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar.  Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You’ll revive me; You’ll stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, & Your right hand will save me.  Yahweh will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O Yahweh, is everlasting; don’t forsake the works of Your hands.

From Psalm 138

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Recommit Prayer

I introduced you to the “love prayer” over a month ago.  The idea was simple: pray the prayer several times a day for 21 consecutive days, and see if it makes a difference in your life.  It did for me, and it does for others.  Sometimes we pray these kinds of prayers, and it gets a bit mechanical, but if we make an effort to pray with faith, it can produce great fruit.

One of the things that makes us different than “Christian” churches is that we seek to grow individually and deliberately.  That is, I deliberately intend to grow stronger and more productive for God and His kingdom weekly … and so when I study or pray or work or whatever I do, I’m constantly striving to be a better man next week than I was ever before.  We seek to emulate Paul who wrote:
 Whatever used to be a big deal to me, those things I have counted as loss for Jesus’ sake.  More than that, I consider everything to be trashed in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus my Lord, for whom I’ve suffered the loss of everything, and count them but garbage so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in him. 

I want to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already become teleios, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Jesus.  Brothers, I don’t regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what’s behind and reaching forward to what’s ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Any of us who wants to become teleios, let’s have this attitude.  Join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.  

For many are (without knowing it) enemies of the cross.  This is because they worship their desires [what they want] and have their minds set on earthly stuff. 

But  our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus; who will transform our humblebodies into conformity with the body of His glory. (Philippians 3:7-21, kpv)

Some people won’t leave some things.  They want what they want.  Paul wanted to be like Jesus.  Peter and his partners “left everything” to follow Jesus (just like Paul).  In the process, they were transformed by the renewing of their minds into new men – men who became fishers of men (rescuers).

If we strive to change – we strive to become fishers of men and so to be different than the world, then how can we do this without prayer?  How is it even possible without God’s help?

I have attached another prayer for us.  When you have finished 21 days of the “love” prayer, then it’s time for 21 days with this prayer.  I’ll have more to follow.  The key is that each of us needs to be in the habit of praying to improve and grow and serve more.

I said: “The habit” – that’s the habit – the H A B I T  … of praying like this.  It should become natural to us to have certain prayers we pray as we grow and to make it a regular thing.  It helps our minds focus and stay on track, and eventually we’ll be praying several times a day, every day, for the rest of our lives … specific prayers for what we need to improve.

I hope you find this prayer helpful to your growth.  It sure has for me!

You see, when we honor God above everything, He is always - ALWAYS faithful to help us grow stronger, more productive and more at peace.  May God be praised above all!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Advice from The Man

When I was young my favorite guy in the whole bible was Solomon.  I thought if I could have half his wisdom, I’d be doing great.  He was an amazing king and leader.  Whereas other world leaders in history have earned respect because of their conquests or wealth – Solomon stands alone as the world leader others sought out merely because of his world-famous wisdom.

So I wondered … how did he get to be that way?  I’d study to learn what made him tick, and that’s when I came across the best father/son advice I’ve ever seen.  It’s from Solomon’s father, David, on David’s death bed:
“I am going the way of the world.  Be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man.”  (1 Kings 2.2)

Solomon may have been the greatest king, but it was his father, David, who built the kingdom.  David had finished the work given to Israel hundreds of years earlier.  He wiped out almost all the Canaanites, unified the kingdom, moved the Torah box (ark) to God’s city (Jerusalem), and established a throne that would last forever.

Now, can you imagine hearing David, of all people, telling you to “be strong and prove yourself to be a man”?  Dang – talk about some big shoes to fill!

Here’s a challenge for you: walk around with David’s advice in your head and heart, and live to be the kind of man David would respect.  It changes everything.

“Be strong – and prove yourself to be a man”
- David (a man after God’s own heart)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Great Lines in the Bible

I love movies, and one of my favorite things about movies is the writing, especially when there’s a great line from a movie – a great quote.  Everyone knows some.  There’s “frankly my dear…,” “I’ll be back,” and “run, Forest, run!”

There are also some great lines in the bible, which I’m going to occasionally post.  Mostly I want to encourage you to think about great lines from the bible.  As you’re reading, if you come across a great line that strikes you right where you live … send me a note and maybe I’ll post it up here.  Let’s share our testimonies for one another this way.

One line that struck me today, as I was working on some stuff in Romans was this one, from Romans 9.20:
“Man, who are you who answers back to God?

Isn’t that cool?

It’s in the middle of a section about God’s sovereignty – where God can choose whoever He wants to, and for whatever reasons.  Back in the day, God chose Abraham.  Why?  Because He knows what He’s doing, that’s why.  We tend to want to second-guess God’s reasoning.  Paul is explaining that there are a great many things that God knows that we don’t.  Our job isn’t to explain Him, it’s to obey Him.

I’m convinced that Paul knew the story of Job really well.  After reading more than thirty chapters of long explanations of great theologians having tons of debate over the nature of God … God Himself speaks up!  It must have scared the daylights out of those poor guys when God spoke!  Especially since this is what He said:
Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now gird up your loins like a man, & I’ll ask you, and you instruct ME.  Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell, if you have understanding."  Job 38:1-4

We love to give our opinions, don’t we? We love telling people what WE think! We love to imagine we have it all figured out.  Interestingly, it's not something Jesus did.  Jesus spoke only the words the Father (God) had given him to say (John 14.10).

What will you say when God challenges your “wisdom” and “knowledge” Himself?  I’m guessing you will be like me – really, really frightened and humble.  Why wait?  Let’s get humble now.  Let’s constantly ask ourselves: “Who are you who answers back to God”? 

Friday, July 13, 2012

First Class Service

If you’ve ever flown First Class on an airliner, you know the difference.  The big, leather seats are roomier and more comfortable, the food is better, the people you sit next to are easier to travel with, and if that weren’t enough, the Flight Attendants are much nicer, and provide a much higher level of service.  It’s just better on so many levels!

Jesus said:

“You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.  But it isn’t this way among you!  But whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:42-45)

Jesus was teaching them (and us) that in our community of disciples, there is no “boss” other than Jesus himself, and even he is a servant!  We all serve God and one another, and we’re a community of equals.  Shepherds and teachers are not ‘bosses’ or ‘managers,’ but they are just other disciples with a different job description.

Now consider the implications:
How different is a meeting of people who come only to serve each other?  What arguments would their ever be between people who strive to be humble, and who believe it’s more blessed to give than to receive?  We should be falling all over each other to give more, love more, do more … and we’d never want to “win” an argument, or have our own way, for we would only achieve our goal when the other guy gets his way!

We wouldn't come to evaluate the preacher or music, but to help it be better.  We wouldn’t come to receive anything, but we’d come to give, because we believe (have faith) that God blesses us more when we give.

Paul mentioned another consideration in his letter to the Corinth church of Christ:
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it.
But each man must be careful how he builds on it!
…if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he’ll receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he’ll suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Don’t you know that you all (together) form God’s temple, and that the Spirit of God dwells among y’all?  (1 Corinthians 3:10-16)

Paul starts with the assumption that we all are nothing more than servants, and that even our ability to serve comes from God (according to the grace given).  The issue Paul is addressing is a simple one: quality.  Read the section again, and you’ll see that Paul’s whole point is “quality of service.”  If our service is “First Class,” then it will survive the testing “fire,” which is God’s quality control.

 So … when you seek to take care of others … how’s your quality of service?
Wait – before you answer: read again about the measure of quality!

We can serve a meal to a hungry person.  To make it better, we can serve an extremely fancy meal, an expensive meal, a nutritious meal, or some combination of the above.  Which one is First Class service?  The one that survives the fire … right?

 So what survives the fire?
Eternal things.  Things that cannot be burned, stolen, destroyed, eaten by moths or rusted.  In Hebrews the writer describes our kingdom as one that “cannot be shaken.” Check it out:
See to it that you don’t refuse Him who’s speaking! For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.
And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.  (Hebrews 12:25-29)

If you’ve studied the Torah and pictured the terrifying scene at Mount Sinai, you know how powerful this passage is.  The writer is saying, “If you think THAT was a big deal, wait ‘till you see what’s coming up the next time!”

So what is this we must do to not “refuse Him who warns us from heaven”?  Read on in Hebrews to the very next lines:

  • Let love of the brothers continue

  • Don’t neglect to show hospitality to strangers (for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it)

  • Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them…

  • Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled…

  • Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have (for He Himself has said, “I’ll never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I won’t be afraid. What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:1-6)

That’s it, the First Class cabin in the Kingdom of Yahweh’s airline … where brotherly love comes first, strangers are treated to hospitality as if they were angels, prisoners are treated as we would want to be treated, we honor God with our bodies sexually, and we are free from a desire for more money.

My prayer for us today is that we will find it in our hearts to pursue quality in our service.

After all, God has given us so much, how can we not give our BEST?


Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I can remember commercials from years and years ago … can you?  Can you still hear annoying jingles in your head from things that haven’t been on TV or radio in a long time?  I still remember Cal Worthington and his dog spot, I remember that “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should,” and I remember the clapper.

Do you know why they produce annoying commercials like that and play them over and over again?  Because it works.  It seeps into your brain and makes you stupid and obedient.  Even when we try to fight it, we often fall for it.

Here’s my challenge to you: do you have any commercials for God or love or discipleship?  If not, why not?  Now, I’m not necessarily talking about putting up lame billboards to get others to become Christians … I’m talking about commercials for yourself.

This is what the “Love Prayer” (see June 11 blog entry below) is all about.  Some of us are praying it, and some are trying to … several times a day.  What we’re learning is that it becomes kind of mechanical … like a silly ritual.  This is bad, because Jesus warned us not to let our prayers become repetitive and rote:
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”  Matthew 6:7

You know how some people say “The Lord’s Prayer” over and over again, as if magic would happen?  This is directly disobedient to Jesus!

But what we propose with our “Love Prayer” isn't chanting or saying a same prayer over and over just to have something mystical happen, but rather to pray it for a limited time (I’ve suggested 21 days) until it becomes soaked into our subconscious and changes our behavior.  This isn’t so much about trying to produce magic, as it is giving ourselves a little commercial a few times a day to remind ourselves of what we want to become automatic.

The bible is full of commercials.  Sometimes it’s a feast, like Passover, which is done to ‘remind’ us … there are lots of these things that are a bit repetitive.  Sometimes it’s even a direct invite to buy something:
I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  Revelation 3:18

I’m hoping that you’ll start – or keep up – praying the “Love Prayer” several times a day for at least 21 days,  because it’s about combining your faith in God with a change of your own heart.  Prayer should ALWAYS be accompanied by action … otherwise, it’s just wishing.

As I pray this prayer, I find myself just reading off a piece of paper sometimes.  Then I’m tempted to feel guilty, or just to think it’s a waste of time.  But I know better.  What it is about really – is changing my own heart and changing my own behavior.  And I don’t know about you, but it takes me a while to develop new habits.  So if it’s weird just reading a prayer off a piece of paper, then so be it.  I’ll do whatever it takes to make me more like God wants me to be.

As for you – give it a try.  If it doesn’t work, then don’t pray the next prayer I’ll publish.  But DO find what works for you.  However tedious and boring or hard … persistence is a very powerful tool.  USE IT!  We all did hard things and unpleasant things in school … for what - to get a piece of paper (diploma)?  Why wouldn’t we also do even more to further God’s kingdom and righteousness?

Quit only when you’ve succeeded.  If it doesn’t work after 21 days, then change tactics.  Write a new commercial for yourself.  Take your shortcomings seriously, and correct them … whatever it takes.  Run to win.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence Day:

Celebrating Real Freedom

 - by Lindsey

I was baptized when I was 16.  I had studied baptism, I had understood what it was all about and it sounded good, so I was baptized and that was it.  

And literally that was it… I have always been a rule follower, so I continued to follow rules. I have always gone to church, I continued going—and got better at it, in fact.  I continued to be self-centered.  I continued to think that God would always be there for me to make requests for myself.   For almost 15 years, I lived continuing to glorify myself and make myself look good in the eyes of others.  I continued to serve ME… oh, don’t get me wrong, if someone heard about Jesus along the way, that was great! After all, it would make me look really good in people’s eyes! I had made a commitment to be a better ME, not a commitment to deny myself and live for God.

Almost a year ago I started learning about discipleship and being an all-in, sold out slave of the Lord.  I made that commitment to change and serve God in everything.  As a result, I so desperately wanted—needed—to be baptized.  Everything I had done before was a lie.  I had held on to my sins, thinking that if I was good enough I could fix them.   I didn’t become a new creation, I still served myself and did what I wanted to do.   I started to question: if there is no intention to change when you are baptized, then are you really a committed disciple and a suitable vessel for the Holy Spirit to come and live in you?  I needed to be baptized, but I hesitated, justified, and talked myself out of it for months.   I wanted to save my reputation… “what would it look like if I were baptized now? What would people say?”

I have been a committed disciple for almost a year now, and I have learned, grown, and changed so much.  But I still had concerns:  If I do not have the Holy Spirit, will I ever get mature enough to bear fruit?   If I am still refusing to give everything to God, then if/when I do bear fruit, will the fruit be a product of/defected by my arrogance and disobedience?  Also, how can I expect to be Jesus to someone when I sit here knowingly disobeying?

I finally realized that God, my salvation, and being cleansed so the Holy Spirit can live in me is much more important than the reputation I was a slave to.  So this Independence Day when we celebrate our national freedom, I decided to celebrate REAL freedom.  I was baptized yesterday, again, and I know that by the grace, love and faithfulness of God, that my sins are washed away, that the Holy Spirit dwells in me, and also that I am officially starting my full time employment as His slave, nothing else!   Please help teach me to be an obedient slave.